Thursday, April 7, 2011

Seems like half a world away

Have you ever heard of Catalina Island? It's 22 miles off the California coast, but it might as well be 2,200 miles from L.A. For starters, there are very few cars on the island. If you're stuck in a traffic jam there, chances are you're in a line of golf carts.

The hub of activity on the island is the resort town of Avalon. Its most recognizable building is the historic Casino, which was built in 1929. There's no gambling in the building and never has been, but legendary director Cecile B. DeMille and screen legend Charlie Chaplin premiered some of their movies there. The theater was one of the first to show "talkie" pictures. Avalon is full of quaint shops and every restaurant seems to have an incredible view of the Pacific. You can walk just about anywhere in Avalon and never have to worry about being hit by a car. Bicyclists, however, are another matter.

Writer Zane Grey made Catalina Island famous when he shot one of his movies there. He apparently brought some bison to the island for a movie and a few of the animals were left behind. Today, 150 bison roam the island's wildlands. I'll write more about Catalina's wildlands, which are stewarded by the Catalina Island Conservancy, next time.

Caption: Avalon Casino and harbor welcome visitors to Catalina Island. Note: Just beyond the Casino is Descanso Beach, which was rated L.A. County's most polluted beach last year. Can't wait to go there!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Winter sunsets

Enjoy these views of the Pacific, taken at sunset on two February days.

The first was taken from the Huntington Beach pier on a sunny warm day. The second was taken from a ferry between Catalina Island and the Palos Verdes peninsula on a cool, windy day. The difference really shows.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Smog: The hidden fees

It’s almost November, which means my car registration fees are due. It costs $147 to register my car, a 2004 Toyota. That’s not bad, considering my husband pays more than $300 for his vehicle.

Atop my notice was a big STOP sign and “SMOG Certification Required.” Surely my car, which was tested when I moved to California in 2007, did not need such a test. It doesn’t smoke, sputter or make any loud noises when I drive it. But the governor won’t let me renew my registration without such a test.

The DMV letter directed me to “Please take this notice to a SMOG check station.” (I did, but of course forgot said notice.) I took the car in and had it tested for such things as Spark Controls, Fuel Cap Visual, Wiring to Sensors, Fuel Evaporative Controls and Oxygen Sensor, whatever all of that stuff means. They ran the car at 15 mph and 25 mph to check for CO2. Why no faster? Probably because I rarely have the opportunity to drive much faster in the SoCal traffic.

The car passed. My test results said, “Congratulations! Your vehicle passed the enhanced Smog Check inspection, which helps California reach its daily goal of removing an extra 100 tons (!) of smog-forming emissions from the air.”

Of course, the test adds to the cost of registering a vehicle in California. My test was $71.20, which included a Smog Certificate and a fee for transmitting the test results to the DMV. So really, it’s costing me $218.20 to keep my car on the road for the next year. I guess it could be worse.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Walk with the stars

Since 1960, the Walk of Fame has attracted tourists who want to see the stars. About 10 million people visit the 18-block walk annually, and it celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

Hollywood business leaders came up with the Walk of Fame idea in the 1950s as a way to beautify and promote the area.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the walk’s plans called for 1,529 of the biggest stars of film, stage, radio, television and music to be immortalized in the concrete using brass set in salmon-colored terrazzo stars surrounded by black backgrounds. As of March 2010, The Times found more than 2,300 stars on the walk, representing 2,100 individuals or organizations.

Anyone can nominate a candidate, but the celebrity must agree to be considered. And if chosen, a star (or their fan club) has to pay a $25,000 fee for the ceremony.

The Walk of Fame has five types of stars. Performers are recognized for work in the fields of motion pictures, television, radio, live performance and recording. There are also 15 so-called special stars awarded to events or companies, including the Apollo moon landing and news organizations such as the L.A. Times and Variety. Believe it or not, there are stars for the Victoria's Secret Angels, granted in 2007, and Absolut Vodka, granted in 2008.

Surprisingly, there are many big names in Hollywood who do not have stars on the Walk of Fame. There are numerous reasons for this. A celebrity must be nominated, selected and agree to the ceremony — in addition to paying for the ceremony. You won’t see stars for Dustin Hoffman, George Clooney (What?), Julia Roberts, Robert Redford, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Sean Connery, Angelina Jolie or Denzel Washington. Clint Eastwood doesn't have a star either, but you can see his handprints in the courtyard in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre.

Gene Autry is the only person to have stars in five fields: film, TV, radio, live performance and music. I just learned that Autry was the original owner of TV station KTLA.

Caption: Michael Jackson’s star is on Hollywood Boulevard near the front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Our lobby is better than your lobby

Parts of the building are hopelessly dated, but there are some cool things to see at the Los Angeles Times. One of the highlights is the Globe Lobby, which is off the building's 1st Street entrance. (Of course, this entrance is not open to the public. Sorry.)

The lobby has 10-foot-high murals that were painted in 1935 by Hugo Ballin, who also painted the Griffith Observatory rotunda. It also has an exhibit showcasing the history of The Times. As for the globe, my guess is that it symbolizes the paper's worldwide coverage.

The Globe Lobby is where I met and shook the hand of Barack Obama in 2008.

Another tidbit: The Times building was designed by Gordon B. Kaufmann, the same architect who designed Hoover Dam.

Caption: The Times offers free tours of its downtown L.A. building.

Welcome, summer

Summer has finally arrived in Southern California! After weeks of cloudy and cool mornings and afternoons, the temperatures are higher than 80. Unfortunately, they are much higher than 80: Friday's high in Long Beach was 91 and downtown L.A. was even hotter at 97.

On Saturday, the fourth day of excessive heat, the L.A. Times reported temperatures reached 95 in downtown Los Angeles, 103 in Pomona, 103 in Lancaster and 96 in Anaheim. My thermometer in Long Beach read 88.

People are hitting the beaches to escape the heat. In Seal Beach, there are big crowds and more than six people have been stung by stingrays. The strand there is nicknamed ray bay because the shallow waters are warmed by nearby power plants, attracting thousands of rays. They lurk just below the sand.
Aquarium of the Pacific educators tell guests to shuffle while walking in the water to avoid stepping on a ray. The sting is painful and the only known treatment is to soak the affected foot in hot water.

Caption: Summer is in full swing at Seal Beach.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Surf's up!

Waves were reportedly up to 1o feet in Newport Beach.

The surfing was rough north of the city pier in Huntington Beach.

It's broiling in the eastern half of the country, but we're experiencing cool and cloudy conditions on the West Coast. A storm off New Zealand caused some of the year's biggest waves, which were 8-15 feet in some areas. Orange County's south-facing beaches experienced the highest surf, which was expected to taper off midweek. I took these photos Tuesday afternoon, well after the waves had peaked.