Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wilshire Grand Farewell

My final post this year is a farewell to the Wilshire Grand Hotel- my employer- in downtown. It opened its doors in 1952 as the Statler, then became part of the Hilton chain until 1995. Omni took over managing it for 4 years; then the hotel became independent and took the name Wilshire Grand. It’s a big hotel for LA- close to 900 rooms, and nearly 50,000 square feet of ballroom and meeting space. The owner of the property, Korean Air, is going to tear down the building, then put up a new hotel and new office building. Total price tag? Over a billion dollars.

The Wilshire Grand’s closing was recently featured in the media, notably the LA Times and the Downtown News. (See, as well as ) The Pope was a guest; so were the jurors in the Rodney King trial. It was my home for close to 17 years. I will miss everyone that I worked with, and all the tenants that I saw every day. When you’re busy toasting on New Year’s Eve, raise a glass to the WG!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Voyager Los Angeles wishes you a belated Merry Christmas- LA style. Only in Los Angeles would you see Christmas celebrated like this!

How does Santa carry all the presents on the bike?

The ninth reindeer?

Or instead of dressing like Santa, maybe you'd rather just surf or play volleyball-

Hope you had a great Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Non-Native Angeleno

 Okay, so where have I gleaned all of my (limited) knowledge- and curiosity- about LA? I would say the answer lies in the phrase- “the zeal of a convert”. I did not grow up in Los Angeles. When I moved here right after college, I wanted to learn about my new home, and the (relatively) short history that it had.  I got books out of the library about “Old Hollywood”, and drove to unfamiliar areas on the weekends. The contrast in neighborhoods, architectural styles, and lifestyles was very different from the Midwest.

In my home state of Ohio, you can feel its past- the elementary school that I attended (built in the 1960’s) was named Fort Island, because it literally was a site of an island where there had been a fort- in 1673! Our neighbors across the street went looking for Indian arrowheads in the woods behind our house. A girl in my graduating class was a Mennonite, an offshoot of the Amish community.

Obviously, California has been here just as long, but it was populated by non- natives much later than the East and the Midwest. And, as has been attested by many other people, LA loves to get rid of its past by tearing things down. What remains, and what is newly made, is the essence of LA.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Jim Morrison: Paris or Los Angeles?

He’s still hot, he’s still sexy, and he’s still dead, resting in Pere Lachaise cemetery in the 20th arrondisement in Paris. I first visited his grave in 1986 (15 years after he was interred there), then again in 2004. And he still draws crowds.

RIP Jim- read the Doors' lyrics on the neighboring mausoleum.

The Morrison Hotel, featured on the cover of the Doors album Morrison Hotel, is still in downtown LA, although it finally closed its doors (ha ha, no pun intended) in 2007.

Can you believe this is the Morrison Hotel today?

And 1812 Rothdell Trail in Laurel Canyon, where Jim lived with Pamela Courson, is still there, better known to Doors’ fans as … Love Street.

Jim Morrison in Venice Beach- a topic for another post!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

5 Great (and a Few Unexpected) Views of LA

Is Voyager Los Angeles obsessed with views?

1. From a Victorian house in Angelino Heights, looking at Downtown.

2. The former Falcon Lair, located at the top of Bella Drive, above Benedict Canyon, offers fantastic views of Beverly Hills. Sadly, this one-time home of Rudolf Valentino (as well as Doris Duke) was razed in 2006. For more info, go to

3.The Los Angeles Harbor, one of the busiest harbors in the world, as seen from San Pedro-

4. The Getty Museum in Brentwood- on a clear day, you can see all of the LA Basin.

5. 7th Street in Downtown- No, this is not New York.

More great views on another post!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Battle of the Ice Rinks

Well, it's that time of the year again. Los Angeles, the city that has no snow, has three temporary ice rinks- two in downtown, and one in Santa Monica. Let's look at the stats, and see how they compare:

Santa Monica has an 8000 sf ice rink at 1524 5th Street. It costs $12.00 for admission and skate rental. It runs from 11/11/11 through 1/16/12. For more info:
Benefit to location: Can ice skate, then swim in the ocean.

Pershing Square in downtown has the cheapest rink- $6.00 for admission, and $2.00 for skate rental. Square footage of the rink is unknown, but the maximum number of people it holds is 190. It runs from 11/17/11 through 1/16/12. For more info:
Benefit to location: Can ice skate, then hear the LA Philharmonic at Disney Hall.

PershingSquare (Above and Below)

Also in downtown is LA Kings Holiday Ice at LA Live, which runs from 11/26/11 through 1/5/12. Admission is $12.00, which also includes skate rental. The rink is 80'X80', or 6400 sf. Go to for more information.
Benefit to location: Can ice skate, then watch the Kings.

So,after skating, do you want ot swim; hear some music; or watch hockey? You decide!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Eating, Drinking... and Outlasting the Competition

As I was waiting for my doctor to come in and start my physical this morning, I thought back to another medical waiting room I was in several months ago. I was waiting to be taken into surgery for a broken elbow, and a resident was reviewing my chart. We started talking, and it came up that I had moved to LA in 1981. “A long time ago” he said. ”Yeah, I’ve seen a lot of changes- good and bad” I responded. “What are the good ones?” That silenced me for a moment- traffic is worse, housing is still expensive- but I came up with something! The restaurants have gotten better. They are more varied, with many more cuisines, and healthier to boot. A lot of restaurants have come and gone- which is all the more astonishing when some of them last over 40 years.

Dhaba has been on Main Street in Santa Monica since 1971. In LA terms, it is an absolute dinosaur. But next to Chez Jay (1959) and The Galley (1934!), it’s a youngster. Will today’s trendy places be around that long?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Shoot Me!

You know you’ve become a true Angeleno when you start recognizing where they shoot movies and TV shows. Part of watching a story unfold on-screen is to be fully drawn into the scene- and I am constantly taken out of the story for a minute when I realize where I really am. It’s one thing if the story is actually set in LA- but what if it’s not? During an NCIS marathon one weekend, I watched  two agents chase a suspect down the street in Washington, D.C.- until I thought “Gee, that looks suspiciously like the Main Library downtown!” (Also re: NCIS: my cousin has commented on the fence thay always show when someone is driving in the countryside is in Santa Clarita!) I’ve gone through the same thing with the Showtime series “Dexter”, which is set in Miami. Many of the exterior shots are in Marina del Rey, and the houses are in Long Beach.

My pictures for this post are at the building where Two Face (Tommy Lee Jones) had his HQ in Batman Forever (1995). It’s really an office building on Figueroa St. with cool art work- which I’ll save for another post on public art in LA!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Gobbling Up Good Wishes

Voyager Los Angeles wishes you a Happy Thanksgiving- and be thankful for everything that you have!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Where the Streets Have (Famous) Names

Sure, Paris and London have beaucoup streets and monuments named after famous statesmen, artists, and politicians- like Nelson’s Column and Victoria Station (London) and Boulevard Voltaire and Boulevard Henri IV (Paris). But they’ve had a head start, since LA only became a city in 1881. We certainly measure up with these:

-Someone in Beverly Hills had the foresight to intersect these two streets:

-The Japanese American astronaut killed in the Challenger explosion in 1986- Ellison S. Onizuka- has a street named after him in Little Tokyo.

-For you readers under 30, ask your parents who these two are:

-Just south of the Ronald Reagan Freeway is Richie Valens Park- Bonzo vs. La Bamba!

-Non basketball fans may have trouble identifying this:
Of course, Chick Hearn Court is right next to the home of the Kings and the Lakers- Staples Center. Maybe cities in Europe and Asia can start naming their monuments after office supply stores...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Tale of Two Cities: Commerce Vs. Industry

When I moved to LA in 1981, I was an outside sales rep, so I had to learn the city “on the run”. The first time I saw these two cities on the map:

City of Commerce
City of Industry

I tried to envision what they looked like based on their names. I thought the City of Commerce would resemble Wall Street, with financial institutions everywhere. And the City of Industry would look like Cleveland or Pittsburgh, with smokestacks forever.

Boy, was I wrong.

The City of Commerce, aside from its casino, and its outlet center The Citadel (which started life as the Samsom Tire & Rubber factory), looks like the industrial city (not quite like Cleveland though).

The Citadel- above and below

The City of Industry, with its 219 residents (much like Vernon) and oddly gerrymandered shape, is newer, and relatively green. Although it is geared towards business- 92% is industrial, 8% is commercial- it doesn’t have that Rust Belt city feeling. It has a regional shopping mall (Puente Hills), an award-winning golf course (Pacific Palms Resort, formerly Industry Hills Sheraton), and wants to be the new home of Los Angeles Stadium, if Los Angeles ever gets an NFL team again .

Monday, November 14, 2011

Best Views in Los Angeles for Foodies

Every dining guide has a list or category of “Best Views in Los Angeles”. Zagat’s category currently has over 50. Aside from the usual suspects- places like Moonshadows or Geoffrey’s on PCH in Malibu; The Lobster in Santa Monica; Parkers Lighthouse in Long Beach- here are my 5 places to eat or drink with a great view:

1) Perch, on the 13th floor of
448 S. Hill St. -
 The Standard downtown has a great rooftop bar- but Perch, which has been open about 2 months, is the hands-down winner for best view in downtown. Best at night.

Perch yourself above it all!

2) Yamashiro, 1999 N. Sycamore, Hollywood- I think the food has improved, but basically this is a place to have a drink and enjoy the view of the LA basin. Best at night. (Go to to see the views.)

3) The Penthouse at the Huntley Hotel, 1111 2nd St., Santa Monica – The most unobstructed view of the Pacific Ocean you’ll ever see. Best during the day- because at night, there’s nothing to see.

4) Café Pinot, in front of the Central Library, at 5th and Flower- The view is not up in the air- it’s the feeling of being surrounded by all the skyscrapers in downtown. Best at night.

Looking up from Cafe Pinot (above and below)

5) West at Hotel Angeleno, Sunset Blvd. at the 405- The circular penthouse restaurant that overlooks the 405. Best at night, when you’re looking at all those taillights, and are happy you’re not on the road.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Market Watch

I barely touched on the huge number of ethnic markets in LA in my post last week. Besides Japanese, Chinese, Mexican and Dutch(!), there are also:

  • Persian, concentrated in Westwood;
  • Indian, on
    Pioneer Blvd.
    in Little India (see  in Artesia;
  • Filipino- but, surprisingly, there are almost none in Historic Filipinotown, just west of downtown on Beverly Blvd.- instead go to Island Pacific (a large chain) at 3rd and Vermont; Seafood City Market near Eagle Rock Mall (another chain); or head out to West Covina, which has many of them;
  • Armenian, in Little Armenia in Hollywood (go to and Glendale at the Central Grand Market on Central, and Glendale Ranch Market, also on Central ;                                          
  • Greek, in the Byzantine Latino District, which I mentioned in a previous post
Italian markets are all over. The one closest to me is Bay Cities, on Lincoln Blvd. To say this place is popular is an understatement- traffic backs up both ways because of all the cars trying to get into its small parking lot.
Also in Santa Monica is Shoop’s, a place I walked by for ages before going in and discovering all the imported German food you’d ever want to taste.

Auf Wiedersehen!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Yes, This Is Downtown Los Angeles- Photo Edition

Today's post is a rehash of something I did on Facebook a few years ago. I posted pictures I had taken in Downtown LA which were not what most people associated with that area.

The Fine Arts Building, 7th Street

California Club, Flower Street

Front of the Main Library

Front of the Main Library

Main Library Gardens

Parking Structure(!), Flower Street

Medici Apts, Bixel Street
So for all your readers who don't live or work in Downtown- it's not just skyscrapers and government buildings!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Dutch Treat

It’s obvious that there is a multitude of ethnic markets/grocery stores in Los Angeles. Little Tokyo, as well as West LA, has Japanese markets; Monterey Park and Chinatown have- well, Chinese markets.(And speaking of Monterey Park- WP24, Wolfgang Puck’s newest restaurant, just did a market tour there, where attendees went to the markets, then came back and made a six-course tasting menu.) Markets specializing in Mexican/Central American food are all over the city. And Grand Central Market in downtown is the granddaddy of them all.

But how many Dutch markets are there?

I can see I’ve stumped you with this question. Well, there’s only one that I know of. It’s Holland American Market, located in Bellflower.

 It’s also one of the largest Dutch (and Indonesian) markets in the country. You can check out their website at, or drive to Bellflower to see it for yourself.

For more information on cool food tours (including specialty food tours), go to

                                                              Delft tiles for everyone!

(And let me know if you like the new template!)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Murals in Los Angeles

The recent vote by LA City Council to loosen up the (over) 20 year old restrictions on murals is long overdue. Done to prohibit advertising, it had the effect of banning everything. But- there are still murals out there now- some small, some taking up the side of a building.

Why these survived, I don’t know- there have been many cases of legitimately commissioned murals being whitewashed. The most recent example that comes to mind is the mural on the side of a building downtown of the artist Ed Ruscha, done by Kent Twitchell,  (Or maybe Twitchell is just cursed- he had also done the mural of the old woman with her afghan rug that loomed over the Hollywood Freeway- it too was painted over.) Every section of the city has some- East Los Angeles is a gold mine, as is Silver Lake, Downtown, and Venice. Go to the website for a list of where you can find murals close to you.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Not-So-Golden State Freeway

Each freeway in LA has its own personality, and if you don’t believe me, try driving on the 710 (Long Beach Fwy.) towards the Port of Los Angeles versus the 210 (Ronald Reagan Fwy.- a regrettable name) near Hansen Dam. Yes, they’re in different parts of the county, but when a freeway was built, and who uses it the most, has a lot to do with your riding experience.

The 5 (Golden State Fwy.) was the first freeway, opening in 1940. Known then as the
Arroyo Seco Parkway
, it went from Downtown to Pasadena. It is a narrow little roadway- and as it grew and headed south, it remained (by today’s standards) narrow. When it hits Orange County, it gets wider, because O.C. spent the money to widen it for all those cars headed to the Mouse House.

The 710, as noted above, is full of heavy trucks headed south towards the ports- and then north after pick up, full of cargo. The weight takes a toll on the quality of the road itself. Because of this, and the fact that it is full of these trucks, I loathe driving on it. By contrast, the 210 out in the Valley is relatively new, very wide, and free of trucks.

The 10 shifts and changes- no car pool lanes, then car pool lanes, then none again.

The most unusual is the 90, which is the shortest- it goes from Marina del Rey to Culver City. It was called the Richard M. Nixon Freeway from 1971 to 1976. (Hmm, I think his resignation in 1974 had something to do with the name change.) Go to it will give you more information than you’d ever want to know about the roads in California.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Professor Voyager Gives A Quiz

Okay, are you ready for your pop quiz on Los Angeles?

1) What is the longest street in LA?

2) What year did Flower and Figueroa Streets (in Downtown) become one-way?

3 What building in Los Angeles was destroyed by Martian spaceships in 1953’s “War of the Worlds”?

4) How many residents does Vernon (a city so corrupt it makes Bell look good) have?

5) By the numbers:
a)      How many nude beaches are there in LA?
b)      How many beaches can you legally walk your dog off-leash?
c)      How many beaches can you legally drink liquor on?      

Answers are below- no cheating!

                          Please take me for a walk!


1) Sepulveda Blvd
, stretching from South Bay to the Valley, is 42.8 miles long. By comparison, the distance from LA to Catalina Island is about 26 miles.

2)1987. It was done in conjunction with the construction of the Red Line, LA’s first subway. For all you readers who don’t live in LA, yes, we actually have a subway.

3) City Hall. There are probably people today who would like the Martians to blow it up again.

4) According to the 2010 census- 112. I’ve also seen 80, and 89- but you get the idea. It’s all industry, no residents.

5) Very low numbers:
a)                  0
b)                  1- in Long Beach
c)                  0- the key word being LEGALLY, as anyone who has ever hung out on the Marina Peninsula knows.

                               Smoking is not allowed on the beach as well!

The student who gets the most answers right gets to take their dog for a walk along
Sepulveda Blvd.
, trying to avoid any Martians they may see.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Why Does the Rest of the World want to be in LA?

Let’s say you just won one million frequent flier miles, and you can go to wherever you want on the planet. You put together this far-flung itinerary, including the following:

  • Athens
  • Hawaii
  • Venice
  • Naples
  • Manhattan
  • San Marino

But wait, save your miles! You can visit all of these places in LA! Yes, because clearly government officials long ago could not come up with original names for their cities. I mean, Athens? Athens is an area of the city of Los Angeles near Gardena. Needless to say, there is no Parthenon there, nor a Delphic oracle. (And, to add to the confusion, just west of downtown is the “Byzantine Latino” district, with a huge Greek Orthodox church, and the well-known Greek restaurant Papa Cristo’s- go to for more information on this interesting area.)

Hawaii refers to Hawaiian Gardens, which does not look like Maui;
Venice refers of course not to Italy but the well-known Venice south of Santa Monica (but still full of canals);

                                                         It's just like being in Italy!

Naples, also not in Italy, but adjacent to Long Beach;
Manhattan Beach, with no skyscrapers;
and San Marino, the wealthy enclave near Pasadena.

We'll talk about Portuguese Bend and the Hollywood Riviera on another post...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Window Shopping

LA is primarily a car city, but there are pockets where pedestrians rule the roost. Downtown is one example; the Venice Boardwalk is another. In cities where the pedestrian is king (like every major city in the world), store owners actually DO something with their windows. They make them eye catching to entice would-be customers to enter. Take, for example, this window on Rue Jacob in Paris:

Would you stop to look in?

Sadly, LA makes no attempt to do anything like this. Downtown is one huge missed opportunity as far as store windows are concerned. This is the Rite-Aid at the corner of 7th and Hope:

A poster of people on bikes?! It's a drugstore, not a bike shop!

For the amount of rent being paid, you would think owners would take advantage of the windows to drive more business in. Maybe they just don’t want to have to clean the glass!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pronounce This!

Saying the names of streets and cities should be easy, but like a lot of other things in LA, it’s not. Take, for example, two main thoroughfares- La Cienega and Sepulveda. Any time I have out-of-town guests, they invariably mispronounce them (try it with your next visitor).

And what happens when you pronounce something correctly? You’re still wrong. When I first moved here, I worked in Beverly Hills, and would drive down
Cañon Drive
. Note the tilde over the first “n”- in Spanish, ñ is pronounced “ny”, so I would say “canyon”. No one I worked with knew what I was referring to. Finally, someone said “Oh, we say ‘cannon’”. Forgive me for trying to be correct!

A girl I worked with at the time was from San Diego. She always made fun of tourists who came there and asked where La Jolla was, pronouncing it with the “j” and the “l”. Ha ha. I bet if she went back east, she couldn’t say Monongahela, Massapequa or Susquehanna correctly!

(No pertinent picture this time- just a fuzzy palm tree!)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Welcome to the Hotel California

But which one? The one pictured on the cover of “Hotel California” is, of course, the Beverly Hills Hotel, as any Eagles fan can tell you. But there’s a Hotel California in Santa Monica, with more of a surf vibe.

 As well as one in San Francisco.

These are at least IN California. But there’s a Hotel California in- of all places- Paris, France, on Rue des Ecoles in the Latin Quarter.

For all I know, there may be one in Paris, Texas. Does Don Henley get the profits from these places?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Voyager Los Angeles is taking a voyage- will try to post next week!

In the meantime, I hope the City of Angels looks over you!