Sunday, May 24, 2009

tape from california 4: the seals on the beach are almost in reach


After departing Morro Bay, I continued north along Highway 1, now bearing the name "Cabrillo Highway". Based on an ad I had seen on the local tourism cable channel, I made a sidetrip out of Cambria to check out some local fruit preserves. i was greeted by a noisy peacock, who I think was trying to say "pick the cherry!"

Nibbling Away (1)

If this day of the trip had been an episode of The Polka Dot Door, I would have been told to "get ready, get set for animal day." North of Cambria I pulled off at a lookout, partly to snap shots of the ocean, partly to finish a delicious pork torta sandwich I picked up at a bakery in town. As soon as I hopped out of the car, a torrent of these critters dashed over. I tossed them the bits that had fallen out of the sandwich, which caused their sad eyes to quickly vanish. Now I had to make sure I didn't run over any while leaving the lot (no chipmunks/squirrels/whatever they are were harmed in the making of this post).

Elephant Seals at Piedras Blancas (12)

North of Hearst Castle, the beach at Piedras Blancas was home to a large group basking in the sunshine...a large group of elephant seals. According to a newsletter passed out to onlookers by members of Friends of the Elephant Seal, May is molting time for females and juveniles. It was way too easy to stand transfixed at the mass of seals below the observation area.

Some seals in the water, much to another observer's amusement. The wind prevented my camera from picking up the distinctive grunt of the seals.

Further south on the beach, several seals tossed sand on their molting bodies to make themselves more comfortable. I think I caught some grunts this time.

Highway Arising 064
A Sense of Scale Yes, It's Another Scenic Highway 1 Photo

Continuing north, I entered the twisty, awe-inspiring Big Sur stretch of Highway 1. The drive wasn't as unnerving as I feared - maniacs seemed absent from the road, turnoffs for quick photo stops were plentiful, and I never felt worried about any false moves that might lead to an unintended dive off a cliff.

Roadside Flower (2)

A flower found at one stop at the north end of Big Sur.

Bixby Creek Bridge (3)

The overly curious could find dangers of their own (below this were the remnants of a footpath that led down to a beach via sharp drops).

Full set of pictures. All photos in this post taken on May 19, 2009 - JB

Friday, May 22, 2009

tape from california 3: heading up the coast

Leaving Los Angeles was a breeze, as I ventured up Sepulveda one last time to hook up with Highway 1 and make my way to the coast. The drive along Pacific Coast Highway up to Oxnard was relaxing, except for the joyous experience of filling up the car. The first station I stopped at in Malibu had six out of eight pumps out of service, and the only unoccupied one was in no mood to put gas into the Grand Marquis. For my second attempt at a Shell up the highway, I tried using a credit card at the pump. No dice - the pump asked for a zip code and refused to skip that step. Cue walk to the cashier. Back at the pump, it took some time and effort to position the nozzle into the tank, thanks to the cumbersome anti-fume covers mandated by state law. Cue a moment or two of muttered obscenities.

Mugu Rock

This is Point Mugu, one of the scenic spots on the Pacific Coast Highway. As you can see, the skies were grey. The sun decided it wanted to stay further inland. At Oxnard, I pulled into a tourist information centre, where the staff urged me to check out the elephant seals on the beach north of Hearst Castle on the following day. They were so eager to be helpful that I wondered if I would ever resume the journey.

Santa Barbara Architecture (4) Santa Barbara Mission (4)

The early afternoon was spent gazing at the architecture in Santa Barbara. Went up to the historic mission (pictured on the right) but due to time declined to take the paid tour, a decision that spared my ancestors several coffin turns. Several nuns were enjoying a Coca-Cola break on the porch while I surveyed the grounds.

Washroom Donation Box

The mission also accepts donations to use the restroom. I have likely condemned my soul for not pitching in.

El Morro Masterpiece Motel

After passing through locales mentioned in W.C. Fields movies and Warner Bros. cartoons (Lompoc, Pismo Beach), I settled for the night in Morro Bay. I arrived in time for free cheese and wine, which half-a-dozen or so guests were enjoying in the lounge. Travel stories were being swapped, mostly between an elderly couple from LA and middle-aged travelers from Australia.

Sand Dabs Dinner

Morro Bay is a fishing/tourist town marked by a giant rock in its harbour. It was easy to imagine waterfront overrun with visitors at the height of summer, but my timing meant a quiet stroll while determining where to eat. After walking up and down the Embarcadero several times, I settled upon The Flying Dutchman due to reasonable prices, eye-catching items on the menu...and it had the most tables filled. I ordered a local catch, mild-flavoured sand dabs pan-broiled in lemon butter. On the side was a creamy clam chowder loaded with giant chunks of clam.

Full set of pictures. All photos in this post taken on May 18, 2009 - JB

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

tape from california 2: hooray for hollywood

The Lion's Fountain
A few days before setting off, I picked a movie-lover's guide to Los Angeles at BMV. I had hoped that it would help narrow down sites to check out, but wound up with a case of information overload. My approach for my full day in the City of Angels was to wander semi-aimlessly and see whatever crossed my path...the easy, tension-free method of travel!

My film-related adventures began in Culver City, one time home of MGM. The lot may be gone (the site where the lion roared is now home to Sony Pictures), but the lion remains in a sculpture in Town Plaza next to the Culver Hotel.

Lucy and Desi

Oh Lucy...actually this art honours the Culver Studios around the corner, which was operated by Desilu for a time. Another nearby street is named after the first filmmaker to work out of the facility, Thomas Ince. After his death under mysterious circumstances in 1924, Pathe, RKO and Selznick International filmed at the site.

RKO Studios (1)

Speaking of RKO, I stopped by the studio's main facility at Gower and Melrose, now operated by Paramount.

Ever since I received a coffee table book about RKO when I was a kid, I've been interested in the studio's history - partly due to the films it produced, partly because of the perpetual state of instability that caused it to be the one major of the studio system era to completely collapse.

Geese at Hollywood Forever (2)

Further north on Gower, a serene scene of Canada Geese roaming around the Hollywood Forever cemetery. This almost meant dodging large amounts of goose and duck poop while looking for recognizable names.

Tyrone Power Grave (1)

Among the actors to be found is Tyrone Power, whose grave inscription is the "good night sweet prince" passage from Hamlet.


Douglas Fairbanks Senior and Junior have an impressive plot...

Johnny Ramone

...while Johnny Ramone continues to rock on. Gabba gabba hey.


The large number of feral cats nestled by the mausoleum enjoyed their lazy afternoon.

Amoeba Music Mural Amoeba Music Interior - Hollywood

Winding my way to Sunset Boulevard, I snapped photos of TV studios and streets named after founders of religions. I hopped out of the car to check out Amoeba Records - some friends had recommended their San Francisco branch. I had to restrain myself from spending the rest of the day digging through bin after bin of music. To save time, I dodged the lengthy rows of clearance items. The picture above barely conveys how much is stuffed into the store.

Vera Vague

A brief stop at Hollywood and Vine allowed for snaps of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I parked next to Lloyd Nolan and Charles Laughton. Plenty of long-forgotten names lined the sidewalk - do members of the Vera Vague fan club hold a yearly pilgrimage?

Homer on Hollywood Boulevard Davy Jones Finds More Prey
Hollywood and Highland Center Plaza (2) 136a

Further west on Hollywood Boulevard, I wandered through the tourist craziness around the Hollywood and Highland Center. From the attempt to evoke the Babylonian sets of D.W. Griffith's epic Intolerance to the costumed hordes who look like movie and TV characters with varying degrees of accuracy. I kept waiting for the large number of Jack Sparrows to battle it out.

And yes, that Homer was freaky.


As one pedestrian noted, it's no shock that his star would be found in this area.

The Ocean at Last

After a trip down the Sunset Strip, I headed towards the coast...and finally had my first glimpse of the Pacific. Drove by the Santa Monica Pier, but the traffic and crowds were too insane for my liking (blame fatigue). Instead, I flipped through a copy of Los Angeles magazine I picked up earlier whose cover story was on cheap eats. After browsing the listings, I headed back to Culver City...

Cafe Brasil Exterior (1)
Red Snapper Dinner

The winner was Cafe Brasil on Washington Boulevard. The article had recommended the all-day breakfast, but I went with the snapper dinner. The well-seasoned fillet came with rice, black beans, plantains and a bowl of lentil soup. Very satisfying.


Before heading back to the hotel, I stopped to browse at a nearby Barnes & Noble. While standing and flipping through a guide on the central coast, I felt a rumble below me. The shaking lasted a few seconds but felt like an extended, slow motion quarry blast (I grew up across the road from a site with occasional blasting).


Others in the store were stunned but reasonably calm. The quake turned out to be a 4.7 shaker centered slightly to the northwest. Just another part of experiencing the Golden State.

Full set of pictures. All in this post taken around Los Angeles on May 17, 2009 - JB

Sunday, May 17, 2009

tape from california 1: one fine half-day in los angeles

Sorry I can't stop and talk now
I'm in kind of a hurry but anyhow
But I'll send you a tape from California
-Phil Ochs, Tape From California, 1968

Greetings from the west coast! I've dreamed of driving along the Pacific for years and now I'm here. There. That's enough of an intro...besides, I don't want to spend all my time out here behind a computer.


The adventure began in Detroit with my first taste of an American airport since 9/11. Security checks went smoothly, though there were two guards trying to explain aloud what passengers were supposed to do when they reached the conveyor belt. The mingling of their voices sounded something like this...

The flight itself was uneventful, other than teaching me that I should have bought a neck pillow. The sky was clear most of the way, leaving to spectacular views of the land below, even I was unable to pinpoint exactly where we were once we crossed the Mississippi. I landed on time at LAX and hopped immediately on a shuttle to the car rental agency. The driver was a little loopy, muttering random phrases that didn't make much sense, but she was grooving along when "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" came over the radio.

Not Quite Compact
The rental agency was crowded and understaffed. I barely understood what my clerk was saying, as they talked at about 115 mph and seemed intent on pitching me 7,321 upgrades and insurance policies. I replied "no" in a clipped tone to all of their inquiries, though I wonder if this means I may have missed something I should have bought.

I wound up with a boat, aka Mercury Grand Marquis. As a lot of places here mark out spaces specifically for compacts, parking is going to be fun. I'm gradually adjusting to the beast, with its white leather interior, fall-to-the-centre-of-the-earth-deep trunk and precise a/c system (adjusting the exact temperature is a novelty for me).

Family Not in the HOV Lane

After settling into my hotel for a few minutes, I headed north to begin exploring the area. I quickly ran into the infamous LA traffic on the San Diego Freeway, but this didn't bother me as it allowed time to snap photos (such as this minivan sticker and HOV fine sign). Being stuck on the freeway felt strangely relaxing-drivers seemed a little more aware of their surroundings than those on Toronto's freeways and I was able to soak in the surroundings.

Lined With Palms (1)

Hopping off at Washington Blvd, I headed through the west end of Culver City towards Venice. The palm trees lining the road grabbed my attention...

Leaving Tsunami Hazard Zone did this reassuring sign.

Double Double Meal (1)

Needing a quick bite to eat, I stopped at an In-N-Out Burger, a chain with strong customer loyalty. I went with a Double-Double combo meal (burger, fries, drink), which covered a good chunk of the menu. It was just a fast food burger, but tastier than the giant chains. The fries looked unexciting but tasted like they had been cut from a potato. The drive thru was a madhouse, with traffic snaking around the adjoining big box parking lot (though they had a human being taking the orders around the middle of the lineup).

Getty Tram

Next stop was the Getty Center. The view heading up the hill on the tram was spectacular, with the combination of hills, fog and traffic on the San Diego Freeway. The cool, misty weather at the top was calming, a relaxing way to ease into the evening.

The Vexed Man

A very constipated bust. Being inside didn't relax him (relaxed me though).

Looking Down at Cacti Garden (1)

Central Garden, Getty Center (2)

Central Garden, Getty Center (3)

The pavilions are surrounded by a series of gardens, which added to the serenity.

I wound down the night with a quick trek east on Mulholland Drive, but it was too foggy to enjoy unless there had been a 1940s femme fatale with me. I picked a random route to head back south, which plunked me in the middle of Beverly Hills. Offhand, the shopping strip on Rodeo Drive didn't look much different than an upscale outdoor "lifestyle" centre...maybe it was fatigue creeping in, but I had to blink a couple of times to reassure myself I wasn't somewhere like, say, the new Don Mills Centre (the names on the stores could have told me that).

The night ended in the hotel's outdoor whirlpool. Sitting in the pool, under a palm tree, on a comfortable evening, it seemed that all was well with the universe. No stresses, few worries. Viva vacation!

Full set of pictures. All in this post taken around Los Angeles on May 16, 2009 - JB

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

why take a risk with your teeth?: bonus features

Before reading this post, check out the related Vintage Toronto Ad on Torontoist.

Vintage Ad #811: Doing Things Well

The ad that Dr. Risk ran in the Toronto Star from May 1899 to January 1900—this sample was taken from the May 20, 1899 edition.

Vintage Ad #813: New Boss for the Annual Offer

In January 1900, Dr. Risk left the firm (death? buyout? wanderlust?) and Dr. A. Rose took over. From the sound of this ad (taken from the January 20, 1900 edition of the Star) it appears there a few changes were made to the office—maybe Dr. Rose didn't like Dr. Risk's taste in furniture or equipment. Note how Dr. Rose holds the line on teeth prices in the face of the Great Teeth Price Surge of 1900.

Vintage Ad #814: The Mentha Dental Lady Still Smiles

From the November 16, 1901 edition of the Star, the latest ad I could find for the office. It had moved north around April 1901 to Yonge and Shuter, roughly where the entrance to the Eaton Centre parking garage is. McKendry's was a clothing store at Yonge and Albert streets that advertised "mourning millinery" among their wares. The lady is still beaming after two years of serving as the office's mascot—how much longer she smiled, I cannot say.