Home at last

Mixup leaving LA (scheduled the ticket for 11 and remembered it as 11 though the time changed to 9 a.m.--and didnt reconfirm....bad me) so we got off later and then had to spend the night in Philadelphia versus our other choice, the red eye (no thanks). So we killed an hour or two at the Theme Building--the former air traffic control building now restaurant. After a whole retro week of seventies, sixties and otherwise, it was dead on and very interesting. The restoration looks pretty bang up--so hopefully we will see a "new and improved the next visit. The next visit Rob proclaims must be soon as I just found out that I got 4 pieces in the Society of Illustrators West Coast show. Those pieces are the newest raven, the boston terrier with the green background, the Glimmerglass wine labels and the willow head that just got into Society of Illustrators NYC.

We spent the night last night in Philadelphia at a Four Points by Sheraton--having a drink at Sheraton's newest, a Loft hotel (the commercialization of the Boutique Hotel approach we just experienced at the Palomar (Kimpton) and the Standard Hotel (Downtown). This morning we ran the gauntlet at Phl with the bagcheckitis, and then the gate to Gate F complete with the vomit inducing busride to the remote gate (which we tried to walk to and was chided as we would have to go through security yet another time). R calmly chalked it up to just being Philadelphia. I was losing it.

Now back to the previous day. We spent the bulk of New Years Eve Day in Pasadena after breakfasting on sushi at another one of those fun Famima stores. We jumped in the car and from downtown was in Pasadena in about thirty minutes. It was a perfect thing to do. The Huntington has wonderful galleries (if you like english painting> a la Gainsborough, Reynolds, Romney and the like you are in for a treat). Their best known paintings are Pinkie and Blue Boy. We got a dose of that which was amusing as I could make K and A laugh talking about the paintings and doing a little comparative discussion about compostion, approach etc. And, they actually were paying attention! We looked at drapery, composition, color, brushwork and tightness of the painting, what the light was doing and how it was telling us something (or was it). It was great.

K and I found ourselves in heaven first seeing cartoons and then the final Bourne-Jones stained glass window for the family chapel (created by the William Morris Studio) to find at the top of the stairs a gallery with great examples from Walter Crane (Peacock), William Morris (fabrics including the Strawberry Thief) and some tile examples of the same period and an amazing library case of the same style/thinking. We had to be dragged out. (I was threatening to kick and scream but the gardens are so great). We took in a small but very dense show about the Green and Green brothers architecture with plans, line drawings for details and decoration combined with custom decorative arts and furniture created for these houses. I found the work (15 years later) a bit more ponderous than before and I wasn't as delighted as the first time.

Then to the Children's Garden at the Huntington. My goodness! They spent a ton of money.  But as you know, you can spend a ton of money and have something stupid or spend a ton of money and have magic. The Huntington Children's garden is absolutely sublime as it is all very high level, very respectful of children and how they play--not the usual crappiness  that many of these places have where it is more about adults thinking about what kids would like versus what they really like. The water elements are designed among and through the garden with mazes, full sized topiary buildings (with even furniture elements being topiary) complete with growy windowboxes, doors, windows, and surrounded by other tiny topiary. Every touch is delicate from masses of blue plants, to these wonderful little pots of all heights filled with water and some with sculptural koi inside them. These pots were placed strategically by a hole in the ground that would shoot a single bullet of water into the air which would land with a plop into the vessel next to them. So there were littles playing in the water, surprised by the little water shot...or littles trying to catch the water.... There was a room made of hedges that surrounded a semi circle of black columns which intermittantly would fill with mist that K and A likened to being in a cloud. Now, K and A are 16 and 15, cynical, wisenheimer kids who were as charmed as the 4 year olds (maybe even more so)-- There were all sorts of fruit and flowers from roses and rosemary to pomegranates, lemons and oranges. And the world of the chlldren's garden was a new day of living in and with nature for all ages. Truly, we could have spent the day experiencing the mist, the little popping pools, the topiary and the vibrating fountain that made our fingers tingle. We could have touched the succulents, engaged the silly fat bottomed palms, and the feathery grassy enclosures that changes the world and the way you see it. The traditional, beaux arts/ versailles inspired gardens are awe inspiring--but this world for the young inspires awe in the simple and magical.

The (new for us) expanded Japanese gardens are spectacular with bridges and ponds filled with enormous, happy koi with graceful, "real thing" japanese buildings and stone sculpture. The snacks (japanese dumplings, japanese candy and dried squid, and no end to interesting teas) are sold from a graceful wooden japanese tea building that was awesome in it's design, producttion and the lovely courtyards (paved with stones on end much like patterns you make with beans). These were some small selections from all the wonderful things we saw--and the collection of reference builds! I am thinking the garden of eden in context to all of this. We had to leave around 3 to have lunch (at the"Best" according to Team Cassetti)-- The fabulous In and Out Burger!

They have a simple menu: Hamburgers, Cheeseburgers, something called a double double, fresh made french fries, shakes and sodas. Thats it. The burgers are just the right size, not the ginormous ones that the big boys put out--and they are sublime. A waxes romantic as these things are devoured. We love the foood down to how the sandwiches are wrapped (and at the restaurant served on these cute plastic trays). People were buying paper boxes of these things with big bags of the fries hustling out the door to get the food to their friends as fast as possible. We always ask ourselves why we go anywhere else because these burgers are the top of the culinary heap (though now that I am shack centric that may change!).

Then, off to Palos Verdes to the High School to meet " the twins",, Devon and Jenna who wanted to do a glass demonstration for us and show off their wonderful teacher and the shop they have. Amazing all the way around. I want to go to High School with these driven sisters who are funny, opinionated and quite skilled. If this is the future, bring it on!!

Pizza and family New Years Eve with me being in bed around 10. Couldn't keep my eyes open--with the youngers hanging with Gloria and Jenna until a bit later. It was a wonderful day.

We walked yesterday--and through that, saw the interconnectedness of Downtown. We first walked over to the Bradbury Building with a drop in at Central Market. Central Market is the real deal in the tradition of Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia or The St. Lawrence Market in Toronto. Tons of stands, tons of stands and restaurants, chili vendors, spice vendors, meat and produce people. Great neon. Again, very clean! with lots of old time lunch counters of everthing imaginable from chinese and thai food to mexican. Some good illustrations of cows etc. that I took pictures of. We passed what became an obsession, the spanish wedding dress stores chock a block with cinderella dresses with embroidery, tuille, amazing bead and feather work. Enough to make K and my head spin. We have great lust for these things as K has a prom looming and this look would be a homerun in her mind. They were spectacular. I think a bit of googling and ebay searching may help this quest.

The Bradbury Building is best known for the interior scenes in the movie Bladerunner (along with other noteable LA buildings such as the Hollyhock House (FLWRight). It was apparently in a state of disrepair during the filming which one would never understand given that spit and polish perfection that awaited us. Clean edges, sharp...tile meeting terracotta meeting wood. Lyrical wrought iron and the wonderful whimsey the Victorians surrounded technology with. It was well worth the trip to see such a spectacular piece of architecture. Then, we headed towards Chinatown, literally skirting the top of Olivera Street (the Mexican District). We made a little shortcut to Olivera street to go to our favorite stand for taquitos (with this avocado inspired green sauce) and revelled in its perfection. Then onward to Chinatown which proved to be a bit lackluster by comparison.

Half the team was flagging, so we decided to tour Union Station and get ourselves back in the neighborhood via the LA subway system which was remarkable. Clean, easy to figure out and cheap. Union Station is remarkable--another amazing landmark...Union Station west coast style with tile, and color, big splashes of shape and pattern on the floors...walls. Rennovated perfectly with people using the spaces again. R and I went to MOCA to see what was doing to discover it was closed (Tuesdays and Wednesdays). However, we went to the LA Library which is a marvel. The Library had two occasions of arson in 1986 and has gone on to grow, expand and become a city jewel. Their collections are worth revisiting (Illustration (they had a Beatrix Potter on display), no end to pulp and movie posters, Japanese prints to name a few). And given the tone and feel of the place, I bet if you called in advance, it would not be a biggie to see the stuff. Tue public spaces are beautiful with plantings and places to sit along with a white tablecloth restaurant spilling into the plaza.

Then, back to the Standard where we lounged poolside (and in the pool to the horror of the Californians), with our littles while their auntie rested. Around five, we walked over to the new LA Live and the Grammy Museum which was remarkable and to my surprise, I actually liked/loved! Some heavy fantasy seventies retro styling happening in the exhibit...complemented by cool technology. There were magical interactives that spoke to the variety of music out there, lots of intriguing films about how a song comes together, the people involved in the making of music, interviews with producers about what they do, how they do it--and very little on the Grammys themselves. There is memorabilia, like sweet letters written by the artists, or the original manuscripts of songs--there are photos, instruments, and graphicss...stuff to feather a story to make it seem more human, humane, and a pursuit. It was cool to see how they spoke to the "art" of music making...and how the real filter, the real hand is the vision of the artist surrounded by all of these others who take it to the final. I particularly liked a film that spoke about session musicians and their ability to come in, look at the music once, sit down and deliver time and time again...without rehearsals etc. The prime group is a collection of musicians called the Wrecking Crew. Such heart, such professionalism, such craft. Amazing. Must see.

Then onward to discover LA live which will prove to be amazing upon completion. LA Live is a series of musical venues and lounges (Luckystrike is a lounge/bowling alley) that feature live performances --with the Grammy Museum being the driver. All of this is next to the Staples Center--with amazing huge jumbotron signage, lots of kinetic displays and a big splashy plaza with a ESPN zone. Very Universal City, Very downtown Disney but with a real focus on live entertainment. This is brand new, but my bet is within a year, this will be a go to place.

On the way back to the hotel, we visited a wonderful chain, japanese grocery store (with steaming Bao to go) called Famima which we loved down to the Hello Kitty cellphone charms and green tea iced cream, green tea mints, and green tea drinks. Did I say, green tea is big here? I bought some erasers in the shape of sushi and a remarkable pentel correction pen with a fine point as something to try. I got Mandy some funny mints as a "we love you" as she has been watching Shady Grove for this trip for pay...but a little soupcon is nice too.

Today is our last day. Tomorrow home> via Philadelphia which is pretty much all day in transit. We have had a lovely time but I think we will all be ready for our own beds and not living on top of each other as we have. I have throughly enjoyed myself and this neighborhood exploration of LA. It had painted a new picture of the town for me along with not feeling as if we spent the entire time on the highways and biways getting from point a to point b...withouth much time to soak the local culture in. We have usually gone someplace for 2 days with generally 2 days in transit which has not really added up to the time/cash outlay, so this local (even on foot) approach has dimesionalized the life here, the neighborhoods, the cultures, and the culture available. But, back to our frosty plateau to work, school, crusades and illustration.

Standard Time

Yesterday we frittered the morning away by sleeping in, packing and feeding of the teens. Then in place of Pasadena, we went up to the Griffith Park Observatory to see the sights, with LA in the foreground, snow capped mountains to the left and the Hollywood sign close enough to pluck off the fill to the right. The Griffith is a happy piece of art deco architecture which, when combined with the bright, cloudless sun--is almost grecian in it's purity. I loved the sculpture to the scientists in the front and have taken many shots of them.

Then from the Griffith, we went to the LA zoo which R and I visited oh...twenty years of so ago. Big changes. The zoo which was very modest in the beginning has grown into a real zoo, with lots of philanthopy (noted at every exhibit or every new installation). We saw hippos, koala bears, tigers and lions, kangaroos and emus. I took a ton of reference shots hopefully to help the creation of animals piece move a bit more.

Then down to an expedia find, The Standard Hotel, the newest hippest place in Downtown. It is seventies retro with an exclamation mark down to a seventies Wurlitzer in the lobby, a barbershop/gift shop, white topped pooltables, foosball in the outside courtyard along with an all white leatherette restaurant and a red bar nestled under the escalators. The rooms are spare, but the seventies doesnt stop with a wholloping dose of humor iwth the minibar offerings (Mr. Bubble, Candles, internationally signed condoms,and candybars with nostagia). The rooms have grey and gold supergraphics with the beds on a raised platform, again all grey and white. They have an itunes speaker/clock radio. The bathroom exterior wall is glass, looking straight into the bedroom with a series of white curtains you can draw for privacy. But the absolute best was the roof scene. On the roof is a roof bar with topiary in planters (of prancing horses), a sublime lap pool that was a bit wider, fireplaces blazing with tons of places to sit including three red onion shaped mini rooms with round water bed mattresses inside. The secondary color was hot orange along with a ton of Joe Columbo style plastic chairs etc. Yes it was quite a thing to sit on the roof with the city sparkling and towering over you in the beautiful night air. I was entirely surrounded and enclosed by all of the lights and buildings--it was a magnificent thing combined with the absolute chic but hilarity that this seventies thing generated for those of us who do not look back on the seventies as a moment of great design or romance. Bar food included good humor treats, peanut butter and banana sandwiches with a chocolate dip, chips and salsa, sliders. You get the idea. The teens went wild. And yes, in both the downstairs lobby and the roof they had djs spinning electrnic disks (from their Macs). The roof even had the Tom Jones Christmas Special running by the bar and projected across the way on the building next door. New Years eve promises a video DJ as well. R found that they had well over two thousand people last year. The hipsters uniting.

And, did I mention, they have free internet.

So, today its downtown fun. Hopefully to see this new LA "lifestyle" thing called "LA Live". We will see. Our plans deconstruct and then reconstruct....

More later.

Sunday, by any other name

We spent the morning by the pool after breakfast at the Westfield Century City Mall. It was breezy and a bit cool, but the pool at the Hyatt had very much the same vibe as poolside in Miami down to the cabanas, the nice chairs, the towel service etc. Different twist was that there were either bags of food delivered poolside from local restaurants, or families brought bags of stuff to each and dive into al fresco. A huge assortment of Penn State either alumni, football alumni, or even the players/cheerleaders themselves congregated poolside—amply filling up chairs, and filling up on snacks. No one but us in the water which was lovely. The Hyatt is the headquarters for the Nittany Lions, participants in this year’s Rose Bowl. So, you can imagine the excitement and the scale of people in the lobby. There are these enormous men, bursting out of their skin signing small white plastic football helmets for the under 12 set that are tagged with the group. Gloria says this thing is enormous. And from the looks of the activity this morning at the hotel, it promised to be so with champagne cocktails being pours, handfuls of bum I can agree if you just weigh it against the poundage and scale of the participants.

After the pool, we got rolling and went to the Farmer’s Market on Fairfax. This is a permanent, daily market around which a shopping extravaganza was developed, and developed in the totally blow down the doors theatrical way (foreshortened scale, false streets, etc) that they only understand here in Southern California. Lesson to all of us, hire theatrical designers if you want a run away success…in a time of quiet retail, this place was crowded and busy. But the market, the heart of this enterprise was California from the forties and fifties…and the real deal. As you could gather, there were tons of stands (just like Westwood) from which you could buy produce, meat, eggs, dairy and a tea stand that could heal any ailment or soothe any sadness. They sculpted the ground sausage in one booth to look like a pig. Nested into this were stands that sold no end to gorgeous things to eat from Pizza with a twisted crust, to a cited Mexican restaurant called Loteria (noted in the Farmer’s Market as one of the best places to eat in the City by Los Angeles Magazine as a for instance), to Chinese, Japanese, French and French Crepes (a wine bar with cheeses also was highly praised along with a Zagat’s rating) and Korean Barbeque (which we all had). The look and feel were stands smashed one up against the next with tables in the walkways and some areas bulging out a bit for more seating. Great offerings, world class---for a price that was totally concieveable. Then the shopping was essentially Disney with high end chain shops, a Nordstroms, movie theatres, sport stores etc. with restaurants spilling out on the sidewalks again in every flavor and style at moderate prices. The plantings were beautiful, and not a scrap of paper or trash on the ground. There was a trolley (albeit glitzy, but totally the real deal) to take you from one end of the shopping to the farmer’s market and back…along with a fountain with dancing water, gazebos…the works. R. found out there is a very cool new boutique hotel (which we saw from the outside) called the Farmer’s Daughter opposite the Farmer’s Market where one could stay and have this riot of food, produce and shopping within walking distance. Might be something I should propose to the Hartfordites as an option when they come to LA.

Then off to LACMA to see the Hearst Show and review the Latin American art (hoping and praying for more woodcutters). Then dinner at the BossaNova in Beverly Hills…fab, cheap and real…and..too, way too much food.

Boxing Day

I know, I know....I owe you pictures. There is some guilt around that and I will try to download images from my camera and give you some Live from LA pictures. Problem with MiniMe (the Acer teeny computer) is that one, its not a mac with all the easy picture stuff, two--its not a mac loaded with photoshop etc so as to be able to crop and crank up the contrast and sharpen and three, its not a mac. You get the idea. But, there are work arounds and I just need to get on the ball and do that. So, plan (don't set your calendars though) on some photos in the near future.

Today is Saturday. I am looking out our window at the purple hills, the peachy sky, the almost turquoise water and the grey beach. Whoever had to squint to see what the impressionists would not have to see the color Remington, Russell, Bierstadt saw in these western morning palettes. There are the runners, the dogs, the walkers all at it...since the sun promised to come up around a quarter to six. We are planning on Pasadena today--for the Huntington Botanical Gardens (and galleries if the team permits), and the Green and Green designed Gamble House. We will be leaving the Hermosa Beach House (which has been just right for us...taking the pressure off the go go go and close to Gloria so we arent driving all day to do ordinary things).

Yesterday, K and A were up early with Gloria to go to the barn to take care of horse business with Just in Time (known as Justin). Justin is a huge white horse who I like to think of as a destrier or those wonderful war horses who at bonded with their warrior riders and worked as teams.Those wonderful horses that would charge into groups of people, striking with their sharpened hooves, or those ceremonial horses that would carry its rider higher than most to their destination. Justin is a big sweet, silly boy who, as many of the horses at the Palos Verdes Equestrian Center, loves little nature snacks, sweet pink peppercorns that grow in glistening bunches from the pepper trees that grow abundantly in that area. Not one or two, mind you, but handfuls of sweet, juicy pepperypink pop! that we presented to him. R and I tried one too...and you know, if you dried them, they are absolutely the same thing as the gourmet pink pepper one buys at Dean and Deluca. Imagine having a pepper tree, a lemon tree, a rosemary bush in your yard. What bliss! So, the barn chores went on for a while while R and I hung out and I worked on some pretty witless drawings....nonetheless, the process was good. I am also doing a bunch of thumbnails to get myself back on track with the Eden project which is good...charging me up.

We met Gloria, K and A and had lunch. Gloria was flagging, so off she went to put her head down with the hopes we would meet up later. We grabbed the team and scooted off for research and review at IKEA in Carson. R has a brand new gadget/software on his blackberry/ crackberry--which is a gps system. Talkin' Tina, the Travelpro (my name for the insistant voice that guides us and is often exasperated by our inability to follow her directions to a "t") us via a very interesting route to Carson--eliminating all need for highways and byways that often LA drving is all about. If you have a blackberry, it is a great add as it has changed our driving, taken the fear and sting out of "where do we go", my nearsighted map reading etc. Liberation thanks to technology! And, as R is quick to point out, it really does accurately project the time to get to your destination due to the satellite stuff knowing traffic etc. So, IKEA was great as usual. We scoped the kitchens/ bathrooms out with mental notetaking per our projects. The traditional Cassetti IKEA kitchen solution (I think we have done 6 of them) may not work for the historic house...but the ideas were there in layout, fit and finish, scale and relationships. Plus, for us, going to IKEA is always a homecoming as we lived 10 minutes from the first one in Philadelphia and pretty much made it a second home at that point in our lives.

I bought black and white striped candles and bright paper napkins to take to Gloria ...but when we arrived at her apartment, the lights were off and we gathered she was still in dreamland. She was, and so a rendezvous became something that was not going to happen, at least for last night. We had dinner and a walk through the little village of Hermosa Beach with all the bars and nightclubs ramping up for a wild Friday night. It was cold so we hustled back to our snuggly room, watched some trashy TV (with A guffawing over Maxwell Smart and Hogans Heros).

Onward to today.

Wednesday wanderings

The promised rain has begun. So, that is why its so green? The desert actually gets rain. They are promising high winds tonight as well...So, what happened up until now? Well, we got going again--packed up quickly and left the Palomar (Kimpton) hotel and had breakfast at the Corner Bakery in Westwood. R. was inspired and said that it was hard to take breakfast anywhere...and he is right (unless it has grits or a liver sandwich attached to it like we had in South Carolina...but that is no Joy). However, the Corner Bakery indeed, has taken breakfast to another place redefining oatmeal at least for this small group. Inspired Oatmeal, may I sing your praises. Suffice it to say we had breakfast. Then, off to Ralphs, the grocery store, to buy cokes, tea and sandwiches for Christmas Lunch in our nice room at the Hermosa Beach Hotel. We will be staying the 24th and 25th there as it is close to baby Gloria, R's sister and it is within a block of a little surf town right on the strand. The rooms have little kitchens, nice bathrooms and they are right on the water. We stayed at the Hermosa Beach last year and loved it so much, we are going for round two.

After Ralphs, we took a drive to UCLA and spent the better part of an hour and a half, walking the campus. UCLA is absolutely beautiful as an institution with brick buildings that feel moorish/italianate/spanish with loggias and tiled roofs. It is a riot of terracotta with tan/cream trim and carvings. It is a simple open plan on a series of perfectly groomed quadrangles. The art building is modern with glass and wood details complete with a smaller Richard Serra plunked in front of it and a large sculpture garden to the side with many of the bronzes being figurative works. There were all these cleverly designed public spaces between walkways and steps that curved up and between the buildings feeling somehow like those tight italian streets that wind and miander between the buildings. There were film festivals and posted lecture series in the art and architecture and also the film buildings that seemed sound enlightening. It was truly inspiring for us to see as it really did not fit any of our expectations...and we all walked away thinking that maybe we would each like to go there. Maybe K?

Then over through the canyons to Malibu and PCH (Pacific Coast Highway, or Rt 1) to drive down to Santa Monica for a little window shopping and lunch. Of course we got a dose with two shopping maven teenagers one of whom could shop until she dropped. We partook of some vintage clothing stores, some sports and recreational store and I insisted on visiting Design Within Reach's little products store: DWR: Tools for Living Store:(Alexander Girard figures, Stanley thermos bottles and flasks, cool pens and paper, nice very seventies feeling speakers for your iPod (very Joe Columbo styling and colorways and the newest of cool thing, the Strida folding bike). It was a fun collection of things that I dont really want to own--it just makes me thrilled to know they exist on the same plane as all the rest of us as they are so happy making. R. had mentioned that the small designer chair models that DWR sells contributes an enormous amount of money to the bottom line of the Vitra Design Museum (maker/manufacturer of these things) which is inspiring as the Vitra is an asset to those who love high design. So, lots of shopping. Some mexican lunch at the Border Grill (pictures to come) with riotous illustrations on the walls and ceilings that lap over into the printed collateral and napkins. Fun. And the food was sensational...shredded cabbage on everything. The boys had the classic SoCal dish, fish tacos and the girls had different things (more cabbage, please).

We arrived at the Hermosa Beach Hotel and were given a slightly bigger room with a porch that opens to the Strand (the paved area right next to the beach...within a stones throw to the sand and surf. We took a short walk to the pier and laughed at the seagulls remarking that this is a place that is taking a hit as there were more than a few "going out of business" signs and many of the stores you would think would be open prior to Christmas were closed before 3pm on a seemingly (or should be) busy day abutting the day of presents. Huh.

Now the team naps as I talk aimlessly to you. We are going to continue a tradition I decided we would have. As R is half italian--we would try to at least eat fish on Christmas eve...and if I am close to a kitchen we would go full bore into at least the seven fishes. So, we are going out for fish tonight to everyone's delight. We are all beginning to get into the time change--so our energy levels should be higher as we go forward.

More later. Have a lovely evening with friends and family yourselves whether it be in snow or sunshine, mild or turbulent weather. Hug someone dear...as we all have so much to be thankful for..this is the gift we all can give to each other, our friendship and love.



We woke up to a perfect LA day. Went for a short walk in the neighborhood around the Kimpton, exclaiming like blind people about the plants, the color, the light the things that are unremarkable to those who live here. There were beautiful white roses, plump peace roses, all manners of palms, blue plants, purple plants, trees with berries, another form of bittersweet. The grass is gorgeous, and it must be becoming sping here because the glossy, leathery leaves of magnolias are coming on, and in some of these magnolias,there are buds on the branches.

We hopped in the car with two bouncy, chatty teenagers and headed over to Westwood for breakfast at the Corner Bakery which was delicious and really inexpensive. The baked goods were noteworthy--with the most interesting thing they do (I plan to do at home) is essentially twice bake thinly cut raisin bread and coat it with a layer of sanding sugar..all chunky and glistening. They also had a swiss oatmeal (cold with fresh fruit) that was outstanding and cost less thand $3.00.

Then, off for more walking around their college town. We saw all the famous movie theatres, shops and to my delight something really vernacular for Westwood. Along the side street of the shopping area, there were food stands/shacks set up--much like the stands we saw on Oliveria Street. More very local street food--korean, japanese, burgers with sit down or stand up tables. These stands are back to basics, probably built by the cooks that run these places....and from what I read, these stands are often the starting point for some of the restaurants here in LA. The group broke up for a short time with Rob going off to scout the Hammer Museum and the kids and I going to Urban Outfitters to see what there was to see (and buy). About an hour later, I had bought 2 belts and 2 pairs of pants for A, and 2 tunics, and a pair of metallic silver leggings for K. Off to the Hammer.

The Hammer is noteworthy as it was formerly a dusty, musty museum filled with old masters that was very restrained...(and probably not too popular with the college crowd). However, with a new director and a link to UCLA, the Hammer has upped the ante with their programs, presentation and work to become a beautiful jewel in Westwood. They use their interior and exterior spaces beautifully with fabric, pillows and curtains to define spaces that lead to the galleries and theatre. UCLA has a screening space ; The Billy Wilder Theatre, in which they screen the UCLA film series. The Billy Wilder is a spare area using huge blow ups of portraits of Wilder or select images from Wilder's work. Very black and white with benday dots.

We saw an absolutely rocking show on woodcuts, "Gouge"--woodcuts from 1870 to the present and another on portraits that were extensive and has me kicked in the booty. There was an Eduard Munch that printed a board/wood grain in a warm grey on beige/tan with the main form, sparely printed in black. Others just went to town printing the grain as part of the design of the piece. There were four woodcuts by Spanish artists: Artemio Rodriguez (1962, Mexican) Triumph of Death, 2007; Luiz Penalver Collazo ( Cuba, 1927) Latin American Unite and Carmelo Gonzalez Iglesias (Cuba, 1920-1990) were the show stoppers for me. These pieces were oversized (often as many as 5 panels across and 3 down)and absolutely muscular and vehement in the line, content and expression in black and white. Totally up my alley. The transition from image to image combined with a masterful use of black and white rocked my world. These artists were all working with politically charged content--often shifting scale within their pieces to stress a point or draw the eye... The portrait show was a show with the Grunewald Center at UCLA . HIghlights for me were Kathe Kolowitz's self portrait, a Durer portrait and my new favorite, Kahinde Wiley (remember Art Basel Miami's artist who does portraits of Rap stars??) with two amazing graphite portraits that were spare of line, and a delicate hand. I could go on all day about this stuff, but our day was long.

Then, lunch at The Stand in Westwood. The Stand is probably one of those stands that grew up. We all had burgers (which was what the room was doing) and took in the crowd, the vibe. It was great. We got in the car and did a little "lay of the land" drive through the UCLA, through Beverly Hills to the canyons to end up at an old favorite place of ours, Tree People.

Tree People has changed significantly since we went there last with a lot of new buildings, a nursery, and more groomed trails. It was absolutely amazing (as usual) with the smells from the eucalyptus, bay trees almost overwhelming you in the damp humidity that always seems to be part of the the Tree People environment. Lots of trees in bloom with vistas on our walk, opening up to seeing into the canyon and beyond--with the houses nestled into the valleys. It was the perfect break to the museums and shopping. K and A were laughing and teasing...and loud (as they proudly told us) which made it fun to be almost anywhere.

From there, R navigated with his new gps on his blackberry to get us to LACMA. LACMA, the LA County Museum of Art, is an uber museum with a huge range of galleries from contemporary to classic which embraces many repurposed buildings on a multiblock campus. There is art inside and out...with a wonderful installation of streetlights between the entrance space and that of the Contemporary building. We saw a great show of Vanity Fair photography with K and I swooning over the Steichen work. We gift shopped (lots of great books and gear...and a lot on sale) . We saw a sports inspired show with the highlights being a video piece with all kinds of levels of information projected with a tweaked soundtrack (overlaid by a person that quietly stated they liked cheese) My hands down favorite were five pieces done by an artist who translated Pacific Northwest ritual masks and totems out of sports gear. The totem was created out of many black and red golf bags with the masks being constructed out of sports shoes cut in half and joined together--with artifical hair (probably from wigs) when needed. Spectacular...

Then off to the Contemporary space to see a wonderful Jeff Koons show (complete with Michael Jackson and Bubbles, an aluminum Balloon dog to name a few). A was very taken with it and it puzzled him. We toured the collection with Ed Ruche, Jasper Johns, Rauschenburg with A adoring it all. He read the side panels and took time with the pieces. The watch word in the contemporary space is warm red. All the vertical architctural members outside of the building were warm red....and upon entrance, you are presented a huge Barbara Kruger installation that frames an enormous elevator (also warm red) that traverses the floors. Truly huge elevator that Rob likened to a container size ( 10' x 30') which was art particularly when it took us to another amazing pair of installations by Richard Serra--much in the same hand and spirit as his pieces at Dia Beacon. This also prompted a lot of very pointed questions from A about why would someone do this sort of work? why would they do it? what was the point? Serra's massive steel (250 tons of molten steel for these pieces) express space, toy with the material and engage the viewer in thinking about outside, inside, and aptly framed up, rooms, by R. Perhaps we can go back to LACMA to see the show on Latin American artists and Indonesian textiles (separate shows--though the fusion would be great).

We met Rob's sister, Gloria, back at the Kimpton after driving through Beverly Hills' Rodeo Drive with Christmas going full bore. The best of the best was that Baccarat had created chandeliers (each in a box) which were suspended over the street (two per pole) which were lit in the evening. No way would the luxury glass company we were affiliated be able to do to that extreme for attention. It was great.

Of course, there was more laughing and talking with the teens...We are creating a story line about a woman names Kitty Katz who was married to Bernard, the Beverly Hills plastic surgeon and her liasons with her imported Christmas Decorator, Dimitri (from Russia) and her pool boy, Apollo from Greece. Kitty Katz has a solid gold car that doesnt have an engine. It just looks good. She lives in one of these confabulous houses we drive by...and the imagination goes wild. I think K and I need to do this as an extra credit project and have her publish a chick lit book before she finishes high school. It was very funny and fun for the group.

Dinner with Gloria was at Nanbankan on Sawtelle...a yakatori restaurant with amazing skewers of food from asparagus and ham all roasty to tiny lamb chops, and sushi. Nanbankan is hidden away (you really need someone to take you there) with a door inside a nondescript building that you enter from the back. It has been recognized by all the magazines, and they earned their status. Mr Ono, the owner, has a daughter who rides with Gloria (and sometimes competes) so that is where the link is...and is as extra kind and familial to her. She is lucky.

Today promises rain. We need to collect ourselves and get to Hermosa Beach with a trip to the grocery store for tomorrow. Other than that, we will see what will evolve. I am sure it will be great!


We arrived at the airport on time yesterday a.m. to find that yes, we could get to Philly, but not to LA.We might be able to get on by the 24th. I was prepared to pack it in, go home to Shady and try again a few days later. R. mentioned first class, and our ticketing agent hear another ticketing agent say Dulles...and we were off to the races without much time to spare. So, this great guy rescheduled us through Washington DC via United--with an upgrade (albeit later) to First Class from DC to LA. So, there was a bit of frustration in the waiting (combined with K already losing her new itouch at Dulles--count it, one day). We were tired, but R. insisted we look at Dulles terminal (designed by Saarinin), ride the rooms on wheels and go to the remote Smithsonian Exhibit on flight. The latter was bagged as the wind was bitter and we didnt really have the bundling necessary to wait (albeit we did) for the badly marked bus location/bus to take us to the exhibit. However, the Saarinin building was magnificent. Perfect in its perfection, in the spaces, in the actual design and thinking that this space represented. It was also great that somehow (either budget or otherwise) they hadnt gummed up the design by retrofit or changes. The graphic treatment, the counters are all consistent with the original. Apparently, the design was concieved that one would go to check in, and then be ushered to these room buses which were very "Disneyland of Tomorrow" feeling (old Disneyland exhibits with manikins who were animated at the waist to move from left to right wearing "space suits". Then this room with wheels would drive you out to your plane. Interesting concept. But doesnt work a lick.

It was Obama mania in Dulles with a ton of "Inauguration Centers" that sold no end to stuff with Obama's image and the presidential seal..very English in the plethora of stuff (maybe no teacups or collectible spoons that the English are so fond of). Everything was very tempting (it is Christmas) and a white hoodie with the presidential seal with Obama's head photoshopped into the whole mess was glorious.It was sad (there has to be a story here) that the remarkable Fairey image was not used on the cover of the magazines, nor any of this merchandise. Instead, he is very ripped off (enough changes to stand up in front of a judge as diffrent) and the knock off work is blinding. Did Shepard Fairey want too much money for uses? To think that you are ripped off for Time(not sure the banner) and you wouldnt cave for that instance (and charge a bit less) for the exposure? Makes a girl curious.

I was charmed by United's hook to use beautiful and whimsical illustration to depict their upgrades, products, services. The sheer body of illustration they are buying (almost in the mode of children's illustration) is huge with some of them being animated for inflight program advertising. There is an illustrator I am going to need to google shortly who's work I saw on the subway in NYC ( a subway poster of people having fun at Coney Island with a short poem..I think). United had commissioned him/her to do a big illustration of Dubai which they used it its entirety and then snippets from it for other details of describing their program. The work could be paint or hard pastel pencils..a very Wanda G'ag style (Millions of Cats) with mounding trees etc, very stylish/deco inspired work using floral motifs in funny cute ways. His radiating skies are great. I love the way he transitions color from an object to the sky using a feathering, hard edged shape (in a color).

The flight was uneventful. The chairs were delightful as was the extra space, the continual flowing of water, and the nice people (even the yelping kids) were good. I made some little origami things to amuse the kids, (which it did) and knitted a hat(completely)--down to icord trim and pigtails.

Thought about next steps to move this illustration work forward. Thumbnails! I need to do a pile of them and from that select 4-6 images to do for SF. I will then have the "thesis" albeit, that would not be the end of the work. Kitty's portrait is half done...and want to do one of Alex, Mandy and Mabin. I also have the butterfly girl to paint and amendments to hands etc. I have a few months to get busy.

We are staying on Wilshire Avenue at the Kimpton, Paloma hotel. Very nice and designy...with all the wall sockets in the right places, the beds comfortable and the staff very accomodating. WE will be here for two nights...with Westwood to explore. The Armand Hammer museum will be a def. And, a huge show on Klimpt on the roster. You can get my updates on Facebook as it is a quick note taking way of staying current...so check that out too. Cool. We can see the ocean from our room with the famous Westwood movie theatre and the new LDS temple in full view.

More later