Thursday, February 29, 2024

Do We Need Local News?

I read a really interesting article yesterday in The New York Times about a guy who, in the '80s and '90s, was looking toward the future of newspapers in America. At the time, publishers were confident that their content was necessary and valuable, and that they would find some way to shift it online and make money from it -- either from online advertising or subscriptions.

I was a young reporter in the '90s, when the Internet was blossoming, and I remember talking about this with my co-workers. In 1995 or so, I asked my former publisher in Sarasota, Fla., when our paper was going to develop a web site, and he said, "We will -- we just have to figure out how to make it pay." But I don't think any of us doubted that we would somehow, eventually, make money online.

I remember confidently telling my relatives that I wasn't worried about the future of news. Newspapers as objects might not last -- the printed article itself, with paper pages -- but people would always need and value reliable news. Professional, trained reporters surely had a future.

What I didn't count on is the shift in news consumption from local and regional to national and international. People nowadays seem to have little or no appetite for hyperlocal news. The social stuff -- who won ribbons at the gardening show, or marched in the Martin Luther King Day parade, or local campaigns about road closures or construction projects -- has all moved to social media. The stories are told by the participants and campaigners themselves -- no reporters needed. Maybe that's not a bad thing, though I'd argue that in the case of contentious issues it can lead to distortions.

Meanwhile, many people have no idea what their local governments are up to. The stuff I used to cover -- city government, county commission, public hospital boards, that kind of thing -- largely goes uncovered in the modern world. (Or perhaps it's still covered by dwindling local papers with nebulous futures, but for how much longer?) The pros have found that they can't even give away local news.

In many communities, no one is left to perform the essential watchdog function of a local newspaper. No one is double-checking how the mayor is spending your tax money, or whether your county commissioners are respecting public meetings laws or making unorthodox deals with developers. And what blows my mind -- and what I never foresaw in my career in local news -- is that apparently NOBODY CARES!

My theory is that as the Internet opened up our worlds, and we spent more time on social media platforms that cross geographical boundaries, we all gravitated to discussion topics we share -- and that's national and international news. We see it here in blogland, where we can discuss and debate Ukraine or Joe Biden and Donald Trump, but it's harder to talk about local issues because our readers don't share the same frame of reference. (There are local news blogs but they struggle too -- remember how was supposed to reinvent local news for online platforms? I haven't heard much about Patch lately, though apparently it's still out there, at least in some areas.)

I must admit that here in London, I have little idea what my local council is up to on a routine basis, though I do read two local papers online, the Ham & High and the Camden New Journal.

I'm curious -- how many of you reading this blog subscribe to a local news outlet? Why or why not?

It seems to me that "community," which used to mean our next-door neighbors, our town or county, now means something much more amorphous. It's less geographical and more ideological. Our communities are now the people we hang out with online, often people who think like us and reinforce our beliefs. I suspect the struggle of local news outlets, and our polarized political climate, both reflect that shift.

(Photo: A watchful trash bag on West End Lane, last Saturday.)

Wednesday, February 28, 2024


I was walking home from work on Monday when I noticed this old ghost sign on Finchley Road. See it, against the concrete? It had been covered up by another sign and was exposed when that one came down. It says "Cosmo Restaurant."

I wondered how old the sign was. So I did some online sleuthing and it turns out that the Cosmo Restaurant, which was in business from 1937 until 1998, had a long and colorful history. It was seen as a center of the vibrant Jewish community that sprang up in northwest London, and a venue where Jews who had fled fascism and the Holocaust often gathered. Even Sigmund Freud, who lived a short walk away, is said to have patronized the place, though Freud died in 1939 so if that's true he couldn't have gone there long.

There's a blue plaque marking the restaurant's significance on an outer wall. (I'm noticing that the plaque gives an opening year of 1933, which is earlier than some published accounts. That would make more sense for Freud, I suppose.)

The Cosmo's history was even the subject of a musical theater production in 2019. That linked article gives a lot of information about the restaurant through the memories of its patrons. Artist Pamela Howard, who helped create the theater piece, is quoted as saying, "I was a provincial girl from Birmingham studying at the Slade School of Art. I used to walk up Finchley Road early in the morning to Swiss Cottage station. I would look in the window of this café, where I saw all these ‘old people’ and I thought, who are they?"

I can easily imagine what that must have looked like, peering in the window and seeing all these people with so much shared history.

The Cosmo closed in 1998 -- probably around the time many of its patrons were vanishing -- so the ghost sign must be at least that old. I think the bit in the middle probably said "fully licensed," a phrase that appears on a lot of old restaurant facades in the UK. (It seems odd to me that a restaurant would have to point out that it's licensed, but whatever.)

In more recent years, the Cosmo site was the home of a couple of Indian restaurants, a gelato place and then a spa. If the signs on the windows are accurate, a Chinese restaurant is going in next.

I thought all this was pretty interesting. Once again, walking around London, we're all surrounded by history!

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

More Winter Lights

Remember when I went to the Winter Lights show in Canary Wharf last month? It's an annual event featuring artworks that use light (and often sound) in innovative ways, perfect for our dark winter months.

Well, while researching that show, I saw that a Winter Lights event was also planned for the redeveloped Battersea Power Station, now a massive housing complex and shopping center. I put that on my agenda too, and I've been meaning to go for weeks, but life kept intervening -- work stuff, our trip to California, Dave's surgery, et cetera.

Last Sunday was its final day, so that evening -- even though I'd already walked Olga around Hampstead Heath, and even though the weather forecast called for rain -- I decided to hop on the tube and go down and see it.

It was smaller than the Canary Wharf event, and thus easier to take in. I believe there were seven featured works, including "Butterfly Effect" (top) and "Large Diamond" (above).

I also came across a troupe of women wearing roller skates and spinning colorful lit-up hoops. They aren't listed in the program so I have no idea who they are or what their group is called, but they were fun to watch too.

Still photos don't do any of this justice. "Large Diamond," for example, has a beautiful shimmering effect that reflects on surrounding surfaces, kind of like a disco ball but more subtle. The lighting on all the artworks fluctuates and changes, and some of them include elements of sound as well. So here's a four-minute video:

Artworks depicted, in order:
1. "Singularity" by Squidsoup 
2. "Butterfly Effect" by Masamichi Shimada 
3. "Lightpiano 1.5" by Arion de Munck & Mark Ridder 
4. "Lightbattle III" by Venividimultiplex 
5. "C/C" by Angela Chong 
6. Entertainers with glowing rings and skates 
7. "Large Diamond" by Studio Freerk Wilbers

Watch for the moment when I'm backing away from "Singularity" (and thus having trouble holding my phone straight) and the exterior lights of the power station come on. I was lucky to catch that.

You'll notice I left ambient sound in the segment for "Lightpiano" (for obvious reasons) but put music over the rest of the video. That's because my videos were so darn noisy. I didn't want to subject you to the sound of the wind and kids yelling and passers-by nattering about whether or not to stop in to M&S to buy some beans. "Singularity" had a musical element as well but you couldn't really hear it, so hopefully this copyright-free music from iMovie is a worthy substitute!

Monday, February 26, 2024

Back to Parliament Hill

Olga and I set out for an adventure yesterday morning. We hadn't been to Parliament Hill, a scenic overlook on Hampstead Heath, in a long, long time -- possibly since this outing in July 2020. When I walked past it on Tuesday, while crossing the Heath to pick up Dave in the hospital, I thought, "I should bring the dog back here!" So I did.

I didn't want to have her walk the whole way -- I think that's too much for her advanced age. So we took the train from West Hampstead to Hampstead Heath station, and walked up the hill from there. It was slow going because nowadays Olga has to sniff every little thing, a curious habit that seems to develop in older dogs. But we got there in the end.

As you can see, the view was hazy, but that created its own interesting effects.

I was thinking that Parliament Hill is the highest point in London, but apparently that's wrong -- in fact it's not even close. At 322 feet, it's not even the highest point on Hampstead Heath. The view is what makes it so famous.

Olga rolled happily in the mud, and chased her tennis ball...

...before taking a swim in one of the Heath ponds. The swim was inadvertent; she was wading and stepped off an underwater ledge. Fortunately she can swim, and when she came out of the water she was invigorated and wide-eyed, as if saying, "WOW! DID YOU SEE THAT?!" She ran around and shook to work off the adrenaline and get the water out of her ears.

We walked back to the train past the Parliament Hill athletic complex, headed for the station at Gospel Oak. Once again, I couldn't remember exactly where the station was and we had to backtrack a bit. I don't know why, after living here more than a decade, I can never find that bloody station.

Anyway, it was a fun morning out and Olga was none the worse for wear. She slept soundly all afternoon and she got half a paracetamol with her dinner, and now she's bouncing around as usual!

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Book and Movie and TV Show

I forgot to mention in yesterday's post that we had hail on Friday. I was sitting at my desk in the library when I heard a clattering sound on the skylight, and about that time some kids came into the library from outside, talking about the hail raining down. I texted Dave at home, and he said it was coming down in our garden, too. Drama from the skies! It wasn't big enough to cause any damage -- just little pea-sized pellets.

Yesterday was indeed a very domestic day -- which is why you're getting this picture of the sunlight in our dining room. I barely left the house. It was just what I needed -- a restorative day to catch up on life.

Our windowsill cactus is going gangbusters, with four flowers. I don't think we've ever seen that many blossoms at once!

Our other windowsill cactus isn't blooming -- it never has -- but its colorful spines glow reddish orange in the sunlight.

So what did I do yesterday? Well, I cleaned, for one thing. I always feel better when I put the house in order.

Then I read the young adult book "Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack!" which some of you may remember from your own years in school. It came out way back in 1972, and I remember seeing it in my own school library back in the late '70s. It was the basis for an ABC After-School Special on TV. But I never read it because I was put off by the title, which seemed super-gross to me. A couple of weeks ago, my boss pulled it off our shelves to weed, so I thought I'd give it a try and see if it's something we should keep.

It's somewhat dated now, with references to "encounter groups" and that kind of thing. It's also not that great. The plot is a bit scattered. I think there are better YA books, and ones modern kids will connect with more.

I also watched a movie called "All the Right Noises," from 1971, starring Olivia Hussey. It's the kind of movie that would never be made today -- about a married theatrical crew member who has an affair with an actress, who turns out to be 15 years old. And does he stop the affair when he finds out? NO! Why should he?! It was the '70s.

The only reason I watched it is because it incorporates songs by Melanie in the soundtrack. I only heard about this cinematic adventure with Melanie's recent death, so I thought I'd catch up with it. I'm not sure her songs were an essential part of the film. They seemed like a bit of an afterthought. (And I knew them all from earlier albums anyway.)

Dave and I are also finishing up the third season of "Slow Horses" on Apple TV, which has been really good. And that's the pop-culture roundup from West Hampstead!

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Weekend Miscellany

Here's what the garden looks like this morning, with the grass a bit frosty and the light a pale blue. It got down to 32º F (0º C) last night, which is colder than I expected, and I didn't bring anything in for protection. Wouldn't it be ironic if, after stealing that citrus tree to protect it from the cold, I then inadvertently kill it by leaving it outside? I don't think it got that cold, though. I think everything should be fine.

I am so looking forward to this weekend. I have nothing planned. I don't want to go anywhere. I want to stay home and relax and decompress. I had a pretty good day of decompression yesterday, with a steady but not overwhelming pace of students coming to me for help and a chance to read some blogs in between.

And yes, the tiger is still there!

Olga wants to stay home, too. She's snoring and snuggled so tightly against me that her ear is on my keyboard. I keep pressing it every time I need to backspace but she doesn't seem to care.

The bergenia in the alley is blooming again. This poor plant has been through hell. It survived the repaving of the ground around the gate a couple of years ago, and last year -- as you may remember -- we had a drain blockage that caused wash-water from the kitchen to seep all over the alley. Its roots got saturated with soap and its leaves turned a sickly grayish green, but it didn't die. It is a survivor.

Finally, as I walked Olga yesterday before work, we passed my favorite camellia bush -- this candy-striped variety on the housing estate. It had dropped this flower, which was a bit dirty from the ground but otherwise still looked pretty nice.

Ah, Saturday!

Friday, February 23, 2024


Yesterday's weather was dismal and dreary. Fortunately I was indoors most of the time, until after work, when I had a couple of hours to kill before our school's annual staff, faculty and parent Quiz Night. I walked over to a nearby pub, The New Inn, which I'd been to and photographed several times before. I thought I might have a pint and read while I waited until quizzing began at 7 p.m. But the not-so-New Inn was closed -- I think permanently. (Apparently it's for sale.)

So I walked back to school and sat in the closed library, reading, until the appointed hour. The library is actually a great place to be when no one else is around. So quiet!

You may remember (but probably not) that our team won last year's Quiz Night. Well, this year we did not fare as well. We had fewer people, for one thing, and we came in fourth place (out of about ten teams, I'd say). One of our star quizzers was unable to attend, although I recruited a co-worker who proved to be a worthy competitor.

I knew a couple of things no one else did -- I identified a picture of Montreal's Stade Olympique (because I'd been there!) and I identified Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings. I knew The Killers sang "Human," which is about as recent as my pop music knowledge gets. But I could not identify pictures of a certain Indian cricketer (whose name I couldn't tell you even now) or the prime minister of Australia. And rap music? Forget it.

Oh well. We all have our shortcomings. It was a fun evening, and that's what matters.

Dave, meanwhile, stayed home and was quite happy to order take-away (from McDonald's, which I refuse to eat) and watch YouTube and TikTok videos. Poor Olga doesn't understand why she can't lie on his lap like she usually does!

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Old Spice (Literally)

I was re-shelving books in the library yesterday when I came across this little plastic tiger. How it got there, I have no idea. It's not even in the tiger section! But I left it on the shelf in case its owner comes back for it.

And with that, let's have a miscellaneous picture post!

This is actually my brother's photo, which he sent me in an e-mail titled, "Done!" He'd used the last of one of our mother's jars of petrified spices -- in this case, some rosemary that originally cost 49 cents. How old could that possibly be? I'm guessing 1960s. Mom was famous within our family for her antiquated spices. She would be amused that my brother kept them, but I'm sure for him it's a way of connecting with her and with our past.

I asked him if it tasted like anything. "No flavor at all," he replied.

I found this on the street while walking to work. I think it was once a birdhouse. Oh well.

Dave and I came across this sculpture in West Hollywood -- possibly the creepiest dog sculpture ever. It's called "Doggie Dog (Homage to Giacometti)" by Tsipi Mani. Giacometti would have nightmares!

We passed this gay clothing/fetishwear store in downtown L.A. I took a picture through the window, and Dave said, "You can go in, you know." But actually it was closed, and I don't really see myself in a puppy mask, leather harness or glittery caftan. (They would all look fabulous on anyone as buff as those mannequins, though!)

Found this sticker Tuesday on my walk back to the hospital. I have no particular attachment to cash and am not at all concerned if it goes away entirely -- especially coins. A lot of businesses stopped taking cash during the pandemic, and remain card-only. But some people hate the idea of doing everything with credit or debit cards, because they believe their buying habits are more easily tracked that way. I'm sure that's true, if anyone cared, but I can't believe that any governmental or banking authority is concerned about where I buy my coffees.

Now, prepare for a photo of canned dog food, because it's a little gross...

The only reason I took this (and you can see Olga is impatiently waiting) is because I've never seen an ENTIRE PEA POD fall out of a chunk of canned dog food before. We know the brand we give Olga contains some vegetables, but this was pretty funny. She scarfed it down without hesitation.

And finally, as long as we're on a dog theme, here's a photo from the window of a bookstore in West Hampstead. I love this little hand-painted sign welcoming furry companions! I've never taken Olga in there for some reading material, but now maybe I will.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

The Cat

This was the view from the third floor patient reception area at the Whittington Hospital, where Dave went for his hernia surgery yesterday. It's interesting only because of the sculpture of Dick Whittington's famous cat, perched on the roof at left. Whittington was a real person, a medieval mayor of London, but somehow all this folklore sprung up about a cat that helped him become famous and successful. Now the cat is a celebrity in its own right, even though there's scant evidence that it actually existed.

Whittington is not "our" hospital -- we usually go to the Royal Free in Hampstead. Whittington is farther away and on the other side of Hampstead Heath -- which has few roads through it, so it's a bit awkward to get there -- but that's where the NHS sent us. Dave's appointment was at 7 a.m., so we were up at 5 a.m. and in a car at 6 a.m., which put us there in plenty of time. In fact there was virtually no one around and the reception desks were all shuttered.

When Dave finally checked in, the hospital staff seemed bewildered at his early arrival. One of them said something about his surgery being scheduled for 11 a.m.! But they took him back and I wasn't permitted to follow, so I walked home -- a good long walk around the north side of the Heath.

The road there is lined with campers, or caravans, some of them quite interesting. Many appear permanently parked. This one doesn't look like it ever goes anywhere.

Dave finally texted me about noon that he was going into surgery, which was supposed to be an hour-long procedure. After an hour I began walking back to the hospital, crossing the Heath this time. I figured by the time I got there he'd be close to being released, but no -- they said they'd be keeping him another four hours because he'd had general anesthesia.

So I went for lunch at this colorful little cafe not far from the hospital. I love their wavy mosaic tile doorstep. It's very Rio. I had a glass of rosé and a "California burrito," which was basically a rice & bean burrito with cheese. I sat and read my current book, "Picture," a contemporaneous account by New Yorker writer Lillian Ross of the making of John Huston's film "The Red Badge of Courage" back in 1950. It's a fascinating account of the mechanics of old-fashioned moviemaking.

Then I went back and sat in hospital reception, and waited, and read more, and waited more. I even dozed off for a bit. Dave ultimately wasn't released until about 5:30 p.m. We took a taxi home. He says it hurts to cough and sneeze, and he's moving a bit gingerly, but he has painkillers and seems to be doing OK. He was able to sleep and he's staying home from work for the next two weeks to recuperate.

Meanwhile, I got a full night's sleep last night! Woo hoo! The jet-lag from our California trip has been terrible, both on the way there and on the way home. I was getting desperate for more than three hours of sleep, and finally last night I slept seven.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Tree Drama

Well, the tree-trimming adventure is done, and from my perspective, it worked out pretty well. I explained to the guys what I wanted -- some greenery for wildlife and a natural barrier between us and the apartments, while trying to make the apartment caretaker happy by clearing the complex's precious brick wall. I also wanted them to assess the health of the elder trees and remove any dead material.

Here's a rather distorted (thanks to the pano setting on my iPhone) picture of what we started with:

And here's how it ended up, a couple of hours later:

As you can see, they removed a ton of ivy and quite a bit of old and dead wood from the interior of that thicket, but they left the ivy and climbing roses in the tops of the trees (without cutting the stalks running up the wall, thus hopefully preserving the greenery).

They got quite ambitious, ascending a ladder into the top of this old elder and pruning out dead branches. (Good Lord! I really need to clean that aluminum shed, don't I?!)

Olga, watching from inside, was very concerned.

On the plus side, I've seen birds flitting around in the trees since the work was completed, so they're obviously not put off. And the tree guys assured me that the elders are healthy and the weight of the remaining ivy shouldn't be a problem.

However, the story doesn't end there.

Even before this work began, I told Dave that no matter what we did, the caretaker wouldn't be satisfied. And sure enough, within an hour of the tree crew's departure, he was complaining that they didn't cut enough. I got a bit snippy and said I'd spent a lot of money to address his concerns and he was welcome to cut whatever overhangs the wall on his side. (Which is the law in Britain anyway.)

I think I've gone out of my way to achieve a good compromise, and I certainly am under no obligation to please this guy. (Who, frankly, won't be happy with anything short of scorched earth.) But I do feel some dread about what he may do if/when he starts cutting. He can't cut on our side but who knows what he'll dare to try. I'm not sure this is really over.

On the bright side, at the end of the day, these aren't my trees. None of this is really my problem. I wrote the landlords (with whom we're sharing this expense) and told them the caretaker is still grousing so they won't be surprised if he contacts them, but as far as I'm concerned, my duty here is done. 

This morning we're off to the hospital for Dave's hernia surgery. I'm sure it will go fine, but as I told a friend, I suspect a lot of my tree anxiety is really misplaced Dave anxiety.

Oh, and by the way, I put a stake in the ground next to the crocuses I mentioned yesterday so the tree guys wouldn't walk on them -- and they survived!

Monday, February 19, 2024

Blooming Things

A lot changed in the garden while we were away last week. There are more early spring flowers blooming, including these crocuses, which hopefully won't be trampled by the tree trimmers when they arrive today. They're right out in the middle of the lawn.

Also blooming are...

...the ornamental plum tree...

...and the flowering quince...

...and the lungwort.

It seems a few weeks early for all of this, but we have had a very mild winter. (So far! I suppose snow could still happen, though there's nothing in the forecast.)

And now, I have to run out and open the side gate and get things ready for the tree-trimmers. I will be so glad to get this done, even though I'm dreading it. I just want to stop thinking about it.

I made a valiant effort to repair Queen Liz yesterday. I went to the hardware store and bought some super glue, and tried my best to glue on her broken hand. But I could never get it to set well. The hand sits on a tiny, tiny plastic rod that protrudes from the Queen's coat. I couldn't use too much glue because if it touched the coat, the hand wouldn't move and all would be for nought. But I also couldn't see the point at which it broke off well enough to make that connection. Anyway, long story short, the Queen has gone into the trash. Enough is enough.

Today I'm going to try to catch up on responding to blog comments. I know I've been delinquent in that regard!

I leave you with a picture of a tiny slug on one of our daffodils. The slugs love these flowers and quite a few of them are looking very tattered. Wild Kingdom!

Sunday, February 18, 2024


This seems to be the only damage in our flat from Warren's stay with Olga. He mentioned to Dave that our Solar Queen had "taken a tumble," and indeed her hand is broken off! We've had her more than seven years so I guess she's served her purpose, but I might try to fix her. It would be a tricky job -- and right now I'm hearing the announcer at the beginning of "The Six Million Dollar Man" saying, "We can rebuild him!" But there's no point in keeping her with a broken-off hand, as that is her raison d'etre. Stay tuned.

My body has no idea when it's supposed to be awake or asleep. I never quite adapted to local time in L.A. -- every night there I woke in the small hours of the morning, my body telling me that daytime had arrived. So I thought I'd be able to slip back into the London timetable much more easily, and maybe that will prove to be true, but yesterday I felt awful.

I even took a Covid test thinking I might be getting sick. It was negative, thank goodness. We can't be getting Covid now, with Dave slated for hernia surgery on Tuesday.

I think I just need to sleep for 24 hours or so.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Home Sweet Home

Here's one more L.A. picture -- the so-called "cactus promontory" at the Getty Center, a huge art and cultural complex on a mountain in Bel Air. The Getty consists of a series of museum buildings featuring all kinds of art, linked by patios and formal gardens. We went there on Friday morning before catching our flight -- we had a few hours to kill and though it wasn't enough time to see much art (and Dave's not that into art museums anyway), we at least got to see the center itself.

To get there, you have to park at the bottom of the hill and take a tram to the top -- a much more dramatic tram, I might add, than the Angels Flight! It offers scenic views of the surrounding city and traffic moving ever-so-slowly, as always, on the San Diego Freeway. It even has its own soundtrack, some very stirring music that plays for riders during the climb. I felt like I was in "Raiders of the Lost Ark."

While we were at the museum, Dave ran into someone he knows from Drum Corps International -- a guy who lives in San Diego and happened to be visiting the Getty with his family. Again, what are the odds?! Dave randomly ran into TWO people he knows during our six days in greater L.A. (You may remember he saw a former student Thursday night at the Disney Concert Hall.)

Anyway, around 1:30 p.m. we got on the freeway ourselves and joined the steady stream of traffic headed south toward LAX. It took a while, but traffic was moving, and we had plenty of time before our 6 p.m. flight so we weren't worried. We gassed up the car, dropped it off at the Budget lot and caught the shuttle bus to our airport terminal. I was SO relieved to get rid of that car. I'm a fairly decent driver, I think, and nothing very dramatic happened to us on the roadways of L.A., but I was still about 40 percent terrified the whole time just given the volume of traffic and my unfamiliarity with the city. I'm patting myself on the back for making it through without so much as a scratch. (I can say that now without jinxing myself!)

The flight was smooth, though some poor person had a medical emergency of some kind in the back of the plane. I only knew because I went back to get some water and found the flight attendants bent over him as he lay on the floor in the galley. They were administering oxygen, but I heard him talking so he was conscious. No one made any announcement and the plane continued on its path so things couldn't have been too critical, though they did bring paramedics on board when we landed in London.

And here we are!

Olga looks glum in this picture but she's actually been quite happy to see us. She was licking my face just seconds before I took that photo! Oh, and that's my mango-colored Pann's shirt, which I've decided I like after all.

Now the washing machine is churning and I'm neatening up around the house, even though our friend Warren took good care of it. No matter how neat a house-sitter is, when I get home I instinctively want all traces of them gone and everything back in its proper place. I think Olga agrees with me.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Another Retro Diner and Angels Flight

I took this on the drive back from Palm Springs yesterday morning. These are the mountains just outside town, looking hazy and blue in the morning light. Spectacular! I couldn't imagine living there and seeing sights like this every day.

So yes, now we're back in the city. The drive back was uneventful, and we timed it so we'd arrive in L.A. right around lunchtime. The plan was to go to Pann's!

Pann's is yet another cool, authentic '50s diner, as you will remember if you've been reading this blog for 16 years (!) and have a supersonic memory. In April 2008 I wrote about passing the restaurant on the way from the airport "every time I go to L.A.," which cracks me up because I made it sound like I'm here all the time. I visited Pann's back then with my friend Christopher and took some photos, which I blogged. This time, I was excited to show it to Dave.

He was not disappointed! We sat at the bar and ordered breakfast and he waxed rhapsodic about the biscuits. I waxed equally rhapsodic about the pancakes.

Outside, the restaurant is largely unchanged -- though someone has added a crappy-looking tent near the front entrance, and let's hope that doesn't stick around long. It's a very hard building to photograph because it's at the corner of two major six-lane roads on a tiny lot, with a constant stream of heavy traffic passing by. I tried it from several angles and the perspective above was the best I could do. 

Inside it's pretty much unchanged, but was much busier than the last time I was here! Our waitress was a hoot -- I ordered two eggs, and when she repeated my order back she said "six eggs," and added with a wink, "I don't hear too good." (She was kidding.)

The bathroom still features these cool fish tiles, which I blogged last time.

Dave talked me into buying a mango-colored Pann's t-shirt that I may or may not ever wear, because yellow/orange is not normally my color. We'll see.

We came back to our same hotel in Westwood, checked in, dropped off our stuff and got ready for yet another night out -- this time in downtown L.A. Months ago, Dave bought tickets to a performance of the L.A. Philharmonic at the Disney concert hall, a groovy silver Frank Gehry building that looks like a tangle of bent and discarded aluminum.

I've been pretty courageous about driving in L.A. so far, but I admit I was worried about driving into downtown at rush hour. So we went very early and got there about three hours before the performance. I thought traffic would be gridlock but we took Wilshire Boulevard all the way, and it was fine. We drove through MacArthur Park, debating the merits of the song, and saw a lot of interesting local characters -- including a guy carrying what appeared to be a styrofoam boogie board on his back, emblazoned with the message, "UP YERS."

By the time we ate an early dinner it was getting dark. We walked over to the Angels Flight, a 123-year-old railway that runs one block up and down a steep hill. I wanted to see it and ride it, given that I'm reading Michael Connelly's Bosch mystery "Angels Flight," in which a murder takes place on the railway. (If you've seen the "Bosch" TV show, you'll remember this storyline as well.)

The two cars, which go up and down simultaneously, passing each other in the middle, are named after mountains in the Bible. We rode "Olivet," and as you can see from my photo, even the car itself is pretty steep on the inside. In the novel, which was written 25 years ago, it cost a quarter to ride. Now it costs $1.

We walked around Grand Central Market, at the bottom of the hill, and peered through the glass doors into the atrium of the historic Bradbury building. Then we zipped back to Angels Flight, took Olivet back up the slope, and made it to the concert hall in plenty of time to watch the performance of Schubert's Symphony No. 6 and Beethoven's No. 7. Dave mentioned on Facebook that we were there, and one of his students from almost 20 years ago happened to be in the audience too -- so we met up afterwards for a brief chat. What a small world!

Today we hope to make a quick trip to the Getty Museum before we catch our evening flight to London. Coming to you tomorrow -- and posting late, probably in mid-afternoon -- from home sweet home! I'm looking forward to seeing Olga but I will miss this sunshine.