Saturday, March 27, 2010

I found my Maya Temple in Los Angeles!

I spent this past summer in Belize with an archeology field school excavating Maya still feels really good to say (or type) that. But it's the truth! Maybe someday I'll make a post (or several) highlighting my adventures. For now I'll just tell you about a revelation I had while climbing to the top of an ancient temple. Of course I was caught up in the magic of it all: climbing the same steps that Maya kings and elites had climbed thousands of years ago, taking in the jungle that surrounded me on every side, etc. But amidst all of these transcendent thoughts I had a superficial one: climbing this temple is the best workout I've ever had. Those giant steps made my legs burn worse than Richard Simmons ever dreamed possible. And nothing was more motivating to keep going than the awaiting view at the top. It made me wish that there were Maya temples in Los Angeles because climbing them would be a helluva lot more gratifying than going to the gym. Well...I've found the closest thing. The Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook. The overlook has a museum/visitor center and a garden at the top and the view is amazing. You can drive to the top or take a trail, but the stairs are what it's all about for me. They are like temple stairs in that they are steep and tall. The hiking trail that leads to the top crosses the stairs at several points, so you can make your own combination of stairs and trail to the top or back down to the bottom. Personally, I take the stairs to the top and then take the trail back down to the bottom.

I'm sure the Santa Monica stairs are great - I've never done them - but these are much less pretentious, less crowded, and the other hikers are very friendly. Good luck!!

The overlook is located in Culver City on Jefferson Blvd. and Hetzler Rd.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Lake Shrine

Sometimes it pays to be broke in LA! A few months ago I googled "free things to do in Los Angeles" and found a couple great lists. One item that reappeared a few times was the Lake Shrine at the Self-Realization Fellowship in Pacific Palisades. I decided to check it out one day while I was on my way to Malibu and I was blown away. It's beautiful! You really can't see it from Sunset Blvd. except for the top of one of the buildings, so it's like a hidden sanctuary in the middle of Los Angeles. There's a path that goes around a beautiful lake, complete with HUGE koi fish, turtles, ducks, 2 swans, a heron, and a couple waterfalls. There are a few docks with buckets of food to feed the wildlife. A portion of Gandhi's ashes are located at the site in a shrine. There is also a church-like sanctuary for meditating (when not in use for services) and a gift shop. The site is landscaped beautifully and best of's SO quiet! Visitors are generally respectful of the peaceful atmosphere. I don't know much about the Self-Realization Fellowship, but it's clear that it honors all religions as there are quotes from Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Hinduism throughout the site (there may be more). Parking and entry are free so if you're in Los Angeles there's no excuse to miss out on this place. It's great!

17190 West Sunset Boulevard
Pacific Palisades, CA 90272

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Roberts Ranch House...or remains

Here's something different...these are the remains of a historic house in Malibu. The house was originally built in 1952 and designed by Paul Williams, a famous African American architect (the first certified African American architect west of the Mississippi). The house burned down in a fire in 1982, but the ruins are still accessible through a trail in Solstice Canyon off of the Pacific Coast Highway. It provides an interesting opportunity to walk through the floor plan of a once spectacular, privately-owned home. The scenery is fantastic, especially the waterfall!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Schwimmer House

Last summer the Hammer Museum on Wilshire Blvd. (in conjunction with the MAK Center) had an exhibition called Between Earth and Heaven: the Architecture of John Lautner. It featured drawings, models, videos, and photographs of various John Lautner projects. The exhibition also included tours of actual John Lautner homes around Los Angeles on several different weekends, some open to anyone who wanted to buy a ticket and some by invitation only. The visitors would arrive at the museum on a given day at a specific time, and then be bussed to one or several of the homes. I volunteered to be a docent for this event and I was assigned to the Schwimmer House in Beverly Hills. It's also a private residence, so I was pretty lucky to be able see the inside of the house (and for free!). I'm planning on taking a drive at some point to find the rest of the Lautner buildings in LA (especially Chemosphere!!)...anyone interested??