Sunday, April 26, 2009

For the Record

For decades now, people associate Puritans with prudes. But the exact opposite is true. Puritans had a healthy regard for sex as long as it came after marriage. From Christian History:

Anglican treatises on marriage listed procreation as the primary purpose of marriage, followed by restraint and remedy of sin, and finally companionship. The Puritans reversed the order, putting mutual society, help, and comfort in first place. Daniel Rogers wrote, "Husbands and wives should be as two sweet friends, bred under one constellation, tempered by an influence from heaven whereof neither can give any reason, save mercy and providence first made them so, and then made their match; saying, see, God hath determined us out of this vast world for each other." In direct contrast to the medieval Catholic glorification of celibacy, the Puritans placed a very high value on marriage, sex, and family—as long as they occurred in that order!

It's a peeve of mine that Puritan has become a pejorative.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Eaton Canyon

What we (Karen, me, & Thorne) thought we were doing: A quick 30 minute hike through Eaton Canyon. Our friend had said we could hike up one side of the wash to a bridge, then hike back on the other side of the wash. A fifteen minute hike up and a fifteen minute hike back. Easy.

What we did do: Wandered off the main trail and realized we did so when we looped back to the main trail (we did this twice). I then did what I had feared doing ever since Thorne was born. While wearing Thorne in the Baby Bjorn, I tripped on a tree root and fell forward. Fortunately I missed squashing my baby like bug by a few inches. My right knee took the brunt of the fall and came out of it with only a scrape and a bruise. Did I mention that poison oak is prolific in this area? The maps and brochures all warned of this insidious plant and we had noticed it on either side of the trail. So, my next fear was that I had planted both me and Thorne straight into the noxious plant. How we missed it must have been an act of God. As you know from a previous post, the more one is exposed to poison oak the worse one's rash will become.

We continued our hike and reached the bridge area and a lovely stream of water. We then took what we thought was the trail back along the other side of the wash. We were walking along the river bed with me high stepping over rocks to avoid twisting an ankle or cracking Thorne's head on a rock. After the obvious trail shriveled we scrambled around looking for another. We followed some footsteps in the sand and that brought us to another semblance of a trail. We picked our way across the dry river floor for some time, but then finally admitted to ourselves that this couldn't possibly be the trail our friend was speaking of. So we hacked our way through some brush, scampered up the rocky bank and rejoined the previous trail. The beauty of our exploration through the riverbed was that it felt like we were off roading it, that it was us against nature but with the security of knowing a real trail was within easy access. I recommend Eaton Canyon if you want a rustic ramble with the potential of "safely" getting lost and the assurance of muddling your way back to civilization.

Total hiking time was 1 and 1/2 hours.

Eaton Cayon is located off the 210 at the Sierra Madre /Alta Dena exit. Take Alta Dena to the end and the entrance will be on your right.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Japanese Garden + Balboa Park

Tucked away behind a security fence and a guard presence is a peaceful Japanese garden occupying 6 1/2 acres. We were quizzed more thoroughly by the guard at the front gate, than we were by security at City Hall leaving us a little puzzled as to why all this security was needed just for a garden. Well it happens that this particular Japanese garden was designed by Dr. Koichi Kawana for the Tillman Water Reclamation Plant. Ah, perhaps that's why it's called the "Garden of Water and Fragrance." Though the fragrance was more noisome than odiferous. According to the excellent and free guide book given out at the gift shop the purpose of having a Japanese garden next to a reclamation plant "was to demonstrate a positive use of reclaimed water in what is generally agreed to be a delicate environment: a Japanese Garden."

After following the tour laid out in the guide book, you come to the reclamation plant's administration building. The guide book says of this building that "if one uses his imagination, the building resembles a waterfall." Quite so. You can climb to a viewing platform that overlooks the process of reclaiming sewage water. The water reclaimed from this plant not only keeps the garden flourishing it also keeps Lake Balboa in existence.

Some of the more striking features of the garden are the Dry Garden (the middle picture above), the ginkgo grove, the coots and cranes inhabiting the lake, the wisteria arbor, the tea house, and the waterfall (the far left photo above). Also quite lovely was the Zig Zag bridge through a marsh covered with hundreds of irises. The guide book said the Japanese believed at one time that "if chased by evil spirits, you will be protected since evil spirits can only go in a straight line and will be unable to follow you around the corners of the bridge." Good to know. My only complaint with the design was the overabundance of azaleas and an insipid bush with pink flowers that is ubiquitous in SoCal gardens. Despite that minor flaw, the garden is worth a stroll. The entrance fee is $3, but call ahead to make sure they're really open. They say you can come by between Noon and 3:15pm M-TH, but that may not always be so.

Across the street from the Japanese Garden is Lake Balboa Recreational Park. A beautiful park that has cherry trees (or what look like cherry trees when in bloom) planted around the perimeter of the lake. It's only 1.3 miles around the lake and makes for a lovely stroll through scenery that at times reminded me of Gainsborough paintings.

The garden and park together make for a delightful afternoon outdoors. And once again Thorne behaved beautifully. I think she enjoys these outings as much as I do.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

City Hall + Bottega Louie's

The trip to Los Angeles City Hall was a rip roaring success! We drove into downtown planning to park at Union Station and then take the Metro Red Line to our various destinations. I'd read online that parking was $10 for all day, but when we got there is was actually $14. That was too steep for me, so it was fortunate that Karen had seen a sign for a $5/a day lot right next door at the United States Post Office. The parking attendant was a toothless old black man with a cheeky grin and helpful attitude. The perfect start to our adventure.

We walked to City Hall from the Civic Center metro stop. After passing through security we were left alone to do as we pleased. Kind of strange to be allowed to wander about unattended in this hyper secure mode we now live in.

We rode up in ancient elevators switching at the 22nd floor to get the express elevator to the 26th floor. From there we took the stairs (though an elevator is available) to the 27th floor. Not a soul was about except us. And you get all of this for FREE! I highly recommend adding this destination to any tour of Los Angeles. Below is a view of the city skyline. The above picture is from the third floor Rotunda.

From there we walked down Broadway, passing the Grand Market and the Bradbury building, to get to the newly opened Bottega Louie restaurant. It's located at the corner of 7th /Grand conveniently close to the 7th street Metro station. I'd heard about Bottega Louie a couple months ago before it opened and wanted to check it out from the way it was described. Dark wood and gilt, but with high ceilings and clean white walls. A mix between modern and European bistro in my mind. The restaurant seats around 185 people so that gives you an idea of the size. I was planning on just eating in their cafe since Thorne was with us. As we were standing in the entry way deciding what to do the hostess approached us and asked if we'd like to be seated in the restaurant. Since the place was enormous and there was quite a din from all the talking, I thought even if Thorne got fussy no one would hear her. So we dined in. No one batted an eye that I was bringing a baby into such a fine dining area. Everyone was so personable and helpful. Looking back I wonder if they thought I was a food blogger since I was taking so many photos.

The food was tasty and they serve complimentary sparkling water. That little detail alone made me happy. We had a yummy salad soused in a balsamic vinaigrette giving it a dirty appearance, thus no photo. We split that and a club sandwich. I thought the mustard spread on the sandwich to be a touch salty, but otherwise a good standard club. After that we splurged on dessert and got the oh so fabulous, swoon inducing, let me sing a song about it, Peanut Butter and Chocolate terrine. Layers of chocolate then peanut butter and then more chocolate with a drizzle of caramel and chocolate sauce. SO GOOD! Even Thorne was drooling over the concoction.

This Wednesday I'm heading to the opera to hear Wagner's Die Valkyrie and we'll be dining at Bottega Louie's beforehand. I'm sure their dinner service will be as accommodating as their lunch service. All in all a delightful day!

Easter Darling

From the 2009 Spring Collection, a lovely yellow vintage number that recalls happy Easter memories from our own childhoods. Originally made in the 1970's for Steve's sister Miriam, the dress passed to other girl cousins before arriving to adorn the sweet Thorne.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

He is Risen!

"I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die." --Jesus the Christ (John 11:25,26)

I can say with Job (19:25) "I know that my Redeemer lives!"

Thank you Jesus!

Friday, April 10, 2009

That's My Girl!

Directly outside Thorne's window is a revving chainsaw and a tree munching machine eating Ficus branches yet she's sleeping soundly in her crib. Thorne is equally impervious to wailing sirens, Harley motorcycles, and quarreling lovers (and I don't mean me and Steve).

She does wake up when a pin drops.

That last sentence is a lie.

If it were true, I'd cry.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Nuts! or Why I Love Raymond Chandler

Ever since giving birth to Thorne, I've become a voracious reader of fiction. My latest literary conquests have been the Raymond Chandler oeuvre, the inimitable Philip Marlowe made famous by Humphrey Bogart in The Big Sleep (Chandler's first novel). Bogart has been one of my all time favorite old school Hollywood actors, but he is no Philip Marlowe. He was too old and too short to play the 6' 1/2"and 33 year old Marlowe of The Big Sleep. But, I digress. I can't believe I've waited this long to read a master of colorful description, crackling dialog, and and witty characterization. Nothing is more tedious to me than pages of description of the George Eliot variety, but in Chandler's hands description is tight and full of tasty bits. For example, here's Philip Marlowe describing a "bleach job" in the novel The Long Goodbye:
"She opened a mouth like a firebucket and laughed. That terminated my interest in her. I couldn't hear the laugh but the hole in her face when she unzippered her teeth was all I needed."

Here's another,
"She looked as if it would take a couple of weeks to get her dressed."

And another,

"There are blondes and blondes and it is almost a joke word nowadays....There is the blonde who gives you the up-from-under look and smells lovely and shimmers and hangs on your arm and is always very very tired when you take her home. She makes that helpless gesture and has that goddamned headache and you would like to slug her except that you are glad you found out about the headache before you invested too much time and money and hope in her. Because the headache will always be there, a weapon that never wears out and is as deadly as the bravo's rapier or Lucrezia's poison vial."
Addictive stuff is Chandler's writing. All his works are littered with these descriptive jems making it an absulute pleasure to read.

A note of warning: do not read his short stories first. Chandler recycled plots from his short stories into his novels and nothing is more disappointing than to settle in to devour a novel only to have already read 1/3 of it or more.

Sunday, April 05, 2009


Thorne is my intrepid traveler sidekick in our explorations of Los Angeles and environs. We've been having grand adventures together since she will now take a bottle delivering me from the hassle of trying to breastfeed her in public. She didn't like it and neither did I. So, once she was willing to feed from a bottle, our options for outings multiplied. We went to Reagan's Library a week ago Friday and she was treated like a celebrity by all the gray haired docents. After taking a tour of Air Force One, the docent saw Thorne and exclaimed, "So this is the cutest baby in the building I've been hearing so much about!" Apparently the docents were using their walkie talkies to alert their friends in other areas to be on the lookout for Thorne. And were they ever! We couldn't sit down before some volunteer strolled up to take a peek at my wee babe. Thorne was a peach the whole day until we got stuck in horrific traffic after dropping my friend off and it took us an hour and a half to go apprx. ten miles. She started her hyperventilating screaming about ten minutes from home because she'd had ENOUGH. I didn't blame her.

Last week we spent five hours at The Getty taking in a wonderful photo exhibit that included Paul Outerbridge, Jo Ann Callis, and Richard Miller. Both Karen and I found many of the photos menacing or at least tension filled. There was a dark undercurrent to many of the nude photos and to such commonplace items as a yellow bed in the work of Jo Ann Callis. I'd say there was a synergistic effect from showing these three artists together. You might say they were dialoging. The show is well worth a visit.

This week we'll be visiting City Hall in downtown LA as part of my Tailing Philip Marlowe series. I found out that City Hall has an observation deck on the 27th floor that is free to the public between the hours of 9am and 1pm. That rather limits the folks who can enjoy it to the 5% of the population who don't work. Thankfully that includes me!

If anyone has suggestions for places to visit in Los Angeles that are not widely known, please leave them in the comments.

Friday, April 03, 2009

For Karen

I am an aboriginal spear aimed at the heart of the enemy.