Airline food and a return to rain. Lots of rain, so here’s some sunny moments.

So to celebrate a couple of weeks in La La Land I’m just going to post a few of the images that will stay with me from the recent trip. Big thanks for all those who’ve been liking this stuff and giving me undeserved encouragement. It’s a little like encouraging that bloke in the pub to “Tell us more about your holidays then Sid”. I’ll just go on and on, and my dislike of flying will rapidly surface like Jaws on a hungry day.

Security was tight at the Airport, and the Americans seem to be perfecting the art of making a queue. Nowhere near as bad as the torture when we were incoming, but the usual sour faces with the standard sense of humour bypass. What an unhappy collection of people working there. I DID NOT make the mistake of making any sort of joke and would recommend anyone else to do likewise.

Let’s get the flying stuff off my chest first. Air New Zealand employed the All Blacks to do their safety feature at the start of the trip. They should have stuck to throwing an odd shaped ball around, it was truly terrible and hopefully when they grow older it will come back to haunt them as one of their most embarrassing moments, almost as bad as losing to England in the World Cup.

Then there’s the food. Or what they called food. I suspect that the food got on the plane in Aukland and had a few air miles on it before it got to those lucky enough to board at Tom Bradby Airport in LA. It was truly awful. My wife’s special veggie meal was the greyest looking heap I’ve seen since I was at boarding school in the early 60s. My chicken dish was a high flying disaster area. Yuck. To add insult to injury there was a slice of Monterey Jack cheese. I’m sure there is some Monterey Jack cheese that tastes like cheese, but this yellow wedge of plastic looked like an offset from a child’s plastic seaside sand bucket. Industrial waste. Perhaps I could take the taste of all this away with a plastic cup of Sauvignon, after all the New Zealanders are good at wine these days. Perhaps it’s because wine and plastic don’t mix that this very nearly had me wanting to have my teeth removed. I’m sure you get the picture.

The piece de resistance was what was called an omelette for breakfast. I just knew I should not have asked for it. Curiosity got the better of me. An omelette should be made from eggs that have landed in the hand from the back landing wheels of a chicken. This was tough enough to put under the front wheels of a jumbo jet to prevent movement. Perhaps they do it on purpose, after all there are limited toilet facilities on a plane and anything that prevents movement might help them manage, if you get my drift.

It does not seem to matter who you fly with they all seem incapable of serving anything remotely acceptable. I suggest they get Pret a Manger to look at how they do this sort of thing.

Now let’s go to the sunny stuff. Mainly pictures here and no more ranting.

This is a car museum, super piece of work. I took loads of photos of the iconic cars inside
but they did not look as good as the building
Venice Beach, great day out.
I’m in danger of using the word juxtaposition with this shot
What the hell are toe rings?
Japanese machine guns available here and it says earthquake supplies?
Two images of these lush gardens in Pasadena, this taken in late November for crying out loud!
Venice beach skater
What is Pork Toro, Som Tum, and Larb? And does that say Thai Drinking Food?
Venice again, I could have stayed there for hours wandering around
and watching the skaters.
The Reis Family seemed to be selling second hand stuff.
The broad view from the top of Runyon Canyon.

Big thanks to all those who dropped into my trip to LA. Back in the UK and big thanks to all those people who made our trip to the States so memorable.

Car photos, the morning/afternoon drive

Driving a few blocks across the city to take the children to nursery school. Gives a flavour of the place.

Latest films get the entire side of a building.
That’s the Netflix building on the right with the mix of what seem to be black windows. The building is designed like a load of slabs that have moved a bit in a shake up. Also below, gives a better impression of the design.
This ginormous slab of a building is a high school
Not everything is big and bold. Fluff and fold?

Choose your favourites before you reach saturation point.

I love art galleries but can only really take them in small doses. Two hours is about as much as I can realistically look at the framed stuff before I get the itch for a cup of tea and a cake. The Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena was today’s cake trip. Pasadena is rich in these places and had the benefit of our company on a few days.

I was attracted to this place by the promise of works from La Belle Époque. It did not disappoint. Here are a few of my favourites from the show. It has the benefit of a cafe too. So saturation point was delayed by refreshment and we were able to take in more than I normally do.

Take a look around with these which made my shortlist of the best in this place the other day.

A small stunning Degas
This is one of the few paintings by a woman in this show and it’s by Berthe Morisot. A lovely lively painting expressed in some super subtle spare brushwork. Tells a great story.
Diego Rivera, this is a detail. Full image below with added person
Van Goch at his very maddest and best.
Very small Picasso drawing, every line just right.
Love the light shining up on this face in this typical Degas drawing
Toulouse Lautrec, some stunning works by him in the show, I especially like his drawings rather than the prints.
Here are two to choose from.
This strong graphic print has everything for me and it’s by Vouillard.
Armand Guillaumin painted this evocative scene on the Seine and captures light and pollution in this lovely piece.
Obviously not one of the Belle Epoque pictures but as a striking abstract of some scale, this is hard to beat.
So don’t put it in your shortlist.

For me the one with the lasting impression is the first small Degas of the woman ironing, which reminds me to go and get on with a spot of ironing.

Trader Joe and their brilliant bags.

I’d heard of Trader Joe’s before I came here. I follow a blog called Become Betty, where Betty, who’s not called Betty, reviews their products all the time. I like the blog, it gave me a taste of what the Americans like to eat and the strange things they do to their food.

Now I’ve experienced the place for real, and came out unrealistically excited about their re-usable bags. You get three re-usable bags in a Mystery Pack, and you get each bag with a unique design representing a particular place. Here you can see one for Atlanta, and one for Utah. The other one is in use. Not only is this a brilliant idea, they are all brilliant pieces of graphic design. We bought some to take home as gifts. Yes, that is reusable shopping bags have suddenly become good enough to give to people as a gift, not to line the dustbin. Collectible items, who would have thought it. The groceries were good too.

Coffee shop speak: “Would you care for the cayenne garnish?”

No thanks, like a badly built skyscraper that’s just wrong on so many levels.

I’m keen on coffee shops and they are here too in Los Angleles, so we tried one out on Sunset Boulevard. Intelligentsia was the rather pseudo name for the place and I was sent there while others had other things to do. They thought rightly that I’d be amused by a good coffee and a sticky cake, and I was.

The guy making the coffee was smiley and pleasant and the one taking the money was the opposite, looking at me as if he could just about stay awake. He committed the ultimate sin of not engaging and worse still: forgetting my cake! He apologised in due course but the tone was like an automatic answering machine.

I sat on an available stool which was so uncomfortable that I thought they’d done this on purpose to keep people moving. The guy next to me was doing a small watercolour with the tiniest watercolour set that I’d ever seen, in his handy sketchbook. Turns out he was an illustrator so, as in my normal way I engaged with him. Matt Phelan is his name and you can find him here

We only had a few minutes to chat, but it was a pleasant interlude, and good to meet someone else who took the brave steps of drawing for a living.

Almost forgotten sticky cake, unforgettable.

So what of Intelligentsia, good coffee ( not as good as I can get in Sheffield ) excellent cake and good company.

On the way to the coffee shop I mooched, seeing a shop selling ex army gear I thought I’d have a mooch in there. Here I could buy an ex army Japanese Machine Gun for 5 cents short of 300 dollars, or perhaps a gas mask from a large selection including an Israeli army edition and loads of others.

The man in the shop was happy enough to let me take some pictures. Like the cayenne garnish I’ll pass on either gas mask or machine gun.

Someone’s got to live there, perhaps?

It’s a massive sprawl, with street after street of houses and offices. It ranges from the seedy, the very seedy to the rich and the very rich. Possibly there are areas where some people live that just about manage, there are certainly areas, generally near to freeway bridges were people are not even doing that. All their belongings in a small area, a tent if they are lucky and a shopping trolley. They just about exist. There’s no net for those in these areas. These are definitely the “have nots”.

No net for these poor people, this is on a slip road from a freeway.

I suppose that some of the “just abouts” might also live near the freeway, here are apartment blocks. This one looks pretty cool, but what you don’t see in this image is that this image was taken from the freeway, and there are ten lines of freeway directly in front of the building. The noise alone must be barely bearable. The pollution excessive, but I suppose it’s marginally better than a tent or nothing. It may be called Hollywood Tower but it is far from glamorous.

View from here is traffic.

Then there are the “haves”. They have houses like these here. In some areas they are even more grand than this, but they cannot generally be photographed as they lie behind very large hedges and have security coming out of every spare area.

View from these is over the City. I thought that this had a bit if a Frank Lloyd Wright feel to it, as opposed to the Millets look of the tents near the freeway.

Many of the very large houses are maintained by the people who might be living in the less than roomy apartment blocks. Many large houses seem to be populated only by the maintenance staff, generally Hispanic people armed with leaf blowers and beaten up pick ups.

Americans are philanthropists, they pride themselves on donating their massive wealth to art galleries, art collections and other worthy causes. They are generous to a fault. It’s a shame that they cannot solve the problem of the many “have nots”.

Yet more culture?

Take that last line and explain it to me please.
This is what the words are about. Lost on me.

“Life’s too short to stuff a mushroom”

As I recall these golden words were spoken by Shirley Conrad, who many years ago, was a doyenne of home making. It’s a phrase that came to mind on today’s visit to the Arts District of Los Angeles to the Hauser and Wirth Galleries.

These first painting were all of a palm tree with Perspex screen in front and these screens as you can see have what looks like a colour blindness test with numbers. The galleries are really brilliant. A wonderful place to exhibit art and photography. I loved these images and there was someone there to explain that each of the Perspex screen are hand painted and the numbers and letters hand drawn. I resisted the urge to say it but heard the phrase at the back of my head: “Life’s too short…”

I was advised that the artists did get help. He needs help!

All hand lettered
The floor is not part of the artwork, but could be.

Then there’s photography

Yes, it seems to be blank. And it is.
This one is not quite blank and is next to the one that is.
Lovely space for photography exhibition, a bit of colour would help.
This is the building, well worth a visit.

After the palm trees we took a brief look at the photography, lovely space,dull photographs. California is all about colour and in here there was none. Sorry, but I simply don’t understand it. I’m thinking of sending them some of my future work, perhaps I’ll send them a bit of exposed roll film and see if my blanks are good enough to be exhibited. Personally I found the exhibit below more interesting. Is it an exhibit or a health and safety feature? Discuss.

Still Life with Sign

Bright? It’s almost day-glo.

Huntingdon Park. Pasadena. Very hot day, in the 90s.

This place is big, loads of brilliant gardens and plants to feast the eyes on and in a variety of styles, even a bonsai area if you like that sort of thing.

The light yesterday was to me as bright as you can get it. The colours and the deep blue sky in particular made it feel like technicolour with all the buttons turned full on. This is a well organised place to take a day or even a few days to explore.

And after the gardens there are art galleries to mooch in and a library where you can view original Chaucer volumes as well as seeing the words written by Charles Dickens. Including his signatures which is worryingly similar to Donald Trump’s. Though Dickens chose not to use a Sharpie.

There’s a lot to take in and it has a place where you can take afternoon tea, but with a price of 37.00 dollars per head we swerved past, and headed for the cafeteria area where food and drink was quite reasonably priced and of the usual excellent quality we have found over here. It has to be said that many places don’t have facilities for eating and drinking. Parks are places with very few places where you can get a snack and drink, Griffiths Park which is huge, has one. It’s a good one, but there’s just the one. Others have none at all, not even a man in a van.

We also took a brief look around the art, ancient and modern. I suspect that one day an “artist” will plant a person in as dark blazer and grey flannels to stand by a blank framed piece and the two items will be a “work of art”. Or has it already been done?

Yes, the sky was that colour.
Lush is the word, even on a hot day
Cacti and trees, not many places where you find them like this.
And massive bamboo.
Soup is on the menu, in the art gallery and the cafeteria, where they were serving squash soup with maple syrup. Only in America.

The Gamble House, thanks to all that soap.

This place is worth a visit, it’s in Pasadena and is the former home of the head of the Proctor and Gamble soap empire. It was at first their second home.

The Gamble House

It was a lesson in architectural and other design. Fantastic woodwork and an eye for every detail. Not a thing out of place. What struck me about it most of all was how unbelievably dark it was in the house, which is not really surprising given that it was in the main constructed of dark woods and any painted areas were a dark rose colour.

It followed the principles of the arts and crafts movement that started in the UK, in fact there were exponents of the art in Gloucestershire, our home county, in the forms of Peter Vaals and the Gimson family. The Gimsons specialised in furniture, the architect here specialised in all areas of design for the house including even the light switches.

Find out more here

You won’t be disappointed.

Detail from the front door window
The Front Porch
Lots of Japanese influence here.