Looking Back

The second week of March in Southern California, from 2015 to 2020, from the archives –

The Shakespeare Bridge (30 images): Okay, it’s odd. The Shakespeare Bridge over in Franklin Hills, designed by J. C. Wright, was built in 1926, and now it’s a Historic-Cultural Monument in the City of Los Angeles (No. 126) – but no one knows why it’s called the Shakespeare Bridge. Perhaps it’s the Gothic arches and, at either end, two pair of “aedicule” – sort of stone gazebos or something. Romeo and Juliet might hang out here, or the crew from A Midsummer’s Night Dream, but probably not. Now and then it appears in the background in crime movies, perhaps because it’s mysterious, but mostly it just is – a curiosity. The locals love it. After the 1992 Northridge earthquake – which nearly destroyed it – this Shakespeare Bridge was restored and retrofitted to flex a bit next time, and it was reopened in 1998 – and the neighborhood had its mystery back. ~ Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Beach at the End of the World (35 images): Ocean Park, just south of Santa Monica, used to have an amazing amusement pier, and amusement park, and ballroom, and all the rest – the Sea Circus and the Diving Bells and the Ocean Skyway and the Sea Serpent Roller Coaster. It all opened on Saturday, July 28, 1958, and for a time Pacific Ocean Park was as big a deal as Disneyland, down in Anaheim, which had opened three years earlier. Pacific Ocean Park closed on October 6, 1967 – things didn’t work out. The park’s dilapidated buildings and the pier structure remained here, until a series of suspicious fires, and in the winter of 1974-75 those were demolished. The place is a clean slate now. Hip folks with money built condos and beach houses – but the place seems kind of dead – and the homeless sleep on benches here and there. On a dark and cloudy weekday in March, Ocean Park seems like the end of the world. ~ Wednesday, March 11, 2015

That Deco Tower (35 images): Monet painted the Rouen Cathedral thirty times in 1892 and 1893 – the light kept changing. The place looked different every time and that series of paintings is famous – but here, Bullocks Wilshire, 3050 Wilshire Boulevard, will have to do. This landmark Art Deco building is from 1929, by Los Angeles architects John and Donald Parkinson – a luxury department store for more than sixty years and now a private law school. But there is a French connection. The architects had been to the International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts (L’Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs et industriels modernes) at the World’s Fair held in Paris from April to October 1925. “Art Deco” comes from the words Arts Décoratifs – the title of that exposition that gave the world a new style – and Bullocks Wilshire is Los Angeles’ Rouen Cathedral. This day’s light made it look different again. ~ Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Waters of March (38 images): The Waters of March – the Águas de Março in the Jobim song – Echo Park Lake on a fine day in March – Monday, March 14, 2016

A Museum Walk (25 images): It was a strange day down at the county art museum. There was a parade. ~ Tuesday, March 15, 2016

At the Edges (35 images): Hollywood and Vine is the historic center of Hollywood, even if all the action long ago moved a few blocks west to the Dolby Theater, where they hold the Oscars, and the Chinese and El Capitan, where there seems to be a snazzy red-carpet premiere at least once a week. Nothing much happens at Hollywood and Vine now. But things are always more interesting at the edges. There are new glass skyscrapers at Hollywood and Vine, wedged between what is left from the twenties and thirties – and odd things tucked in the corners. This is the edgy stuff. ~ Friday, March 10, 2017

Hollywood at Home (30 images): A cluster of four apartment buildings on Harper Avenue a few steps from the Sunset Strip – the big white Colonial House commissioned by Paul Whiteman – Bette Davis lived in the penthouse for years. The historic Andalusia, from 1926, is across the street – as “Old Spain” as it gets. Next door the Colonial House, a Spanish Revival extravaganza, and across the street, a Midcentury Modern deck home, next to someone’s homage to Frank Lloyd Wright. This is Hollywood at Home. ~ Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Beverly Hills Light (30 images): There was a storm on the way. The light was translucent. Beverly Hills became a movie set – the mysterious overwrought old City Hall – the blank walls of the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts across the street – the swoopy old gas station from the days when cars had fins and little boys dreamed of outer space. This was dream lighting. ~ Friday, March 9, 2018

A Civic Maze (25 images): Public architecture can be symbolic. The Beverly Hills Civic Center is a colorful geometric maze. Local government is a bewildering maze. That works. ~ Friday, March 9, 2018

Raw Trees (30 images): Los Angeles’ winter isn’t quite over – a street of trees still stripped to their essence – Highland Avenue, Hancock Park. ~ Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Psychedelic Nickelodeon (25 images): Triforium, a sixty-foot high, sixty-ton concrete sculpture, mounted with Venetian glass prisms, light bulbs, and an internal carillon, at the Los Angeles Mall Civic Center complex, was a mistake. The mall’s architect, Robert Stockwell, commissioned artist Joseph Young to create the sculpture, and it was installed in 1975. Young’s original plans called for a kinetic sculpture, which would use motion sensors and a computer-controlled system to detect and translate the motions of passersby into patterns of light and sound displayed by the Venetian glass prisms and carillon. Young predicted that his public artwork would eventually become known as “the Rosetta Stone of art and technology” – and it didn’t work very well. And people hated it. They called it the Psychedelic Nickelodeon and Three Wishbones in Search of a Turkey, but it was too expensive to fix and too expensive to tear down. It just sat there for years. And it’s still there, along with that totem pole and that pagoda. That’s Los Angeles. ~ Monday, March 11, 2019

Marble Halls (26 images): White marble government halls are meant to intimidate the government’s citizens. They do – the federal court house at Main and Temple in Los Angeles, and Los Angeles City Hall next door. ~ Monday, March 11, 2019

The Life of Trees (35 images): The world is a mess. Getting old is a drag. Taxes are due soon. There are too many tourists in Hollywood. Why is the car making that noise? But there are the trees. Drive over to Griffith Park and point the Nikon at the trees. There, that’s better. Trees are good. ~ Thursday, March 14, 2019

Up There (30 images): A storm blew through. Hollywood had its head in the clouds. ~ Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Home Isolation (30 images): California Governor Gavin Newsom called for the home isolation of all seniors in California as well as those with chronic conditions, so there’s no going out for anything but groceries now. A few days later Newsom ordered bars and restaurants and gyms and movie theaters and anything nonessential to close – immediately – so no one is going anywhere. Consider this extreme social distancing, but staying home makes photographing this particular part of the world impossible. All there is left is what’s outside the front door and outside the office window, and out back from the balcony, the skies above Laurel Canyon. But that’s enough. The first three days of home isolation looked like this. ~ March 15-17, 2020


About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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