Graffiti is Art

Today, my mission was to find the Venice Art Walls. It’s legal graffiti art, requiring each artist to obtain a permit—essentially murals, to be more exacting.

“Pursuant to LA’s city permits, as of June 3, 2007 anyone who wants to paint on the walls needs to apply for and obtain the requisite approvals. If you don’t, and then paint or mark any surface on the Venice Art Walls area without a permit, you’ll receive a ticket for vandalism by the LAPD or the Park Rangers. You may apply for a permit in person (on-site), over the Internet, or via fax. The physical permit itself will be issued by an on-site Supervisor the day you’ll be painting. Permits are free of charge, and are issued only by ICU Art. Permits are valid for one day only and must be returned at the end of the day.”

Personally, I love the idea that graffiti artists have a legal place to display their skills and to highlight their work. So many of these artists have mad talent but instead of a permit they could and often land in jail or worse for expressing themselves.

Although their medium isn’t considered mainstream quite yet, urban arts are definitely being more and more accepted—the early works of Keith Haring, Banksy, and Basquiat surely helped pave the way for the younger generations.

Because the murals are only allowed to be painting on the weekends, I’m assuming each week, the designs change.

Although, I won’t be visiting this location every weekend, the idea of letting the artists create new art every week is exactly like an outdoor art gallery so you can always find a new artist featured that you may want to learn more about or even to collect other artwork from.

Over the years, the regulations that govern painting on these walls have changed several times. Painting first started in 1961, although technically illegal to paint the walls then, but was generally tolerated by the Police and was loved by the community.

Only in 2000, did it became barely legal to paint on walls; however, the artists had to submit sketches to ICU (In Creative Unity) Art, a Venice based arts organization, in order to be scheduled to paint on one of the four large walls featured here.

But to be frank, this is art at its finest and hippest:


I’m not sure what the regulations are for painting on the trees, garbage cans, or garbage bins may be, but it’s definitely a form of expression.

Stash Maleski, the Director of ICU Art has been curating the Venice Art Walls since 2000, and to this day continues to advocate for the rights of public artists and graffiti artists in general.

Mr. Maleski states, “My goal is to provide opportunities for artists to create great public art in such a way that it will add to our visual environment and be appreciated by the public.”

I must admit my eyes are now wide open to this beautiful and visually stimulating type of art and excited to have discovered something that was always here, but I didn’t know about, until I decided to go Travelin’ Local.

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Kickin’ it at Fatburger

Considered by many, FatBurger is an institution in Los Angeles, and just as you would expect from its moniker, Fatburger serves large burgers of several different varieties, a choice of fries or onion rings, plus, all-natural shakes made with real ice cream.

The creamy shakes are to die for. And after I’ve thoroughly enjoyed myself I’m now in a great mood to write about their terrific venue.

Trying to eat a little healthier, I choose their Turkey burger which surprisingly was served on a whole wheat bun; it was juicy, and full of mouth watering flavors. The toppings of lettuce, tomatoes and mayo, were fresh and crisp. The fries were the large Texas style kind, hot from the fryer.

Sitting down at the very 50’s like diner booth, I was impressed at the chrome, glass, red seats, and faux black countertops made for a trip down memory lane–Bauhaus meets Happy Days!

While I enjoyed my burger and fries, I perused the funny posters hanging on the walls:

Started in Los Angeles in 1952, Fatburger has been around for almost 60 years. They started expanding in 1991, starting in Las Vegas, and now reach as far as the Midwest and East Coast. In fact, on a recent trip, I saw the first (at least I think it’s the first) Fatburger in Columbia, Maryland.

For all the press about obesity, burgers don’t seem to be losing their American appeal. I know they’re still a favorite of mine.

Who can resist the smell and taste of a juicy burger cooking on the grill, especially one made from fresh ground beef, like Fatburger’s?

In moderation, a FatBurger can’t be bad. To the contrary, they’re terrific and the store’s ambience is cool.

If you have a Fatburger close by, and want to spend a little extra on a fresh, juicy burger, I wholeheartedly recommend this famous establishment. It just might be “The Last Great Hamburger Stand."

The Treasured Sculpture Garden Gem at UCLA

Hidden in the back of UCLA’s beautiful campus is a little known, but highly relaxing area known as the Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden, which was dedicated in 1967, after the first acquisitions were installed.

The Sculpture Garden features over seventy sculptures by artists including Jean Arp, Alexander Calder, Claire Falkenstein, Barbara Hepworth, Gaston Lachaise, Jacques Lipchitz, Henri Matisse, Henry Moore, Isamu Noguchi, Auguste Rodin, David Smith, and Francisco Zuñiga.

The myriad of figural and structural design, material, size, depth, and use of material of both figural and abstract art works provide a profound and illustrating understanding and appreciation of the many approaches to sculpture.

Dr. Franklin D. Murphy arrived in Los Angeles in 1960, and become UCLA’s third chancellor. During that time the university had just begun to develop the northeast sector of its now sprawling four-hundred-acre campus; by the time Dr. Murphy left– eight years later–4.5 precious acres of the new and densely build north campus had been preserved and transformed into this world renowned park some of the finest sculptures of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Recalling his travels through the plazas and gardens of Europe, Murphy firmly believed that works of art are most thoroughly enjoyed when they are a part of daily life.

After visiting the Garden, I understand and concur with his conclusion. In the middle of the high stress atmosphere of one of the finest and academically advanced college campus’ in the metropolis of Los Angeles, I can think of nothing better than to be able to read a required text or write a necessary thesis in the relaxing setting of this stunning Garden.

Walking around this Garden, I was in awe of the artists and often pondered what they were thinking while creating their masterpieces and what they were trying to convey to the viewer—the eternal balancing act of artist and world. No matter these aesthetic issues, the sculptures brought forth a calmness and thoughtfulness often unparalleled into our everyday life. If you’d like more information about each of the sculptures, click here.

Are there any sculptures in your neck of the woods? If so, I’d love to see them by Travelin’ Local.

It’s snowing at Travelin’ Local

For someone who lives on the West Coast, visiting the East Coast during winter isn’t the easiest trip to plan. Questions abound: What should I wear? What shouldn’t I wear? Do I need snow boots? Or a winter coat? Even what kind of socks should be packed enter the equation.

When I departed on my flight from Los Angeles, it was in the wee hours of the morning– so even here it was nippy; thus a sweater was my outfit of choice for the flight. But, because the temperature here rarely gets into the low 40ºs, I don’t own a winter coat. Before going, I made sure I was going to be able to borrow one, and it was definitely needed.

Cold temperatures are the norm during a Baltimore winter, but sub-20º is a bit nippy.

Nope, no normal temps here.

Waking up the first morning after my arrival, the temperature was 8º. At that temperature, the term “crisp air” takes on a whole new meaning. As the week progressed, it did get a little warmer; however, on my last full day, it started to snow as evidence by the picture. I could be wrong, but from my experience, it tends to warm up a little, when it snows, –with the temperatures ranging from 20º - 32º. I know quite a few people in LA who have never experienced snow. If at all possible, I think everyone should experience snow, at least once in their life, especially the kind of wet snow that attaches to the trees. It’s a beautiful sight to behold. Plus, it’s fun—at least once.

Here, two girls loaded with boots, coats, gloves, and hats are treading where the small creek’s water usually flows. As far as I could see, the water level never gets above a few inches, plus, these girls’s father was standing close by, keeping a watchful eye.

One thing I’ve been practicing on with my new camera is the art of focus and depth of field. It takes practice, but I’m up for mastering the moment–so you’ll start to witness quite a few more shots like this in upcoming blogs. I love the detail in this shot, and yes, that is snow on the leaves. The concept of depth and dimension is always fun to capture on screen, canvas, photo or page.

One of the great advantages of living in Southern California is that the mountains aren’t too far away. I haven’t posted about it yet, but they’re definitely on the to-do list.

What about you? Do you enjoy a beautiful snow fall? Or how did you spend this week Travelin’ Local?

It’s always fun to explore our backyard as well as others, because its part of life’s pleasures; and experiences, that we live for and forward to.

Until next time, keep safe and warm!

Travelin’ Local visits the East Coast

A major part of the focus of Travelin’ Local is Southern California, particularly Los Angeles, because I happen to live here. However, another side of Travelin’ Local is also that our neighborhoods are part of who we are, what we do, and how we enjoy life. We all live in diverse places, each with a character all its own. On weekends, we might go to a local hang-out, watering hole, local park, participate in a local event, spend time with our family, or find that perfect local book or video store to haul back our wares to our nests.

We might live and die in the same neighborhood, or we might move from place to place. Maybe your neighborhood is a military base in Iraq—unfortunately but thankfully enough we appreciate it–or a suburb in Chicago. Maybe you’re Travelin’ outside your neighborhood visiting friends or family, seeing a different neighborhood’s sites and sounds. Even, of course, internationally!

This last week I happened to be visiting family in Maryland, specifically, Columbia and, of course I took my camera. The weather went from very cold to cold to snow. Having lived for the majority of my life either in the Midwest or East Coast, cold weather isn’t anything new to me; however, it’s said that once you get used to living in a warm weather climate, going cold again, is difficult. I can attest to that fact.

I’m back home in Los Angeles now, and although I loved the trip and visiting family is fantastic, my feet (which spent the last week continuously cold) feel much better now that I’m back.

Therefore, in the spirit of Travelin’ Local, I’m sharing a few photographs which are the polar opposite—no pun intended–from the beach, but no less appealing:

Ranked by CNN Money as the one of the 8th Best Places to Live in 2008, Columbia Maryland, is a planned community. In this day and age, I’m not sure exactly what that entails or means, but I can tell you that the Columbia Association did a great job of organizing a walking/biking trail that spans much of the city. Both of these pictures were taken within a very small section of one such trail.

Tomorrow’s blog post will feature some more pictures of this same section of the trail; but with the difference being an additional 1.5inches of snow that fell during the day!

Once in a while, I miss the snow, but after a week in Maryland, during some of the coldest weather they’ve had in a while, I can tell you, I don’t miss the cold—it feels good to be back in sunny Southern California.

How is the cold treating you all this winter? Have you done any Travelin’ Local?

Walkin’ Santa Monica Boulevard in Beverly Hills

Located in the heart of Beverly Hills is a park many people tend to take for granted. Bordering the ever traffic laden Santa Monica Boulevard sits the Beverly Garden Park.

Interspersed and conjunctive, for almost two miles, are celebrities, residents, joggers, bikers, drivers of trucks, Rolls Royce’s, 1997 Toyotas, and every other type of transportation is conjoined with the sites, open spaces, and beauty of a cactus garden, walking trail, statues, and flowers. Typically going unnoticed by most, especially by Los Angelino drivers, the beautiful and inviting Beverly Garden Park is best enjoyed on foot or bike.

However, even driving past in a car, these flowers can catch your eye. Taller than my 5’10’ frame and with bold colors, these tulips are unique.

Guarding the flowers is statue of a dancing four-legged animal, ready to strike at a moment’s notice. He, like the other statues in the park, adds flair and spark to an otherwise dull day.

On the right, this statue is titled Hunter and Hounds, and it has an interesting history. A banker (W.D. Longyear) went to France to visit the spot where his son was killed in World War 1. At the site, near the Chateau Thierry, he saw this statue, riddled with bullet holes from the battle. In 1925, he bought the statue and had it shipped back to Beverly Hills, where it stood on his front lawn for many years. Memorial ceremonies were held at the statue each Armistace Day. When the Longyears moved from Beverly Hills, they donated the statue to the city. It was placed here in Beverly Gardens Park. Source: Seeing Stars

I spent a total of 40 minutes in only a ½ mile stretch of this park, and was amazed at each step–something new was just done the straightaway.

Beverly Hills may be known for many things, but I don’t think parks is at the top of the list, however, I hope after this post, you see Beverly Hills not only as a Mecca for the rich and famous, but also for its possibilities as a place of relaxation, walking, and sightseeing other than a Map of the Stars.

Having only touched on 25% of Beverly Garden Park, I’ll be making another visit. Next time, I think I’ll ride my bike, taking full advantage of the trail.

Until then, where are you Travelin’ Local?

A Study in Black and White

I love black and white photographs. The contrasts between the colors and the shades of grey draw me into the lair of the subject. As a matter of fact, the winner of the Digital Photography School’s best 2008 photo contest was a black and white picture.

Although shooting in black and white is somewhat new to me, I know my passion for it is matched by the greats—Ansel Adams, Brassei, Alfred Stieglitz, Henri Cartier-Bresson, etc. So my visit to the Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden located on the UCLA campus, put my black and white shots to the test.

On the right, The Nest, an outdoor classroom with semicircular bench seating, was constructed by the Garden staff and dedicated in1996 to the memory of Hazel (Lisa) Kath McMurran, a UCLA alumna.

Later that year a massive effort was undertaken to build new paths on the western side of The Garden.

The gently sloped paths and entrances provide access to The Nest and special collections to all visitors.

The concept of an outdoor classroom doubling as a rustic and artistic refuge is something we can all relate to. Who doesn’t want to get away from it all in the middle of a busy day, or in the middle of school or work?

The spiraling and effervescent limbs and branches of this tree are both inviting and a bit intimidating; asking its visitors to behold its magnificence while enabling you to seize your day.

Hopefully by Travelin’ Local your appreciation and enjoyment of life’s simple and satisfying offerings will oblige you to keep finding those sanctuaries that you enjoy; whether it be a black and white study in contrasts—or an afternoon get-a-way at U.C.L.A.’s botanical garden—or Travelin’ Local to your local favorite sanctuary.


Garden Magic

This is the garden’s magic,
That through the sunny hours
The gardener who tends it,
Himself outgrows his flowers.

He grows by gift of patience,
Since he who sows must know
That only in the Lord’s good time
Does any seedling grow.

He learns from buds unfolding,
From each tight leaf unfurled,
That his own heart, expanding,
Is one with all the world.

He bares his head to sunshine,
His bending back a sign
Of grace, and ev’ry shower becomes
His sacramental wine.

And when at last his labors
Bring forth the very stuff
And substance of all beauty
This is reward enough.

-Marie Nettleton Carroll

Can you relax at UCLA?

Yesterday was a beautiful day here in Los Angeles (80º and sunny), so in the afternoon, I hopped on my bike and rode to the UCLA campus. Although I had passed by this garden a couple of weeks ago in my car, I was to stop because I couldn’t see where the entrance was; and a few days later, when I drove there again I couldn’t stay because finding parking was hopeless.

The campus isn’t far away so riding my bike to get there seemed like the best option, and I was right. Fighting the pedestrians on the sidewalk or the cars on the street is always an issue. My choice was a little of both depending on which street I was riding on.

I knew approximately where the garden was located based on where I entered the UCLA campus–which by the way is huge. Wonder of wonders, I found the gate, only to discover it was closed. Much to my chagrin, I went a little further down the road, and low and behold, I found an opening.

With a sigh of relief, I enter into another world. The Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden, which was initiated in 1929, maintains one of the most important living botanical collections in the United States with plant specimens from all over the world. Their seven-acre garden is frost-free and therefore can exhibit many different species of tropical and subtropical plants.

As I walked around (bikes aren’t allowed, so I walked mine), the twisting, turning paths, I was captived by the the various trees. Because even here in California, it’s winter, for the most part, there aren’t too many flowers. In a few areas, the garden felt forest like.

Even though the UCLA campus is in the middle of the city, once you step foot in the garden, the city’s sites, sounds, and smells disappear. My mind and body relaxed, letting the sights and sounds of the garden take over. I felt the stress just melt away; albeit for a little while.

In fact, the only audible sounds besides the wind were the little squirrels that were doing what squirrels do.

As I turned a corner, the sound of a babbling brook replaced that of the squirrels, and I found myself seated, closing my mind to the outside world, totally absorbed by my surroundings.

I will definitely be putting the Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden on my list of places to return to. As the seasons change, so will the view, and I plan on seeing them all.

Outside or in, everyone needs a place they can retreat to just to kick back and relax. Especially as you are Travelin’ Local.

Just another morning in Westwood

Don’t let the caption above fool you—although I rode my bike to Westwood this morning to enjoy its splendor and interesting sites—there was nothing “normal” about today.

For starters, I encountered the dichotomy of a rare military funeral at the Los Angeles National Cemetery, and on the other side of the street, an anti-terrorist demonstration in front of the Federal Building.

Whatever side of the current conflict you may be on—there is no dispute as to encountering our enduring nation’s fight for freedom and Israel’s.

But I digress. The Los Angeles National Cemetery is a United States National Cemetery in West Los Angeles at the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Sepulveda Boulevard. The cemetery was dedicated in 1889. Interred there are war veterans, from the Spanish-American war, World War I, World War II, Korean War, and other American conflicts.

Two unique features of the Los Angeles National Cemetery are its indoor columbarium, a place for the respectful and usually public storage of cinerary urns (i.e. urns holding a deceased’s cremated remains) and two unusual canine burials, although this practice is prohibited today. Old Bonus, an adopted pet of residents in the soldiers’ home, and Blackout, a war dog wounded in the Pacific during World War II, are both buried here.

Across the street from the National Cemetery is the Federal Building, which is the backdrop for these kids waving flags at an an anti-terrorist demonstration. Obviously, this conflict has inspired a plethora of passion plays and emotions from many.

I just happened to stumble upon it this morning. In a way I’m glad that I did; albeit I had no clue that I would encounter both a funeral ceremony at the National Cemetery and a war demonstration.

Nevertheless the images are all beautiful and full of wisdom, grace in their celebration of life and death.

Californian’s Want Wetlands

Just strolling

At the turn of the century, during the rainy season, Ballona Creek and several other small streams would be transformed into torrents as they carried the collected water from the Los Angeles watershed area to the Santa Monica Bay. It would flood large areas of the Los Angeles basin, and the creek’s course shifted as flooding carved new paths through the land.

During the 1930’s, the Army Corps of Engineers carved it into a large channel and lined all but its last couple of miles with concrete to speed the water’s flow to the ocean. An extensive system of drains, mostly underground, was built to funnel storm water into the creek. While these projects were effective in accomplishing the task at hand, the transformation of the creek from a natural waterway into a massive storm drain has broken a link in the ecological chain and severed the connection between the community and the land on which it resides.

Ballona Creek trail entrance

With about 95% of Southern California’s original coastal wetlands have been destroyed or degraded, open space is a valuable and rare commodity in urban environments – especially in Los Angeles. The fact that California voters approved the purchase and rehabilitation of this area showed that the Californian’s want their environmental resources preserved.

The Ballona Wetlands are part of a 1,087-acre property that industrialist Howard Hughes used for aircraft production and testing.

Ballona Creek walking trail

In recent decades, the area has been degraded by manufacturing, farming and dredge spoils. Yet it has managed to remain a habitat for a number of endangered and threatened species, including the California brown pelican and the Belding’s savannah sparrow.

The idea that this land could ever be preserved and restored for wildlife purposes would have been a complete shock to Howard Hughes and to many other leaders in Los Angeles over the years. It represents a shift in attitude and a shift in Los Angeles’ vision of itself and its future.

Today, Ballona Creek is a nine-mile-long flood control channel. It drains the Ballona Creek watershed, which covers approximately 130 square miles: from the Santa Monica mountains on the north to the Baldwin Hills on the south, and from the Harbor Freeway (110) on the east to the Pacific Ocean.

Work continues on Ballona Creek, to the bike path, to the landscaping, and continued active volunteer work by several organizations, Ballona Creek Renaissance and Ballona Institute.


The section I visited is at the end of the creek bordering the marina. Riding my bike, I headed for the trailhead. Surprisingly, bikes are not allowed on this particular part of the trail, so I walked my bike at this juncture. Standing at the end on the man-made platform, I was amazed at what I was seeing, a wetland in the city. It was quite an accomplishment of the non-profit groups mentioned above to talk the various municipalities into saving as much of it as possible and of course the voters who made it happen to allow the State to originally purchase and rezone these crucial environmental resources.

Brimming with small wildlife, Ballona Creek is a fantastic place to see nature up close and personal. Today I only had time to spend about a half an hour here, but I will definitely be going back to walk the whole trail. And often–indeed it will be sooner rather than later.

Me and my reflection

Do you have nature in your backyard? Well, Ballona Creek isn’t exactly in my backyard (although I would love to own one of those houses), but it’s only about 20 minutes away.

That’s the beauty of Travelin’ Local; everything is only a stone’s throw away.

Water, Boats, and a Camera

If you’ve ever travel in or to Los Angeles, try to take a short trip to Marina Del Rey. I went there today and discovered boats, not just regular boats, but yachts. Slip after slip was filled with sail boats, houseboats, small boats, and big boats. Because it was a weekday, not too much activity was going on, but I just loved the calmness of the day.

Smooth Sailing

With water, the element of reflection comes into each picture. Because I’m quite new to this, I’m usually focused intently on my subject matter, what I want to be in the frame, making sure the picture is level, or looking at the lighting or the action, I often forget about the picture’s inherent artistic and emotive reflection–until I come home and actually take my time to look at what I’ve shot.

Reflection on the Water

Although this is a place for people with a lot of green, everyone is welcome, proven by the various forms of transportation available.

Different modes of transportation

I wasn’t the only one outside today. In fact, I ran into a few people on the Walkway; and these two gentlemen with their dog were also enjoying a relaxing day at the harbor. I think they both appeared conspicuously amused and curious as why a woman on her bike was taking pictures of them but clearly they didn’t mind and were enjoying themselves. However, I do wish the dog had shown me a better side.

Hey, guys whatcha doin'?

I’ll leave you with this wide expanse of boats–Have you ever owned a boat? Do you want to?

I hope you enjoyed my little jaunt to Marina Del Rey. Until next time, when I feature a little known walking trail at Ballona Lagoon, be safe, happy, and take a little time to relax by Travelin’ Local.

Marina Del Rey

Travelin’ Route 66 – The California Edition

Route 66
Image by Lisa Newton via Flickr

I had no idea that Santa Monica Blvd., a long boulevard in Los Angeles, was part of Route 66, but today, when I was snapping some pictures in West Hollywood, I saw this sign.

I'm not sureAfter doing a little research, I discovered that all of Santa Monica Blvd. is part of Route 66. Because the cultural, historical, mythical, and iconic Route 66 is part of and in my backyard, I decided to do a CA Route 66 series.

Finally, it appears most of the recent rain has past. Today was bright and sunny, albeit a bit cold. In the middle of the afternoon, I was still wearing my sweater.

Let's walk the dog

Loading up my camera bag, I headed to West Hollywood–each time I go to a new place in LA, I’m always amazed at the wide variety of sights to see. Some just ordinary life; but an active life chock full of walking, jogging, dog walking, or just relaxing outside with a cup of java.

Construction AboundsWhen I have my camera in hand, even the most mundane views of life seem to come alive: small flowers, a corner filled with a bush trying to come to life, or seeing beauty in the ever-ongoing construction.

Like construction, advertisements abound here, which is unlike Maryland, where I previously resided not too few years ago. There, billboards were considered eye sores, thus, very few were allowed to exist. Here, billboards take up whole sides of office buildings. I guess beauty really in the eyes of the beholder.Commercials are everywhere

Another feature germane to Los Angeles– which surprised me–is the number of homeless people here. To be sure, I know that most every metropolis has to deal with this issue and problem, but because the weather is fairly warm all year round, LA has more than a few homeless people, probably more than many cities and the national average. When I saw this man talking to himself and positioned under this sign, I just had to take his picture.

LA's Best Man?

I’ll leave you with a quote that was featured at a small Veteran’s Park at the end of today’s journey. To see where these pictures were taken, I’ve included a map, which I’ll update with each post I feature in this series. I hope you enjoy today’s first installment of Travelin’ Route 66 – The California Edition.

Robert Pinsky

It’s Time to do the Laundry

Yesterday, January 1st, 2009 marked the start of a new year, but for me, it was the perfect day to do my laundry. I know watching football, parades, or just relaxing are high on many people’s list of things to do on the first day of a new year; however, I assumed people would be doing these things, therefore, no one would be at the Laundromat, and I was right.

Instead of making it a boring trip, I took my camera.

“Who takes a camera with them when they do laundry?”

Well, if you had just purchased a new camera during the holidays, started a new blog, and were doing your laundry, don’t you think you’d take your camera? So of course, I did.

Who knew I would discover so many different shapes, sizes, and colors, and I’m not referring to my clothes:

The Big MachineWasher door


>Now it's time to dryLet's spin


Hangers in a row

What does the laundry have to do with Travelin’ Local? Hey, don’t you like clean clothes and dazzling pictures?

I hope you enjoy doing laundry as much as I do now.

At Travelin’Local we like to keep things fresh, until next time.