CicLAvia: San Pedro Meets Wilmington


Last Sunday, I participated in a CicLAvia event that ran from my hometown of Wilmington, CA to San Pedro, another city close to my heart.

If you’re not familiar with one of these events, here you go. Ciclovía events started in Columbia over 40 years ago as an alternative to traditional means of transportation. Streets are closed to automobile traffic and open to everything else non-motorized: feet, bikes, skateboards, you name it. There’s really no better way to discover your town no matter how large or small. I’ve walked through Los Angeles a few times in my life and I have to tell you it’s so much more than what you see on TV – all cities are pretty amazing when you’re not trapped in a car watching them whiz by.

This event was particularly personal since I grew up in Wilmington and spent a lot of my time in San Pedro as well. While I spent many years pedaling around the city on an old Huffy but having the opportunity to ride down the palm tree-lined main street of Avalon Boulevard was much to good to pass up.

Now I could go and post many of the pictures I took that day but I’ve narrowed it down to these because I have stories to go along with most of them. A ton of them are already on Instagram anyhow. So without any further ado, here they are.

Photo Aug 13, 1 56 29 PM

The Banning Mansion in Banning Park. Historic not only because of its Civil War roots but because its owner, Phineas Banning, was the mastermind behind what would eventually become the Port of Los Angeles. That’s only the busiest port in the country.

I spent many a summer riding around Banning Park. The smell of the eucalyptus trees still gets to me and even though there’s a fence around the perimeter of the mansion, I took a little sentimental journey around the park on my bike. It was like I never left and I felt like a kid again. I almost had a moment just thinking about all the good times me and my friends had at the park.

Photo Aug 13, 9 10 53 AM

A few blocks away from the mansion is Avalon Boulevard. Those palm trees have been there forever. This was taken just after the event began so there’s very little traffic yet but by the time I rode back from San Pedro, wow. People everywhere and they were all smiling.

Photo Aug 13, 12 49 57 PM

The building you see on the right of the Avalon Boulevard shot is The Don, a senior apartment complex. This is one of the Wilmington landmarks – most likely because of it’s former seedy reputation. What I always laugh about is the fact that it was once called Don Hotel so when they changed the name, all they did was remove the H and L and rearrange the letters. I always wondered what happened to those. And look! More palm trees! Those are all around Wilmington Town Square Park which has been a congregation area for transients since I was little.

Photo Aug 13, 12 51 06 PM

Literally across the street from The Don is Fire Station 38, the only one in town. Really, this is it. If there’s something big going on in the area then the neighboring cities of Carson and Harbor City would most likely join. Dad would often take us here to see the fire trucks up close and personal in the days when they would let you slide down the pole. Yes, it has a pole (you can almost see it on the right of photo, or to the left of the fire truck). Definitely have some fond memories of this place.

Photo Aug 13, 1 50 29 PM

Here’s my old elementary school, Fries (pronounced “freeze”) Avenue School. Aside from the fancy-schmancey digital billboard out front, it pretty much looks the same from the outside. I attended at a time when we still had duck-and-cover disaster drills complete with air raid siren blaring on the last Friday of every month. I can still hear it – extremely creepy yet somehow comforting thinking back on it. The stairways also had “Fallout Shelter” signs (complete with the radiation symbols) posted as you made you way downstairs.

If you were to walk through those doors, there might be a mosaic hanging on the left wall depicting Pedro, the Angel of Olvera Street, a project that my Enrichment Class worked on. Yeah. I was a nerdy kid in enrichment. I was supposed to advance a grade but Mom held me back for the sake of not putting too much pressure on me. Made sense. It was also at this school where I was chosen to be the narrator for the 5th grade Christmas play based on Bing Crosby’s Mele Kalikimaka. Apparently I was the only one in the class who could stand in front of a crowd and read, which probably explains why singing karaoke doesn’t bother me. For the play, I remember I was speaking into one of those bitchin’ classic microphones similar to this. Good times.

Photo Aug 13, 12 36 05 PM

No story here. I just thought this was a cool building.

Photo Aug 13, 12 43 24 PM

The signs at C & C Liquor have not changed. Dad would take us here sometimes on the weekend for, presumably, his Burgermeister and some snacks for us. Remember Ice Cubes chocolate candy? This is where we would buy them. They were soooo good.

Photo Aug 13, 9 33 54 AM

We are now in San Pedro. This is the sign at Neptune Electronics, a place that has been there forever. And like most things in the area, the sign has not changed. I remember seeing it all the time as we took Dad to work but never got the chance to get close to it until last Sunday. It was almost like a religious experience for me to be so close and admire it after all these years. Some may see a dirty, faded sign. I see something beautiful.

Photo Aug 13, 9 56 20 AM

Speaking of seeing things up close for the first time, here is the Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro. For years, I’ve driven past it but because parking is at a minimum on these small streets, I never got a chance to see it. Sunday changed all that and it was worth it.

Photo Aug 13, 9 57 05 AM

I’m a big fan of Art Deco architecture, art, anything. So standing here looking up at this magnificent structure was one of the highlights of the day. It’s absolutely amazing.

Photo Aug 13, 9 57 40 AM

Ceiling detail at the Warner Grand. I swear I was born in the wrong era.

Photo Aug 13, 11 25 06 AM

As I made my way around San Pedro, I had to pause for a moment and reflect. These are the docks where Dad used to work, right next to the Vincent Thomas Bridge. I remember how he used to love driving over the bridge and look down (the best he could) at the water below.

Photo Aug 13, 11 22 47 AM

There is now a small park next to the bridge and this is there I paused, took a deep breath, and wiped a tear from my eye. I can still see him going to work. Still smell the bean burritos in his lunchbox. Still…everything. It was tough but it made me smile. Note the Calder-esque mobiles.

Photo Aug 13, 11 31 34 AM

Oh. These. So beautiful. These are lights that line the walkway of the park as well as the bike/walking path, and the design is based on these columns a few miles away. There used to be more of them including some near a pond filled with lilly pads, yet another place Dad used to love taking his lunch. As you can tell by the image in the link, these fixtures are much smaller but with better detail. Sadly, most of the originals are horribly weathered after years of exposure but it’s awesome that someone decided that they should be honored in this way. They are all over this park – and I love it.

Photo Aug 13, 10 01 49 AM

Without a doubt, the coolest BofA sign ever. EVER.

Photo Aug 13, 10 55 48 AM

Although this is the new fire boat, Dad used to take us to Station 112 to see the old one which is currently undergoing a major restoration. I was there when this new fire boat arrived many years ago.

Photo Aug 13, 11 07 20 AM

During the ride I thought it would be fun to take a picture of my bike at different, interesting locations along the way. I don’t think you can get more interesting than a battleship, right? The USS Iowa is dubbed The Battleship of Presidents for good reason, and I highly recommend boarding her if you’re ever in town. I also witnessed the USS Iowa arrive and make San Pedro her new home.

Photo Aug 13, 12 07 14 PM

Heading back to Wilmington. This is a relatively new structure and park. I’d never visited the park or been on the bridge so of course I took advantage of it.

Photo Aug 13, 12 22 11 PM

You get a great view of the harbor from up here.

Photo Aug 13, 10 26 06 AM

But CicLAvia was about people-watching, too. The lady in the picture rides her skateboard at every local event and this is the third time I’ve run into her. Seriously. She’s pretty awesome.

Photo Aug 13, 10 09 52 AM

The there’s this gentleman who was riding a recumbent bike while wearing a Russian MIG fighter helmet that he bought on eBay. Yet another cool person.

By the time I made it back to Wilmington I wasn’t really tired. If anything, I was pretty darn pumped to finally be able to see both cities in a way I never have, exploring places that I always new about but never had the opportunity to visit.

You know what else?

Photo Aug 13, 1 59 49 PM

Peacocks! Yes, we have them! They’ve been a part of the area for as long as I can recall and they just keep breeding. They are always fun to see but are extremely loud.

I took so many pictures. I logged over 20 miles round-trip. I ate lunch – two burgers and chili fries – at Tom’s #9, a burger joint I frequented as a kid. I ate for less that $5 since many restaurants were having specials because they had limited car access. Oh, and I got free ice cream. YES.

I made my way back to Banning Park and rode one more lap just for old time’s sake. This was without a doubt a great day and I’m not only looking forward to the next CicLAvia, but the one in this area in particular.

It really took me back.

Photo Aug 13, 12 47 53 PM

And Wilmington, you’ll always have my heart.

All images shot with iPhone 7 Plus and adjusted with Snapseed

Advertisements

2013: My Year In Review


Since this is a personal blog, I figured that instead of writing a year-end review about other things, it would be better suited for me to give a year-end review of things that actually happened in my life. It’s much easier to do something like this now since chances are I captured those moments with my phone, giving me photographic proof of the events.

With all of that out of the way, here’s a month-by-month photo essay of how things went with me and the family in 2013, some of which was never mentioned here on the blog. Take a virtual trip of the things we did, places we saw, events that brought us happiness, triumph, and even sadness.

Got your scrollin’ finger ready? Good! Here we go!

Continue reading

Slippery When Wet


On Saturday, I decided to take the family out to a local spot that I had frequented as a kid but they had never been before.

The tide pools at White Point Park in San Pedro, CA are simply amazing. Not only is the scenery beautiful but so are the creatures that call it home: starfish, sea anemones, and what seemed to be an endless supply of crabs. I swear, you took one step and you could literally see them scatter way from you. But before you even had a chance to get near the sea life below, check out the view from above.

8920760926_267ec517e2_z

There are two ways to get down there: you can find a parking spot on the street and walk down (our initial plan) or pay the $10 and drive down. While I would have had no problem walking back up, the family overruled me and made me pay. That decision turned out to be the right once as you will find out later in the post (and the reason for this post’s title).

One you make you way down, the view gets even better.

8920835498_6186db6da6_z

8920185091_b67df26ff1_z

This is southern California, not Hawaii.

As you make your way into the tide pools, that’s when you start to discover nature in all of her beauty: irregular-shaped rocks and shells are only the beginning. Walking closer to the rocks, the creatures that call the sea their home start to appear and are they something else.

8920859434_9555052e76_c

8920206021_f6996d600b_c

I have to admit that this thing sort of freaked me out but I went ahead and touched it anyway. It was definitely alive; its body trembled when I placed the tip of my finger on its back.

Despite seeing some wonderful animals in what is essentially Mother Nature’s Touch Tank, Ann wasn’t going to be satisfied until she saw a starfish. I told her she would but to get closer to the water and look closely under rocks since they like to hide.

And once she did that, she was not disappointed.

8920864812_03b30ee02d_c

8920244521_0d9b4bbabe_c

The starfish sightings were becoming about as frequent as the crab sightings, but much more serene. Those crabs are punks and like to run as if you are going to take their secret stash of food.

So this post’s title. Let me explain. As Ann was slowly navigating her way over the rocks, she came across one that was really slippery (as some are) and warned me about stepping on it.

Perhaps the excitement of finding yet another unique sea animal got the best of me and I had forgotten her words of advice because as I was making my way back to shore, I stepped on said rock and slipped on it and I fell — hard. My right leg took the brunt of the hit while my left foot lost its grip, throwing my left leg onto the surface of another rock. On top of all that, in the midst of breaking my fall, a corner of the camera slammed into the rock and my face nearly made contact with another. In short, asses and elbows everywhere.

I was very fortunate to not have my face slam into the rock because my legs were damaged enough. While my left wasn’t too bad, the area of impact on the right one swelled almost immediately and to golf-ball sized proportions. I’d never seen anything like it. I won’t post the images here but if you are interested in seeing the carnage, click here and scan through the next few images. It wasn’t pretty but in the end it was just a minor setback. Fortunately, a lifeguard showed up as we were going to the car and Ann asked him for a few bandages. I cleaned the wounds and covered them up. All was well.

Once we had our fill of ocean exploring, we figured it was time for lunch. And if you’re in San Pedro and hankering for a sandwich, Busy Bee is the only place to go. The sandwiches are huge, the selection is great, and the people are all friendly. A definitely small-town vibe going on here.

IMG_20130601_115226

Sandwiches in hand, we then headed to a place I wrote about over a year ago: The Korean Bell of Friendship. It’s one of my favorite local places not only because of the scenery, but for its history and symbolism. Granted with the way things are in North Korea, the hopes of the two nations being buddy-buddy (as long as Korea remains divided) seems like a lost cause, but the bell remains a symbol that it may one day happen.

The hilltop view is stunning with views of the ocean in almost every direction. So fantastic are the views that this was what I saw as I decided to take five minutes away from the family and meditate.

8920273601_b8bb3bf44d_c

With a slight breeze blowing, I closed my eyes and let everything drift away for five minutes. It was quite an experience and I must do it again.

It was a busy day but one that the family most certainly won’t forget. In fact, Anthony is already asking when we will go back. He collected quite a few shells and cool rocks during this little excursion and wants to add to it.

I have no problem in fulfilling his request.

If you are ever in the area, by all means stop by and check out the tide pools of White Point. Getting in touch with nature – literally and figuratively – is good for the soul.

To view all images, visit the Flickr set.

Blogging 365, Day 5: On A Ship


image

Getting ready to board the USS Iowa in San Pedro, CA.

UPDATED 1/5/13
Should you ever be in the area or have plans to be, do not pass up the opportunity to see her. Volunteers are extremely knowledgeable about this battleship’s history and the ship itself is in incredible condition considering all she’s gone through. You will not be disappointed.

While the tour is self-guided, we had the luxury of having our personal guide, Ann’s dad, who served on the USS Myles C. Fox for four years. He also was our guide on this tour back in 2008. It was great hearing his stories about his time on the ship and getting details on everything inside the USS Iowa.

And at 75, I can’t tell you how amazing it was to see him practically run down the ladders with such little effort. Keep in mind this man had a quadruple bypass just a few years ago. Well, he did also have four years to perfect his ladder-descending skills but it was still fun to watch.

I also have to admit that I got a bit emotional when I heard Glenn Miller’s “Moonlight Serenade” playing while we were in the Gift Shop located on the ship’s second level. It’s a beautiful tune that strikes a nerve with anyhow but hearing it on board this ship and considering the time it was active sort of brought it all home.

While I took over 100 pictures (including the bed where FDR slept), I think this one pretty much sums up everything: a statue of the well-known V-J Day photo of the sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square.

SONY DSC

Just an absolutely fantastic day.

Read more about the USS Iowa here. She has quite a history.