‘Oh…my…gosh!’

Golly! PBS’ Huell Howser is retiring, the Sacramento Bee reported Tuesday:

“It’s not ‘amazing,’ as Howser would say, that he has decided to hang up his microphone without issuing a press release. The host of the long-running series called ‘California’s Gold’ is known for his unpretentious manner and wide-eyed amazement.”

That manner has, of course, been widely parodied, usually with affection. One favorite of mine is this video montage titled “Huell Howser Tripping” — pairing psychedelic and desert scenes with edited exclamations by Howser — that always cracks me up.

LAist has links to some short Howser video clips, including ones from Glendora’s Donut Man and the defunct Claremont Museum of Art.

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Learning to TAP

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This will only be of interest to transit geeks, but I got a TAP card (Transit Access Pass) on the Gold Line Sept. 28 from Pasadena, because paper tickets have been eliminated throughout the L.A. system.

I needed to buy a day pass and it was the usual $6, except that $1 of that charge was to buy the card — in other words, a day pass will be $5 next time, when I “reload” the card. The TAP card was purchased out of a machine similar to the old paper-ticket machine, making the transaction simple. You tap the card against a sensor before going through turnstiles or when boarding a bus.

Metrolink is still selling paper tickets and those tickets still allow free transfers throughout the system (buses, subways, light rail). Thus, L.A.-area turnstiles have not been locked yet because Metrolink riders wouldn’t be able to get through with a paper ticket.

The MTA’s Rick Jager told me the gates are expected to be locked by early December and that his agency is “still working with Metrolink to try to finalize a solution to ensure Metrolink riders will still have access through those gates once we lock them.”

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America’s next great mass transit city: LA?

A piece in Slate magazine headlined “L.A.’s Transit Revolution: How a ballot initiative, a visionary mayor, and a quest for growth are turning Los Angeles into America’s next great mass-transit city” begins in, of all places, Claremont.

The opening:

“On a recent visit to Southern California, I began my day in Claremont, where I’d spoken the previous evening at a Pomona College event. I walked from a hotel near campus to the Claremont Metrolink station, where I grabbed a commuter rail train to Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. From there I transferred to the L.A. Metro’s Red Line and rode up to the Vermont/Santa Monica station and checked into a new hotel. I had lunch in that neighborhood, and later walked east to meet a friend for dinner and drinks in Silver Lake.

“My father, a lifelong New Yorker and confirmed L.A. hater whose screenwriting work has frequently taken him to the City of Angels, found the idea of a carless California day pretty amusing. But the city that’s defined in the public imagination as the great auto-centric counterpoint to the traditional cities of the Northeast has quietly emerged as a serious mass transit contender.”

Read the whole piece here.

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Missed it by that much

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The saddest sight in the world, or in my world, at least: a Metrolink train pulling away from the Union Station platform, with yours truly having arrived no more than a minute too late to catch it. But a miss is as good as a mile.

(The train was even closer when I got there but it took me a few seconds to get my camera ready.)

These things happen. I was out and about in L.A. on Saturday, going to the record store Amoeba Music near Sunset and Vine and eating an early dinner at Go Burger. The waitress paid me a memorable compliment upon seeing a book on my table: “It’s so nice to see someone reading. You are a unicorn, my friend.” (As personal nicknames go, perhaps “Unicorn” will become the new “D-Bomb.”)

Although I finished my meal around 5:30, her remark encouraged me to hang out with my nose in my book (Sax Rohmer’s “The Bride of Fu Manchu,” which as the title implies is weighty stuff) for a half-hour or so afterward. There was no rush.

I walked back to the Hollywood and Vine subway stop. It was 6:25. My Metrolink train was at 7:10. A block away was the Fonda Theater, and I thought I’d go over and see who would be playing in the near future. After returning, I took a photo of the subway entrance and posted it on Foursquare. Oh, you fool.

When I got to the subway platform at 6:40, I’d missed the subway by five minutes. The next one came at 6:47. Uh-oh. Making the 7:10 Metrolink was looking impossible, but I rode all the way to Union Station just in case. I arrived at 7:08, the time changing to 7:09 before I got to the escalator, and by the time I made the Metrolink platform, the 7:10 was pulling away.

The perils of public transit. You’d think I’d know better, after doing this so many times, but sometimes lessons must be learned again and again.

With trains often two hours apart, missing one can be an inconvenience. The next one was at 9. But it wasn’t like I had to be anywhere, so I made the best of it, walking to the new Grand Park near City Hall and reading a while longer, then taking the subway back to Union Station shortly after 8. I boarded the train at 8:45. I wasn’t going to miss this one. (If I had, I’d have been stuck until 11:30.)

Had I actually had to be home, I could have taken the Silver Streak bus to Montclair or Pomona, although I wouldn’t have known how to get from there to my car in Claremont. Transit-savvy reader Erik Griswold supplies the answer via Twitter: the 480 bus from either location or the 187, 197 or 492 from Montclair.

Anyway, I arrived in Claremont at 9:50, and a few minutes before arriving, I finished my novel. Why? Because I am a unicorn.

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Two days in LA

I haven’t shared anything here about a Metrolink weekend in a while, but I had one this past weekend. You can read about, and see photos of, some of the activities below on my Twitter page, @davidallen909. In short, I bought a $10 weekend pass and took off.

Saturday I rode the Purple Line and the Rapid bus to LACMA, where I got in for free through a great deal for BofA customers: free admission the first full weekend of the month. After a snack at one of the lineup of food trucks across the street, I caught a couple of exhibits, met up with a friend and saw “Levitated Mass,” the 340-ton rock. Very big, very cool. (Seeing the rock is free to all.)

We walked to the Farmers Market and had a late lunch at Short Order, then walked back to LACMA where I took the bus and subway back to Union Station.

Sunday I took the new Expo line to the 33rd Street stop and walked to Mercado La Paloma, where I had lunch at Chichen Itza, a Yucatecan restaurant. I had conchinita pibil (a kind of slow-roasted pork), which I’d been introduced to in Mexico City, as a torta. Quite good. I then walked along Jefferson to Exposition Park and strolled through the Rose Garden before taking the Expo Line back downtown.

There, I peeked around the green construction barrier to eyeball the Grand Park between City Hall and Bunker Hill, which opens later this summer, before walking back to Union Station for the ride home.

On both Metrolink rides, I read newspapers and almost the entirety of H.P. Lovecraft’s novella “At the Mountains of Madness” while leaving the driving to others. And all those trips and transfers cost only $10.

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LA Times posts correction on lobby flub

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Back in August I posted here about a visit to the L.A. Times lobby, where among the historical items on display are a linotype machine and the last page set with hot type, only with explanatory plaques reversed — the hot type page plaque reading “This is a linotype machine…” and the linotype machine plaque reading “This is the last plate of hot type set at the Los Angeles Times…” How long had this been wrong, I wondered?

Well, I went downtown last Friday on a day off to visit the City Hall observation deck, which is only accessible on business days. (Highly recommended, by the way.) While in the neighborhood, I decided to pop into the Times lobby to see if the plaques had been fixed.

They had. See photos!

I’ll share credit with the LAObserved blog, which picked up on my item — gratifying headline: “Times wrong about its own museum, says columnist” — and gave it a much wider audience, evidently including whoever at the Times needed to know. Nice job, and schoolchildren and other visitors should no longer leave their educational visit more confused than when they entered.

There is no sign posted saying “The Times regrets the error.” But I’m sure they do.

Why is it called the Globe Lobby? Its centerpiece, below, should make that clear.

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‘Everybody’s quoting Manchester Boddy’

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I saw this framed advertisement in the Boddy House at Descanso Gardens in La Canada Flintridge on a recent visit. (Sorry for the poor photo.) Manchester Boddy not only wrote a column, he owned the old L.A. Daily News from 1926 to 1954.

His Daily News was the only L.A. paper to support FDR. Boddy ran unsuccessfully for senator against Helen Gahagan Douglas in 1950’s Democratic primary, in which he labeled her the “Pink Lady,” paving the way for Congressman Richard Nixon to defeat her in the general election.

Evidently Boddy was a columnist for his newspaper as well. I’d love to have the Daily Bulletin describe my column as “brilliant” and on everyone’s lips — but it might help if, like Boddy, I signed the promotional department’s paychecks.

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‘Safety Last!’

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I saw this silent classic Wednesday night at the Orpheum Theater on Broadway in downtown L.A., the last film in this year’s “Last Remaining Seats” series sponsored by the L.A. Conservancy. Harold Lloyd’s 1923 film in the lovely 1926 theater made for a great combo.

Notes Wikipedia: “It includes one of the most famous images from the silent film era: Lloyd clutching the hands of a large clock as he dangles from the outside of a skyscraper above moving traffic.”

The movie is highly recommended, and the clock scene — filmed not far from the theater itself — got an ovation.

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The Civil Wars at Amoeba

Four of us from the newsroom left work Tuesday at a decent hour for a change and sped to Hollywood’s Amoeba Music for an in-store performance by the Civil Wars, whose debut CD, “Barton Hollow,” is recommended to fans of Robert Plant/Alison Kraus’ “Raising Sand,” Gram Parsons/Emmylou Harris or even the Everly Brothers. The close-harmony duo was playing at Largo that night and are also performing Thursday night at the El Rey.

Joy Williams and John Paul White, whose romantic ballads tend toward the serious, turned out to be playful and utterly charming in live performance. They performed for a half-hour as the audience stood in the record stacks.

Aside from a half-dozen of their own songs, they did a slow cover of “Billie Jean” (versions from other venues are posted to YouTube). They also challenged the audience to guess who was responsible for their final song and to find the CD. Here’s an excerpt of that:

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