Two moments of Zen


One of the little-known public spaces in downtown L.A. is the Japanese rooftop garden at a hotel in Little Tokyo: formerly the New Otani and Kyoto Grand, now a DoubleTree (120 S. Los Angeles St). I read about the garden perhaps eight years ago and visit now and then, always feeling as if I’m in on a secret. It’s accessible to the public, either from the hotel’s lobby elevators or from Weller Court, the adjacent minimall.

I was there again on Sunday on a visit to Little Tokyo in which I followed the path laid out by the book “Walking L.A.” by Erin Mahoney. It was a good day for it because I wanted to catch the last day of the “Marvels and Monsters” comic book exhibit at the Japanese American National Museum, which is the first stop on the tour.

So, I took Metrolink and the Gold Line, visited the museum, saw some public art and the garden (above) and ate ramen in Weller Court.

My next stop was the Japanese American Community Cultural Center (244 S. San Pedro St.), which I’d never seen before. The guidebook led me to elevators that took me to the basement, where there is … a Japanese garden.

This is the James Irvine Garden, opened in 1979 and featuring a 170-foot stream. See below.

Two public Japanese gardens in downtown L.A.? I was humbled by my ignorance. I could see the DoubleTree from the Cultural Center garden and wondered if I might have been able to see the Cultural Center garden from the DoubleTree’s garden. I’ll have to go back sometime and check.

Incidentally, they are friendly folks at the Cultural Center. On my way out of the garden, a woman introduced herself as the CEO and president, handed me brochures and invited me to the opening of a ukelele (!) performance area in the coffee shop upstairs. I only popped my head in, as I had a train to catch, but it’s cool when a place is so welcoming.


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Rally Bear makes them quake


The so-called Rally Bear who briefly, and unauthorizedly, entertained the crowd at the Dodger-Cards game Monday night was — local angle alert! — Mark Monninger of Rancho Cucamonga, a former Tremor for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. LA Weekly talks to him about his stunt and posts a funny video of his antics. (That second split looks like it hurt.)

Monninger is banned from the stadium for six months, which I guess means he can’t attend baseball games this winter. Gosh!

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The Apple Pan


West L.A.’s venerable Apple Pan was mentioned in my column last Wednesday and I thought I’d post about it here as well. After all, as it’s been around since 1947, surely some of you have eaten there. It’s in the shadow of the Westside Pavilion mall. “Quality Forever” is their motto, and like In-N-Out, they do only a few things but do them exceedingly well.

Burgers, fries and pies are the main items, although they have a few other sandwiches, including what’s said to be an amazing egg salad. (I’d try it, but as I eat there about once every five years, I stick to the burgers.) The weird name must have to do with their apple pie. Well, the name is memorable.

Everything about the place is vintage, including the staff, who wear paper hats and aprons, and the cash registers, which ring you up in pre-electronic style.

I had a steakburger with cheese, Coke (with a paper cone of ice in a stainless steel holder) and banana cream pie. The bill came to $17.10, but was well worth it. Check out the pie: Unusually, the bananas have their own layer, with the cream part above and below. Delicious.

As I headed back to the 10 Freeway on Overland, I saw a portion of the Expo Line under construction. If it’s a station, as I think it is (the map is here), that will put the Apple Pan within walking distance of a transit stop, and after its 2015 opening I’ll probably go more often.

You can read more about the restaurant on its Wikipedia page, and for the definitive take, read Charles Perry’s lengthy 60th-anniversary piece from the Times.



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He takes in a museum doubleheader


Above, “La Gerbe (The Sheaf)” by Matisse at LACMA.

You can keep your baseball doubleheaders. I took in two museums in one day, the Hammer and LACMA, and both were free, thanks to a Bank of America deal offering free admission to certain museums the first weekend of the month for customers. Naturally I did the whole thing on public transit. The most expensive thing I did that day was a $10.50 lunch. You can read all about this outing in Sunday’s column.

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Even LA can seem like a small town

Sunday’s column is in part about last weekend’s CicLAvia event in L.A., which I attended. A lot of fun, and between the Claremont Metrolink station, Union Station and the Metrolink train home, I kept running into people I knew (or, in one case, who knew me). After that is the usual array of cultural and other items of note.

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Winnie the Huell

Unless you watched Disney’s 2011 feature “Winnie the Pooh,” you probably don’t know that in the post-credits sequence, Huell Howser voiced a character. Link is here, and thanks to reader Judi Guizado for bringing this honey of a clip to our attention!

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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


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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