Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Mysterious Orange Replacement

Other times I have visited LA, in the backyard there was a cat named Orange. He belonged to the neighbors, and was really friendly. Oddly, on this visit, Orange isn't here anymore... but there is another cat, whom me and Lance have named Peach. She is just as friendly as Orange, and also belongs to a neighbor, but it's kind of weird that Orange is gone without a trace and has been fully replaced by a new cat. They even look similar, except that Peach is a lighter colour than Orange was. Here are pictures of Peach. I fear it may be too late to get any photos of Orange, so thorough is his disappearance.

Orange... where did you go?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

What occasion could this be for?

Well, now we know where the Disney Princesses shop and get all their custom multi-crinolined, ridiculous ball gowns. Did you notice that each Disney Princess has their own trademark colour? Pink being Sleeping Beauty, blue for Cinderella, yellow for Belle. You can buy little versions of all the Princess dresses for little girls. I have often wondered if there is a child-sized version of Pocahontas' costume, and if so, do Native Americans find it offensive? It is stereotypical, with the buckskin fringe, feathers and wampum. I would think that even Jasmine's "Arabian harem" look could be offensive to some people, and inappropriate for a little girl to wear. It's like little kids doing a tap-dance routine to Lady Marmalade, dressed like prostitutes.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Mannequintessentials at the Museum

I have definitely noticed, through starting this blog, that more times than not, I end up wanting to post more than one picture. This whole "experiment" of trying to find something photo-worthy every day has worked. Some days it is harder than others. But I'm just going to do what I feel and hopefully it still remains interesting. Let's start off today's post with....

... yes, mannequins in a parking garage. You know... just CUZ. Noticed these while me and Lance were driving to the Getty Museum to watch a few of his friends DJ and some band play. It was a nice evening...

... with patios and botanical gardens. We had to take a tram up the hill to the museum, everyone has to. So there's a pretty view from all around. And nice grassy places to picnic and be photographed by people above you...
... but that's okay. The music went on until the sun went down, and me and Lance left before the band finished so we wouldn't have to be stuck in a giant line for the tram.
That is all.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Krazy Kokeshi!

Tonight I totally had the mad-dash. Nothing interesting happened today, so I had to basically just find something. So here she is, the newest addition to my kokeshi collection. I even tried to get all fancy with the photography to make it look awesome. It didn't really work. I absolutely love the flash reflections. I don't like today. But, she is a cute doll.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sad doggie and Echo Phone

As promised, here is my picture from yesterday of Lance descending Echo Mountain. I think this is a great picture. :)
Here is a photo from today of Marie. Marie is Lance's roommate's dog. She's really sweet and well-behaved. Half the time you don't even know if she's here, because she's so quiet. This week, Lance's roommate isn't home, she's gone to Burning Man. Marie misses her mama. She doesn't eat very much and she lays on her little pillow because she's sad.

To cap things off, here's my video, also from yesterday, of me using the Echo Phone on top of Echo Mountain at the White City. It's kind of difficult to hear the echo in this video, so make sure your volume is up or use earphones or something.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Echo Mountain: The "Haunted Forest" to the White City...

Yes, here are your two adventurers. Here's the story. Altadena, California, is the home of Echo Mountain, atop of which there used to be a giant resort: a chalet, a 70-room hotel, casino, zoo, all the fix'ns. There were two fires up there, in 1900 and 1905, which pretty much destroyed the place. However, the ruins are still accessible. The place is called "the White City". I've been looking into cool stuff to do around here, so when I read about the White City it seemed great to go check out. There's some urban legend crap about the forest at the base of the mountain being haunted. Even better. We decided to go up there.

I was excited and wanted to get started around noon, but Lance warned me that the sun would be really hot at that time of day and we should wait. I was irritated by this. I'd read that the hike was 2.5 miles to the top - how bad could that be? Finally we headed out and drove to Altadena, which was maybe a half hour away from Lance's place.
I started to worry as we approached the mountain range. I'd anticipated a hike, sure; but this was looking a bit menacing. We'd picked up two litres of water, though - it would be just fine. Eventually we finally arrived at the end of Lake Road, which is where the trail begins.
This is the beginning of the trail: the gates of the old Cobb Estate. Apparently beyond these gates lays the HAUNTED FOREST.
HERE IT IS! BOO!... yeah, it wasn't scary. It was damn hot though. First we'd have to walk past where the ol' Cobb Estate used to be, to get to the Sam Merrill Trail - the trail that would take us to the White City.
As we passed the overgrown field where the good ol' Cobb place used to be, there were helpful plaques to tell us the history of the site. Luckily for us, some kind vandals totally destroyed that information with their ridiculous and indecipherable tagging. Thanks, guys; who cares about history? You just saved me from wasting five minutes I'd never get back!
At the beginning of the trail, there was a small box with a log book. Lance signed us in: 3:53 PM. There were houses just over the fence and I noticed a giant crocheted blanket in many colours hanging on the clothesline. The presence of veriegated yarn made me shudder, but I took this as a good omen for the trip ahead. We started walking.
Here's Lance, standing in a shady spot about thirty seconds into the hike. Notice the content look on his face. Notice the orange fruits on the cacti. I wonder if these fruits would have water in them? We proceeded up the trail and started to ascend. It became evident that this was going to be a very, very hot hike, but we took a break and drank a shit-ton of our water. I mean, haw haw; how far could it possibly be to the top?
Higher and higher we went, pausing here and there in shady spots to take short breaks. The sun was high and hot, despite its being late afternoon, and we began to sweat. We'd gone quite a way and were still feeling optimistic, and encountered a descending couple. We asked them how much farther; surely we were halfway to the ruins at this point? Nope. The man told us that the halfway mark is a set of electrical towers, and we still had quite a ways to go. We continued up.
Here's an odd fenced-in structure. It looked like it was an underground building. Notice the carved-out steps in the mountain beside it. I think it was around this point that I was sweating so much I got sunscreen in my eyes, as it rolled down my forehead. My eyes watered and burned. It sucked. We kept stopping for water. It was hard to catch our breath at times. Walking uphill in that blazing, blasting heat was nasty. You'd think that there would be more shady spots to rest than there actually were.
Finally we reached the "halfway mark". Both of us at this point were pretty miserable. We were actually worried about running out of water, like a pure survival scenario. Which is ridiculous in retrospect, but at the time, I mean, it was hideous heat and we couldn't breathe, it was dusty and we had no idea how much farther the stupid White City was. Plus now we had to conserve our water.
I was very unhappy at this point, and tried to document it, but I don't feel this picture does our discomfort justice. Now, I am not an old woman, and neither is Lance, but this sucked. If it was this bad in late afternoon, I can't imagine how crap it would have been in HIGH NOON HEAT.
Yay, the two-mile marker! I have to say, there was some amazing, gorgeous scenery going on all around us. It was really beautiful. But all we could do is stagger from switchback to switchback, our backs bent with pain, sand up our noses, pausing in the pathetic shadows of CACTI to drink the dregs of our warm water. I'm being melodramatic, but that's how it felt. I was wheezing. We even entertained the notion of turning back. It was that draining. We were taking breaks every time there was even the tiniest spot that had shade. Ugh.
AT LAST! We encountered FLAT LAND and plaques! It made us feel refreshed to just stop with that awful uphill walk. The path in this picture behind Lance would lead us to the fabled White City. And we still had water left! It had taken us an hour and forty-five minutes to get up here.
I guess the guests at the old resort came up here on some kind of incline railway. Here's one of the plaques at the head of this path.
There was a little picnic area off to the left of the path. Not that we'd brought refreshments, bwa-ha! Pretty though.
Some sort of gear-thing. Heh, I have no idea. Something to do with the old railroad? I guess I shouldn't document what I don't understand.
Okay, look how high we are! We were definitely feeling better at this point. That's not a fake smile. It sucks how photos can never accurately translate how amazing scenery is. It was *beautiful* up there, and I have so many crap pictures that absolutely FAIL to convey it. Note the lack of railings everywhere. I was slightly nervous.
Old stairway. Again, gorgeous and you can't tell. But anyways. There was some hiker guy sitting by himself up here. Pleasant enough chap, but since I am always on red-alert for psychopaths, I was wary of him. The good news is, the higher we got on the mountain, the less garbage and graffiti were around. Why? Because NO ONE is going to hike up there unless they're DEAD SERIOUS about hiking. Clowns with spray paint aren't going to traverse through that heat! You can rob and kill just as easily underneath a shady train bridge as you can on top of a mountain!
The ruins of the area where the lower-floor guest rooms were.
AHA! Fooled ya! See, no matter where, no matter how high or hot or historical, someone's gonna ruin it! Wandering around up here, we found this hidden bench. And someone's ruined it! At least it says "Love Bench". There are many other things it could say that would make it so much worse.
Echo Phone! You cup your hands around it, and yell through it. It worked amazingly, echoing multiple times through the valley beyond. Someone somewhere in the mountains yelled back, too, which was kind of creepy and kind of comforting at the same time. I have a video of this which I'll try to post another time. (I don't know how posting video works and I am dead tired.)
More ruins. The whole spot had a really cool, mysterious atmosphere to it. You knew that this was an expensive, celebrated, high-class place at one time. I imagine it was amazing, especially with the surrounding scenery and dangerous cliff-drops. The thought of a fire destroying this place is really sad. But it was a very peaceful vibe.
This was the old resevoir. You can see this if you zoom in on this area in Google Maps. It was bigger than I thought it would be. We had a good time walking up here, it was fun to explore and rest and relax and everything - but we knew that we still had the walk down to dread. Lance's legs were really hurting him. We wanted to get down as quickly as possible.
I just had to stop real quick and pump some iron. Derr-herrr! Real funny.
Down we went! Lance trailblazed. This time we had gravity on our side, plus it was cooler out now, so we really motored. Look how dangerous, with the cliff both above and below the path. I'd be terrified to walk here at night.
Ka-blam! Here we are, approaching the half-way mark already! I like this picture.
Look how insignificant we are in comparison to the size of the mountains. Going back, I definitely had a chance to look around and appreciate where we were, as opposed to the hunchback-shuffle going up. Plus I could see this time; I didn't have sunscreen sweat burning my eyes. It was weird though. I'd look down, out off the path and my body would almost steer itself into walking OFF THE CLIFF. A weird vertigo. I'm not afraid of heights but this whole hike, up, down and at the top, made me nervous. Dangerous stuff. Not a railing in sight. The sun was going down at this point too. We really wanted to be down and out before it got dark.
The sunset was beautiful. But it was very odd. As we were descending, hurrying down, people were still climbing UP. A female jogger, alone; some guys on bikes (one from Canada, hurrah); a family with a little kid; some teenagers; an old couple. As we reached the bottom, the sun was almost gone, and I found it a little creepy that there were still so many people on the mountain.

Lance signed us out: 7:28 PM. It had taken us one hour to come back down - with gravity on our side. We didn't even take a break! Proud of ourselves, we limped back to the car. We drove back to Lance's neighborhood, got a frozen pizza and came home. Now I'm writing this and Lance is knitting baby booties for his friend.

I am tired. As last time, I've saved my best picture for tomorrow! So you have to come back!

My arms taste like salt. I am filthy. Shower time, then bed.

****EDITED ON WEDNESDAY: So I Googled this hike and someone who hiked it two days ago saw TWO TARANTULAS. UGGGHHHH! Also, apparently it is common knowledge that there is no shade during the afternoon on the trail, and that afternoon in the summer is the worst time to climb the mountain. Good to know that me and Lance picked the worst season, at the worst time of day, to do this hike. Oh well - it's good to know that others have suffered on this hike in the blazing summer heat, and the reason we sucked so bad isn't because we're morons, it's just because most people FINISH this hike by 11 AM. It's even classified as an intermediate level like - which kind of makes me feel better because I am not a hiker at all. And at this point I'm just sweaty-palmed thankful we didn't see any god-damn TARANTULAS. I feel sick just thinking about it.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Meet my square friends

Okay, first of all I am pissed off because when I tried to directly upload these pictures from my computer, they all uploaded at a 90 degree angle. After retrying and failing, I finally ended up having to link them from my Photobucket. Damn annoying and I hope that never happens again.

On the brighter side, the above picture is my getting-there Autumn Afghan. I absolutely love it. All of the squares are from the amazing, beautiful book "200 Crochet Blocks" by Jan Eaton. I'd estimate approximately one hour per block - sometimes a bit more. All cheapy Red Heart acrylic, using a 4.25mm hook. It's looking great and it's totally going to be done just in time for when I arrive back in Toronto for the fall season. :)

And now, I'd like to introduce you to each block, by its given name from the book:
This is Willow. I love Willow - it looks great. But it is also the most time-consuming of the blocks.
This is Centered Square. It is really easy to make one of these.
This is Criss Cross. The flash has made the brown look lighter than it really is. It's also easy, and thank god for that - I have to make the most of this square, eight altogether.
This is Begonia. Love, love Begonia. I love its big lacy holes.
This is Framed Flower. The second most difficult and time-consuming, but I love it.

So I have to make four of each of these, excluding Criss Cross, which needs eight. I also have to make one unique one for the very center of the afghan, and I'm going to pick a challenging one for that. I'm loving this afghan so far. It's just very difficult trying to imagine where I am going to find room to pack these squares in my suitcase for the trip home. I am dead-out of room already.
Oh, one more thing: in the first picture, that isn't a roll of toilet paper on the nightstand. It's my little container of Nivea Soft. Love that stuff!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Meditation and Macaroni

So here are two pictures: one from yesterday at the Buddhist Temple, and one from today of my sweet macaroni and cheese casserole, complete with "missing helping". If you look closely at the first picture, you can see the incense smoke curling elegantly from the ceremonial sticks. And if you look closely at the second picture, you can see the homemade white sauce I concocted, nice n' cheesy.

I like to look at these two pictures as a sort of yin-yang. The balance and comfortable contrast of peaceful, sunny skies, zen imagery in the peaceful temple to a sloppy mac n' cheese on the dirty stovetop.

Bon appetit! I would put up a picture of the two cakes I also baked tonight, but they're burnt and the chocolate icing makes them look like poo.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Turnbull Canyon adventure... plus Buddhist Temple and Cemetery

Turnbull Canyon has a reputation for being a haunted, creepy place. We decided to drive out today to see it. There's lots of rumors surrounding the place: urban legends, such as a "hanging tree" and a "witch house", devil worshippers, KKK people, the ruins of an abandoned asylum. There's also the violent history of the canyon: people have been killed here and bodies found, for example a burned man, a girl found wrapped in plastic, and another girl who was tied to the back of a car and dragged for miles, leaving a blood trail. Gang executions and other stuff also happen here, which makes sense. It's very remote. It's a pretty dangerous drive, too. Joyriding morons would not be fun to encounter. There are cliff drops and the roads are very narrow.

Anyways, we drove out there today. That first picture is a shot from Turnbull Canyon Road of a water tower, supposedly where people have been murdered.

We drove through the winding canyon. It had a pretty dangerous feel to it, but only for safety reasons. We got to the intersection of Turnbull Canyon and Skyline Drive. According to rumors, apparently the RUINED ASYLUM is located at this intersection. I didn't see any asylum, but here's what was there:

I'd seen this intersection on Google Maps and it looked like a graveyard. But up close, it's hard to tell exactly WHAT it is. Presumably the frontage of some fancy house that's hidden up that hill? There are some coloured tiles that you can sort of see in the picture above. Lance figured out that they spell "The Singing Kettle", and there's an image of a flaming kettle. Weird. *edit: after some Googling, I was able to find out that in 1935, this was "The Singing Kettle Tea Shop". A pretty weird and remote spot for a tea shop, I'd say, but hey - who am I?
Here's a farther away shot of the intersection. It does look like a graveyard, even though it's not. It certainly isn't the foundation of some frightening old asylum, although I presume urban legend has done its job. It couldn't possibly be the remains of an old tea shop in some rich dude's front yard - no, it must be an ABANDONED ASYLUM. *sigh*. But, we had another goal: at the end of Skyline Drive, the street turns into a fire route where there is an abandoned house. I'd seen pictures of the house with its windows boarded up, and read about the creepy homeless dude who apparently lived there and the MYSTERIOUS LIGHTS ON even though no power apparently went to the house. So we drove to the fire route... oh, and once you get to Skyline Drive, it's pretty resedential. Even the "abandoned house" is seriously only about twenty feet away from occupied homes. But nevertheless, we were ready to be creeped out...
Here it is. Not abandoned anymore. No boarded up windows. And there were four vehicles in the driveway. So I guess someone bought it. Not creepy at all. But it is located along the fire route, which is a hiking trail as well, so since we had just parked, we decided to follow the trail. It appeared that the trail would lead us up to the water tower. It probably took us about twenty-five minutes to get from where we'd parked up to the tower, and it was a scenic ol' walk.
On the way up, we were pretty uncomfortable. It was dusty and hot. At one point we saw some other people way, way up ahead, walking towards us, but they disappeared onto one of the offshoot trails - of which there were many. You could get lost or into trouble in this place. All around us were more hills and steep drops. You could see various trails along the hills. As we walked up to the water tower, we saw this building above. Some sort of Buddhist Temple. Shortly, however, we arrived at the water tower.
Here it is, in all its graffitied glory. Apparently gang guys have killed each other up here, satanic rituals, death, et cetera. Makes sense. The tower sits on a high peak, it's sort of a beacon for miles around. Totally isolated, yet easily found. It wasn't creepy, but I mean, the whole time I was kind of nervous that someone was going to pop out and knife us for our spare change.
Here's a view looking back up at the tower. We headed back down the trail. Oh, by the way, apparently a ways down there is an ABANDONED FACTORY. Well, there is a factory, but it's not abandoned. It was not creepy enough to warrant taking a picture of. There were areas of chain-link fence yanked back, which implies creepy people sneaking around, but that's about it. We walked back to the car.
We'd parked right by Skyline Drive and Descending Drive. The next stop on our list was the supposed "Gates of Hell" or "Devil's Gates" or what-have-you. Disappointed by the total non-scariness of the ABANDONED HOUSE, yet refreshed because the water tower had been kinda neat, we headed down Descending Drive. Which does, in fact, descend.
Lots of graffiti on signs and even on the road. The scary rumors about Turnbull Canyon and area have brought out the kids, obviously. I'm sure it's a high-school rite-of-passage to go around this area at night. Drunk, and with cans of spray-paint. This did lead to the vibe of not wanting to return at night, and not because of GHOSTS. Because people are scary.

Anyways, we soon arrived at the GATES OF HELL:
The story about these gates is that behind them somewhere, there is a ruined/abandoned house, which is used by Satanic cults. I don't know about that, but the area was kind of weird. All along Descending Drive and the surrounding streets in this little neighborhood were tons of fenced-off driveways, leading up to really nice houses with swanky-ass cars. The GATES OF HELL were easy to pick out, if only by the lack of security and trespassing warnings. I suppose it would have been interesting to go exploring for the abandoned house somewhere in the wilderness behind it...
... and easy, too, as Lance illustrates. But we decided not to. It just wasn't piquing our interest as we'd hoped it would. We headed out of this neighborhood. We saw no signs of the "blood pools" or any other sort of abandoned or ruined buildings.

Bottom lines for me: Do I think Turnbull Canyon is haunted? No. I think it is a remote, dangerous place where bad things have happened - committed by humans. I wouldn't want to go there at night, but only because I wouldn't want to get into a car accident or encounter some drunk maniac in the rocks. Apparently the winding roads are very popular with street-racing type idiots. More for them. It had that "bad people want to hurt you" vibe about it. And I can totally see how the canyon is an appealing place to ditch a body.

*** We decided to head to a Buddhist Temple that Lance had seen. Not the one with the pagoda-like structure, but a different one, closer. I agreed to go check it out, but I felt reluctant, as I was disappointed that there hadn't been a spooky vibe at all yet, and there sure wasn't going to be one at a Buddhist Temple. However, it was very beautiful:

We put pennies on the heads of a few of the statues, and there were bald nuns walking around. I wish I'd gotten a picture of them, but how crap would that be - the bawdy white chick strolling around, aghast at the bald Buddha ladies. It was a beautiful though and I'm glad we went.

***Before heading home we decided to check out the nearby Rose Hills Cemetery.
There were deer grazing by the gravestones. One had a hurt leg. :( She's the one lying down.
We ended up going into a mausoleum. It was really big and totally empty. I felt like we shouldn't be in there. Classical music was playing over the speakers.

At one point inside the mausoleum, I heard footsteps coming up a hallway behind us. I turned around, fully prepared to apologize to the attendant for tracking our touristy mud all over the sacred place. But there was no one there. I'm not even kidding.
In conclusion, it was a nice day. And I have a beautiful picture that I'm going to save for tomorrow.