Brainy Cultural Paradise

Side View

Most beautiful libraries focus on what’s inside. Our downtown library both in Pasadena and in Los Angeles are just that. I love a vaulted ceilings and overflowing bookshelves, but I’d have to say for me, the grounds and the facades are just as important. From structures steeped in design history, libraries prove that free books and internet access aren’t the only reason to visit an architectural gem. But the one I love going to the most is a short drive away. Having discovered it when I lived in Los Feliz, it’s still as wonderful now as it was then. There aren’t many things that can claim that sort of history.

Front of Bldg. taken at angle

The Brand Library in Glendale, is unique, most likely because it was a home. Leslie Coombs Brand built his residence on a lot at the base of the Verdugo Mountains. His beloved Miradero—a Spanish word meaning “a high place overlooking an extensive view.” is a 5,000 square foot Moorish mansion. Its design interest lies in a Saracenic inspired exterior with minarets and repeating scalloped arches.  And it’s contrasting late-Victorian style interior gives it warmth. Together these two elements denote a rare sort of beauty and grandeur.  When Brand died in 1925 he left his home and adjacent land to the City for use as a public park and library.


As an Art and Music Library, The Brand Library has  Galleries and a Recital Hall, where art exhibitions are hosted and classical concert performances are given. The setting is surrounded by a magnificent verdant park, hiking trails, and a Japanese garden. So not only does it foster beauty and literacy but it inspires intellectual curiosity and stimulates the imagination. My, oh my, a treasure for my heart and mind!

Museums Galore

Totem Pole-Southwest Museum
Totem Pole-Southwest Museum

Pasadena did it again- making art accessible to everyone. Yesterday I went to Museum of the Arroyo Day (MOTA) which celebrated art, architecture, and history of the Arroyo Seco area. Arroyo Seco, spanish for “dry stream,” is a seasonal river, watershed and canyon. You can read more about it here:

The day featured six museums open to the public with a shuttle service transporting passengers from one location to another. I started my journey taking the Gold Line directly to The Southwest Museum (I haven’t been there in ages). It holds an exquisite array of pottery and there were demonstrations of everyday life tasks that were performed by the Tongva Indians.

Then I went to Heritage Square.  With the guided tours of historic Victorian homes, it takes you back in time to an era when things like electricity were a novelty.

But the place that knocked my socks off was Lummis home and garden. Charles Fletcher Lummis built the house with his own hands over a 12-year period. It’s enormous and would be a pleasant home to live in by today’s standards.  Lummis went to Harvard and came out west by foot, kinda like Forrest Gump. A maverick, he was the first city editor for the Los Angeles Times and was an early activist fighting for Indian rights. But wait there’s more… he was also an author, anthropologist and photographer. To build his home, he used materials he found such as boulders to create cobblestone and each one of the doors is hand carved. He must have caught the architectural community by storm. Genius, sheer genius.

Front of House
Side of 3,000 sq ft house
Corner Detail

I left with a glimpse of the past and thought of how I like those who came before me, came to Southern California for the good life.

Art Lovers Delight

Every city has great buildings, but Chicago is its’ great buildings.  Everything is framed by remarkable architecture and the windy city blew me away.
Although it’s a sports town, which I have no interest in, I was gawking at the stratospheric, glass-floored Willis Tower to Frank Gehry’s swooping silver Pritzer Pavilion to Frank Lloyd Wright’s stained glass Robie House. Whimsical public art studs the streets. I walked along and found an abstract Picasso statue that’s not only cool to look at, but you’re allowed to go right up and climb on it.
For art museums, take your pick: impressionist masterpieces at the massive Art Institute, psychedelic paintings at the mid-sized Museum of Mexican Art or outsider drawings at the small Intuit gallery.
It’s a city where boredom doesn’t exist. And unlike New York, it doesn’t smell and it’s clean. There isn’t a speck of trash downtown and you won’t find those unsightly black trash bags sitting on the sidewalks. What you find on the sidewalks are police. When I asked a policewoman why there were so many officers, adding that the city must be extremely safe or very dangerous, she smiled and told me their presence makes the unwanted elements keep away.
I ventured out on a bike tour to the Pilsen or Mexican neighborhood, and found the street art fascinating; colorful, depicting everything from culture to religion.
I also took a bus ride to Hyde Park home of Barack Obama and where the University of Chicago sits and found a vibrant and rich academic and cultural life.
And of course there were the jazz clubs, where Chicago still sings the blues.
The shopping would make any fashionista dizzy.
And last but not least it’s a foodie panacea. I went to Rick Bayless’ Frontera Grill and the cuisine surpassed my expectations but the place that had me coming and going was the impressive Eataly. Chicago is really my kind of town.
Enjoy some of the photos. Your comments are welcome.

Pilsen-Steps to Subway
Pilsen-Steps to Subway
Robie House- Hyde Park
Robie House- Hyde Park

Eataly Eataly

Basement Bookstore Hyde Park
Basement Bookstore
Hyde Park
Ikram Boutique
Ikram Boutique
I was Rapunzel inside The Water Tower
I was Rapunzel inside
The Water Tower
Outdoor Cafe Art Institute
Outdoor Cafe
Art Institute
John Singer Sargent Painting
John Singer Sargent Painting
Edward Hooper
Edward Hooper
Gothic MichiganAve
Chicago River
Eclectic Chicago Tribune Trump Tower
Eclectic Chicago Tribune
Trump Tower
City Skyscrapers
City Skyscrapers
Gothic Church My Best Friends' Wedding Film location
Gothic Church
My Best Friends’ Wedding Film location
Lake Michigan
Lake Michigan
City View from Sears now Willis Tower
City View from Sears now Willis Tower
Starbucks Bottom level
Starbucks Bottom level
Interior Mosaic Ceiling Marshall Fields Dept. Store now Macy's
Interior Mosaic Ceiling
Marshall Fields Dept. Store
now Macy’s
Carbon & Carbide Bldg
Carbon & Carbide Bldg
Interior Chicago Theatre
Interior Chicago Theatre

C’est la vie

Last week-end being warm I took a spin over to Santa Monica. It has always struck me as quintessentially a beach town.  The blue city; blue skies, bue water, blue street signs and big Blue Bus. With an appreciation for the Modern Streamline architecture they have, there isn’t too much more that strikes me as unique, except for the Mayfair Music Hall.

I first went to the Music Hall on a third date, to see an Edith Piaf revival. I remember it so well.

I was razzled-dazzled by the lavish architecture. Intended to duplicate an English music hall, the Victorian building has windows with theatrical masks and shields.mayfair2

The interiors, a deep shade of red had a huge semicircular bar in the lobby.

That February evening, I was clad in a raisin colored wool crepe sleeveless pencil dress that had a drawstring waist.  I accentuated with a gold chunky necklace and bracelet and wore the taupe suede pumps that I had bought in Paris as a student. The jewelry was costume, a vintage find that I had taken to a jeweler and had him retouch.

It was a cool and blazers were the rage, but thinking that one would give me a business look instead, I opted for a shawl and brown clutch.

With hypnotic songs of dreams and desire I felt that I had entered Edith Piaf’s life in the bars and brothels of Paris that made her both tender and tough. The distinctive mix had me mesmerized. The singer’s voice was haunting with heartbreaking ballads.

During the intermission I couldn’t wait to go to the ladies room to see what was in store. As I mentioned in my last post you can get a feel of a place by the restroom, and opening the door, I was struck by the ornate marble décor.

After the performance, we had a light supper and I spoke about my enchanting trip to France. He later told me he could see Paris through my journey.

I went to the Theatre a few more times after that.

Last week, as I walked the streets of Santa Monica, on my way to the Mayfair, I turned the corner: Gone. The facade has been restored but that’s all that is left of the architectural gem.  Note in the photo the new building behind.mayfair3

Sadly, the Mayfair saw its end during my absence from California.

What I saw in Santa Monica were chain restaurants, offices, condos, retail, and chain link fences. Is there any advantage to a life as an overweight workaholic garbed in a new tee-shirt surrounded by noise?

As writers, the arts and personal experiences enrich our minds and storytelling.

A life of aesthetic and culture is languishing. How will we survive the future without it?

Share your thoughts. For those who are interested, you can find out about more architectural saves and losses at:

Old Hollywood

Yesterday turning the corner at Castle Green were film crews. Obviously a big budget film. Not so unusual, the location has been a favorite among location scouts. Film Director Tim Burton chose the Hotel in filming both Edward Scissorhands, and Nightmare Before Christmas. The building is a Victorian treasure and looks stately, imposing and luxurious

Earlier in the day, I was at Pasadena City Hall, another architectural treasure. With the late morning sun, the Mexican tiles I walked on glistened from the sun. It got me thinking about everyday sites being captured on film.

Los Angeles City Hall

So with that thought, I’ll share what I know about another City Hall; once considered the tallest building in Los Angeles, built in 1927, and that is, Los Angeles City Hall. It held that title until 1967 when the skyscraper known as 611 Place was built.

In the Adventures of Superman television show that aired in the 1950s, starring George Reeves, the Carnation Building located at 5045 Wilshire Boulevard, stood in for the “Daily Planet.”

The Daily Planet was the newspaper where the man of Steel; Clark Kent, and his friends and fellow reporters, Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane fought crime. Later on in the series Los Angeles City Hall was the used as the Daily Planet building.


I love those old tv shows and films, when it was a different era and a better world in some ways.

Los Angeles City Hall also appeared in Dragnet, LA Confidential, The War of the Worlds, Changeling and many other films. And they say that there’s no history here. Ha! It doesn’t happen to be 1000 years old, nevertheless, it’s still history.


Lots of people are still not aware that L.A., has a cultural scene. And LA’s premier art museum, LACMA’s galleries are stuffed with all the major players – Rembrandt, Cézanne, Magritte, Mary Cassat, Ansel Adams, to name a few.

To the north, Pasadena has the Norton Simon, the California Museum of Art and the Asian Art Museum as well as the wonderful KidSpace, where I spent many happy hours with my nephews.

But the biggest plus in the area is the Huntington – where you have a Library, an Art collection, Botanical Gardens and stunning architecture all rolled into one. Beauty at it’s finest.

The depth and wealth of the collection is stunning from ceramics from China, woodblock prints from Japan, prints and drawings, European and American Art, and ancient sculptures from Greece and Rome.

But it’s the gardens that have me in awe every-time. As I strolled after the rain, the surreal light that cast its shadow on the 150 acres was magnificent. There is something about being in nature that inspires a view of the physical and the spiritual where they converge as one.

Rather than go on, I’ll share my photos of my visit, from the tickets I was handed from my generous eldest brother. Thank you!

HuntingtonLibGardens 061
HuntingtonLibGardens 062
The Blue Boy



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Entrance Chinese Garden

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