Thursday, September 1, 2016

Southern California Redux

Joshua Tree Retreat Center - FLLY Jr.
Right after Fourth of July I went to southern California, again. I realize that many people like to malign Los Angeles. I don’t find it terribly annoying, but I am only a visitor. I’m sure the realities of traffic and the vast distance between things would be maddening. But, as a traveler, I pick and choose my spots to avoid the insanity.

Back in February my yoga friend and I decided to go to a yoga festival in Joshua Tree, in July. The idea of doing yoga in the high desert in July didn’t phase me in February. The reality of it was much more challenging. I visited Joshua Tree a little more than a year ago; I knew there was pretty much nothing there. It seemed like a nice spot for a retreat.

Before heading to the desert, I planned one night in Los Angeles. My yoga friend fully embraced my style of travel: do/see as many things as possible in a geographically and temporally (slightly) reasonable amount of time.
Guisados - DTLA

Upon landing in the AM we stopped at the Antwon Kerner Gallery to see a Richard Prince exhibit, grabbed coffee at Go Get Em Tiger, ate tacos at Guisados, meandered through The Last Bookstore, took a short walk from the hotel to The Broad, managed a requisite time-change nap, ate a quick sushi dinner, and spent few hours at the Comedy Store. Yes, that was quite a bit. The tacos were glorious. The Broad is a very nice collection and there was/is a Cindy Sherman exhibit on. And, we saw David Spade at the Store.

In the morning we grabbed coffee at Verve, ate pies at Bronzed Aussie, hiked in Griffith Park, stopped at a Whole Foods 365, and drove out to the desert. Once in the desert, we didn’t eat a meal. Yes, five days without a real meal. We drank smoothies and ate fruit in very yoga fashion. Needless to say, we were starving by day five. One of the reasons I was excited about the retreat was the location: the Joshua Tree Retreat Center. It was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, Jr. There are many structures on the site and all of them seem reminiscent of Frank. I took two sunrise walks around the complex and took a few photos.

Once we left the retreat, our first goal was food. My yoga friend is Armenian and we learned that there is a solid Armenian community in Glendale. We found an Armenian restaurant, Carousel, not too far out of the way on our drive to Santa Barbara. Yoga buddy ordered us a bunch of vegetarian stuff. We ordered so much (and ate all of it) that we felt the need to explain to our server that we hadn’t really eaten in five days. We swore that we don’t really eat like that all the time (even though we kind of do…).

Carousel Restaurant
Our next stop was Santa Barbara. I hadn’t been there since I was nineteen, and it was only for lunch. We spent a full day enjoying Santa Barbara. I didn’t have too much in mind: we practiced yoga, drank coffee at Handle Bar, ate an awesome young coconut and some sort of raw vegan dessert ball, wandered through the Santa Barbara Court House, drove up to an organic winery (Alma Rosa Winery), ate sushi for dinner, and caught sunset on the beach. I enjoyed Santa Barbara for it’s non-L.A. qualities. It feels like the suburbs to me: more relaxed, more casual.

The next morning we were up and out to try to get to yoga at Bikram Headquarters. Traffic being what it is in L.A., we realized we weren’t going to make the class we wanted, so we went to Bikram Yoga Marina Del Ray instead. After class we walked around Venice. In true yogi-style, we were starving after class, but nothing seemed appealing. We grabbed coffee at Intelligentsia and some pastries. We were saving ourselves for something later in the day. I had never been to Venice before. I have to admit, this was the first part of L.A. that I did not like. The people were…self-absorbed and out of touch. If I moved to L.A. I could see myself living downtown (I appreciate the revitalization effort going on there) or somewhere away from the beach.
Pizzeria Mozza

After coffee we drove over to LACMA. Tuesdays are free; it was packed. Some of the exhibits were sold out. I really came for James Turrell’s Ganzfeld. It’s a magical experience. I’ll visit it every time I go to Los Angeles.

After LACMA we drove to the meal I had been thinking about for weeks: pizza at Pizzeria Mozza. I’ve said it before, on this very blog, that I am beyond particular about pizza. If I’m eating pizza, it’s going to be fantastic, or have a very good chance of being fantastic. Unapologetically, Yoga friend and I ordered an octopus salad, two pizzas, and dessert. The pizza was excellent. We each ate a whole pie (I mean, of course I’m eating the whole thing) and then left for the red-eye back to Philly.

Overall, it was a beautiful eight days in Southern California. The yoga retreat was something not to be forgotten, but that can’t be put into words. The food was exactly as I wanted. And the sights were as golden as I remembered.
Richard Prince 

The Last Bookstore
Walt Disney Concert Hall - Frank Gehry
The Broad Museum
Cindy Sherman Exhibit at The Broad
Verve Coffee, DTLA
Santa Barbara Court House

Judd at LACMA 

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