Destination: California

‘Get Out of the Damn Car’: An Illustrated Death Valley Road Trip

Over at Afar, illustrator Wendy MacNaughton has recreated a brief road trip from San Francisco to Death Valley and back. The drawings include fun headings like “Public Bathroom Ratings” and “Things That Can Be Seen From a Car Window.” I dug it. (Via @The_Rumpus)


Moby on Los Angeles Architecture

People who’ve spent much time in Los Angeles know the city is home to some amazing architecture—classic mid-century designs, rustic Craftsman homes, bizarro medieval castles—and that these places are often tucked away in canyons, or behind tall fences, or in nondescript suburbs.

The musician Moby is now living in L.A., and he was so impressed by this that four months ago he launched a blog about it featuring his photographs and observations. It’s a good read. This short video offers an intro to L.A. architecture and his perspective on it:


Meditation at Stinson Beach

Don George recently visited a favorite northern California beach.

I let the sea wash over me, let the waves fill my head and lungs, lose myself to this inconceivably old and ageless place.

I think: This is the same scene I witnessed two decades ago, quite possibly even the same rock I sat on then, scribbling in my journal as I tap into my laptop now. And if I come back in 20 years, it will almost certainly be the same still.

But of course, much has changed in those two decades. My children have grown up and moved on. My Dad and other loved ones have passed away. New jobs, new places, new books, old dreams.

And suddenly these words flow into my brain: Where does it all come together? What does it mean?


California’s ‘Kazakh-Land’: Central Asian Theme Park or Stunt?

Over at Registan, Michael Hancock investigates Kazakh-Land, a theme park in southern California. Hancock, though, doubts whether the place actually exists, beyond its snazzy website:

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Kazakh-Land!  Situated near sunny Malibu, California, it offers something for everyone, from romantic folk-art displays to retirement-style weekend getaways. The website is plenty nice and the word on the inter-tubes [up to this point] is that it’s the real deal. However, there is a lot of suspicious English (especially on the guestbook and caretaker pages) that smells of Russian translation. Like some bad Borat joke, Russian-language descriptions of the theme park name-drop Pamela Anderson and Angelina Jolie. It’s not their fault, of course - these descriptions come off the site’s own guestbook, which reads like a finely translated and prepared proof-of-concept brochure. In other words, I’m skeptical whether any of these people are real.

The rest of the post includes some speculation about the source of the park’s photos (Hollywood movie sets) and the reason (money laundering, real estate concerns) for the hoax. I suppose we also have to consider the possibility that there’s another Borat project in the works? (Via The Atlantic Wire)


Tour Guide Battle in Southern California Leaves Chinese ‘Very Afraid’

Chinese tourists are increasingly bringing their own guides when they travel to Southern California. Local guides are pissed about losing business and, allegedly, becoming confrontational. The Los Angeles Times breaks it down:

Wang Suqi, president of Beijing-based Total Travel International Travel Service, claims that one of his tour leaders was punched by an American tour guide at Universal Studios Hollywood, and now his tour leaders have asked to be transferred to different tours in Europe and Southeast Asia.

“They’re very afraid,” Wang said. “Even our customers are asking what’s going on.”

The competition for the Chinese tourism business was set off in 2007 when China, for the first time, allowed commercial travel agents to book group pleasure trips to the U.S. But China did not mandate that Chinese tourists hire accredited American tour guides—a requirement that China imposed on other countries, including Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.

Of course, it’s mostly about money. Chinese travelers have been unleashed in recent years, and they spend.

In 2009, Chinese travelers spent an average of $6,800 per person per visit, including airfare, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. By 2020, China will become the world’s fourth-largest source of tourists, the United Nation’s World Tourism Organization predicts.


Pacific Coast Highway: ‘Easily the Best in America’

Over at The American Scene, Conor Friedersdorf waxes nostalgic about PCH:

Few things satisfy me as much as driving on certain stretches of Pacific Coast Highway, a road that is easily the best in America, and that I can’t imagine being equaled elsewhere. There is a mile or two in south Laguna Beach that I associate with summer days at age sixteen, driving with Feel Flow or Scarlet Begonias blaring on the stereo, sand on my feet, surf wax beneath my fingernails, and windows down to achieve that singular sensation of evaporated saltwater on skin dried by a warm 55 MPH breeze. Call it beach feel, which usually also involves a slight sunburn, muscles tired from fighting currents all day, and the kind of hunger that makes an In’N'Out burger even better than usual.


Paparazzi Fishing at the Baggage Claim

The Los Angeles Times covers the work habits of celebrity photographers who camp out at LAX:

If tips are scarce, photographers make their own luck by “fishing”—strolling the terminal baggage claims and entrances for shots. Airport paparazzi scour crowds less for actual famous people than for signs that actual famous people are about to appear. A shiny black Escalade with tinted windows. A muscle-bound man with an earpiece. And, above all, the “star greeter,” hired by movie studios and other companies to whisk VIPs through lines at the airport. Airport photographers tend to memorize the greeters’ faces, walks, wardrobes and client lists.


Interview with Michael Scott Moore: ‘Sweetness and Blood’

Jim Benning talks with the author of a new travel book about the spread of surfing around the globe

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Jonathan Gold and Rick Bayless Tweet Off Over Mexican Food in L.A.

What was it? A battle? A shot over the bow? Maybe, looking back, it was just a misfire. But it got L.A. Mexican foodies pretty excited for a few days.

At a talk in Orange County last week, Pulitzer Prize-winning restaurant critic Jonathan Gold—a hero of ours who has made a career of championing great hole-in-the-wall ethnic restaurants in SoCal—took a shot at PBS TV host and restaurateur Rick Bayless. The chef, whose Frontera Grill in Chicago gets rave reviews, just designed the menu for a new upscale Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles, Red O—his first project in the region.

Now, L.A. loves its homegrown Mexican food. It’s a source of pride. So the arrival of Bayless earlier this year was bound to raise eyebrows.

The Los Angeles Times gave Red O a favorable review. Then Gold took the mic at a gathering of journalists last week.

Reported the OC Weekly:

Gold said Bayless was a “good” chef who knew his way around Mexican recipes, but he sneered at Bayless’ nerve in coming to Los Angeles and opening a restaurant—Red O—that presumed to introduce Angelinos to “authentic” Mexican cuisine. In particular, Gold zeroed in on Bayless’ inclusion of chilpachole—a glorious seafood soup from Veracruz—as some rarity, when Gold said the soup was easily available in the Southland, along with dozens of other Mexican regional specialties.

Word reached Bayless, and he tweeted:

@thejgold Thought a Pulitzer meant you checked facts. Sneering at me for something I never said is either mean or sloppy. I’m offended

He also posted this comment on the OC Weekly’s article:

I know it’s all the rage for journalists to go into unsupported hyperbole, but I never said I was going to introduce Southern California to “authentic” Mexican cuisine. I said I was going to bring the flavors of Frontera Grill to Los Angeles.

Ouch.

As of today, however, both sides are tweeting that the spat is behind them.

Gold’s tweet:

@Rick_Bayless and I have kissed and made up, I think. Further thoughts will have to wait for the full review.

Bayless’ reply:

Yes, i think we have :) RT @thejgold @Rick_Bayless & I have kissed & made up, I think. Further thoughts will have to wait 4 the full review.

Taco détente.

Whew. Now we can all go back to eating our enchiladas in peace.


Google Maps—Minus the Map

Yet another interesting way to look at the world or, in this case, Los Angeles. (Via Kottke)


Book Passage Travel, Food & Photography Conference 2010

Travel writers and aspiring travel writers, take note: The four-day Book Passage Travel, Food & Photography Conference kicks off a week from today in Corte Madera, California, just a short drive from San Francisco.

It’s a great chance to learn the tricks of the trades from some of the best in the business, including legendary adventure writer Tim Cahill.

I’ll be teaching a class on digital travel writing and blogging with Jen Leo. We’ll cover audio slideshow production, writing travel essays, how to create and maintain a compelling travel blog, and travel-writing ethics in the digital age. Among other highlights on the schedule, World Hum contributor David Farley will teach a class on writing personal travel essays, and columnist Jeff Pflueger will be among those teaching travel photography.

The conference is always one of the highlights of the year for me. As conference chair Don George has said, it’s kind of like summer camp for travel writers.

Beyond that, “The conference’s track record is pretty amazing,” Don said in a recent interview. “Every year at least a few graduates start getting published in newspapers, magazines and web sites as a direct result of lessons learned and contacts made at the conference; in fact, a number of this year’s ‘faculty’ members started out as ‘students’ at the conference.”

We’ve published a number of alumni on World Hum.


Pink’s Hot Dogs Arrives at LAX

The legendary dog vendor opened its first-ever airport location today in the Tom Bradley International Terminal. Hungry travelers, rejoice!


Could Neverland Ranch Become a California State Park?

Well, maybe. California assemblyman Mike Davis suggested the idea this week, but he also acknowledged one major stumbling block: “Given that we have an economic shortfall ... I suspect it would be difficult for the State Parks Department to purchase the property alone.”

We wondered last summer, shortly after Michael Jackson’s death, where his fans would congregate to remember him. Seems like Neverland Ranch remains the leading contender, whether it winds up in government hands or not. (Via Gawker)


Video You Must See: ‘Running on Empty’ in Los Angeles

Ross Ching has beautifully adapted Matt Logue's Empty L.A. concept.

Watch the Video »


What Kiss Cams Say About Cities

I love this idea from a sportswriter I usually can’t stand: The Kiss Cam as a two-minute glimpse into a city’s soul. In this case, Bill Plaschke’s talking about the Kiss Cam at Staples Center in Los Angeles during Lakers’ games.

Nowhere, it seems, are the couples as animated, or the crowd as involved, or the message about the heart of Los Angeles any more clear. In a night filled with supermen, it is a brief, heartwarming reminder that the Lakers have been built upon the hopes and ideals of those who are real.

In a town where everything is supposedly disposable, no Kiss Cam moment is cheered louder than a smooch between an elderly couple. In a town that supposedly doesn’t trumpet family values, the second-loudest cheers occur for the forehead pecks of a parent on a child.

The third-most popular Kiss Cam moment? Hugh Hefner sitting in a luxury suite kissing three or four bunnies. C’mon, this is still Hollywood.