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That's not amazing -- California's Gold, Huell Howser, has passed away

Posted by Eric Brightwell, January 7, 2013 01:49pm | Post a Comment

Huell in the Antelope Valley amongst California Poppies (source: Cameron Tucker)

I am utterly gutted to hear that Huell Howser has passed away.



I heard the news as I was writing about my exploration of Irvine for this blog, and simultaneously planning on exploring the route of the Expo Line Phase II tomorrow. If it weren’t for Huell, I may not have had the idea of doing either. (When I was approached about working for KCET, one of the names I proposed was California's Fools Gold, a self-deprecating homage -- they went with Block By Block instead). I’m sure he inspired a lot of other people to go on adventures in their back yards too (this page has a map showing the communities he visited). Even though I never had the pleasure of meeting him, I will miss him terribly.


Huell canoeing on Mono Lake (source: Cameron Tucker)

Back in November, Huell announced that he was retiring amid rumors that he was seriously ill. Just last week I was chatting about him with a customer at my shop and the customer expressed his dismay. I too was saddened by his retirement but expressed that he'd earned it and that even his biggest fans have, in most cases, hundreds if not thousands of episodes to catch up on. Still, the customer hoped that someone would soon fill his shoes. I expressed doubt that any single person could.


At the amazing Gourmet Cobbler Factory in Pasadena -- in the San Gabriel Valley (image: KCET)

It's impossible to know how many adventures Huell Howser inspired. I suspect that he's one of John Rabe's biggest heroes. (Check out Rabe’s episode with him here). I loved his earnestness, enthusiasm, unpretentiousness, boundless sense of adventure, energy, and intelligence. Despite the fact that Angelenos are constantly told that we are obsessed with celebrity, glamour, fame and fortune; Howser showed thankfully little interest in any of that. He even seemed to hint at a healthy disgust with politicians and ambivalence for authority.

Instead he championed the everyday, the immigrant, the ignored, the uncelebrated and in doing so showed what really makes California truly special. 


Huell's hometown

Huell Burnley Howser was born 18 October 1945 in Gallatin, Tennessee, a small town in the Upper South near the border with Kentucky. His name was a portmanteau of his parents' names, Harold and Jewell. He received a BA in history at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.





After serving in the Marines he began working Nasvhille’s WSM-TV, where he traveled around the central part of the state and Kentucky in a motor home filming what he called "happy features." 

Huell with Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn in the 1970s


After spending some time at WCBS in New York where he hosted a show called Real Life! (and later, To Life!). In the age of Candid Camera, The Gong Show, Real People, and That's Incredible, New Yorkers seemed confused by segments on window washers and "turkey mavens." Howser was later told that New Yorkers were uncomfortable being touched. In 1981 Howser moved to hug-friendly Los Angeles where there's no shortage of people happy to be on camera. It was in Los Angeles that he stayed.


Huell Howser with the Del Rubio Triplets in 1987 (source: KCET)

His career in LA began with him reporting for KNXT (now KCBS). He then briefly worked on Entertainment Tonight which is kind of remarkable since when he next moved to KCET (then a PBS affiliate) in 1987 and began producing his Videolog segments, he showed himself to be a one man antidote to ET -- and the other shows like Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, Access Hollywood, Extra!, and all the other shows that seem so determined to make Los Angeles look awful.





The first episode I remember seeing was Visiting… With Huell Howser episode #903, in which he visited Iwasaki Images of America in Gardena to learn about how plastic food commonly seen in the display windows of Japanese restaurants is made (something I was and am fascinated by as well). The previous episode had been about visiting Cambodia Town in Long Beach. The following was about Downtown's LA Barber College. The most recent episode I watched was episode 104 of California’s Gold, “Cornish Christmas.” 


Howser with a construction crew underground in L.A. (source: Cameron Tucker)

In an interview with the LA Times’ television critic, Robert Loyd, he expressed “Let's explore our neighborhood, let's look in our own backyard, let's go down to Koreatown and buy some kimchee. We won't do a story on what it's like to spend the night in a $10,000 hotel suite.” I thought he had the best job in the world and the best attitude to boot. Though he once claimed to be a Methodist, he had the soul and outlook of Laozi.


Huell Howser in his former residence in Midtown's Hancock Park neighborhood (source: Kevin Hively)


Though outgoing, friendly, and on TV all the time, Huell was guarded about his private life – which I really respected. He was one of the few people on TV who didn’t seem interested in promoting himself as a celebrity, even though he was one. He never bothered to go out of his way to deflate tired, cynical stereotypes of California, he just ignored them. Likewise, he understood that Californians come in all shapes, colors and accents and in a culture where southern accents are almost always equated with stupidity and/or bigotry, he was not only proudly southern, but unprejudiced, and intelligent. 




He was often parodied albeit more-often-than-not, lovingly. I'd bet that all of his self-professed fans have an imitation of him. He turned up on The Simpsons twice, the Beverly Hills, 90120 episode "Jobbed," as well as Thoughts of Suicide on an Otherwise Lovely Day and Who Killed the Electric Car? He leant his voice to Winnie the Pooh, and was mentioned on Weeds. He has a hot dog named after him at Pinks, a honey ham & pineapple cheeseburger at Peggy Sue's 50s Diner (in Yermo), and his face on a bottle of milk from Broguiere's Farm Fresh Dairy (in the Southeast LA County city of Montebello).


He passed away at his Palm Springs home on 7 January 2013, aged just 67. We should all honor him by undertaking adventures at the next opportunity and keep our eyes open the what's amazing all around us. In 2000, Huell said "I have this theory that when I die, my tombstone will say, 'Huell Howser: he did the pig story,'" -- a reference to a profile he did of a 500-pound pet pig named Porky who then lived in a Powderly, Kentucky. In a 2003 story in Los Angeles Magazine he was quoted saying, "Seriously, what I want to do is to be saying 'Good night' and fall over dead in a sand dune and have the credits with the sand blowing over my body and the people at home just going, 'Well, I guess that's Huell's last show.' That is the way I would like to die." RIP Huell!

Click on this link to share your memories on KCET's page

*****

California Fool's Gold -- A North Orange County Primer

Posted by Eric Brightwell, December 5, 2012 07:00pm | Post a Comment
SHE HAD ORANGE RIBBONS IN HER HAIR -- NORTH ORANGE COUNTY



It comes as something of a dismaying surprise to me how casually many seemingly intelligent Angelenos freely dismiss Orange County. Iv'e grown used to (if still somewhat surprised by) the out-dated chauvinistic attitude of New Yorkers and San Franciscans. But while those widely and rightly shrugged off by knowing Angelenos, many of those same sorts of hollow, outdated mis-characterizations tend to be freely expressed about regions like LA’s Westside and Orange County without apparent irony. This blog entry, then, will focus on the communities of North Orange County with the hopeful aim of introducing readers to some of what makes it a region worthy of reexamination and exploration.



Jim Morrison - "Orange County Suite"



DIVERSITY IN ORANGE COUNTY


Orange County Panorama - source: Yashar Sahaleh


Although often stereotyped as a uniformly white suburb, Orange County – especially North Orange County – is in fact highly diverse. There are large numbers of Armenian, Chinese, English, Egyptian, FilipinoGerman, Irish, Jewish, Korean, Lebanese, Mexican, Palestinian, Persian, Salvadoran, Scottish, Syrian, Taiwanese, and Vietnamese-Americans, to name a few. Orange County is home to the largest community of Vietnamese outside of Vietnam. North Orange County is home to several ethnic enclaves, including Little Arabia, Little Saigon, and Little Seoul. In fact, 45% of Orange Countians speak a language other than English at home. With a population that is 44% white, 34% Latino, 18% Asian, 2% black, and 1% Native American, there is no racial or ethnic majority. In fact, last month Forbes magazine published “America's Most Diverse Neighborhoods And Metros” placed Orange County in their 7th spot – above Los Angeles County.


NORTH AND SOUTH ORANGE COUNTY


Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of North Orange County


Whereas Los Angeles County is often separated into numerous smaller regions (the Eastside, Hollywood, the Harbor, Midtown, the San Fernando Valley, the San Gabriel Valley, the South Bay, the Verdugos, &c), Orange County (being much smaller) most often tends to divide into just two – North Orange County and South Orange County. Some South Orange Countians portray North Orange County as a lawless border region where illegal immigrant members of Mexican drug cartels and Vietnamese home-invaders terrorize “real Americans” as society crumbles around them (and a bald eagle cries). Their Birth of a Nation-esque views are often voiced in the comment sections for the OC Weekly and OC Register and are virtually indistinguishable from those of your garden variety internet trolls.


Costa Mesa skyline at dusk


There are real distinctions between North and South Orange County. The north is more crowded, urban and developed. It bustles where the south seems to relax. It’s the area that I’m much more familiar with  both because most of what brings me to Orange County (friends, food, entertainment, &c) is located in the north… and readers of this blog have consistently voted more heavily for North Orange County communities to be covered over those in South Orange County.

Of all communities in the Southland, right now Anaheim in North OC and Irvine in South OC are tied for first place (leading all LA County communities). To vote vote for Orange County neighborhoods and communities, vote here. To vote for other Los Angeles County communities to be covered on the blog, vote here. To vote for Los Angeles neighborhoods, vote here


HISTORY OF NORTH ORANGE COUNTY

For thousands of years before the Spanish Conquest, what’s now North Orange County was home to the Acagchemem and Payomkowishum nations. It was also home to the Chumash and Tongva people – two seafaring people who, some evidence suggests, may’ve had dealings with Pacific Islanders All spoke languages in the Takic family and likely, therefore, migrated to the region from the Sonoran Desert.

All of California was claimed for Spain in 1769. In 1822, it became part of the newly-independent country of Mexico. Two years after the USA defeated Mexico in 1848, California became a state and what’s now Orange County was made part of Los Angeles County. On 11 March, 1889, Orange County seceded from LA County. In 1900 there were only 19.696 residents of the then-new, mostly agricultural county. The 1920s saw significant growth and the region’s population first surpassed 100,000. In the 1950s and ‘60s Orange County’s grew incredibly quickly. Since then, every decade has seen further growth although it has slowed considerably.


POLITICS IN NORTH ORANGE COUNTY




Although Orange County has long been characterized as a stronghold of Republican and Right Wing politics, today a mere plurality of 44% of registered voters are registered with the GOP whilst 32% are registered Democrats. Additionally, though still one of the most conservative regions in Southern California, Republicans in Orange County often have more in common with Libertarians than the far right, science and equal rights-denying neo-Con variety. North tends to grow increasingly Democratic with that passage of time. Nowadays, among what most people consider to be North Orange County, Yorba Linda and Villa Park are only incorporated communities with overwhelmingly Republican constituencies.


CULTURE IN ORANGE COUNTY


Segerstrom Center for the Arts


Many people scoff at the suggestion that there’s culture in Orange County (just as they do about Los Angeles). It’s never been clear to me what either camp of haters means by “culture” since there are numerous art galleries, botanical gardens, cultural events, historic sites, live music venues, museums, performing arts centers, a variety of restaurants, revival movie theaters, &c in both regions – some of which I will touch upon below. So without further ado…the communities of North Orange County.


*****

ANAHEIM



Anaheim is the largest city in Orange County (population-wise). To all but those that think that Disneyland is in Los Angeles, the city of Anaheim is largely synonymouse (sic) with that theme park. Less well-known but equally amusement park is the tantalizingly-named Adventure City.

Anaheim was founded by Bavarian immigrant winemakers in 1857 and incorporated in 1870 – making it the second oldest city in (then) Los Angeles County. “Heim” is German for “home” and “ana” refers to the Santa Ana River. As of 2010 Anaheim’s population was 53% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran), 28% non-Latino white, 15% Asian (mostly Vietnamese and Filipino), 3% black, and 1% Native American.

A large number of the white population are Arab (primarily Egyptian, Lebanese, Palestinian, and Syrian) and the city is home to Little Arabia aka Little Gaza Strip. Other Anaheim neighborhoods include Anaheim Hills, Anaheim Resort, Downtown Anaheim, East Anaheim, the Platinum Triangle, and West Anaheim. The so-called “Platinum Triangle” was, according to the Orange County Business Register in 2010, the fastest growing region in the county. To read more about Anaheim, click here!





Anaheim is the birthplace of musicians Don Davis, Eden Espinosa, Jeff Buckley, Jennifer Warnes, Marcus Mumford, No Doubt, and Tairrie B. as well as actors Alli Mauzy, Alyson Reed, Austin Butler, Connie Needham, Lisa Tucker, Milo Ventimiglia, Moon Bloodgood, and Rosalind Chao.


BREA



The city of Brea includes the neighborhood of Olinda, named after the former Olinda Village which was incorporated as part of Brea in 1911. The city is known for its public art program which, since 1975, has placed over 140 artworks throughout the community. Brea, which means “tar” in Spanish, is a reference to the town’s early and close relationship with the petroleum industry. The Brea-Olinda Oil Field was discovered in 1898. Eventually, oil gave way to citrus groves which in turn gave way to industrial parks and suburban residences. The population of Brea today is about 67% white, 25% Latino,18% Asian, and 1% black. Brea is the birthplace of actress Stephanie J. Block.


BUENA PARK



Buena Park, whose motto is “the center of the Southland,” is home to two amusement parks, Knott's Berry Farm and its sister park, Knott's Soak City. The former was founded in 1887 by James A. Whitaker, a grocer from Chicago. It wasn’t incorporated until 1953. The so-called “E-Zone” district is home to Pirate's Dinner Adventure Show, a Medieval Times, and a Ripley's Believe It or Not! museum. The population of Buena Park is roughly is 45% white, 39% Latino, 27% Asian, 4% black, and 1% Native American.


COSTA MESA


As home to Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, Orange County Fair, Isamu Noguchi Gardens, Talbert Nature Preserve, South Coast Plaza, and a couple of so-called "anti-malls,” Costa Mesa has arguably earned the nickname, “City of the arts.” I still find it amusing that the largest employer is McDonald's.

Prior to 1920 Costa Mese was known as Harper. It didn’t incorporate until 1953. Today it includes the neighborhoods of Cliff Haven, Mesa Verde, the Theater & Arts District, the Metro Center, the City Center, and Santa Ana Heights.



Musical acts from Costa Mesa include Bill Madden, Cowboy Buddha, Measles, Naked Soul, The Pressure and Xployt (aka Joe Public), and Supernova. Movies filmed there include Suburbia and In the Shadow of the Stars. To learn more about Costa Mesa, click here.


CYPRESS


Due to the preponderance of artesian wells in the area, the city of Cypress was at one time called Waterville. It incorporated in 1956 as Dairy City, in part to preserve its agricultural character from suburbanization (as did neighboring Dairy Valley (now Cerritos) and Dairyland (now La Palma). All the dairy-centric communities nonetheless suburbanized by the 1960s. Only a year after incorporation its citizens voted to change its name to Cypress, after the trees planted as a wind break next to Cypress Elementary School.




The population of Cypress, according to the 2010 census, is about 54% white, 32% Asian, 18% Latino, and 3% black. Two of its most famous sons are actor/singer/yoghurt-peddler, John Stamos and famed golfer/philanderer, Eldrick Tont "Tiger" Woods.


EL MODENA


Source: Orange County Archives


El Modena is a small, unincorporated community surrounded by the city of Orange. For much of its history it was a barrio set aside for Mexican-Americans. Through annexation, El Modena High School is now located within Orange although El Modena still has the El Modena Community Center and the Jones Victorian Estate (built in 1881).


FOUNTAIN VALLEY


Mile Square Park - image source: Justin Kim

Fountain Valley’s motto is “A nice place to live.” It was originally known as Gospel Swamp and later, Talbert, before its incorporation in 1957. Until the 1960s it was primarily agricultural. The population today is roughly 57% white, 34% Asian, 13% Latino, and 3% black.It’s home to an historical site, Courreges Ranch, although it’s not open to the public. Thankfully, the historic buildings in Heritage Park are.


FULLERTON


Plummer Auditorium in Fullerton, California

Fullerton is the town where Hawaiian Punch was invented in 1934. In 1949 it’s where Leo Fender invented the Fender Telecaster. It’s also the birthplace of a couple of seminal Orange County Punk bands: The Adolescents and Social Distortion – other music acts from Fullerton include Belay My Last, Coco B's, Derek Shawn O'Brie, Dusty Rhodes and the River Band, Gwen Stefani, Jay C. Easton, K-Nobs, Kid Ramos, Lit, Stacey Q, The Daisy Chain, The Illustrious Theatre Orchestra and Tui St. George Tucker. One of the town’s major cultural attractions is the Muckenthaler Cultural Center.



Fullerton also includes the neighborhoods of Downtown, Fuller Park, SoCo, and Sunny Hills. The population is 54% white, 34% Latino, 23% Asian, and 2% black. To read more about Fullerton, click here.


GARDEN GROVE


Downtown Garden Grove

Garden Grove has been a "capital of" numerous things from its early days up until the city was incorporated in 1956. Over the years it's been declared the chili-pepper capital of the world in the early 1920s, the poultry capital of the world a little later, the egg capital of the world not long after that, and the strawberry capital of the world in the late '50s.

It includes the neighborhoods of the Central Industrial District, College Park East, Colonia Manzanillo, Downtown, Little Seoul, Old Ranch, South of Katella, Uptown, West Garden Grove, and part of Little Saigon. To read more about Garden Grove, click here.


HUNTINGTON BEACH



For a city primarily associated just with surfing, Huntington Beach – aka “Surf City,” has a number of surprisingly varied attractions. There is surf culture aplenty and Main Street is sometimes referred to as “The Jersey Shore of the West” but there’s the Bolsa Chica Wetlands, a Richard Neutra-designed public library, the kitschy/charming Old World Village, beautiful Central Park, clubs with Vietnamese New Wave/Italo nights, and more.



HB also includes the neighborhoods of Huntington Harbour, Sunset Beach, Surfside (or Surfside Colony). The population of the city is 77% white, 17% Latino, 11% Asian, and 1% black. It is the birthplace of metal band Avenged Sevenfold, reggae group The Dirty Heads, rap rock group (Hed) P.E., folk singer Matt Costa, pop punk band The Offspring, power pop group Hellogoodbye, ska punk band Reel Big Fish, ska group Suburban Legends, and punk band The Vandals. To read more about Huntington Beach, click here.


LA HABRA



La Habra takes its name from Mariano Reyes Roldan’s Rancho Cañada de La Habra. Just north, in the Puente Hills of Los Angeles County is La Habra Heights. La Habra was incorporated in 1925. In that same decade, Rudolph Hass planted the Hass Avocado Mother Tree there and began producing one of the world’s most popular cultivars of the fruit. The tree ultimately died in 2002.




La Habra is the birthplace of metal band The Funeral Pyre, singer Jennifer Hanson, and musician Rusty Anderson. The population of La Habra is approximately 58% white, 57% Latino, 10% Asian, and 2% black.


LA PALMA


Miller Street in La Palma (1960) - image source: Orange County Archives


La Palma was incorporated in 1955, originally as Dairyland – an agricultural community zoned to exclude housing developments. Nonetheless, after the last of the dairies moved away in 1965, the name was changed to La Palma, after La Palma Avenue, and it was suburbanized. It is, area-wise, the smallest city in Orange County. The population today is about 48% Asian, 37% white, 16% Latino, and 5% black.


LITTLE SAIGON


Asian Garden Mall

Unlike fellow North Orange County ethnic enclaves Little Arabia and Little Seoul which are both fairly small, vast Little Saigon sprawls across parts of Fountain Valley, Garden Grove, Midway City, Santa Ana, and Westminster (and, to a lesser extent, Anaheim, Huntington Beach, Irvine, and Stanton). It’s the oldest, largest and most populous Vietnamese enclave in the country. It was established in Westminster although Garden Grove is now home to about 10,000 more Vietnamese than that city.



Two business pioneers, Danh Quach and Frank Jao, established the first Vietnamese businesses along Bolsa – Little Saigon is actually often referred to as Bolsa. Around the same time, in 1978, Yen Ngoc Do began publishing Người Việt Daily News. There are now more newspapers -- The Little Saigon News and Vien Dong Daily News as well as TV and radio stations including Little Saigon TV, SBTN TV, VietFace, VNA TV, Saigon TV, Little Saigon Radio, and Radio Bolsa.

Not surprisingly, it is home to a vast number of quality Vietnamese restaurants.


LOS ALAMITOS


Not to be confused with Rancho Los Alamitos, in Long Beach, the Orange County city of Los Alamitos was incorporated in 1960. The name, “Los Alamitos,” is Spanish for “The Little Cottonwoods.” The population today is approximately 71% white, 21% Latino, 13% Asian, and 3% black.

For decades the main industry in Los Alamitos was sugar beet production. Today the top employers are Los Alamitos Medical Center, Arrowhead Products, Trend Offset Printing, SuperMedia, Pharmacy Advantage, Bloomfield Bakers, Systems Services of America, Alamitos West Health Care Center, Timken, and MDA Information.


MIDWAY CITY


Despite its name, Midway City is not an actual city. It’s a “census designated place” jointly presided over by a chamber of commerce and a homeowners’ association. The “Midway” of its name comes from its being nearly equidistant to Huntington Beach, Long Beach, and Santa Ana.


Midway City began life in 1922 when John H. Harper purchased 200 acres due to its location near a stagecoach stop and the Huntington Beach Oil Field. Harper began selling lots the following year. Over the years it’s been chipped away at with annexations by Westminster and is now made up of several small, disconnected sections.

Some of the highest profile businesses include Dakao Poultry, Baladi Poultry, and Midway City FeedStore. In 1994, Midway City became the subject of mockery when several school campuses banned the playing of POGS. As the Vietnamese population has grown, the community has become unofficially part of Little Saigon. The population today is roughly 48% Asian (mostly Vietnamese), 34% white, and 29% Latino. It was the birthplace of actress Dedee PfeifferMichelle Pfeiffer’s sister.


ORANGE


Eichler Tract in Orange

Orange is fairly unique among Orange County communities in that it preserved many of its older homes, rather than demolishing them. As a result, there are many attractive Craftsman homes near the neighborhood of Old Towne. It’s also home to three Eichler tracts, more than half of the total in Southern California. It’s motto is “a slice of old town charm.” Other neighborhoods include Olive, Orange Hills, Santiago Hills and surrounds the communities of El ModenaOrange Park Acres and Villa Park.

Prior to 1873 the community was known as Richland. That year it changed its name to Orange since there was already a Richland, California. The population in 2010 was 67% white, 38% Latino,12% Asian, and 2% black.

Orange is the birthplace of actress Amber Lynn, comedian Brad Williams, actor Jason Lee, and singer Toni Childs. To read more about Orange, click here.


ORANGE PARK ACRES



Orange Park Acres is an unincorporated community surrounded by the city of Orange. In 1894, Ferdinand Keifhaber purchased a 2,000 acre farm that was part of a Spanish land grant known as Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana. In 1911, the Kiefhaber family sold a portion of the land to C.C. Chapman, Dr. Randell, Mervin Monnette, and Frank Mead Sr. In 1928, the latter two formed the Orange Park Acres Corporation of what is today Orange Park Acres. It remains mostly residential with a pronounced rural, equestrian character.


PLACENTIA



The city of Placentia’s name is Latin for “a pleasant abode.” The population is 62% white, 36 % Latino, 15% Asian, and 2% black. It’s recognized locally as home to The Bruery, Knott’s Berry Farm Foods and some supposedly excellent Mexican restaurants. It’s also the birthplace of punk bank Agent Orange and the rap-rock group Kottonmouth Kings.





ROSSMOOR



Rossmoor is a planned community developed between 1955 and 1961 by Ross W. Cortese. Part of the design involved not one but two shopping centers -- Rossmoor Village Square and Rossmoor Business Center. The latter was annexed by neighboring Seal Beach in 1962 and renamed The Shops at Rossmoor (even though they're no longer in Rossmoor). Rossmoor is walled off from the surrounding communities by a red brick “separation barrier.” The population behind the wall is 85% white, 12% Latino, and 10% Asian.


SANTA ANA


Santa Ana has the second largest population in Orange County, after Anaheim. As with most of Orange County, it was formerly dominated by a non-Latino white population back in the mid 20th Century. As late as 1970 nearly 70% of the population was white. As of 2010, an even larger majority (78%) was Latino. The rest of the population is 11% Asian, 9% white, 2% black, and 1% Native American. This radical shift is undoubtedly the reason that online comments about the city tend to laughably compare it to Juarez or Tijuana.

In reality it’s one of the county’s primary cultural centers – home to the Bowers Museum, CSUF Grand Central Art Center, El Centro Cultural de México, Discovery Science Center, Heritage Museum of Orange County, and more. The Observatory (formerly the Galaxy Theatre) was where I was lucky enough to see a live performance by Italo/Vietnamese New Wave legend, Gazebo.

In short, it enjoys a bustling nightlife, daytime, art scene, food scene and many historic sites. To read more about it, click here.


SEAL BEACH



Seal Beach Pier - image source: Ajumma's Pad

Seal Beach is located in westernmost Orange County, adjacent to Long Beach in Los Angeles County. It also includes the neighborhoods of Leisure World and Surfside Seal Beach. It was previously known as Anaheim Landing. It later became known as Bay City but since there was already another Bay City, it was renamed Seal Beach when it was incorporated in 1915.

As of 2010 the population was 84% white, 10% Asian, 10% Latino, and 1% black. In 2011 Seal Beach witnessed Orange County’s worse mass shooting when Kenneth Caleb murdered eight people at a beauty salon. Seal Beach Councilman Gordon Shanks offended many when he remarked, "These things are not supposed to happen here. Maybe in Compton." Many were quick to point out that there had never been a mass shooting of that magnitude in Compton’s history.


STANTON


Stanton, California's Del Taco #10

Stanton grew up along the Los Angeles Interurban Railway’s Santa Ana Railway Line, which formerly connected Watts to Santa Ana beginning in 1905. It was incorporated in 1911. The fickle city then dis-incorporated in 1924. It once again incorporated in 1956. For such a small city, it is blessed with the presence of numerous, small parks.

Stanton’s largest employers are CR&R, Sam's Club, The Home Depot, Adventure City, and All Metals Processing. The population is 51% Latino, 21% white, 24% Asian, 2% black, and 1% Native American.


TONNER CANYON



Tonner Canyon is an undeveloped area in the Puente Hills just south of Rowland Heights at the southern edge of LA County’s San Gabriel Valley. Nearly all of the 5,700 acres are owned by the City of Industry. The Orange County portion was formerly owned by Brea Cañon Oil.


VILLA PARK



Villa Park is a small community completely surrounded by the city of Orange. It incorporated in 1962. Its declining population has turned it into the smallest city in the county, population-wise. The small city is mostly residential – comprised of about 2,000 single family homes. There is one shopping center with a Ralph’s grocery store, a pharmacy and more. There are zero public parks and few streets have parking lots, perhaps to dissuade visits from outsiders. Its motto is “Villa Park, the hidden jewel.”

The population is 78% white, 16% Asian, and 10% Latino. 60% of residents are registered Republicans. It’s the birthplace of no known notables in any creative field as far as my (minimal) research has turned up.


WESTMINSTER


Vietnam War Memorial - Westminster, California

Westminster was founded in 1870 by Reverend Lemuel Webber as a Presbyterian temperance colony, its name a reference to the Westminster Assembly of 1643 (which laid out the basic tenets of Presbyterianism). Its motto is “The city of progress built on pride.” Before its incorporation, Westminster (along with Barber City and Midway City) was considered to be part of “Tri-City.” Upon incorporation it annexed Barber City (Midway City remains unincorporated).

In the 1970s, it received a large influx of Vietnamese refugees. Today the population is 48% Asian (85% Vietnamese), 36% white, 24% Latino, and 1% black. Nowadays it is home to the largest concentration of Vietnamese-Americans in the world. Any visit should include checking out Asian Garden Mall (Phước Lộc Thọ) and a meal at Bo De Tinh Tam Chay (which I'm responsible for adding to Urbanspoon).

Westminster is the birthplace of documentarian Harrod Blank, professional gamer Ken Hoang, dance crew Poreotics, and the a cappella group, the Westminster Chorus.


YORBA LINDA



Yorba Linda is an Orange County community that borders the Inland Empire’s San Bernardino County and whose motto is “Land of gracious living.” It’s named after Californio rancher, Bernardo Yorba. It was primarily agricultural until the 1960s, when the population began to grow rapidly.

President Richard Nixon was born there in 1913, the year after it acquired its first post office and began receiving electricity. His home, where he lived until 1922, and the adjacent Richard Nixon Library and Museum are the city’s chief attractions. I visited the museum once but became so engrossed by Dan Quayle’s memoir, Standing firm (with its frank discussion of his beef with Murphy Brown and Potatoegate) that I never made it past the gift shop.

Yorba Linda was incorporated in 1967 and also includes the neighborhoods of Carlton and East Lake. In some ways it feels more like a typical South County city. The population is 75% white, 16% Asian, 14% Latino, and 1% black. About 57% of its inhabitants are Republicans.

It’s the birthplace of guitarist Eric Charles "Erock" Friedman (Creed and Submersed), actress Mitzi Kapture, singer Sabrina Ryan (of The Cheetah Girls), and the metalcore band, Atreyu.

So there you have it – a brief and by no means complete entry to North Orange County. Get out there and explore, vote and share your experiences!

Continue reading...

Nature's a language, can't you read? -- Seasons in the Southland

Posted by Eric Brightwell, November 20, 2012 03:45pm | Post a Comment
A FEW GENERALIZATIONS ABOUT ANGELENOS

While I caution anyone attempting to make generalizations about a group as diverse and large as the 13 million or so people known as “Angelenos,” I have nonetheless made a couple of observations about a much smaller subsection, my Los Angeles friends, that I have to assume share more widely-held views with Angelenos with whom I'm not personally acquainted. Just one example; as far as I can tell, only in Los Angeles do people say things like “only in LA” about things that happen pritnear everywhere.

In this entry I'd like to address and reflect upon another completely nonsensical but widely held view – that Los Angeles (and presumably at least the entire Southland and possibly all of SoCal) has no seasons or weather.


Los Angeles's The Byrds weighing in on seasons...


IN ONE CORNER -- THE SPOILED BABIES


As far as most people are concerned, temperatures in Los Angeles are usually quite pleasant. The daytime average is 24 °C (75 °F). The warmest days rarely exceed 32 °C (90 °F) and rarely dip below 15°C (59 °F). When temperatures deviate from this narrow comfort zone, legions of thoroughly-spoiled (and acclimated) complainers express their indignation on various social media and to their friends. As someone who has truly suffered through 48 °C (118 °F) heat and -42 °C (-44 °F) I have little sympathy for our weather whiners -- we have it so easy!



IN THE OTHER CORNER -- THE BLIND HATERS 


The other camp express the exact opposite opinion. They complain about the lack of seasons and weather (to which they are seemingly either willfully blind and/or ecologically monolingual). When it’s hot in November, for example, they typically post things on Facebook like “Really LA? 85 degrees in November?! I’m so over this city!” They're continually threatening to relocate (or move back) to London, New York, Portland, or San Francisco but never seem to leave Los Angeles, instead remaining and inflicting complaints upon their friends year after pleasant year. This group whiners concerns me even more than the former because it's a bit like a monolinguist dismissing all languages other than theirs as meaningless noises. Both groups of fools need to get wise...



TIME OF THE SEASON 


Image from Matt Jaffe


There are all kinds of indicators of seasons to those with open eyes, ears, minds, mouths and noses. What vegetables are at the farmers' market, what sort of parties are happening, what type of movies are in theaters, what people are wearing, &c. There are also, of course, meteorological indicators but many people are maddeningly unable to recognize them.

When I moved to Los Angeles, I was often asked by friends back home if I “missed having seasons.” Sure, I miss breezy, cool spring days with flowers popping up through the fragrant, soggy, thawing soil and swimming in the just-thawed pond. I even miss sticky, sweltering summer nights spent drinking on a porch with a fan in the window and watching fireflies and heat lightning – and swatting mosquitoes. I miss the Rivendell-vibe of Autumn twilights, when cool winds carry dead leaves and the comforting smell of fireplaces -- perhaps following a visit to an apple orchard. I even miss the brittle, arctic chill of icy winters when I used to take deep breaths, play hockey, go camping, and go ice diving. Despite all of that and the fact that I rarely experience anything similar in Los Angeles, I don’t miss seasons. Mainly because I still have them. For that matter, everyone in every climate on Earth does. 


LEARNING TO READ 


When people visit California for the first time (including yours truly), they often remark with surprise that it’s a desert. The popular tropical icons of the region – palm trees – suggested to me that it would be more like the city in Florida where I briefly lived than the town in Languedoc where I did for an even shorter period. I was pleasantly surprised, mind you, by this surprise.

I had no interest in living in the glamorous, celebrity-obsessed, semi-tropical (or alternately gang-plagued war zone) that I’d seen depicted in film after film. I was pleasantly surprised that Los Angeles was more Latino, more Asian, more varied, more diverse, more cultured, and all around more interesting than I’d expected. I was also surprised that it was less black, less white, and less vertical than I’d expected, based on my experiences with other cities. I was absolutely grateful that it was less plastic, less violent... and not semi-tropical.


Having grown up in the South and Midwest, I didn’t arrive to Southern California fluent in the language of its seasons. I arrived in the summer and Christmas caught me off guard -- I hadn't noticed any snowstorms. When it started raining heavily almost every day I made an effort to learn the  native language.


CHAPARRAL

Image source: Larisa Stow


The lingua franca of the Southland is Chaparral (or Mediterranean). I’ve never really liked the term “Mediterranean” because it suggests to me that the climate found in parts of Southern California, Argentina, Australia, Chile, and Mexico is somehow a version of that found in sea between Europe, the Levant, and North Africa (as if Europe's climate is the original) rather than an indigenous phenomenon. It also suggests the kind of Eurocentrism that's gotten the region into serious trouble.



REMAKING SOCAL IN ANOTHER'S IMAGE


Image Source: Title Insurance and Trust / C.C. Pierce Photography Collection, USC Libraries


Today roughly 54% of Angelenos trace at least some of their ancestry to Europe. The largest European ethnicities in Los Angeles are SpanishGerman, Irish, English, Italian, and French. Of those, only two countries of ancestral origin (Spain and Italy) are dominated by a similar biome (whilst the southern parts of France have it too). In the past Los Angeles was even more European-American -- even sold as the implicitly Protestant "White Spot of America." European immigrants as well as American ones from the Midwest and the Northeast, often attempted to adapt the landscape to their tastes rather than adapt their tastes to their new home. Native plants were largely replaced by homeowners who desired thirsty, manicured, useless grass lawns and rose gardens like those of their temperate homelands. 


Image source: huval

Developers were crazy for palm trees -- only one species of which, Washingtonia filifera (the California fan palm) is actually native to California. Despite the fact that they further tax our already taxed water supply and provide little shade, they were popular as they gave the impression of Los Angeles being an "exotic" desert oasis or tamed bit of semi-tropics. The palm tree fad peaked in the 1930s and now many of the iconic trees are nearing the end of their lives (or being killed by weevils). Thankfully, the LADWP is now in the habit of replacing them not with more palms, but rather with more water-wise trees adapted to the chaparral.


THE NATURAL LANDSCAPE



The area occupied by the City of Los Angeles is not a desert although parts of Southern California and  the Los Angeles County are. The Mojave and Colorado Deserts are just over the hills. One of the reasons California is so-often miscategorized as a desert is because back in the day water barons wanted to justify their huge engineering projects that redirected water from other regions, casting themselves as the city's saviors in the process. Their projects did truly transform the environment. For example, the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys were mostly dry grasslands with trees mostly growing along the banks of streams and in the surrounding foothills -- although they'd by then been transformed by centuries of use by the Spanish as grazing pastures. Major transformation of the Southland's landscape began with the Spanish Conquest of not just the indigenous people but the indigenous environment. The Spaniards planted palms, eucalyptus, mustard and crops for both their animals, their slaves and themselves. 

The hills and much of the Los Angeles Basin are still dominated by sclerophyll shrublands. In other parts of the world this biome is referred to as fynbos, kwongan, mallee, maquis, and matorral. Although I'm thankful for the shade and water, they come at a cost. I'm even more thankful that (and hopeful because) many people are increasingly embracing native plants and at least water-wise xeriscaping which often utilizes non-natives but less thirsty specimens. And while I'm at it, why don't we have more extensive green roofs, permeable roads and river beds?

And now a look at the seasons of the Southland...


*****


CHAPARRAL WINTER


image source: Rodney Ramsey


There are several indicators of winter's arrival to SoCal. The year usually begins with a short but occasionally intense rainy season. A desert usually receives less than ten inches of rain whereas Los Angeles usually receives between fifteen and twenty. As a result of the rainfall, vegetation flourishes, the chaparral (and distant desert) blooms, and the pollen count rises – resulting in people with allergies becoming measurably crankier.

The air becomes amazingly clear and distant snow-capped mountains emerge. The nights are long and cold. Not inland cold, thank heavens, but legitimately cold -- especially if you don't have a proper coat in your possession. On average the temperature drops to about 9°C (48°F). The record low, −6 °C (21 °F), was recorded on 20 January, 1922.

Winter begins with the Winter Solstice, which comes between 21 and 22 December and the sun sinks beneath the horizon around 16:45. For the indigenous Chumash, Winter Solstice meant honoring the sun with several days of feasting and dancing and it was the biggest religious ritual of their people. Winter solstice also marked the beginning of the calendar of the Tongva, who arrived some 10,000 years later. 

California grows about 80% of the USA's vegetables and fruits. In winter, asparagus, avocados, blood oranges, cabbage, carambola, cardoons, collards, grapefruit, green peas, kale, kiwis, kumquats, leeks, lemons, lettuce, Medjool dates, mushrooms, mustard, navel oranges, passion fruit, pears, pommelos, rutabaga, satsumas, scallions (good year round), spinach, strawberries, sweet potatoes, tangelos, tangerines, treviso, and turnips are all in season.








CHAPARRAL SPRING


image source: LA Observed

As winter transitions into spring, the days begin to grow warmer, longer, and usually drier with most rainfall ending around April. The first day of spring is the Vernal Equinox, which occurs around the 20th of March. Like autumn leaves elsewhere, in Los Angeles we get colorful, falling spring flowers (and flower-like spring leaves) from Bottle BrushesBougainvilleas, and Jacarandas which add a pastel beauty to the landscape yet are received with moaning from haters of beauty for the "mess" they make... on the ground... in nature. 

Around the middle of the year, in late spring, the cold waters of the Pacific current known as the California Current meet a high pressure formation known as the California High. The result is a thick, sticky marine layer known colloquially as June Gloom (as well as, depending on the month: GrayprilMay GrayNo-SkyJuly, or Fogust). The weather is typically hot but the sky is overcast although rain is fairly uncommon. Instead, the thick marine layer usually burns off later in the day.

Many crops remain in season but are joined at the market by newly seasonal apricots, Asian pears, artichokes, arugula, basil, black-eyed peas, cherries, cucumbers, fava beans, fennel, fiddle heads, figs, grapes, green beans, green garlic, maize, melons, mint, morels,  nectarines, nettles, new potatoes, okra, parsley, peaches,  peppers, radishes, ramps, raspberries, rhubarb, snap peas, snow peas, spring onions, strawberries, summer squash, sweet onions, tomatoes, and Valencia oranges.

 







CHAPARRAL SUMMER


image source: Ricardo DeAratanha for the Los Angeles Times

Summer begins on the Summer Solstice, which falls between the 20th and 21st of June. At Burro Flats in the Simi Hills is a painted cave that served as a gathering place for the Chumash, Tataviam, and Tongva. As the sun moves across the sky on the longest day of the year, a notched sandstone peak casts a shadow across a carving of a bear claw surrounded by carved indentations. To the south, the Acagchemem looked to the stars of Orion's belt and the Pleiades to forecast summer's return. 

Summers tend to be long, dry and hot… hot but usually not that hot. Summer highs average in the high 20s  low 80s °F) although the inland areas and valleys especially are usually quite a bit warmer than the coastal areas. At night it can be surprisingly cold -- well, cold if you've acclimated to a climate where high teens (low 60s °F) counts as "surprisingly cold." Not too bad really and probably the reason a large percentage of the population has chosen to live here for thousands of years.

The days are sunny and long, ending in some beautiful sunsets and moonrises. Under those long sunny days, bell peppers, blackberries, boysenberries, Brussels sprouts, cantaloupes, carrots, cherries, chickpeas, chili peppers, cilantro, figs, eggplant, garlic, gooseberries, limes, marionberries, onions parsnips, pineapple guava, Plums, pluots, radicchio, ramps, sapote, shallots, shelling beans, soybeans, sweet peppers, tomatillos, and zucchini (and zucchini blossoms) flourish.







CHAPARRAL AUTUMN



Fall begins with the autumnal equinox, which occurs on the 22nd or 23rd of September. For the Chumash it fell during the month of Hutash, and was observed with a harvest ceremony which seems to have been marked with a degree of solemnity. 

In autumn, the dry, hot, violent Santa Ana Winds sweep across Los Angeles as the nights grow longer and more orange. Fires are common – caused by both lightning and firebugs. Some years the hillsides burn on all sides, the sky turns ashy and it begins to feel like something from the imagination of  Dante Alighieri or Hieronymus Bosch. When the winds finally subside, the less-feared Santa Ana Fog often replaces them.

Although many are available in other times of the year, Autumn is when apples, a second crop of artichokes, Belgian endive, broccoli, carambola, cauliflower, celeriac, celery, chard, cherimoyas, daikon, escarole, fennel, a second crop of figs, frisée, horseradish, Jerusalem artichokes, kohlrabi, lemongrass, persimmons, pomegranates, potatoes, pumpkins, quinces, and rapini are all at their best. 



Tom Russell - "Santa Ana Winds" (live)








...and, as seasons are cyclical, winter returns. So to repeat my earlier statement, I do miss the seasons of my youth but I don't miss seasons. I'm enjoying them every day.

*****

For Ozoners Only -- On this day, in 1933, the first drive-in theater opened

Posted by Eric Brightwell, June 6, 2012 11:22am | Post a Comment
THE FIRST DRIVE-IN


An advertisement for the first Drive-In 

The first drive-in theater opened on 6 June, 1933 at 2901 Admiral Wilson Boulevard in Camden, New Jersey. It was the invention of Richard M. Hollingshead Jr, who'd began screening films outdoors at his home with a 1928 Kodak projector sat on the roof of his car. He applied for a patent for his "invention" on 16 May, 1933. The feature film shown at his theater was the British comedy, Wives Beware.


The world's first Drive-In Theater

Before long, drive-ins, or automobile movie theaters, were opening in other states. California's first drive-in was the Pico Drive-In at 10850 W. Pico Boulevard, which opened  West Los Angeles in September, 1934. It was demolished in 1947 and was replaced by the Picwood Theatre in 1948. The Picwood closed in 1985, was demolished and replaced with the Westside Pavilion -- which includes the Landmark Theatre.


The Pico Drive-In

DRIVE-INS' PEAK


Although Hollingshead's pioneering theater closed in 1936 after only three years of operation -- a victim of a battle with Paramount Pictures -- the idea was popular although blasting sound outdoors necessitated the theaters being placed in less-developed areas.A major drive-in innovation occurred in 1941, when RCA introduced in-car speakers. Popularity exploded and by 1948 there were nearly 1,000 drive-ins. By the end of the 1950s, drive-ins accounted for 40% of theater grosses. In California, the number of drive-ins peaked in the 1960s, reaching 220.

THE RISE OF HOME VIDEO AND DRIVE-INS' DECLINE




Drive-ins popularity plummeted in the 1970s with the rise of home video's popularity. Family nights out could now be family nights in for the low price of a rental and some microwave popcorn. Betamax was released in 1975. VHS was introduced in Japan in 1976 and the US in 1977. DiscoVision, a precursor to LaserDisc, was introduced in 1978. Our family got our first VCR in 1978, coincidentally the last year the family went to the drive-in that I remember (Rocky at the Circle 25 Drive-In in Lexington, Kentucky -- demolished in 1982).

DRIVE-INS TODAY - CALIFORNIA LOVE


Thou shalt support drive-in theaters!

Nowadays there are about 500 drive-ins operating in the US and California – where cars double as family rooms -- is home to more than any other state. In the Southern California, drive-in lovers have some options.










SOCAL'S DRIVE-INS


The HiWay, SoCal's oldest functioning drive-in

Devil's Night Drive-In
is sort of an improvised drive-in/outdoor screening that takes place in a downtown parking garage at 240 W 4th St and screens mostly '80s movies to car-goers, bike-goers and people seated on a patch of astroturf. On 28 October, 2012 it is scheduled to relaunch as Electric Dusk Drive-In.

The HiWay Drive-In opened in Santa Maria in 1959. Today it’s the only remaining drive-in in Santa Barbara County.

The Mission Drive-In opened in Montclair in 1956 as a single screen. The original screen was demolished and replaced by four smaller screens in 1975. It was later re-named The Mission Tiki Drive-In.

The Paramount Drive-In opened as The Roadium Drive-In in Paramount in 1947. The screen went dark in 1991 and it re-opened in 2014 as The Paramount Drive-In.

The Rubidoux Drive-In opened in Riverside in 1948, with a single screen and amusement park rides thrown in. In 1983, two more screens were added.

The Santa Fe Springs Drive-In opened in 1950 in Santa Fe Springs as the La Mirada Drive-In. In 1965, they added a permanent swap meet – now a common feature at drive-ins. In 1990, in fact, the screen went dark except for rare, special occasions but the swap meet continues.

The Santee Drive-In Theatre opened in Santee in 1958 as a single screen drive-in. Around 1964, a second screen was added.

The Skyline Drive-In opened in 1966 in Barstow and went dark in 1987. In 1996, it re-opened as a single screen and has since added a second.

Smith’s Ranch Drive-In opened in 29 Palms in 1954 and has a pretty small (330 car) capacity.

The South Bay Drive-In opened in 1958 and is San Diego’s last operating drive-in.

The Sunset Drive-In opened in San Luis Obispo in 1950 as a single-screen theater and remains largely unchanged today.

The Van Buren Drive-In Theatre opened in 1964 in the historic Arlington neighborhood in Riverside.

The Vineland Drive-In opened in City of Industry in 1955 and has four screens.

*****

If you've never been to a drive-in show, you really need to do yourself a favor by visiting one in the near future. Especially in SoCal, where you've got great weather, serious car love and a fair number of these treasures still operate.
*****

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