Walking L.A. by Erin Mahoney Harris

Did everyone have an amazing weekend? How beautiful was LA’s weather?! It’s so hard to believe it’s January. You all better have been out enjoying it.

I must announce that Erin Mahoney Harris (writer of Walking L.A.) liked Life Absorbed on facebook today. This is huge for me, as friends of mine could tell you that this book has been my bible for the last 12 months. For new readers to the blog I must explain that in 2011 I came up with a list of new year resolutions with my number one goal of completing all 38 walks from her book. I completed them all and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. It got me to explore LA, it helped me lose weight, it reconnected me with old friends and helped me start new friendships, and it changed how I live my life. I know you’re probably thinking Im giving too much credit to a book, but by setting that as my goal it really got me through a rough time by keeping me focused. It opened my eyes to how I was living my life and made 2011 my best year. So Erin Mahoney Harris, I thank you for making 2011 awesome. For those of you who don’t own this book, buy it (HERE). And if you are interested in following my 2012 goal, purchase Secret Stairs by Charles Fleming (who was inspired by Erin’s book) and L.A. Bizarro by Anthony Lovett and Matt Maranian. While I doubt I’ll visit every place in the L.A. Bizarro book by the end of 2012, I do hope to finish all 42 walks from Secret Stairs by the end of the year.

Teaser for upcoming posts this week: I went ROCK CLIMBING! A spooky girls night up in the Hollywood Hills! Exploring Beechwood Canyon (Secret Stairs #34)! And this Thursday I will try trampoline dodgeball!

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LA Walk #35 USC and Exposition Park

After I finished my UCLA walk last weekend, it felt only fitting to follow it up with the USC walk (from THIS book). Amber and I found ourselves begining the walk with grumbling stomaches, so we crossed Figueroa Street and sat ourselves in an awesome restaurant/bar/pub the The Lab Gastropub. This place was extremely unexpected. They had long tables (which had chalkboard tops) which different groups of people would share. They had four Lab brews (see the sampler below). There were football games going and wifi. If I went to USC I would spend all my time here. I also had a delicious falafel burger with sweet potato fries (yummm).

After we had our fill, we began the walk across the street at Child’s Way on the USC campus. This campus was almost as quiet at UCLA. It was a lovely day, so we took our time exploring the campus.

The walk takes you to Heritage Hall where USC keeps all their Heisman trophies and various awards. The building was locked up, but we could see the trophies through the windows. Amber is a big football fan, so it felt appropriate to get her best Heisman impersonation.

After exploring more of USC, the walk takes you across the street where you get to play under an old United Airlines jet, which is part of the Aerospace Museum. This day their was an event outside the California Africian American Museum. Unfortunately, it was around this point when my camera started acting a little crazy… which was a tad distracting considering I had a lot more less to see on the walk.

While I tried not to think about my camera acting weirder and weirder, I was still able to get a couple good shots in before it really crapped out. Amber and I decided to visit the Natural History Museum and see the new dinosaur wing they’ve been advertising around town. This place was awesome. I highly recommend visiting. They also accept a KCRW discount.

The museum featured a section of the museum dedicated to birds, Africa, The America’s, geology/gems, whales, the marshlands, etc etc… so much to see.

It started getting late and the museum was about to close, so we continued on with our walk (USC isn’t much fun walking around in the dark). The walk takes you by the Coliseum and then to the California Science Center. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to stop in, but it is free and I will 100% be going back. They also added a metro line that goes right to USC, so it’s easier than ever to get there.

We continued the walk, stepping under an A-12 Blackbird spy craft built in the 1960’s which is connected with the Coliseum parking garage. From there we finished the walk by heading back to the car. Overall, I have to admit USC had a really beautiful campus, but UCLA really takes the cake. But USC definitely wins the museum category.

I’ll leave you with this last image from the Science Museum. It makes me smile.

LA Walk #6 UCLA

As a reward for your patience with my lack of posts this week, I put up info about an awesome event at the bottom of this post. NO SKIPPING AHEAD (Okay, you can skip ahead if you want).

As I am narrowing in on victory (1 more walk left!), I must recap my goal: to complete all 38 LA Walks from THIS book, in 2011. Michelle joined me for my UCLA walk which took place on Saturday around 3:30pm. Keep in mind, it’s their finals time and it is a commuter school, because the place was a ghost town. We began by parking in a lot on campus near the start of the walk. It cost us $6 for two hours, and be sure to pay for parking because even though it was crazy quiet on campus the UCLA police are always looking for a chance to ticket (plus all the hoity-toity neighborhoods nearby require permits to park).

Michelle and I started our walk in the sculpture garden which is more than 5 acres and filled with sculptures by Alexander Calder, Henri Matisse, Jacques Lipchitz, and Auguste Rodin. It’s such a tranquil place to come relax and read on the grass in the garden surrounded by art. We did this walk in the late afternoon, which made for great lighting and also a totally different experience from all the walks we’ve done so far (which took place at noon).

We got a little off course while in the sculpture garden because we saw so many buildings worth investigating that weren’t on the path outlined in the book, but I guess that’s the fun of it. We took a look at their art building and some well designed residence halls.

I must give credit where it is due, UCLA is kept extraordinarily clean and pristine. The lawns are all well manicured, there was no trash, and all of the buildings are either old and well kept or modern and state-of-the-art. Honestly walking that campus made me think about going back to school again. Spending 3 years on that campus wouldn’t be so bad.

I mean, don’t these buildings make studying seem glamourous instead of exhausting?

We walked through Bruin Plaza and got to take pictures with their bruin mascot (a statue). The only thing we arrived too late for was a walk through their botanical gardens. We just missed our chance to walk the gardens, but we were able to see in past the gates. The garden is 7 acres and sinks below the street level, which acts as a dividing line showcasing the contrast between the modern School of Denistry building and the lush wildlife of the gardens. Someday Ill be back there and I will bring a book, as it seems like a great haven to sit and relax after a long day in the science labs.

As the photos got darker and darker, we completed our walk and headed back to the car (so as not to go over our 2 hour parking limit). UCLA, you were a marvelous, photogenic walk and I would happily go back to see more.

P.S. Get tickets to Sarah Silverman @ Largo on Dec. 15th HERE, and you’ll get to see Don’t Stop Or We’ll Die (they are good musicians and hilarious). Follow the guys on twitter: twittels, paulrust, michaelcassady

LA Walk #32: Little Tokyo

As you probably have read, I have a goal of completing all the walks from Walking L.A. (second edition) by Erin Mahoney Harris, by the end of 2011 (order it HERE). I’ve got less than two months left, and after this past weekend I have 8 more walks to complete (out of 38 total). Saturday turned out to be sunny despite reports of rainy weather, and I saw it as the perfect chance to complete walk #38: Little Tokyo. My good friend Amber and I were going to meet in the valley and take the metro down to the start of the walk (red line to the blue line) unfortunately Amber ran into some car trouble. Thankfully we got it all sorted out, and the only money spent was on a $5 wrench. So our day got off to a late start, but around 3pm we were headed for Little Tokyo (1st St. and S. Central Ave to be exact).

We parked in a lot by 2nd St. and Los Angeles St., $4 flat rate for the day. We started by going to T.O.T. for lunch. Amber got the veggie tempura and spicy chicken (spicy was an overstatement) and I got two rolls (tuna and shrimp tempura). From there we were on our way to begin walk #32 mid route at the Kyoto Grand Hotel and Gardens. We followed the instructions and took the elevator on the right to the “Garden Level” where a wedding was about to take place in the upper level of the garden. Unfortunately this meant part of the garden was closed off to the public, but we still got to see the lower level with it’s waterfalls and lush gardens. We also got a great view of the city. Once we said our congratulations to the wedding guests, we continued on our walk through a connector to Weller Court.

Weller Court is an outdoor mall with many restaurants and shops that were quiet on a Saturday but I imagine bustling mid week. Amber recognized Orochon Ramen, a restaurant featured on Man Vs. Food. We walked through the court stopping at a bookstore filled with literature and magazines in Japanese. Once exiting the courtyard, you can’t miss the giant Challenger statue dedicated to Colonel Ellison Shoji Onizuka who passed away in the explosion.

After paying our respect we continued on the walk along San Pedro St. past Azusa St. into the huge courtyard of the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center. We entered the large austere building across the courtyard where many young ballerinas were preparing their routines for an audition. There was also a crew of artists setting up an exhibit in a small gallery on the first floor. We followed the books instruction and entered the elevator to go down to the basement level. Clearly a wedding reception was in process (we knew this by all the signs saying “Closed to the Public!”) and while Amber is not a rule breaker, I am! I was a bad influence and while we were dressed more for a workout than a wedding, we continued towards the reception to get a glimpse at the secret gardens described in my book. We were doing so well, even one of the servers who knew we didn’t belong, offered us an egg roll. We got a peak at the garden and then Amber went to use the restroom while I was waiting in the hall (coincidently by the office to the Event Coordinator) when we got caught. The Coordinator was not happy we were using the restroom near the event space and gave me plenty of attitude. Once Amber came out, we fled back to the first level where we got back to our walk.

We crossed 2nd St. and stopped at Pop Killer (fun hipster-type gifts, glasses, tee shirts, and creative ideas) on our way through the Japanese Village Plaza Mall. We based a fun restaurant called Oiwake that has conveyer-belt sushi and karaoke. I must eat at this place sometime soon. We continued through the plaza and exited along 1st street and crossed to walk along the pedestrian walkway on Central Ave, which holds the Japanese American National Museum, the Moca Geffen Contemporary Museum, and The National Center for the Preservation of Democracy. At the end of the walkway is the Go For Broke Monument which salutes the 16,000+ Japanese people who helped battle for America during World War II despite the internment camps that their families were in back in the States.

Once you head back to 1st St., cross to the west side of the street and you can sneak a peak at the Koyasan Buddhist Temple down one of the alley’s along this street. Take a left along San Pedro St. and find yourself by the knott sculpture that marks entrance to Weller Court.

After this concluded walk #32 (which was a great one) we decided to walk back to Central and 1st where the Weiland Brewery Restaurant is located. We had to try the titular beer, so Amber tried the Weiland Hefeweizen and I ordered the Weiland Honey Blonde. We both really enjoyed both beers. We were still full from lunch, but boy did those garlic fries smell good. We didn’t order them, but I made a mental note that I must go back and I must try those fries. The next time I’m in that area I also need to visit the Angel City Brewery, which is just a few blocks away. Now just 8 more walks to go!