Wednesday, August 31, 2005

California Addictions

My time in Southern California is coming to an end. Here is a list of things that I have become addicted to while here this summer:

1. In-N-Out Burger
2. Mango-a-go-go at Jamba Juice
3. Two Spanish-speaking radio stations 97.9 and 99.7
4. Swimming laps in the hotel pool

Monday, August 29, 2005

The Grotto

When we pulled up early this morning to the Circle X Ranger Station in the Santa Monica Mountains, the sign read "off duty," which I thought was odd for a Sunday. Nonetheless, we read the bulliten board safety info,grabbed a map, and began our descent into The Grotto, a land of giant boulders set deep in the valley. The trail to the destination was blazing (to put it mildly). It felt like walking a treadmill between four opened, preheated ovens. The fact that there was very little sign of other hikers or animals made me wonder if we weren't supposed to be on this trail at this time..

The actual Grotto itself was pleasant. We had to traverse over ridiculously giant rocks that were basically balancing on one another in order to descend down into the dry river bed. Making conversation, Viki asked if there were an earthquake and she suddenly became pinned under a boulder if I would kill her even if she begged me to end her internal and external suffering...

Yeah, Debbie Downer...I know...

"Well, if it were ME, how would you put me out of my misery even if you COULD do it??" I exclaimed.

"I dunno, probably throw rocks at your head I guess..."

Though the Grotto itself was a blast, the return trip was not of equal blast quality. The problem with hiking into a dry valley is that the entire trip back is an sweltering uphill climb. The two rangers - who apparently decided to sleep in on a Sunday - were present upon our return and informed us that a heat advisory was in effect at the time and that the two of them had been recommending that hikers hit the mall. "Good to know," I thought.....

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Elaborate Silver Bowls

Yesterday after working on my secret painting for Viki, I went up north again to meet the newly-employed Susanna, her cousin George, and her friend from Taiwan Mika. We went to a Thai restaurant that of course had really elaborate-looking silver bowls and tiny servings of sweet porridge at the end, which I'm finding is very common in a Thai place...

Friday, August 26, 2005

"Just An Artist..."

Well, I'm wrapping up my time in Gum Grove Park. Still no koala sightings yet...

This location has slowly become my favorite spot because of the proximity to the hotel, abundance of free parking, scarcity of tourists, high dog-to-human ratio, and constant eucalyptic aroma. I hope this area isn't going to be crawling with a bunch of new houses next time I come...

Today, a friendly old man walking by and admiring my painting chatted with me about various topics such as how beautiful the central coast of California is and how Gum Grove Park is a nice area to stroll. Everything was cool until after a long pause he asked, "Son, are you a Christian?" I awkwardly answered with possibly the strangest reply ever given to this question in the history of the world...

"Oh, no sir...just an artist."

In the end, he gave me a pamphlet, said a few words about his changed life, and left in the white van that he rode up in. While eating his dust, I on the other hand pondered my unusual but natural response. It just seemed the way he spoke of Christianity that we were talking about professions and not affiliations...

Thursday, August 25, 2005

I Am the Chameleon

I decided today would be the last day to paint in El Dorado Park, mainly because my paintings need time to dry before I pack them into boxes. I've spent so much time at this spot I feel like I could repaint all the lines, values, and colors from memory if I had to (but hopefully that won't be the case.)

By the way, have I mentioned that I've been addicted to the Spanish-speaking radio stations since I've been here? I only like the ones that play old style Mexican music with lots of trumpets and accordians. Today on the radio a little girl requested in Spanish one of my favorite tunes of the summer. The DJ asked "Cuantos anos tienes!?" and in a tiny voice she replied, "tres." It was quite adorable. In the chorus of the song the guy is saying "I'm a chameleon." Now you too can enjoy the song by clicking here .

Monday, August 22, 2005

Coldplay at Irvine, CA

I had no idea Chris Martin was such a stand-up comic. He was cracking jokes left and right and flying all over the stage while he sung. I always imagined he would just sit there like Liam from Oasis but there was so much energy beaming from the stage. The show was well worth the hassle of getting to the doubt about that and the band kept making it perfectly clear that they appreciated the fans. I could NOT, however, believe people were actually getting drunk there off of $12 beer.

Click on any of the songs below to see a video clip. I had a really good one of "Yellow" but hastily erased it at the concert thinking it was a fuzzy still photo...

The Scientist
Johnny Cash Ring of Fire
Can't recall song title just yet...
In My Place
Fix You

Sunday, August 21, 2005


Viki and I spent about 8 hours in the The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) today. We opted out of the $25 per person, 8:00 am tickets for King Tut and went straight into general admission. The museum had artifacts from just about every major era of human civilization as well as a modest collection of early American and European paintings. We took this photo in the Contemporary Art wing where someone had recreated the complete look, feel, sound, and smell of a vintage and rural garage.

Highlights this time for me included a number of Rodin statues, a Pissarro urban street scene, a Tim Hawkinson contemporary exhibit, a fantastic Corot landscape, and a Monet lilypad piece (which I'm starting to understand the abstract qualities of.) One of my favorites today was this William Wendt landscape (seen below) done during the era of California Impressionism.

Here is last night's dinner of Japanese Shabu Shabu in Little Tokyo of downtown LA.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Beef Toungue Taco

I sure am getting used to this whole hiking thing...

Escondido Falls in Malibu required a bit of rock climbing and stream hopping but the reward was well worth it. The first mile of the trail was down the paved road of a extravagant mountain-top neighborhood, which made it a little awkward when rich people drove by wondering why two haggard Asians were mulling through their streets. After a steep climb that even a mountain goat would be proud of,we reached the second tier of the falls (as seen in the picture above.)

Afterwards Viki and I went to La Playita...a totally ghettoed-out Mexican food joint literally on the side of the road in Santa Monica. You can either take food to go or sit on side and eat it. Of course, I let Viki order in Spanish so that they knew we were on their side. Don't let the ghetto appearance fool you though because the food is so fresh, authentic, and delicious. Today I had a beef tounge taco amongst my order which I enjoyed thoroughly.

The day before Escondido Falls, I continued painting at Gum Grove Park in absolute isolation. The park is overrun by eucalyptus trees which really makes for a nice minty aroma when the wind is blowing. Unfortunately, when the wind is blowing though, my canvas turns into a damn sail. No koala sightings yet by the way...

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Norton Simon, Pasadena CA

Luckily, I found out of the existence of the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena before I left SoCalf for the summer. Free admission and free parking for a museum are very hard to come by in this area. I'm not a huge fan of Renoir but this has always been my favorite Renoir painting in books, probably because it's less "Renoir" than his popular syle. That sure makes sense, doesn't it?

Other highlights for me included a Cezanne portrait of "Uncle Dominique," a large Daubigny landscape, some small Boudin beach scenes, a Van Gogh portrait of an old guy, and a Rubens "David vs. Goliath" which was hands down just plain ridiculous.

After learning the underrated science of artmaking, Susanna took me to a Taiwanese restaurant in San Marino. EVERYTHING about that place was so Taiwanese I completely forgot I was in California until we went back outside. Even one of the girls working there was wearing a bootleg Burberry apron. (And yes, I made Susanna do that completely fobby pose...)

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Eagle Rock

Look! There I am at the top of Eagle Rock in Topanga State Park. It was a little freaky being up there, to say the least, but quite tranquil as well. The fact that it was windy too didn't help my nerves any. There was this little hollowed out cave underneath the spot I'm sitting where people mimicked caveman drawings. It felt very primitive sitting in side the cave, eating a peach, and looking straight down the cliff to imminent doom.

Would you just look at the litter in downtown LA? Here's Viki and I standing in front of a giant piece of crumpled aluminum. Apparently, they have concerts in that thing too...

Monday, August 8, 2005

I'm Hunting Wabbits

At 8:45 am, we embarked on what turned out to be approximately a ten mile hike through El Moro Canyon in Laguna Beach.  After a series strenuous inclines and declines, we hiked for a grand total of 6 blazing hours.  Here I am about 900 feet above sea level stalking a terrified yet adorable rabbit camoflauged in the brush.  If you look closely, you'll see him.