Last Friday, I drove out to Arcadia -- a town I've never been to before -- that's northeast of here, east of Glendale and then Pasadena. I went to the Angeles National Forest Headquarters for no reason that makes a particularly good story. Basically, it was to get a National Park pass, which I could have done by mail. However, I not only was interested in going to the headquarters (I used to work for the California State Park system so I like such things), but also I noticed that the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, which was only about two miles away.
As I've written here, I love the Chicago Botanic Garden (which is actually in my hometown of Glencoe), a spectacular place that's rich and vibrant and expansive and beautifully laid out and organized, with an education center, cooking demonstration area, carillon, various lands, islands and more, which I call the Disneyland of Botanic Gardens, So, I was curious about the Arboretum here. And as a member of the Chicago garden, I had a reciprocal entry here, which is always a good thing.
(Somewhat nearby the Arboretum to the north and west are the Descanso Gardens. I went there several years back -- happily, it's also on the reciprocal program! -- and it was expansive and enjoyable, though fairly basic in its grounds.)
I had a pleasant time at the Los Angeles Arboretum, though found it a bit underwhelming. However, before going any further, it's important to note that this article is brought to you in living color on NBC --
There was a certain charm to the area which I liked, but it's fairly limited, and not very interestingly laid out, I thought, with little description of what was there and what you were looking at. The centerpieces of the Arboretum actually have nothing to do with gardens. One is a big bandshell where they have concerts for the Pasadena Symphony and popular artists -- it's certainly a great venue for that. And the other is the Queen Anne House built in 1895 by an early owner of the property, which has been used as a movie location. Unfortunately, it's not open for touring through, but you can only look in from the outside.
While I was in the area, I also swung over to see the Norton Simon Museum -- but when I got there the parking lot was full. And when I drove back to Colorado Boulevard to find somewhere else to park, it turned out that the road headed off without any side streets or off-ramp exits for a couple miles, so I couldn't get back to the museum. And by the time side streets came back in, and I could turn around, I was far enough away that I decided not to turn back and just passed it up for another time.
But while driving back through Glendale to Eagle Rock, I finally got to stop at a restaurant for an early dinner that I've had recommended by several people -- Casa Bianca, which was highly-regarded pizza here. I've never eaten at the place because they're not open for lunch, and driving through rush hour traffic to get to the distant place was of no interest to me, though a friend of mine does that on occasion. I liked their pizza, it was very good -- but I didn't think it was "Great," or at least great enough to even consider driving this far for it, unless I'm already in the area like this time.
And then yesterday I took again ocean trip with my cousin Jim Kaplan, who I've written about here previously. He's worked in the marine industry for years, and has a small sailboat out in the marina, and every once in a while I'll join him. As my article noted, it's often a great time and and misadventure. The last trip, for instance, there was a squall. This time, the motor went out as we headed through the marina out to the ocean. I asked him if he'd every docked his boat using the sails only. No, he said. Do you think you'll be able to, I asked? He laughed, "We'll find out!!"
The sailing though was very enjoyable. Great weather, and though there were choppy waves, it was still a fairly smooth ride. That's Santa Monica Piere off in the distance, as I briefly took the helm.
The good news is that we got the motor running after we re-entered the marina and turned into the channel for his dock. So, we made it back in one piece. And he told me today that he thinks he discovered the problem with the motor -- that it got clogged -- and he cleaned it out, and the thing seems to be running better than it has in a long while.
When we got back to his house, it turns out that one of his neighbors is the actor Matthew Modine -- who is running for president of the Screen Actors Guild. The election is next week or soon after. He came across as a very nice guy, and Jim is trying to get him to join us on an ocean voyage. I don't know enough about the SAG issues, though Matthew filled me in some of them. Obviously he's biased in his observations, but I know enough about Guild politics and issues to get a sense where things sit. And from that and a short, very pleasant conversation -- hardly the basis for forming a deeply-informed opinion -- I hope he wins.
(As a side benefit, I also got to ask Matthew about a running joke in the Out and About with Jiminy Glick videos that I post here and something I've always been curious about, where Jiminy often refers to his four boys -- Morgan, Mason, Matthew and Modine. The short version is that he's friends with Martin Short who plays Jiminy, and just came up with that one day and threw it in without asking permission first. And Matthew finds it hilarious. The other reference is to another friend, the son of actor James Mason, named Morgan Mason.)
Next time, Admiral Kaplan and I head out in search of the white whale...