Above the lagoon

The horseshoe-shaped mansion on the hill above Malibu lagoon and pier was previously owned by Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, now vice-president of Equatorial Guinea. “Known for his lavish lifestyle, he has been the subject of a number of international criminal charges and sanctions for alleged embezzlement and corruption.” (source) The US Justice Department forced him to sell this property in 2016, and the sale itself is the subject of an ongoing lawsuit … but that’s another story.

tropical terrace

Tucked up in the box end of Solstice Canyon are the ruins of the Roberts Ranch House, “Tropical Terrace”, designed by renowned architect Paul R. Williams in the 1950s. Although it was specifically designed to survive a wildfire, the pumps, pipes and pools were not maintained after the owners’ deaths, and the home burned down in 1982. Extensive paving, brickwork and chimneys remain, along with many non-native plants and trees. It’s now National Park Service property.

griffith park

I ventured to the eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains for today’s hike. I consider Griffith Park to be a bit of a crown jewel in the metropolis of Los Angeles. With over 4210 acres (1703 ha) of both natural terrain and landscaped parkland, it’s one of the largest municipal parks with urban wilderness areas in the United States.

Most of the land was purchased in 1882 by Griffith J. Griffith, who made his fortune in gold mine speculation. In 1896, he bequeathed it as a Christmas gift to the people of Los Angeles to be used as parkland.

“It must be made a place of recreation and rest for the masses, a resort for the rank and file, for the plain people,” Griffith said on that occasion. “I consider it my obligation to make Los Angeles a happier, cleaner, and finer city. I wish to pay my debt of duty in this way to the community in which I have prospered.”

So noble, right? But Griffith Griffith was not exactly an all-round good guy. He shot his wife in the head in a Santa Monica hotel room (she survived) and at the trial it was revealed that he was not, in fact, a teetotaller but a secret drunk with paranoid delusions. He was deemed to be suffering from “alcoholic insanity” and so served less than two years in jail. He went on to die of liver disease in 1919.

Be that as it may … as a member of “the rank and file, the plain people”, I am very grateful for Griffith Park. While I would never describe LA as a happy, clean or fine city, I have to say that the Park tilts things a little more in that direction.

Griffith J. Griffith, San Quentin State Prison. Public Domain.

waiting room

​​I spent some time in a light-filled chemo ward yesterday (I’m fine, I was there with a friend). Everyone who came through, both patients and staff, seemed cheerful and gentle. There was an air of optimism that felt good. I think it was partly the design of the space, and partly, I suppose, the quality of care. Patients are there to get better, and that was reflected in everyone’s tone. It was actually quite a lovely place to wait an hour or two.