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.

hammer man

I’ve always found Ed Benavente’s Big Red to be an odd choice for public art beside a children’s playground. Ominously towering over the swings and slides, the repressed violence in its stance seems out of place in swanky Malibu Country Mart. This month its legs are swathed in cornstalks … does this make it seem friendlier, or scarier?

lewis macadams

Lewis MacAdams (1944-2020) was an American poet, environmental activist, journalist, and filmmaker whose passion was to re-wild the LA River (which was encased in concrete and fenced in 1938) and make it accessible again to people and wildlife. He co-founded Friends of the Los Angeles River in 1985, an organization which educates, empowers, and mobilizes Angelenos to repair habitat and fight for the policies that will reclaim a healthy river.

Today Urban Sketchers Los Angeles met at Lewis MacAdams Riverfront Park at Glendale Narrows, a nine-mile section of the river that has a natural soft bottom, instead of a concrete floor, allowing native river plants and animals to thrive. It was great to see egrets, herons and ducks enjoying the water. I wasn’t that happy with any of my river sketches, but here’s one of the park itself.