Category Archives: Los Angeles

The Getty Center: Artful Fun for the Whole Family

My wife and I first visited the Getty Center shortly after its grand opening in 1997, when we were dating.  Back then, you needed a timed ticket just to get in.  The Getty Center is still in demand, but happily you don’t need to get tickets in advance anymore.  Still, if you are going on the weekend you will want to anticipate large crowds and busy parking areas when you visit what has become a Los Angeles icon.

We took our four-year-old twins to the popular destination for the first time since they were babies in a stroller, this past Sunday.  Until now, I had not realized what a wonderful spot the museum complex is for families.  Check out the center’s website and you will see that they have some exciting ways for children to engage with the art.  More on that in a bit, but first, let’s get you there.

Parking for The Getty is located on Sepulveda Blvd, just off the 405 freeway.  The center is on the west side of the freeway.  So, the instinct is to want to enter the main parking lot by crossing under the freeway.  You can save yourself having to sit in a long line of cars if you ignore that instinct and instead park in the lot opposite the main entrance, on the east side of Sepulveda.  There was plenty of parking, no line to get into the lot, and you can still use the automated pay station in the main parking lot to pay the $15 parking fee (the price is the same for either lot).

You can either take a short tram ride up the hill or a 15 to 20 minute walk along a foot path.  Our kids were so excited about riding the tram that they didn’t seem to mind the 20 minute wait in line.  Once aboard, I recommend trying to grab seats on the west side of the tram so you and your kids can take in the majestic view of the Sepulveda pass as the tram winds its way along the hillside.

I suggest reading the Getty’s “Tips for Families” section of their website prior to your visit.  It’s packed with ideas about how the whole family can get the most enjoyment out of your time there and how your kids can get the most out of the art.  One thing they recommend and that worked well for us is to mix up activities and be flexible.  We switched back and forth between indoor art exhibits and outdoor activities like taking an invigorating walk through the gardens.

One not-to-be-missed attraction with kids is The Family Room.  Located by the East Pavilion in the museum courtyard, The Family Room brings the art to life for children in a tactile, exciting, and accessible way that is sure to engage active minds.  You might even consider making this your first stop, because it brings the art to life in a way that might help younger children gain a greater interest in the rest of the day’s agenda.

When you are at The Family Room I highly encourage you to pick up an Art Detective Card or two.  Our kids absolutely thrilled at solving the mysteries on the card.  It got them studying the details of each of the works while looking for the clues, and got them talking about the art and asking questions.  If you are sensitive to this kind of thing you might like to know that one of the clues references a nude painting.  So, there’s that.

When it was all said and done, my wife and I left feeling like we had just scratched the surface of all there is to do and see, and our kids left wanting more.  That seemed like the right way to leave things though, because I’m sure it’s someplace we will be returning to again and again.

LA is Going Gray!

Cruising around Los Angeles recently, a new trend is becoming increasingly apparent… Angelinos are going gray.  I’m not talking about their hair styles – although it does seem more fashionable to let the gray locks show than it was a few years ago, thank goodness.  No, I am referring to their cars.  It is becoming increasingly easy to tell when someone is driving a newer model vehicle, because so many of them are the same color, a sort-of matte finish dark gray.

©Mercedes-Benz 2015
©Mercedes-Benz 2015

I first saw this color appear on 2014 models at the LA Auto Show and since then have been seeing it hitting the streets with increasing regularity.  The color strikes me as a pleasing alternative to the flat black that was popular for about five minutes, three years ago.  Judging by how many cars this color are appearing on the road now I would guess that it appeals to people who would have otherwise purchased a silver, black or white car.

This is certainly not your grandfather’s gray car.  Just a few years ago, someone would have been apt to choose gray when they wanted a car color that didn’t stand out.  This gray is not that gray.  The new matte dark gray is definitely an attention grabber.  It really seems to show off every curve and angle of vehicles and looks good on everything from the Prius c (with the color name Magnetic Gray Metallic) to the Jeep Grand Cherokee (dubbed Granite Crystal), and even on sport luxury vehicles like the AMG GT S Coupe (elaborately entitled Magno Selenite Grey).

When it comes right down to it, this might be the most exciting thing to happen to the color gray since, well, ever.  The color has personality.  It can appear sleek, rugged, or sophisticated depending upon the make and model that’s wearing it.  And, for the sake of all the grandfathers who need new cars, never comes across as overly flashy.

The Trip to Bountiful and the Idealized Past

Last week I had the opportunity to enjoy a powerful production of Horton Foote’s The Trip to Bountiful at the Ahmanson Theatre in downtown Los Angeles.  The performances, staging, and set design were all truly fantastic.  It is now entering the final week of its run and I recommend catching it if you have the chance.

Set in the spring of 1953, the play focuses on the character of Mrs. Carrie Watts, brilliantly portrayed by Cicely Tyson.  Carrie is in the twilight of her life.  It has been 20 years since she last visited her hometown of Bountiful, TX – a mere three-hour drive from Houston, where she lives with her son Ludie (Blair Underwood) and daughter-in-law Jessie Mae (Vanessa Williams).  Her days are made of sharing a cramped one bedroom apartment with Jessie Mae and reflecting upon her childhood in Bountiful.

Seen from one perspective, the play is a sort of love letter to small town life.  Carrie pines to escape the big city and return to that place, which has become to her a symbol of happiness, freedom, and pristine beauty.  Ludie, too, is enamored with it.  Jessie Mae stands out as the one person that harbors no affection for Bountiful, which serves to make her the lone antagonist within the world of the play.

Seen another way, however, the play is an allegory to what happens when we create within ourselves an idealized version of past places and events.  Though Carrie reveals at one point that her father struggled to keep the family farm going and we learn that unsustainable farming practices reduced the community to a ghost town, Carrie chooses to cull out only the happy memories that she has of the place and the people with whom she shared it.  She has come to hold Bountiful sacred as a utopian ideal, where the people were kind, the air was fresh, and each day was full of joyous adventures.

And so it is with life, once we begin to hold an idealized past time and place in our minds, the present time becomes more cruel and wherever we live now seems to have nothing good to offer.  Time tends to wash away pain and intensify positive memories, making them more pungent, poignant and blissful than they actually were.  We run the risk of having our past become a toxin that poisons our present.

I saw this trick of the mind play out many times during the years that I worked as an actor in Los Angeles.  People arrived here seeking opportunity in the entertainment industry, but ended up pining for the place from which they came.  Crystalline memories of home made the harsh realities of this place all the harder.  Eventually, it seemed like everything was better where they came from.  They would stop looking for the good in this place and these people.  They’d start to wonder what they were searching for when they came here – after all, things were pretty great there.  Like Carrie, they would come to wonder how they came to feel so bitter and angry all the time.  They’d start to think that maybe if they went back home, then they’d become more like the happy person they once were.

And so that’s the great takeaway from The Trip to Bountiful.  Like Carrie, we’d probably all be a lot happier in the here and now if we would let the past remain in the past, and stop taking it out of the box from time to time to clean it, polish it, and move it a little higher up on the mantel.

JPL Open House is Back!

OK, I admit it, I’m totally geeking out…

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, CA, is bringing back their Open House this fall!  If you are a fan of the JPL Open House then you might remember that it was cancelled last year due to the sequester.  Fortunately, that’s behind us and this important and exciting public event will be taking place on Saturday, October 11, and Sunday, October 12, 2014, from 9am to 4pm.

Not familiar with it?  Well, let me tell you, if you live anywhere near Pasadena and are even a little bit of a space geek then you will absolutely love the open house (and if you are not a space geek when you arrive, there’s a good chance that you will be one by the time you leave!).  It’s a cross between a science fair and Disneyland.  If that’s not enough to entice you, then it might help to know that admission and parking are FREE.

There is almost too much to do in a single day.  So, you might want to consider coming on Saturday so that you can come back on Sunday to catch the things you miss the first time around.  The past few times they’ve had working models of various rovers cruising over rocks right as you enter the property (the place is huge and hilly, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes).  In the building immediately to the left, there was a scale model of the Curiosity rover and a welcome video showcasing the breadth of dynamic work they do at JPL.  To the right there was an outdoor display about the work of the Spirit and Opportunity rovers.  I remember spending over an hour exploring these areas alone.

That, however, is just the tip of the iceberg!  You’ll want to be sure to visit the Space Flight Operations Facility, which serves as mission control for a variety of current missions, and the Spacecraft Assembly Facility, which features the clean room where everything from the Voyager spacecraft to the Curiosity rover were built.  There is too much to list, but highlights of the event include robotics demonstrations, current and upcoming mission showcases, and hands-on activities for the kids.

Here are a few tips.  Arrive early to ensure parking and shorter lines.  Bring drinking water, sunscreen, and some cash for lunch at one of the many food booths.  Wear comfortable walking shoes (as mentioned above).  Finally, not to lay it on too think, but be sure to bring your scientific curiosity and a sense of adventure!


Worthy of note:  If you’re not available the weekend of October 11th and 12th, then you might want to take advantage of one of JPL’s free public tours.

5 Reasons Why You Should NOT Move to Los Angeles

Photo ©Matt Vasko 2014
Photo ©Matt Vasko 2014

Let’s face it, Los Angeles is amazing.  But here’s the thing – we’ve got a horrible traffic situation, and as more people move here it’s only getting worse.  So, consider this to be me doing my part to help relieve the congestion.  Perhaps you’ve visited LA and thought it could be a nice place to live.  Maybe you’ve seen glorious images of it on TV and in movies.  Mayhaps you have family or friends here and just want to be close to them.  No matter the reason, you should not move here.  And here are five reasons why…

The Weather
Oh my gawd!  The weather here is freaking awesome!  It’s warm, sunny and gorgeous like 99.999% of the time.  And temperate too.  We only have a few weeks a year when it’s either too hot or too cold.  Most of the time it’s in the 70s or 80s.  It’s spectacular.
It’s sunny like 99.999% of the time!  Do you realize what a monumental pain in the ass it is to put on sunblock every. single. time. you want to go outside for longer than it takes to walk from your house to your car?  Ack!  You don’t need that crap.  Forget it.

Photo ©Matt Vasko 2014
Photo ©Matt Vasko 2014

The Ocean
Holy Shit!  Have you seen the stunning beaches we have here?!  I mean, it’s so ridiculously amazeballs that you need to slap yourself in the face sometimes just to make sure you’re not dreaming.  They’re wondrous!  They’re enormous!  And there are TONS of them!
Those sandy beaches get hot.  Seriously, you’ll burn your feet.  And the sand sticks to e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.  It winds up in your hair, on your beach gear, even your car.  Yuck!  No way!  That’s not for you!

The Mountains
WOW!  Have you seen these mountains?!!  They’re freaking everywhere!  They’re scenic and majestic and awe inspiring.  It’s nuts!  With a short 15 minute cruise you can be up in the mountains and completely forget that you live in probably the best city in the entire world – because it’s totally peaceful and zen and shit.
They’re big.  And did I mention that they’re freaking everywhere?  I mean, a mountain range cuts through the middle of the damn city for crap sake?!  Who the hell thought THAT was intelligent city planning?!!  All that up, down, up, down.  Fuck that!  You’re outta here!

Photo ©Matt Vasko 2014
Photo ©Matt Vasko 2014

It’s the goddamn entertainment capital of the world!  Hell yes it is!  You know all those TV shows and movies that make LA look so glorious… yeah, we make those here.  We’ve got celebrities up the yin-yang.  I literally bumped into Steve Carell at the grocery store one day.  Nice guy.  Very gracious.
If you think traffic is bad already, then just try getting through downtown LA during rush hour when Bruce Willis is shooting his next blockbuster movie at the corner of Grand and 1st.  Screw that noise.  You don’t need that.  Besides, Steve Carell is too damn chatty.

ALL the Other AWESOME Stuff!
World class museums, theater, music, dining, shopping, amusement parks, site seeing and on and on and on!  You can literally do something different every-single-freaking-day of the year and never get bored.  It’s as if the city is an oyster and it’s yours for the taking.  It truly boggles the mind.  This place rocks.  Hard.
Uuuuuuuuuugh… it’s exhausting!  You’d be overwhelmed.  It’s too much.  It’s just too much.

Well, there it is folks.  Los Angeles is absolutely, positively, the best place to live in America and possibly even the world, hands down.

But it’s not for you.

So don’t move here.