Art, california, los angeles, Night Shots

Coyotes are liquid (…and other things I learnt as I waited for the Sun to rise at Griffith Observatory)

On Sunday morning I was out and about pretty early, and I was to pick up a Polaroid from a friend in Silver Lake at nine, so I decided to make the most out of my trip to Los Angeles and be at the Griffith before sunrise.

In the best movie ever made about Los Angeles, Harry Telemacher (Steve Martin) says these words in one of his many aside: “As far as I’m concerned, there are three mystical places in the world. The desert outside Santa Fe, the tree of life in the Arab emirates of Bahrain, and the restaurant at Sunset and Crescent.”

Watching the Sun rise over Los Angeles from the Griffith Observatory is another mystical time and place.

The first thing I learnt is that it’s popular enough not to be scary, but exclusive enough not to feel crowded. I was actually afraid there would be parking restrictions until a certain hour in the morning, but being a popular hiking destination (a gateway to the park itself) there were no restrictions (except for the meters starting at noon on weekdays, and at ten on weekends). Some people were preparing to hike or bike, others were already hiking or biking, some worked out, some did tai chi, some were just there for the view. I must have counted about fifty people around the observatory. Being all there, so early in the morning, on a Sunday, created a beautiful and soft sense of kinship – no matter the purpose.

That’s when I learnt that coyotes are liquid. That’s probably the biggest takeaway. No one was afraid, it’s as if they were part of the Fellowship, too. A few people, me included, warned a lady who was walking a small dog but she didn’t seem much bothered, nor the coyotes did pay much attention to the pooch.

If you’ve ever seen a coyote, you must have noticed this fascinating dissonance: a coyote is a bit like a dog with the presence of a cat. Coyotes don’t walk: they seem to glide on the land. They make no noise with their muffled paws, the only sound you hear is the rustling of the brush they move through. They are liquid, they are little squirts and faintly colored splashes that emerge out of the darkness into a spotlight and melt back into the night they came from.

Overall, there was a big La La Land feeling. Even more than at Sunset, or at night. Because of the glimmers of dawn far away to the East, out of the Sierras and the desert.

The Sun warms the dreams of the nation and the wind blows their scent all the way to the Griffith. The smell of Griffith Park is unique. It smells like a perennial midsummer’s night. Dust, plants, flowers, hopes, a faint whiff of airplane fuel make the olfactory experience almost akin to that of a non-place.

The view… ah, the view from the Griffith, on a clear night giving space to a clear morning, it’s everything you would expect it to be. Different from Kenneth Hahn, different from Baldwin Hills, different from Palos Verdes. One of the reasons might be that you are on top of LA.

Fun fact, I’ve always thought that the cover art of Frank Sinatra and Quincy Jones’ L.A. is My Lady (1984) was a view of DTLA from the I-110, looking north, but it’s actually a perspective similar to the view from the Griffith, just a little bit less elevated and more to the west. Maybe from Runyon Canyon?

Now comes the part where you just stand by the parapet and look at the Sun do their thing. You will be surprised to notice to what extent dawn precedes the actual Sunrise. It was already this bright to the East, but the Sun wasn’t due to appear for another half hour.

The closer the Sun, the rosier the dawn. And you really get what Homer meant and you become rosy-fingered too as every push of the shutter release makes you more of a poet and less of a photographer.

When the Sun finally appears, it’s as if the tip of a hill was suddenly ablaze.

I thought that DTLA gave her best at sunset, as the last rays of our daily star make her glimmer and shine, but now I am not so sure anymore.

Right?

And now, ready for another day of Sun.

And to go get that Polaroid, so that we can soon explore the esthetics of intimacy and affection.

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Art, beach, california, Drone, Redondo Beach, Sensor Fresh, South Bay

Friday Morning Mood

I biked to my Friday breakfast burrito at Joe’s, so I could detour by the Pier on my way home. It’s not a heroic feat, but it did take a little motivation to ride my bike at 5:50 instead of just slipping into the Mustang whose engine would have hummed a smoother transition from sleep to wake.

(The recommended soundtrack to these images is Chet Atkin’s album Sails).

The motivation paid off, I think. I love the Pier at any time of the day, but especially in the early morning when it’s all half asleep and pink and light blue.

Californian sunrises are definitely underrated.

I played a bit with the break wall, too.

Then I was happy and went home.

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california, Personal, Redondo Beach, Sensor Fresh

Rosy-Fingered Dawn

I got a new bike last week. I have a love-hate relationship with bicycles. I’ve bought bicycles all my life. Sometimes on a whim, sometimes after careful research. Some of my bikes were stolen. Some were traded. Some were left behind.

**Here begins the story of me and my bikes, if you do not care feel free to skip forward**

More than a decade ago, I went to a sporting goods store (Decathlon) in Turin, Italy. I needed to get a bike fixed. While I was there, I tried an entry-level road bike. It was bright red. You know, Ferrari red. You cannot let an Italian try a fast red bike and imagine he will react neutrally. I bought it. A few months and some bad falls later, I realized that drop bars do not offer the maneuverability you need to handle the busy and unevenly-paved roads of European cities. So I hated that bike and stored it at my parents home.

Fast forward, in 2015 I moved to Paris. After a few more unlucky attempts at purchasing a bike there, I went back to Italy, had the drop bars on my road bike replaced with flat bars, and that bike became my pride and joy, especially after Anne-Claire gifted me a beautiful Brooks saddle decorated with a Thunderbird design. Over three years, I rode several hundred miles around Paris with that bike. I also had a major fall once, after which I dragged myself to a pharmacy to get my bruises sanitized. The pharmacist, an elderly lady, prompted me to drop my trousers so I could put some disinfectant on my thigh. I asked her if there was a backroom where I could do that in case another client came in, but she said no and insisted that I just go ahead. Which I did. Ah, la France.

Fast forward again to 2018. We moved to California. My bicycle-purchase journey started once again, with a couple of failed attempts (much more costlier than in Europe because, on average, everything bike-related seems to be 30% to 50% more expensive in the US than in Europe).

Over the last couple of weeks, there I was, in the good company of at least half a million Americans: I wanted a new bike, one that would match my specs, my budget, that I could try, maybe have a little bit of a choice, and most of all I wanted it now. Anyone who tried purchasing a bike right now knows that everything is out of stock, with several months of backlogs, half a year-long wait lists, and most of what bike stores have are either high end models or entry level clunkers. And everything in small sizes.

But I lucked out! I went to Safety Cycle in Torrance and they had the kind of bike I wanted. I got myself a Specialized Sirrus X 4.0. I would have preferred a carbon frame, but I realized that on top of not being available, it was only two pounds lighter and almost a grand more expensive. I also wanted thinner tires, but those are easy to replace and I had also been toying with the idea of getting a mountain bike and now I cannot wait to get these gently-gripped tires on some easy trails such as Westridge and Sullivan, maybe all the way to Nike Station.

**If you skipped earlier, you can resume reading here**

The reason why I am really excited about this bike, on top of the ordinary perks of biking (less fuel and pollution on local trips, no parking hassle, workouts, mood), is that it biking really pairs well with photography. Just think of the Palos Verdes Peninsula: many amazing vistas from Palos Verdes Boulevard do not have easy or legal parking. With your bike, it’s a no-brainer. Pull over, shoot, ride.

I rode my bike to Malaga Cove two days ago, just to test its climbing capabilities with a heavy-set rider. 100% approved. These are the first two photos I took from a bike outing, so they are a little special to me.

Today it’s Friday. On Friday mornings, Anne-Claire and I always have breakfast at Eat at Joe’s. I think their breakfast burritos are just unmatched (but I also know it’s a matter of very personal taste so if you prefer Phanny’s we’re still cool). So today I decided I was going to bike there. It reduced the guilt, and prompted me to to take a little detour on my way home.

When rosy-fingered dawn appeared, I was at the Redondo Beach harbor.

I’ve often visited the beach in the very early morning, but never the harbor. By car, it’s a bit of a hassle. You have to park, pay, walk to what you want to see, walk back. As a biking detour, the scenery just gave itself to me.

There was a softness, a tranquillity that I had never seen there. I actually reminded me of my bike rides in Paris when I was going to teach in the early morning and businesses were not open yet, so once you left the most trafficked roads you would fine yourself surrounded by an unreal quiet.

The emptiness and the silence also inspired me to try some unexplored perspectives. It’s funny how, when you visit a familiar place at an unfamiliar time of the day, it feels like a new discovery.

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