Friday, November 22, 2013

Christmas in Cars Land

Shiny as a New Hubcap

Update 2014
After such a nice holiday visit in 2013 Team Roadboy visited Disneyland, California Adventure and Universal Studios again in 2014. This time we attempted to visit New Years Eve,  New Years Day and the following Saturday.  

While I contend the parks are at their finest between Thanksgiving and New Years, I must advise against visiting the days just before and after Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years.  The crowds are just too overwhelming.  See resulting blog post: Universal Nightmare.

Had the chance to visit California Adventure last week.  What a joy! All my favorite rides were open. It has been a few years for me and this trip I see that they have completely reworked a new entry (Buena Vista Street), added Cars Land and a first rate sit-down restaurant (Carthay Circle). The seasonal Worlds of Color Christmas show was spectacular and the whole park was festooned for the holidays.

By the way (as always) these photos are embedded at full resolution. Feel free to click them to see more detail!

The New Carthay Circle 
Restaurant and Lounge
(Home to the Member's Only Club 1901)

My Favorite Photo of Walt Disney
In The Shadow is His Favorite  Mouse
(The Photo Was in a Private Dining Room in The Restaurant)

A little digression; the real Carthay Circle was actually the theater built in 1929 at 6316 San Vincente Boulevard in LA. It carried sentimental value to Disney since it premiered Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Fantasia (for which a sophisticated new sound system was installed). 

The original theater was decorated with early California motif's and unique in that it had a circular auditorium. Sadly, it was demolished in 1969. 

The new Cars Land was great. The imagineer's attention to detail is simply amazing. 

Radiator Springs Racers Zip By 
The Peaks Are An Homage to Classic Cadillac Tailfins

Christmas At Cars Land

Dining at The V8 Cafe

The "off season" near the holidays is a particularly great time to visit California Adventure and Disneyland! So go enjoy some Disney Magic. A word of advice, if you go over the holidays avoid weekends if you can. Except for Thanksgiving Thursday's and Fridays are typically perfect and have reasonably long hours! 

Roadboy's Travels © 2013

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Roadboy's Visit To Hollywood's Magic Castle

Just Whisper The Magic Words To Enter

For years I've heard about a club located at 7001 Franklin Avenue in the Hollywood Hills known as the Magic Castle. This is a one-of-a-kind club that is the exclusive domain of magicians. Every night  members practice their craft and perform both up-close and formal magic shows. Members and their guests from round the world come here to attend the presentations.

But, being a private members-only club, no one gets in without an invitation from a member.


Hollywood's Magic Castle

In 2013 the castle celebrates its 50th year. So this is the year I decided to finagle a visit. To do so I used the one loophole available to non-members. If you book a night in its adjoining Magic Castle Hotel you may ask them to book you a visit to the club.

Except for brunches on weekends club guests must be 21 years of age, pay a guest fee ($20) and book dinner in the club's dining room. But, after dinner you have full run of the club. 

Guests must adhere to a strict dress code (suit and ties for men, evening attire for women). No photos are allowed once inside the club. 

The building was created from the 1910 Rolin B. Lane mansion. In fact, the development of the Academy of Magical Arts and the club itself were the defining factors that saved the mansion from the wrecking ball in 1961. It opened as the Magic Castle in 1963.

The "castle" is much larger than it appears. After registering in the reception lobby you whisper the magic words and a bookshelf slides open offering you entry to the club. 

There are multiple bars, a small gift shop, an elaborately decorated dining room, a seance room, and a variety of showrooms. There is even a magic piano whose ghost (Irma) plays requests when guests leave a tip in her empty birdcage nearby.

We arrived for dinner at 6 PM and then enjoyed presentations by 4 magicians. There were 13 different performers in the castle on the night we visited. We chose one close-up show and the main Palace of Mystery show.

We left a little before 11 PM. The club closes at 1:00 am.

All those years of waiting paid off, our night in the Magic Castle was perfect!

Roadboy's Travels © 2013

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Real Magic At The Magic Kingdom

A Perfect Flight

Friends and I visit the Disneyland and California Adventure theme parks almost every year. And, while there are always new things to see, I tend to return to my old favorites time after time. 

My hands-down favorite attraction in California Adventure is Soarin' Over California. As a native Californian, it reminds me why the Golden State, despite failing schools, crumbling infrastructure and lousy governance, retains such a powerful allure to visitors from around the world.

Sadly, this trip we all noticed a rash of shoves, line cuts and general rudeness during our visit.

But, then, I witnessed the moment that made up for it all.

Once past the lines at Soarin' we requested to wait a cycle, letting others pass, so that we could sit in the middle of the ride. Next to us a family of four also waited. I took the family to be a mom and three sons. One teenage son was confined to a wheelchair where everything is adjustable and upholstered. 

During the wait the family adjusted this and that, smiled and talked in tones that conveyed nothing but pure affection to the young man who clearly had been in that chair a very long time.

While we boarded our hang glider they worked, with military precision, lifting him as a team, getting him carefully strapped in. It was a symphony of coordinated effort. While waiting I noted that, discretely, every one of them kissed him.

They were completely oblivious to a world that was sneaking stares. Their focus was laser sharp. 

They were in Disneyland and they were enjoying their day.

Some might argue they'd been dealt a bum hand. But the family I saw demonstrated no resentment at all. They were as special as the young man they accompanied.

In the space of a 4 minute ride, we soared together and I came to love them.

But I don't kid myself.....

They soared higher than I ever will.

Roadboy's Travels © 2013 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Philadelphia Street Art

Philadelphia Is America's Best Street Museum!

As most of my readers know, Roadboy is a total fanboy of good public art. I think my most "googled" post is one from back in 2008 showcasing my favorite public art from coast to coast. Click here to check it out.

A couple of weeks ago during a visit to Philadelphia I came to realize that this is a city rich in great public art. Walking in Philadeplphia is akin to a visit to an outdoor museum. There are iconic sculptures, fine traditionalist war memorials, parks filled with intricate bronzes (especially Rittenhouse Square) and, of course, there is the iconic "Love" sculpture. Philadelphia, I was delighted to discover, has arguably America's largest and most important collection of street murals.

Lincoln Legacy 
(A Small Section of Joshua Sarantitis' Luminous 2006 Mural)
707 Chestnut Street

A Peoples Progress Towards Equality 
Jared Bader 2006
(Note the Scale - Car in Bottom Left)
South 8th St. at Ranstead

Another of Philadelphia's Amazing 3,600 Murals

The evolution of Philadelphia's murals is a wonderful story. In 1984 Mayor Goode asked muralist Jane Golden (an artist who had developed a street murals project in Southern California) to establish a program designed to redirect the energy of the Philadelphia's graffiti "artists". Ms. Golden did just that. Over the following 30 years the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program has grown, empowering a generation of young artists to "mend the aesthetic thread" of Philadelphia by beautifying, rather than vandalizing, neighborhoods. The mural program also employs art in restorative justice by offering opportunities for those recently released from prison. 

OK This Cracked Me Up

So after walking, appreciating murals, and window-shopping on Chestnut street, I arrived at Rittenhouse Square where I enjoyed viewing its various sculptures.

Duck Girl
Paul Manship 1911

Lion Crushing A Serpent
Antoine Louis Barye 1832

After Walking around and through the square, it was time to start heading back to the hotel. First up on my return was Philadelphia's most recognizable piece of public art: its "Love" sculpture. The sculpture is so emblematic that many residents refer to JFK Plaza as "Love Park". Nearby there are lots of other examples of not-so-successful pop art from the same era. Dominoes, chess pieces etc. All pretty much the worse for wear.  

Robert Indiana 1976

As I continued on my way I the huge "Crashed Grumman" and the giant paint brush outside the America's first school of fine arts, the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA). PAFA is an amazing institution whose students have included Mary Cassatt, Maxfield Parrish, architect Louis I. Kahn and filmmaker David Lynch.

The Grumman Greenhouse at PAFA
Jordan Griska 2011 
(The Former Tracker II Airplane Now Grows
Nutritive and Medicinal Plants)

I finished my day in the section of the Pennslvania Convention Center that was once the Reading train terminal. It also has some great murals inside this huge awesome space.

Murals Romanticizing Rail Travel
The Right Mural Depicts Philadelphia's Stainless Steel Streamliner 
(Which Commenced Service Here in 1937)

All in all a wonderful walk, though a wonderful city. My sincere advice to anyone visiting Philadelphia? Take some good shoes, arm yourself with one of those little hotel street maps and go out exploring an amazing city!

Roadboy's Travels © 2013

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Heartache At LAX

Sorrow at LAX 

Over a lifetime I have spent too many hours at LAX as a traveler. As the world's busiest destination airport it is always chaotic. I guess it is simply a microcosm of LA itself.

More recently, I've had the opportunity to work there planning a new HQ for airports police. 

So yesterday's news of the shooting at Terminal 3 struck a deep chord.

My condolences to the family of the fallen TSA agent. And my prayers will beg for the full recovery of the other injured folks.

I know first hand that the LAX police are well trained and professional. I only wish it did not take such horrific events to remind us to thank them for the courage and willingness to run towards danger on our behalf.

Roadboy's Travel © 2013