The weekend arrived, and that meant dim sum, a traditional Chinese breakfast of dumplings. We took Paige’s advice, albeit after the fact, and drove downtown to Empress Pavilion in Chinatown. Arriving early was the key to a good table and no crowds. This was strategic because we planned to take the 12:00 p.m. guided tour of the new Walt Disney Concert Hall downtown.
Filled with shiu mei and shrimp dumplings, we navigated our way across downtown Los Angeles. We found a parking spot on the street behind the concert hall and hiked up to the main entrance. WineGuy took Wild Thing and Moose inside to procure the tickets while Wizard and I loitered outside (and across the street) to take multiple photos of Frank Gehry’s colossal “bloom”. It is rumored that, from above, the Walt Disney Concert Hall looks like a blooming rose, an homage to patroness, Lillian Disney’s, love of roses.
It took 16 years and $274 million to create this marvel of steel and wood. The exterior panels are made of bright- and satin-finished stainless steel panels. This photo shows Wizard in front of these panels.
There are lush public gardens on several levels around the building. One garden features a rose sculpture covered in a mosaic of broken Delft tiles. The building’s interior is even more curious as there are no right angles anywhere to be found. The architect used Douglas fir paneling throughout the public and performance spaces. As a result, the entire interior feels organic, almost living. Unfortunately, we were unable to view the performance space live as there was a closed rehearsal inside at that time. However, we did watch a video of the auditorium and saw up-close images of the amazing 6134-pipe organ, the “forest of pipes,” which Gehry and Manuel Rosales designed for the hall. Although there is a terrific gift shop at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, we left without making a purchase because three children (who shall remain nameless) could not make a decision!
We decided to explore a little more of downtown L.A. before heading on to our next destination. WineGuy navigated us through the Jewelry District, with over 3,000 wholesalers spread across several city blocks — it’s larger than New York’s 47th Street; the Flower District, complete with wholesale markets exploding with color and fragrance; the Toy District, which is clearly the central market for all those crummy, little, toxic toys made in China. Afterwards, we drove back out to Belair to the Skirball Cultural Center.
The Skirball Center is Reform Judaism’s concept of a musuem cum concert space cum exhibition hall: a facility trying to be all things Jewish all at once, kind of like the Reform movement. To me it was an annoying and confusing melange of a public space. Their permanent exhibit, Visions and Values: Jewish Life from Antiquity to America, is a broad representation of Jewish artifacts from the Old World to the New. For a small exhibit, it was nicely curated but poorly organized. The most fascinating displays were about Jews in China (Kaifeng and Shanghai). WineGuy particularly liked the museum store there; it was a giant Judaica shop, the likes of which we haven’t seen in a long time.
After a Jewish outing, what should good Jews do? Eat, of course! Eat what? Chinese food, of course! Actually, we decided on a wonderful Japanese noodle shop in Beverly Hills . . . close enough. But first, we had to show the boys Rodeo Drive. The jaded little varmints I’m raising were totally unimpressed. Some comments worth repeating:
- Why is it called Roh-DAY-oh Drive when it’s spelled ROH-dee-oh? I have no clue.
- What’s so special about all the fancy cars? Jamie’s dad drives a Bentley Continental, and his mom drives a Range Rover. Donald’s dad drive a convertible Jaguar, and Billy’s mom drives a Maserati. Ho hum.
- What’s the big deal with Gucci and Prada and Hermes? We have the same stores at [the local fancy shopping center]. Did I mention they were jaded?
And so the comments went about everything in Beverly Hills, from the shops to the houses: we have the same thing at home, and ours is bigger, fancier, and nicer. Jaded, I tell you! The best we could do at that point was feed them dinner at Mishima. This was a terrific little noodle shop featuring giant bowls of udon and soba soups. The tempura was great, too, but the biggest hit was Wild Thing’s children’s dinner. They served him noodles, rice, and a gelatin dessert in a monkey-shaped bento-like box: it had three sections, each stacked on top of the other, which formed a monkey’s head when fully assembled. Here’s a (downloaded) photo of the puppy box:How cute is that??
By now, you’ve figured out that our travels are mostly about food and museums. The following morning was no exception. We set out early on Sunday morning for breakfast at Kay ‘n Dave’s in Brentwood. On our way there, I passed a truck hauling a horse trailer and nearly crashed. There were CAMELS in the horse trailer, not horses! Only in L.A. As it turned out, the truck brought its exotic livestock to set up a weekly petting zoo in a parking lot across the street from Kay n’ Dave’s. Breakfast was mediocre, but the postprandial entertainment was a hoot: camels, llamas, a cockatoo that tried to steal my diamond ring, some baby goats, and miniature horses. The boys reluctantly left the animals while WineGuy couldn’t get out of there fast enough. We headed further north to Bel Air and the Getty Museum.