Today Leo's Rabbit enjoyed a short ride on Angel's Flight Railway between Hill Street and Grand Avenue on Bunker Hill in Downtown LA. Built in 1901 by colonel J.W. Eddy, lawyer, engineer and friend of president Lincoln, Angel’s Flight is said to be the world’s shortest railway - just perfect for a small Rabbit! It is estimated that Angel’s Flight has carried more passengers per mile than any other railway in the world, over a hundred million in its first fifty years.
Rabbit travelled up the steep slope with one of the two funicular cars (Olivet or Sina), running in opposite directions on a 298 feet long shared cable. It took about a minute to get to the top. As short as the ride was, it was an enjoyable experience. Rabbit was amazed by the railway's history - he has never travelled by a 117-years old car before :-)
Today Leo's Rabbit had a little escape from reality and spent a day in paradise... well, a paradise on earth... an idyllic Santa Catalina Island, one of California’s Channel Islands, located just 22 miles southwest of Los Angeles. At first Rabbit considered following paw-steps of his famous bunny friend, Brownie and intended to swim to the island across the sea from Long Beach. Unfortunately he 'forgot' his bikini, so given no choice, he abandoned the idea and hopped aboard a Catalina Express ferry. He did not regret his decision and enjoyed his one-hour boat ride. With his ears wide spread, flowing in the wind, fluffed up fur and watery eyes, he felt like Leonardo DiCaprio aboard Titanic. Thankfully his journey had a better ending and he arrived safely in the town of Avalon,
Catalina Island, with its blue skies and amazing coastal scenery, filled our little Rabbit with awe. While admiring spectacular views, he experienced an incredible sense of peace and an overwhelming joy. Slowly, a big smile brightened his face. He noticed many smiling, happy and relaxed faces around him, and thought that the locals found here an idyllic place to live. He learned that there are only two communities on the island; Avalon, with less than 4,000 residents, and Two Harbors, at the opposite end, with about 150 residents.
After visiting island's website, Rabbit discovered that although Catalina Island has been inhabited for at least 8,000 years, it was named in 1602, when on November 24, the eve of St. Catherine's Day, the ship of the a Spanish explorer, Sebastian Viscaino, sighted the island. In the early years Catalina was used by otter hunters, smugglers, and ranching, mining and military operations. Thankfully now, it is mainly a posh tourist destination, with many celebrities visiting.
Leo's Rabbit did not spot any famous film stars or celebrities (not that he would have recognised anyone other than Bugs Bunny ;-) ), but he read in a tour guide that Taylor Swift, Barbara Streisand, Nicolas Cage, Rob Lowe, Justin Timberlake and Katy Perry, recently visited the island. Catalina Island has been popular with celebrities since Hollywood's golden era. During the 1930s and 40s its close proximity to Los Angeles allowed stars such as Charlie Chaplin, Humphrey Bogart, Johnny Weissmuller and John Wayne to sail or cruise their boats in the open ocean and reach Avalon harbour in only hours. The restaurants and bars were alive at night with music, which wafted through crowded streets, abundant with people drinking and dancing. Thinking of one-time parties and glamour cheered little Rabbit even more, and he hopped happily along the very same streets that once witnessed it all.
Rabbit enjoyed a long stroll exploring the town of Avalon. He walked along the shoreline and watched the boats and yachts anchored in the port. The day was very sunny, so he popped in to Leo's Drugstore (Leo's Rabbit shops at Leo's store, simples ;-) ) and got himself a sunscreen before proceeding towards vibrant Descanso Beach, one of the last private beaches in California with public access. It hosts a sandy beach, sea side restaurant and bar, cabanas and chaise lounges, and beach time fun, with easy access to pristine waters, snorkeling, kayaking, the Catalina Climbing Wall, Snuba, and the Zip Line Eco Tour. Rabbit wasn't up for an active adventure and he enjoyed a relaxing time sunbathing on the beach.
From the beach he admired the island's iconic Casino building, a 12-story, circular structure built in 1929. He learned that, in fact, gambling has never been allowed here and Casino took its name from the Italian word for 'gathering place'. Well, he wouldn't like to gamble with his carrots anyway.
During his walk, Rabbit noticed that there are hardly any cars on the island, but instead many people walk, use bikes and golf carts. There is a 2,100-yard golf course on the island, but golf carts are used everywhere in the town as means of transportation. He was told, that it takes residents 14 years to get a permit to own a car! Rabbit thought that if he was a resident and he would have applied, his permission probably would have not arrived in his lifetime. Well... small island can be easily explored on paws, even small paws like his.
It took him 4 hours to hop around the entire island twice. He was hoping to see some interesting wildlife, especially a shy fox or a herd of bison that roam the hills. Unfortunately he wasn't at luck (well... or maybe he was) and did not come across a bison. Fourteen animals were brought to Catalina in 1924 by a film crew, which left them to fend for themselves after the movie was shot. Apparently, the island was used for filming of hundreds of movies and assorted TV shows, documentaries and commercials. The film industry discovered it in the 1930s and it became Hollywood's back lot, portraying places as diverse as Tahiti, North Africa, the American frontier and the home of that famous mechanical shark, Jaws. Leo's Rabbit felt a bit uneasy anticipating a possible shark attack. For a while he watched the waters from the pier, and eventually he rested re-assured that there are no predators around. Besides, none of the people who were fishing there caught a shark - 'that's a definite proof', thought Rabbit.
To make his day in paradise even sweeter, Leo's Rabbit popped in to Lloyd's of Avalon Confectionery for a little treat. The candy shop, opened by Mr and Mrs Alfred Butts in 1938 and named in honour of their son Lloyd who fought in World War II, has been Catalina's tradition for over 75 years. He learned that at the age of 15 Marilyn Monroe lived on the island for a year and she was known to visit Lloyd's for treats. Rabbit was spoilt for choices - world renowned salt water taffy, 16 special flavours of fantastic candied apples, 26 flavours of ice cream, perfect peanut brittle, creamy fudge and scrumptious hand made chocolates, colourful jellybeans, fudge... endless possibilities. Rabbit finally settled for a tasty ice cream in a freshly baked waffle cone, and he wasn't disappointed. He wolfed the big portion in a matter of minutes.
After a lazy day in paradise, well rested, happy, relaxed Rabbit with full tummy, boarded a ferry back to Long Beach. He had an amazing day on the island and was enchanted by the quaint town of Avalon. He would recommend the trip to anyone who needs a little escape from reality.
Leo’s Rabbit wishes all the Iranians around the world a very Happy New Year! Yes... that's right, Persian New Year (Nowruz) is actually celebrated today, right at the beginning of Spring. This tradition originates from Zoroastrianism, the oldest of the great world religions, founded in 6th century BC by Zoroaster, the first prophet in the world who promulgated monotheism, with one, universal, transcendent, supreme God, the source of generosity, kindness and benefice. If by any chance you are one of the two people following our Rabbit :-), you may remember his previous post about this ancient Persian religion and the key ethical principles of Zoroastrianism - ‘Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds’. Rabbit decided to pursue these values in his little life, in hope to become a better Rabbit. How is he doing? Well... it's not for me to answer, I guess (Crazy Rabbit Lady wouldn't be impartial), so I'll leave the judgement to you :-)
We (read 'I' ;-) ) drifted a bit away from the subject, so let's come back to Leo's Rabbit and his activities today. Following Nowruz tradition, he prepared his haft-seen, a display of seven items that symbolise different hopes for the new year. His colourful basket contained the following items (and hopes):
Rabbit has a lot of hopes for the New Year and he will do his utmost to follow his dreams, better himself and inspire those around him. Without hope he would probably find it impossible to get out of bed in the morning. It is hope that gives him the inspiration to never give up, and in his small way, make the world a better place.
Small Rabbit with the basket full of hopes begins a New Year :-)
Hopping happily in downtown LA, Leo's Rabbit came across one spectacular building of unusual architecture and somehow 'musical' shape. He quickly learned that it is indeed a 'musical' building; it houses Los Angeles Philharmonic and it's otherwise known as Walt Disney Concert Hall.
The building was designed by Frank Gehry, a word-class award-winning architect (even our small-town Rabbit is familiar with some of his works, including the iconic Guggenheim Museum in Spain and the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris). With its flowing lines and a post-structuralist contemporary aesthetic, Walt Disney Concert Hall challenges accepted design paradigms of architecture and resembles undulating free-form sculpture. In his little head, Rabbit could almost hear the music..
He wandered around the building and its beautiful roof-top garden that is open to the public. He enjoyed the fusion of the beautifully curved stainless steel with the purity of nature. In the heart of the garden, he encountered an unusual flower-shaped fountain constructed from broken pieces of Delft China. He learned that it is called 'A Rose for Lilly', and it is a tribute to Lillian Disney, who provided the initial donation of $50 million towards the construction of the Philharmonic. 'Very expensive, yet incredibly charming and unique fountain', thought Rabbit.
Taking advantage of the warm weather, Leo's Rabbit decided to spent a day out in Santa Monica. (If you've been following this blog, you may remember one handsome Beach Bunny who shared his experience from his visit to Santa Monica last year.) After he arrived early morning, he straight away rented a bike and headed down to the iconic Santa Monica Pier. He had a delightful stroll around the pier and enjoyed its energising and vibratious atmosphere, combined with the stunning ocean views. He listened to the live music performed by few keen buskers and watched colourful crowd of various interesting human 'species' (unfortunately he hasn't seen any other rabbits there). Finally, invigorated and happy, he proceeded to Marvin Braude Beach Trail (known to locals as 'The Strand'), the paved bike path that runs along the ocean.
He was impressed by a good number of cyclists and roller-bladers using the path. He felt sheer joy riding his blue bike and sharing the trail with so many happy humans. Beautiful scenery, gorgeous sunshine, sound of the waves crash against the shore, interesting and jolly people... all brought a big smile to little Rabbit's face.
He noticed that people in California wear a very different cycling gear than his British friends, and he found it much more appealing. Hmm... maybe he will start a new trend after his return to the UK :-)
Rabbit pedalled all the way to Pacific Palisades Loop, and then back to Santa Monica, Venice and Marina del Rey. He enjoyed spectacular views along the way and loved the vibrant, intense, vivacious atmosphere. He felt like riding through the field full of carrots - pure joy for a rabbit :-)
Leo's Rabbit stopped at the Muscle Beach, located on the south side of the Santa Monica Pier, to watch acrobats and fitness enthusiasts practice their acts. The open-air collection of rings and bars, and other properly retro apparatus seemed very popular, with impressive number of talented people using the equipment. Rabbit learned that the Original Muscle Beach was established in the early 1930s and quickly morphed from a few tumbling mats and gymnastic bars to the epicenter of the 20th century’s growing fitness movement. Rabbit felt his muscles grow, just from watching the athletes (well... that's what he felt anyway ;-) ).
Another stop made by Rabbit was at the Venice Skatepark, the only skatepark in the world located on a beach. With its big smooth bowls, a snake run, street art and the ocean as the back drop, it couldn't be cooler or more California like. Rabbit was pleasantly surprised by the large crowd gathered around to watch, and he felt the excitement and electricity in the air. Although he is not a skater himself, he admires and appreciates the art of skateboarding and he was very impress by what he saw. He watched few incredible skaters 'fly' through the air and effortlessly perform tricks. He was lucky to see some really amazing stunts that made him wonder, if gravity really exists...?
Leo's Rabbit had an amazing day (or as they would say in the USA 'awesome' day) filled with new experiences and excitement. He enjoyed his scenic bike ride, and although after 5 hours of cycling his little paws were a bit tired, he felt very happy with himself. He would highly recommend Santa Monica beach cycling experience to any human (or a rabbit) :-)
Leo's Rabbit likes looking at the beautiful pictures, sculptures, posters and art in general, so today he decided to visit The Broad, a contemporary art museum in the heart of Los Angeles. He was pleasantly surprised to find out that the entry is free (he didn't have to spend his carrots :-)), however advance booking was required, so he secured his entry couple of days in advance.
On his arrival, Rabbit was very impressed by the architecture of The Broad. He read that the museum was designed by world-renowned architecture firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) in collaboration with Gensler. Although they are not a firm of famous rabbits and their names didn't sound familiar to our small-town Rabbit, he thought that they did an excellent job. The building design is based on a concept entitled 'the veil and the vault'. 'The veil' is a porous envelope that wraps the whole building, filtering and transmitting daylight to the indoor space. 'The vault' is a concrete body which forms the core of the building, dedicated to artworks storage, laboratories, curatorial spaces and offices. The 'veil' is made of 2,500 fiberglass-reiforced concrete panels and 650 tons of steel. 36 million pounds of concrete make up the 'vault'. The vault walls are made of Venetian plaster. Leo's Rabbit would not hesitate to call this impressive building an architectural masterpiece. If you don't trust Rabbit's judgement (well... I wouldn't be surprised), have a look yourself :-)
Leo's Rabbit entered the building with excitement and anticipation, eager to see one of the most prominent collections of postwar and contemporary art worldwide with over 2,000 works of art homed at The Broad. The first artwork he encountered was a massive eighty-foot-long painting by Takashi Murakami from Japan titled ‘In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow'; a bit scary title, but a colourful and busy theme. For a very small Rabbit, just the size of the artwork was impressive, but he also liked the details and an interesting pop art style of the painting. He didn't understand the artistic concept however and only by reading the description, he learned that this artwork reflects on the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan.
Rabbit hopped around the museum (he enjoyed beautifully polished and shiny floors - sheer joy for his paws :-) ) - he admired some of the beautiful examples of the artwork on display and was pleased to look at them, but he also found many others too complex (or too simple) for his taste. He couldn't comprehend why, for instance, a very basic painting containing two coloured rectangles found its way to the famous gallery? He enquired about Ellsworth Kelly, the author of the 'Blue Red' painting that puzzled Leo's Rabbit, and he was told that 'bold and contrasting colours free of gestural brushstrokes or recognisable imagery, encourage a kind of silent encounter, or bodily participation by the viewer with the artwork'. Hmm... that explanation left our little Rabbit even more confused.
He couldn't neither understand why so many people are fascinated by Andy Warhol's paintings and are willing to pay millions of dollars for his artworks. Yes, Rabbit appreciates Mr Warhol's creativity bringing the imagery and techniques of mass commercialism into fine arts and his contribution to the birth of a new visual art movement, pop art, but are the paintings pleasant to look at? Leo's Rabbit stood in front of the famous 'Campbell's Soup Cans' painting and wondered if he would enjoy having this painting in his house. Well, his sincere answer would be 'not really'. If he was American, he would have rather preferred a painting titled Flag by Jasper Johns. But as for a British Rabbit, that wouldn't be right neither.
Rabbit was intrigued by an enormous painting by a British artist, Jenny Saville showing, in an unflinching manner, a body of an obese lady who seems to be self-consciously sizing herself. He felt a bit sorry for her (a long carrot diet ahead of her...), a bit taken aback, scared and intimidated by her size. He compared her with the ideal humans presented in the images of mass media and she just did not fit in. Or did she? He left a bit confused wondering for himself about all the conventions and norms imposed on us by the society and mass media; how deeply they are embedded in our minds...
Leo's Rabbit spent couple of hours wandering around the museum and came across many other interesting paintings. He liked 'Red Room' by Keith Haring showing a woman at leisure, leaning back and relaxing. The scene is not presented however in a calm or relaxing manner, but instead linear dark shapes and contrasting bright red colour made our little Rabbit feel energetic and somehow unsettled. 'Very curious', thought Rabbit.
An expressive poster by Barbara Kruger entitled 'Your Body is a Battleground' caught Rabbit's eye. He learned that this artwork was created for the Women’s March on Washington in support of reproductive freedom. The woman’s face, disembodied, split in positive and negative exposures, and obscured by text, marks a stark divide. He liked this image - an art and a protest in the same time.
The 'Untitled' painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat showing the skull scared little Rabbit. He was told that this is an autobiographical self-portrait of the artist. Well, he certainly wouldn't like to come across the author, so he fearfully looked over his shoulder and quickly proceeded to the next exhibit.
The highlight of Rabbit's day at The Broad came at the end when he visited an amazing installation created by Yayoi Kusama called Infinity Mirrored Room - The Souls of Millions of Light Years. It was literally a mirror-lined chamber housing a dazzling and seemingly endless LED light display. It was different from anything he ever seen before and even better than the whole field of cabbage. Our small-town Rabbit was very impressed and the view almost took his breath away. He stood still on the little island on the water with his ears up and his eyes wide open, and wherever he looked, he could see himself from different angles in endless mirrors in the sea of tiny dazzling lights.
He learned that since the 1960s, Yayoi Kusama has been creating Infinity Mirrored Rooms that provoke a sense of boundlessness and transcendence through extreme repetition. Kusama’s work is an expression of her life, providing insight into the many social and political contexts of her long career. Through her artwork, Kusama, a self-proclaimed ‘obsessional artist’, offers an unusual glimpse into the workings of a mind that is seldom quiet. The strength and appeal of her work goes beyond stylistic design; Kusama confronts the immensity of reality by searching at once for infinitude and oblivion. She is a very versatile artist. Her multidisciplinary art includes painting, performance, installation, writing, film, fashion, design, and architectural interventions. Moving between modes of working, Kusama has escaped associations to specific art movements, and instead she has developed her own unique path. Rabbit certainly enjoyed exploring that path :-)
All in all, Leo's Rabbit was pleased with his visit to The Broad and he found many paintings and artwork interesting and pleasing to his eyes. In numerous cases however, he did not understand the artistic concept and even did not like some highly regarded artwork. Hmm... he would not put it on display in his house or even tool shed. He thought that all this contemporary art often is about coming up with a very clever interpretation for not so pretty artwork and making a viewer believe that there is a deeper meaning to it. And then there is a bunch of snobs (rabbits and people) who don't really see any deeper meaning, but because they want to be cool, contemporary, arty and all of that, they pretend that they understand the artistic concept presented. Well... that's just a view of one well grounded Rabbit.
Leo's Rabbit 'lives' in my handbag and he travels with us everywhere we go. He has pictures taken at various locations, tourist attractions and places we visit. As a part of this blog we will describe Leo's Rabbit Travels to share our personal experiences from these visits. Hopefully couple of people (apart from us :-) ) will find it interesting and may even feel encouraged to visit one of Rabbit's destinations.