Day Dates In Los Angeles

Day Dates In Los Angeles

“A sip of wine, a cigarette, And then it’s time to go. I tidied up the kitchenette; I tuned the old banjo. I’m wanted at the traffic-jam. They’re saving me a seat.” Leonard Cohen

L.A. is a car city. Most people drive; whether it’s to work or to grab a coffee at the Starbucks down the street. It doesn’t matter if your office is in walking distance, you’ll hop in your car to get there. Since everyone drives everywhere, LA traffic can turn a quick trip into a long commute.

Los Angeles had the world’s worst traffic in 2016  beating out Moscow for the top spot in the rankings released by traffic firm INRIX. According to the survey, Los Angeles motorists spent an average of 104 hours stuck in traffic last year. The worst traffic day is Friday.

I moved to the Venice Marina Del Rey area last summer if you did not read my sad moving blogs. My friends and family live on the other side of the 405 freeway. This means that the city’s congestion now confines me to my own area on week day evenings. Local neighborhoods have had to become more self-sufficient with interesting restaurants, bars, cultural and recreational sources as more and more  people do not want to sit in traffic to go out at night.

It’s traditional to make plans with people at night. I tried when I first moved here to continue to meet people during the week. “I’ll be there in twenty minutes,” I would say when I was in standstill traffic and knew it would be at least an hour. I would have to leave at four o clock for a seven o clock dinner. A two-hour dinner in town became a five-hour dinner with traffic and parking.

I began to only accept invitations to things I had to do – celebrations, rock concerts and a few events. I stopped going to the theatre, ballet and gallery openings downtown on week nights.  All these things were available on weekends. I started to stay home on weekday evenings unless people wanted to drive to the beach or at least to my side of the 405.  I blamed it on my puppy’s anxiety (which is sad but true). My friend’s and family did not want to make the drive here after the first new house inspection. Guys will do it.

 Recently I started making day dates with my friends on the other side of the 405 and the east side of town. If you go to a movie in a crowded mall on an afternoon, the theatre is empty. You can park on the first level and not spend a half hour getting out of the parking lot. The ridiculously crowded restaurants have plenty of space available. The concession stand is empty and will even make a fresh batch of popcorn or pot of coffee if you ask nicely. There are no lines for the bathroom. I do the weekend theatre matinees  downtown and have an early dinner to try a trendy downtown restaurant. Weekend brunches are my best friend though as it gets closer to the summer the traffic  near the beach will be a problem.  Lunch dates always work.  My friends aren’t thrilled with the new arrangement but they are doing it and agree it is relaxing and fun.

I am no longer losing entire days of my life sitting in traffic. There are plenty of other things I can do with those 104 hours.

Fly safe,

JAZ

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Petra, Jordan

Petra, Jordan

Joke I heard in Jordan “ Two Arabs are speaking. The first one says, “I love living in Washington DC, I can say anything I want about President Obama.” “ It is the same in Damascus,” said his friend. “We can also say anything we want about President Obama.”

Petra was not on my bucket list and it should have been. It is a city of rose-colored stone, carved out of rock by the Nabateans in the 3rd century BC. Like Macchu Picchu, there isn’t a lot of information known about it. It is one of the dryest places on earth and how they got water for the thirty thousand people who lived here is a mystery.

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Stephen Spielberg brought it to us in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It is one of the more amazing places I will see in my lifetime. To the American press, Jordan is a country surrounded by evil, but there is no State Department warning at this time about traveling to Jordan, so I decided to go. 

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There are different ways to get to Petra. It is a four-hour drive from Amman airport or a two-hour drive from Aquaba airport. I crossed at the Eilat Arava crossing from Israel. Petra is about two hours away by bus or taxi.

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if you plan to cross into Jordan at the Aqaba/Eilat border crossing, you have two options as of January first  2016. You either need to have a pre-arranged Jordan visa (at least two weeks in advance) from a consulate or embassy elsewhere, or you can travel with a qualified tour company on a tour. In this case the tour company can vouch for you at the border. I decided to do it at the last-minute so my only option was to join a tour.

 I traveled with Tourist Israel. https://www.touristisrael.com/. I googled tours to Petra and contacted a few but they were the best fit for me. The agents were professional online and answered my many, many questions promptly.  You have a choice of different tours – one or more days. All the Israeli tour companies work with  Jordanian tour companies on the Jordan side. The drivers in both countries were excellent. The border crossing  is smooth on both sides. The people on the tour were interesting and from all over the world so that was fun.The tour guide was informative and funny. My only caution would be in the store where the money goes to the Women’s Development Project (hopefully, because I saw no women and assumed that was cultural). I was given prices in dollars but charged the same number they gave me in dinars (which is a lot more) and I didn’t catch it so be aware of that. 

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Remember that It is a border crossing in the Middle East  and information can change at any time so check right before you go.There are visa fees and border crossing fees. You actually walk across the border here. There is a few minutes of no man’s land between the countries  and it is little surreal.

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The Jordanian guards seem bored and relaxed. The Israelis are serious and vigilant. The border closes at 8PM ( we got there at 745). Borders are serious business. Follow the rules.  Answer the questions and  no joking around.

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The best time to visit Petra is in the spring or fall because it is very hot. I was there in October but there was a heat wave so it was summer hot.

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Petra stretches over a massive 60 square kilometer area and you’ll end up doing a lot of walking with very little shade. Dress appropriately for the heat but also remember you are in a Muslim country. Always be respectful of local culture.  if it gets too much there’s a choice of camels, donkeys and horses to do the hard work for you.  It involves.negotiating with kohl eyed Berber men on a price.

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The city was built in a canyon for protection.

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The Siq is the main entrance to the lost city of Petra.

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In my  opinion, the Siq is one of the greatest attractions of Petra. The gorge stands between 91-182 meters high and is no more than 3 meters wide for the 2km it takes to reach the city.

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The Treasury will be the very first thing that you see when you reach the end of the Siq. You can’t miss it. As you walk through a passageway big enough for one camel , someone will be playing the music from Indiana Jones. As with all World Wonders, it feels very touristy.

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The Street of Facades is a walkway with various cutouts that have been weathered by the elements and time. Stroll along this walkway imaging what it would have been like to arrive into this great city at the height of its power.

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The theater is small by Roman standards, but still worth checking out as it is carved out of the pink stone, right into the wall. You are not allowed to enter the theater, but you can climb up to a viewing platform to get an unobstructed view and some decent photos.

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The royal tombs are coolest place you can visit in the lost city of Petra. Be sure to make the climb up to the top for a fantastic view of the city. Take your time to look at the market stalls along the way for some interesting souvenirs. The view inside the tombs is stunning as well.

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  I did not get to the Colonnade Street or the  Monastery. It was very hot and our tour guide was discouraging the donkey and camel rides. I think he was worried about the time and getting us back.

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 Petra is a huge site. There are many day tours but I think one day is simply not enough time to explore this massive, beautiful ruins.

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You need two days at a minimum. Two full days would give you the perfect amount of time to see all the sites at a pace conducive to photography and enjoyment. Stay over night in Wadi Musa ( he nearby town) or under the stars in the Wadi Rum. The Wadi Rum is the desert of  the Bedouins and Lawrence of Arabia and I definitely should have stayed there. It looked amazing.

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We were driving back through the Wadi Rum at sunset. It is “vast, echoing and godlike”said TE Lawrence ( of Arabia).

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Fly safe,

JAZ

Bend It Like Niemeyer

Bend It Like Niemeyer

“Here, then, is what I wanted to tell you of my architecture. I created it with courage and idealism, but also with an awareness of the fact that what is important is life, friends and attempting to make this unjust world a better place in which to live.” Oscar Niemeyer

I wish I could say I thought of that but I took the title from the Guardian. Maybe some of you not Brits had missed it.

One of Brazil’s greatest architects was Oscar Niemeyer who was known for his curved spaces and ramps. Beauty, spatial drama and lightness was more important to him than functionality. His use of concrete and steel was done in ways that had not been seen before. He died in 2012 at 104, a world-renowned architect, with hundreds of works in Europe, the Americas and Africa.

Niemeyer became a member of the Communist party in 1945. In 1964, when a military coup overthrew the government, Niemeyer was threatened and resettled in France and did not return to Brazil until the end of the military dictatorship in 1985. He designed the communist headquarters in Paris.

Oscar Niemeyer worked alongside Le Corbusier on the UN buildings in New York and his designs for Brasília earned the city a Unesco World Heritage status. Niemeyer received the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1988, the highest award in the profession, for his Cathedral of Brasília. ( not my photo)

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I am a wannabe architect and a fan of beautiful buildings and could not wait to see his structures in Brazil.
Some of Niemeyer’s most famous and recent work can be found in the city of Niterói across the bay from Rio. Niteroi has more buildings designed by him than any other city outside of Brasília where he redesigned the capital city.

The Museu de Arte Contemporanea (MAC) overlooks Guanabara Bay.

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The museum is a direct response to the natural topography of the bay.  The curve of the structure matches the curve of Sugarloaf.

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The building is the anti gallery white cube space. You can see the relationship of art, architecture and the surrounding landscape.

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The Theatre of Niteroi is another great example of Niemeyer style.

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The drawing on the front by Niemeyer is done on each individual tile.

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The green and yellow color scheme represents Brazil’s flag.

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Oscar Niemeyer designed several of the buildings in Ibirapuera Park in São Paulo. Roberto Burle Marx and Otávio Agusto de Teixeira Mendes provided the park’s landscape architecture. The park opened in 1954.

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The Bienal was built to host a biannual art exhibition which started in 1951.

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São Paulo was the second city in the world after Venice to do this. A major art exhibition is held here every two years.

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I had seen photos of the interior before and didn’t recognize it because of the sharp contrast of the completely rectangular patterns on the outside to the flowing circular forms inside. (not my photo)

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The Marquise was also designed by Niemeyer. It’s a large, covered space that curves through the park behind the Niemeyer buildings and connects the Modern Art Museum to the playground and an outdoor restaurant. It’s used now as a place for people to relax, skate, and rollerblade.

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Oscar Niemeyer designed the Oca auditorium in 1951. The white domed structure is now used for traveling art exhibits. The full name is Pavilhão Lucas Nogueira Garcez, and it was built to commemorate the city’s 400th anniversary in 1951.

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It is called the “oca” because it resembles the traditional Native American dwelling.

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The interior has 4 levels, each connected by a ramp that spirals around.

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In 2004 Niemeyer co-designed the Park’s Auditorium with the “giant red tongue”.

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This futuristic building was in the original design of the park but was not built until much later.

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The Copan was one of Niemeyers early masterpieces. It is an imposing S-shaped building in the Centro district of São Paulo. Having studied some architecture, the Copan for me has always been a symbol of São Paulo. This is the largest residential building in Brazil, and, reportedly, the most populated single residential building in the world with room for seventy businesses on the first floor. It has its own zip code. The downtown area is a bit seedy but i’m sure with gentrification the apartments are being restored.

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Niemeyer went to the office everyday to work on his designs and oversee his projects till his death at 104. He believed in using architecture as a way to create a better world through better design.

Special thanks to my guides Arthur Simoes in São Paulo and Gabriel Morand in Rio for their knowledge, patience and stories about an architect that I have admired for a long time.

Tenha Uma Boa Viagem,

JAZ