I haven't spent Thanksgiving in the States since 2005, but this year I decided to take my "big trip" that week in L.A., hitting many sites that were familiar to me (I grew up nearby, in Orange, and visit from the Bay Area often enough) and some that I'd never visited. Thanksgiving proper was a very wonderful and swanky affair down in La Jolla, where my brother lives, and he arranged dinner for my family at George's at the Cove, with a view over the ocean as the sun was setting. They had many delicious, inventive vegetarian options for me, and we all had a blast. More highlights, recommendations, and random recollections from the rest of my trip below, with a full set of pictures here.
Los Angeles was experiencing some seriously amazing weather the week I was there, so it was with great pleasure I made my first full day in town a beach day. I started with breakfast in Manhattan Beach and then toodled up the coast to Venice, pausing to take in the canals, the Mark di Suvero by the water, the skate park, the giant binoculars by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen sidled up to a Frank Gehry building, the shopping on Abbot Kinney. And a couple days later I found myself back there for an iced chai at Intellegentsia and a gorgeous al fresco dinner with friends at Superba Food + Bread. Venice, you are just charming.
Santa Monica was the next stop on my beach day, and I walked out on the Pier to fully take in the summer in November. A vegan tuna melt for lunch at Real Food Daily was followed by an ogle of the giant metal dinosaur topiaries in the middle of the Third Street Promenade, with a berry tart for dessert at Huckleberry before I jetted off to the Getty Villa (more on that below). I came back for dinner at Rustic Canyon later that night, and for a drink at Basement Tavern.
I soaked up a very fine sunset indeed at El Matador State Beach in Malibu that evening, arriving in time to catch the tail end of an American Apparel swimwear shoot while the sea lions bobbed unimpressed in the surf. So L.A.
I was introduced to the Getty Villa when my high school Latin class took a field trip there, and it was love at first sight. Back then the shmancy Getty Center (pictured above) hadn't been built yet, so I first discovered favorite pieces by Van Gogh and Munch there too. And of course it was during many high school and college trips to the Villa that my love of classical art and the classics in general was cemented. This visit I checked in on my muse Polyhymnia like I always do, and I also had a good sit by the fountain in the back herb garden, a place where many of my old hopes and dreams still linger. A couple days later I made a point of taking the tram up to the Center too, high on its hill overlooking the city, and relived some more memories there amongst the familiar artworks. Those Getty museums turn me into a sentimental fool.
The contemporary art scene is very much alive and well in Los Angeles too, and I hopped all over the city to see many an inspiring show. My favorites: Sayre Gomez at Francois Ghebaly Gallery (pictured above), Rob Wynne at Gavlak, Yuri Ancarani + Jim Hodges + Robert Heinecken (all separate exhibitions) at the Hammer, the Ellsworth Kelly on the outside of Matthew Marks.
Raise your hand if you were traumatized as a child by the tragic mammoth tableau at the La Brea Tar Pits. And the damn thing is still there, papa mammoth forever mired in tar while baby and mama mammoth cry on the shore. But I love the Tar Pits and their direct connection to the flora and fauna of ancient California, and they were even extra burbly and stinky for me the morning I visited. The adjacent Page Museum is rad too, filled with fossils and reconstructions of extinct beasties, and well worth visiting just to see volunteers sorting finds from the newer excavations.
LACMA is so huge now it's almost impossible to take in everything in just one day, much less the couple of hours I spent there with friends. However, we managed to take in plenty of excellent art: the Pierre Huyghe retrospective (pictured above), the samurai armor exhibition, Larry Sultan's photographs, netsuke in the Asian pavilion. That day we lunched at the food trucks that always park across the street (veggie banh mi for the win!), but I came back before I left town just so I could squeeze in a meal at Ray's too.
I was excited to see a snippet of new-to-me neighborhood Highland Park when I met some friends there one evening for drinks at The Hermosillo followed by treats at Donut Friend. Meanwhile the teenage me would be shocked to find out the adult me would seriously consider moving to Echo Park, but it is now home to spots like iam8bit gallery, awesome gigs at The Echo, and Record Club DJ night at El Prado (pictured above). Thankfully there are still plenty of Mexican sweet shops in the neighborhood too.
I never spend too long on Hollywood Boulevard, but I always find a star or two that makes me smile on the Walk of Fame. This time: Ray Bradbury, Edward R. Murrow. But really I'm there to go record shopping at Amoeba and to get a margarita at Loteria Grill.
My home base for this trip was the Palihotel in West Hollywood, within view of the Hollywood Sign and within easy striking distance of Prime Pizza, Petty Cash Taqueria, Joan's on Third, Canter's, Hugo's, Coffee Commissary, Cinefamily. Also home to The Hart and the Hunter (omg the biscuits). My last full day in town I had a luxurious afternoon Thai massage at the hotel, then spontaneously headed up to Griffith Observatory to catch the sunset. As it was the day after Thanksgiving about three-quarters of L.A. also had the same idea, so I gave up on the Observatory proper and just hiked to a nearby rock instead. I was not disappointed with the results.
Last but absolutely and definitely not least. The most important stop on any Heidi tour of Los Angeles is the Museum of Jurassic Technology, and the less said about it is always the better. Just know that they recognize me there by my Margaret Kilgallen tattoos and that there is a certain room on the first floor that always makes me weep. While you're there make sure to stop by the Center for Land Use Interpretation too, just two doors down from the MJT. Both organizations ensure that you will never look at the world in the same way again.
When the Center for Land Use Interpretation announces a bus trip I jump, and this time I took my dad (the engineer of whom I am the daughter) along with me too. CLUI's current exhibit is called Down to Earth: Experimental Aircraft Crash Sites of the Mojave, and the trip took us out to select sites around Edwards Air Force Base with two expert aerospace archaeologists, Peter W. Merlin and Tony Moore, as our guides. Along the way they and CLUI director Matthew Coolidge commented on numerous points of interest and told the stories of the pilots, almost none of whom were able to eject from their doomed aircraft in time. At the first site we visited when I looked down and saw the shrapnel still scattered across the dirt decades after the crash it was sobering to say the least. As always with CLUI the whole journey left my head brimming with new information, in this instance about a little-known part of history. I have great respect for those pilots and for the work Merlin and Moore continue to do too. Plus it was just wonderful to spend a day in my favorite desert with my dad, right back where my family had seen Space Shuttle Columbia land at Edwards in 1983.