Friday, April 12, 2013

Ticket to the Greatest Show on Earth

Television is not what it used to be - thankfully. When I look back at the shows I watched as a kid, television shows mostly consisted of pretty people (or pretty people being made to look less pretty), fixed sets, and canned laughter. Sure, there were dramas on TV then too - but when I look back at the dramas of that era, they were soapier than my last bubble bath. Very little of what I watched was realistic - life is much messier than how it appeared on TV. This all changed when I started high school and My So-Called Life came on the air. I distinctly remember this show being the first show I completely related to... I had friends like Angela had. I knew teachers like those on the show. I got zits and wore ugly flannel just like the stars did. It was awesome... and short-lived. 

I've watched plenty of shows in the near 20 years since that show went off the air. And sure, many of them have grabbed my attention long enough that I stuck around for the entire season. But a lot of what has been on the air has been glamorized and unrealistic. Carrie Bradshaw couldn't live in her awesome apartment on the Upper East Side, live only on Cosmopolitans, and wear $500 shoes on a freelance writer's salary. My friends don't wear flattering scrubs like those worn by the cast of Grey's Anatomy. And cops/detectives are rarely perfectly put together after a chase or fight scene like many of the cop dramas that have popped up in the last 10 years. 

When SouthLAnd promos started airing on NBC in 2009, my interest was piqued almost immediately. When I saw Regina King was cast, I knew I had to tune in (love her). When I heard Michael Cudlitz (who I loved from Band of Brothers) and Ben McKenzie (of OC fame) had also signed on, I knew it was something worth staying up late for. Even if it had been very similar to the other cop shows out there, these stars alone made it something I knew would end up on my weekly rotation.

Through the years, I've watched as the show moved from NBC (rather unceremoniously) to TNT. I've seen the core cast shrink from a focus on many to just a few. The cast isn't always pretty (sorry Shawn - your elbows are still beautiful!), the story isn't always happy, and the characters don't always do the right thing. These characters are so authentic that you sometimes forget that this is a scripted show and not a documentary. I remember being overjoyed when I saw Kevin Alejandro alive and well on another TV show after Nate's shocking death in Season 3. I was shocked that Michael Cudlitz didn't really have a back problem. And to be honest, I don't know that I'll ever be able to like Emily Bergl, who plays Tammi Bryant on the show (Tammi is so awful!). 

The show has matured into a very well oiled machine in its 5th year, its supporting cast as good as its core in every episode. The season kicked off at just the right speed - not too much too fast, but just shocking enough to remind me of its brilliance. I could write on and on about every episode of the show thus far, but instead I wanted to just give my thanks and recognition to my regular favorites. 

Regina King/Lydia Adams: If played by any other actress, Detective Lydia Adams may be a hard one to love. She's smart, she's tough, and she has a shell so hard to crack we rarely get much insight into her inner thoughts and emotions. Regina King's portrayal of Detective Adams gives an unexpected vulnerability to such a tough cop. Through her, we not only see Detective Adams' physical strength, but we also get glimpses of the pain she feels in working some of the cases she is forced to review. Regina is a master of showing emotion with no words - it's really powerful. I love seeing her portray Lydia as a mom because (in true SouthLAnd form) we don't see Lydia immediately change as a result. Lydia wants to be a mom, but she also still wants to be her - a challenge I think many independent, driven women with children often face. Regina has handled this challenge with grace, her eyes telling of Lydia's internal struggle when the words don't.

Shawn Hatosy/Sammy Bryant: Sammy Bryant is best defined as loyal, really to a fault. He was loyal to his awful wife, he's loyal to his partners (good and bad), and he's loyal to his job. He holds himself highly accountable and believes he has very high ethics, although we have watched as he struggles to maintain this aura through each challenge he faces. Like Cooper, Sammy really could use a break. He always tries to do the right thing, but the fates test him repeatedly to the point of almost breaking. I worry that this may be the season that he finally does. 

With other actors, Sammy may have easily been portrayed as either cocky or weak. Shawn Hatosy is such an affable person, he really makes you want to root for Sammy even when you don't necessarily agree with him. The tenderness he lends to Sammy's character is not confused for weakness; rather, Shawn's tenderness comes across as genuine and strong. Shawn's poise helps viewers see Sammy as one tough cop, a street-smart helluva guy that has earned the respect of his peers and the perps he puts behind bars. I fall a little more for Sammy (and Shawn) with each episode.

Ben McKenzie/Ben Sherman: One of the first people you meet in Season 1 of SouthLAnd is Ben Sherman. As a wide-eyed rookie, he has few words and lots of heart. He didn't come to this job because it was easy money - he did it because he wanted to make a difference. Oh, Ben Sherman, how I wish the boot version of you would come back!

Before SouthLAnd, I was only vaguely aware of Ben McKenzie. I had a lot of friends who loved The OC when it aired, and they also tuned in to SouthLAnd if only to see their precious Ryan Atwood back on the small screen. Because I was not a fan of that show, I had no expectation (good or bad) of how he would be on this show. Ben McKenzie completely won me over in the pilot. He didn't say much in that episode, but he didn't have to - McKenzie's portrayal of Sherman was endearing. He was likable, innocent, vulnerable - and smart! As the years have gone by, Sherman has grown dark, jaded, and arrogant. He still thinks he does the right thing, and that's probably what scares me. McKenzie has played this transition flawlessly. You can see the daily internal struggle between good, bad, and everything in-between on McKenzie's face - he's never had to say much to get you to see how he's feeling. McKenzie is wearing Sherman's jaded outlook like a well worn suit, so much so that you begin to believe it may affect McKenzie himself. I truly don't know how these actors separate their craft from their lives.

Michael Cudlitz/John Cooper: Before SouthLAnd aired, I remember reading an article that stated they were going to have a gay cop as one of the leads. As a strong straight ally to the LGBT community, I immediately wondered how they would handle such a role without trivializing or stereotyping the character. When I later read that Michael Cudlitz had been cast in the role, I was simultaneously shocked and happy. As a 90210 fan, I still remember Cudlitz as the guy who took Brenda to the prom (sorry Michael!). I later watched and loved him in Band of Brothers, quite possibly one of my favorite shows of all time. While I had only seen him in a few other roles, I just knew in my gut that this guy wasn't going to make light (or make little) of his role as a gay man on the show... he was perfect for the job. And I was right!

Michael Cudlitz's John Cooper is introduced on day one as a smart talking, tough veteran not unlike many of the cops I knew back home in New Mexico. He isn't politically correct, he talks crap to his peers and his boot, and he's basically an all around guy's guy - at the surface. As the end of the very first episode showed, John Cooper is not without his skeletons; the tricky part was learning how many there were and how deep they were hidden in that closet. To say that Cooper is my favorite character on the show isn't fair. Cooper is one of my favorite characters of any medium of all time. He's complex, and I can't imagine anyone playing him other than Cudlitz. 

Cudlitz has the amazing ability (as does most of the cast) to say more with a look than with the words he may say (see the picture above). People who aren't even fans of the show have recognized that. But what those people don't get to see is the tremendous brilliance with which he portrays the many faces of John Cooper, both the man and the officer. You, the viewer, don't get to know John Cooper all at once. We get hints of his personal life, his addictions, and his pain as the show goes on, but Cooper has a pretty thick shell. With any other actor, the writers would be forced to give us dialogue to let us know how Coop is feeling, but with Cudlitz, it isn't necessary. 

Michael Cudlitz's masterful portrayal of John Cooper is awe-inspiring in every single episode. When Cooper feels pain, I feel that pain. When Cooper feels lost, I feel that loss. When Cooper has hope, I hope so much for that hope to be realized. Cudlitz has turned what could have been an arrogant, self-absorbed cop into one of the most endearing, beautiful characters to have ever graced my television screen. His back pain looks so real, my dad actually asked me if he had really hurt his back (my dad has had a double spinal fusion). When he recently told his ex-wife he wanted to start a family, I believed him. And when whether he's arguing with his boyfriend, being told off by his dad, or breaking down with his former FTO, I can feel the heartbreak he's feeling. And I have never witnessed more horror than Cudlitz portrayed in playing Cooper in the most recent SouthLAnd episode, "Chaos." I couldn't sleep last night after watching it, and I expect it was emotionally draining on Cudlitz to play that role too. How the man has never won an Emmy is beyond me...


In addition to this core cast, there are many tremendous supporting players who have come and gone through the years that were (and/or are) equally superb. I was so, so happy to see C. Thomas Howell added to the cast as a season regular in Season 5. Say what you will about Dewey, but he's always brought a levity to the show that can often be needed at times. Played by anyone else, Dewey would be any other jerk cop - possibly respected by some, but hated by most. Howell, however, brings humility and vulnerability to this character that balances him out beautifully. His turn on his partner, Chickie, before he went to rehab was played perfectly. I have been happy to see him more frequently this season, as we have gotten to learn more about him and what makes him tick. He hides a lot of compassion under that cocky and sometimes obnoxious exterior. Watching him worry about his friend in last night's episode wasn't surprising - and is a true testament to how well balanced Howell has played this character.

Of those who have come and gone, I also have a few favorites. Kevin Alejandro's portrayal of Gang Detective Nate was understated and "cool." He was so easy to like! Up until last night, his death was the most shocking and traumatic death I had ever seen on television. I cried not only for the loss of the character, but for the loss of the actor on the show - I knew they could not replace him. Lucy Lui's Officer Tang was a welcome surprise come Season 4. She was the perfect partner for Cooper after his return following back surgery, and gave us a new perspective on both the job and of John Cooper. 

This season's addition of Henry Lucero as partner for my beloved John Cooper was such a welcome surprise. No more boots for John! Lucero, played by the amazing Anthony Ruivivar, was instantly likable, confident, and the perfect balance to the sometimes-too-serious Cooper. I often tweeted my praise to him via Twitter; I was so pleased with his performance in the role. It wasn't until last night, however, that I truly understood how dedicated Ruivivar was to his craft. His character was beaten, burnt, and horribly tortured last night, and Ruivivar's performance had the audience feel each new wound with him. His death is now officially the most shocking of the series, and one I won't forget anytime soon. I am truly sad to see him go, but have been telling friends ever since - Ruivivar will be one to watch in the future. 

I could go on and on about my love for this show and it's brilliant cast and crew, but I'll stop. This love letter is already too long, and most of you have stopped reading. If you haven't watched SouthLAnd, please tune in to the finale next week. It's on the bubble, and we could use your views! Plus, I think you'll instantly be as hooked as the rest of its millions of fans. 

If you are a fan, please tell TNT to keep it on the air! Email them at and tell them to renew. Or sign the "Save SouthLAnd" petition. There is also a SouthLAnd Season 6 twitter page you can follow for more ideas to promote the show. I thank you for your help!

Until next time... Light 'em up in support of SouthLAnd!

--- Becks

Monday, April 8, 2013

Finding Neutral Ground in the City that Care Forgot

"If there was no New Orleans, America would just be a bunch of free people dying of boredom." - J. Deck

Five years ago last month, I was relocated by my company from Houston, TX to New Orleans, LA for a temporary yearlong assignment. I was simultaneously excited and scared to death. My first trip to N'awlins was just 2 years before that, and no less than 5 months after Hurricane Katrina. The timing of that visit definitely tainted my first experience - the streets were empty, buildings were destroyed and abandoned, and crime was abundant. I had gone for a two day conference, and was escorted everywhere by armed security personnel. For a small town girl who grew up in the high desert, nothing about my first experience made me feel safe or at home. When I was asked to move, I initially considered quitting just to get out of it because it scared me so! Needless to say, I am so, so glad I didn't!

Nothing in New Orleans to me was ever normal. The moss on trees was weird. The commute to the north shore over a 24 mile bridge was strange. The accents were unexpected (much more "Bronx" than "Southern"). Phrases were difficult to understand. It was like I moved to a foreign country without the need for a passport! But the people... oh the people... I have never met warmer, friendlier people in my life. Some of my favorite people have been people I had the pleasure of meeting there - I hope they know what a special place they have in my heart!

I had been on the job for only two days when I was invited to my first business dinner. Business dinners are not uncommon in my industry, but the frequency with which I had such meetings in New Orleans was a welcome surprise! The city is very well known for its cuisine, and with good reason - the food there is divine! It's no wonder so many with business accounts take advantage of it. 

During that dinner, I was also surprised with another first - a nighttime parade during the middle of the week. We were wrapping up around 10pm when we heard the band playing outside. Upon exiting, we were greeted with a full parade smack in the middle of the French Quarter! It definitely set the tone for the duration of my adventure there. It was amazing!

I enjoyed many, many more adventures during my 13 month stay in bayou - and I loved every minute of it. Here are a few pictures from my brief and beautiful time there. My goal is to go back there very soon and visit the place I left my heart. 

When I wasn't commuting over a 24 mile bridge, I was commuting in old school street cars!

My beautiful baby sister in the almost-as-beautiful Audubon Park

Jackson Square - birthplace of some of my favorite pieces of art!

Above ground graves/crypts because the city is below sea level! Creepy!

Destrehan Plantation - my favorite in Louisiana

My beautiful momma beneath one of the coolest old oak trees I've ever seen

The old slave shacks - a sad reminder of what this country used to be

Ghost hunting with mom in the Quarter - very fun!

Running yellow naked men - totally normal, right?

Jazz on every corner is the way every city should be!

Al Copeland's last Christmas lights (read story here)

Mississippi River front streetcar adorned with holiday flair

One of the earlier parades of Carnival season 
(commonly referred to as Mardi Gras, but really Mardi Gras itself is only Fat Tuesday)

The Saturday before Mardi Gras - crowds are starting to get big and crazy!

There are over 65 Mardi Gras Krewes in the New Orleans area - each with it's own parade during Carnival. They also have their own royalty and many have their own formal balls. My favorites are Thoth, Endymion, Bacchus, Tucks, Rex, and Zulu (although I'm a bit biased because I have friends in some of these). 

Midcity's Parade really cracked me up - it was deliciously tacky!

THIS was the crowd as viewed from our party balcony on Lundi Gras (the night before Fat Tuesday). It was so nice to have friends who had friends who rented balconies! I would have hated being below in that crowd. YUCK!

The end of one of my many Carnival nights. So much fun! And no - I will not tell you how I got so many beads.... ha!

So what did I learn from my adventure in N'awlins? Well, first I should say is that it is not as dangerous as I had originally thought. It is like any other city - there are good parts and bad. You just need to use common sense and street smarts and you will be fine. Second, you should only eat oysters in months with an "r." Third, everything is better with bourbon. 

And last... never assume words or phrases mean what you think they do. For instance, a "neutral ground" in New Orleans is called a street median everywhere else. If someone asks you if you want to "make groceries," they're asking you if you want to go grocery shopping with them. Telling someone that they "put their foot in that food" is a compliment. Tchoupitoulas is pronounced "chop a two 'les." And if someone offers you a little lagniappe ("lan-yap"), they're just telling you their giving you a little more than you paid for (it's not something creepy!). 

My time in New Orleans was a short lived joy, and I will forever be grateful for the experience. I will tell anyone that will listen to visit at least once in their life - go for Mardi Gras while you're young, attend the French Quarter festival when you're in love, and definitely go to JazzFest whenever you can. The city is magical and will forever touch your heart. I'm off to do-do ("dough-dough" - meaning to go to bed in N'awlins speak)! Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Until next time...

--- Becks

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Hurray for Hollywood!

"Don't settle for the little dream - go on to the big one." -- A Star is Born

A new friend of mine is coming to California soon for vacation with her family. While Disneyland is the big draw, they plan to spend one day doing Hollywood too. I told her I would send her my recommendations, but I figured I might as well put them here in case someone else could use them. :)

I have always been fascinated by Hollywood. I love watching movies from Hollywood's Golden Age - Frankenstein, Gone With The Wind, The Wizard of Oz, An Affair to Remember, and Rebel Without a Cause come to mind most frequently. Growing up as a kid in a small town in New Mexico, I would watch such movies in awe, wondering how they made the movies and what the sets must have been like. Hollywood always seemed so glamorous to me - I couldn't wait to visit one day. 

When I finally DID visit, I must say I was disappointed. The center of Hollywood has been overrun by tourism. Out of work actors stalk the sidewalks in costumes trying to sell you a picture with them. T-shirt and novelty stores bookend the beautiful and famous old theaters on the block. Tour buses line the street, and everyone seems to be trying to sell you something. All this being said - it IS still Hollywood. You definitely should visit! Just make sure to do a couple of other things while you're in the area too! Here is how I would spend my day in Hollywood and LA - if I only had one day to visit
Hollywood Boulevard Must Visit List

Roosevelt Hotel
7000 Hollywood Blvd

First opening in 1927, the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood has been the home of many celebrities and famous events over the years. It was the site of the 1st ever academy awards, and Marilyn Monroe actually lived there for several years after she was first discovered (she is rumored to still haunt the halls today). Fans of the hit show, The Hills, will recall the pool area and Tropicana Bar well. There is very little security - even the pool is open to visitors. The interior is gorgeous! I highly recommend you check it out.

Grauman's Chinese Theater (now known as TCL Chinese Theater)
6925 Hollywood Blvd

Just across the street, Grauman's Chinese Theater also opened with much fanfare in 1927. In addition to its exterior, it is most popularly known for the hand and footprints that adorn the sidewalk in front of the theater. There are nearly 200 of such prints and autographs by celebrities in this forecourt, featuring celebrities of the past (Shirley Timple, Marilyn Monroe) and current times (cast of Harry Potter). It is truly a site to behold! 

For those who dig history like I do, a trip inside of the famous theater is a must do as well. You can either take a tour - or actually watch a movie! My mom, niece, and I watched a movie in it a couple of years ago and it was great! It is also beautiful inside (see picture above)! You can visit for details on what is showing and information for their VIP tours. 

Dolby Theater (formerly Kodak Theater)
6801 Hollywood Blvd

Directly next door to Grauman's Chinese Theater is the newly renamed Dolby Theater. As a huge fan of the Oscars, this was probably the thing I was most excited to see! What is slightly disappointing is that this site is actually the site of.... a mall. Yes, a mall. For those 51 other weeks of the year, the golden curtain is hidden and the red carpet is rolled up. Meanwhile, thousands roam around its halls shopping at Sun's Up and Sephora in the Hollywood & Highland Shopping Center near the very same staircase where the glitterati ascend to watch the most prestigious awards show of the year. It's crazy. The theater itself hosts events year round, and you can even take a tour of it if you're so inclined. 

I definitely recommend walking up the famous staircase to the awards hall (you can see some of the mall signs nearby in the picture of my niece above). The columns leading to the staircase actually list the names of all the Best Picture Award Winners, which is pretty neat to see. The mall itself is nice, and if you cut across the third floor promenade at the north end of the center, you can get a great view of the Hollywood sign. Speaking of which...

Other Nearby Hollywood Haunts

The Hollywood Sign (best view)
3204 Canyon Lake Dr

During my many, many trips to LA between 2002 - 2011, I never once made it to the Hollywood Sign. It wasn't for lack of trying - there's just not an easy way to get to it unless you actually know how to do so. Thanks to some very helpful Los Angelenos I've met since moving to CA, I finally found the Hollywood Sign by finding the nearby dog park. Yes, a dog park located just below the sign itself. Don't believe me?

Here's a picture of my dog at that very park just last summer. So much fun! Sure, you can get even closer to the Hollywood Sign if you're willing to hike, but why bother? This is close enough for most, and you get the bonus of seeing an amazing view of LA from the top. When driving up Canyon Lake Blvd, go just past the dog park for the shortest walk and best parking. Should you have kids that want to take a break, the dog park below also has a functional little playground. Not a bad place to spend a half hour in LA!

The War of World's Set/Universal Studios Viewpoint
3400 Blair Drive - Burbank, CA

After you've had your fun at the Hollywood sign, turn around and head back down the canyon towards Burbank for even more fun. Don't have time to take your kids to Universal Studios? No problem! A little known secret, shared by Lindsay Blake of, is that you can actually see part of the studio tour for free atop Blair Drive. This viewpoint is not far at all from the Hollywood sign, making it the perfect bookend to your visit to this side of town. From this vantage point you can see the War of the Worlds airplane crash scene, along with glimpses of Norman Bate's house from Hitchcock's Psycho and Whoville from the Jim Carey version of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. It - is - so - cool! I took my mom there last fall, and she loved it. It's especially cool when the trams drive by and the "set" comes to life! The trams come by every 15 minutes, so it's worth the wait.

If you find that you still have time before heading back to your hotel for the evening, I must suggest a drive west to Beverly Hills. Why, you ask? Well for one...

Sprinkles Cupcake ATM
9635 South Santa Monica Blvd - Beverly Hills, CA

Where else can you find a cupcake ATM? Sprinkles Cupcake Bakery is a fixture in LA - and with good reason. These cupcakes are delicious! The cupcake ATM is actually wedged between Sprinkles' bakery and their ice cream shop, making it ideal for either sweet tooth. I caution that the cupcakes from the ATM are the same as the ones in the bakery, yet cost slightly more - you're paying for convenience and novelty. But it's still oh-so-fun to use!

What else is in Beverly Hills? 

Paley Center - Television Out of the Box exhibit
465 North Beverly Dr - Beverly Hills, CA

Well, if you have an extra hour to kill I would highly recommend a visit to the Paley Center just a few blocks from Sprinkles. The Paley Center is currently hosting the WB's Television Out of the Box exhibit, an interactive exhibit featuring props, costumes, and other memorabilia from 60 years of Warner Brother's television shows. You can see actual costumes from some of your favorite shows (SouthLAnd, Friends, Seinfield, etc), see props used in the shows, and actually play with some of the sets (Caution: There has been evidence that the Central Perk/Friends set is not authentic, but who cares? It's still pretty fun to play with. I've done the WB tour and seen the actual set, but they don't let you sit on the couch or touch it in any way). The tickets for the exhibit run $10 for adults, $5 for kids under 13 years old, and your ticket gets you buy-one-get-one-free cupcakes at nearby Crumbs. Parking in the garage directly across the street is free for the first two hours, and you can easily do this exhibit in an hour or two. I have visited it twice, and definitely recommend it if you're in the area. 

Fellow blogger Lindsay Blake has put together a very good "must stalk" list for LA if you're interested, but the above would be my list if I only had one day to visit. I would have highly recommended a studio tour too, but since most take a couple of hours and are kind of costly, I would only do them if I had more than one day to check things out. LA is big, spread out, and plagued by traffic - if your time is limited, you have to plan it wisely. I hope you enjoy your trip!

Until next time...

--- Becks

Monday, April 1, 2013

Street Walking

"When I get real bored, I like to drive downtown and get a great parking spot... and then I sit in my car and count how many people ask me if I'm leaving." -- S Wright

I'd be lying if I said there was any downtown as amazing as the entirety of New York City. That city is THE CITY, and it's just really hard to compare. That being said, I have my share of favorite downtown districts outside of NYC, and my two favorites just may surprise you!

My favorite downtown was my least favorite downtown when I first moved to the city in 2005. At that time, this downtown district was a ghost town, occupied only by workers until 5pm with the homeless and thugs taking over after dark. There were few apartments, even fewer nighttime dining options, and almost no green space. The amazing baseball stadium and fantastic theater district (2nd only to Broadway) were, in my opinion, the only saving grace! Where is this gem, you ask? Why, it's no other than Houston, TX! 

So, what has changed? A LOT! When I left Houston for a short stint in New Orleans in February 2008, the city had not changed much. Parking lots and skyscrapers still dominated the downtown landscape. The only shopping in the area was an old Macy's, and while a few restaurants had sprouted up, lunch fare was still the dominate cuisine. Imagine my shock in September 2008 when I evacuated New Orleans (long story) and found this in Houston:

Several new towers and upscale apartments/condos have popped up since 2005, along with exciting dining options, more stores, and improved amenities. My favorite additions include the Houston Pavilions and Discovery Green. The Houston Pavilions center has become downtown Houston's premier entertainment location with several shopping and dining options, Lucky Strike bowling, and the House of Blues! 

Discovery Green is probably my favorite place to hang out in Houston (sorry Hermann Park). Originally the home to two large surface parking lots and a small, run down park, Discovery Green is a beautiful, 12 acre park and destination for downtown employees and residents to enjoy. It houses two restaurant options, activities (such as a model boat lake in the summer and ice skating in the winter), and a public library. It also hosts various events all year, including regular outdoor fitness/dance classes, movies, holiday events, farmer's markets, etc. The park is truly "green" too, utilizing various solar, storm water, recycling, and sustainable technologies and products to allow the park to achieve and maintain LEED certification. All of this is such a complete 180 from where it was only 8 short years ago. An amazing theater district, some of the best dining in the country, great park, and shopping?!?! Kudos, Houston!

My second favorite downtown (again, outside of the whole of NYC) is another place I didn't expect to like after my first visit. While this place is much more lively than Houston, it's not a downtown many think of as a destination when they are visiting from out of town. I didn't expect I would spend much time here when I first moved to California, yet here we are and I am writing a blog for it... Hello, downtown Los Angeles!

I don't think there are enough words to express the joy I have from exploring downtown Los Angeles. I love all the hidden treasures... the hidden garden behind the Walt Disney Concert Hall... the free fashion museum at FIDM... Angel's Flight. And who can forget the birthplace of LA (El Pueblo de Los Angeles), the birthplace of the French Dip (Philippe's near Chinatown), the Arts District, the Fashion District, LA Live (home of Nokia Theater, Staples Center, and more), and Chinatown? This place has so much to do and so much more to explore! Here are some pictures of my favorite downtown discoveries so far (I discover more and more with each visit):

Angel's Flight - world's shortest railway

Philippe's - Must try if you're ever in the area

Sneak peek of the garden at Walt Disney Concert Hall

The amazing LA Live

So now that you've seen my favorites - what are yours? Do you prefer the more famous Chicago waterfront skyline? The hills of San Francisco? Or are smaller towns more your speed? I may have grown up in a town with a smaller population than the last building I worked at in Houston, but I will forever love the tall cityscapes of these towns!

Until next time...

--- Becks