Some of the most beautiful ideas I’ve ever come across through my travels are those of a Buddhist monk and peace activist named Thich Nhat Hanh. On a motorcycle tour of Hue, Vietnam, we made a stop at a monastery where he had once studied. It was a gorgeous setting overflowing with greenery and flowers and peacefulness.
It was there that I first learned about him and his thoughts on interacting with the world. One of his most impactful ideas is that everyone and everything alive is a miracle. And that the ability to recognize the miracle in the creation of something as small and everyday as a fruit or vegetable is an important step to internal freedom and happiness.
In travel, this mindset can often come naturally. There are so many new experiences for the senses which bring about a heightened awareness of the small wonders of the world. It gets a little harder to sustain this kind of everyday appreciation in the monotony of the places you know well.
But in the event that you do forget, I think farmers markets, in all their earthy glory, are great places to begin remembering.
202 antique street lamps comprise the Urban Light sculpture at the entrance of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). It’s visible from Wilshire and I’d ridden past the columns of lamps numerous times, but this was my first time seeing it up close.
It’s a piece of artwork that incorporates a number of ideas that I love — it’s recycled, it’s interactive, it’s open for the public to enjoy, and there are an unlimited amount of ways to interpret it.
If it were not for the gigantic, multiple building museum I was about to explore, I could’ve spent an hour at that sculpture alone, discovering the different angles and viewpoints.
I was in Los Angeles during the summer of 2009 when I spotted this bench. I shook my head. “People here really are living in La-La Land,” I thought.
I wasn’t until recently when I created this site and started sifting through old photos that I found this one and decided to figure out if there was actually some meaning behind the sign. After all, I did spot it in LA. In San Francisco, it truly could have been some random eccentric with an incoherent message who put it there. But in LA, there probably had to be more to such a sign.
With a quick search, I found out that it was an advertisement for the movie District 9, which was released that summer. At the time, I wasn’t paying attention to new movies. I was preoccupied with planning my first big solo excursion, a trip to Peru and Bolivia. D-9 meant nothing to me.
In my tendency to gravitate towards strangeness, I’d been intrigued and humored by the mystery of the bench sign. Now that I finally know what it’s about, I must say that I liked the fun of being unaware of who was behind it better.
I’m on my way to the museum when I walk by it. The roads are congested with cars and the sidewalks are mostly empty. On that corner, it was just me crossing the street and this man sleeping in front of the empty restaurant. Johnie’s Coffee Shop is closed for food but “available for filming”.
It’s located a stretch of Wilshire Boulevard nicknamed the “Miracle Mile”. It’s flanked by 99cent stores and the wondrous Los Angeles County of Modern Art. Johnie’s seems to meet its neighbors halfway.
From the side, you can see that its roof raises and dips to form a disproportionate “M” shape. The overall aesthetic of it is something that some chain diners try to recreate, but cannot recapture the undefiled ideas that went into the making of it.
It’s called Googie architecture. Some iconic examples of the style are still prominent, but a change in ideas about the amount of attention individual buildings should attract brought about the demolition of many other buildings of this era. Some, like Johnie’s, still stand in their kitschy glory as a reminder of bygone times and innocent Jetson-esque ideas about the future.