• 1848 words
• 9 minute read
Tags: Travel, Los Angeles, California
This weekend I flew out to Los Angeles to see my friend Ethan Cranston. He is a former student of mine at Mines, and we got to know each other well because he was one of the most consistent in-person attendees during the hybrid COVID semesters. He now works at SpaceX and since I have a ton of Southwest points, I decided to visit him somewhat on a whim.
I left Friday afternoon, and the outbound flight out of DIA was really pretty. I had a great view of Berthoud Pass out my window. Then, on the descent into LAX, I had a great view of downtown LA and the sprawling suburbs.
A view of Berthoud Pass out my window. I know the pass very well since I love to ski at Winter Park.
During the descent into LA, all I could think about was Party in the USA by Miley Cyrus. There's something surreal about the view.
Ethan lives close to the airport, and he kindly picked me up, and then we went to dinner at a great ramen restaurant in El Segundo. Then we walked over to the beach and walked around for a bit. There was a movie playing on a big projector at one part of the beach. It was a nice little walk after being on the plane for a couple hours.
Working Out on Vacation?
On Saturday morning, Ethan and I went to his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu gym for a class. Ethan trained as a kid in taekwondo in the same organization that I am a member of, and he’s recently started training in jiu-jitsu.
I’ve done a handfull of jiu-jitsu basics classes taught by my previous taekwondo instructor who cross trained in jiu-jitsu, but I don’t really know any moves. The training was quite fun, and we did a bunch of different drills. Everyone was very welcoming and I enjoyed trying a different martial art!
For lunch, we went to a Poke restaurant. We met up with a student who is working on reverse engineering iMessage. I’d met him online through Beeper, and by coincidence, I found out he lived in LA, pretty close to where Ethan lives. It was cool to meet him in person because I’ve interacted with him in a technical capacity a fair bit recently since I’ve been working on improving Beeper’s iMessage bridge.
After lunch, we headed back to Ethan’s apartment and both of us ended up taking an ten minute nap that turned into an hour-long nap. Apparently the jiu-jitsu class was more tiring than I thought!
After our nap, we went over to the SpaceX HQ and walked around the outside. They have a Falcon 9 booster on display outside of the building. It is very impressive in person, and it’s so neat that they are able to land them upright!
We then went to Watts Towers, which is a sculpture built by an eccentric artist during the early decades of the 20th century. Its main structure is steel but is covered in concrete which is laced with embedded fragments of glass, porcelain, seashells, and other random items. Watts Towers is on a bunch of “top attractions in LA” lists, on the TimeOut list it’s number 27. As we walked around the sculpture, we kept joking about it being the 27th coolest thing in LA. In my opinion, there’s a reason it’s 27th. It was kinda cool to see, but not something that I’m dying to revisit.
After stopping back at Ethan’s apartment for a few minutes, we took an Uber down to Hermosa Beach. There’s a really long pier that we walked out on and we walked a bit on the beach. It wasn’t quite nice enough to get in, but I figured I had to at least get my feet wet if I went all the way out to LA.
For dinner, we went to a sushi restaurant which was delicious. Then we made our way over to Monkish Brewing Co. for a few beers. Our Uber driver on the way was a tattoo artist, and after we arrived, he showed us some of the tattoos he’s done on his Instagram. He was quite the eccentric guy, and he kept scrolling and showing us tons of pictures. I thought we’d never escape! Monkish had a really nice outdoor seating area and we had a couple rounds before going over to Hermosa Brewing Company for last call. I’m not a big drinker, and I’m a total lightweight, but I enjoy a good beer every now and again. But at the end of the day, what makes a good night out is the company you’re with, and Ethan and I had a great hanging out and really getting to know each other on a deeper level.
Ethan is Catholic, and so on Sunday, we went together to Mass. I had never been to a Catholic Mass in English before. The only other time I had been to Mass was a French Mass in Montreal where I understood nothing about what was going on. I still didn’t know what was going on at the English Catholic Mass, but that was a function of not being Catholic rather than a function of not knowing the language.
There were two things that struck me most about the service. First was the order of the service and the specific emphasis of each part of the Mass. The second was on the emphasis on confession and repentance at various points within the service.
As a baptist, some aspects of service felt familiar: scripture readings, songs of worship, and prayer. Yet there were many aspects that felt very different. At my church, the scripture readings are from the passage of scripture which the pastor is teaching on, whereas at the Mass there were readings from various parts of scripture. Additionally, whereas the main focus of the service at my church is on the expository preaching of the Word through verse-by-verse exegetical teaching, the priest’s message was just one part of the service, not the centrepiece. A much longer time was dedicated to preparing for the Eucharist than my church prepares for communion. Many prayers were offered during the Mass in preparation for the Eucharist and other things that I didn’t really understand. At my church, after the sermon, one of the men of the church stands in front of the congregation and leads a time of prayer, and sometimes also makes a few comments on the passage that was taught, or another relevant passage. In general, the Mass had much more structure than the services at my church.
The other thing that struck me was the emphasis on confession at different points within the service. At my church, the main time during the service where we stop to confess our sins to God is before communion. During the prayer, confession and gratitude for Christ’s sacrifice is emphasised. However, at the Mass, it felt like there were more times specifically focused on those topics.
In all, I’m glad I attended. As a protestant, there are many things in Catholicism that I disagree with, but I nonetheless appreciated the opportunity to participate in worshiping God.
After the Mass, we drove over to Hollywood, which in many ways is the exact antithesis to Christianity. But hey, I was a tourist, I’m going to do touristy things.
We parked right on the Hollywood Walk of Fame which is a long street with stars embedded in the sidewalks commemorating various Hollywood stars. Among the people commemorated are the likes of Dr. Seuss, Elton John, Harrison Ford, Steven Spielberg, and Andy Griffith. The Apollo XI mission also was commemorated for their impact on television. At least two presidents also have stars: Donald Trump and Ronald Reagan, both of whom were successful in Hollywood long before they were successful in politics.
As we were walking along the street, Ethan made the comment that it was a great place for engineers, because you have an excuse to be looking down at your feet! At one side street, there was a farmer’s market of sorts with lots of food stands. We stopped for some delicious dumplings from one of the vendors before continuing on.
There were lots of tourist attractions along the street. We went into the Guiness Book of World Records museum. There were interactive exhibits related to the various world records. You could try your hand at beating the records at some of the exhibits. It was pretty fun, and interesting to see all the crazy records.
Our next destination was Griffith Observatory, an observatory on a hill north of LA. Notably, there’s a great view of the Hollywood sign. We parked and hiked up to the observatory. The views over the sprawling city of LA were spectacular.
Ethan also helped get a picture of me doing a side kick over the Hollywood sign.
The inside of the observatory is a space museum with a bunch of cool exhibits. One area focused on an “empty” part of the sky that when observed with a powerful telescope revealed thousands of galaxies containing millions of stars.
Additionally, there were a scale models of all the planets in the solar system. They were not spaced out correctly as that would take way too much space, but they were volumetrically accurate. Next to each model was a scale where you could stand and see how much you would weight on that planet. I think that I’m going to start a weight-loss program which just sends people to Mars.
Outside of the observatory there is a scale model of the orbits of the solar system. It’s centred around a point near the front of the observatory and goes out across the lawn. It was amazing to see how much further away Jupiter is from Mars. In many textbooks, for the sake of space, the distance between the orbits of the planets is shown as relatively constant, yet that is definitely not the case. The outer planets are so much further away.
After spending a couple hours at the observatory, we headed down to K-Town for Korean BBQ.
We found an unlimited Korean BBQ place called Bud Namu. It was absolutely delicious. We had a large variety of meats and everything was so good. Except for the cow tongue, we did not enjoy that.
By this time, it was time to head back to Ethan’s place so I could make my 20:50 flight.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time in LA. I’m grateful to Ethan for acting as my tour guide and letting me stay at his place for the weekend. LA is a beautiful city, and I am happy I was able to see so many cool sights during my short weekend trip.