Road Tripping, or Los Angeles Under Glass

Gentle reader,

Greetings from your friendly historic Los Angeles tour guides in “sleep” mode. We continue to monitor local public health directives and best practices of tour companies in places that are reopening, in anticipation of the happy day when it will be safe and legal to again take a bus full of eager explorers out to discover the city we love. We miss you and touring!

We don’t leave home much anymore, just once a week to keep the car battery charged and from losing our minds. We’ve been consulting the state’s list of cultural resources, zipping around Google street view and satellite aerials—hmm, what’s this octagonal thing?—and making notes of places lovely or weird enough to go see in person. It’s surprising how much you can capture without leaving the car, though we do sometimes have to go around the block.

So on Monday, we set out to document the architectural wonders of Huntington Park and South Gate, which are considerable.

Take for example the gorgeous property above, which just happens to be a designated landmark with criminal associations—our kind of place.

We wanted to see and photograph disgraced County Assessor John Noguez’ house, because we suspect the long delay in bringing him to trial might be tied to the unfolding public corruption investigation at Los Angeles City Hall. Here’s video of his 2012 perp walk on the property, which he has since sold. The Feds even let him put on a nice shirt. Will Jose Huizar get the same courtesy?

You can be a virtual backseat companion on our social distancing road trips to Huntington Park and beyond when you click the #esotouricroadtrip hashtag, on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.

Staying home is pretty interesting, too. Richard’s cactus garden has been sending out wild blooms, Kim is trying to hatch Monarch butterfly eggs on plucked milkweed leaves under glass, an owl is hanging around, and we seem to have acquired a friendly gremlin.

It started a few nights back, when the winds were high, and we heard the tinkling of a tiny bell down by the doormat. Then Richard’s lost cowboy hat box reappeared in the middle of a walkway he’d just trod. And when our grocery delivery arrived, there was a miniature jar of dark chocolate mousse that neither of us ordered. Our plan is to say nice things about the gremlin and hope it continues to be playful and generous. Wish us luck!

Outside, Los Angeles is reinventing itself, or at least asking hard questions about what our community values and how best to allocate the city’s budget and reign in a militarized police force. For insight into what went on at the May 31 protest in the Fairfax District, we recommend this intense personal essay by Zeke Richardson, a neighbor who was beaten and arrested while observing the scene.

And if you don’t mind rough language, this highlights reel from a recent eight-hour (!) Police Commission public comment session is really something to hear. Many of the same folks have also been calling in to City Council, letting the smug folks around the virtual horseshoe know that they’re watching and don’t like what they see. If this level of progressive civic engagement keeps up until election season, and if the Feds indict some councilmembers as expected, this city is in for a shake up. Buckle up and stay tuned!

Our You Can’t Eat The Sunshine podcast has been reformatted to suit the social distancing times with a more conversational structure, featuring our preservation pals calling in from around the Southland. There are two new episodes for your listening pleasure.

In a departure from the preservation theme, this week we sat down with our photographer friend Kemal Cilengir to hear about his experiences at the heart of the Black Lives Matter protests in Downtown, Santa Monica and the Fairfax. We don’t often hear about what it’s like to be a solo reporter at a large protest. Kemal is doing terrific work, and graciously took us along for the ride. You can hear his story on Episode #138: Embedded with Kemal Cilengir Documenting the Black Lives Matter Protests in Los Angeles. Also in this episode, the American Cinematheque sells out to Netflix, and Route 66 gem The Aztec Hotel turns the lights back on.

Also available is Episode #137: Judson Studios’ 123 Years of Innovation in Stained Glass. This is an inside look at the landmark Highland Park art glass studio, and how fourth generation owner Dave Judson is reinventing the medieval family craft using cutting edge technology, while honoring Judson’s history with his newly published book. Come hang out with us virtually, and let’s keep the conversation going, even while we can’t invite you out to take a tour.

Subscribe! In the latest subscriber's edition of this newsletter—$10/month, cheap!—we take you to a seldom seen corner of the landmark Bradbury Building: the cavernous basement which contains some mysterious artifacts and impressive stone walls.


If you enjoy all we do to celebrate and preserve Los Angeles history and would like to say thank you, please consider signing up for the subscriber’s edition of this newsletter, or putting a little something into our digital tip jar. Looking for something L.A.-centric to enliven your collection? We’ve got a swell selection of local history books and maps, some written by us, others sourced from dusty warehouses. And we finally figured out how to ship these goodies direct from our quarantine pad to yours! For a wider selection, Bookshop uses the power of distributor Ingram to help independent bookstores stick around. We've curated a selection of uniquely Los Angeles titles, and when you order from these links, it supports participating local shops, and us, too. You can also click here before shopping on Amazon. Or you can reserve a gift certificate to join us for a tour once we're back on the road... & if you love what we do, please tell your friends.


We're dark until public health officials determine that groups can gather safely. But we've got 138 episodes of the podcast You Can't Eat The Sunshine free to download for armchair explorers, and videos of the Downtown L.A. LAVA walking tours, plus Cranky Preservationist videos.


Attention, Joan Crawford Lovers: The Mildred Pierce House is For Lease!

RIP Los Angeles skewers the soulless urban parasites who propose, design, cheer on and profit from projects like the demolition of Taix French Restaurant. The developer has now alienated the Echo Park Historical Society. Could our conspiracy theory be true?

Ever see a white collar criminal defense attorney almost salivate over the prospect of RICO charges being filed against elected officials in Los Angeles City Hall?

Cool news out of Fullerton: William Pereira's lyrical, under-utilized Hunt Library, which we visited on Richard's last birthday tour, to become an arts and educational space. Big congrats to the community activists who fought to keep it a public resource.

San Francisco's Musée Mécanique, where you can operate vintage arcade games and oddball automata for less than the cost of a candy bar, has put out the cup in hope of surviving the pandemic. Keep SF weird!

Raymond Chandler lover? Filthy rich? Don't let a rare opportunity to possess the Brasher Doubloon (1787) pass you by. $15 Million ducats, cheap—and the dealer is based right here, in Philip Marlowe's crooked Los Angeles!

While getting Esotouric off the ground, we were also helping Kim's grandparents document their seven-decade love affair with a video blog that went viral, and earned them a Today Show featurette. Come spend a few minutes in Cutie and PopPop's world, and we dare you not to fall a little in love. And if you do, there’s also a book!

Farewell to the Four N 20 in Sherman Oaks, a sweet spot blotted out by the pandemic. It's infuriating that a small business that has served its community for decades can't get the lifeline it needs to stick it out until the world opens up.

Love these twin multi-family Spanish Colonial Revival buildings in Mid-Wilshire? Feel like fighting demolition of the green one? Too bad: it was ripped down before permits were filed for a new 56' apartment building on the site. RIP 1233 S Dunsmuir.

Silent locations sleuth John Bengtson's campaign to officially designate the alley where silent greats Chaplin, Lloyd and Keaton made comedy history featured in the Hollywood Reporter. Will the city listen?

And in breaking news, Chris Lindahl, the only reporter actually asking questions about the American Cinematheque sale of the Egyptian Theatre to Netflix, got the shocking deets from the Attorney General. Smells like self dealing, and the AmCin could be kicked out in 13 years. Or maybe we can all keep our eyes open and keep ‘em honest. When the world opens up again, we’re going to need great things like the American Cinematheque’s programming at the Egyptian Theatre more than ever before!

yours for Los Angeles,
Kim & Richard