🤣 It’s Stan Freberg Day, and the Banks are Closed

In 1961, the humorist Stan Freberg issued Volume 1 of The United States of America, a musical telling of the founding of America through the Battle of Yorktown (Volume 2 goes through the end of World War I (“They’ll never be another war…”)). The first scene on Volume 1 relates the story of how the Native Americans discovered Columbus. Although many things have changed since 1961 when this was recorded — Columbus is no longer held in the same regard, the portrayal of the Native American would be very different — there are still points that ring true, especially the exchange:

Columbus: Alright. Hello there. Hello there. We white man. Other side of ocean. My name, Christopher Columbus.
Chief: Oh, you over here on a Fulbright?
Columbus: No, no. I’m over here on an Isabella, as a matter of fact. Which reminds me. I want to take a few of you guys back on the boat to prove I discovered you.
Chief: What you mean discover us? We discover you.
Columbus: You discovered us?
Chief: Certainly, we discover you on beach here. Is all how you look at it.

Over 15 years ago, I started posting this particular scene from The United States of America every year on Indigenous People Day (nee Columbus Day). I do it as a celebration of Stan Freberg, who died in 2015 at age 88, one of the best satirists America has seen. Although it is clearly dated, every time I hear it I find new references and insights. It is always Stan Freberg day for me.  It is a day when we celebrate the story of how Native Americans discovered a Italian sailor, and the world was never the same. Just look at all he brought us: “real food: starches, spaghetti, cholesterol, … all the better things. That’s called progress.” It is a day when we celebrate how the inhabitants of Miami Beach discovered an illegal boat person on their shore, and made the gigantic mistake of offering him and the others on his boat asylum… and look at what happened. It’s a day that highlights the arrogance of Columbus and his party, just taking land and pushing aside the Native Americans. Or, just perhaps, it is a day that celebrates a city in Ohio for reason no one really knows, other than we needed to give bankers a 3-day weekend in October, because we all know they need the respite.

In any case, the banks are still closed.

I present a transcription of the scene, just as it happened. If you would like to listen to it, here’s the YouTube of the track:

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🎭 Please Don’t Explain – Show Me | “My Fair Lady” @ Broadway In Hollywood/Dolby

My Fair Lady Poster - Broadway in Hollywood👇🏼👇🏼👇🏼 (tap) (tap) (tap). Is this thing on? I’m so out of practice. I mean, I haven’t written a theatre review since March 8, 2020, when I saw Passion at Boston Court. We haven’t been to a Broadway in Hollywood show since Escape to Margaritaville at the end of February 2020. I mean it seems like forever since I’ve been, to quote a favorite show, “in a large building in a central part of town in a dark room as part of a play with a lot of people listening, who have all paid a great deal to get it in”.

If you haven’t figured it out, last night I was in such a dark room. With a mask on. Having shown proof of vaccination to get in. Feeling somewhat safe. Could it have been better? Sure. They needed a pre-show announcement reminding people to turn off their cell phones and keep off any device that generates light or noise (as people are out of practice). They needed an announcement to remind people to keep their masks on at all times unless actively eating or drinking (which you shouldn’t do during a show anyway). But still. 🎉 WE WERE AT LIVE THEATRE AGAIN.

Yes, we’re taking it slow. For now, it is pretty much our existing subscriptions and our prior subscriptions when they come back to life. Perhaps more as we get deeper into 2022 and the number of cases continues to drop. But we were at our first show in a long time, and it felt good. As the first notes of the overture drifted over us, the anxiety floated away.

But I ramble. On to the write up.

Last night we saw the Lincoln Center revival of the musical My Fair Lady at Broadway in Hollywood (BIH)/The Dolby Theatre (Program). This was the first BIH show at the Dolby post-COVID, and their second show overall post-COVID (Hamilton started at the Pantages Theatre back in August). As noted above, they have a number of protocols to make patrons feel safer; there’s also comfort in the fact that there have been no reported breakthrough incidents throughout the Hamilton run so far, meaning they are doing something right.

My Fair Lady is, in many ways, a creaky musical that is showing its age. It premiered in March 1956 (meaning it is older than I am), and ran for 2,717 performance. It is well known (especially due to the movie’s success) and for a long time was a staple for regional theatre. Loads of people know the bones of the story, but few have likely seen it on stage recently. Prior to the LCT revival, it was last revived on Broadway in 1994 (1977 and 1981 before that) — a 24 year span. LACLO last did it in 1969; the last big production in Los Angeles was the Downey CLO in 2009. It’s been a while, and truth be told, I don’t think I’d ever seen it on stage.

For those not familiar with the story, the basic premise is a man who studies dialect and English (Henry Higgins), and who thinks the only way to succeed is to speak the Queen’s English, runs into a lower-class flower seller (Eliza Doolittle). He makes a bet that in 6 months he can teach her proper English and pass her off as a member of upper class society. He succeeds at his bet, but at what price?

With these bones, you’ll think it doesn’t fit well in the society of today. Here you have a white man, using the power of his class, to try to take advantage of and rehabilitate a woman from a poorer class. Boy, are those class issues, with a touch of “we’re smarter, we know better”, problematic. Then their is the side of the woman, who is essentially a pawn to the men in her life (at least that’s how it was presented in the 1950s). How does that fit with today’s woman who has agency?

But that’s what memory tells one about the show. Watching the show, those themes aren’t quite there in such a start way. But there are some that are both worse and more familiar.  So let me frame the story in a different way.

Let me tell you the story of a man. This man is so full of himself he thinks he knows everything, and can solve the problems of the world. He certainly thinks he can change people into being what he thinks they should be. How does he plan to do this? By bullying them and torturing them. Further, when these people succeed, he’s there to take all the credit and claim he was the only reason things work out well. When the person who changed wants some acknowledgement of their role in the transformation, they are ignored and told they are ridiculous. They are in essence, no more than a trained monkey. A monkey that is useful to keep around, because they make him laugh and bring him his slippers. This man never acknowledges his own flaws; in fact, he projects his flaws upon others absolving himself of any part of a failure.

Now, does that man sound familiar? Have we run into anyone like that recently? But I’m not talking about a recent politician. I’m talking about one of the two main characters in this show: Professor Henry Higgins. The word we use to describe the recent politician fits Higgins to a T: “Narcissist”. Higgins in a narcissist. He believes the world revolves around him, that he can do no wrong, and those in lower positions are there to serve him. He treats anyone below him like crap, and is proud of the fact. So, point in fact, today’s eyes show us that My Fair Lady is, at its heart, a show about a narcissist.

The object of Higgins’ obsession is the flower girl, Eliza Doolittle. Throughout much of the show, she shows precious little character but does stand up for herself a few times. She’s generally bullied and broken down by Higgins — in fact, much of the first act is devoted to breaking her down like a Marine drill sergeant. In the second half, after Eliza finally comes to see the narcissism in Prof. Higgins she attempts to get away but is drawn back. The ending of the show is ambiguous as to whether she succeeds in doing so, but it clear that her attempt to make Higgins see his problematic behavior fails on deaf ears.

The conscience of the show — or at least what passes for one — comes in the form of Colonel Pickering, a colleague of Prof Higgins and one of the lone voices reminding him to keep Eliza’s feelings in mind during the process. But he is, in general, a background character and generally ignored.

The other major fleshed out character is that of Eliza’s father, Alfred Doolittle. He generally shows up to provide boisterous barroom dance numbers to balance the ballads that are fun to watch but don’t advance the plot all that much. But Mr. Doolittle is the source of additional show problems: He essentially offers to sell his daughter, disparages the middle class. When he is dragged into the middle class and has a well-known second act number “I’m Getting Married In The Morning”, he also introduces what I felt to be an unnecessary problem: characters dressed as the opposite sex just for the joke of it all. We have a woman dressed as groom, and men dressed at the bride and bar dancers, all in bustiers. Perhaps in the last millennium men dressed as women were funny. Nowadays it just seems wrong, and there was no context set up that a bar in London in 1912 would have such dancers or a wedding. It was a poor directorial choice for 2018.

As the above makes clear, story-wise, this adaptation of the 1913 play Pygmalion may have worked well in 1956, but feels dated and creaky in 2021. It somehow needs a bit more tweaks to fit with modern sensibilities, or at least more contextualization in the program to put it in the context of its time. But that doesn’t mean the show is bad. The show is grand, glorious, and glittering, under the direction of Bartlett Sher. What saves it are the well-known tunes by Alan Jay Lerner (Book and Lyrics) and Frederick Loewe, as well as the wonderful performances by the touring troupe.

Everyone knows the music from this show. From the opening “Why Can’t The English?” to the ear-worm “I Could Have Danced All Night”; from the dance numbers of “With a Little Bit Of Luck” and “I’m Getting Married in the Morning”; from touching songs like “I’ve Gown Accustomed to Her Face” or “On The Street Where You Live” — essentially every song is at the top of the form. About the only problem is you listen to some of them, such as “Show Me”, and think it was from their later show Camelot… but it wasn’t

The performances were also quite strong. Shereen Ahmed Eliza Doolittle had a lovely spirit and look, and had a remarkably beautiful voice. Ahmed is also noticeable for the diversity she brings to the cast, being Arab-American (as well as having a BS in Criminal Justice, so I sense a career for the restart of Law and Order in her future). Playing opposite her was Laird Mackintosh Prof. Henry Higgins. He bio makes clear that he has the chops to sing well (having been involved with an opera company); alas, he’s in a role that was designed for the sing-speaking Rex Harrison. He makes the best of it, and does bring a good fire to the role.

In the supporting positions are Adam Grupper Alfred P. Doolittle, Kevin Pariseau Col. Hugh Pickering, and to a lesser extent, Leslie Alexander Mrs. Higgins. I’ve noted earlier that Grupper’s role is more one of comic relief. He handles that quite well and is very playful in his numbers and his scenes.  Pariseau’s Pickering is also present in the traditional side-kick and reaction role, which he does well. Alexander blends in during the first act, but shines in the second act where she stands up to her son’s narcissism and takes Eliza’s side. There she is wonderful.

In the Tertiary supporting character category were Sam Simahk Freddy Eynsford-Hill and Gayton Scott (at our performance, Sarah Quinn Taylor was substituting) Mrs. Pearce.  Simahk captured the character as written well — a man with the personality of an infatuated puppy. Taylor’s Pearce had a bit more meat. Although she didn’t have many lines, she was able to capture through her actions and her face her disapproval of how Higgins was treating Eliza.

Rounding out the cast in various small and ensemble roles were: Lee Zarrett Professor Zoltan Karpathy / Selsey Man; Rajeer Alford Ensemble; Colin Anderson The “Loverly” Quartet, Higgin’s Butler, Ensemble; Mark Banik Frank the Bartender, Ensemble; Michael Biren Steward, Constable, Ensemble, Asst. Dance Captain; Mary Callanan Mrs. Hopkins, Higgins’ Maid, Ensemble; Elena Camp Queen of Transylvania, Ensemble; Christopher Faison The “Loverly” Quartet, Higgins’ Butler, Lord Boxington, Footman, Ensemble; Nicole Ferguson Higgins’ Maid, Ensemble; Juliane Godfrey (FB) Higgins’ Maid, Ensemble; Colleen Grate Flower Girl, Higgins’ Maid, EnsemblePatrick Kerr Harry, EnsembleBrandon Leffler Charles, Mrs. Higgins’ Servant, Ensemble; Nathalie Marrable EnsembleWilliam Michals Hoxton Man, The “Loverly” Quartet, Jamie, Footman, Ensemble; Aisha Mitchell (FB) Ms. Clara Eynsford-Hill, Ensemble; Rommel Pierre O’Choa Mrs Higgins’ Servant, Ensemble; Kevin Quillon Ensemble; JoAnna Rhinehart Mrs. Eynsford-Hill, Ensemble; Samantha Sturm Lady Boxington, Hostess, Ensemble; Gerard M. Williams The “Loverly” Quartet, Steward, Constable, Ensemble; and Minami Yusui Ensemble, Dance Captain, Fight Captain. Swings were Kaitlyn Frank, George Psomas, Sarah Quinn Taylor, and Richard Riaz Yoder.

Music was provided by the My Fair Lady Orchestra (🌴 designates local orchestra): John Bell Music Director, Conductor; Luke Flood Assoc. Music Director, Keyboard; Dmitriy Melkumov Violin, Concertmaster; Mark O’Kain Percussion; 🌴 Elizabeth Johnson Violin 2; 🌴 Erik Rynearson Viola; 🌴 Ginger Murphy Cello; 🌴 Ian Walker Bass; 🌴 Richard Mitchell Flute, Piccolo, Clarinet; 🌴 Michele Forrest Oboe, English Horn; 🌴 Jeff Driskill Clarinet; 🌴 William May Bassoon; 🌴 John Fumo Trumpet 1; 🌴 Aaron Smith Trumpet 2; 🌴 Katie Faraudo French Horn 1; 🌴 Lizzie Upton French Horn 2; 🌴 Denis Jiron Trombone; 🌴 Amy Wilkins Harp; and 🌴 Mary Ekler Keyboard Sub.  Music support and development was provided by Robert Russell Bennett Orchestrations 1894-1981; Philip J. Lang Orchestrations 1911-1986; Trude Rittmann Dance & Incidental Music Arrangements, 1908-2005Ted Sperling Additional Arrangements; Talitha Fehr and David Lai Music Coordination; Josh Clayton Tour Orchestrations, Music Copying; and 🌴 Eric Heinly Orchestra Contractor. Orchestras in Los Angeles are always superb due to the talent in the city. Notable about this orchestra is that I didn’t recognize a lot of the names. In the past, there was a revolving group of artist that showed up in the local component of theatre orchestras. This time, there were a bunch of new faces. That’s always great to see.

Turning to the production side: The production was directed by Bartlett Sher and choreographed by Christopher Gattelli, assisted by Sari Ketter Assoc. Director and Mark Myars Assoc. Choreographer.  Generally the direction was good and helped the actors bring the characters to life. There were some questionable choices, such as the aforementioned drag actors during “Get Me To The Church on Time”. The choreography was also generally good, but one really got the sense of the confines of the stage: endless circling back and forth that, when combined with the set design, left one a little dizzy. But My Fair Lady is not a strong dance show except in the ancillary Alfred P. Doolittle numbers and the formality of the Ascot Gavotte. Again, this probably goes back to Rex Harrison.

Michael Yeargan Sets provided a scenic design that both worked and was confining. The principle piece was Higgins’ study / front room / door and was set on a turntable. When it was rotating it tended to be a bit dizzying and disconcerting, especially if you were watching the actors close through binoculars. I understand the confines of a tour, but wondered if more traditional pieces might have worked better. At least there were no projections. Catherine Zuber Costumes were, to put it simply, sumptuous. From the dowdy looks of the lower class, to the beautiful gowns for Eliza, they were lovely. The atmosphere was set well by Donald Holder‘s lighting design and Marc Salzberg‘s sound. There were also no obvious microphone or amplification problems — often the curse of a touring company. Rounding out the production team were The Telsey Office Casting; Tom Watson Hair and Wigs; Elizabeth Smith Dialect Consultant; Donavan Dolan Production Stage Manager; Aaron Heeter Stage Manager; James Ogden II Asst Stage Manager; Jeff Mensch Company Manager; Kiara Bryant Asst. Company Manager; Karen Berry General Manager; and Troika Entertainment Tour Management. Notable absent from the program was any credit (either at the tour level or the BIH level) for a COVID Safety Officer. Nowadays, that’s a vital role and deserves acknowledgement and applause. Luckily, I found it on the travel page of the company website: Kudos to Jody Bogner Covid Safety Manager Workplace Compliance and Amy Katz COVID-19 Communications Director, Policies/Venue Relations/Testing for keeping the My Fair Lady company safe and healthy, and in turn, keeping the audience healthy.

One last thing, if the Broadway in Hollywood (FB) staff read this: The show needs a pre-show announcement about keeping your masks on during the show, and keeping any light emitting and sound emitting devices off. Audiences have been out of the live theatres for so long they have clearly forgotten the protocols, and mask reminders keep everyone safe.

The Broadway in Hollywood engagement of My Fair Lady continues until October 31, 2021. Tickets are available through Broadway in Hollywood (Ticketmaster). Discount tickets may be available through Goldstar (Los Angeles, MFL Tour in General) or other ticketing agencies.

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member (modulo the COVID break). I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted (or I’ll make a donation to the theatre, in lieu of payment). I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), Broadway in Hollywood (FB), the Ahmanson Theatre (FB), and we have a membership at The Pasadena Playhouse (FB). We were subscribing at Actors Co-op (FB) and the Musical Theatre Guild (FB) prior to COVID; they have not yet resumed productions. We have also been subscribers at the Soraya/VPAC (FB), although we are waiting a year before we pick that up again. Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals). I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups. Note to publicists or producers reading this: here’s my policy on taking comp tickets. Bottom-Line: Only for things of nominal value, like Fringe.

Upcoming Shows:

Wow. I haven’t done this in a while. (rummages through the calendar)

For right now, we’re pretty much sticking with shows that come as part of our subscriptions or are of interest through our memberships. That may change later in 2022. Later in October we will have Mamma Mia at 5 Star Theatricals (FB). November brings Hamilton at Broadway in Hollywood (FB) and Head over Heels at The Pasadena Playhouse (FB). December brings The Bands Visit at Broadway in Hollywood (FB) and A Christmas Carol at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Turning to 2022: January brings Everyone’s Talking About Jamie at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). February brings Something Rotten at 5 Star Theatricals (FB); lastly, March brings The Lehman Trilogy at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB), and Ann at The Pasadena Playhouse (FB).

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-Lemons, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, On Stage 411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget (although I know it is outdated and need to update it). Want to learn about all the great theatre in Southern California? Read my post on how Los Angeles (and its environs) is the best area for theatre in the Country (again, I need to review this for the post-COVID theatre landscape)!


🛣 Headlines About California Highways – September 2021

Happy new year! What do you mean, I just wished you happy new year? This is a different new year. Happy US government fiscal new year! Welcome to FY22. May it bring us a new budget, a raised debt ceiling, and infrastructure bill, and lots of highway upgrades and improvements at the Federal and State levels.

That said: The September bunch of headlines seems a bit lighter. Part of this is because road construction and planning was a bit on hold as budgets were being worked out, and due to the immense fires in the state. There also wasn’t a CTC meeting in September, so there wasn’t quite as much news. I also think more and more papers are going behind paywalls, making it harder to find information. As always, if you see a highway related headline, please send it my way.

Next week will bring something to these pages that hasn’t been seen since March 2020: a live theatre review. Our theatregoing, in a post-COVID environment, starts next week with My Fair Lady at the Dolby/Broadway In Hollywood. A return to normalcy? A dangerous event? We shall see, but my other hobby is returning. We’re taking it slow at first, but as they say, “Wouldn’t it be loverly?” to be back to normal. You know what you have to do: 💉, and here’s how to do it.

And with that, here are the headlines for September. My plan is to get the highway page update out sometime in mid-November, with a final update for 2021 right at the start of 2022.


[Ħ Historical information |  Paywalls, $$ really obnoxious paywalls, and  other annoying restrictions. I’m no longer going to list the paper names, as I’m including them in the headlines now. Note: For $ paywalls, sometimes the only way is incognito mode, grabbing the text before the paywall shows, and pasting into an editor. ]

Highway Headlines

  • 101 Freeway In Encino To Be Named After Astronaut Sally Ride (KABC-AM). Part of the 101-Freeway in the San Fernando Valley will be named after late astronaut Sally Ride. Last week, the state legislature passed a resolution, naming the 101 in Encino the Dr. Sally Ride Memorial Highway. It honors the first American woman to go to space. Encino is Ride’s hometown. She died of cancer in 2012, at the age of 61.
  • East Bay scores big in state funding (The Bay Link Blog). The California Transportation Commission allocated more than $1.4 billion for projects to repair and improve transportation infrastructure throughout the state. Senate Bill (SB) 1, the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017, accounted for more than half of the investment – $884 million. In the Bay Area, Alameda County and Contra Costa received millions from the August allocation:
  • State Route 192 Resurfacing Project Through Montecito Begins Tuesday September 7 (The Santa Barbara Independent). A project to resurface State Route 192 in both directions from Cold Springs Rd. to 0.9 miles west of Nidever Rd. will begin on Tuesday September 7. Travelers will encounter one-way reversing traffic control Monday through Thursday from 8 am to 5 pm and Fridays from 8 am to 2 pm.
  • Pedestrian Safety Project Nearing Completion in Bishop (Eastern Sierra News). The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) District 9 Pedestrian Safety Project will soon wrap up construction in Inyo County. The project, which began construction earlier this year, is upgrading four high-traffic crosswalks in three communities with new safety instruments. To date, crews have installed an Accessible Pedestrian System in Lone Pine at the intersection of Whitney Portal Road and U.S. 395 and a Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon at the intersection of W. Crocker Avenue and U.S. 395 in Big Pine.
  • Diverging Diamond Interchange to Open at Enrico Fermi Drive and SR 11, September 9 (SANDAG). On Thursday, September 9, SANDAG and Caltrans crews will open the new diverging diamond interchange, located at the intersection of Enrico Fermi Drive and State Route 11 (SR 11), fully to the public. The diverging diamond interchange is the first of its kind in the San Diego region and the first in California to cater to freight. The interchange allows travelers turning left onto westbound SR 11 to continue without stopping at a signal light. This helps reduce congestion and improves overall traffic flow, particularly for freight transporting goods along this corridor.

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🎰 Ain’t There No More, Vegas Style

We have a timeshare in Kaanapali Hawaii. I mention that because we rarely go there; normally we swap the time to stay someplace in driving distance of Los Angeles. I did that recently, spending a week at the Jockey Club in Las Vegas. The facility has an interesting history. Built in 1974 before the big building boom, it was built as a condominium (one of the first on the strip), and originally had a restaurant, high end shops, tennis courts, and plans for a casino. In 1977, they started selling timeshares. In 2004, they sold the undeveloped land and surface parking lot to a group that, after some ownership change, built the Cosmopolitan. But the Jockey Club remains, surrounded on three sides, because it will be impossible to get 14,000 owners (condos and timeshare) to ever agree on selling the buildings. It will ever be this outpost of 1980s Vegas surrounded by a town that has grown and changed around it.

I found the history of the Jockey Club interesting because one of my many hobbies is the history of Las Vegas. When we think of Las Vegas, what comes to mind is the Vegas of the late 1950s to perhaps 1980: the Vegas of neon signs on the strip. The Vegas of headliners and lounges. The Vegas with showgirls. The Vegas with name hotels like the Frontier, Sands, Flamingo, Sahara, Thunderbird, Dunes, Desert Inn. The Vegas of the Rat Pack. That Swingin’ town. The Vegas where the people had class, and dressed up. Oh, and the mob and Howard Hughes.

That Vegas is dead. That Vegas was built on hotels that had personality, that were built with an acceptable scale. They were different, each with their own character. They had unique signs, and unique people and stories behind them. But today that’s not the case. They are all massive boxes with no architectural character, and as you move from one to the next you often can’t tell you are in a different hotel. It doesn’t make that much of a difference, because they are owned by the same corporation. Rooms are the same. The pools and restaurants all feel the same. The signs are all large TV screens. “Residencies” are in massive arenas, and shows are pulsing rock music — often in rooms leased to the promoters and not programmed by the hotel. The Vegas is 2020 is nothing like the Vegas of 1960.

But as a student of history on vacation, I asked: What is left of the old Vegas. I knew the structures that were left. The answer was “not much”. There are some two story garden wings left at the Tropicana. There’s the casino at Circus Circus (circus building). There are the bones of the towers at the Sahara or Westgate (International). In terms of structure, that’s it. Although the names of the Flamingo and Caesars and Sahara live on, none of the original buildings, in their original form, are there. As for the signs? The oldest signs left (excluding Fremont Street) are the Flamingo sign (dating to 1970) and the Circus Circus clown (late 1960s). That’s it. Not much of the old town. Want the neon. Go to the museum.  The only part of old Vegas that remains is the racism under the surface.

ETA: Here are two good resources that sent me down a fun rabbit hole: (1) Mountain West Digital Library: Historical Maps of Las Vegas;  (2) Historical Maps at NDOT. UNLV also has some great digital collections.

Being a highway guy, I decided to see if I could drive and find the old Vegas. I went out W Bonanza looking for evidence of the famed Moulin Rogue. There’s nothing. An empty lot across from the LVRJ space. I could only figure it out from the mural. I went S and W out old 95: Fremont St, Charleston, Boulder Highway. The Showboat is gone, to be replaced by apartments. The big casinos near Henderson are new. You could only tell the old highway by the remaining motor courts and used car lots, many of which are derelict. The few of those that remained on old 91, by the way, are being killed by the highway work being done on LV Blvd by the City of Las Vegas. There are remnants of the neon, but not much.

I tried to imagine what my parents or grandparents saw driving into the town. I have only vague memories of that time, coming out for a Shriners Convention at the Aladdin in the mid 1970s. Vast expanses of desert. Billboards for Foxy’s Deli. SIgns with the headliners. All gone. Even the Stuckey’s by the side of the road are gone.

Do I enjoy Vegas today? To some extent, but more to explore the history and the art. The casinos are just a room; the gambling of no interest other than the math and people watching. The shows tend to be “meh”: certainly not the nice dinner shows of old.

What is it to gain a resort, and lose its soul?


🎰 Vegas and Race

Recently, I was in Las Vegas. While there, I visited my favorite hangout, the Pinball Hall of Fame.  While there, I couldn’t help but notice the back glass on my favorite games from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. All featured scantily clad teen-aged and college women, designed to titillate  the young men playing pinball in the arcades at the time (I’m looking at you, Music Odyssey in West LA). All of whom… were white. This wasn’t a surprise: despite the societal upheavals, there was still a lot of segregation and these games had to sell in the south.

Las Vegas was similarly segregated in the 1950s and 1960s. Black performers of the time couldn’t stay in the strip hotels. They either had to stay in separate trailers, or stay downtown, on the west side, in the industrial part of downtown, not even in glitter gulch. The one resort that welcomed them closed after 6 months, due to pressure from the big casinos.

Ah, but you would say times have changed. Look at the strip today. It is bustling with people of all colors, shapes, and sizes. Black, white, and brown are welcomed into casinos — all that matters is that their (virtual) money is green and their credit is good. But look deeper. What is seen cannot be unseen. Look at the people on the slot machines. White. Asian, but only from the Crazy Rich Asian franchise. Black? The closest you come is the genie from Aladdin. Look at the ads on all the big screen hotels marquees. It is all well-dressed white people enjoying themselves. The people dining in the fancy restaurants on those screens and in the ads. All white. The people shopping in all the fabulous stores? All white. The dancers in all the dance revues? All white? Based on the screens, Vegas is appealing to the rich white fantasy, not the people on the street. Even the cards for the strippers that they hand out? You see them littering the streets. All white.

It made me think that the Vegas of today isn’t all that different from the Vegas of yore. Hotels are advertising for the cliental they want. They may love the money they are making, but what does this say about the big corporations behind the operations. They aren’t seeing most minorities as the “whales” with the money they want to take.

This made me not want to patronize the big casinos (and I wasn’t staying in one — I was in a timeshare surrounded by one that was independent). I don’t gamble, and generally gave my dining dollar to local owed joints when I could. But I just kept seeing it, and it kept bothering me.


🍏🍯🍎🍯 L’Shanah Tovah – Happy New Year – 5782

Apple in Honeyuserpic=tallitRosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, starts at sundown tomorrow (Tuesday) night, September 7th. Thus, it’s time for my annual New Years message for my family, my real-life, Blog,  Dreamwidth, Google+, Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook friends (including all the new ones I have made this year), and all other readers of my journal:

L’Shana Tovah. Happy New Year 5782. May you be written and inscribed for a very happy, sweet, and healthy new year.

For those curious about Jewish customs at this time: There are a number of things you will see. The first is an abundance of sweet foods. Apples dipped in honey. Honey cakes. The sweet foods remind us of the sweet year to come. Apples in honey, specifically, express our hopes for a sweet and fruitful year. Apples were selected because in ancient times they became a symbol of the Jewish people in relationship to God. In Song of Songs, we read, “As the apple is rare and unique among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved [Israel] amongst the maidens [nations] of the world.” In medieval times, writes Patti Shosteck in A Lexicon of Jewish Cooking, apples were considered so special that individuals would use a sharp utensil or their nails to hand-carve their personal hopes and prayers into the apple skins before they were eaten. And the Zohar, a 13th-century Jewish mystical text, states that beauty – represented by God – “diffuses itself in the world as an apple.” With respect to the honey: honey – whether from dates, figs, or apiaries – was the most prevalent sweetener in the Jewish world and was the most available “sweet” for dipping purposes. And as for the biblical description of Israel as a land flowing with “milk and honey,” the Torah is alluding to a paste made from overripe dates, not honey from beehives. Still, enjoying honey at Rosh HaShanah reminds us of our historic connection with the Holy Land. Although the tradition is not in the Torah or Talmud, even as early as the 7th century, it was customary to wish someone, “Shana Tova Umetukah” (A Good and Sweet Year).
(Source: Reform Judaism Website)

Rosh Hashanah ImagesAnother traditional food is a round challah. Some say they it represents a crown that reflects our coronating God as the Ruler of the world. Others suggest that the circular shape points to the cyclical nature of the year. The Hebrew word for year is “shana,” which comes from the Hebrew word “repeat.” Perhaps the circle illustrates how the years just go round and round. But Rosh Hashana challahs are not really circles; they are spirals… The word “shana” has a double meaning as well. In addition to “repeat,” it also means “change”. As the year goes go round and round, repeating the same seasons and holidays as the year before, we are presented with a choice: Do we want this shana (year) to be a repetition, or do we want to make a change (shinui)? Hopefully, each year we make choices for change that are positive, and each year we will climb higher and higher, creating a spiritual spiral. The shape of the Rosh Hashana challah reminds us that this is the time of year to make those decisions. This is the time to engage in the creative spiritual process that lifts us out of the repetitive cycle, and directs our energies toward a higher end.
(Source: Aish Ha’Torah)

There are also apologies, for during the ten days starting Tuesday evening, Jews examine their lives and see how they can do better. On Yom Kippur (starting the evening of September 15th), Jews apologize to G-d for their misdeeds during the past year. However, for an action against another person, one must apologize to that person.

So, in that spirit:

If I have offended any of you, in any way, shape, manner, or form, real or imagined, then I apologize and beg forgiveness. If I have done anything to hurt, demean, or otherwise injure you, I apologize and beg forgiveness. If I have done or said over the past year that has upset, or otherwise bothered you, I sincerely apologize, and will do my best to ensure it won’t happen again.

If you have done something in the above categories, don’t worry. I know it wasn’t intentional, and I would accept any apology you would make.

May all my blog readers and all my friends have a very happy, healthy, and meaningful new year. May you find in this year what you need to find in life.


🛣 Changes to the California Highway Website covering June-August 2021

Blah blah blah introduction. Perhaps I should go with that.

Seriously, though. We’re at the end of Summer 2021, and the best thing I can say is that we’re not having to deal with a Presidential campaign again. COVID is still here, however, impacting travel. I did get some travel in over my summer, with drives to Los Osos, Scottsdale, and Las Vegas, and exploration of the Route 166 corridor and the Route 58 corridor between I-15 and Route 14. I got to see the construction they are doing S of Mojave on Route 14, and got to kill off a load of podcasts. Hopefully you’ve had a safe summer. As always: Please make sure you are vaccinated, and please continue to wear masks. Neither complete eliminates risk, but they are both key factors in reducing risk to an acceptable level. As someone who has been working in Cybersecurity for over 35 years, I understand how being risk adverse can blind you to the importance of doing the simple things to reduce risk. Just as with our highways, our goals should be to reduce the risks whereever we can.

On to the updates.

Updates were made to the following highways, based on my reading of the papers from the last week of May 2021 through xxxx 2021 (which are posted to the roadgeeking category at the “Observations Along The Road” and to the CaliforniaHighways Facebook group) as well as any backed up email changes. I also reviewed the the AAroads forum (Ꜳ). This resulted in changes on the following routes, with credit as indicated [my research(ℱ), contributions of information or leads (via direct mail or ꜲRoads) from Anthony R. Brooks(1), Tom Fearer(2), Brian Nordon(3),  Tony Ortega(4), Scott Parker(5), Joe Rouse(6), Chris Sampang(7), Carol Stephens(8): Route 1(ℱ,2), Route 4(ℱ), Marine Route 5 (M-5)(ℱ), I-5(ℱ,2), Route 11(ℱ), Route 16(2), Route 17(ℱ), Route 18(ℱ),  Route 25(ℱ), Route 29(ℱ), Route 33(2), Route 35(ℱ), Route 36(ℱ), Route 37(ℱ), Route 41(ℱ,2), Route 46(ℱ,2), US 50(ℱ,2), Route 58(6,5), Route 71(ℱ), Route 74(ℱ),  Route 77(ℱ,1), I-80(ℱ,2), Route 88(ℱ), Route 91(ℱ,1,4), Route 99(ℱ,2), US 101(ℱ,2), Route 110(ℱ), Route 113(2), Route 121(ℱ), Route 132(ℱ), Route 135(ℱ), Route 136(3),  Route 140(ℱ), LRN 148(ℱ), Route 152(ℱ), Route 156(ℱ), Route 166(ℱ), Route 174(ℱ), Route 176(ℱ), Route 187(ℱ), Route 207(ℱ), Route 247(ℱ), Route 249(8), Route 273(ℱ), Route 275(2), Former US 399(2),  US 395(ℱ), I-405(ℱ), I-580(ℱ),  Marine Route 580(ℱ), I-680(ℱ), I-710(ℱ), County Sign Route A13(ℱ), County Sign Route 66(7).
(Source: private email, Highway headline posts through August 2021 as indicated, AARoads through 09/05/2021)

Updated the links to the Cal-NexUS pages and the highway exits, because Caltrans went and moved things again(ℱ). Updated the El Camino Real Bells page to reflect the removal of the El Camino Real bell from downtown Santa Cruz, and the rationale therefore(ℱ). Updated the Statistics page to better reflect the shortness of Route 77(1).

Marine Highway SystemAdded information on the National Marine Highway System(ℱ):
(Source: CleanTechnica, 6/22/2021US DOT Maritime Administration: National Marine Highways, 6/2021)

In California waters, there are two routes: Route 5 (M-5) and Route 580 (M-580). The US Department of Transportation has a special webpage all about this system of marine highways, complete with a map of the system. The system’s highways are numbered the same as nearby Interstate Highways from which they could relieve congestion. The DOT Maritime Administration (MARAD)’s Marine Highway Program has one major goal: expand the use of America’s navigable waters. They closely with public and private organizations to:

  • Develop and expand marine highway service options and facilitate their further integration into the current U.S. surface transportation system, especially where water-based transport is the most efficient, effective and sustainable option
  • Highlight the benefits, increase public awareness and promote waterways as a viable (in some cases a superior) alternative to “landside” shipping and transportation options

The Marine Highway system currently includes 26 “Marine Highway Routes” that serve as extensions of the surface transportation system. Each all-water route is designated by the Secretary and offers relief to landside corridors suffering from traffic congestion, excessive air emissions or other environmental challenges. For the highways in California, a section was added to the appropriate route page providing information on the Marine highway route.

Reviewed the Pending Legislation page, based on the California Legislature site. As usual, I recommend to every Californian that they visit the legislative website regularly and see what their legis-critters are doing. As many people are unfamiliar with how the legislature operates (and why there are so many “non-substantive changes” and “gut and amend” bills), I’ve added the legislative calendar to the end of the Pending Legislation page. Noted the passage of the following:

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🛣 Headlines About California Highways – August 2021

The end of August. Summer is coming to an end, although the hot days are still here (and the Santa Ana winds are still to come, which is scary given the fires we’ve had so far). I hope everyone is staying safe with all the dangers out there — COVID, brush fires, flash floods, monsoons. Please do what you can to stay safe. Get vaccinated. Vote “no” on the recall. Watch out for flash floods. Stay out of evacuation zones. Watch out for the draft. Stay away from Texas.

This post was delayed a bit because I was on vacation in Las Vegas. I plan to do some posts about that: one looking at the subtle racism that is still present in the town that once you see, you can’t unsee. The other looking at how the town — and the roads — have changed. We all wax rhapsodic about “Classic” Vegas, but classic vegas is no more. There are no headliners like the headliners of old, there are no lounges or showrooms like the ones of old, there are no hotels like the hotels of old, there are no signs like the signs of old. There are glimmers, fleeting, of the past. But was the past better? Is today’s Vegas better? You’ll have to read my upcoming posts to know.

One thing the trip to Vegas makes clear is that change is here to stay (unless you are exchanging it for a gambling voucher or playing Pinball at the Pinball Hall of Fame). The days of driving US 91 to Vegas, seeing the signs for the hotels and for Foxy’s Deli are gone. Stuckey’s is only a memory. The roads are crowded, and filled with people trying to get there an extra five minutes earlier. The headlines this month capture the change.

One other thing the end of summer will bring us is another round of highway page updates. They are almost done, and these headlines will be included in that update. So watch this space. After the headlines are posted, all that will remain is reviewing the AARoads Pacific Southwest forum for updates. As always, if you see a naming sign in the wild (i.e., a sign with the name of a highway) and I don’t have a picture of that sign in the NAMING section for the route, please send me the photo. Your name will be immortalized as a contributor.

And lastly, all together now: “Ready, set, discuss”.


[Ħ Historical information |  Paywalls, $$ really obnoxious paywalls, and  other annoying restrictions. I’m no longer going to list the paper names, as I’m including them in the headlines now. Note: For paywalls, sometimes the only way is incognito mode, grabbing the text before the paywall shows, and pasting into an editor. ]

Highway Headlines

  • Full closure of northbound State Route 113 to Interstate 5 begins Monday (California News Times). According to the California Department of Transportation, the full closure of State Highway 113 to Interstate 5 will begin on Monday, according to Caltrans. Drivers are advised to plan ahead. The road will be officially closed at 9 pm on Monday and will reopen at 5 am on August 23. Caltrans recommends the following detours: NBSR-113 to NBI-5. Remove Main Street from the ramp (Exit 37) and turn right onto East Main Street. Use I-5 South On Lamp (Sacramento) from East Main. From SB I-5, take County Road 102 (Exit 536) and turn left. Proceed to the right and take the NB I-5 (Reading) from CR-102 back to I-5 bound for the north. Everyone living in this area expects loud construction noise, and drivers in this area need to anticipate lane restrictions and be aware of commercial vehicles.
  • Why improving the drive to Southern California is so complicated (Las Vegas Sun News). Jim Nares is all too familiar with the Sunday morning routine of waking up early in his Las Vegas hotel room to get a head start on the drive back to Southern California via Interstate 15. Sleeping in poses a seemingly unavoidable hurdle: Long hours stuck in traffic getting home to Winchester, Calif. Nares has been traveling by car with his wife to Las Vegas for 20 years for outdoor recreation, restaurants and light gambling. To keep the return drive at the minimum of four hours, Nares opts for either an early-morning departure or late-night arrival back home. Leaving in the afternoon when thousands of others hit the road is out of the question, he says. “I don’t like traveling back on Sunday,” he said. “Sometimes it just happens. … If we do, we definitely try to be past state line by 9 a.m., otherwise we just stick around (Las Vegas) until, like, 6, 7 p.m.” The parade of bumper-to-bumper traffic is a Sunday afternoon ritual heading back to California. Residents of California accounted for 21% of visitors to Las Vegas in 2019, according to the most recent Visitor Profile Study by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. During the pandemic when air travel was limited because of safety concerns, drive-in visitors from California helped keep the local economy moving. Having those visitors stalled in traffic is concerning, Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom said. After all, the last impression of someone’s visit shouldn’t be delays on the road.
  • How does the Caltrans project on Highway 41 compare to other similar endeavors? (KMPH). After decades of accidents along a two-lane stretch of Highway 41 in Fresno County, Caltrans is installing a center barrier that will keep people from crossing into oncoming traffic to pass slower drivers ahead of them. That came after a push by a group called Widen Highway 41 that a woman named Lorna Roush founded after her cousin’s husband Ken Atkins was killed in a head-on crash. “This is a temporary fix. It’s a Band Aid,” Roush said of the K-Rail. “We’re going to save lives from head-ons while we work on the logistics of getting that widened to four lanes.”
  • American Canyon plots the future look of Highway 29 (Napa Valley Register). American Canyon is trying to keep its Highway 29 of the future from becoming an irrevocably entrenched Anywhere, USA blur of strip malls, parking lots and clashing architecture. “That is the front door to our city,” city Community Development Director Brent Cooper said. It’s also a front door/first impression for Napa County. A sign in American Canyon along Highway 29 depicts vineyards and pristine hillsides and proclaims, “Where your Napa Valley experience begins.”
  • Newsom Signs S.B. 51, Durazo’s Legislation that Changes Law on Caltrans Tenant Property Sales (Streetsblog California). Last week, Governor Gavin Newsom signed S.B. 51, state legislation that changes a four-decades-old law that governs how Caltrans-owned residential properties along the 710 corridor will be sold. Critics contend that the changes will make it harder for tenants, some of whom have lived in the properties for forty years, to purchase the properties. The legislation’s author, Senator Maria Elena Durazo, contends the legislation will make it easier to preserve the existing stock as affordable housing for current and future generations.

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