los angeles

art, history

project Murphy's Ranch

MURPHY'S RANCH, the abandoned ruins of a former Nazi-compound. 

In the early 1930s, a mysterious German man, known simply as Herr Schmidt, befriended a couple of wealthy American Nazi-sympathizers. He claimed to possess supernatural powers and ties to the Third Reich, and he convinced Winona and Norman Stephens (our ever-pliable American couple) that Hitler’s takeover of the United States was imminent.

The facts surrounding this story are sketchy, even for historians. But the thing that’s definitely true is that there is a compound of overgrown, spray-painted ruins tucked away in a canyon in the Pacific Palisades, and you can hike to it.  

Rumor is the couple hoped to establish a Nazi Utopia that could sustain them and a small following through the apocalyptic-style months that would follow Hitler’s conquering of America. They built an elaborate infrastructure that included a 395,000-gallon concrete water tank, a 20,000-gallon diesel fuel tank and a power station.

It’s all still there today.  

Take Note:

  • The hike is just under 4 miles.
  • It is accessible from the residential end of Sullivan Ridge Fire Road (street parking at the intersection of Capri Dr. and Casale Rd.) or via Rustic Canyon from Will Rogers State Historic Park.
  • The compound is connected by a series of steep, stone stairs. Prep for sweat.



project San Pedro

SAN PEDRO, its self-given tagline: “San Pedro: where the ghetto meets the sea”

Chances are -  if you don't live in L.A., you haven't heard of San Pedro. And if you do live in L.A., you haven't been. 

Here's how to spend a day in San Pedro...

The Itinerary:

First Stop: Take a stroll in Downtown San Pedro. DT San Pedro has exploded over the past 10 years with a burgeoning art scene, new restaurants and an assortment of retailers.

On the stroll…  

-       Sacred Grounds. If there’s such thing as a coffee shop equivalent of a dive bar, this’d be it. The San Pedro vibe is strong here. Take it in. Sweet employees and cheap coffee, couches a plenty and prime Pedro people watching. It also functions as a gallery and live music spot. Bonus: if you’re a Scarlet Johansson or Thora Birch connoisseur, Sacred Grounds’ original location was featured in the 2001 movie Ghost World.

-       The 1930’s Art Deco style Warner Grand Theater. This too got its moment in the limelight in 2001, as a location in the film Pear Harbor. B. Marcus Priteca, the architect who designed the Warner Grand, also designed the famous Pantages Theater in Hollywood.

-       While you’re downtown, pop into some of the art galleries that line the street. Take the opportunity to cup your chin with your thumb and forefinger and remark on the symbolism captured by artist’s bold use of curvature within the painting.

-       Continue down 6th Street and walk to the waterfront. Take a left to see the recently reinvigorated waterfront. Or, take a right, and head to Ports O’Call for some micheladas and seafood.

Second Stop: Pickup Busy Bee for Lunch. Busy Bee is an uncontested Pedro sandwich staple. Locals line up to get their 12” sub brimming with deliciousness. There is so much about this place to be cherished: the charming staff, the food that you’ll want to jam, unabashed, into your face, the atmosphere (which seems un-phased by modern times). It's nothing fancy or gourmet. Just a gold old fashion sandwich. A local’s tip: Call ahead and avoid the inevitable lunchtime line. Then, off to the park you go!

Third Stop: Have a picnic at Averill Parkand bring your Busy Bee! Averill’s got picnic grounds, BBQ grills, a gazebo, waterfall, ponds, bridges, shaded areas, rolling hills (literally, rolling hills. Hike up your skirt and roll down them hills).  Also, some anonymous someone has constructed tiny fairy homes out of found park-parcels. Hint: there is one by the waterfall.

Fourth Stop: Angel’s Gate Park. Angel’s Gate Park is a treasure chest of San Pedro gold. It is home to a multitude of sites and an unbeatable view. A Couple of its site include, but are not limited to….

-       The Korean Friendship Bell. The massive bronze bell was a gift from the Republic of Korea, given to the United States in 1978 to celebrate the bicentennial of the friendship between the two nations.

-       Fort MacArthur Army Base and Military Museum (http://www. Ftmac.org/)

-       The Marine Mammal Care Center (https://www.facebook.com/marinemammalcare)

-    A hostel (http://www.hiusa.org/california/los-angeles/south-bay )

Fifth Stop: If you’ve done any research on San Pedro, you’ve probably come across some mention of Sunken City. Okay, so here’s the deal: In 1929, a nearly 40,000 acre bit of coastal San Pedro slipped (ever so delicately) into the sea. Several houses and a road were lost… What remains today (and, honestly, way better) is a mini-graffitied wonderland of broken asphalt. DISCLAIMER: It is illegal and considered trespassing to enter Sunken City, so enter at your own risk! It also requires a bit of minor climbing and squeezing through fences to get to. That being said, people frequent this spot, and, to our knowledge, no one has ever been fined.

Another notable site is the Point Fermin Light House, built in 1874, right next door to Sunken City. http://www.pointferminlighthouse.org/

Sixth Stop:   The Tide Pools! A little bit further down Paseo Del Mar are stairs that lead down a cliff to the Sea. (link to map) Check the low tide times online (http://www.tides4fishing.com/us/california/point-san-pedro ) and go for a fun tide pool adventure. Be mindful that the rocks are slippery!

Seventh Stop: Have a sunset beer at Walker Café. We ended our San Pedro adventure with a beer at Walker Café! It’s a biker hangout right by Park Fermin and Sunken City. The petite little café is such a gem. Okay, to be frank, it feels a spot uninviting to the outsider when you walk in. But, if you strike up a conversation with the lovely counterperson, you are golden. Order a cheap beer, and enjoy it in what feels like a diner straight out of the 50’s. Ask the owner Al (pictured, sipping a beer) about the joint or ask for a tour. You’ll be floored.

Here's a map showing our Pedro POIs


project Venice Beach

VENICE BEACH, a seaside town where beach bum meets high-end hipster.

Abby on a picnic bench in Venice Beach #Abbyonbenches

Abby on a picnic bench in Venice Beach #Abbyonbenches

How to Spend a day in Venice Beach... 

The Itinerary:

First Stop:         Hit up TOMS to use the bathroom before you head to the beach. Yes, TOMS like the shoes. Only this is the flagship store, and it’s in Venice, so not only has it got shoes, it’s got a café, outdoor seating with Wi-Fi, a mini-Astroturf dog park in back and easily accessible (and much cleaner than the ones on the beach) bathrooms. Pretend (or actually do) peruse the shoe selection, while your friend uses the toilet.

Santa Monica Pier in view

Santa Monica Pier in view

Second Stop:    The Boardwalk. Arguably the most important place to check out in Venice. It’s a 2.5-mile stretch of beach and a veritable circus of people and things. Between the Venice Beach Pier and the Santa Monica Pier there are artists, vendors, fortune-tellers, street performers, weed doctors, tourists, locals, surfers, skaters, shops with all manner of Venice Beach trinkets, muscle beach with its basketball courts, paddle tennis and outdoor workout equipment, there are restaurants, ice-cream shops, a skate park, bonafide loons… if you like people watching, Venice Boardwalk is your Shangri-La.

Walk along the pedestrian path with all the shops or join the cyclists, rollerbladers, skateboards (like us), etc. on the bike path. There are plenty of places to rent bikes.

Third Stop:       The Erwin Hotel. Take a break from the sand at the rooftop lounge of the Erwin Hotel. Technically, it doesn’t open till 3:00 during the week. No matter if you’d like to go a little earlier, though. Walk into the lobby like you’re meant to be there, head for the elevator, press the button to the lounge and enjoy the wicker couches and incredible view before the bar opens.

Fourth Stop:    Tour the Mosaic Tile House for $12. Round about 20 years ago, an artist, named Cheri, and her fellow artist (and husband) Gonzalo, bought a home/studio space on a quiet neighborhood street in Venice. What they didn’t know when they bought their home is that they would turn it into an art piece itself. Over the course of two decades, Cheri and Gonzalo have turned their entire home – outside, inside, ground, walls, ceiling – into a mosaic wonderland. Gonzalo does all the ironwork, and Cheri does the tiles.  Send Cheri an email, and set up a private tour. She’s exceptionally warm and welcoming, and you’ll feel like you’ve known her for years. (Note: the tile house isn’t a walkable distance from the beach, but it’s not a far drive).

Fifth Stop:         Grab grub at Gjelina.  Gjelina is new-American cuisine, and it’s delicious. Yelp thinks so, too . Okay, we actually went to GTA, Gjelina Take Away, instead of the fancier restaurant dining room. There’s no indoor seating at GTA, but there are cement stumps (more charming than it sounds) and a couple benches outside. The outdoor seats are perfect for some more people watching. GTA does salads, sandwiches, pizza (all gourmet-style, obviously). The vegetable trio is an always favorite.

Hillary skating the boardwalk

Hillary skating the boardwalk

Sixth Stop:         Stroll Abbot Kinney Blvd. GTA and TOMS are both on Abbot Kinney, which is the most famous street in Venice. It’s got food, bars, clothing stores, furniture stores, vintage shops, etc. This is where you’ll find the more hipster population of Venice. But these are the high-end hips. Nearly all the stores are designer/boutique. Keep an eye out for dudes and their socks. The sock game on Abbot Kinney is on point.

Seventh Stop: Have a drink at The Brig or some ice-cream from N’ice Cream.  The Brig is cool for a bar leaning toward, but not quite full-on, dive. If you’re not 21, or you’re abstaining or one person in your duo forgets their ID’s (we won’t say which of us did that) get some homemade gelato and sorbet from N’ice Cream.  

Eighth Stop:     Head back to the beach for the sunset, and dig your toes into the sand. Bring a blanket or a sweater, because the beach gets chilly at night.

Our favorites:

-       The Swings! Just before the Santa Monica Pier, there are swings. They are amazing swings. They are the Titans of swings. They put playground swings to shame. It takes a little work to get going, but once you do, you feel like you’re flying. If you’re not afraid to go high, you can see the entire park and scan the ocean in front of you. You can get going high enough that people will stop to take your picture.

-       The Skate Park! Okay, so maybe it’s because we just started skateboarding ourselves, but regardless, it’s damn cool to watch people pull crazy tricks against the backdrop of a setting sun.


-       Another place to explore is the Venice Canals. In 1905, developer Abbot Kinney built Venice, Italy- inspired canals as part of his Venice in American project. The gondoliers that used to navigate the waters aren’t there today, but the stroll along the canals is very pleasant….we didn’t make it out ourselves this trip.  

-       Parking. Free street parking is relatively easy to find. You might have to park on a neighborhood street a little further from the beach, but it will be an agreeable walk past bungalow houses. If you go on a Monday, be wary of street sweeping.

-       Some links if you want to learn about the history of Venice: