LA Renewal & Discoveries

October 16, 2012  — Tuesday

I had forgotten how pleasant it can be to wake up in Southern California, not to mention in an Eichler home.

I’d never heard of Eichler, but friend Marti brought me up to speed.  Joseph Eichler was the first developer to build communities of distinctive, modern quality homes in California, a creative alternative to the post-war lookalike boxes.  Eichler’s golden building years were 1950 to 1974, primarily in San Francisco, as well as  developments sprinkled in Southern California.   Considered a visionary then and now, an Eichler home is known for “bringing the outside in,” and his signature feature is an open-air atrium foyer.

Marti’s 1956 mostly wood home is nestled into a hilly corner in Granada Hills, a solid hour north of downtown LA. The front door opens into a large atrium with a shade cloth “roof”.  Straight through the atrium is the masterly living room and a glass looking into the back garden, another wall with a stone fireplace, and a peek toward a corridor leading to the bed/bath wing.  Everything is wood, still modern looking, nicely designed with skylights and architectural features a la Frank Lloyd Wright without his stern stiffness.  I found the three-quarter and sloped walls distinctive, allowing light throughout the house in an interesting simplicity.

Learning about Eichler and breakfast with Marti at the kitchen counter was a nice way to start the day.  I didn’t know Marti when I lived intermittently in LA, San Diego and San Juan Capistrano.  Steve and I met Marti and her late husband, Tom, through Clan MacInnes in 1997 and have been friends since.  Over the years, Marti of Michigan, has become a true California Valley girl.  Even so, she’d never been to the Reagan Presidential Library and Museum just north in Simi Valley, close by LA traffic standards.

As you drive up the Reagan’s winding drive of palms and colorful flowers, there’s an impressive view of Simi valley and the ocean below.  President Ronnie’s hillside Spanish Mission complex is equally impressive.  The museum houses 24 exhibit galleries, a full-scale replica of his Oval Office down to the jellybeans, a section of the Berlin Wall, and the suit Reagan wore when shot by John Hinckley.   The 3-level Air Force One Pavilion is jaw-dropping huge, allowing you walk through the cockpit and presidential quarters of his retired Air Force One, a Boeing 707 that flew seven presidents.  Even the cafe impresses with custom panini sandwiches, wine, beer, and healthy California cuisine–and you can eat in the glass-walled cafe or on the sunny patio.  The gift shop has an extensive collection of books and unique Reagan Library Christmas ornaments.

Time to leave Reagan, Marti and the Valley.  Time to drive far east, past Pasadena, at rush hour no less.  My old friend from the 1984 LA Olympics, Lynne, had only a hour that day in a busy week of teaching and commuting, but the hectic drive to meet her at — where else? Starbucks natch — was way worth it for some friendship face time.  Typically SoCal, we sat outdoors and gabbed like crazy, surrounded by cars and passing sidewalkers.  Too soon, Lynne sped away to teach an evening class far across LA and I drove back to Marti, still in rush hour.  Three hours of driving for a one-hour meeting, only in LA.

I made it back to Marti’s at dusk, just in time for us to whisk to one of her favorite haunts, the 94th Aeros Squadron Restaurant facing the Van Nuys municipal airport landing strip.  We squeaked in for happy hour and plane watching.  Back at Marti’s home, her three cats greeted us as we settled down to talk some more.

Not a Route 66 day, but nice nonetheless.  One thing I love about LA is its many faces in its many, many suburbs.

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