Off-Ramp host John Rabe and contributors share thoughts on arts, culture, and life in L.A.

Views of LA’s flooded history, courtesy LA Public Library photo archive

A Martian could take one look at our infrastructure and know Los Angeles has historically had big flooding problems. “Hmm, they paved over the river. It must flood here. But I wonder why they have so many flat roofs?”

Here are some shots of flooding in various parts of Southern California through history, culled from the Los Angeles Public Library’s excellent online photo archive, with the captions as they appear online.

For titillation purposes, I saved the beefcake shot for the end.

Downey, 1954: View of the high flood waters which covered the sidewalk and street in this shopping area of Downey. A motorist is seen driving carefully through the flooded street. (LAPL-Herald-Examiner collection)

Downtown LA, 1952: Photo shows cars driving through the floodwaters at the intersection of Fifth and Flower Streets. A traffic officer (arrow) stands in swirling waters to carry out unenviable duties. (LAPL-Herald-Examiner collection)


Rabe spots USNS Mercy in drydock in San Francisco. It’s a big boat.

We were driving to breakfast in San Francisco Sunday when I spotted a huge red cross on a huge ship.

I didn’t have time to do more investigation until today. Turns out, according to Sam Spade’s San Francisco, it’s the USNS Mercy, the sister ship of the USS Comfort, which is helping earthquake victims in Haiti.

USNS Mercy is the lead ship of her class of hospital ships in the United States Navy. In accordance with the Geneva Conventions, USNS Mercy and her crew do not carry any ordnance. Firing on the Mercy is considered a war crime. The Mercy class hospital ships are the third largest ships in the U.S. Navy Fleet by length, surpassed only by the nuclear powered Enterprise and Nimitz-class Supercarriers. Mercy is out by the drydocks at Mission Bay. Her homeport is San Diego and she is in port for a little maintenance.


Rain Update: Tuesday Scenes from the Arroyo and LA River

A nice break today (at blogtime) from the rain, and a chance to update the arroyo and river photos without getting my shoes wet.

Here’s the Arroyo at about 8:30 this morning, taken from the new Avenue 19 bridge.

And the LA River from the bridge over North Broadway – as two (!) trains go by.

And – nothing to do with rain – a little homeless outpost along Avenue 19. Will the charcoal still light?

(Check out John's weekly show Off-Ramp.)


Andersen’s pea soup hits spot on long, bleak drive.

You’ve done the drive down the 5 from San Francisco. The only thing worse is when it rains.

You should stop every hour or so to stretch your legs and clear your mind, but every minute you stop is another minute later you get home.

Then, two hours out of San Francisco, Pea Soup Andersen’s beckons.

A hot cup of coffee …

Special seasonings …

Free butter …

And a bottomless bowl of pea soup!

I'm also a sucker for the real tableclothes, polite service, and Scandiavian decor. Andersen’s turns 87 this year.

Check out John's weekly show Off-Ramp.

(All Photos by John Rabe.)


Rain swells the LA River and Arroyo Seco – photos and movie from John Rabe

This was the scene at about 1pm this afternoon where the Arroyo Seco joins the LA River.

...a movie I took panning down the Arroyo Seco (note: it's San Fernando Road, not Avenue 26, as I say in movie):

... a still view from under the Avenue 19 bridge, looking out onto actual whitecaps on the LA River.

... and looking down the final yards of the Arroyo toward the river.

(Check out John's weekly show Off-Ramp.)