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

Tickets still available for “Los Angeles: Portrait of a City” Taschen book party/LA Conservancy benefit

This photo, taken in 1940, shows an insanely detailed model of downtown Los Angeles, a WPA project that was displayed at the Museum of Natural History. The photo is one of hundreds in a new Taschen book called “Los Angeles: Portrait of a City,” which local historian Chris Nichols calls “without a doubt the most comprehensive visual history of L.A. ever attempted."

There are so many photos, picked with such care, that FOO (Friend of Off-Ramp) Gary Leonard was ecstatic to have just one of his photos chosen for the book.

The photo is also symbolic of the work the LA Conservancy does for the city, hence, the gala fundraiser Thursday for the Conservancy that’s serving as the book’s coming out party. Tickets are still available, and it’ll be worth cramming yourself into your tux and/or gownless evening strap. Diane Keaton, Benedikt Taschen, Gary Leonard (will he wear a bow tie with his photog’s vest?), and I will be there. Why not you?


Before (1953) and After (2003) at Taylor Yard

Yesterday, we played one of one of my favorite LA History games. Feed a random word into the LA Public Library photo archive website.

The word was “romance,” and I came up with a lovely old shot from Taylor Yards, evoking the romance of steam trains.

Photograph caption dated April 18, 1953 reads, "This is the Southern Pacific's old roundhouse near the Los Angeles River. It's a far cry from Dieselville, which is a sprawling yard. In the roundhouse, locomotives are stacked in stalls like silver stallions. On the turntable is the Dinky, a snub-nosed beetle on an engine which pushes the "biggies” hither and yon. “There still is romance in steam,” said one veteran railroader." (Herald-Examiner/LAPL)

So, what’s happened to the roundhouse?

Back in 2003, I was shooting pictures by the LA River and went on to the railroad property and found the answer. Look carefully and you can see many of the same elements in the photos I took almost exactly fifty years after the “Herald-Examiner” shot now archived in the public library.


Play the LA Public Library Photo Archive Game

It’s time again to play one of my favorite LA History games. Feed a random word into the LA Public Library photo archive website. It’s like door-knocking – you never know what you’ll come up with and it’s a great way to get an unfiltered breadth of local history.

Today’s word is “romance.” Here’s a sample of the couple dozen shots that come up, along with the captions listed on the site.

Romance 1 -- 1958:

Hours after Johnny's death someone broke into his apartment. Letters which were published in the Herald-Examiner five days after Johnny's death were among the items stolen. This telegram was found folded inside one of the letters to Stompanato. The postal mark apparently is Danish, but the message is romance in any language. These letters later proved damaging to Lana (Turner)'s reputation. (Herald-Examiner/LAPL)


Why e-mail blasts are a ripoff

I think some people are getting ripped off when they hire a service to solicit business through them via e-mail blasts. Take this e-mail I received Friday, reproduced verbatim below. I wrote back to Eric, telling him his prices look fair, but ... I live in Los Angeles.

Snow Removal

Thanks so much for allowing us to give you this great opportunity to take advantage of our low snow removal rates. Below is our time & material costs for Snow Removal Services this Winter.

I also wanted to tell you a little about who we are and how we operate.

I've personally been providing snow removal services since 1963. We are committed to maintaining the price levels that we have had for the past 10 years. We also never charge travel time as some of our competitors do. We utilize approximately 500 snow plow trucks, 330 sidewalk shovelers, 59 salt/sand trucks, 52 skid steers, 28 loaders and 24 dump trucks/dump trailers.


Junk ... or Art?

If there's a label on it, does that make it art? And who is Suzanne Ferreira and why is she dumping her art on my sidewalk? Leave your comments below.

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