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

Disney Hall organ spectacular a lesson for the arts: Engage!

John Rabe

Soprano Lisa Christine Thelen, organist David Higgs, and organ builder Manuel Rosales inside the Disney Hall organ. Those think strips of wood behind them are part of the mechanism that plays the 6,000 plus pipes of the organ, which is nearing its 10th birthday.

John Rabe

Organist David Higgs surveys all the signatures on the walls of the Disney Hall organ before adding his, again. You can see at least two of his previous signatures.

John Rabe

Soprano Lisa Christine Thelen signs the great wall of the Disney Hall organ.

John Rabe

LA Phil principal trumpeter Thomas Hooten leaves a left-handed compliment on the wall of the Disney Hall organ.

John Rabe

The final product; evidence of a great show.

Here's another in my long series of screeds on the importance of engaging with your customers -- no matter what field you're in.

(The Disney Hall Organ. Scott Youngren Post Production)

Last night, we went to Walt Disney Disney Hall for the annual Holiday Organ Spectacular, which featured David Higgs on the Disney Hall organ, with soprano Lisa Christine Thelen and Thomas Hooten, the L.A. Philharmonic's principal trumpeter.

They played a range of music, from a Bach sinfonia to the lovely "In the Bleak Midwinter," to the finale of a Widor organ symphony. They also led the big crowd in singing a few Christmas carols, assigning parts to the various sections of the audience.

Higgs' playing was "immaculate," in the words of one onlooker, while Thelen's voice soared, and Hooten trumpeted like an archangel. But that goes without saying at Disney Hall. What mattered last night was the way all three — notably Higgs, as the leader — interacted with the audience. Higgs was our host for the evening, and he made sure it was a party.


Mike Sheehan Sketchbook: Santa's Village now a ghost town

Mike Sheehan

Santa's Village, a Christmas ghost town in the San Bernardino Mountains

Mike Sheehan

At Santa's Village, a Christmas ghost town in the San Bernardino Mountains

Mike Sheehan

At Santa's Village, a Christmas ghost town in the San Bernardino Mountains

Mike Sheehan

At Santa's Village, a Christmas ghost town in the San Bernardino Mountains

I spent some time last weekend traipsing around the old Santa's Village theme park up in the San Bernardino Mountains.

Here's how the Los Angeles Times described it at its peak and what happened to it:

In its heyday, Santa's Village was one of Southern California's biggest tourist attractions — a place to catch the holiday spirit even in July. It opened on Memorial Day weekend 1955, more than a month before Disneyland. But after 43 years of delighting young and old in the San Bernardino Mountains, the 15-acre elfin theme park — with fanciful, life-size gingerbread and doll houses, a candy kitchen and a toy shop — fell on hard times and closed in 1998. Over the last nine years, the log cabins of Santa's Village have deteriorated, becoming a veritable ghost town. Its parking lot was used for a jazz festival and by locals for sledding and snow play until it became a way station for bark-beetle-infested trees on their way to a sawmill. But Santa's Village isn't forgotten. (Cecilia Rasmussen, L.A. Times, Dec. 24, 2006)


Santa Monica's Omelette Parlor to close after more than 30 years

Santa Monica Omelette Parlor

The Santa Monica Omelette Parlor, which closes Wednesday.

At the Santa Monica Omelette Parlor, on Main between Hill and Ashland, Superior Court Judge and former LA Mayor Jim Hahn and his wife Michelle are celebrating the 95th birthday of Jim’s great-grandfather-in-law Frank Torres.

Frank looks tanned and fit, and the servers bring on a sesame-seeded pastry with a lit sparkler sticking out of it. We all sing him “Happy Birthday.”

This is perhaps the last time anyone will ever sing "Happy Birthday"at this once-popular lunch and breakfast venue. Wednesday, Dec. 18 is The Omelette Parlor's last full day of business. 

It closes after some 35 years (accounts vary) of operation on Santa Monica’s Main Street, a thoroughfare that, despite such enduring famous faces as Wolfgang Puck’s Chinois, has never managed quite to find itself. This has not stopped the landlords from raising rents, though, and now the empty store fronts will be joined by the vacant omelet parlor. It’s predeceased by its cousin Omelette Parlors in Summerland and Malibu. 


Don't panic: 5 Sriracha alternatives that should already be in your fridge

Bottles of Sriracha chili sauce on the shelves of a supermarket in Rosemead, Calif.

Frederic J. Brown /AFP/Getty Images

Bottles of Sriracha chili sauce on the shelves of a supermarket in Rosemead.

Yes, it's true: Sriracha might vanish from our shelves for a little while.

It's been dubbed the Srirachapocalypse. People are worried.

Americans have become so obsessed and dependent on Sriracha that in 2012 we sucked down $60 million worth of the stuff. We've read cookbooks, watched documentaries, Lays created a potato chip flavor based on the sauce and now even Subway carries a Sriracha Chicken Melt.

RELATEDSriracha 30-day delay in shipping due to state health review

We've invested so much of ourselves in that venerable red and green bottle that we can no longer see the spicy forest for the trees. We need to relax. The world offers thousands of different hot sauces. Many of them are better than Sriracha.

Here are five alternatives to get you through this difficult time:


Missing the Christmas catalog of your childhood? There's a website for that.


1937 Sears Christmas catalog, one of 20,000 scanned pages at

Courtesy Jason Liebig

Jason Liebig, catalog and candy lover

To anyone born before the mid-1980s, the term "Wishbook" or "Christmas catalog" probably has special meaning. Though Sears was first to market with its trademark Wishbook holiday catalog in the 1930s, by the 1960s other catalog retailers were publishing  and sending out their own holiday editions. 

(The 1933 Spiegel Christmas catalog. Image:

These Christmas holiday catalogs enticed customers with all manner of merchandise suitable for gift-giving, including a bounty of toys. 

Growing up the 1970s (I'm 44), I considered the arrival of the Sears Wishbook and JCPenny Christmas catalog a special time in my household. With all the complaining today about holiday marketing moving earlier and earlier in the year, it might surprise you to learn that these holiday catalogs typically arrived in stores and mailboxes by late August.