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Five Hidden Los Angeles Treasures (Part II)

Five Hidden Los Angeles Treasures (Part II)


“What's Been Did and What's Been Hid.”
- Donovan's first album, released in the US as Catch The Wind.


3. In-N-Out Burger

In-N-Out Burger has become a cultural institution in Los Angeles. The chain was founded in Baldwin Park in 1948 by Harry and Esther Snyder and has slowly built a large and loyal following, expanding into the rest of California, as well as Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Texas, and Oregon. The current owner is Lynsi Snyder, the Snyder's only grandchild. In-N-Out prints Bible citations in small print on areas of packaging, a reflection of the Snyder family's Christian faith.

In-N-Out has resisted franchising out its operations or going public, one reason being the prospect of quality and consistency being compromised by excessively rapid business growth. The company's business practices have been noted for employee-centered personnel policies. For example, In-N-Out is one of the few fast food chains in the States to pay its employees more than state and federally mandated minimum wage guidelines. As a result, the chain has developed a devoted fan base and is consistently rated as one of the top fast food restaurants in customer satisfaction surveys.

The official In-N-Out menu consists of three basic varieties: hamburger, cheeseburger, and the 'Double-Double' (two hamburger patties and two slices of cheese). French fries and fountain drinks are available, as well as three flavours of milkshakes. The hamburgers come with lettuce, tomato, with or without onions (customers are always asked upon ordering whether they prefer them fresh or grilled), and a sauce called the 'spread,' a Thousand Island dressing  variant. There are, however, many additional items not listed on the 'secret menu,' accessible only on the company's web site. These variations include 3x3 (which has three patties and three slices of cheese), 4x4 (four patties and four slices of cheese), Neapolitan shakes, grilled cheese sandwiches (consisting of the same ingredients as the burgers except the meat, plus two slices of melted cheese), Protein Style (wrap with lettuce; consists of the same ingredients as the burgers except buns), and Animal Style (cooked in a thin layer of mustard, adding condiments including pickles, grilled onions, and extra spread). Animal Style fries come with two slices of melted cheese, spread, and grilled onions on top. Whole or sliced chili peppers are also available by request. Both Protein and Animal Style are house specialties that the company has trademarked.

Until 2005, In-N-Out accommodated burger orders of any size by adding patties and slices of cheese at an additional cost. A particularly famous incident involving a 100x100 (100 patties, 100 slices of cheese) occurred in 2004. When word got out of the massive sandwich, In-N-Out management disallowed anything larger than a 4x4. You can also order a 'Flying Dutchman,' consisting of two meat patties and two slices of cheese by itself, with no bun, condiments, or vegetables. In 2018, In-N-Out added hot chocolate with marshmallows as its first addition to the menu in fifteen years, with cocoa powder provided by the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company.

The chain has achieved such widespread popularity that public celebrations take place whenever new locations are added, and the opening of a new restaurant often becomes a social and media event. There was a four-hour wait for food when the Scottsdale, Arizona, branch opened, with news helicopters hovering over the parking lot. In-N-Out has been welcomed into some neighbourhoods with a strong opposition to corporate food restaurants, such as McDonald's. Local business leaders in San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf district said they opposed every other fast food chain except In-N-Out, because they wanted to maintain the flavour of family-owned, decades-old businesses in the area, with one saying locals would ordinarily "be up in arms about a fast-food operation coming to Fisherman's Wharf," but "this is different."

Many celebrity chefs are also fans of the chain, including Julia Child, Gordon Ramsay, Anthony Bourdain, Ina Garten, and Mario Batali. Child was one of the first to champion the chain, admitted knowing every location of the restaurant between Santa Barbara and San Francisco, and had the burgers delivered to her during a hospital stay. Ramsay ate In-N-Out for the first time when taping Hell's Kitchen in Los Angeles and it soon became one of his favourite spots - "In-N-Out burgers were extraordinary. I was so bad, I sat in the restaurant, had my double cheeseburger then minutes later I drove back round and got the same thing again to take away.” Bourdain reportedly said that In-N-Out was his favorite fast food meal and later named the restaurant as "the best restaurant in Los Angeles," while Garten admitted "I have to say, I don't eat fast food at all, with one exception. When we're in California doing book tours, we always have to go to In-N-Out burger. It's so good and I know it was Julia Child's favourite too, so it's okay." In-N-Out was one of the very few restaurant chains given a positive mention in the book Fast Food Nation, which commended its use of natural and fresh ingredients and for looking after the interests of employees. An In-N-Out food truck catered Vanity Fair's 2012 Academy Awards after party.

Part of the chain's charm lies in its distinctive signature colours - white for the buildings' exterior walls and the employees' basic uniform, red for the buildings' roofs and the employees' aprons and hats, and yellow for the decorative band on the roof and iconic zig-zag in the logo. The first In-N-Outs had a common design, placing the kitchen 'stand' between two lanes of cars. The 'front' lane is nearest the street, and the 'back' lane away from the street. This location design is known as a 'double drive thru.' A metal awning provides shade for several tables for customers who prefer to park and eat, but there is no indoor dining. A walk-up window faces the parking area and most newer restaurants also include a one-drive-through lane. This simpler design is a popular image on In-N-Out ads and artwork, which often shows classic cars such as 1965 Mustangs and 1968 Firebirds visiting the original restaurants. The original Covina restaurant was forced to close in the early 1990s due to re-engineering and development of the area and a modern design, drive-up/dining room restaurant was built a few hundred feet away. The new building is much larger and frequently filled to capacity.

Like many chain restaurants, newer In-N-Out restaurants are based on a set of templates or 'cookie-cutter' blueprints, which are chosen based on available space and expected traffic levels. While external appearance of its buildings may vary to meet local zoning and architectural requirements, the interior floor plan and decor in most recently constructed In-N-Out restaurants are identical. However, some restaurants are designed to stand out, such as the Fisherman's Wharf location in San Francisco and Westwood in Los Angeles. Another curious design element common to be found in front of many of today's In-N-Out locations are the matching palm trees planted to form an X - an allusion not only to the chain's Southern California origins, but also to founder Harry Snyder's favourite movie, Stanley Kramer'sIt's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, in which the characters look for hidden treasure and find it under "the big W" made by four palm trees, with the middle two forming an X. Fine dining it certainly ain't, but eating In-N-Out is a classic Los Angeles experience and should not be missed.


4. The Museum of Jurassic Technology

For only $8, visitors to LA can experience one of the most extraordinary collections of bizarre and unusual objects in the world. The Museum of Jurassic Technology is a repository of truly weird and wonderful objects, assembled and preserved with an astounding degree of love, care, and attention to minute detail. The following description is taken from the Museum's own website and deserves to be quoted more or less in its entirety:

The public museum as understood today, is a collection of specimens and other objects of interest to the scholar, the man of science as well as the more casual visitor, arranged and displayed in accordance with the scientific method. In its original sense, the term "museum" meant a spot dedicated to the muses - "a place where man's mind could attain a mood of aloofness above everyday affairs." By far the most important museum of antiquity was the great institution at Alexandria founded by Ptolemy Philadelphus in the third century before Christ, (an endeavor supported by a grant from the treasury). And no treatment of the museum would be complete without mention of Noah's Ark in which we find the most complete Museum of Natural History the world has ever seen.

The museum fell into dark oblivion, as did all institutions of learning, with the coming of the Middle Ages. However, during these dark times, the churches and monasteries, through collections of curiosities, allowed the spirit of the museum to burn through the ages as the famed Hetruscan sepulchral lamps burned through the ages without benefit of air or fuel in the dark of the tomb.

Relics and curiosities could be found in nearly every parish church no matter how small. In the ninth century, a hair from the beard of Noah was shown at the Abbey of Corbie. In the choir of the church of Ensisheim in upper Alsace, there is a portion of meteorite which fell to earth in 1492; and there were antediluvian bones in the church of St Kilian at Heilbronn, in Wurtenberg. "In some churches, two eggs of ostriches and other things of the like kind, which cause admiration and which are rarely seen, are accustomed to be suspended, that by their means the people may be drawn and have their minds the more affected."

However, the true origins of today's public museum of natural history can be traced only as far back as the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This period witnessed the spread of humanism - an era in which the objects of animated nature and the phenomena of the material world began to be regarded with scientific interest. Collections of natural objects became as common as collections of works of art and often both such collections were housed in one repository. One of the earliest printed catalogues of a collection is that "of all the chiefest Rarities in the Publick Theater and Anatomie-Hall of the University of Leyden" which appears to have been published in 1591, but the date seems to be a mistake for 1691.

The early collections were primarily in the hands of wealthy individuals. And, according to Wittlin, these collections could be divided into four groups: economic hoard collections; social prestige collections; collections as an expression of group loyalty; and collections as a means of emotional experience. Among the most celebrated of these collections in Europe was that of Jon James Swammerdam who boasted a talisman of lead covered with Arabic letters which was used an amulet by being placed in burning soda thus affording the possessor freedom from all Danger of being assaulted by evil Manes of Spirits, which they believe are continually hovering about the world watching Occasions to injure mankind.

At the same time in England, a number of illustrious collections were being formed. Many of these collections are well known and need only to be mentioned here. Among these were the collection of Ole Worm, whose Museum Wormianum achieved great fame. Another collection of rarities was preserved at South Lambeth by Elias Ashmole. Mr Ashmole, a botanist, presented his collection to his friend and neighbor Samuel Dule (author of the Pharmacologia) to whom it was delivered one week before Mr. Dule's death.

Through the second half of the eighteenth century and into the nineteenth century it became fashionable to donate these collections to budding public institutions. The first of these "public" museums were little more than formalized displays of private collections of rarities and curios, often with little regard for any meaningful order of display. These institutions, though public in name, were accessible in fact only to the cognoscenti and then only by appointment, in small groups, and for limited periods of time.

However, at the same time, in the city of Philadelphia in America, Charles Willson Peale was forming a museum that was to become a model for the institution for years to come. Mr. Peale's Museum was open to all people (including children and the fair sex) and was philosophically grounded in the thoughts of Jean Jacques Rousseau. Peale fervently believed that teaching is a sublime ministry inseparable from human happiness, and that the learner must be led always from familiar objects toward the unfamiliar - guided along, as it were, a chain of flowers into the mysteries of life.

"Rational amusement" was the Peale Museum's instrument but also, by curious irony, its eventual undoing. Imitators sprang up almost at once. A collection of oddities, unencumbered by scientific purpose was found to be "good business". Tawdry and specious museums soon appeared in almost every American city and town. This unsavory tendency finally reached its peak with Barnum, who in the end obtained, scattered, and ultimately incinerated, the Peale collections.

The Museum of Jurassic Technology traces its origins to this period when many of the important collections of today were beginning to take form. Many exhibits which we today have come to know as part of the Museum were, in fact, formally part of other less well known collections and were subsequently consolidated into the single collection which we have come to know as The Museum of Jurassic Technology and thus configured, received great public acclaim as well as much discussion in scholastic circles.

The Museum, however, not content to rest on its laurels, kept pace with the changes in sensibility over the years. Except for the periods of the great wars in this century (when twice portions of the collection were nearly lost) the Museum engaged in a program of controlled expansion. Walking through the Museum, the visitor experiences, as it were, a walk back in time. The first exhibits encountered are the contemporary displays and reaching the far end of the Museum, the visitor is surrounded by the earliest exhibits.

Although the path has not always been smooth, over the years The Museum of Jurassic Technology has adapted and evolved until today it stands in a unique position among the institutions in the country. Still even today, the Museum preserves something of the flavor of its roots in the early days of the natural history museum - a flavor which has been described as "incongruity born of the overzealous spirit in the face of unfathomable phenomena."

If that introduction fails to whet your appetite, probably nothing will. The Museum's collection is housed in sections with enticing titles that sound as though they came from a collection of Jorge Luis Borges' short stories, including: No One May Ever Have the Same Knowledge Again: Letters to Mt Wilson, The Delami/Sonnabend Halls, Tell The Bees: Belief, Knowledge and Hypersymbolic Cognitio, Garden of Eden on Wheels: Collections from Los Angeles Area Mobile Home Parks, Athanasius Kircher: The World Is Bound With Secret Knots, The Napoleon Library, Rotten Luck: The Decaying Dice of Ricky Jay, Eye of the Needle: The Unique World of Microminiatures of Hagop Sandaldjian, Micromosaics of Harald Henry Dalton, Floral Radiographs of Albert G Richards, and Lives of Perfect Creatures: Dogs of the Soviet Space Program. All provide fascinating insights into the strange, exotic, and obsessive nature of human activity through the ages. Hidden away behind an unattractive facade on Venice Boulevard (and located conveniently close to a branch of In-N Out Burger), The Museum of Jurassic Technology provides inquiring minds with a totally unique and unclassifiable experience that must be seen to be believed.


5. The Self-Realisation Fellowship Shrine

The Self-Realisation Fellowship is a worldwide spiritual organization founded by Paramahansa Yogananda in 1920 and legally incorporated as a non-profit religious organization in 1935. An early advocate of yoga and meditation in the US, Yogananda is best known for his Autobiography of a Yogi. He established the SRF to reach out to the worldwide community and foster a spirit of greater understanding and goodwill among diverse people and nations. His goal was to help all cultures and creeds to realize and express more fully the beauty, nobility, and divinity of the human spirit:

Central to Paramahansa Yogananda's teachings, which embody a complete philosophy and way of life, are scientific techniques of concentration and meditation that lead to the direct personal experience of God. These yoga methods quiet body and mind, and make it possible to withdraw one's energy and attention from the usual turbulence of thoughts, emotions, and sensory perceptions. In the clarity of that inner stillness, one comes to experience a deepening interior peace and awareness of God's presence.
The SRF continues to disseminate Yogananda's teachings by publishing home-study lessons, writings, lectures, and recorded talks, and overseeing temples, retreats, meditation centers, and monastic communities around the world. It also coordinates the Worldwide Prayer Circle, a network of groups and individuals who pray for those in need of physical, mental, or spiritual aid, as well as for global peace and harmony in general.

Echoing traditional Hindu teachings, Yogananda believed that the entire universe is God's cosmic motion picture, and that individuals are merely actors in the divine play who change roles through the process of reincarnation. He taught that man's suffering is rooted in identifying too closely with one's current role, rather than with the movie's director, or God. Yogananda specifically developed the practice of Kriya Yoga to help people achieve that understanding:

Self-realization is the knowing - in body, mind, and soul - that we are one with the omnipresence of God; that we do not have to pray that it come to us, that we are not merely near it at all times, but that God's omnipresence is our omnipresence; and that we are just as much a part of Him now as we ever will be. All we have to do is improve our knowing.

The goal of the SRF is to preserve and disseminate Yogananda's writings and teachings, most notably the practice of Kriya Yoga - the "union (yoga) with the Infinite through a certain action or rite (kriya). The Sanskrit root of kriya is kri, to do, to act and react." Kriya Yoga was passed down through the lineage of Mahavatar Babaji, who taught Lahiri Mahasaya, who in turn taught it to his disciple, Yukteswar Giri, Yogananda's guru. Yogananda gave a general description of Kriya Yoga in his Autobiography, as follows -

The Kriya Yogi mentally directs his life energy to revolve, upward and downward, around the six spinal centers (medullary, cervical, dorsal, lumbar, sacral, and coccygeal plexuses) which correspond to the twelve astral signs of the zodiac, the symbolic Cosmic Man. One-half minute of revolution of energy around the sensitive spinal cord of man effects subtle progress in his evolution; that half-minute of Kriya equals one year of natural spiritual unfoldment.

In 1946, Yogananda published his life story, Autobiography of a Yogi, which has since been translated into forty-five languages and remains the most popular of his many books. It describes his personal search for spiritual enlightenment, in addition to encounters with such notable figures as Therese Neumann, Anandamayi Ma, Mohandas Gandhi, plant scientist Luther Burbank, Nobel laureate in literature Rabindranath Tagore, Indian scientist Jagadish Chandra Bose, and Nobel laureate in physics CV Raman. One notable chapter, entitled 'The Law of Miracles,' provides scientific explanations for seemingly miraculous feats, while another suggests that the 'missing years' of Jesus' life may have been spent studying yoga in India. According to Philip Goldberg in American Veda, "the Self-Realization Fellowship, which represents Yogananda's legacy, is justified in using the slogan, 'The Book that Changed the Lives of Millions.' It has sold more than four million copies and counting." In 1999, it was designated one of the '100 Most Important Spiritual Books of the 20th Century' by a panel of spiritual authors convened by the publishers Harper Collins.

Yogananda's Autobiography was hugely influential in the counter-culture of the 1960s, popularising yoga and mediation in the West, and inspiring countless individuals to follow their own spiritual path. Ravi Shankar met Yogananda in the 1930s and gave his first US. concert at the SRF Encinitas Retreat in 1957, while George Harrison often visited the SRF retreat overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Encinitas, only three miles from Shankar's home. Harrison frequently cited Yogananda as an important spiritual influence and dedicated the US proceeds from the 2002 reissue of My Sweet Lord to the SRF. Elvis Presley was also a frequent visitor in the late 1960s, commenting to Brother Paramananda, a monk who had left an acting career to devote his life to the fellowship, "Man, you made the right choice. People don't know my life or that I sometimes cry myself to sleep because I don't know God." In Steve Jobs: A Biography, the founder of the Apple empire states that he first read the Autobiography as a teenager, later downloading it onto his iPad2 and re-reading it every year. Meghan Markle's parents were married at the SRF temple in Hollywood in 1979.

Despite such well-intentioned spiritual objectives and widespread ecumenical admiration, the SRF has been mired in legal disputes since Yogananda's death in 1952, most notably filing a law suit against James Donald Walters to prevent the unauthourised publication of writings, photographs, and recordings of Yogananda. Walters was given his final vows of the name of Kriyananda in 1955 and elected a board member, then Vice-President. In 1962, the SRF Board unanimously demanded his resignation and six years later Walters started his own Ananda Cooperative Community, followed by his corporation The Yoga Fellowship. The litigation lasted about twelve years and was finally resolved in 2002, when a jury supported the SRF's argument that Yogananda had repeatedly made clear his intention was for it alone to maintain the copyrights to his works. In 1997 Anne-Marie Bertolucci sued Walters for sexual harassment and fraudulently using his title of swami, implying he was celibate while engaging in sexual activity with young women.

The SRF lake-side shrine in LA continues to provide an oasis of peace and tranquility just a few blocks from Pacific Coast Highway. The Sunset Boulevard location was dedicated by Yogananda in August 1950, and consists of lush gardens and a spring-fed lake nestling in a natural amphitheater. It is home to a variety of flora and fauna, including swans, ducks, koi, water turtles, and lotus flowers. A large lotus-shaped archway, painted white and topped with golden blossoms, is visible from all parts of the grounds. It frames the Mahatma Gandhi World Peace Memorial, an outdoor shrine where a thousand year-old Chinese stone sarcophagus holds some of Gandhi's ashes. Free and open to the public, the shrine provides a serene retreat for thousands of visitors each year who come to enjoy the scenic beauty of this splendid spiritual sanctuary.

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