Meeting Gumby’s Dad

By Eric Levy |

As a child, my favorite show was The Gumby Show. I related to Gumby’s love for knowledge, hopping in and out of educational books. My dream was to meet Gumby’s creator Art Clokey. It took me 30 years to see my dream come true.

I read an article about Clokey’s new claymation feature, The Gumby Movie. Now I had my reason to meet with him. I would write an article about the movie. After hours on the internet, I found Art Clokey’s phone number. I called him and, to my surprise, he answered the phone. We spoke for an hour and he invited me to his home in San Rafael.  

It was 1995. I flew to San Francisco and Clokey met me at the airport. He drove across the Golden Gate Bridge to a nondescript neighborhood.

Clokey, a young looking 77-year-old at the time, looked like the guy next door. Inside the house, I followed Clokey to the living room. Hanging on the wall was a 4 x 3 inch black man with a large afro. I asked Clokey who he was.

“He’s the messiah,” Clokey said. “Sathya Sai Baba.”

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He told me that he and his wife Gloria met the messiah in India in the late 1970s. “I held out a Gumby doll and he blessed it with a wave of his hand. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, ash began to appear from his fingers. It was sacred ash, and it was placed on Gumby. After that, things began to change for the better both for me and Gumby. When I returned to the U.S., the Gumby revival began.”

“Do you mind if I smoke?” Clokey asked.

I assumed he meant a cigarette, but instead, he began rolling a joint. He took a few tokes and offered me to join him. I gladly accepted and asked him if he was stoned while working on Gumby episodes.

“No, never.”

“Never?”

“No, never. But I experimented with LSD, mescaline, peyote, and hashish. It was after the first TV series in 1966 when a psychologist introduced me to the field of expanded consciousness through the use of hallucinogens. He said I could expand my awareness and become a better director. You have to be aware of your feelings to be a good director. But I’m telling you, I swear, I never made any Gumby episodes while under the influence. Well, there was one time when I tried smoking pot while making a Gumby episode. It didn’t work out. Looking at the footage, I saw I inadvertently got my elbow in the frame.”

Clokey told me that he spent the 1970s in the hippie community of Topanga Canyon, California. He went through a painful divorce with his first wife, who had worked with him on Gumby episodes. During the Topanga years, he experienced a tragedy when his 19-year-old daughter died in a car accident. During the proceeding decade, not a piece of clay touched Clokey’s fingers. He wanted to make more Gumby adventures, but he didn’t have the money to do so. Instead, he lived mostly off of Gumby syndication royalties.

His time at Topanga provided a new beginning for Clokey. That’s where he met his second wife, Gloria. She was a bio-energetic therapist at a clothing-optional Personal Growth Center. Her work involved the analysis of people’s personality types by examining their bodies.

“Hey, why am I telling you this part of the story,” Clokey said. “I just heard Gloria come in. She can tell it to you better than I can.”

He led me to the kitchen where Gloria was unpacking groceries she had purchased from a nearby health food store.

Clokey put his arm around me and announced, “Gloria, this is Eric..ah…sorry, what’s your last name?”

“Levy.”

“Yes, yes. Eric Levy. We had a really interesting discussion on the phone. I invited him over for the weekend.”

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Gloria extended her hand to greet me. It was a firm handshake. “A pleasure to meet you, Eric.”

The three of us sat around the kitchen table. “Do you like wheatgrass?” Clokey asked.

“I never tried it.”

“Oh, it’s great. Very nutritional.”

Gloria placed three shot glasses before us and poured the green liquid into them.

“I’ll go first,” Gloria said. She and Art downed it in a matter of seconds. “Your turn,” Art said.

With trepidation, I slowly poured it into my mouth. Damn. It tasted like turpentine.

“So? What do you think?” Gloria asked. I didn’t answer right away and she added, “It’s strong. It takes getting used to.”

“It’s so healthy. I’m sure you’ll find it at some health food store that sells it in New York.”

“I’ll check it out. Thank you.”

“Gloria, I was just beginning to tell Eric how we met. You can tell the story better than I can.”

“You’re the story master, Art.”

“But you can express it better than I can. You’re on stage.”

Gloria smiled and told me that when they first met “we didn’t hit it off. But then we saw each other again at a social gathering where no one had any clothes on, including us. I read his body and he looked unified.”

Following some other Art and Gloria stories, he asked if I wanted to see where he and his team created Gumby episodes.

I stood up with excitement. Clokey picked up on it, and commented, “I knew that would peak your interest.”

We drove a short way to a former high school building. “This is it, where I shot Gumby films in the nineteen eighties.”

That’s also the location, he told me, where Gumby: The Movie was shot earlier this year.  

As we walked to the entrance of the school building, Clokey unlocked the front door and informed me that the animators who worked on the Gumby episodes responded to a classified ad placed in newspapers across the country.

There wasn’t anything to see inside. He took me to the classrooms with ancient-looking wooden desks and blackboards that had seen better days. We squeezed into student-sized seats and I asked Clokey about how the Gumby episodes were created.

“Two words. Trimentional animation. It uses shadow, color and movement to induce sensations of the autonomic nervous system.”

He surprised me when he said that Gumby was also responsible for, among other things, sexual arousal of its viewers. That explains why I had the hots for Gumby’s girlfriend Tara! Thinking about it, she’s not a bad slab of clay.

Gumby and his pals, Clokey went on to explain, are made from plasticine, a dry powder mixed with oil that lasts forever.

Our next stop was at a small outdoor mall. We stopped in front of a door without any sign above it. I gasped upon entering. It was a Gumby museum. “This is the original Gumby,” he said, pointing to the Green Guy  who was inside a glass display case. Wow.

After introducing me to Gumby’s friends—Pokey, Prickle, and Goo; his nemeses the Blockheads; his parents Gumbo and Gumba; Minga, his little sister; Professor Kapp, the scientist; Denali,  his Mastodon pal; Groobe, the helpful bee; and his dog Nopey.

Clokey told me he was going shopping at a food bank and left me alone in a small screening room. He turned on the projector and there it was—a preview of the Gumby Movie.

It begins with a wide shot of the universe enhanced with Star Wars-type music. It then proceeds to show a snippet of a 1960s Gumby episode displayed on a TV, located on the moon, along with that really cool Gumby song. A blue clay guy is watching the Gumby episode while munching on some popcorn.  The camera tilts above the moon and a green plasticine monolith appearing among the stars. An electric charge runs through it, splitting into two pieces—one green and the other orange. The rectangular slabs race through the universe with the Earth as its destination. The slabs end up in Gumbyland, racing into a Gumby store. The orange slab lands in a Gumbasia Clay Set, and turns into Pokey. The green slab continues to a mysterious location. Pokey searches for the slab without any luck. Unbeknownst to him, it had  metamorphosed into his friend Gumby.

The little green guy, as he had in the original series, enters the pages of books and when he departs, he brings historical figures with him. It’s Clokey’s wink to us Baby Boomers who grew up with him. Gumby then enters the book “Exotic Dancers of the East,” but for that one, he rushes out without any scantily clad dancers accompanying him.

The film then gets tiresome when we’re introduced to Gumby’s rock band, the Clayboys. We watch as they perform at a benefit concert to save local farms.

That’s when Clokey returned.

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He saw that the film had ended and he asked, “You know what the message is?”

“Being a responsible person and the importance of education?”

“Well, yea. That’s true. But the major theme as I view it is, “the world needs Gumby.”

“Well, I certainly it does. That’s why I contacted you.”

“Hey, Eric, you like Indian food?”

Happens to be I did, and we drove a mile down the main road to this second-rate restaurant. He ordered a vegetarian dish and I had chicken tikka masala.

At the conclusion of the meal, instead of leaving the waitress a tip, he gives her a tiny rubber Gumby. She looks confused.

“You know who that is?” Clokey asked.

“Ah..no.”

“People never fail to surprise me,” Clokey commented. She doesn’t know who Gumby is? Isn’t he a 1960s icon?

“Well, you can call him Gumby,” he told the waitress, handing it to her along with some cash. “Keep him. You can have it.”

“Well, thanks. Thanks a lot, sir.”

Clokey drove me to the airport at the conclusion of my weekend visit. Ten years later, he died, but his plasticine creations will live on forever.

 

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Navigating New York Broadway

Some Broadway fanatics would argue that we are currently, and have been for the past few years, living in a new golden age of musical theatre. I, for one, would have to agree. The first show I ever saw on Broadway was Hairspray back in 2007. It was my first time visiting New York and I instantly fell in love with the city. A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to live within twenty miles of Manhattan — and you bet I took advantage of every opportunity there was when it came to seeing as many of the various shows I could while living within such a close proximity to the home of Broadway.

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While I was residing on the east coast I met my good friend Rebecca Michelson, who’s the best Broadway buddy a person could ask for. She loves Broadway, maybe even a little bit more than I do, has seen an innumerable amount of shows, and has tons of opinions about them to boot.

With the end of 2017 approaching, I reached out to Rebecca to discuss some of her favorite shows of the season (and of all time), what she recommends to those interested in seeing a show, and why.

  • You’ve been a Broadway fanatic for quite some time now. What initially sparked your love of theatre?

It’s funny you ask, because my initial interest in Broadway and musical theater came from Hairspray as well! I grew up outside of Philadelphia with easy access to New York City. My first show was actually Beauty and the Beast and according to my aunt, I talked the entire time so no one wanted to sit next to me after that! I remember coming into the city every few months with my parents and sister to see a Broadway show. I was around 10 or 11 when my parents went to see Hairspray on Broadway with the original cast and mom brought home the Original Broadway Cast Recording and I instantly fell in love. We listened on every road trip, and we still do.

  • Let’s talk plays on Broadway. For so many, when they think “Broadway,” their minds go straight to musicals, but there have been, and are, some really incredible plays. Can you speak to this?

I have never actually been a play person until this year. I think most people overlook plays because when tourists come, you’re right, they think of musicals. They want to see the touristy shows — Chicago, Wicked, Beautiful, Phantom, etc. All great productions for sure! But my favorite kind of show is 95 minutes, no intermission, and where do you usually find that? In a play! I will say, plays are often harder for myself to follow along with, as the pacing is often much slower than a musical. But two of my favorite productions from the 2016-2017 season were actually plays, both of which I saw twice.

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Aaron Halva, from left, Richard Topol (seated), Travis W. Hendrix, Adina Verson and Katrina Lenk in Indecent. (Photo: Carol Rosegg)

The first is Paula Vogel’s Indecent. It is arguably the best show to have appeared on Broadway in years. It was inspired by Sholem Asch’s God of Vengeance and tells the story of the production of the show from the table read in Poland all the way to its 1923 Broadway debut in New York City. It speaks strongly to censorship and highlights the first lesbian kiss on Broadway, all while paralleling the struggles of the Jewish people during World War II. It was actually a play with music, which helped the pacing.

My second favorite play from last season is called Significant Other. As mentioned before, I often find plays to lag with slow pacing and/or to be old school in content. Significant Other was the opposite. With a superb cast it tells the story of Jordan, a single, gay, 20-something-year-old, who’s living in New York City and watching as all of his friends are growing up and getting married. He’s desperate to be in a relationship and share what his friends are experiencing, but he’s struggling with a lot of inner-demons throughout the show. I think the content was relatable to a lot of young people who went to go see it.

  • In your own opinion, why are Broadway shows important?

Broadway is so important because it’s a form of self-expression that exists nowhere else. While I’m not an actor nor do I have any (reasonable) desires to be on Broadway, I know the opportunity to act has helped so many young people in this city, and around the world, feel like they can be something and do something.

Another special thing about Broadway that you don’t get from film and television is the opportunity to come face to face with your favorite performers. When you go to the stage door, you have the chance to tell your favorite singer, dancer or actor on stage what they mean to you and how their performance changed your life. It’s a beautiful thing, what Broadway affords that other forms of media do not.

  • With 2018 right around the corner, what shows would you recommend NYC tourists and visits run to go see in the New Year?

We’re lucky to be right at the start of a new Broadway season, in which we will see many new productions opening in the next few months! However, we are also lucky to have many long-running shows still around for us to revisit. If you’re coming to the city for the holidays, I would definitely recommend hitting up the new production of Once on This Island. From last season’s shows, I recommend going to check out Dear Evan Hansen while you’re here. My third recommendation is a tie for what new productions you should go see if you’re coming after March. Out of the new productions (some of which I have yet to see), I recommend seeing Mean Girls: the Musical, which opens for previews on March 12th, or Carousel, which opens for previews on February 28th.

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Legally Blonde, the musical
  • Top 3 shows of 2017, top 3 shows of all time, and why — Ready, go!

Top three productions from the 2016-2017 season, that are still open:

  1. Come From Away
  2. Dear Evan Hansen
  3. Hello Dolly

My top three favorite shows of all time:

  1. Waitress
  2. Legally Blonde
  3. Wicked
  • Do you have any tips for seeing Broadway for cheap?

People always ask me how I can afford to see so many shows. I wouldn’t say I can AFFORD to see this many shows, but that’s not stopping me! I have a few recommendations for getting cheap tickets to shows. Most involve your time, but they save you your money. If you’re here for a week, I would recommend picking two or three shows that you can’t leave New York without seeing and buying tickets for those. Then, rank the others you want to see and go from there.

Check out Playbill.com‘s General Rush Policy page to see what shows offer rush, lottery and standing room. Most shows offer a mix of the three for less than $40 a ticket. Some shows require you to line up at 6am for a 10am box office call, while others usually have rush tickets available throughout the day. If you don’t want to stand around in lines, try the TKTS booth in Times Square for discounted tickets. If you just want to see A show, but you don’t really have a preference on which one, this is a GREAT option.

Photo credit: @ashleybower

What’s your favorite Broadway show? Tell us in the comments below!

In Search of Cronuts

The world’s original Cronut has made its way to Los Angeles.

Yes, you read that correctly. The maker of the famous half croissant/half doughnut, Dominique Ansel, opened a second bakery (in the US) and is officially open for business on the West Coast. You can taste for yourself at The Grove!

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the pastry, the Cronut is a croissant-doughnut hybrid created by chef Dominique Ansel. It’s vastly popular worldwide and there are four locations you can get the real deal from: New York, London, Tokyo, and Los Angeles.

I’m a current resident of Los Angeles and visited Dominique Ansel Bakery at The Grove twice this past week. After having been an avid fan of the SoHo, New York City location, I was absolutely elated to find out a shop was being opened in LA — and at one of my favorite spots, nonetheless.

Alright! I’d thought to myself last Wednesday. I can FINALLY try a Cronut after years of failed attempts!

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The bakery includes signature sweets such as the DKA (Dominique’s Kouign Amann), Frozen S’mores, Cookie Shots, and Cronut®, and a menu that evolves every few weeks.

Cronuts are so popular that in all of my previous visits, the pastry had been completely sold out by the time I’d arrived. However, when a bakery has as many tasty treats to choose from as Dominique’s does, it’s not hard to find another, just as delicious option.

Cookie shots are literal shot glass-shaped, fresh chocolate chip cookies lined with milk chocolate on the inside. They are filled to the top with vanilla flavored milk and are absolutely delectable. I’ve enjoyed a cookie shot from Dominique Ansel’s numerous times and have never been disappointed, which isn’t something I can say about cookie shots I’ve tried elsewhere.

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Available daily after 3pm

Now, when I find a meal or dessert I love, I’m not the type of person who easily branches out to try different things. I tend to stick to what I know and enjoy, even if that means eating the same food repetitiously. My tendency to gravitate to the cookie shots at Dominique Ansel Bakery were no different when my Cronut-wanting dreams were crushed again this past Wednesday; They were sold out of them again. Was I disappointed? Of course. But, I wasn’t surprised.

Turns out, at The Grove, you can place an order for Cronuts two weeks in advance, which is what I should have done and would have done at the time had I done my research a little better. Instead, I went out on a limb and tried something different for a change, and was completely satisfied with my choice of a frozen s’more, which they torched to order right in front of me.

Not only was it cool to watch, but it tasted like nothing I’d ever had before. The frozen s’mores are a unique but heavenly mixture of cold, Tahitian vanilla ice cream surrounded by chocolate wafer crisps, all encased by a warm, honey marshmallow. To die for, I tell you. To. Die. For.

When I went back to The Grove on Sunday, I’d arrived early enough in the day and was finally able to order the Cronut I’d been waiting three years for. As an extreme lover of both doughnuts and croissants, I wish I’d been able to get my hands on one sooner, but at the same time it was well worth the wait.

While Cronuts are made fresh daily, Dominique Ansel Bakery features one specialty flavor per month, and the flavors never repeat. How cool is that? Mine was a strawberry butter with cinnamon spice ganache Cronut. It was dellish.

Have you ever had a Cronut? What’s your favorite treat from Dominique Ansel Bakery? Let us know in the comments below!

For more information on Dominique Ansel Bakery, please visit: http://dominiqueansel.com/

Photo credit: @ashleybower

Booking Flights During the Most Traveled Time of the Year

With the holidays right around the corner, one of the busiest travel seasons is officially among us. Around this time of year, people are booking flights all around the world to connect with friends and family members everywhere, including myself — except I booked my travel plans a couple of months ago. If you haven’t already done so yourself, I suggest you get to booking yours ASAP.

Not only does flying around the holidays make for one of the busiest times of year, but it’s also one of the most expensive. After Thanksgiving, airline tickets can be expected to soar almost immediately; usually hitting their highest peak around a week before December 25th. As a result, travel experts suggest booking trips as soon as possible. While some travelers prefer to search for deals around Thanksgiving, not all airlines partake in events like “Black Friday,” or in what seems to be the latest craze, “Travel Tuesday.” And even if they do, a lot of deals aren’t advertised ahead of time, or they come with fine print details, travel restrictions, and restraints.

If you’re panicking after what you’ve read so far, have no fear — you haven’t run out of time to book moderately priced travel reservations quite yet. Plus, I’m here! Despite the fact that I’ve never been out of the country, I’ve done a decent amount of traveling within the U.S., especially over and around the holidays. I’ve flown on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day (and the day after), Thanksgiving (and the day before), to name a few. Safe to say, I’m pretty holiday travel savvy, and below I’ve put together a list of websites to help you stay prepared.

When booking a flight (no matter what time of year, actually) I always start off using number one on this list:

  1. Kayak
    www.kayak.com
    I mainly use Kayak for booking flights, but the website also has a search engine that’s great for booking hotels and rental cars as well. When you input your travel dates and destination(s), Kayak scans the internet for several options and also provides different tools and features to aide you in focusing your search. Kayak allows you to compare several different airlines and fares with one simple search, ultimately presenting you with the most up-to-date prices. It even includes a feature that allows its users to set price alerts in order to track prices on flights and hotels to prevent missing any future deals.
  2. Hopper
    www.hopper.com
    Hopper is a free mobile app that allows you to book flights from your phone while also telling you when is the best time to buy. It does this via a color coordinated calendar that recommends whether you should wait to book your flight, or book it immediately. Similarly to Kayak, Hopper is also able to keep an eye on your trip and send you notifications the moment prices drop. It’s super handy, even if you’re like me and enjoy researching flights for trips that are nothing but the products of wishful thinking.
  3. Google Flights
    www.google.com/flights
    This one might seem like a pretty obvious tool, but Google Flights isn’t something I learned about and started using until recently. It’s best used for domestic flights, but its new, updated layout provides you with a map that allows you to view airports anywhere in the world. If you’re looking at a domestic flight, for example, without even having to input anything more than your take off location, the map shows you the cost to fly to any of the major airports within the United States. Pretty cool, huh?
  4. Scott’s Cheap Flights
    www.scottscheapflights.com
    This website was very recently suggested to me by a friend who travels both domestically and internationally ALL the time and swears by it. It’s quite user friendly. All you have to do is enter your email and Scott’s Cheap Flights pretty much does the rest of the work for you by searching for flights all day everyday. When an airline has a great deal, Scott notifies you of it through email with instructions on how to book. Also, when an airline makes a mistake, Scott lets you know of it. Check out some of the awesome reviews on the website listed above if you don’t believe me!

If you’re still in need of making holiday travel arrangements, hopefully at least one of these handy sites is able to provide you with the help you need. They’ve never let me down. And, make sure to keep them in mind for use on your future adventures, too!

Photo credit: Porapak Apichodilok @ pexels

What are your favorite resources for affordable airfare? Share them with us in the comments section below.

Pike’s Place & Biscuit Bitch

By Lysette Hernandez          

Food always sets the tone for my trips, so Biscuit Bitch was the perfect place to get me excited for what this city has to offer. It’s one of the hippest breakfast spots that I’ve been to in a while, and it serves great food with a snappy greeting: “What are you having today, bitch?” Imagine walking up to the counter and hearing that. Coming from Los Angeles, your first instinct might be to snap back, but with this vibe, I promise you’ll just crack a smile. I ordered a “Smokin’ Hot Bitch”, a biscuit smothered in gravy, cheese with a Louisiana Hot Link and jalapeños. It. Is. Amazing. Totally worth the small wait listening to ’90s hip-hop and a great way to fill your belly for a morning walk.

Seattle is home of the Seahawks, great coffee, the Space Needle, and so much more. It’s a beautiful state that differs completely from my home — Los Angeles — but holds a dear place in my heart. This city truly captures the vibe of inclusivity, progression, and acceptance.

From Biscuit Bitch to the famous Pike’s Place Market I went. Walking a few blocks down I found myself staring at the large PIKE’S PLACE MARKET sign — clearly I made it. Making my way into the main entrance, I was greeted by the popular fishermen of Pike’s Place Fish Market.

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If you have seen pictures of burly men throwing large fish around, you might have actually seen one of these lovely guys. Illuminating behind them was a great lay out of fresh fish on ice. For a fee you can purchase fish and have these fine gentlemen throw one at you in hopes that you catch it; or you can go the “tiny lie” route and tell them it’s your birthday or anniversary and they just might let you do it for free. Either way, it really helps get you amped up for the rest of what this place has to offer.          

Walking through the halls you are engulfed in the smells of the fresh fruits, nuts, flowers and so many other delectable items Pike’s Place has to offer. What captured my attention was the little sign in the Pike’s Pit Bar-B-Que window that stated in bold letters: TURKEY LEGS. I immediately ran to the cashier, ordered my leg, and waited till I was served. Juicy, tender, and just plain amazing; they knew what they were doing.

Market4The rest of the market harbors stands selling trinkets, and other little tourist buys, along with gift shops and a large selection of places to eat. You can easily catch yourself walking through this place for hours, but after eating so much, I was dying for a coffee fix. Although the original Starbucks is located next to Pike’s Place Market, the line was around the corner, so I opted to go to the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room.

The brewery stands tall and pristine, filling the streets with the aroma of coffee. Within this building is a retail store, the actual brewery, loads of places to relax with your “cup of joe” and a lovely coffee bar right in the middle. As you walk up to the bar, you are given a menu listing their reserve roasts and options of how you would like it brewed. After ordering, you can walk around or sit in one of their meeting areas to plot your next destination.            

Now, Seattle is not just known for bitchin’ biscuits, fish throwing, and great coffee, this gorgeous city (as well as the entire state) also has a true appreciation for marijuana. The Evergreen State has made recreational cannabis legal since November of 2012. Coincidently, during my visit, the Seattle Hempest was going on and although I myself do not smoke, I needed to be a part of one of the biggest cannabis policy reform events known to man.

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Known as “King of Protestivals,” this event brings together thousands of people annually to openly smoke together in hopes to change views on cannabis. Taking up a large section of the city, the festival holds everything a stoner would need: fried foods, shopping, places to relax, and a blunt or a joint at every turn. The Hempfest continues to grow and allow a platform for free speech and change within our political system and social structure.

Seattle is synonymous to a breath of fresh air. From nature to political progression, this city brings people together to look to the future with positivity and hope. Having been in Los Angeles most of my life, traveling to a place that truly shows their appreciation for humanity and nature intertwined brings me so much hope and joy.