By: Lorenzo Jordan, Adam Brodstein, and Cameron Reece
Our first day in Los Angeles could not have gotten off to a better start, as we left the Sportsmen’s Lodge at 8:30 AM and headed to the iconic Hollywood Bowl. On a picturesque Southern California morning, our bus pulled up and we went to explore the venue. Initially, there was some confusion as we arrived, as we could not figure out how to get into the amphitheater. Our fearless leader, Professor Veley, took matters into his own hands and went through a treacherous terrain to get into the venue. About half of the crew followed him on this path before two workers came up to the stragglers of the group and politely said that we could walk right into the Bowl through the entrance below. All that confusion was quickly forgotten as we entered this breathtaking venue. As the only 23 people in the entire Hollywood Bowl, it was awesome to see. We all met at the top of the venue and were able to gaze down on the empty amphitheater with the HOLLYWOOD sign directly in our background. It was truly a sight to see. As we all got our pictures in and walked around this huge hillside amphitheater, our trip was definitely off to a good start.
The history of the Hollywood Bowl is a rich one. It opened its doors on July 11, 1922, and has been thriving ever since. It is hard to find a big name musician that has not performed at this venue at some point in their career. The Hollywood Bowl has also been featured in many movies and television shows, such as Anchors Aweigh, Hollywood or Bust, Yes Man, The Simpsons, Californication, 90210, and much more. Overall, this venue is an iconic part of Los Angeles, and it was truly awesome to explore it as the only guests there.
After our morning stop at the Hollywood Bowl, we headed to the famous Griffith Observatory. After driving through the beautiful Hollywood Hills to get there, we had 45 minutes to explore this LA landmark. Once you are up there, it gives you a terrific overview of the entire city of Los Angeles (and the smog that covers it) and got us even closer to the HOLLYWOOD sign. As we split up to explore, many of us went inside to check out all the exhibits inside the Griffith Observatory. There are a wide array of exhibits ranging from the Cosmic Connection, Edge of Space, and of course the Planetarium. Others went on the hiking trails in the area to get a different view of the landscape, while some waited and basked in the sun as opposed to the Syracuse climate we are accustomed to. It was perfect weather, as it was not too hot out yet, and we definitely enjoyed it.
The Griffith Observatory is one of southern California’s most popular destinations, as it has welcomed over 76 million visitors over its time. It is a leader in public astronomy and has been open since 1935. We had a great time exploring this beloved LA attraction and really gave us some good perspective on the city as the view is truly breathtaking.
After leaving the observatory we made our way to the Mission San Juan Capistrano. The Capistrano, also known as the birthplace of the Orange County, doubles as a small town and a cathedral dedicated to preserving the history of the Native American people of the Acjachemen tribe. The exhibit we went to is a self-guided, on-foot tour with your choice of an audio guide.
Throughout the tour, you can expect to see a beautiful Basilica, native American room museum, grinding stone, Padres Kitchen and sitting room, the legacy of Saint Serra and the treasures of the mission, beautiful grounds and much more. I would say that my favorite part of the mission was the smell. Everywhere in California smells great, but the mission had a distinct smell. It smelt old in a sense as well as fresh from all the flowers and plants on the grounds. That is something that resonated with me. The focus not just within the Capistrano but also the town was the Swallow. The Swallow is a specific type of bird that migrates directly to the Capistrano every year at basically the same exact date, March 19. This is something that biologists and specialists both cannot describe and do not know exactly why it still happens the way it does. Just by looking at the town you can tell they do not want much of it to change and for the people of the town it seems like keeping the town in its older 1800’s feel is something that is both important and special to the people of the town. The town is still like this to welcome the birds. The Swallows migrate all the way from Goya, Argentina over 15,000 miles away. The legend goes that Father O’Sullivan welcomed the Swallows into the walls after seeing a shopkeeper shooing them away. Legend has it that they have found their way home ever since.
Next came probably the most disappointing part of the trip, Selection Sunday. Selection Sunday is a special day that comes around once a year where dreams either become a reality or they are crushed in your face. In this instance, they were crushed in front of our faces. Selection Sunday is when the NCAA releases exactly which teams make it to the Big Dance and the route they will take if they find themselves in the Final Four. Unfortunately for us, Syracuse was not selected which leads to a great point, that the committee uses an outdated non-accurate method to decide which teams make the tournament. It is very hard to say that Michigan State, Vanderbilt, USC or Wake Forest should’ve been in the tournament instead of the Orangemen but that is exactly how it happened. The only thing that was clear about the selection is that something must change. With the analytics, we are using today in sport it is inexcusable that the teams are picked the same way they were decades ago. Aside from the tragedy that took place, the lunch was very pleasant. Everyone seemed to enjoy their meal, the ambiance was great and the backdrop was beautiful. It is tough to ask for much more in a lunch.
Now, it goes without saying that people don’t meet former NBA stars every day. Or in most instances any day for that matter. But today was one of those days where we shared the privilege of meeting not just a former star, but a former MVP, in Bill Walton. But there’s so much more to the former center than his basketball career.
The first thing you notice when you walk in the room is how tall he is. Then you notice the tie-dye shirt, the aged white hair, and the silly smile. But it only takes a few moments before you see his liveliness, his joy for life, and his willingness and passion for helping others. The group spoke with him for a few hours, but he gave us wisdom, insight, and lessons that people take years and lifetimes to learn.
During our time with Bill (he really wanted us to call him Bill), he told us stories after stories about his life. He talked about his legendary college coach, John Wooden, he talked about his own personal struggle of having to deal with countless injuries that impeded his professional playing career. He told us about his experiences getting to know people like Phil Knight, Marty Glickman, and Maurice Lucas. Through every story he told us, he was full of life and enthusiasm.