30 miles due east of Los Angeles, where LA County meets San Bernardino County in the heart of what's known as the Inland Empire, Pomona is the town where I grew up. Route 66 runs through the northern part of town, and the San Bernardino Freeway (Interstate 10) runs east and west through the heart of it, bisecting the town into north and south divisions. Many years ago, Pomona was filled with orange groves; today, it's mostly strip malls and tract housing and some industry. When I was young, parents of kids who lived in nearby Claremont or Upland or Alta Loma warned their children not to go to Pomona, because it was "dangerous." I don't think that's changed. The LA County Fair is in Pomona ("the biggest county fair in the world!"), and another admonishment I heard from adults while I was growing up was, "Don't go in the Fun Zone, or you'll get knifed!"
Despite all the danger, I managed to get out alive, and still make a point of visiting every time I'm in Southern California. My good friend Walt still lives there, in a loft in the building which used to house the local newspaper (a paper that we both worked for at one time). There are some great antique shops there, and plenty of SoCal history, but it's the Fair that really draws me. When I was growing up, all the kids in Pomona public schools would get free tickets to the Fair each year, and I always went. I continued that tradition as an adult, and even after I moved away, I made a point of trying to get down there every September for a day or two at the Fair.
On Sutter Street between Polk and Van Ness, there is a well-attended mosque that was once a Christian mission. When I first moved into the neighborhood twenty-mumble-something years ago, this sign read "JESUS is the LIGHT of the WORLD!" Now I see dozens of dark, bearded men in kaffiyahs and Arab dress going in and out of there at all hours of the day and night. On Sundays, I see women in burqas with their children in tow going in to worship. I imagine what someone from another part of the country who is perhaps not used to seeing Muslims in everyday life might think.
Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park. This is another black and white version of a color photo; I think I like the color version better, but black and white works (and is even more of an homage to Adams).
On our first full day in China, our guide took us to the Summer Palace, a complex of buildings alongside a huge lake. This is where the emperor would go in the summer to try to beat the heat in Beijing. The pollution in that city is unbelievably bad, which resulted in most all the pictures we took there looking somewhat hazy.
Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala. This is the second capital of Guatemala; the first, Ciudad Vieja, is about 5 km away at the base of a volcano. What could go wrong? A mudflow that wiped out the city, is what. They moved the capital to Antigua Guatemala, which was devastated by earthquakes in 1773. So they moved it again, to Guatemala City, which in 1976 was hit by an earthquake that killed 20,000+ people.
Lest this seem like a series of bad choices, consider the alternatives available to the Spanish colonizers: the highlands, with their unpredictable and infrequent seismic events, or the lowlands, with the absolute certainty of malaria and other diseases.