Monday, February 27, 2012


Exploring the city is going well these days.  What fun this has been!  Brad and I are always trying to find time to hang out, and it finally happened.  This past week, we went to Stout on Cahuenga with Brad's friend Simon, who's here from England for a few months.  Now that was a good time!  

I love Stout.  It's this lovely little gourmet beer bar, all brick and wood, with probably my favorite veggie burger in town.  They make their own quinoa burger and also have a secret menu of standard bar foods, but better, to which I am always eager to introduce my company.  The secret menu includes zucchini sticks, German style soft pretzels and beer-battered onion rings.  Although, we went with the sweet potato fries from the non-covert menu because those things are some of the best I've had.  But, I do love a secret menu.  And knowing about it.

The beer selection is pretty amazing too. Plus, they'll let you sample anything and are always able to recommend a number of micro-brews if they don't have your favorite.  I appreciate that knowledge.  I've learned about a beer or two there that always make me feel worldly and well-versed when I ask for them at other places.  

I love the atmosphere of Stout too, because the wall on the street is usually kept open so it feels halfway like a patio.  Which is something that LA lacks.  Patios.  I swear, every other big city that I've been to in the world is just a daisy chain of patios.  And then the one city that is basically sunny year-round has so few.  I've never understood that.  

What a fine crew we made, the three of us!  We did well with each other.  Non-stop conversation and laughter and unabashed, shameless telling of tales.  How nice to meet a stranger and have it feel like he's an old friend.  Simon was a riot and I'm sure he was not expecting me with my antics and stories when Brad first invited him out with us!  We all melded well, as we spoke of life and dating, and everything else.  Probably an entertaining conversation for the folks next to us, if they were wise enough to eavesdrop.  Ah, the dinner conversation between men and women sometimes.  I love having good guy friends for that reason.  We can really get some insight.  It's important to me.  To learn these things from my friends, a different perspective.  Brad's been good for that.  

After that delicious dinner, it was home for me.   

How I love coming home to my new apartment!  Anyone who knows me and then sees this place just says how very me it is.  And it truly is, all light and air and trees.  I hardly want to leave it sometimes.  And it's just getting better.  

Last week, my mom and brother came down from Ojai to help me with some moving-in details.  It was all hustle and bustle around here.  My brother drilling things while mom and I hung up artwork and moved furniture around.  And then, we had to pause and find a hardware store.  And, blessed be, I discovered the best hardware store in the world!  I sure do love a good hardware store.  I suppose that comes from being raised going to lumber yards and nurseries and dad always was making some beautiful creation or another for the house.  

This hardware store.  The best.  Anawalt, just down Highland from my place.  Randomly in the city, but it instantly exudes a small town atmosphere.  Lumber yard, nursery and hardware store all on the same campus.  The store bit of it, though, that really feels like a tiny neighborhood hardware store, only it's huge.  But still quaint somehow.  We could have spent hours in there, all of us.  We had precious little time, but each found ourselves wandering around down the aisles just taking it in and wanting to stay.  It was the cutest place ever (if hardware stores can be cute).  How they made that thorough, giant store feel so quirky and perfect, I have no idea.  But it was. And I will definitely go back.

And then, we'd done it all.  Everything was in place.  My apartment was in order and beautiful. My mom and brother had to leave and when I was saying goodbye, I got tears in my eyes.  I said that it felt like I was getting dropped off at college again.  I had that same feeling.  Like they had just placed me into my next phase.  My brother was funny, because he was just like, what just happened?  Everything was great.  Now you're crying.  I don't quite know what that was, but maybe just all of the excitement and so much commotion and being with my family and then it was just me again.  Back in Hollywood.  Just me.  And then mom said she was so happy about what I was doing. I was just like, what am I doing?  I've no idea.  I really don't.  

Sometimes that's tough.  I really don't know what I'm doing.  But do any of us?  If the president or the banker actually asked that question, would they really know?  I doubt it, because we don't.  So we persevere.  And do what we do.  And try and be good and happy and continue on well.

But when I walked into my apartment and opened the windows, the air spilled in, saturated with the scent of lilacs, and I smiled.  Hollywood smells like lilacs right now.  That's a beautiful thing.  

And I thought, this is what I'm doing.  I'm experiencing life.  I'm doing something.  This.  Living and continuing.  Which is what everybody's doing.  And the air, the air smells like lilacs.

Monday, February 20, 2012


I was in a strange mood for a few days last week.  Like, sort of on edge for no reason.  And worried about nothing, which made me a little quiet and complacent.  I don't know why, but I let it be.   So, of course, I thought I didn't have enough enthusiasm to pursue an outing at all.  Well, then, dear Raffi called me up and saved the day!  

He invited me to go out and grab a drink at a bar in West Hollywood owned by his friend from the gym.  Well, now, that was a nice and spontaneous surprise!  Of course I said yes.  I mean, I'll always go and do just about anything, but that was great timing.  I needed to get out and snap out of my funk.  And even better to be going somewhere new and unknown to either of us.  

So on the way there, I asked Raffi what the name of the place was and he told me it's called Debauchery.  Ok.  Hold it right there. Screeeeech. What in god's name are we doing going to a place in WeHo called Debauchery?  I was just thinking to myself, surely, this place must be some hedonistic nightclub where men dance in underwear on the bar and spray champagne onto the crowd.  Not quite my scene.  But, obviously, I wasn't going to decline at that point.  Also, I was impressed that Raffi was willing to brave that sort of scene to support a friend.  If he was, then so was I.

Well, don't judge a place by it's name and location!  I was wrong.  We got there and when we walked through the doors it was into a narrow blue small and cozy bar with a little patio and a few tables along one wall.  Not a soul was in there but the bartender, who, it so happened, was Raffi's friend, heretofore referred to by his name, Anthony, or Tony, to mix it up.  So there we were, Anthony, Raffi and I in a quiet little blue restaurant.  

Honestly, Raffi and I seem to have begun this track record of never knowing what we're in for, finding it to be nothing like what we would have thought (perhaps what other, less pliable folk might call disappointing), and ending up having a better experience than we could have wanted.  That's why Raffi has proven to be a great companion for adventures.  Because both of us are eager to see what the world has in store for us, rather than hoping for things to go any particular way.  And we make the best of what we get, and I'd even say we make better than that.

So we made ourselves comfortable at the bar seats.  What a unique display upon that bar, I must say!  Anthony had a string of mason jars lined up, each filled with a different fresh herb.  That is something I appreciate to the highest order.  I mean, when I saw that, I knew I was in for a treat.  This was someone who cares about his craft.  It was so cool.  There isn't even a drink menu, at least, nary to be seen by our eyes.  Rather, good Tony became like a drink psychologist.  

Technically, he considers himself a mixologist, but I think he takes it way further than that.  Because he just started asking me about things I like, and I swear I could get as figurative and poetic as I pleased and whatever we ended up with was the most delicious little concoction that I may possibly ever have tasted.  I mean, I said I like spicy, that I know, but anyone can do spicy.  Anthony was grinding things, mortar and pestle style, and adding pinches here and flames there and mixing and adding more.  The details of that thing! There were so many delicate and diverse flavors in that cone-shaped tumbler.   

It was really quite incredible. I've never seen anyone put that much care into making a drink.  It was the perfect complement to our food, too.  There was a food menu, by the way.  Apparently, he specializes in hummus.  How rad!  Who specializes in hummus?  We ordered the mushroom hummus plate.  It was beyond what I would have expected.  Teriyaki sautéed mushrooms surrounded by a ring of creamy hummus and pita bread.  So this was debauchery.  Taste bud debauchery.  I loved it all.  I really did.

And I loved, too, how we were all just so comfortable together hanging out.  We just meshed well and sometimes it felt like we'd all known each other forever.  Tony was acting DJ all night and, at some point, he put on Sinatra and I got out of my chair and slow-danced by myself around the room.  It was like we were guests at his home.  So welcomed were we.   

How sweet to get to share this life with so many different people.  And each experience so unique because of the participants.  Sometimes, I stop and think upon a roster of various memories.  A variety of moments speckled throughout my life.  It's just like a beautiful kaleidoscope of faces and views and friends and laughter and cities and places and airports and homes and meals and streets and tears and joy and sun and snow and people and feelings and colors and dancing to Sinatra in an empty bar.  

It looks like snippets of dream after dream to me, but that's my life.  It was all real and I was there for it. It was real, I have to remind myself, and so I guess all of it still is, even though it feels like it went somewhere.  Though I sure don't know where that stuff gets stored.  But, damn, have I accumulated a wellspring of moments!  It's a robust and lively memory montage, but also, it's my actual life.

Where and when does all of that exist, exactly?  I don't know.  

But I'm enjoying it so much.  And that night out with Raffi, that put the world back in order for me.  Everything was in it's place once again in this confusing and extraordinary experience.

Monday, February 13, 2012


This past week I really lucked out.  I got to go to Loteria, one of my favorite nearby restaurants, twice!  On the first occasion, I managed to drag my new AT&T friend out into what he thinks is the muck of Hollywood, so that was a big deal.  I've noticed that a lot of people automatically assume that Hollywood has nothing to offer that isn't either sleazy or tourist-driven.  Maybe it's that the most noticeable features are the stripper-shoe stores, the dirty vagrants and the gaggles of tourists.  I get it.  But it's completely not true.  You'll see.  There are so many great places I am going to tell you about.  All in good time. 

The reason I went to Loteria the second time is because the minute I found myself waxing poetic once again to Bethany about the place, we were just, like, ok, let's do this, soon.  I've really been wanting to share that place with her for a while now because of a particular appetizer that I just knew she'd love to the same degree I do.  She often shares my somewhat peculiar level of obsession for certain foods, so I was certain that she'd understand this one.  

Bethany sure has been a trooper in finding time for my little expeditions, I must say.  She really deserves some credit for that one.  And for not fearing Hollywood.  She and I have it down.  We just weave through the tourists and kindly decline the panhandlers and, at this point, recognize and have little stories and anecdotes about many of the people we pass, so that makes the four block walk entertaining for us.

Now, the restaurant version of Loteria is rather young, but the food is not new to LA by any means.  It has long been one of the most popular food stands at the iconic 3rd Street Farmer's Market.  I always loved it there, so I was super excited when I noticed the restaurant pop up just a few blocks away.  Will wonders never cease!  I really felt lucky about that one.

First off, I love the atmosphere of that place.  They did well.  The walls are strewn with huge Mexican tarot cards, which, for some bizarre reason, is something I've long loved.  Not tarot cards, in general.  Mexican tarot cards, in particular.  I've had my own set of Mexican tarot cards for the longest time and have never known where they came from.  Which is odd, but seems mystical.  Once, when I was living in San Francisco, my parents came for a visit and for some reason my mom did tarot card readings for my roommate Sara and I with my cards and she doesn't know spanish and it was hilarious, but so accurate, and we were just laughing and laughing, and to this day I don't know if she really had any clue what the cards meant or if she was just pretending and I always smile at that memory.  

Anyway,  another feature of the restaurant that makes me happy is the gargantuan pinata hanging in the center of the ceiling.  That thing is giant!  I've always loved pinatas, too.  And their's, it's just a really good one.

But the best part of eating there is the open kitchen covering the span of one whole wall with counter seating extending the length of the kitchen.  Those are the seats I always bee-line for.  Not that they've ever been full.  Strangely, it seems like they are always empty and I'm the only one who really appreciates the kitchen view.  And, I mean, I really appreciate it.  I know where that comes from.  I grew up in the restaurant business.  Our restaurant was truly like my other house.  And I loved walking into the kitchen and seeing what was up.  And all the activity. And saying hi to everyone.   

I know an even deeper reason for my love of exposed kitchens, though.  It's that they always remind me of my dad.  I mean, he loved them.  Because it meant that the restaurant took pride in the creation of it's food.  And had nothing to hide, like shortcuts.  And it meant that the cooking, the process, not just the food itself, was an integral part of the experience.  Dad sure was a kitchen guy.  I have so many memories of my family going out to eat in various cities and he would always walk into the kitchen and check it out before deciding if we were going to stay.  He may have been the only guy in the world who could do that and not seem like a jerk.  But in his gentle way he would just have those cooks smiling and it wouldn't surprise me if he washed a dish or two while in there.  It meant a lot to him, the care and energy that went into food.  

Well, Loteria, now there's some care!  Just about everything is made from scratch.  It's a sight to see.  It really is.  I always plop down at the stools right in front of the woman who makes the tortillas.  Which is also the woman who makes the most amazing appetizer in the world.  Now, that's a fun process to watch.  I'm up for the challenge of trying to explain it, but no promises.  First, she spreads grated cheese in a circle on the griddle.  After a while, she starts scraping it out into a larger circle.  The oil escapes to the edges and she sops up more oil off the top with paper.  Then she sprinkles a few minced onions and parsley on there for good measure.  And then, the last and best part, she pulls it up into a cone and serves it with salsa and guacamole and her delicious freshly-made tortillas.  It's amazing.  I just love it.  The whole process, the result.  I always think how my dad would really have liked that place.  

Ah, then there it is, a true and very personal reason that I am always so satisfied when I go to Loteria.  Everything's good about it.  But one of the best parts for me is that every time I sit at that counter looking upon that kitchen I just think, dad, you sure would love this place!  And that's a nice feeling.  I love when I get those really deep surges of joy, like I'm really sharing something with my dad.  And it's painful too, but it's that pain that is so tender and raw and beautiful that it feels good.  Because it's so pure and all love.  

It took me a while to find beauty in that pain.  All the questions I wanted answered at some point.  I don't want them answered anymore.  I love the questions.  Because, to me, that proves the mystery.  

Seriously, someone invented that griddled cone of divine cheese.  Life is pretty incredible.  It really is.

Monday, February 6, 2012


A funny trip out this past week.  I've been needing to get dining chairs for my new apartment and Ikea seemed like the right place to go.  In a completely wrong right way, because Ikea never fails to induce anxiety in me at some point or another.  So, to calm my nerves, I gathered my crew of Jessica, Bethany and her boyfriend Johnny and off to Burbank we went.  With the troops to distract me from feeling trapped, it was really quite fun.

We walked the aisles together, our strange little family, and I played house in the kitchen section, sat them down and offered them a beer from the refrigerator.  Going to Ikea always reminds me of my trip to Sweden when I was 18 and in love.  I can say this with certainty, they are not kidding that Ikea is a Swedish company.  I mean, everything is so Swedish!  I ended up buying a set of wooden utensils that I don't need just because they were the spitting image of a set I brought back from Sweden so many years ago.  

That's a plus for Ikea and me, that nostalgia.  Not only of my first love, but of my first trip out of the country by myself.  Learning how much I love to travel.  Dreaming of the future in all of its robust possibility.  Realizing how good it feels to be on my own and brave and venture into the world with courage and joy and optimism.  The promise of getting to be me on a long and bright adventure through life. God, I could just sit in the feelings those thoughts conjure forever.  I changed my mind, I love Ikea.

Everyone managed to find something to take home with them.  Me, I found my chairs easily and even seat covers for them!  But, anxiety moment, I had to grab a cart to pick the chairs up in the aisles and the second my fingers were wrapped around that handle and the wheels were rolling, I blurted out that I hate pushing shopping carts.  Well, now, the looks I got for that comment!  I guess it is weird, so we had to analyze it for a while and I took back the word hate but said I've just never liked it.  And, with much discussion, I finally came to the realization that the reason I've never liked pushing carts is because it makes me feel like an adult too much, like a mom in a grocery store or something.  We didn't come to a complete understanding, but I got it, anyway.

After that long trek through Sweden consolidated, we decided to have lunch, in celebration of my new chairs and finally the real prospect of my house-warming party (well, that's what I was celebrating, anyway).  Our options were limited.  So we ended up at California Pizza Kitchen.  Man, it felt like such a grown-up restaurant to me.  Like, families go there when they visit California.  People who work in tall buildings and offices eat there on their lunch breaks.  Not our motley tribe.  We have picnics in parks and venture to funky taco places in the middle of the afternoon and somehow manage to never have to feel too serious or structured.  And I don't know what that means for us, but there it is, and I love that we do that. 

But, that feeling like an adult theme, and not liking it, came up twice for me that day.  I guess, all in all, I realized something very true and crucial about myself on that journey out to Burbank.  Well, something I've always known since I was very young.  Like, too young to even be thinking about it. 

Here's the thing.  I've gotten over so many of my fears in life.  Not all, but many.  And it took a lot of effort to do so.  But there is one thing that I am still terrified of.  When I was young, it was growing up.  When I was older, it was aging.  Now, I guess I'd call it my mortality.  None of those are the right word, but it's really always been the same thing. 

I mean, I'm not afraid of getting older, actually.  And I'm not even afraid of death, really, because I think that somehow it's a good transition waiting for us, though I have no idea, of course.   But when I think about not being able to be me, this person I have been and become and grown into, eternally, I am overcome with, to be honest, complete and utter sorrow and panic.  

It's the one thing I can think about that will instantly bring tears to my eyes.  It's the one thing I have to force myself to stop thinking about or I will just get lost down the tunnel of melancholy.  Like, I actually have to shake myself out of it and flutter my hands about and take a few deep breaths to try and get the thought away from me.  And I guess I just have to think how good it is that I like being me so much.  And realize that it's only gotten better, existing.  So I just have to stop worrying about it and proceed.  

I know that's what I have to do, or I risk spoiling the experience altogether.  That would be worse than anything.  Missing it because I was too worried about losing it.  So here I go, still, as me, happily.  And, I'll tell you what, I'm going to start believing that a mystified child can also push a shopping cart.