Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Day 24: Hills of Malibu

Every year I get invited to this posh holiday sale in Malibu and I am usually too busy in peak jewelry season, so I never go.  This year I decided to bring my friend Carmen and check it out.  Carmen drove, so I got to watch the surfers and the waves.  I saw three dolphins.  When we got to the sale Carmen thought we were at a country club, but I assured her it is a private home, complete with stables, a basketball court and pool.  We were hoping for a lavish catered affair, but when we got there all the sandwiches were gone and all that was left were mini cupcakes.  Carmen bought lots of gifts, a scarf and a robe.  I bought a t-shirt and enjoyed window shopping.  There were cashmere throws, diamonds, chunky sweaters, picture frames.  The most entertaining element by far was the people.  Camille Grammar was holding court.  I overheard her talking to someone, telling her side of the story about the behind the scenes of the big feud between Kyle and Camille on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.  She was standing so close to the candles I was afraid she was going to melt.  I also saw Dorothy Lucey, host of a morning talk show.  On the way home Carmen and I stopped at an awesome deli in the Cross Creek shopping center.  In the car ride on the way home we scarfed down sandwiches and salads and headed back to our world.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Day 23: Santa Monica on ICE


Normally, the pop-up ice skating rink seems so out of place in 72 and sunny Santa Monica, but not this week!  We have had the coldest spell I can remember in the 20 years I've lived here.  My kids really wanted to take Mimi to ICE while she was visiting from New York, so that's what we did.  This outdoor rink takes over an empty parking lot on the corner of Arizona and 5th Street from October through February, and it is the best thing since sliced bread.  This year the barriers are all painted with festive bright flowers.  The admission is ten dollars, including skates, and you can stay as long as you like.  There is a little Airstream trailer that sells hot chocolate, cookies, and other necessities.  My sister Lisa, my mom, Aidan and Beckett and I skated to Beyonce, the Beach Boys and Earth Wind and Fire.  We ran into our neighbors, Aidan and Alicia.  Big Aidan looked out for little Aidan, who took a little tumble, but got right back up again.  Alicia busted out some professional, graceful moves that made the rest of us look like the total amateurs that we are.  It was a great time.  On the way out we took advantage of the coupons that they hand out for Rosti, making a bee line for some paninis and Rosti potatoes.  Perfect afternoon.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Day 22: Salsa lessons

My sister Lisa took my mom and me to salsa lessons this weekend.  We went to Isabelle's Salsa Academy on Lincoln between Arizona and Santa Monica Bl.  I almost didn't make it because one of our guests at Thanksgiving gave me a "gentle herbal digestive aid" which, after a few glasses of wine sounded swell to me, so I popped one.  Well, I found out the next day the pill turned out to be neither gentle, nor aiding.  Enough said.  After lying flat on my back for a half hour I managed to rally.

The studio is upstairs on the second level, with a cozy little enclosed patio attached, complete with a string of white Christmas lights.  We were invited to post Thanksgiving Salsa and potluck dinner.  They recognized my sister from last week, so she was whisked away upstairs to the advanced group, while mom and I stayed downstairs in the beginner group.  Our teacher was inspirational.  She was gorgeous, packed into a pair of Rock and Republic jeans, with a precise, sensual style of teaching salsa.  Since there were only three men and eight women, our instructor took the male role.  My mom and I teamed up, so that every combination we learned we practiced with a man - first he danced with my mom and then he turned around and danced with me.  I was wary of the first man, who looked pale and a little spazzy, with pants pulled up way too high -- and seemed three sheets to the wind.  Well, it turns out he was, but he was awesome!  Neil took charge, telling me in his slurry Scottish accent to stop leading.  He said, "everything you need to know I'm going to tell you by my hand movements.  Women don't make decisions in salsa.  It's easy."  I started to argue with him, but he told me this is not a feminist dance, so I let go and followed, and it was easy.  He was not the most graceful dancer, but it turned out he blew all of our other partners out of the water.  When you have an unsteady dude with two left feet leading you, it's sort of a lost cause.  Well, we managed to master several different steps and combos.  Toward the end of the hour and a half lesson we were putting all the combinations together, and we were dancing!  The music was great and everyone got in the spirit.

After sweating it out on the dance floor, we had earned our leftovers.  We noshed on a Thai rice dish, turkey, and pretzels and apple pie.  Neil was working his third or fourth chardonnay, and working the patio, hitting on everything that moved.  Couples took to the floor to dance, and it was great to see people who really knew what they were doing, totally in sinc, making it all look so easy.  Mom turned in the sparkly dance shoes she had borrowed from the selection near the entrance, and she and Lisa and I walked back downstairs.  I waved goodbye to Neil on the way down, and we walked out into the atypical FREEZING Santa Monica night.

Day 21: Little Ethiopia

I've driven through this section of Fairfax many times, always wanting to stop and check it out, but never had the opportunity.  Well today I stopped.  The smells wafting over from a nearby restaurant were amazing, but alas we only had a couple of minutes.  We stopped into a thrift shop on Fairfax called Vintage Treasures.  My mom and I checked out the tzotchkes.  A monkey statue, an anklet display, mirrors, costumes, jewlery and odds and ends of furniture.  Will have to come back sometime to check out some of the cuisine on the strip.

Day 20: LACMA


My mom is visiting from New York and we've been having a great time.  Yesterday we went to LACMA with my sister, Lisa, and my son, Beckett.  Beckett, Lisa and Mimi chased each other through the maze of lamp posts that make up Urban Light.  Inside, we started with the modern collection upstairs.  I particularly liked seeing the large-scale ceramic Matisse, La Gerbe (The Sheaf) 1953 commissioned by Los Angeles couple Sidney and Frances Brody from the artist in the 1950's.  Beckett photographed everything from Picasso sculptures to Jackson Pollock paintings.  We took a little late afternoon lunch break, then headed to see the Olmec: Colossal Masterworks of Ancient Mexico.  My son loved the enormous basalt portrait heads of the rulers of the Olmec civilization.  The heads weigh between 7 and 10 tons each.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Day 19: Mitsuwa

I have always wanted to check out this Japanese Market in Mar Vista.  I entered expecting a market, but was surprised to find mini Japan.  There is a large book store, a small video store, a boxed gift area, a gift shop, a coffee bar, a Shiseido make-up counter, and two restaurants.  And, a market.  I shot a photograph of the video shop and the security guard rushed over and told me no pictures.  I spoke to someone at the customer service desk and mentioned I wanted to take a few pictures.  The woman there shut me down.  "Private property.  No!"  Oh well.  I poked around.  So much to take in.  This is the kind of market that can be dangerous for me - if I don't come armed with a recipe I will end up with two bags full of sauces and noodles that will rot in my pantry. I bought four things, tofu, California roll, spicy tuna roll and half a dozen eggs.  I was sure the checkout person made a mistake ringing me up - the total was 13.98.  The price for two sushi take-out dishes in Whole Foods.  I absolutely loved the gift shop - "Trendy."  There was Hello Kitty paraphernalia right next to a Toto toilet on display, for sale for $500.  There were cute vacuums that looked like they could efficiently clean a smart little studio apartment.  There were tea sets, rice cookers, erasers and backpacks.  There was a community board which made me realize there is a nice community vibe to this place, well except for the photography rule.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Day 18: Menchies

My son's elementary school is sandwiched in between TCBY and Menchies, so when walking back to your car it's hard not to get sucked into the vortex of frozen yogurt.  We like both places, but  when you've got three or four kids in tow, Menchies is much kinder on the wallet.  They offer little tiny cups for samples, although Beckett and his crowd don't seem to get that samples are to be tried before you pay, not after you're all done and you want to try six more flavors.  The shop on the corner of Lincoln and Montana is very cheery, offers every topping under the sun, including some actual fruit.  And best of all, they offer at least one flavor a day of sorbet, for those dairy-challenged among us (yay!)  After my speech about portion control, the kids pull the levers, self-serve style which they love, then pile on toppings.  Margaux, Beckett and Shayna gravitated toward this chalkboard which they took over and doodled up a storm.  We have a frequent customer card which they stamp every time.  We are working our way up to that free scoop.  Gotta keep going back until we earn it.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Day 17: Costco Marina del Rey

OK this is neither endearing, nor is it particular to L.A., but this is what I did today.  I clawed and elbowed my way through Costco in the Marina.  I got a box of yams, a bag of cranberries, a couple of bottles of wine and a lifetime supply of tampons.  The line to check out wasn't bad at all, but the mayhem involved in leaving the parking lot was enough to make me want to break into the beaujolais.  First of all, a woman parked next to me spotted her friend, helped usher me out of my spot, directing traffic, so her friend could get my spot.  She and I had the same purse.  I liked her.  But then leaving the parking lot and escaping to the street took me 10 more minutes.  Five different rows converging -- no one merging.  This was completely throwing off my plan to grab a tamale from Tamara's Tamales across the street.  Serious bummer.  After I was halfway to school to pick up the boys I realized I forgot to buy the port for Mimi's cranberry sauce.  Sigh.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Day 16: Cabana

If Liberace and Lily Pulitzer had a child, it would be Cabana.  (There is supposed to be one of these ~ over the n - Spanish pronunciation.) At 1511a Montana Avenue in Santa Monica, this outrageously feminine shop is one I somehow never went in before.  Beckett and I were on our way to look at the rescue puppies on the corner, and we were drawn into this festive place by the pepto pink christmas tree and the four parakeets just inside the doorway.  We noticed the owner, Laura, painstakingly painting and gluing these lovely Christmas ornaments.  She has been making them for years - painting them, decking them out in glitter and Swarovski crystals.  They are really amazing.  We enjoyed watching her create her designs, which she hangs on the pepto pink tree and sells.  As I looked around the resort-wear/home decor shop I found myself longing to be a Palm Beach socialite sipping a dirty martini on the lawn, effortlessly chic in one of these preppy, summery tunics.  In addition to the resort wear she also sells sandals, note cards, frames, and assorted lovely tsotchkes.  Beckett's favorite parakeet was named Mango.  Mango's companions are Kiwi, Banana and Consuela.  Next time I am feeling low, I'm going to stop into Cabana.  It is impossible to feel depressed in this place of pink possibilities.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Day 15: Sunset in my hood

I worked all day selling jewelry.  After dropping Aidan off for a sleepover I came home to a strangely empty house.  I walked to Miyako for a crunch roll and some miso soup to go.  Promptly got into my pajamas and watched The Kids are All Right with the dogs.  Really fantastic movie.  Picture of the sunset in my hood.  Happy Saturday Night.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Day 14: Pershing Square

Today Dik did not have the pieces ready for my sale tomorrow, so I wandered back over toward Bella Findings.  On the way I noticed Pershing Square, which I never really had time to check out, but today I mosied on over.  I realized there is a great seasonal ice skating rink sponsored by the city parks called
Downtown on Ice.  A session is six bucks, and skates are two.  Their hours are:

November 18, 2010—January 17, 2011
Monday—Thursday 12:00 pm to 10:00 pm
Friday—Sunday 10:00 am to 10:00 p.m.
Sunday afternoons between 2:00 and 4:00pm you can glide on the ice to swing, salsa and blues bands.  Fridays 8:00 -10:00 rock and roll cover bands - Dec 10th is  Fan Halen.  Wednesday nights from 8:00 -10:00 rock out to 80s bands, (On December 15th The Motels!  I might have to rope Jason and Rosie into this one with me and my boys...)  I did not skate this time, I just took these photographs of some cute girls, and a man with a very odd hat.  I have to say, nestled in among the high-rise buildings in a very commercial neighborhood, I love this oasis of fun and recreation.  The next time I have to drag my boys downtown on a jewelry errand I think with a promise of hot chocolate and ice skating I can really sell it.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Day 13: Versailles

On the way back from my accountant's office in Sherman Oaks I drove West on Ventura Boulevard looking for something to blog about...hmmm...  As I passed one strip mall after another, I was about to bail, but then I saw the prominent red and yellow beacon of goodness - a sign for Versailles!  Versailles is a slice of Cuba in L.A. - I had no idea there was an Encino location.  My husband and I used to go to Versailles in Venice all the time.  I spent the better part of my first pregnancy there eating garlic chicken and plantains with Mark, Ricky and Jenny.  Ironically, I gave birth to a child who will only eat tan, starchy foods that are covered in cheese.  Hmmm.  Payback.

Well, there's nothing like paying bills and going over a new budget to make a girl really famished.  I sat down and promptly ordered a lunch special - garlic chicken, plantains over a bed of rice - it comes with a cup of soupy black beans you can pour over your rice.  I enjoyed the music and thought about Buena Vista Social Club.  I thought about Celia Cruz, Javier Bardem.  Is he Cuban?  I think he is...anyway, I thought about him.

The chicken arrived - it was juicy, a little crisp on the outside, and that garlic sauce...how to describe.  It's sort of a tangy, citrus-y sauce.  Not spicy, but incredibly flavorful.  The meal was so outrageously, decadently good, and only cost somewhere around 9.95.  Bonus - I took half of the chicken to go so I could enjoy it for dinner too.  Fortified, I was ready to face the 405.  I'm sort of psyched for the next meeting with my accountant.  I will have to schedule it around lunchtime...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Day 12: Meat Pies, Melting Gold in the Jewelry District

When I'm not writing, I spend my time designing jewelry, which is something between an obsession and a business.  When I lived in New York I used to go down to the jewelry district and haggle with grumpy old men over the price of stones.  In L.A. it's a little kinder and gentler.  I've been coming down to the jewelry district in L.A. for over fifteen years.  A lot has stayed the same (Bella Findings still has a corner on the findings market, David, the put-upon owner still looks exactly the same) and a lot has changed (like Times Square, the L.A. jewelry district has had a bit of a facelift and is not quite as grungy as it used to be.)  I park in one of the lots on Hill in between 7th and 8th.  If you self park in the lot on Olive you will have a hell of a time maneuvering a 12-point turn to wangle yourself out of a sardine-size spot.

The biggest change in recent years is the price of gold.  A few weeks ago gold was at a record high, over 1,400 an ounce.  Today, since gold is still high (1,352/ounce) I decided to cash in some of my old findings, pieces of chain and half-finished projects.  I found a little shop announcing "we buy gold" right on 7th between Hill and Olive.  I chatted with the owner, Shahram for a while.  We somehow got on the subject of him being a Persian Jew, and he assured me Persian Jews have much more scruples than Israeli Jews.  He gave me a fair price and paid me in cash (awesome!) but wanted to know if I was a cop.  Since he is just buying my gold to melt it down and paying me in cash, I guess it was an under the table arrangement, but I was thrilled with the cash and assured him I am just a nice Jewish girl from Brooklyn melting down my gold to buy some new findings and make some new original pendants and charms.  Shahram told me if I'm holding onto any more gold findings that I don't need I should cash them in now, before the price goes down.  Happy to hear it is going down. He thinks in a few weeks it will be back around 1,200 an ounce.

With dough in my pocket I visited Dik on Wilshire and Grand.  Dik is the metalsmith who makes gorgeous bangles and pendants for me.  Sometimes I sketch things or make a mock-up in sculpey clay that I bake in the oven, and Dik makes a mold, keeps it at his office and then I can call up and order pieces from him in silver, yellow gold, rose gold, etc.  Dik is part of a big Armenian community downtown - guys who live in Glendale and work in the jewelry district.  He usually offers me some potent looking coffee that looks like it would keep me up for a month.  He is a character - very sweet with a slightly off, sarcastic sense of humor.  He friended me on Facebook so now I get to see pictures of him on his Harley Davidson taking little weekend jaunts with his friends.

After Dik's studio I hit Bella Findings, and then I was starving.  I used to never risk eating in the jewelry district because it was pretty darn skanky - there were greasy fast food shacks that the health department rated "B" or "C." But nowadays there are some downright trendy spots - the best one I have discovered is Bottega Louie on the corner of Grand and 7th.  When you walk into the gorgeous space, it's one of those big marble places that probably used to be a bank, and it is lovely.  I have never sat down in the restaurant, I just get stuff from the take out counter.  Today I tried an Italian meat pie (chicken) which was in every way just like an empanada, except it was round, not crescent shaped.  As I noshed while walking down the street back to my car, I was bummed I didn't buy a dozen of them to take home.  Although I would have just probably eaten them all in the car on the ride back, so it's maybe not the lowest cal diet.  Lauren Hill's Killing Me Softly came on the radio so Brooklyn must really have been in the air.  A cold iced tea, good music, no traffic.  A stereotypical 72 and sunny.  I am headed back to the westside.  Mission accomplished.

Day 11: Ted's Theatre Kitchen

OK I have been accused before of going AWOL before (Always West Of Lincoln) and I am guilty. That being said, I ventured so way out of my hood tonight to one of those off-off Broadway theatres, the kind I used to go to with actor friends after work when I was a waitress in Hollywood 19 years ago. Tonight came so close to never happening, but my friend Kalli, an actress (the one from yesterday's hike) was invited to see her friend Ted's show, Ted's Theatre Kitchen at the Elephant Theatre at 8:00. It wasn't looking good for me to get away, but at the last minute my husband came home, all the stars aligned and I called Kalli at 7:25 to tell her I was in. After hitting some gnarly traffic we took some back roads, ended up on Venice Blvd., booked East in time to get there in the middle of the first of 11 scenes. (Unrelated scenes, like little one act shows). It turned out the first scene was not the strongest one, but the 2nd-11th were all, each in their own way, fantastic. Two of the standouts were the 5th one, "Resonance of Love," and the 6th one, "Bloody." I have tried once or twice to watch HBO's In Treatment and have abandoned ship every time because the tone of the show is so insular, and so lacking in levity -- it is like watching paint dry. Well this scene, "Bloody" had me at hello. It was a glimpse into the relationship of an incredibly high-strung, neurotic, screwed-up (but hilarious) patient, (Carrie Keranen) and her sweet, patient therapist (Adam Tomel). The scene only lasted about ten minutes, but in those ten minutes you totally understood who these two people were, felt so invested in them, and at the end were just hoping it really worked out for this crazy nutball girl who was so endearing.  After the show we mingled, had cheese and crackers with some of the performers and writers - we congratulated Ted on an amazing showcase.

Before I go on I have to interject that enough exciting things happened today to fill up 3 blog entries, so I seriously had to debate if I would use them all up in one.  But since I'm keeping it real, I will tell you about the rest of the night.

After the show Kalli took me to her favorite hole in the wall wine bar, Lou, 724 Vine Street in Hollywood. As we parked in a dumpy strip mall in front of the laundromat, I asked her what the hell we were doing there. "You'll see," Kalli said. Well we walked into Lou, and it was a totally unexpected hip, crowded but intimate little joint. She ordered us two pinots and an order of Pig Candy. Pig candy is sweet, maple-y glazed out of this world decadent crunchy bacon that is part savory part desert, 100% deliciousness. We talked about the show and how great the performances were, the writing, etc. We told the waitress all about it and she is going to try to go tomorrow.

As we were walking back to the car in this relatively deserted strip mall, Jackson Browne and his girlfriend Dianna were walking into Lou. I said hi, because Dianna and I have a good friend in common, and I had met Jackson and Dianna years ago, and then again recently when Jackson played at a Barbara Boxer fundraiser I sort of said hi to them.  Now a month later we were meeting again. We chatted in the parking lot and they were very sweet - Kalli said you'd better get in there, the kitchen is about to close, and so we said good night and headed West.  I urge you all to go out and see Ted's Theatre Kitchen, only running two more nights, November 17th and 21st.  As I go to sleep tonight I will think back on what a great night it was, and I will scratch my head over the spelling - theatre or theater?? What the hell?  Is there a right or a wrong way?  Anyway, great night.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Day 10: Hike in Santa Monica Canyon

My girlfriend Kalli turned me on to this hike at the top of Capri in the Palisades.  Turn north on Capri off Sunset and keep on driving until the road ends, then go to your right on Casale and park.  Walk all the way down Casale until you hit the dirt path which turns into a seldom used private road - this is the beginning of the hike.  Sometimes we hike up toward the boy scout camp, other times we hike part of the way up and then do the stairs that lead deep down into the middle of the canyon.  It's really serene and gorgeous, but I don't recommend doing that part alone since it is way off the beaten path.

Today we hiked part of the way up with the dogs, then let them off leash for a steep little path that goes up and around, and leads back to the road.  Teak, Buddy and Lucky had the time of their life, exploring and foraging through the woods, seeking out ticks that I would later have to brush out of their fur.  It's not often I get to take my city dogs off leash - Lucky is too crazy at the dog park, so they have been relegated to boring walks in our neighborhood on the leash.  Hiking is a great workout for both of us.  The thing I love about this hike is that even though it's only a couple of miles north of my house, it feels like a true urban escape.  It's an amazing spot with great views of L.A., the ocean, and Steven Speilberg's little mountain.  His compound is impressive.  I tried to drive up there years ago but at a certain point you have to turn back because the road is private to keep out stalkers and "star map" looky-loos.  Here is Lucky taking Joy Behar's advice and stopping for a few moments to enjoy the view.  Lucky dog.

* just a note - there are a few times on weekends I tried to do this hike and there was traffic to and from the boy scout camp at the top.  Weekdays have generally been just people, dogs and mountainbikers... no cars *

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Day 9: Tacos Por Favor

Tacos Por Favor is my favorite hole in the wall.  It is in a dumpy-looking stucco building with bars on the door on Olympic just east of 14th street.  Definitely not a 28 for atmosphere in Zagat's.  But for parents who spend half the day across the street, either in the skate park or Memorial Park where all the baseball games are held, it is a safe haven of cheap tacos, guacamole and kick-ass enchiladas.  I like the salsa bar, where you can load up on traditional salsa, pico de gallo, and those spicy marinated carrots.  For thirteen bucks I got four tacos, (no they weren't all for me), and a tiny side of guac.  Everything is fresh and authentic.  When you just can't deal with cooking dinner, pop into Tacos Por Favor and get some take out - when you come home and open that big brown bag of delishousness there is something for everyone.  Aahhh - instant gratification.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Day 8: Pico Market at Virginia Park

The Pico Market happens every Saturday from 8:00 - 1:00 on Pico and Cloverfield.  It's so great to have a farmer's market in walking distance from our house.  I sometimes bike over, or walk with my son who scooters alongside me.  Today I biked over with an empty backpack, and came back with one crammed within an inch of its life with celery, tomatoes, little round yellow squash, asparagus, berries, garlic and honey.
The things that make this farmer's market stand out from the Promenade farmer's market - it's shorter, simpler and a lot less crowded.  It's in the middle of Virginia Park, right near the playground and basketball court.  There are dedicated stalls set up so the vendors have their set spaces every weekend.  Like the other farmer's markets there is a great selection of flowers, fruit, veggies, nuts, honey, eggs, fresh meat and bread.  But I love the shelled peas you can buy by the pound, unique to Virginia Park.  Also at Virginia Park you can get fresh hot tamales, with or without rice and beans.  There is a French guy with amazing croissant, and homemade quiches.  Whenever you are feeling like L.A. is a soulless wasteland where people travel to and from in their cars, oblivious to the rest of the world, stop by the farmer's market and walk around.  It will give you a warm fuzzy feeling, and remind you there is a lot of great, local produce and also some great local people with a lot of soul.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Day 7: Pepe's Thrifty Shop

The stylist on one of my husband's shows once clued me in about Pepe's.  It is the ruler of all recycled - the jester of junk.  It is a thrift store deluxe, piled high from floor to ceiling with credenzas, vases, funky mirrors, old school quintuplet baby carriages, and tchotchkes galore.  When my son Beckett and I entered, he was jazzed to find a rusty, old beat-up Pepsi machine.  It was so old, the machine required only 15 cents.  There were funky chairs, great old photographs, and a glam white laquer vanity that caught my eye.  The owner told me the shop has been there 14 years. They get their things from estate sales, auctions, all over.  I remember getting a bookcase and a dresser there for one of my many rent-controlled Santa Monica apartments.  As we looked around I told Beckett about my parents going antiquing in New England when I was growing up.  They always came home with some funky treasures - a weathered old butter churn that was in the corner of our living room in Brooklyn, next to some green glass railroad tie covers my dad collected.  I could tell Beckett has the antiquing gene - he started scoping out a new desk for his bedroom.  The secret the stylist had told me years ago is that other thrift shops get their stuff from Pepe's, so now you know, come to the source.  It's a lot closer than the Rose Bowl.  You won't be disappointed.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Day 6: Randy!!

Well, you might remember me as the woman with lackluster feelings about L.A., so I guess tonight my whole act is going to be totally unconvincing, because I just had such a great night!  It even came with it's own theme song, the great Randy Newman's I Love L.A.  My mother in law invited me to see Randy Newman's show Harps and Angels at the Mark Taper Forum.  I had never been there - it's a great stage, right next to the impressive Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.  Harps and Angels is a show conceived by Jack Viertel, who has been hooked on Newman's songs, and knew he wanted to set all those characters and stories in Newman's writing to stage a musical.  The songs performed were all theatrical, sung soulfully by an engaging troupe of 6 actors, including Michael McKean and Katey Sagal.  Newman's writing is poignant, funny, can be at times tongue in cheek,  satirical and political.  A highlight for me was God's song, in which an incredible African American singer Adriane Lenox plays god, and belts out, "You must all be crazy to put your faith in me, that's why I love Mankind."

Well, I'm really exhausted, otherwise I would ramble on some more.  But here's the thing:  as we were leaving our seats, milling toward the exit, I heard the voice of the man walking and talking next to me - it was Randy Newman!  I told him, "great show!" and he said, "thanks."  Outside, my mother in law, Maryann asked Randy's wife if Randy might be up for signing her program.  She said sure.  So Maryann said to Randy, "your wife said it would be ok for me to ask if you would autograph my program."  He asked for her name, and signed the program.  I told him I saw him at the Hollywood Bowl a few years ago.  He said, "that was a weird show!" I agreed, but told him I really liked it.  As I recall there was something really weird about it - I think it was a show about the Dodgers and there were fireworks.  But he sang "I love L.A." It was great then, and it was great tonight.

>From the South Bay to the Valley
>From the West Side to the East Side
Everybody's very happy
'Cause the sun is shining all the time
Looks like another perfect day

I love L.A. (We love it)
I love L.A. (We love it)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Day 5: for Maurice

Today would have been my dad, Maurice Goldenthal's 83rd birthday.  It's been fifteen years since he died, and I really miss him.  Our birthdays are one week apart - I was born on the 2nd and came home from the hospital on his birthday, November 9th. I was remembering today how hard it was for him when I moved out here.  I guess at the time I didn't understand what a big deal it was, but now that I am a parent I know it must have been very painful when I announced I was moving to California.  To top it off, a few years after that my sister Lisa followed, and also moved to Santa Monica.  Maurice came out to see us often, and I decided today to do some of the things he loved to do when he came to visit.  I'm going to drive down the California Incline while listening to the Doors.  Every time the Doors were played on the radio he said the exact same thing, "That music is so damn good, it still sounds great."  If the fancy new Santa Monica Place hadn't been renovated, I would definitely go to Hot Dog On a Stick in the food court.  He loved the tacky outfits the girls wore, and was inexplicably entertained by the way they jumped up and down so dramatically while pumping the lemon juice out of the lemons to make that lemonade.  I will go to Hama Sushi and raise a toast to Maurice (even if it's just hot tea, as I have to go pick up the kids soon).  He loved walking in that place - the way the waiters and maitre'd shout out greetings just kind of makes you feel really welcome.  He bought me a mug from there once that has no handle, it's just kind of this big cup with a sketch of a Japanese sushi chef on it.  I still have it and think of him every time I use it.  He was my biggest fan, always encouraging me in my writing.  When I landed a meeting with Norman Lear he told everyone he knew I was a Hollywood writer.  He thought I looked like Julia Roberts (!) which was an outrageous stretch, but it still cracks me up and sort of flatters me to this day.
The last stop on the tour/soundtrack:  I'm going to play In My Life.  My dad was a huge Beatles fan, also in the 70's he went through a Judy Collins phase, and he really loved her version, so I will try to find that.

All these places had their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life, I've loved them all.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Day 4: BevMo!

First of all, I love a store name that has an explanation point.  It's exciting!  If I had known about BevMo! and their 5 cent wine sales, I may have moved out to L.A. sooner.  What a store.

The first time I saw a BevMo! sign I was in Valencia on the way back from Hurricane Harbor with two soggy 6 year-old boys.  I made an emergency stop off the freeway.  Was this the BevMo! that I had heard advertised on the radio all those times and never yet seen?  And could it be possible, oh my god...it was happening...the 5 cent sale was on.  I brought the soggy boys inside and was really hoping they wouldn't have a spontaneous nerf ball catch and break a dozen wine bottles.  I had to be quick.  This was the supersized wine store.  Not a quaint mom and pop shop, but still, not without many virtues.  The staff was knowledgeable, and lo and behold, from a great selection of wines, many from Napa and Sonoma, I could buy one bottle and get a second of the same variety for 5 cents.  I picked out a pinot and a cab.  4 bottles for the price of 2.

Well now I don't have to make up excuses to go to Hurricane Harbor just to pop into BevMo!  There is one in my neighborhood on Wilshire just west of Centinela.  I went there for the first time today.  I had in tow not two, but three boys, who were piggy back and wrestling, and ...deja vu...I had to beg them not to do that, and impress upon them how important it was not to make any sudden moves in there.  I spoke with a friendly gentleman who helped me pick out a decent champagne for my friend.  I chose a nice pinot and a nice cab, and the second of both of those was 5 cents.  When I got home I checked out their website.  I discovered you can order for a party and pick up in store within an hour.  There is a groovy looking guy named Wilfred who is apparently a superb wine geek who travels the world investigating wines and blogging about them for the BevMo! site.  They also have events and tastings that they list on the site, happening in their various locations.  I thought about Miles in my favorite scene from Sideways, when he reluctantly agrees to go on a double date with Jack at Los Olivos, as long as no one orders merlot.  

Jack: If they want to drink Merlot, we're drinking Merlot.
Miles No, if anyone orders Merlot, I'm leaving. I am NOT drinking any *#$@**g Merlot! 

I'm guessing Miles would not approve of an institutionalized big box wine shop such as BevMo! but I can set foot in there any day, and still respect myself the next day.