Plastic Snow is Awesome

Oh, hello.
It's 101 degrees outside; so hot that the air ripples off the freeway. Yet somehow the building next to me is blanketed in snow, with icicles hanging off the Alpine lodge's roof. 

Oh, hello.
How is this possible? The snow is plastic. Why is this happening? Why it's Clearman's North Woods Inn! This landmark is popular with old-timers, who can still get a good steak and baked potato under watchful taxidermy. Stepping into this cavernous lodge is like stepping back into 1962, with three-martini lunches and red carpeting. 

This isn't the place for those pretending to have gluten allergies to hide their eating disorders. It's hearty food and they make no apologies for their signature garlic cheese spread. It's loaded with MSG and high-fructose corn syrup. How would I know? Patrons weren't satisfied with ordering basket after basket of their addictive cheesy bread. They wanted to experience it at home, so the restaurant sells their famous spread by the tubful, listing the politically-incorrect ingredients in boldface.

They can't be bothered with the fickleness of Angelenos. If you've got the cajones to hang the head of a majestic mountain goat on your wall, you are past the point of caring. There are a couple of locations, and I recommend going. It's a field trip into the past, which happens to serve delicious and honestly dishonest food.

How do doors like this not hold the promise of a good time inside?

Um, yes please!

this happened

plastic snow on a summer's day


Good Coffee Houses a Dying Breed in L.A.

The Library in Long Beach
 Not much good came from the 90's. After Courtney murdered Kurt, record execs tried to replace Nirvana with a slew of bad grunge bands. The result? An army of flanneled losers who put the "r" sound where vowels should have been. It's true. Take any grunge song and sing the "r" sounds where the vowels go. Boom, you're Eddie Vedder. Or the dude from Soundgarden. Or Bush. Or whatever.

gorgeous wall stencils
There were three good things that came from the 90's though: Clueless, Friends and neighborhood coffee shops. I love coffee houses so much, I've blogged about the best of them in L.A.

But I stand corrected. The absolute best one by far is The Library in Long Beach. Exposed brick interiors, a grand piano, sunken velvet couches and worn Oriental rugs; it's like a Bohemian drawing room. But the menu - they provide endless types of mocha. I miss the old Mocha Valencias at Starbucks, but chocolate-orange is a flavor at the library. Almond Joy mochas, rare teas, gourmet food - even ice cream.

complete with a bad 90's painting

Normally I hate divulging my secret spots in Los Angeles. I don't want people picking at  rare discoveries at my hidden vintage stores. But with a Starbucks on every corner, these authentic hideaways are a dying breed. We need this authenticity before all of our streets are blanketed by mall stores. Keep The Library going; it will be a gift for yourself even more than it is for them. 

feels like New York


L.A. just got even harder for ugly people!

Historically, if you weren't good-looking enough to make it as an actor in this town, you could at least support yourself by waiting tables. Looks like that might be on the way out as well.  Because God forbid your canape gets served to you by someone who looks like they eat them. People who don't eat will be served by people who really don't eat, and all the ugly people will either have to take up janitor work or get out of Dodge. 

Or, how about this? I propose that people get cast for realistic roles. If we see hideous-looking people on the freeways, in the gym and the store, why aren't these people be represented in film, where actors are on freeways, at the gym and in the store? On TV, every middle-aged dolt is somehow married to a supermodel MENSA member twenty years their junior, and no one says anything. In film, everyone in the produce section of the grocery store is a girl in a half shirt squeezing melons. I don't know about you, but the last time I was in grocery store, a homeless guy was changing clothes in the bathroom. 

So let the hotties take over food service. But only on the condition that the less-attractive folk get re-integrated on screen. We must remember actors aren't models, and shouldn't be held to those standards. They are but people hired to play all sectors of the population. Tired moms, tubby alcoholics, greasy pizza shop owners, etc. That way, the less attractive will get their fair shot, and runway types will be forced to come face to face with food.


Rocky Peak Park - still a little creepy!

I'll admit that I already have it in for the Simi Valley. It was home base for the Manson Family and home to the now-closed and crumbling Bottle Village. Not to mention the site of deadly floods and the first significant nuclear accident in the USA, in 1959. Perhaps the leftover radiation fried the brains of the jurors at the Rodney King trial, who, while in Simi Valley, mysteriously chose to let the cops walk free, inciting the L.A. riots. But I'm an open-minded girl, and heard that Rocky Peak Park was a great hike. I've always been fascinated by the smooth boulders hovering on hilltops, if only for my fear that they'd tumble down smash me to pieces.  
Stonehenge-like formation
The hike was beautiful, if not a little creepy. Signs warned us that it was wild cat country, so running into a mountain lion, puma or bobcat would not be unexpected. The hills were strewn with caves, which our dogs sought out for the scent of other animals, and for shade. As we approached each cave, we held our breath, hoping not to disturb a mountain lion. The rocks themselves seemed like alien objects, smooth and jutting against an otherwise sandy and rugged landscape. Some rocks seemed to almost stand upright in a circle, like Stonehenge.

cool in the shade
It seems that no activity in the Simi Valley is without some strain of creepiness. Perhaps that's why I keep returning, instead of writing it off as just another boring bedroom suburb.

view of the city grid below
sniffing out coyotes and mountain lions
Bobby and the butler


All the Hebrew You Need to Know You will Learn in Hollywood

Above, the O.G.s

Save for the words klutz and putz (two words I have long been familiar with due to my...disposition) all the Hebrew I learned, I've learned in Hollywood.

When casting directors are looking for a girl with chutzpah (oomph, sass) one needs to know what that means, else lose the part due to ignorance. Besides, peppering your language with Yiddish is one way to get in with them. In a town where people have forcing themselves into Scientology (now passe) and Kabbalah (also passe) in order to rub elbows with those doling out film roles, it wouldn't hurt to brush up.

Reading below is as valuable as training with a great acting coach, without dropping $200 a class:

Rear end, bottom, backside, buttocks. In proper Yiddish, it’s spelled tuchis or tuches or tokhis, and was the origin of the American slang word tush.

Female busybody or gossip

Something you’re known for doing, an entertainer’s routine, an actor’s bit, stage business; a gimmick often done to draw attention to yourself

A non-Jewish woman, all too often used derogatorily. It has the connotation of “young and beautiful,” so referring to a man’s Gentile wife or girlfriend as a shiksa implies that his primary attraction was her good looks. She is possibly blonde.

A long, involved sales pitch, as in, “I had to listen to his whole spiel before I found out what he really wanted.” From the German word for play.

Mazel Tov
Or mazltof. Literally “good luck,” (well, literally, “good constellation”)

Often used as an insulting word for a self-made fool, but you shouldn’t use it in polite company at all, since it refers to male anatomy.

Chat, make small talk, converse about nothing in particular. But at Hollywood parties, guests often schmooze with people they want to impress.

A non-Jew, a Gentile. As in Hebrew, one Gentile is a goy, many Gentiles are goyim, the non-Jewish world in general is “the goyim.”

A clumsy, inept person, similar to a klutz (also a Yiddish word). The kind of person who always spills his soup.

Or nash. To nibble; a light snack


Good things CAN come from cheesy romantic comedies

chocolate souffle
Years ago, I watched the movie Valentine's Day. I remember three things distinctly:

1) Hating myself for enjoying an Ashton Kutcher movie
2) Hating myself for financially contributing to the box office for an Ashton Kutcher movie
3) Wondering what lovely restaurant was featured in the scene where Jennifer Garner confronts her cheating boyfriend

pianist for the older, moneyed crowd
Blame it on my love affair with New Orleans, but I'm a sucker for indoor trees and high ceilings. These ballroom-type establishments remind me of a grandeur that has long since passed. It's Southern and English all at once. The Bistro Garden in Studio City is simply lovely. It had all the trimmings; a live piano player, champagne flowing like water and a distinguished waitstaff in suits. These people make the staff at Downton Abbey look like Flo from Mel's Diner.

This place screams Eggs Benedict
The crowd here is older, moneyed and content. They have families and they all brunch together. Girlfriends host showers here, men meet for martinis after rounds of golf. Here you will not find hispters, malcontent twenty-somethings on their Smartphones or models who like to DJ on the side. What this place has, is class.

a nosh


The Curse of Griffith Park

I have a love affair with Griffith Park. When I first came to Hollywood and witnessed the mix of dilapidation and overpriced tourist facades, the alcoholics in tenements and schemers that preyed on newcomers, I needed a refuge. Just two blocks north, I let Griffith Park swallow me whole. The branches of the live oaks seemed to embrace me as I disappeared into it. I love the lush greenery in Fern Dell, the rocky peaks where coyotes emerge at sunset and the dark tunnel that leads to the Observatory. Horses are everywhere. The Haunted Hayride at Halloween is unmatched by any East Coast farmhouse, no matter how authentic or remote. You can't compete with Hollywood set designers and union actors.
Colonel Griffith J. Griffith

The creek seemed to cleanse the city grit off of my skin. The mountaintop carried me high above the yellow-brown blanket of smog. I was also surrounded by a different breed of hikers. While Runyon Canyon is the place for the liposucked to seal TV deals while burning off their skinny lattes, Griffith Park was filled with a quieter sort. People were there to immerse themselves in quiet, in nature or to be with family. It was so untouched, it felt wholesome. Just as it should, as Griffith Park does hold the old kiddie carousel that inspired Walt Disney to create Disneyland.

But what many don't know about is the curse of Griffith Park. This storied piece of land is priceless, and perhaps because of it, this park holds a checkered past. Wikipedia does confirm that:

- In 1896, Mr. Griffith (of Griffith Park) was supposedly spooked by the ghost of Antonio Feliz, the land's previous owner at the park.

- In 1903, Mr. Griffith shot his wife, severely wounding her and was put in jail.

- In 1933, a fire trapped and killed 29 men and injured 150 more.

Since then, there have been fires, crimes, dying cattle, ruined crops and mysteries surrounding Griffith Park. But here's the real question: Why was Mr. Griffiths haunted by the ghost of Antonio Feliz, the original owner?

Apparently, a curse was placed on the land by his blind niece, Dona Petronilla. She was angry that a back-door deal had stolen the land away from his heirs that lived on the land, such as herself.  Is the curse scarier because she is blind? Um, yea. How did the land get weaseled away to a third party?  According to Weird California: Don Antonio Feliz was wasting away with smallpox, and on his deathbed, Don Antonio Coronel visited him with a lawyer, Don Innocante. Supposedly these two gentlemen drew up the will and the story claims that a stick was attached to the back of Don Antonio Feliz to help the poor dying man nod his head in agreement to the new will. The new will was witnessed by several ranch workers with the surname Paco who resided a short distance from the main house.
the swindler

Countless websites have covered the above events, and countless more Angelenos have written in to claim supernatural activity. Someone even took it upon themselves to make a horror movie about the curse, but thought it would be cooler with, like, monsters or something. It looks pretty bad.

But this curse has the opposite effect on me and many others who frequent Griffith Park. Angelenos are desperate for history and culture, so instead of scaring us away, we're like moths to a flame. Much as we hate to admit it, tragedy is romantic. Ghost stories are titillating. I wish more places in Los Angeles were as storied as Griffith Park. 


Have you seen this place?

Every business traveler outside of Los Angeles tries to get their company to spring for the SLS Hotel. Sure, it's pricy. But the girls in the bar are to weary travelers what Samantha Fox was to men in the 80's. The place is chic and situated right on Restaurant Row. But I don't see people venturing out of the hotel to eat. Not with the addition of The Bazaar. The lobby, bar and restaurant are on a sprawling first floor, with mismatched furniture and conversation pieces pushed together to make intimate little spaces. This is also one of those places where everyone is checking out everyone to see if they're someone.

Myself and some friends gathered for cocktails at the bar, and I ordered a smoking concoction made with dry ice. I ordered it for the name; Smoke on the Water. And did it smoke! I looked like an evil chemist. 

This place is fun!


Guiseppe the Albino Praying Mantis!

When I first moved to Los Angeles, I marveled at the oddities of nature. Those gigantic swan-type plants that bore bananas, the endless varieties of succulents and glamorous palm trees. One thing I thought we were short on, was insect life. And I was fine with that! L.A. is too dry for mosquito infestations, and as an East Coaster, I was thankful for it.

popping out to greet me after a long day
Then I realized something - the nicer the neighborhood, the more nature takes over. I was so used to living in the concrete flatlands of Hollywood, that wildlife was an afterthought. I didn't even see bees. Then we moved to Studio City, at the foot of Laurel Canyon. Holy coyotes in the driveway on summer nights. Black widows under patio rocks. Moths smothering our porch lights and a wasp nest in the lemon tree.

making his way to his nightly perch; my shoulder
All of this was fairly unnerving, until we met Giuseppe. He's the albino praying mantis that used to hang out on our front porch. Grayish and papery, my husband and I thought it was the shell of a praying mantis. I said, "I didn't know they shed their skin like snakes." As we inched closer to the specimen, it suddenly turned his head towards us. We jumped. 

He even started popping out during the day
But a new friendship was born, and Giuseppe would pop out from behind the porch light when I came home. He liked to jump on my hand and crawl up my arm. He'd rest on my shoulder as I walked around the yard. To him, it must have felt like flying. He preferred the top of my head when we walked, but he was so big, that when he moved it felt like someone was brushing my hair. It gave me the creepy crawlies. He'd come into the house and stare at the glow in the fireplace. So mesmerized he was, that he didn't move his shiny triangle face from it for a second. 

Evening stroll
Then one day he was gone. We looked around the porch light but only saw the corpses of the moths he sucked dry. No trace of his easy-to-spot body anywhere. His color made him an easy target, and Lord knows he was too trusting. It's been months, we was always keep an eye out, just in case. He's a reminder that nature is a joy, and not a nuisance. Readers, since there's a chance you think I'm a bit loopy because of this, rest assured that I have no intention of trying this with coyotes. 



Burbank Airport, CA

If you want a creative way to write the word "cheese," fine - but rules are rules. Phonetically it still has to sound like the word "cheese."


the entity house

Martin Scorsese has a list of the 11 scariest movies he's seen, and The Entity is on it. The fact that it's based on a true story makes it scarier. The fact that it happened in L.A. makes it awesome. At least for me, since I can drive by and gawk. Not so much for Doris Bither, who claimed to have been brutally raped by the house's ghosts. According to her, she was gang-banged, bitten and beaten by four Asian male spirits.

Unlike the Amityville House, where the owners claiming supernatural activity have long been suspected of sensationalism and general attention-whoring, Doris Bither wanted answers. She held her ground and refused to move. She invited paranormal specialists to come in and film, photograph, and use every measurement tool in between, per below.

The paranormal team claims to have encountered some activity. Was Doris Bither crazy? Chances are she was. Even if she was telling the truth, the ghosts surely bought her a first class ticket to Bonkerville. The events were significant enough to make a Hollywood film about it, starring Barbara Hershey and Ron Silver. And it scared the bejesus out of Scorsese. This was enough of a reason to do a drive-by with a couple of friends. The home did have a dark quality, but that's because it was painted a dark mustard color. And the lumpy stucco job was inlaid with dirt and dust, nestled into all the cracks from years of dry winds and little water. Not to mention the big unidentifiable thing nailed to the door. The only object that humanized the place  was a monster of a truck, freshly washed and gleaming out front. 

We weren't scared and there was no Asian Rapist Vibe, if there can be such a vibe. But it's right off the 405 in Culver City, which makes it a go-see, if you're on the Westside.

The Entity House: 11547 Braddock Dr. Culver City CA.