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.