Category Archives: storytime

LA Weekly’s Best of L.A. 2017 — West Hollywood Re-Deux

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LA Weekly just came out with their annual Best of L.A. issue, which I picked up by happenstance on Friday night. As a native of this awesomely diverse and sprawling city,  I can’t wait to flip through even more, as there are some really interesting places profiled: a Romanian restaurant in Highland Park, a body-positive gym in Mount Washington, late-night Thai food in East Hollywood (as well as a magic-themed bar), veggie soul food in Leimert Park, a history museum in the west Valley, and countless others.

I was, however, quite thrown off when I reached the section for West Hollywood — a literal half-page-and-a-column about the following: a boxing gym, a marijuana dispensary, a new restaurant, and The Chapel aka The Abbey lite. Also included was a brief note from an expert that mentioned the aquatic center and mural on the back of the library, but nothing that really stood out.

West Hollywood featured in LA Weekly’s “Best of LA 2017”.

Hmm.

Like… really? That’s all that LA Weekly could come up with?

Thanks to the Sunset Strip, I’ve never really been a stranger to Weho — any time between 2006 and 2010, you could find me taking the 218 over the long and windy Laurel Canyon pass then the 2 west, just to get lost in a show at the Viper Room or the Roxy. My diminutive, reserved Lake Balboan self was eyeballs deep in dreamland every time, and I just loved it.

After making the move in 2012, I can truly say that it’s one of those unique cities where everyone can be who they want to be. It’s also very walkable– it isn’t out of the ordinary for me to park my car after work on  Friday evening and not get back into until Monday morning. It’s a small town in a big city, a real community of people from all walks and income brackets — real folks who work, live, volunteer, and create here.

It really is a special place, full of culture, color, flavor, life, and pride, with something most always going on, and someone most always glad to see or get to know you.

So I’ve decided to do my own “Best of West Hollywood” feature –not from the perspective from a trust-fund hipster, but from a former Valley girl and aspiring writer who works a 9:30-to-7 near LAX.

Best Ramen Place: Daikokuya
Not that I’m complaining, but I used to have to drive all the way to Little Tokyo, then Little Osaka on Sawtelle to get my spicy miso ramen fix. So now having Daikokuya available within walking distance just makes life all sorts of shiny (especially following a night of 2-for-1 drink specials on Santa Monica Blvd). Not only ramen, but they serve up some awesome rice bowls — shredded pork with ginger, teriyaki chicken, eel, oh my — with miso soup and cabbage salad with a dressing worth the caloric indiscretion. Every time.

Best Sit-Down Pizzeria: Dough
The name says it all — the dough makes the pizza. There really is something that just makes it taste so damned good. Do they fly in cases of Poland Spring water from New York, or utilize a water filtration process similar to Brooklyn Water Bagel Co.? I don’t know but what I do know is that it is so delicious every single time. Single slices are priced from $2.50 (cheese) to $3.99 (BLT), and there are innovative menu selections and  specials every day of the week. My personal favorite special is Monday’s buy one get one pizza special, and $0.99 pizza slices with the purchase of a drink on Wednesdays.

Best Happy Hour: Cecconi’s (Tuesday to Saturday from 4 to 7pm, enjoy food and cocktails priced from $4 to $7!) and St. Felix (daily from 4 to 8pm; Sundays start at 2! Just. So. Good. Just go. Go.)

Best Frozen Yogurt: Yogurt Stop
The prospect if dessert is worthy of a smile in itself, but throw in flavor names such as Bottoms Up Banana, Salted Caramel Booty, Milk My Harvey Chocolate, and Original Weho Tart John Duran, and you’ll be guaranteed at least a yelp of amusement. Plus, their vegan flavors — including coconut, almond; watermelon sorbet — actually taste like and have a non-imitation consistency.

Best Car Wash: Santa Palm Car Wash
I could go to the gas station closer to my office, or anywhere on the way home from wherever I may be headed — but I always end up at the local car wash on the corner of Palm and Santa Monica Blvd. You just feel where your dollar is going — into local business versus dime-a-dozen machinery. Newly remodeled and located across the street from Yogurt Stop and sharing geographical real estate with LA Buns hot dog and hamburger stand, its service with a smile is in actuality.

Best Disco FriesKitchen 24
Somewhere in between poutine and heaven falls an order of disco fries. Fun story: one night I was attempting to make my way back home after a liquor-ish maiden voyage to FUBAR and I had the drunken munchies. I walked by Kitchen 24 and dropped in to request the K24 Breakfast Sandwich and disco fries, the former of which I devoured on the rest of the walk home. The latter, however, my boyfriend ate the following morning as I slept off the booze. I forgave him eventually.

Best Gay Bar: Flaming Saddles 
Now, I personally can get into regular old country, but this isn’t regular old country. It is West Hollywood country, honey — a.k.a. attractive men in tight denim, boots, and hats, sometimes dancing on tables. Not that there’s anything wrong with a posh, scene-y vibe, but if you’re going for hella fun, go for the cowboy. Always the cowboy. (Runner-up: Micky’s.)

Honorable mentions —
Best Bottomless Mimosa Brunch: Jack n’ Jill’s Too, Marco’s Trattoria
Best New Place for Alternative Tacos: Tocaya Organica
Best Pet Supply Store: Collar & Leash
Best Tucked-Away Hotels:  Le Montrose, Le Petit Ermitage
Best Restaurants (That I’ve Been To): The Granville, Sandbox on Melrose
And finally, Restaurants/Shops/Places That I Hope to Visit Soon: Pono Kitchen + Bar, The Butcher, The Baker, The Cappuccino Maker, Salt & Straw

Ah… see? Much better.

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More Writing Tips From Someone Who Doesn’t Know What They’re Doing

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(An unintended continuation of this post.)

The Emmys are tonight, which is super exciting and everything. This is an obvious opportunity to celebrate another year of brilliant television. There have been some amazing productions this year on both network, cable, and streaming services. The game is being changed, and it has been amazing to observe, to the point where reception has been, at times, delightfully overwhelming. This must be praised, as quality programming, like other forms of artistic expression, needs to be recognized, talked about, and experienced — because when it is, even more stories get told (especially those that probably wouldn’t have otherwise).

However, yet another year has gone by where I don’t feel like I even have an idea to flesh out. (Yes, I’m making this about me.)

One day I’d love to write something worthy of recognition on such a level. But to do that, I’m going to have to keep writing.

I’ve lived in Los Angeles my whole life, so the star-studded aspect isn’t novel to me. What is novel, however, is seeing people you know do things that you could only dream of doing. In knowing these people, I know first hand that they have the same 24 hours in one day as anyone else. They’ve periods of discouragement and laziness, like everyone else. But they keep moving.

This weekend I was able to go through some old stories and poems from college. Not to toot my own horn, but I wrote pretty damn well. But I was a bit stubborn and, due to writing more for the grade rather than the passion, present-day me could really sense the loss of drive and focus within each piece. It’s no wonder why I refused to read or write during the year following graduation.

The drive has definitely come back, though, almost to the point when I first started writing as a young teenager. I remember writing so much then, even performed at open mics and submitted my work to publications. I wasn’t afraid of saying or doing something. I wanted to contribute, and truly felt my work to hold as much weight as others’.

I’m not sure if that’s exactly the case for me now. If anything, I’m much more conscious about what I put out there, probably due to the saturation of ideas on social media, and how quickly information can be dispensed, digested, and transferred. The pressure to make an impact is very much there, as is the desire.

Like anything else, the view just needs to be scaled back a bit.  I need to go back in my personal history and touch on what’s been pushed out of memory. I need to ask myself difficult questions, especially in relation with others, and experience the breeze every once in a while. I need to write what I know, and be endlessly curious about what I don’t.

And, I need to keep writing.

3 Things I Learned from Interviewing Miley Cyrus 

I just woke up from a very realistic dream where I had the opportunity to interview Miley Cyrus in promotion of her latest single, “Younger Now”, and overall upcoming era of music.

We met in the early afternoon at a hybrid Four Seasons/school auditorium-meets-my-bedroom-floor type of setting (a meaning I couldn’t even begin to interpret so early in the morning). I wore a maroon, 90’s-era sweater dress, and had my trusty notepad and audio recorder in tow. Miley wore a tan fedora over blonde and honey-brown locks, a sky blue t-shirt, distressed jeans, and boho bangles. I didn’t notice her shoes.

Anyway, this is what I learned during our dream-interview:

1. If the answer can’t be found out via Google search, don’t ask the question. For some reason, the interview setting was semi-one-on-one versus roundtable, so I followed an interviewer who asked Miley some really good questions, which  meant that I was left with  asking some pretty obnoxious questions. “How did you know that you wanted to be a singer?” “What do you think of your career trajectory?” Embarrassment dripped from my corner my mouth, while Miley’s eyes bored into me in mildly repressed irritation. She, of course, left the room shortly thereafter. I don’t blame her.

I learned very quickly that if you ever get the chance to dream-interview an international celebrity, don’t be like me. When in doubt, it’s far better to ask someone how they’re doing or what they’ll be doing when they’re in town. The chance at segue is far more possible.

2. As much as you think you know someone, check yourself, because you don’t. Especially celebrity, as well as us anons. People change with time and experience. Or they don’t. You only know what they choose to show you. Take that as some version of the truth. Maya Angelou is quoted as saying — paraphrased — that when someone shows you who they are, believe them. And to that, I’ll add: be appreciative of the time while you have it. You may never get it back.

3. Be happy with your existence, at all stages. Ours was a painfully brief exchange, but I couldn’t help but notice that on the back of the lightly worn, sky blue shirt she was wearing was an image of Hannah Montana.

Every now and then you may hear someone say – with a hint of chagrin – that they were such a super fan during a  very glittery, countrified, hot pink time in life, having since grown up and out of it. But I’d bet money that if “See You Again” came on the radio, they’d be back in that mode like no time had passed. 

All of life’s stages are gone through for a reason and are worthy of acknowledgement, as they still exist with us. Dream-Miley’s recognition of herself — she used to be, who she is now, and who she will be — is to be admired.

If you haven’t yet seen the music video for “Younger Now”, check it out below as well as her performance at the 2017 MTV VMAs this past Sunday:

photo via wikimedia.org

Impromptu Naked Yoga

Sometimes clothes feel like a complete waste of time, which how I felt when heading to one of my favorite spas in Koreatown the other day.

Visiting a Korean spa for the first time can be a  bit of a different experience than visiting a traditional spa. While it absolutely bodes well that one wlll leave refreshed, there may be certain challenges one has to go through to get there — this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. 

For one, nudity is a requirement in the sauna and bath/shower areas. Also, the temperatures of the dry and steam saunas are a lot more extreme than standard, so listening to one’s body, taking breaks and drinking water is a must, too.

(But seriously, Life Pro Tip: If really concerned about being naked in front of others, you will learn really quickly that no one cares — largely because they, too, are in the same state of undress as you are. It’s very a freeing thought once it sinks in.)

All in all, it always ends up being such a cathartic, refreshing experience. Fast-foward to me in the dry sauna, though, remembering that I forgot to do any sort of stretching or pose holds during my workout earlier in the day. 

Then I thought: well, why not do a few poses? People have surely done stranger things. 

So I grabbed my towel, laid it on the floor, and eased into a few variations of seated split stretch. I sat cross-legged and pushed my legs down at the knees, did a few neck stretches and seated supine twist. I also practiced pigeon pose and finally goddess pose, melting into unintended savasana for the rest of my visit. 

Turns out it wasn’t at all awkward or uncomfortable as I thought it’d be. Working with a body uninhibited by waistbands or give of fabric drew my attention away from my thighs and stomach to release of interal and perceived external tension, both rooting myself in the moment, and in relation to circumstances outside of myself. 

It was actually quite nice.

ttfn~

I Don’t Feel Like Writing

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I had a really nice time this weekend camping in the mountains with  my boyfriend, our dog, and  our good friends (don’t worry, it’s not deja vu — we went last weekend as well). It actually managed to feel like two weekends in one because we got home early enough this morning to decompress and prepare for the week ahead.

For me, part of that was thinking of something to write about and engage in with others. But between fleeing Los Angeles on Friday night, really enjoying the time out in nature (including waking up to some fresh cougar tracks outside of our tent — twice), I just really didn’t feel like writing. Not at all. It’s natural, I thought to myself; just call it a night and revisit this tomorrow. But something motivated me to put a little something to digital paper that I felt a bit important to share:

I graduated from university in 2012 with a degree in creative writing. The initial goal was to be an elementary school teacher, largely because I absolutely love the school community and the positive effects it can have on young minds. It was my third grade teacher who really stoked the fires of my imagination through reading and writing, and I really wanted to give back in that regard. (Ms. Toni Stitt, if you’re reading this — thank you, thank you, a million times over.) Besides that, just thinking of the summer and winter breaks meant ample time to write or travel.

However, that desire to write had been burned out by exhaustion, the reality of student loans, and the need to get a job as soon as possible. So I went for five or so years with the skill and ability to write, but struggling to find, not just the spark, but the confidence to do so again. Now that it’s warming my fingertips and my heart again, I don’t really want to let go of it. So I’m not going to.

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Instead, I’m going to tell you just how amazing it was to see our galaxy last night, like reflective clouds reaching across the sky. The night itself was brisk and cold, but not so much that it was unbearable, although my friend lent me a pair of gloves to keep warm. We originally had our chairs positioned almost as if we were looking at the sky like a television screen, but I got up in the middle (managing to steer clear from shrubs and rocks in the dark), turned my back to the makeshift screen and arched up just enough to get the view I came for, by sheer accident. There were massive, incomprehensible clusters of stars and I thought, some people don’t get to take in such views. There’s no real way to duplicate this, no dreaming up such formations from a limited scope. You have to actually be there and let your brain receive such wonder through your eyes, I mused, and stood there another ten minutes or so until it was time to go to bed. 

That’s why I’m writing right now, and probably why anyone else does: because it really is worth telling about, passing along traces of life, and feeling all the more alive in doing so. 

Just in case you were wondering.

Why Does Everyone Hate Mondays?

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There are only 20 Mondays left in 2017.

I used to hate Mondays, so much so that the foreboding feeling would start to take hold on Sundays. It became so much of an issue that my significant other at the time thought it was hilarious, until he realized I wasn’t joking.

After some reflection, I realized that I hated Mondays so much because I hated my job. I didn’t hate the people, or the location or commute, or even what I did, but it just wasn’t working for me where I was in my life.

So ‘fess up. You hate your job just like everyone else in the world, and that’s the main (if not sole) reason why you hate Mondays.

So what are you going to do about it? Post a meme that adequately expresses your frustration, then grumble some more once you get to work? What good is that going to do, besides get you a few likes on Instagram?

I hate to break it to you, but there’s nothing more unattractive and uninspiring than someone who constantly complains about a situation and then does nothing to change it.

I wouldn’t go so far to say that Mondays and I are besties, but I have made an effort to not hate them anymore. This is largely because I stick to the following points as closely as possible:

1. Sleep in. If you can afford the time, give this to yourself on Monday mornings. Do you workout in the morning? A fair amount of workout programs schedule rest days on Sundays — just schedule them for Mondays and sleep in the extra hour. It feels almost as indulgent as dessert.

2. Start the day off with water. Before coffee, green tea, or apple cider vinegar shot, start with water. Sometimes the weekend  = overindulgence = not feeling too good the next day. If the damage is already done, water first. Keeping things simple often yields the best results. 

3. Balance work with play (and everything else). My natural social rhythm (and that of my friends) seems to beat from Friday night to early Sunday afternoon, giving me some wind-down time to set things up for Monday. I’ve decided to apply this to the week as well, balancing a night of laundry or practicing yoga poses with going out for dinner or a movie. Having a flexible work/play balance ends up bringing calm to the daily chaos that comes all too easily. 

On that note…

4. Take a minute for you. There are only 24 hours in the day, but five minutes here, two minutes there can really add up to something. Use whatever time you have to pause, to check in with family, or to further personal dreams and goals. Never underestimate the power of a spark.

5. Realize that everyone is feeling it. Even if you can’t see or sense it, everyone feels some variation of Monday blues. It’s just all about making it work somehow. Who wants to be known as one of “those people”, anyway — not only as someone who hates their job, but seemingly does nothing to change it? Do you really want to be that person? 

If it’s really that bad and none of the above points apply, maybe it is time to look for a new job. 

And if its not that bad, then c’mon, figure it out already. 

There are only 20 Mondays left in 2017. What are you waiting for?

Social Media Makes the World Small. It’s Not That Deep

worldMy good friend belongs to the same dance troupe as the now-wife of my first lover, and has been for a year or so now. I know this thanks to some photos my friend has shared on Instagram. (C’est la vie.)

This past weekend, I went to a bar downtown and friended a guy who runs in the same musical circle as the childhood neighbor I’d play four-handed piano with on Tuesday nights after Bible study. (Just a happy coincidence.)

Just this afternoon at my day job, I came across the portfolio of someone whose name I immediately recognized from work I follow on social and creative media platforms. (Well, all right, then.)

I realize that these interactions pack a little less punch than, say, going to the deli or car wash and bumping into someone who just happens to be a friend of a friend of someone you used to know. However, these instances were just intimate enough that I’d be lying if I claimed that I wasn’t the least bit affected. But due to the modern web of social media, it only makes sense that these worlds would collide directly, and at times violently, into mine.

A few years ago, I might have viewed the above occurrences as chance, or maybe even a sign of the past being manifested as a present branching-off of a celestial event. I wouldn’t be the only one, either — perhaps you would feel similarly. With the wealth of exciting activity occurring in the universe this month that will continue to be observed from our vantage point on Earth, it’s only understandable. 

But let’s really think about it: Anyone can be found on the internet. As of March 2017, statistics suggest that at least half of the world’s population has access to the internet. Interactions such as the ones above are really not that random. It’s just that individually-drawn, personal associations are powerful enough in convincing people otherwise.

As for me, right now, I subscribe to the fact that the world is small as a result of the internet’s far reach — nothing more, or less. 

It’s kind of fun, fascinating, maybe even thrilling. But it’s also really not that deep.