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Monday, August 6, 2018

Califournia

Photos by H. Darr Beiser


Century plant, La Jolla
This was my fourth trip to California this year. In November it will be Califivenia. I seem to be going ever couple of months now. I don’t mind one bit. This time were off to a 10-day split between San Diego and Los Angeles, culminating in a big wedding weekend.

Okay, so first off a big shout out for Alaska Air, offering the best priced nonstop from BWI to San Diego. There was no herding of groups, there were no pens separating the elite from the hoi-polloi. People just boarded. By rows. Big legroom, pleasant attendants, and the greatest gift of air travel, an extra seat between us.


La Jolla

La Jolla never gets old, staying with my in-laws a few blocks from the ocean remains as fresh as the time I went when I was 19. La Jolla is all perfumey, shrouded in velveteen air. The ease. The breeze. My all time favorite run—Bird Rock to Nautilus affords me a peak into some of the most magnificent living rooms in the country, the ones with floor to ceiling window dead-on, fifty-yard line views of the ocean. These glimpses make me often think, this is all I need to be happy, to be truly happy. Oceanfront morning, noon and night, it can be La Jolla, it can be Biddeford Pool, it can be a farmhouse in Ireland, but this is it, this is my ideal. 

Later in the week I visited a friend who has an oceanfront condo in La Jolla, and I asked her if she wakes up every morning filled with joy and wonder and she said “No, after awhile you stop seeing it. You get used to it. It’s like the mountains in Tucson.”

With Frank and Jane 
We went to Old Town, primarily to eat at the Old Town Mexican Cafe, But I also stocked up on every primary color I could get my hands on at Bazaar del Mundo.  Napkins and dishtowels with Candy Skulls, a jazzy tablecloth, a shirt with all the colors of the rainbow.

I went a few days early up to Beverly Hills, for pastoral care of my friend Judy as she faced the countdown to her only child’s wedding. I expected to find her in a pool of anxiety on the floor. But she was instead meditating by the pool in serenity. I ended up being the one cared for. We spent a full day at our beloved Olympic Spa, adding on lunch and manicures and pedicures and eyebrow threading. The next day was dedicated to poolside and reading. Every night we watched A Very English Scandal in the screening room. We had fabulous dinners. I saw the sunrise every day from my room, had nice long runs and watched Wimbledon live. Heaven.

Union Station Los Angeles
On Friday I met Darr at Union Station, LA’s grand art deco train station. We ate at the nearby Phillipe's Original French Dip Sandwiches and walked through the Calle Olvera shops brimming and screaming with the loud sharp colors of Mexico.

Calle Olvera Shops


This was the first time I was attending a wedding of the child of a friend. I found it very relaxing. I did not feel my former imperative to be the last on the dance floor or the first in margaritas consumed.

Griffith Park
The morning of the wedding we decided to do some hiking. So we headed for the Griffith Park Observatory. Neither the hike nor the ability to observe were to our liking. The hiking path was closed because of fire, so we walked up the paved road. My husband took one look at the view of Los Angeles and declared it smoggy. Therefore unworthy of photography. 

Hurray for Hollwood

The Hollywood Sign was our next destination.  We thought there was a way to hike there from Griffith Park, but we couldn’t figure it out. So we did what every one else in LA does, we got in our car and drove.  We went up the windy, narrow little Deronda Drive with the packed in houses, some of them precariously held up on stilts. Decidedly not earthquake proof. 

Then the hike… steep, but all paved, no fancy footwork required. Just heart work. And at last we arrived—behind the scenes and behind The Sign. We had so earned a big Mexican lunch, and boy did we have it in the pitch dark, perfectly air conditioned El Compadre

The wedding was at Palihouse, a boutique urban lodge which the party pretty much took over. Ceremony on the roof, dinner in the atrium, dancing in the lobby lounge.

The Couple
The bride and groom were extremely good looking. Their friends were extremely articulate in their toasts. The dancing was extremely joyous. The whole party was pretty damn perfect, including my charges, the MOB and FOB.

And thank God for the soak-up-the-hangover tradition, the brunch. Because this was at the astounding Canter’s Deli. It’s famous, it's camera worthy, it’s delicious. But the spirit of the brunch was the best, despite the perfection of the other events, it was the most relaxed and fun. Talk about survivor rush. The room was swimming in it.

Delighted at the deli 


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Nothing Standard About The Standard, Hollywood



When we drove up and saw the upside down sign my husband was alarmed. But I knew better. That was just the beginning. And why expect less on Sunset Boulevard?


The Box--No photos allowed when someone is in there
The Standard, Hollywood defies all standards.
The soap and the Q-tips are black.
Smoking is not only permitted, but encouraged poolside.
There is an “installation” of a person lying on a mattress behind glass directly behind the registration area for four hours each night.
The featured furniture in the room is a Hershey's Kiss beanbag chair.
A waitress conducts champagne drinking games for those in the pool.

Paint it black


And despite all its cool, there is something cold about The Standard, Hollwyood.
It has the air of mutton disguised as lamb.
Clearly the mo/hotel is a holdover from the 60’s with all its curvy groovy lines. But it is desperately moving into the new millennium as we speak.
Half of the rooms are dedicated to construction workers.  I wonder what they make of the black soap? There is building tape propping open many a door. 
When I looked out my window I saw painters working in another room. Not on artwork.
It seems...unfinished. A work in progress. A progressive work.

Hershey's Kiss chair


It was fun there, though. Such a relaxed atmosphere begets relaxation. The room key says “Slip It In.” A Do Not Enter sign indicates do not disturb.
There are clear plastic hanging basket chairs in the lobby.
There is something provocative about coming home late at night and seeing someone lying in state.
One night it was an older man who lay very still. Another night it was a young woman working furiously on her laptop.
It’s called The Box and takes various artistic forms throughout the year.
People watching is extraordinary.

Hanging

One of my pet peeves, no coffeemaker in the room, was partially addressed by the 24/7 restaurant on the main floor. Croft Alley, also flavored with a 60’s style diner ambiance. The food from their kitchen fed the ravenous pool-goers. I have never seen so much avocado toast. Fashion tip, large reflective sunglasses. Buy them now, don't wait years until they come to Washington, DC.

The World Cup Finals were playing in the bar Sunday. I am not sure who anyone was for, but there were huge exhortations when anyone scored.

I too have a huge exhortation for The Standard, Hollywood. But I’m not sure what it’s for.

 World Cup


Sunday, April 29, 2018

Seven-Day DTLA




First meal
I just had a week-long business trip in LA, stayed downtown at the Freehand Hotel.

By the end of the week, I had eaten every kind of vegetable known to man, and some that even stumped the waitstaff; I got a ton of freely given Vitamin D, an eyeful of tats and man-buns, and an unsolicited dose of human warmth and friendliness.


Amenities basket

 Home
I knew I was in California the minute I stepped into the lobby, warm with earth tones and potted cacti, stylish guests, the smiley greeter, and the vivacious Mallory at the front desk whose knowledge of LA restaurants and natural wines was unsurpassed.

Fatal room flaws—there is no coffee set up. Black mark, very black, as black as the Dunkin' Dark Roast which I was forced to procure across the street. Especially because the hotel coffee service does not start until 6 am. Just not working for the EST guests.

No shower caps. Really? What is it? A reduction in plastic? A nod to greenery? You’ve got your greenery covered, Freehand, with all the lights in the room set on timers to go off automatically. You can barely get through a shower without having to reset the lights.

Okay, but the rooftop pool makes up for it, funk music is blasting at all times. Servers have blue and gray hair and pink army boots and large star-shaped drop earrings. The deck is filled with pasty white newly arrived East Coasters who have thrown off their earthly bonds of khakis and blazers and are fast asleep in the sun. Like a tray of croissants warming in the oven.  The pool floats are in the shape of pizza and pineapple. The DJ carries his dog.

Morning runs all but one


Grand Street
You can run around in DTLA and always find something fascinating. Go straight up the hill on Grand where you find the Music Center of LA, ballet, opera and symphony, Grand Park home to the civic center, lots of steps, lots of fountains and lots of steel; the lobby of the stately Millenium Biltmore Hotel,  the impressive LA Times Building building, which is soon to suffer the fate of The Boston Globe in the second season of The Handmaid’s Tale. 
Millenium Biltmore Opening 1924

A perfect LA Saturday



From the top

Up with the birds and straight up with the Uber to the tippy top of LA, Griffith Park Observatory where views and tourists abound. What do the visiting French students make of this bust of James Dean?
Qui est-il?
His hair was almost as nice as Bryce Harper’s. I ran down to the Los Felix neighborhood whereupon I found Starbucks Reserve (an "immersive theatrical shrine to coffee passion," per the website) at Avocado and Hillside. Back on the hotel elevator I met Cindy the yoga instructor who invited me to her class starting in 5 minutes. Location—Poolside, rooftop. Mats provided. An hour of naturally hot yoga, with the skyscrapers and the headstanders.


Brunch with Audrey
From there dearest friends took us to a classic outdoor brunch at The Alcove where we met their Audrey Hepburn look-alike daughter and her beau Daniel. The waiter described our bottled water as Bougie.

That night—cushioned seats in the second row, loge level, home plate at Dodger Stadium to see my Nats play! Dodger Stadium is big and old and new and its fans have a ferocious level of intensity that belies the California mellow vibe.  

Meet the Prez

So our connection, a high school classmate of my husband’s with whom I bonded at the last reunion, is a childhood friend of Mike Rizzo. The one President who matters in Washington, the President of the Nationals. Riz, as they call him, came up for a personal photo session after the game.

Eating our way through the garden


They're adding vegetables to my eggs Benedict

The first night we were eager to have some real Mexican food. Chica’s Taco Bar was recommended. Down and out and small and rough edged and four kinds of hot sauce in plastic squeezy bottles. So far, so good. But the chicken taco featured chick peas and feta cheese, the fish taco was topped with Caesar salad, and the beef tacos had radishes on top. Come on now California!!

A straw of steel,  as green as the drink

Second night, Colori Kitchen (or Calorie Kitchen, as I prefer to call it) is your basic, exposed brick, old school Italian, all the bread and oil you can eat, spaghetti,ravioli, the usual suspects.

Then we really ramped it up for the next three nights. Botanica, where the vegetables tasted as if they had just been pulled out of the ground and rinsed. The only protein was a baby clam or two, and we were mystified and amazed by a side of “sunchokes." Are they potatoes or artichoke hearts? No, they are the root of the sunflower plant, dummy!
A sampling--fattoush-y salad, chopped spring vegetables, sumac breadcrumbs, roasted garlic labne & za'atar vinaigrette; Romesco, seared spring vegetables, charred leeks, smashed potatoes, almonds, cilantro; Sungold tomato and ricotta tartine, the first tiny tomatoes of the year with marjoram & fresh ricotta on Bub & Grandma's bread.

Kismet, highly recommended as one of LA’s finest, coolest, hippest. Watch out tapas haters and only children, if these restaurants are any example, we are moving universally to the land of small plates. Sharing is mandatory. Fried cauliflower with caper yogurt, kobocha squash with peanut citrus, and aleppo pepper; avocado with puffed wild rice crispy lentils and coconut vinaigrette.

You get the idea here about LA cuisine, no food travels alone, it is always "with" or "&" another; and it's hard to buy a calorie.

Sugarfish—Yum. Sushi where you are advised by the chef to Trust Me. In fact there is a “Trust Me” and “Trust Me Lite” on the menu.  You are also advised by the chef on several other counts. "Hand rolls should be eaten right away."  "We politely decline requests for extra rice." The rice is served warm to create a “melt-in-your-mouth sensation beneath the cool fish.”

Finally, Bottega Louie, the opposite end of Colori Kitchen—everything is light and new, the pizza is thin, the pulpo is thick, the atmosphere is airy and spacious, the hostess is glamorous.

LA observations sought and unsought

On two evenings out we were treated to spectacular displays of PDA. Intertwining legs and arms, long meaningful gazes, lip-locking passion, without surcease. The couples had no idea where they were except with each other. They seemed oblivious to everything and everyone around them. The audience, that is.

There was a gorgeous woman with black hair at the poolside bar, she wore a blue and white striped cotton shirt dress, and sported $500 sunglasses and red lipstick. As the sun set, her hair was blowing in the breeze, and the sun acted like a spotlight on her face, and the breeze acted like a wind machine in her hair, and it was just like being on a set. In fact we were on the set of DTLA.



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