Mike’s Cafe

This week, we enjoyed a brief visit from my Australian friend Penny and her younger brother Ian.  Ian had backpacked his way around the world for several months before he visited Penny and her “registered partner NOT husband” Chris in the Bay AreaLos Angeles was Ian’s final pit stop before he flew back to Australia on Wednesday night.

Penny had chauffeured Ian from the Bay Area to Las Vegas for two days of gambling before they arrived on our doorstep Tuesday evening, bearing gifts of 99 Ranch Chinese roast duck, Sun Tropics mango passionfruit juice, and a Cuisinart immersion blender!  Penny and I used to shop at the 99 Ranch in Mountain View on Thursdays after volunteering with Habitat for Humanity Silicon Valley.  Chinese roast duck was and remains a treat, but cartons of Sun Tropics juice were staples in our fridge back then!  We inherited the blender from our German friends Julia and Eberhard, who are moving from Menlo Park to Hamburg next month.  To repay Julia and Eberhard’s kindness, I sent Penny home with a small framed print of Death Valley Desert Gold for them, as they had visited Death Valley over Christmas.  To repay Penny’s kindness, we enjoyed comfort food together at the Nickel Diner in downtown L.A. and Tender Greens in Santa Monica.

Penny’s kindness manifests itself in countless ways.  She pours love into the meals she cooks for her friends and family.  She makes my long commute bearable by Skyping with me once a week as I inch along the freeway.  And despite her occasional tantrums when I’ve taken “too many” photos during a hike or party, she encourages my photography.  She arranged for Ellen and Mike, the proprietors of Mike’s Cafes, to display my work at their Palo Alto restaurant for three months this past summer.  This is a photo of my prints on display at the restaurant.  Scott hung the frames; he did an excellent job.  If you scan the mirrored wall closely, you will see the reflection of Penny chatting with Mike.

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Christmas in Beverly Hills

To celebrate the first day of Mama Chow’s Christmas visit, we had lunch in Beverly Hills and did some browsing on Rodeo Drive.  Like all good tourists, we took a photo of ourselves at the fountain in front of Two Rodeo Drive.  Later in the afternoon, Santa Claus sat behind a velvet rope beside the fountain.  Parents tried to pose their frightened children on the jolly old man’s lap.  I can still hear their screams.

I took this snapshot as we walked out of Missoni at the corner of Rodeo Drive and Santa Monica Boulevard.  The sun cast interesting shadows along the shop’s woven aluminum facade.

Merry Christmas!  Joyeux Noël!  Feliz Navidad!

Bookmarc

Today, I decided to treat myself to a new book from Bookmarc.  Bookmarc is the Marc Jacobs brand extension / bookstore on Melrose Place in West Hollywood.  I bought On Paris, a selection of articles written by Ernest Hemingway between 1920 and 1924 for The Toronto StarI had no idea that Ernest Hemingway was once a foreign correspondent for The Toronto Star!  This is the magic of Bookmarc:  it’s small and well-curated.  Usually, I enjoy the serendipity and thrift of discovering old favourites and new treasures among stacks of haphazardly catalogued used books at Know Knew Books in Palo Alto, Bart’s Books in Ojai, or The Last Bookstore in DTLA.  However, I also enjoy the luxury of being the first person to thumb through the heavy pages of an art book or the deckle-edge pages of a novel.

I took this photo of Bookmarc in March 2011, when it was warm and sunny outside.  That day, I bought The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy.  Books I own tend to languish on the shelf for months until I’m ready to read them.  I finished reading The Dud Avocado recently.  Similar to On ParisThe Dud Avocado offers an American perspective about living in post-war Paris.  Different from On Paris (which is non-fiction and written after the First World War), The Dud Avocado is juicy, thinly-veiled fiction set after the Second World War – I highly recommend it for the title alone!

On a whim, I bought presents for Scott and my Canadian friend Dave.  (Dave, thank you for asking me about my birthday when we spoke on the phone today.  I’m sorry I forgot to ask you about yours; please enjoy the book I’m sending to you, Debbie, and Mika in Toronto!)  Mark, the clerk, offered to check the storage area for pristine copies of the books I chose and then wrapped them so beautifully I was afraid to leave the store with them as it was raining outside.  While I waited for the rain to stop, I flipped through a copy of Ron Galella:  Exclusive Diary.  Ron Galella takes old-school paparazzi photographs of glamorous people.  Many of the photos in the book were taken in Hollywood, just a couple miles east of Bookmarc.

Mount Wilson

Last night, we watched the moonrise over Los Angeles from Mount Wilson with our friends Orison and Maria.  During the day, we had toured the Mount Wilson Observatory and hiked part of the Rim Trail together.  It had been a clear day, so we could see the ocean from our perch 5,700 ft (1,737 m) above sea level.  Acclimating to high altitudes is good practice for Orison and Maria, as they are getting married in Lima (elevation:  5,079 ft = 1,548 m) over the new year – congratulations and best wishes!

“Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” ~ Steve Jobs, 1955-2011

Steve Jobs died today.  Many people will remember Steve Jobs for how he revolutionized the way we create, convey, and consume cultural content.  As much as I admire his professional accomplishments, I will remember him most for his front yard:  I took this snapshot of poppies growing in his front yard when I walked past his house for the first time in June 2009 with my German friend Manuela.  At the time, we didn’t know that the property belonged to him and his family.  All I knew for certain was that a subversive with excellent taste lived there – someone who dared to forgo a manicured lawn in favour of a wildly whimsical field of poppies.  Someone who dared to stay hungry and stay foolish.

Verity

“Love is better than anger.  Hope is better than fear.  Optimism is better than despair.  So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic.  And we’ll change the world.” ~ Jack Layton, 1950-2011

The Jewelry District

Last week, I had commented on Facebook that I’ve lost all perspective since moving to downtown L.A. My Thursday night commute was rainy, so I was worried about driving 40 miles along a wet and slippery 101. Once I exited the freeway, I dreaded the nightly obstacle course of hipsters and homeless who jay-walk across the street that leads to our loft. But the street was empty – in place of pedestrians, I found police barricades blocking access to our street. I detoured around several one-way streets before pulling into our parking lot. Too tired after a long day to muster up any concern or curiosity, all I felt was mild annoyance when Lino, our parking attendant, grimly informed me that a manhunt was underway after a robbery, stabbing, and shooting down the block in the Jewelry District. Lino chided me for living in such a dangerous neighbourhood (he lives in Burbank) as he gallantly escorted me into my building.

On Saturday afternoon, I shopped in the Jewelry District with Maria, my Swedish friend who lives in Pasadena. She and her Peruvian fiancé Orison are traveling to Sweden in a couple of weeks to visit her family so she wanted to buy some presents for her mother. In St. Vincent’s Jewelry Center, I introduced Maria to the proprietors of Easigo Gem and Jewelry Exporters; they sell $5 strands of gemstone beads which are fun to string into necklaces. Maria bought herself a lovely string of garnets.

Last May, I took this photo of Easigo’s counter piled high with necklaces-to-be as my Austrian friends Eleonore and Monika weighed down their purses with bags of the colourful stones. That day, I bought myself some garnets. They’re red and juicy-looking, like the pomergranate seeds which garnish the hummus and tabbouleh served in cafés outside St. Vincent’s Jewelry Center.

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