I’ve fallen a bit behind with my blog due to some work related complications, too long and unrelated to discuss here, but rest assured I’ve been out living and having adventures, and I’m going to try to get caught up with posting them here.
My big adventure this summer was a four-day weekend in LA. I lived on the west side of LA near Santa Monica for seven years, but hadn’t been back in a while. One of my best friends, Paul, still lives there, and Tamra was coming to town for Theodore Bikel’s 90th birthday, so it was time for a visit.
At that time I was fortunate that business was good, and I had some extra money to buy the GoPro camera I’ve been wanting for some time. If you’re doing any type of traveling or outdoor activities, I highly recommend getting a GoPro. They’re easy to use and the video quality is good even if you have no idea what you’re doing – and believe me, I don’t. I’ll be doing a complete review of the GoPro in an upcoming post.
My evening assistant, Tina, was up for a weekend trip, so we left on a Friday and arrived in the mid afternoon. After picking up Paul, our first stop was in Silverlake at an amazing store called Soap Plant. It’s difficult to describe without going there. Their website gives a taste, but there’s nothing like being surrounded by all the madness. Think Spencer’s on steroids, NYC’s Obscura but with new merchandise and a higher kitsch factor. From alligator heads to obscure Japanese toys, Day of the Dead skulls, gag gifts, strange greeting cards, and horror and sci-fi collectibles, they have every weird thing you never needed but always wanted. Their wheelchair access is not the best – they had to use an old plywood sign as a ramp to get me inside, but they were very helpful and said someone had stolen their ramp. I told them about a website to buy cheap portable ramps, and one of their employees immediately went to pull it up on the computer for the manager to order the following day. Hopefully it’ll be there the next time I visit!
After amassing two huge shopping bags full of amusing nonsense to clutter my home, we headed to a Mexican restaurant down the street. It’s a friendly place with loud live music, the perfect atmosphere to start a night of fun. My dinner companions loved the food, to be honest I found it mediocre, but I’d still recommend it as a place to eat if you’re out on the town on Sunset Boulevard.
Post-dinner, we headed to what immediately became my favorite bar in the world, the Tiki Ti. It’s a tiny, and I do mean tiny, family-run tropical themed bar that opened in the 1950s. It’s still run by the son and grandsons of the original owner, Ray, who was one of the most famous drink inventors of the classic Tiki era. He was in high demand at various famous bars of the time, but also faced racial discrimination due to his Filipino heritage, and ultimately decided to open his own bar where everyone would be welcome.
That is still true today. They were very accommodating of my wheelchair and Aria, despite the small space. We had to wait a few minutes for a table, but it wasn’t too bad considering how busy they were. The drinks are amazing! I had a 151 rum swizzle, a rich and cinnamony drink, while Paul had the bar’s signature mix, a Ray’s Mistake. The story goes that Ray was trying to make a drink, and accidentally added the wrong ingredients, but the result tasted so amazing that it became his most famous creation. I had a few sips, and it really is worth all the hype. I’ll be ordering one of my own next time! The only negative aspect of this bar (depending on your personal preferences) is that they allow smoking. Yes, really! Apparently if a bar is owner operated, i.e. there are no employees, they can choose to allow smoking. I don’t mind cigarette smoke if it’s outdoors on a patio, but in a tiny space like the Tiki Ti, it gets to be too much.
I felt pleasantly buzzed after my tasty drink, and it was getting late, so we headed back to the hotel. Whether you’re disabled or not, do not stay at the Days Inn in Santa Monica. When I called to make my reservation, they said they had a roll in shower, but when I got there they only had bathtubs. They didn’t provide a shower seat, and there was no hand-held shower. The hotel is kind of run down, and we came back one day to find that ants had invaded our suitcases. Especially for $150 per night, it was an absolute rip off. The only positive was that the bed was comfortable.Unfortunately, I didn’t sleep too well the first night, as the food and alcohol set off what has since become an ongoing acid reflux problem. That’s how it goes when traveling sometimes, sudden schedule and food changes can trigger illness. It was a lesson to bring medications for problems that might arise, no matter how short the trip. I’ve learned that the best thing to do is push through sickness as much as I can, because in the end I’ll remember the fun times, and the bad memories will fade away.
I was running on just a few hours of sleep, but excited because we were picking up Tamra from the airport that morning. I hadn’t seen her since Christmas. Her plane arrived on time, and we headed to nearby Marina Del Rey to meet Paul at a restaurant he recommended, The Warehouse. It’s located right on the water and has a fun retro nautical theme. Tamra’s cousin Kristen joined us, and we all ordered the fabulous salmon, one of their most popular dishes. I love putting Paul and Tamra in a room together – separately they’re endlessly entertaining, together they’re a whirlwind of stories and laughter. The only trouble is, we quiet non-actor types can’t get a word in! But they’re so much fun, I’m content to sit back and listen. It doesn’t get much better than sitting at a table with two of your favorite people in the world.
As puppies go, Aria has been a dream. She was potty trained the first week, she’s obedient and responsive to training, and other then a worrisome predilection for chewing electrical cords from about 6 to 9 months old, she hasn’t caused major damage to my house or my stuff. Knock on wood, she has yet to do anything epically bad to embarrass me in public. However, she does have one bad habit. When I sit in a restaurant for too long – like when I spend hours catching up with friends I haven’t seen in a long time – she gets bored and registers her displeasure by chewing through her leash or harness. She has ruined a brand new leash and three no pull harnesses, the third of which bit the dust on my LA trip. I had to walk her on her collar for the rest of the trip, which accounts for her less than stellar heeling in the video. She’s a naughty little monster, but I love her.
After our lengthy lunch, we dropped Tamra off at her friends’ house, then returned to the hotel for a much-needed nap. We ended up sleeping for several hours, and woke up starving. We were in luck though – one of my favorite things about LA is that many great restaurants are open late. You’re not stuck with Denny’s or IHOP. In fact, we had my favorite meal of the trip, at a Brazilian restaurant called Bossa Nova. I ordered the chicken skewers, which were rich and flavorful. I never used to like black beans, but they’ve been growing on me lately, and I felt the inexplicable urge to choose them as a side dish. I’m so glad I did, they make the best black beans I’ve ever eaten. Their rice, potatoes, and fried plantains are excellent too.
The next day, I went to visit one of my favorite old haunts, the Santa Monica pier. Aria did surprisingly well in the amusement park, although she didn’t particularly enjoy the roller coaster racing over her head. We ate at Bubba Gump Shrimp, another great restaurant. Sure it’s shamelessly kitschy, but as I’ve said, I have an appreciation for such things, and their food is actually really good. I was disappointed that they took my favorite item off the menu – Shrimpin’ Dippin’ Broth is no more – but the Cajun shrimp is almost as good. We had an attentive and hilarious waiter, whom you’ll see featured in the video.
After lunch I headed up to the promenade for some shopping, then back to the hotel to rest and change clothes. Tamra had texted wanting to meet for dinner, and we met her and the friends she was staying with at a wonderful Italian restaurant called Miceli’s. It’s famous for its singing waiters – when not bringing your drinks and food, your server will get up on stage and sing! It turned out that our server was an old friend of Tamra’s whom she had worked with in a show years before, a very talented and kind woman who impressed the dining audience with her renditions of “Let It Go” and “You’re the One that I Want”. It was great to see them reunited and catching up after so many years. Tamra’s friend invited her to perform a couple of songs, and she wowed the talkative audience into stunned silence, followed by wild applause, with “Summertime” and “Think of Me”. It was the highlight of my trip, a wonderful night I’ll never forget.
The next day, I felt that Aria needed some time to relax and have fun, so I took her to the dog park I used to frequent when I lived in LA. I was glad to see that it’s still a friendly place with well behaved, nonaggressive dogs. Aria tends to prefer people over dogs, so she spent most of her time saying hi to the other owners, and played fetch. After that, it was time to go to the salon and get my hair washed and curled, then dress for Theodore Bikel’s 90th birthday celebration concert.
The concert was held at a medium-size theater in Beverly Hills, and Ed Asner was the master of ceremonies. Theodore Bikel still has a strong and clear voice at age 90; he’s a truly amazing man who has given so much to the world through his music, acting, and charity work. Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul, and Mary was one of the guests, and led the audience in a sing-along of Puff the Magic Dragon – there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. My only disappointment was that the after-concert reception, which I paid substantially extra for, was rather a letdown. Most of the performers did not attend, and with the exception of Mr. Yarrow, who was very friendly, those in attendance didn’t seem particularly interested in socializing with the guests. Still I had a good time, and it was a nice ending to a wonderful weekend.
After the concert we found ourselves hungry, and stopped again at Bossa Nova for an encore. The food was just as wonderful as the first time. Then it was bedtime, and an early wake up the next morning for breakfast.
If you’re on the west side of LA in the morning or any time of day, you can’t go wrong with breakfast at Café 50s. They have incredible omelettes and scrambles, plus sandwiches and other classic American selections. The restaurant is filled with vintage 1950s toys and collectibles, movie posters, and magazine clippings. Their sections on smoking, and what to do in a nuclear disaster, are particularly amusing. It was one of my favorite places to eat when I lived in LA, and whenever I’m in town I always make sure to give them my business. We had a yummy meal, and then said a reluctant goodbye to Paul and headed back to San Diego.
I had hoped to do much more this summer, to take a cross-country trip and visit New York City, as well as other places on the East Coast I haven’t seen yet. Unfortunately that didn’t happen, but at least I was able to have a great time not too far from home. Thanks to Paul and Tamra for a wonderful weekend away from it all.