April 10, 2008

Raoul Gatepin

I read something about Raul Corrales the great Cuban photographer and thought it might be fun to do a post about photographers named Raul. But then right away I found the site of a French photographer named Raoul Gatepin who lives in Los Angeles and felt he deserved his own post. His pictures make me miss LA and making photographs there.

April 23, 2007

NY vs LA

Today was one of those glorious spring New York days where the whole city was compelled to venture outside. In my neighborhood people were sitting on their front steps listening to baseball on radio, having stoop sales, or just chatting. The streets were lively, the waterfront was dotted with sunbathers, and everyone, even people with good reason to be depressed, was in a good mood. Strangers kept nodding hello as they passed each other. I kept running into friends. It was one of those days that demonstrated my thesis that New York is more like a small town than most small towns. For all the talk of disappearing bees, the flowering trees of Brooklyn were positively buzzing... and as I was wandering about it struck me that today really demonstrated the difference between living in New York and living in LA. In LA days like this are a dime a dozen and pass without notice. Months and years fade into each other and end up like a dream you can't quite remember. When we lived in LA, I was always praying for rain.

August 21, 2006

The Plum Tree

My house in Los Angeles was owned by Esther Williams back in the 40’s. She of course put in the pool. She also, if old architecture magazines are to be believed, planted the gardenias, the palm tree, and the grand old olive tree in the front. She did not plant the plum tree in the back. Plum trees generally have lifespans of only 10-20 years and mine, according to an arborist who examined it, was almost 40 years old. "Extraordinary," she exclaimed while poking and measuring it. And completely unpruned." I had called in the specialist because the tree wasn’t producing fruit and I wanted to see if there was anything that could be done, you know, fertilizer or something. "If you want plums, the best thing would be to chop this tree down and plant another one," came the answer. The poor thing is about 20 years past it’s prime."

If she was right and the tree actually was 40 years old it would have been planted by the hippies who owned the housed throughout the 60’s and into the early 70’s. Silverlake had yet to be gentrified, places were cheap, and according to my 80 year old neighbor Rosita who was born on the block, "Those kids turned that house into a real love shack. There were 11 or 12 of them and they didn't like to wear clothes."
"Where did they all sleep," I asked (it’s a two bedroom house).
"Oh all over the place," came the answer, "there were two of them in the garage, and one of them sometimes liked to sleep out in the back in a tent. You know it was the 60’s. They smoked a lot of grass."
"Do you know if they planted the plum tree," I asked. "Oh they had a whole garden back there.", Rosita smiled, "Plums and oranges and all sorts of lovely tomatoes."

I did not heed the arborist’s advice. I pruned the tree. I made sure it was watered. I found fertilizer for stone fruit trees. But none of this had any effect. Summers came and summers went, and no fruit. At some point my then girlfriend, now wife, Jenn arrived. She breathed life into the house. After she arrived the kitchen was always humming, her actor friends would come and go sometimes doing acting exercises in the living room (she’s a theater director), and once again there was a garden out in the back. Each spring it would fill with heirloom tomatoes, carrots, and squash and winters would bring butter lettuce, arugula, and strawberries. A pair of mallards took up residence in the pool.

And then one day out back Jenn looked up at the tree and said, "Hey... plums," and I ran over, stood under it speechless staring up, and saw the tree was loaded with plums. I practically shouted, "We made plums! We made plums!" Throughout that summer the tree gave so much fruit we had to give some away and each time we would go outside to harvest it felt like a small miracle. Winter arrived, and we decided to move to New York by the end of the next summer. The tree flowered in the spring, but summer came and it was once again barren. Or so we thought. Right before we left as Jenn was doing a final walk around she called me over. There were exactly two plums on the tree.

We sold the house, to an actor of dubious taste. I made the mistake of returning to visit a few weeks after the sale. He had ripped out the garden, was surrounding the place with a high concrete wall, and worst of all for me, he had chopped town that plum tree.

I am not a superstitious man, I don’t believe 13 is unlucky, I don’t believe breaking a mirror is bad luck, I don’t even believe finding a four leaf clover is good luck, but I believe those plums were made for us. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that they would be almost indescribably delicious, and of course they were.

February 17, 2006

Not missing LA

As I was reminded today.

Q: Why did you leave LA?
Answer 1: In an entire year of LA dinners with friends, acquaintences, and business people my wife and I never had single meal in which the conversation did not eventually turn to diets, celebrities, or hit movies (often all 3). I am happy to note that in the last year our NY dinner conversations almost never end up being about diets, celebrities, or hit movies... Real estate is the pornography of this city, but even real estate never seems to dominate. People talk about things that actually matter.

Answer 2: In LA you have to schedule friends. Months go by between the times you hang out and even your closest friends will often break out of a lunch to discuss a deal on the cellphone. In NY people drop by and I have never once had someone run out of a lunch for an "important call".

Answer 3: I like seasons.

Answer 4: Earthquakes scare me more than terrorists.

Answer 5: Walking is fun.

February 16, 2006

Missing LA

I don't miss LA much, but just a moment ago I had a flashback to driving my 53 Caddy up a winding road up to Muholland Drive in the early evening. Windows down. This song on the radio. Smell of damp honeysuckle and palms and I full body missed the place.

January 2, 2006

Jan 2 1998

Two shots from my old webcam taken on this date in 1998. These were in Los Angeles at the house I shared with 3 friends on Lincoln Terrace.

October 21, 2005

Things to Do in LA

I lived in LA for 10 years. For 8 years I hated it, comparing it unfavorably New York. I would say annoying and pretentious things like "there's nothing sublime in LA" and spent way too much time being miserable. But then just as I was leaving I got it. I'm not sure why or how, but suddenly the place made sense to me... Now I often find myself missing the place and pitching it to skeptical New Yorkers... but it's a hard pitch, because LA is at least for me is all about private spaces, little pockets of magic hidden from public view... hanging around someone's pool on a hot summer night watching some minor movie starlet doing cannonballs in the deep end... Hard to explain.

But that's another post.

A buddy of mine asked what to do in LA when he visits. Here's a very partial list compiled with the help of my friend (and master seeker-outer of all that is fantastic) Julien Nitzberg:


Uzbekistan @ 7077 Sunset Blvd - go at night when all the Russian gangsters are there

Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles the one on Gower- fantastic fried chicken, open late. I prefer it to the equally legendary (non-fried) Zankou Chicken (some LA folk complain Roscoe's is too touristy, but for me that's part of the fun).

Hirozen - Delicious Japanese. Cucumber sunumono salad. Yum. 8385 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, 90048

Thai Elvis at the Palms -one of my favorite restaurants anywhere. A Thai Elvis impersonator sings nightly. The food is spicy and delicious.

Chung King in Monterey Park - double spicy and double delicious and you get to check out Monterrey Park.

Ktown Restaurants - I particularly
love the Prince @ 3198 1/2 W Seventh for it's lounge lizard off-kilter oddness.

Nanbankan on Santa Monica Blvd (a few blocks past the 405) - My #1 favorite restaurant in LA. People come from Japan for the bacon wrapped asparagus.

And if you want more good eats, pick up Jonathan Gold's Counter Intellegence: Where to Eat in the Real LA. It, and the associated column in the LA Weekly, are indispensable starting points for diving into LA's culinary stew. He writes about food with such enthusiasm that I inevitably would find myself heading out on an adventure after reading his reports.


Free brunch at the Police Academy in Elysian Park on Sundays

Catalina Island - Often overlooked, but a a fun day or overnight trip.

Magic Castle - Where all the kids who wanted to be magicans (and some actual magicians) hang out.

Museum of Jurrassic Technology

Horse Riding in Griffith Park

Black Facts & Wax Museum- 3742 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Los Angeles, Telephone: 323.299.8829 call to make sure they are open, but don't miss this.

Moonlight Rollerway in Glendale - 5110 San Fernando Road, Glendale, CA 91204-1006

Marty and Elaine - Still cool despite their popularity.

Naked Trucker at Largo

Steve Allen Theater

Silent Movie on Fairfax - Try to catch some Buster Keaton.

Watts Towers

Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Forest Lawn Cemetery

RoseBowl Swap Meet 2nd Sunday of every month

Barbata's Steak House 20001 Ventura Woodland Hills 91634 818-340-5914; geriatric swing band on Fridays and Saturdays. Dancing 9-2a

The Derby - Non geriatric swing

Club Los Globos - 3040 W Sunset Blvd, This place will blow your mind. Dress sharp. Be prepared to dance.


Cindy Club Thai Restaurant - (4273 Beverly Blvd., Koreatown, 323-906-1640)

La Lucha Libre - In East LA you can sometimes find Lucha Libre matches fought in parking lots and backyards. Ask around the Luchaworld boards to find out where/when.

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