Thursday, July 27, 2006

Action-Packed Sunday Part 3: Flaming Lips & Thievery Corporation @ the Hollywood Bowl

After eating and drinking for a couple hours, I left Chaya and headed to Meriam's to meet up for another couple hours of eating and drinking at the Hollywood Bowl (oh, and also to see the Flaming Lips/Thievery Corporation concert.)

The traffic and parking along the Bowl entrance on Highland is as stab-in-the-eye painful as the Hollywood Bowl summer concert series is enjoyable--luckily Meriam conveniently lives walking distance to the Hollywood & Highland shuttle pick up (Actually, in the parking lot on Orange St., a block W of Highland)

We got in line around 6:30pm for the 7pm concert. We arrived $3 and a 5 minute bus ride later. We got to our $13 dollar seats (Section T, middle area; high up but a great view and great deal) and proceeded to unpack our Trader Joe picnic goodies.
We polished off two bottles of Yellowtail Label wine (really good for it's $4.99 price), cheese and crackers, cherries and chocolate covered pretzels as we listened to the eclectic worldish, dub, electronica, triphop, bossa nova sounds of Thievery Corporation, and, since the Flaming Lips were shooting footage for their DVD and went all out, we also ate and drank while watching as the lead singer of the Flaming Lips sing inside a big plastic bubble being rolled over the audience, bopping our heads along to FL faves as 'Do You Realize?', 'Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots' and 'The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song', hitting giant balloons released into the crowd, marveling at the pychedelic prettiness of the fluttering canoned confetti and waving our glowsticks like we didn't care.
Flaming Lips singer Wayne Coyne singing in his bubble

Flaming Lips on Stage with their Dancing Santas

Flaming Lips/Thievery Corporation Tix: $13 (no Ticketmaster charges if bought at the Hollywood Bowl box office)
$3 roundtrip bus shuttle
$10 wine and snacks
Total for a picnic and concert at the Bowl: $26

Action-Packed Sunday Part 2: Gluttony at Gladstones in Malibu

After our 5 mile hike and 15 minute swim--practically a marathon--Chaya and I were ready for lunch. We decided to stop at the closest restaurant on PCH. We ended up veto'ing Duke's (an hour wait for not that appetizing lunch buffet), Moonshadows (the 2pm red velvet rope wasn't the scene were looking for), Reel Inn (although we love it, and I hear they may be closing soon if they don't get enough petition signers) and ended up at Gladstones.

After being informed of the hour wait, we walked inside and immediately found seats at the bar. Negating any positive effects of our earlier hike, we ordered sweet, high-school appropriate frozen drinks (Pina Colada and Mudslides), oyster shooters (Gladstone's Original: Oysters topped with Bloody Mary Mix, vodka and olives) and ate about a pound of salted peanuts (this Malibu spot is down-home enough to allow patrons to throw shells onto the floor!) while we waited for our gigantic bowls of salad (El Paso Shrimp Salad with mango, avocado and jicama for Chaya, Seafood Cobb with smoked salmon, oysters, crab meat and shrimp for me).
Sitting at the bar has it's perks. Our awesome bartender threw in a cosmo shot and the most magnificent, glistening bowl of sweet, fresh strawberries topped with whipped cream and chocolate shavings. I was expecting Gladstones to be touristy, cheesy and overpriced--and in some ways it was--but it's a fun enough atmosphere with strong enough drinks and generous enough portions to more than make up for it. We were very glad to have our post-hike lunch at Gladstones.
Drinks, shooters, unlimited peanuts and lunch: $30 each

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Action-Packed Sunday Part 1: Malibu Creek & Century Lake Hike

After spending a lethargic Saturday (hottest day ever recorded in LA) melting in my apartment, I mustered up enough energy on Sunday for quite the action-packed day--action-packed enough to warrant splitting my day into three separate entries. Here is part 1:

On Sunday, the day after the hottest day recorded in L.A., Chaya and I decided to go hiking. In an attempt to stave off the heat, I googled "shady hikes in Los Angeles"and clicked on the first entry.

The adjectives "shaded", "picturesque lake" and "easy hike" caught our eye and we picked the "Malibu Creek, Rock Pool & Century Lake hike". Although directions given are via the 101, prefering to spend no time in the Valley, we took PCH instead and turned inland at Malibu Creek Rd (at Pepperdine). Six miles of curvy, Central Cali'esque rolling hills later, we turned left into the Malibu Creek State Park entrance (parking is $8 for the day).

One of the nice things about this hike is that you don't need to wait to you've hiked to the end to enjoy the payoff scenery. The view is amazing from the get go. We crossed a creek and entered what looked like Montana. We forgot our map of course so just followed the sporadic hiking signs (2.1 miles to Century Lake) and the tried to stay on the path that looked the most hiked upon. We walked through shady foresty patches, prairie looking land, wide dirt walkways shaded by giant umbrella-like trees and even rusted out tv set jeeps (the tv series MASH was filmed here), but no lake.

We circled back and wondered "is THIS it?!" every time we came upon a puddle-sized body of water. None of the hikers we asked had seen the lake, so seeing the piles of rocks along what used to look like riverbeds, we assumed the lake had evaporated in the intense LA heat wave we were having (over 100 degrees!). Then just before arriving back to the parking lot, we found a sign, "Century Lake".
Perfectly still, the mirror-like lake was bordered by lilypads and reeds. It was hot. The water didn't look particularly inviting (murky) but like I said, it was hot. We reasoned the overhanging branch with a rope tied to it meant the rope was made for swinging into the lake, and therefore the lake was safe for swimming, even though we couldn't see too far beneath the greenish hue of the water.
After an exhausting 15 minute round of "you go in first", "no, you go in first" and a 60 second leech test (Chaya reasoned if we dangled our feet in the water for a minute and no leeches attached to us, then the lake was leech-free), I bravely slipped into the water, careful to tread water so as not to touch the imagined sludgy bottom. Chaya decided on the "swinging off the rope entrance", but halfway thru decided not to let go and unsuccessfully attempted to bicycle her legs to manouever the rope back on dry land. After the initial feeling of slight disgust for swimming in questionably dirty water which we couldn't see through, we got over it even frolicked for a while in the water until Chaya felt a Lake Ness Monster brush against her leg and we jetted out screaming. (It turned out to be algae stuck on her leg)

The next day Chaya told me her coworker has been hiking that spot for ages and has never seen anyone swim in the water before. Curious, I called the State Park Ranger and asked if you can swim in Century Lake.

"Absolutely not!" she replied
"Oh?! Why? Are there harmful weird diseases if you swim in the lake or something?" I ask, in my most ' this is a hypothetical question, of course!' tone.
"Well, it's not the cleanest of water. People sometimes fish there but nobody swims." she replied, masterfully sidestepping my 'harmful, weird diseases' question.

Hmm, so far, no weird rashes and despite the semi-opaque quality of the water, the refreshing post-hike swim was worth it on a 95 degree day.

Malibu Creek State Park-Century Lake
$8 Parking Entrance Fee

Friday, July 21, 2006

$42.31 for a Full Tank of Gas and a Gas Pump Hose

While my hubcap story is hard to follow up, I may have surpassed that incident and reached a new level of car-retardedness this morning.

It was a routine gas station stop (at the sketchy sounding USA Gas on the corner of Barrington and San Vicente in Brentwood...."only" $3.27 per gallon by the way, which is sadly considered a good deal in today's high gas price world); I swipe my credit card, fill up the pump, smear my windshield with the dirty squigee, and continue on my way, when Kuh-RUMP!!

"No, not another hubcap-loosening pothole!!" I think. A quick look back shows the gas station grounds to be pothole-less. I figure another car must have made the noise and pull out onto the road. I drive along Barrington Ave in Brentwood for about two blocks when this motorcyclist wildly gestures towards me. I roll down my window and he tells me that I forgot to replace the pump back in the gas pump before leaving the gas station.

Mildly embarrassed, I thank him as I imagine the hose still laying on the ground of the gas station. I start rolling up my window while pondering if I should turn around to replace the hose back into the pump. He repeats "No, I said 'you left the pump in your car before leaving!'"

I pull over to find the pump still attached to the gas tank of my car and about 5 feet of hose trailing along on the ground; I didn't gun out of the gas station but had somehow ripped the ENTIRE hose from the main pump. . I wish I had my camera to capture the absurd visual of what I had just done. With as much dignity as I could muster, I unattach the pump from my car, close my gas cap and start gathering the hose to scoop it up into my trunk.

Fearing I was about to swipe the hose in a hose swipe'n'run, (seriously, what the hell am I going to do with half a gas pump?) the bike-riding good samaritan goes on to say "I witnessed the whole thing and followed you as you drove off, the owner wants me to tell you that he isn't mad at you but he just wants his hose back" and actually follows me back to the gas station to make sure I return the hose.

Already red with embarrassment as I cradle the remains of the gas pump in my arms and apologetically offer the torn remains back to the gas station owner. I notice the reproach in his eyes and a second layer of fiery blush hit my cheeks as I realize I've been mistaken as a sneaky attempted gas pump stealer.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Annual Ideal Summer Beach Day: BBQ'ing and Surfing @ San Onofre

We had our annual Ideal Summer Beach Day at San Onofre this past weekend. It's our typical 12hr day of surfing, bbq'ing, surfing, napping, bbq'ing, surfing and repeat at the San O State Beach just south of San Clemente. This is our 4th summer San Onofre outing, so we should have had it down, but without our usual access to our various friends' pick-up truck, grill or sun umbrellas, we had to get all our essentials from scratch this time.

Luckily, it's pretty easy--and cheap--to get everything you need for a full-on beach day. Besides an initial sun umbrella shortage panic, pre-beach shopping went without a hitch--6 Targets, Kmart, Sport Mart and Big 5 were all out, they've apparently moved on to fall stock...who knew trying to buy summer stuff in the middle of summer was considered way too slacker-late?

Sun Umbrellas: $9.99 each at Savon OR go big like we did with the 10x10 beach canopy, also at Savon: $20
Grill: $15 @ Target
(Awesome Target also has a $15 dollar Boche Ball set which suckered me in)
Charcoal: $5 for Natural Wood Chips at Trader Joes, but in retrospect, I'd go the for the lighter fluid doused charcoal which although unhealthier, will actually light up so you can actually bbq)

While we trek down to San O every summer for its warm, slow-rollin' Hawaii-like waves to make us feel like better surfers, a huge part of our annual beach day is the food. Kristy (maker of juicy homemade turkey burgers, refreshing bean salad, bbq roasted corn and yams) is usually the resident San O chef but since she was driving down from San Francisco, the culinary duties were nervously passed down to me.

Stocking up at Trader Joes, Ralphs and Vons, our cooler was filled with homemade feta/sundried tomato/olive stuffed turkey burgers, seasame buns, condiments, fresh lettuce leaves and sliced tomatoes to garnish the burger, corn & sweet potatoes for roasting, chilled watermelon, strawberries and grapes, pita chips with artichoke-parmesan dip, Kristy's three bean, daikon and tomato salad, marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers for s'mores and thermosed mexican hot chocolate (which all worked out to be roughly only $15 per person). Yes, did I mention a huge part of our annual beach day is the food?

We started the day late so didn't get there until 11:45am (and the actual beach till 1pm--tip: get there early, the policy is one car leaving, one car entry which is fine if you arrive like we normally do at 9am, but be prepared for an hour wait if you arrive anytime after). The permanent thatch umbrellas and bonfire pits were already taken but we quickly set up our beachside camp along the strip of sand about 20 steps from the water's edge. Motivated by hitting the surf (Kristy and I) and hitting the magazines while laying in the sun (Chaya and Chrissy), we contructed our beach canopy in 10 minutes. With dusty cliffs blocking the view of the freeway and a mellow beach vibe full of old-timers riding 15ft longboards with their grandchildren, bonfiring families and friends and warm, gidget-friendly waves, San Onofre feels like a throwback to a '60's era Annette Funicello Disney Movie type beach.

We lazed away our beachy afternoon in the water, snacking on our bbq eats (I must brag my turkey burgers were surprisingly really good) and lolling about in the warm sun and stayed for the 8:30pm sunset before ending our Ideal Summer Beach Day until next year.

San Onofre State Beach
Basic Info:
Surf Info:
Cost: $10 Entrance Fee, Gas from LA, elaborate bbq spread, cooler, sun-umbrella's etc=$35 per person.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Tressed for the Runway: Pubic Hair Fashion Show

Every once in a while, an event will come up that's just too intriguing to pass up. And even better, when you go with all your high-expectations, the night actually holds up and exceeds set expecations. Last night's under-the-radar body art fashion show was one such event.

Artist Stefan Monzon's fashion show-style human exhibit IT'S WHAT'S ON THE OUTSIDE THAT COUNTS promised to be all about pubic hair coiffeurs. Yep, that's right. A high-style couture-conscious runway show with models sans designer duds 'dressed' down below. Complete with hair extensions and embellishments, and 'set' for the runway with holding sprays and gels. Definitely too good to miss.

The event was held at California Market Center in downtown L.A.'s fashion district (site of other more heavily-clothed runway shows during Fashion Week). This being a show where the audience would probably liked to be slightly liquored up, the smart organizers had an open bar with wine/beer/appetizers for 45mins prior to the show, giving plenty of time for the mish-mash of artsy peeps, hipster dudes and dudettes and a very, well, surprisingly normal crowd to get their drink on.

And the strut-friendly DJ beats, one by one, the nude yet very 'decorated' models walked the catwalk with the 'down below decor' getting more elaborate with each outing. These weren't some fancy stencilled Brazilian wax-type grooming job, but artistic, full-fledged 3D hair sculptings, that:
SMOKED (model #1, a sassy Rosario Dawson lookalike with matching gold nipple rings and a smattering of sexy tattoos strutted out with a multi-colored dyed hairpiece embedded with a smoldering incense stick)
INVOLVED PUPPETRY (a Medusa-esque model came out with coiled-hair snakes slithering from her netheregions and underarms, with the help of attached strings which she manipuated down the runway)
FEATURED A PIRATE (MAYBE) (a straw-like figure holding a sword that may or may not have been a pirate attached to the frontal area of a brunette)
AND ENDED WITH LITERAL FANFARE (the last model's 4ft peacock feathers fanned in and out like an accordian as she spun down the catwalk in all her teal-green glory)

Other notable 'pieces' included a blonde with a blue trident and matching thunderbolt tattoo and a leggy, double-blonde wigged model with mermaid-like hair down to her waist...and also hair down to her knees.

After the pube-spectacle, we contemplated the Downtown Standard and Golden Golpher bars nearby, but hunger got the best of us and my date for the night and I ended up grabbing sushi (post-pubes sushi...refraining from any jokes of poor taste here) and pie on the way home instead.

Unfortunately, due to the nature of the show, no cameras were permitted so I don't have any accompanying photos.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Feeling Happy in Venice: Chaya Venice Happy Hour

I really like Chaya Venice's menu during their regular hours, and have been wanting to check out their 5-7pm sushi happy hour menu--when both their prices and wait for a table are significantly reduced--for a while.

A couple weeks ago, after working up an appetite biking around the Venice canals, my friend Andrew suggested to bike north to Chaya Venice. While not stuffy, the restaurant and bar--located on the Venice/S.M. border of Main Street & Navy--is definitely more Santa Monica stylie than Venice boho, but happy hour inherently has a level of casualness about it and we felt totally comfortable bursting into the restaurant at 6:55pm dressed in our casual hoodies and shorts. We got lucky with two seats at the sushi bar with 4 more happy hour minutes to take advantage of.

The happy hour menu is concise (a dozen roll and appetizer options) and super-cheap (nothing is over $4). We ordered spicy tuna tartar, edamame, albacore sashimi salad, chef's special roll (salmon and asparagus inside-out roll, which was ok but would have been better if it was raw salmon instead of baked) and Andrew recommended the potato leek miso soup. I wouldn't have normally picked out the soup from the menu, but it ended up being my surprise favorite. Filled with chunky starchy japanese potatoes and leeks, the flavorful soup was both hearty and refreshing. And the spicy tuna tartar was also tasty enough (enough kick, not too mayonaise-y) to warrant another order.

(Both dishes are way more appetizing-looking than how I captured them with my poor camera skills)

Our entire meal plus a bottle of hot sake ($12) cost $36 inc. tip for the both of us (...that's maybe the cost of one appetizer and one main during regular hours.) Happy Hour indeed! The only complaint is that it could be an even happier hour if Chaya Venice also included drink specials to go along with the discounted sushi.

Cheap high quality sushi--needless to say, I'm hooked. My only problem is finding other non-office minded friends to enjoy happy hour with at a time when you'd still normally be just leaving work....enter my felllow freelancer friend, Carrie. Although we've each managed to fit in a multi-week overseas vacation with some extra carefree weeks at home to spare, we still fear that constant tick of the office clock lifestyle looming closer, so our current plan is to take advantage of early happy hours while we still can.

We each got a raspberry mojito ($9) while we waited for a seat. We got pretty much the same as what I ordered with Andrew, minus the chef special and plus the spicy tuna rolls and I also introduced her to the potato-leek soup (which also pleasantly surprised her).

While there aren't happy hour dessert specials, their Banana, Banana, Banana ($9) is worth ordering regardless. Consisting of three different forms of sweet banana (chocolate-dipped frozen banana sitting on homemade banana ice-cream with fresh berries on top of a warmed banana tart), the dessert really is three times the pleasure without crossing over to banana overload.

This time, our non-HH additions (raspberry-mojito's and triple banana sensation) added happiness to our happy hour at a still very reasonable $60. Mmm, so much good eatin' to be had before 7pm!

Chaya Venice
110 Navy St, Venice
Happy Hour: Everyday 5-7PM

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Independence Day S'mores: 4th of July Bonfire'n'Fireworks at Dockweiler Beach

4th of July really is all about BBQ's, beachtime and fireworks right? Having s'more's around a bonfire doesn't hurt either.

Beach-bunny buds, El and Jess and myself were highly prepped for our bonfire'n'fireworks plans at Dockweiler Beach by LAX. Armed with our backpacks full of marshmallow's, graham crackers, skewers and a thermos of cranberry-vodka, we skated our way north from Manhattan Beach boardwalk at sunset to meet our friends who had already secured a prime firework-viewing fire-pit spot at the beach.

Ahh, toasting marshmallows by the glow of a blazing beach fire while watching fireworks--even forgetting the all-important chocolate for the s'mores didn't put a damper to our night. Well, not too much of a damper for us dessert-perfectionists.

(To busy watching them to take good firework pics)

As the fireworks and supply of cranberry-vodka ended at 10PM, we came to the sobering realization that we had no way to get home. The unlit path was too dark for us not to eat it on our wheeled transportation (skates, blades and skateboard) on the way back, so we walked. And walked. And consoled ourselves that all this unexpected exercise (or 'death mile' as Jess called it) more than negated the multiple s'mores we had inhaled earlier. Oh, then we walked some more.

50 minutes, 2 miles, and 3 pairs of tired and dirty flip-flopped feet later, we finally made it to the northern edge of Manhattan Beach. We spotted a cab and blissfully watched the 30 more blocks of walking we didn't have to do go by as we rode back to my apt.

Ah, the end of a lovely beachy, bonfirey 4th of July. Well, not quite. We bust out the forgot chocolate along with the other ingreidents and fire up my gas stove so we could finish off the night properly with proper chocolately s'mores. mmmm....

Marshmallows: $3.35
Skewers: $1.99
Cadbury Roasted Almond chocolate (a little thick but tastier than Hershey's and the nuts add a twist): $1.68
Honey Graham Crackers: $2.98
Cab Ride Home: $6

Ah, lovely beachy, bonfirey night for $16 even.