Saturday, May 09, 2009

Sweden is More Than Just Ikea and Meatballs: Global Tennis Showdown

Always gravitating towards 'only in LA' activities--or, in this case, 'only in LA or Sweden'--I jumped at the chance to tag along with my friend Jimmy and girlfriend Greta visiting from Sweden to The Global Tennis Showdown charity tennis match & fundraiser to benefit the Swedish School of Los Angeles. The headlining match featuring 80's tennis Swedish tennis star, Mats Wilander and Will 'Anchorman' Farrell (who's married to a Swedish wife and has a couple of half-Swede kids attending the Swedish School.)
Although the match wasn't sold out, the showdown attracted a pretty decent crowd of curious Will Farrell fans and apparently a who's who of the Swedish celeb pack. My Swedish friend Jimmy pointed out Swedish supermodel and former host of 'Sweden's Next Top Model' Mini Anden and Swedish hip hop Grammy winner, Adam Tensta (who later stepped out onto the tennis court for a surprise Swedish-rap performance) in the stands. Prior to the game, famed Swedish stand up comedian Bjorn Gustafsson pepped up the crowd before launching into a stand up routine which made it clear English was his second language. He could very well be side-splitting hilarious in Swedish, but the translated humor was so awesomely bizarre that when I looked over to Jimmy, he reassured me that "This is for real, Bjorn REALLY is a big time comedian back home!"

Haphazardly umpired by comedian sidekick Andy Richter, the showdown adopted the ping pong point system (first to 15), which kept the game flowing quickly. The first half was a decent game of baseline hitters, volleys and occasional aces from Mats Wilander's end. Just when I was thinking I was basically watching a backyard game of tennis between Will and his celebrity fans, they started to change up the game.

A couple of leggy (as in, on stilts) blondes joined in as doubles partners for a point or two before they began handicapping Wilander by having him hold hands with a gaggle of Swedish school-children as he ran around the court.
Still holding strong, Will then brought out his big guns and hit a couple of forehands with an oversized racket.

Finally, at 14-14, the final showdown point came between Mats and his tag-a-long kids vs. Will saddled with another Swedish kid piggybacked to him. Will Farrell--not a bad tennis player.
Funnyman and piggybacked blondie wins! Farrell 15, Wilander 14.

For a musical reprieve before the doubles match, the forementioned Swedish, hip hop artist, Adam Tensta performed his hit single, "Dopeboy (Do I look Like I Sell Drugs)" Again, I glanced over to Jimmy for reassurance this was wonderfully for real. "Tensta REALLY is very popular back in Sweden. But even for Swedish people, this is a pretty weird event."

For the doubles match, they brought out a UCLA alum and Venus William's former doubles partner, Justin Gimelstob and tennis partner, Rainn Wilson (who, like Farrell, was surprisingly agile and decent at tennis for a slightly doughy comedian.)

The charity match also included a post-match BBQ and silent auction and a performance by the Dan Band for those who paid higher priced tickets ($75) but since we only paid for the cheap seats ($25) we pretty much just perused through the display of brightly hued Bjorn Borg underwear before calling it game, set, match for the day.

The Global Tennis Showdown: $25

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Etsy-Heaven: Unique Los Angeles Shopping Event

My first blog of 2009 is a little belated but nothing like experiencing an event featuring Swedish tennis and Scandinavian rap stars (to be fully explained in my next posting) as well as some awesome bargain shopping all in one weekend to get me back on the blogging bandwagon.

This weekend was the 2nd Unique Los Angeles shopping event at downtown L.A.’s Californai Market Center (the first, which I wanted to go to but missed was in December, 2008.) This two-day bargain extravaganza is Etsy-heaven; dozens of hand-crafted apparel, jewelry, accessories, stationary goods, baby gear...even plush toys shaped like slabs of meat all by independent designers. And many items up to 50% off.
After easy parking (there was ample street parking, but I parked in the underground lot) and a short line to buy an admission ticket ($5, half of which goes to a local charity), it was time to get my shop on.

Being the experienced/anal power shopper that I am, I had checked out Unique’s vendor list the night before and jotted down a few labels I definitely wanted to visit so I could quickly get in, buy and get out. With over 250 open market-style stalls spread across the penthouse floor of the CMC, I explored each individual aisle like I was at Ralphs armed with my handwritten list of 'must see' vendors.

On a bit of a birthday gift shopping mission—as well as to replenish my sad collection of unmatched single earrings—jewelry was my big focus of the day. And there was plenty of it (maybe close to a quarter of the stalls featured some sort of jewelry.) My first stop was at Melinda Lawton Jewelry, where a simple pair of fuschia-hued teardrop gemstone earrings—and their $15 price—caught my eye (especially marked down since the majority of her stuff online sells for over $150.) In comparison-shopping mode, I made a mental note to come back for them later after perusing what other bargains could be had. My wanderings led me to Ofina Jewelry, where I picked up a pair of gold-filled hummingbird earrings ($10) and an initial necklace on a 14K gold chain which I’ve been on the hunt for over a year ($25). It looked exactly the same as an “S” necklace I’ve been eyeing on Abbot Kinney since last summer for $80.

On my way to Portland-based Amy Olsen Jewelry, I passed by 11:11 Enterprises’ set up of vinyl passport, credit card-holder and condom covers in cool prints. In need of a new credit card holder ($10), I was thisclose to picking the ‘slabs of raw bacon’ print but ended up on featuring a map of L.A. Perfect, as my Thomas Guide in my car is from 1995.

So far, 3 items for me, 0 for my three Gemini friends I was supposed to be shopping for.

Other jewelry vendors worth mentioning included Dark Yet Sunny, Flea Market Girl and Emily Tyrie Collections. I finally picked up a couple of b’day presents before heading to my last jewelry stall on my list. Nous Savons. They didn’t have any necklaces or earrings I liked for my last b’day friend KK, who’s also a big gardener. Luckily for me, the jewelry label also bizarrely sold plants. Hard-to-find absinthe plant. Done.

I traced my way back to Melinda Lawton Jewelry only to discover my fuschia earrings dangling on gold posts just got sold to the customer before. However, Melinda awesomely offered to take apart the remaining silver pair and rework the fuschia stones onto gold posts. All for still $15.

There were way too many cool stores to mention; among them, the most fantastically unique…Knickerockers’ seductive granny panties, Sock Monkey Ghetto's um street-cred enhanced sock monkeys and Mincing Mockingbird's strange bird humor paintings). In addition to finding interesting, decidedly un-mall-like items at wallet-friendly prices, it’s nice to be able to support local designers just by shopping. I definitely recommend going for some retail therapy when the next Unique Los Angeles event rolls around.

Parking: $6 or street
Event: $5
One necklace, 3 pairs of earrings, a credit-card holder and an absinthe plant: $96
Unique Los Angeles