Saturday, July 12, 2014

Automne en Juillet

July in Paris has decided to skip to autumn. 62 degrees the other day, and rain for a straight week. I packed for summer. Skirts, sundresses, flip flops. I did not pack warm jackets, or pants. Or closed-toe, non-porous shoes that can be worn in the rain. For three days, I wore my sparkly gold Toms shoes. They became so water-logged that putting them on in the morning felt like enbalming my feet in little mushy bogs, and as I shivered continuously, day after day, my spirit sunk down into them.

 Last weekend, just as the rains hit, I went walking. I headed east of Bastille, away from the areas with which I'm already familiar. I heard music and thumping, and followed it. At La Place de la Nation, I came upon a parade. Caribbean dancers in elaborately scanty costumes gyrated down the street while standers-by whooped and hollered and danced among themselves. It was Le Carnaval Tropical. A fierce wind ripped rain out of the sky, but neither the dancers nor the crowd would be interrupted. I danced too, to keep warm.



Later, I wandered back to Bastille, and from there along the Seine, making my way over to Les Berges de Seine, a 2.3 kilometer portion of the quai between Musee D'Orsay and Pont D'Alma that has been renovated into a design-focused esplanade, with art installations, bars, restaurants, children's playgrounds, and sustainable landscaping. I knew that the Paris Cinema festival was having a kick-off event of what they called "cine-karaoke" at the end of les berges. I met up with a few classmates, and we settled in, with wine and cheese, among the audience. I did not know that "karaoke" meant "sing-along." Musical movie scenes played on a giant screen, while everyone sung along. The vast majority of the audience was French (we were the only Americans I noticed), and they knew the words to all of the scenes, some from famous American movies like Moulin Rouge and West Side Story, as well as to the French films that I'd never heard of, and some bizarre, obscure American ones, like an incredibly weird musical war movie from, I'd guess, the 1970s. The cypress trees on the right bank sparkled with white lights while the Eiffel Tower loomed above us on the left. I noticed that, within the crowd, I was perfectly warm.






The rains became stronger and colder the next day and after getting completely soaked (I ducked into le Musée des Arts et Métiers when my parapluie ceased being of any protection), I knew I'd have to supplement my poorly-planned wardrobe. Luckily, the month of July in Paris is Les Soldes. Sales are state-regulated in France and only take place twice a year, once in July, and again in late December. Inventory at most stores is marked down over 50%, and up to 80%. Now armed with a pair of jeans, a sweater, a jacket, and a pair of rain boots, I am warm, and much, much less frustrated. I don't need the weather to be beautiful; I just need to be comfortable. But I don't enjoy shopping when I travel. There are millions of things I'd rather do with my time than wander around a department store. All of my finds were serendipitous, my needs presenting themselves to me as I wandered around the city. A sign in a window on Rue du Rivoli read "les jeans, -70%," so I ran in and 12 euros later had warmed my legs. A musty vintage store at Rue Ferdinand Duval had a bin of clothing for 5 euros, and another for 10 euros. From one bin I unearthed a military jacket that fit me perfectly, magically, and from the other, a gorgeous peplum fair-isles sweater. A pair of black rain boots - handsome, sleek and structured, - gleamed in a window on Rue des Francs Bourgeois, and my soggy feet cried out for them. I said no until I saw the little tag with an original price of 75 euros crossed out, and 20 euros written next to it. Oui, oui, d'accord! And with that, my shopping was done, my body warm, and my spirit risen.


Saturday, July 5, 2014

Je Suis Ici

Je suis à Paris. After a thirteen hour over-night flight on which I did not sleep a wink, I arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport with a fifty-pound suitcase, a fifteen-pound shoulder bag, and a head both heavy with fatigue and soaring with excitement. I took the RER train into the city, mapping out my three-transfer route to my apartment in Bastille. Easy. Seated near a window, I watched the city unfold before me, taking pride in how familiar it all was. (I've loved the idea of Paris my entire life, and when I was a child, I envisioned myself living here one day. Then I visited three years ago, and transferred my love to the actual city. Now I can state, with some truth, that I know Paris. I may not ever live here permanently, but I will always have a relationship with it.)

I am comfortable with big cities, confident with direction and navigation, and at home in large crowds. This confidence, however, often leads to a ballooned self-reliance. Taking the RER with 75 pounds of luggage on a three-transfer journey to my apartment would have been fine in a younger city, with a newer metro system incorporating certain modern standards of convenience, such as elevators and escalators. All told, I hefted my 50-pound suitcase up and down fifteen flights of stairs. Then, once arrived at my destination station of Chenin Vert, I dragged it several blocks the wrong direction before realizing my mistake. This is when it started to pluie. I arrived at my studio wet with a mixture of sweat and rain, and almost cried out of gratitude when I saw that it has an elevator.

My studio is adorable. At 215 square feet, it has a kitchen, a washing machine, an actual bathroom with a real toilet and shower (the studio my husband and I rented three years ago had barely operable toyish versions of both), and a futon bed. It's in a beautiful neighborhood full of bars and restaurants (mais bien sûr, c'est Paris), and near many metro stations.

My school, the Paris American Academy, is across the Seine, high up in the Latin Quarter, near the Luxembourg Gardens. Our first class was held in a room in which Benjamin Franklin once studied. Our second class was held in a room that, though in a newer and much less beautiful building, sits directly above the corner of the catacombs in which a monk was once found dead, eleven years after he'd descended into the ground to find a bottle of wine.

Paris American Academy
Today is my fourth full day in Paris. I have spent all of the last three days traversing between the 11th and 5th arrondissements, going to class, attending the organized school functions, and trying to find some time to eat and wander.

A marvelous wine tasting organized by the school





































Thus far, I've not traversed far out of those respective neighborhoods, but last night I joined the masses at L'Hotel de Ville to watch the France-Germany World Cup game. The streets of le Marais were as festive as those of Manhattan Beach on the 4th of July - my favorite day of the Los Angeles summer. The mass revelry along these ancient cobblestone streets eased my slight homesickness caused by missing my beloved American holiday.


As I make my way through my list of must-have eats and drinks, I've thus far enjoyed some tartare de boeuf, l'escargot, soupe l'oignon, and much cheese, wine, and Ricard.
L'Escargot at Le Bistrot de Vosges - Délicieux! C'est fini.
The list isn't very impressive yet, as I've been grocery shopping and eating at home as much as possible, for economical reasons. Fortunately the markets here, even the tiny bodega-style ones, are stocked with foods of incredible quality. What we Americans consider delicacies, the French consider staples. Excellent cheeses, charcuterie, garden vegetables, freshly baked breads, delectable wines. I've turned my little studio into a pantry of culinary abundance, simply because it was the cheapest option. A Paris, il est possible de vivre comme un roi sur le salaire d'un pauvre.

My brown-bag lunch - a sandwich on a freshly baked roll with camembert, coppa, and a quince jam. Simple and so delicous.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Mom's Apartment

1618 Vista Del Mar reads a hand-written note tacked to the bulletin board above my desk. I only write notes by hand. I had a roommate once who would type notes – reminders, to-do lists, quotes – and then color childlike borders on them with markers before she’d tack them above her desk. A typed, designed note is no longer a note, just as a painting, scanned, printed and rolled into a tube mailer is no longer a painting. The nature has been steamrolled out of it, and now it’s just a poster.

I learned two years ago that when my grandmother gave birth to her first child, my mother, she lived in a building at 1618 Vista Del Mar, right down the street from where I live now. The fact that my mother’s first home on earth was in Hollywood, just a few minute’s walk from the apartment where her daughter would live over a half century later is amazing to me. We’re from Utah. We know mountains and rivers and snow.

Hollywood, City of Dreams, with its constant din of noise and light, its coyote-filled hills, its imported cars and palm trees, A-list Lounges, and sordid motels, is not our territory. It’s been so printed and re-printed, it’s like a poster that you can walk around in. Yet, as it turns out, we’ve got roots here. My grandmother, going into to labor with my mom, took the bus by herself from her apartment to the hospital on Mid-Wilshire – that’s putting down roots.

1618 Vista Del Mar
Below the scrawled 1618 Vista Del Mar note is a blue leather desk organizer, from which stretches a stack of medical bills. I relegated them to the back of the organizer as I’d hoped to do in my mind, but I stood them upright so that I wouldn’t forget the thing one must remember about bills – to pay them. Every time I look at them, I tell myself that I ought to organize them, pay those remaining to be paid, and file them away for good. But there they stand. I may be residing in a city of dreams, but life doesn’t know it.

After all, I’ve got roots here: in front of the medical bills grows a cluster of journal entries that I wrote during my treatment for thyroid cancer. I’ve been tearing the entries out of the journal, because its pages are graphed, and I can’t stand writing on such regimented lines. I’ve been saving them in the organizer, where they obscure the bills. Their edges are torn and frayed, having had a difficult time releasing from the bookbinding. I’ve always had a soft spot for torn paper with its sharp edges turned cloudy. My notes, in addition to being hand-written, are usually scrawled upon torn scraps, their imperfect form reminding me of nature - of mountains, rivers, and snowflakes tacked to the bulletin board above my desk in Hollywood.

After living here for two years, I’d grown to like the neighborhood for its contradictions and justifications, but learning of the nearness of my mother's infant years caused me to love it with a fierce protectiveness. Finding the actual building in which she had lived, still tucked behind that sprawling parking lot south of the sidewalk that is tiled with celebrity names, under the unremitting lights of Hollywood and Vine, was a real full-circle moment. My adoptive city was no longer adoptive – it was a part of me, and while navigating its roads from hardship to health, I had become a part of it.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Weekdays

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I drive to Pacoima, in the San Fernando Valley. From Hollywood, it’s only 15 minutes in good traffic. I teach theatre at a charter school there twice a week. The air is hot and dusty in Pacoima, the streets are wide, and the trees are few.

On Monday and Wednesday mornings, I work out of the LA Weekly offices in Culver City, on the West Side. I have meetings at Culver Studios on these days as well – near enough to be close, but not near enough to make the travel time between them disappear. The air is soft and moist in Culver City, the streets are illustrated with colorful storefronts, and the trees are green and many.

Monday and Wednesday and Thursday evenings I spend at the University of Southern California, in Central L.A., in class or in meetings. The air is dirtier than dust, the streets are crowded, impatient, and the trees are exclusive to campus.

Tuesdays have me at Culver Studios in the morning, and from there I drive to Pacoima in the afternoon, on the 405. The freeway isn’t terrible, in the middle of the day. The drive is quick, and I enjoy the passing view of The Getty, and Laurel Canyon. Is that Laurel Canyon? I’m not sure, but I like it.  Its golden, rolling hills and hiding, curving roads makes me think of filmmakers and actresses.

Thursdays have me driving from Pacoima, after my class, to USC. I check my phone first, to see if the 101 Freeway will be faster than the 5. Silly to drive all the way around if I don’t need to, but often I do. When I don't, I inch past the Hollywood skyline – Capitol Records, Hotel Hollywood, the W, and wish it would all go faster. But just today. After today, don’t move, don’t change. Grow only in spirit, not in size.

I get off at Exposition Boulevard, and am filled with promise at the sight of heavy brick academic structures: The California Science Museum, The Natural History Museum, the lower end of the University, its grandest entrance off the metro line. I turn on Figueroa and park near the Felix the Cat auto dealership. I still don’t know what kind of dealership it is, or why Felix is its mascot. I don’t care, as long as it always remains.

Mondays and Wednesdays, I drive to USC from Culver City. I take Adams usually, sometimes Jefferson. Driving Adams is like navigating a box of crayons. Painted yellow carnicerias and blue mechanic shops, pink party supply shops, magenta-marquied dance halls and vibrant, multi-colored murals in green, overgrown empty lots greet me along the way, like celebratory bystanders of a marathon. Jefferson feels a lot like industrial North Brooklyn, but with faster traffic, and no time to see any of it. Muted red brick, cloudy white commercial glass, and rusted train tracks criss-crossed with nasturtium remind me of the distance I’ve journeyed.

Fridays. Fridays I am asleep.










Saturday, October 5, 2013

The City Prolific: Weekend Events October 5 - 6

As minor signs of fall tease us Angelenos with the notion of seasons, my posting of The City Prolific will become less frequent. Festival season has wound down, the outdoor screenings are over, and after Halloween, there just won't be as much going on. This weekend, though, you've got to get out this weekend.

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 5 

Eagle Rock Music Festival


I've gone to the event every year since I've lived here. The first year I attended, in 2008, I fell in love with its community feel. I was new to LA, and was amazed at how diverse it is, and the festival reflected this diversity - children and adults of all demographics took to Colorado blvd to dance, rock out, revel at the art and performances, and eat of the food trucks and festival food. Over the years, the festival has become much more crowded, the acts booked bigger and in more demand, and some of the original community spirit has gotten a little stifled. It's also no longer free - it's now $10. Despite these changes, it is still a great time, and the entry fee goes toward the Eagle Rock Center for the Arts, so it's money well spent.

$10

4:00pm - 10:00pm

Colorado Blvd. between Argus Dr. and Eagle Rock Blvd.
Free parking and shuttle service is available at
Eagle Rock Plaza
2700 Colorado Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90041

Aventine Hollywood presents a Kick-Off to Art Loves Fashion Alley Event

Aventine Hollywood, you know that club that used to be the Spot, and the restaurant next door that has the really pretty back patio and a great happy hour? Well, they host cool events, sometimes.  Tonight they present a hosted bar and free head shots (curious to see if this is liquor or an actor's marketing tool) from 5-6 PM, a fashion show starting at 6 PM, an art installation throughout Aventine and the alley behind, live DJs, two outside bars, food, gift bags and more.

5:00pm – 10:00pm

Aventine Hollywood Alley
1607 N. Cahuenga Blvd
Hollywood, CA 90028

RSVP here: info@aventinehollywood.com

Zombie Fashion Show and Creature Art Exhibit


Fans of gorey makeup fx rejoice. The Zombie Fashion Show and Creature Art Exhibit hits Lot 613 tonight. Dead models will strut their decaying stuff down the runway. Featuring fifty makeup artists will display their creepy talents, while up to 150 monster mash-ups will be on display as part of the evening's art show.  Live music and a performance from contortionist  Dangerous D will take the stage. Costumes encouraged. Fake blood required.

$10

8:00pm

Lot 613
613 Imperial St.
Downtown

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 6 

CicLAvia


CicLAvia heads back to where it all started, taking over the streets of Downtown. Grab your bike, your skateboard, your longboard, or your sneaks, and experience the city without cars. It's an incredible time.
Free

9:00am - 4:00pm

Start out at one of five hubs:
MacArthur Park
Chinatown
Mariachi Plaza
Grand Park
African American Firefighter Museum
Check out the map for details.

ONGOING

Los Angeles Haunted Hayride



I usually post events $10 and under, but this one deserves a mention despite it's $30 ticket price.  The fifth annual Los Angeles Haunted Hayride opened last night.  Held at the Old Zoo in Griffith Park (yes, there's an old zoo - eerie ruins of concrete animal enclosures and abandoned cages), this year's hayride will see the return of its infamous 'The "In-Between" Dark Maze' and "Purgatory" sideshow attractions, as well as the new "Carving Shack" (guests can pick out a pumpkin and wield some carving tools) and "Death Row" (an interactive room focused on historical death devices), in addition to its historical 'scary-go-round,' freak and magic shows, demonic stilt walkers, and more.

$30 - $55

Griffith Park
4730 Crystal Springs Road

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The City Prolific: Weekend Events September 21 - 22

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 21

Made in LA  Ride III: LA River Edition


Pickles, surfboards and all things bikes! Enjoy a ride along the LA River and learn about places that manufacture and create goodies in LA.  This expedition, open to all cyclists, will pedal through and around Cypress Park and expose riders to businesses that make products right here in Los Angeles. You'll visit Grain Surfboards, Kruegermann Pickle Factory and swrve (stylish urban bicycling apparel designers).

Free

Meet at 10:30a.m., the ride will leave promptly at 11:00 a.m.

LA River Center and Gardens
570 W. Avenue 26
Los Angeles, CA 90065

Venice Beach Music Fest


The Venice Beach Music Fest offers a lineup of free music, art, and dance at LA's quintessential freak show beach. Dance and drink and revel beachside, shop along Abbot Kinney, and wander the canals at sunset.

11:00am - 7:00pm

Windward Plaza Park
1 Windward Avenue
Venice, CA 90291

DUBLAB 14th Anniversary Celebration





































DUBLAB celebrates 14 years of sonic adventures, or 14 years of being the guys who throw great parties.

Featuring musical performances, DJ sets, film projections, live screen-printing, food trucks, beer & wine bar, and art activations, this event also serves as the public unveiling of Maker City LA, a new creative hub housed within the downtown design hub, LA Mart.

FREE Before 10pm
$10 donation at the door after / 21+ to attend

8:00pm - 2:00am

Maker City LA
1933 S. Broadway
11th Floor of LA Mart
Los Angeles, CA

75th Annual Mid-Autumn Moon Festival


The annual Mid-Autumn Moon Festival (also known as the Zhongqiu Festival or Mooncake Festival) is a tradition that dates back more than 3,000 years. Farmers marking the end of the harvest season in China would gather to gaze at the moon and eat mooncakes, yummy round pastries filled with sweet red bean or lotus seed paste. Tonight, the moon cakes are offered up by local bakeries. Bamboo Lane's Night Market will provide traditional and contemporary edibles, the outdoor baccarat lounge will test your knowledge of the old-timey game, and the craft beer garden will wet your whistle. Telescopes provided by the Griffith Observatory will give everyone a chance to view the harvest moon. Art gallery openings, live cooking demonstrations, craft workshops and a band lineup, curated by Kevin Bronson of Buzzbands.la are the other highlights of the evening.

Free

5pm - 11am

Central and West Plaza
943-951 N. Broadway, Chinatown

ALL WEEKEND

LA County Fair





































There's still a few weekends left to go pet a pig and eat a deep fried chocolate covered pickle!

$12 - $19

Saturdays 10 a.m.-midnight
Sundays 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
Through September 29

The Fairplex
1101 W. McKinley Ave.

Pomona, CA 91768


Saturday, September 14, 2013

The City Prolific: Weekend Events September 14 - 15

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 14

Grand Park Presents: E.T. Extra Terrestrial


I'm sure I don't need to tell you how well this movie holds up. It's funny, touching, weird, and heartbreaking. And it cemented, early on, my love of Reese's Pieces. Go downtown and watch those bicycles soar over the skyline of Los Angeles. Bring a picnic, but leave the booze at home.

Free

Doors open 5:30pm
Movie begins 8:30pm

Grand Park
210 N Grand Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90012

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 15

Beat Swap Meet


Head to Chinatown to dig through the crates of vinyl curated by over 50 record collectors and dealers. DJ's will spin rare selections, and there will be live music performances, as well as local clothing, art and jewelry vendors.

Free w/ a Canned Good

12:00pm - 6:00pm

Chinatown Central Plaza
N Broadway and W College St
Los Angeles, CA 90012

La Brea Music Festival: Summer Garage Jam


A free summer concert on the upper deck of La Brea's Parking Garage, with DJ's, live indie band sets, food trucks, art, and shopping.  (I love when LA parking lots are put to good use. When we have a transit-oriented city, we'll have all these empty parking lots that will need to be repurposed.)

Free with RSVP

1:00pm - 6:00pm

181 South La Brea Avenue
(top deck of the Shepard Fairey parking garage)

2nd Street & La Brea

ALL WEEKEND

L.A. County Fair





































Growing up in Salt Lake City, the county fair was one of the most fun thing to do all year. Then, when I spent my summers in Montana as a teenager, the county fair was the biggest, most exciting thing to do all summer. Oh, the memories. I've heard incredible things about the food at the LA County Fair - deep fried chocolate covered pickles? Yum.

$12 - $19

Saturdays 10 a.m.-midnight
Sundays 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
Through September 29

The Fairplex
1101 W. McKinley Ave.
Pomona, CA 91768

Follow @LAhappenings for daily event updates.