Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Perfectly Pink

A breezy day of cool sun comes to an end in pink puffs.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Celestial Nights

It goes without saying that the Griffith Observatory was inspired by the stars. It's purveyors believed that a close look at the world around us was enlightening and profoundly affected the viewer. The Observatory grounds were envisioned to be a place where the public could access the engimatic mysteries of the universe in a relaxed, fine atmosphere. When Griffith J. Griffith came along, it was an endeavor not yet achieved in Los Angeles.

In the Spring of 1930, planning began for L.A.'s first 'Great Park'. Costs were low due to the present Depression. For the same reason, talented architects were available, the finest stones and resources were prevalent. Earthquakes, Focult's Pendulum, a planetarium and the observatory's telescope tower were considered in preparation of this 'Great Park'. Today, the observatory is a newly renovated mansion, closed in 2002 and reopened in 2008 at the cost of $93 million dollars. There are no parking or entrance fees and you no longer have to make a reservation to visit. In fact, the only fee is a ticket to see a half-hour show at the Planetarium, at a cost of seven dollars. The grounds are grandiose and pristine, the views wide and dramatic.

The Observatory is, as its shape suggests, toured as follows: an entrance, a left, then right, a downstairs and a roof - accessible by winding staircases along the side of the building. A telescope is brought out on the outside lawn daily for a closer look at Venus, the most visible planet in the L.A. firmament. Exhibitions cover the high points of astoronomy's most notable celebrities and inventions, featuring the theories and beliefs that first brought our eyes skyward. Planetarium shows run every 45 minutes. Using digital laser technology, a Zeiss Universarium Mark IX star projector (latest in it's field), live narration, and seamless dome construction to create an immersive program for viewers, the Planetarium is all about modern design. The narrator warns that you may get nauseous, to close your eyes if this happens, it's only a visual affect. Follow signs to the lower level to view information about our planets, meteorites and the moon. Weigh yourself on Mars and Neptune, read about Saturn's icy rings, and locate the stars in our sky. The upper level is about the past, the lower about our future. The whole is about our location in the galaxy.

Viewing our galaxy is profound and humbling, and the Griffith Observatory is all it was meant to be. A place for relaxation and education, a 'Great Park' as Griffith J. Griffith envisioned. The observatory makes the city remarkable, draws foreigners to its gates, and provides a heaven's view of the dusty L.A. landscape. An alluring view from above.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Little Gold Men..........It's Oscarmania!

Oscar is quietly pitching his tents and constructing bleachers during this cold L.A. week. The red carpet has gone up, tourists are gawking and Hollywood Boulevard has been shut down. This weekend, we'll get to watch the actors and actresses we both love and hate walk down the red aisle to our chagrin or ecstasy. This is what it looks like:

On the way home...

(Memento Mori)

Monday, February 16, 2009


Hello everyone, I am a Francophile.

What started as an introduction to language class in Middle School burgeoned into a lifelong obsession with the French, their language and a thirst for a European dream. L.A. is just a stop-over.

En route, I'm submerging myself in authentic French flavor. This is why I've ended up at Monsieur Marcel. This tiny grocery store sits within the historic Farmer's Market, adjacent to their associated restaurant with the same name. Mr. Marcel offers familiar stock to any French expat, such as wine, cheese, cutlery, napkins, champagne, chocolates, baguettes and the ultimate, popular French cookie, the Macaron (in their traditional assorted colors). The restaurant has a charming candlelit wooden bar and has arranged it's seating 'dehours' (outside), underneath a canopy. It's a romantic, isolated spot among the bustle of the other vendors located within the Farmer's Market precinct. I recommend the Fondue (the best I've ever had).

There is also Cafe Flore. A favorite of mine off of Robertson Boulevard, a high-end shopping district. It looks humble but their prices, cozy atmosphere (although admittedly corny thanks to water paintings and gold frames on the walls), great food (for both presentation - artistic, colorful and befitting much higher prices - and taste), perfect portions and French waiters are worth a visit. If you're in Denver, Colorado, try Le Central.

L.A. is full of French restaurants that are very romantic but prices are high and you don't get what you're paying for. Spiritland Bistro is a quaint restaurant in Santa Barbara. On their menu is the lavender honey Creme Brulee. This twist on the classic dessert is noted in many reviews, but once it was in front of me disappointment set in. The usual crunchy blazed sugar crust was soft, the cream inside was marginal. I wanted my ten bucks back. There are a hundred French gourmet options in L.A., not all of them genuine but rather American interpretations of the authentic product. So we're back to Mr. Marcel and his Macarons.

Below are some of my most recent purchases. Bought primarily for their whimsy and color - a quality I find prevalent in French products, fashion, television and movies. It's fun to indulge.

The display case at Monsieur Marcel

I am in love with the Pistachio (on the far right). Although seemingly crunchy, these pieces are filled with cream, and are more like tiny cakes than a true cookie.

My Macarons!!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Within The Vicinity

Pay attention to your neighbors.

I once took a six-week fencing class at the Los Angeles Community College. On the last day of class, I discovered that I had been dueling with very talented and successful writers, one producer and several amateur artists. One woman had come to L.A., after a stint writing for a succesful Canadian sitcom. This the great thing about L.A., the company you unknowingly keep can be a vast and untapped resource. Companions that I had little ambition to take note of (how very L.A. of me), until we sat after class discussing our respective careers and our teachers foray into screenplays. I was taken aback, surprised at the lack of ego and pretention and their willingness to share whatever insight they could offer into the industry culture and their estimated success in the bewildering Los Angeles landscape. At a theatre performance, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? starring Kathleen Turner, I sat next to a woman who translated the show's events for the blind into a tactile experience. More recently, a co-worker of mine shared that unbeknownst to her until a week prior, the famous Korean actor named Rain (as in, famous like Brad Pitt) lived just a floor above.

Unfortunately, I have nothing to share here, but I want to point out that if you decide to move to L.A., don't become a hermit. I happen to love my lonesome ways, and given my experience in the fashion showrooms here, an experience I liken to a mock celebrity environment (cut-throat and untrustworthy as it gets, with drug use on the side), it has been hard to trust people in this town ever again. Slowly, it gets better. My sister is far more social than I'll ever be, and the high expense of entrance fees and drinks is enough to make you want to stay home, but she's deftly focused her career and her friends have only widened her prospects.

Photo by Liz Chrisman

This is not new news, but just a helpful reminder. Even to myself.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Hello, He Lied


If only Lynda Obst had been my mentor......I am the bright foreign exchange student. A truly relevant piece of non-fiction and a great introduction into the minds of Angelenos in the business of film & fashion.

Friday, February 6, 2009

With Skates On

I've always loved skate and surf culture. Imagining that if I had only grown up in Southern California, the lanky blond girl on a skateboard riding off into the sunset could have been me - but I grew up in the rocky mountains. It's about hiking and the outdoors. White water rafting, rock-climbing, running, snowboarding. I never became the hippie this environment often spawns (healthy eating is a big concern, as is saving the environment in my hometown), but I certainly didn't turn into the Abercrombie&Fitch wearing preppy college student either (also well-known in my hometown - the local University looms over the city). I settled in the middle, I rode a snowboard. When I moved to California, my skate fantasy began again. If I was going to learn to ride, it had to be now and not when I'm 40. It's ridiculous now (maybe), even more so at an older age.

As a gift for my birthday, I received an Arbor longboard. Completely beautiful in its clear deck tape - to better show off the natural wood and stylized logo. Arbor boards are prized as an environmentally-friendly product; their company ideology advocates that "you can't just be "green" for the sake of being green. If it were that easy we'd all be wearing hemp." Their boards are made out of maple, wood and bamboo by-products created during construction. Their boards (skate, snow and surf) are breathtaking.
I learned. Slowly. One night on our way to a Brazilian dinner at a neighborhood restaurant - a perfect opportunity to ride my board down the street - I decided to take a chance down a hill. I was brought to my knees by my fast, uncontrolled ride and suffered a courageous scar. A knarly tear in my knee (see below), was the result. Damn. I am proud. I tried. My board nary suffered a scuff.

IL Pluie

It rains, it pours. We are lucky to feel so cozy inside on a Friday.

Monday, February 2, 2009

A Dirty Run

For two years, I ran everyday. Relocating across the U.S. both started and ended my serious running career.

Photo by Sandeep Nandy

Born and raised in Colorado, my roots go far into the ground there. I spent my whole life in Colorado, grew up with friends, fell in love with downtown Denver, had favorite cafes and bookstores. Then I met someone. I graduated college, married, and because my new husband was more transient than I - he proposed we move to Florida. Why not? I wanted adventure too. We settled in Miami, blocks from the beach. But something unexpected happened. This was not an adventure, it was an emotional catastrophe. I became angry, I cried. Although I just married the love of my life, he was new and somewhat unfamiliar. I had never moved, never been away from my family, from my twin sister. I did at least four life-changing events all at once: graduating college, moving, marriage, first real job, first time move away from family. I missed all that was familiar, and I hated Floridian culture (Miami is three times as transient as L.A. with even more drunk people roaming the streets every night). I began to run - a way to siphon the thrashing emotions. I pounded it out. I was in the best shape of my life. Then, we reached two years and decided to move again. Florida to California. I was burned-out, both physically and mentally; we settled in but I couldn’t shake a newfound distaste. I didn't want to run. I now connected exercise to heartbreak and exhaustion. I had pushed myself too far, what would I do now?

First, you go to counseling and second, you re-introduce yourself carefully to avoid injury. Running gave me clarity, time to myself and a feeling of unconstraint; could I get that feeling back?

I’d never run a race before, except against my personal best, but I found out soon enough that it might be worth considering. During my time of cautious re-introduction to running, a few friends of mine brought up the famous Camp Pendleton Mud Run. Curious and partial to doing research, that’s exactly what I did. I found that the four Mud Run’s in 2008, and one in January of 2009, were very popular and thus sold out. Bummer. Sold out status be damned, there’s always an alternate route.

It’s not Camp Pendleton, but Skyline Sports sponsors its own dirty run at Skyline Church. A dusty, hilly, hot spot near San Diego. That afternoon, determined to run again, I signed myself up for a run in the mud. I had four months. On the weekend of November 16th, the temperature reaching above 80 degrees, I met my sister and a friend for the ambitious event.

As beginners go, I felt ill-prepared for even a three-mile run, let alone one that included 20 mud puddles and a 500 foot incline (a little fact I found out about just before the outset). Clean and in a white t-shirt no less, I checked in, got my free t-shirt, checked my bag and pinned on my race tag. One hot dog, three waters and several bathroom trips later, I lined up at the starting line - 3, 2, 1 – and I was off. Our friend darted ahead but my sister and I remained in stride. I just hoped I wouldn’t need the medic. Fire hoses sprayed gallons of frigid water over us as we pounded the pavement in a roundabout from the parking lot onto the dirt trail. Now sopping wet, I faced the first immense mud pie, which turned out to be superficially deep but nevertheless left sticky mounds of dirt around my ankles. Water stands met us at intervals, a relief from the dust runners kicked up at dry patches of the track. People lost shoes, started walking, joyously jumped into puddles and politely passed their competitors. My sister and I continued to stick together, splashing water and ensuring generous amounts of sludge stuck to the other at every opportunity. I was having fun. 18 puddles, one pipe crawl, countless hills, 500 feet and a rocky mud slide ending in a neck-high puddle turned small lap pool; I finished the race at 39 minutes and 36 seconds.

The 5K was hard, no free-wheeling feeling in this run, no adrenaline packed bursts of energy, just a need to finish, and finish dirty, maybe with one shoe left stuck in the mud at 450 feet – a victorious nod to fighting in the trenches. At the end, I was happy and relieved. I was elated, accomplished and inexplicably energetic. I came out on the other end revived; I faced a challenge, finished a race, muddy shoes my badge of honor – ready to run again.

I still run. I run sporadically and for fun. It's not quite the same, but it's not different either. I neither hate it nor love it, but it feels good.