terça-feira, 12 de novembro de 2013

The Coen Brothers

Two years ago while visiting my friend Guy Eddon in Brooklyn, New York, I decided to go to Manhattan for a walk. I went to the Hoyt - Schermerhorn Station (love this name) to catch a subway train and when I was about to slide my card to pass the iron gate into the station I spotted a familiar face.  A long haired man making a film on the other side of the fence with his iPhone. I thought, "I know that guy. Who is he? Where do I know him from?".  I passed the iron gate and I remembered "Of course! It's a Coen brother!" but I immediately asked myself "Which Coen brother is this one?" because it would be so much stronger if I could address him by his first name and there was no way I was going to let one of my idols pass by me without a word. I put my hand out and said "Ethan Coen, I'm a big fan." He smiled shook the hand and answered "Thank you." Later when I got home I googled Coen brothers and realized I had just shaken Joel Coen's hand and he was politely laughing at the fact I switched his name with Ethan's.
Serves this small anecdote, dear reader, to introduce my latest West Hollywood adventure. Last week I went to Beverly Boulevard looking for the children's garment shop, Gymboree. I have a friend going to Japan and I want her to take something for the daughter of my friend Kiyoko. I got lost because apparently North Beverly and Beverly are different streets. Anyway I passed on Wilshire at around 5ish and saw four executives walking up the street in work casual clothing. One of them looked just like Ethan Coen. No, not like the guy I met in New York but like the other one, the one I confused with the long haired Joel. These four guys got into a building. I took a mental note of where the building was and continued to walk. I didn't find Gymboree (found their Palms store the morning after) I made the mistake of eating dinner and walked back. On my way back to my voiture I saw a group of Australians (wouldn't miss that accent if I tried) go into the same building where Ethan had entered. No one asked them shit at the entrance and the valets outside couldn't give a bigger fuck about who went in or out of the party. I got to the end of the block and turned back thinking "This will be the day I meet the second Coen brother." I got in the building, inside a fancy reception with waiters serving food to well dressed guests. I ordered a beer in the counter knowing fully well it might be 10 bucks or more, but it was worth it, I would soon meet a Coen brother. I tried to pay but the bartender said it was on the house because he thought I was part of the little gathering. I looked for Ethan, and realized the guy I had seen before was not him. Now I found myself in dire straights standing with a beer in a room full of fancy people whom I didn't know. I tried to walk around but I was isolated. I ate some hors d'oeuvres cursing the fact I had had dinner before and on the way out I took a slice of pizza.
In the end I had a second dinner but didn't find the second Coen brother. One day I hope to find the Coen brothers not accidentally, but professionally. Till then I anticipate more free food in the attempt.  

segunda-feira, 11 de novembro de 2013

Pacific French Bakery

Today I went to buy bread in the intersection of Bronson Avenue and Washington Boulevard in a place called Pacific French Bakery. Now the name is very important because it not only sums up the place it also explains a bit of LA and the way things work and are perceived around here. The bread I go there to buy is this magnificent French bread - a mini baguette of sorts- that the costumers call "bolillos" - the Spanish word for French bread. So the "French" in the title is accounted for. The owners are Korean, since the place is near Korea Town, and in my opinion that accounts for the "Pacific" in the title. What's not in the title of the place and probably should be is that the costumers are all (with my honorable exception) Mexican salt of the Earth people.
So in the Pacific French Bakery you have a very LA situation, in which Korean people sell French bread to Mexicans. And who finds the tasty warm mini baguettes they serve there really good to eat with goat cheese and wine?  Yes, your very own Portuguese  man in "Havana". It's this diversity (and this bread) that I love in LA.
I found this place when I was studying at USC and lived near by. The place still maintains the charm. There is a couple outside the bakery that sells fruit on the weekends at great prices, so you can also stack up your vitamins for the week there. The prices at the bakery are also competitive, one dollar for five pieces of bread. The pastry is not bad either.  The clientele of the place though leads me to believe that American angelinos either don't appreciate fresh baked bread or don't know where to find it. More for me! Today I bought 30 bolillos! May the wine, cheese, bread games begin! 
Great pastry.

Quality, good prices and the occasional line at Pacific French Bakery.

quinta-feira, 7 de novembro de 2013

Musso & Frank

I went to meet my friend Jonathan at the Musso & Frank Grill. We were looking for the most famous dry martini in Los Angeles. Musso & Frank has been open since 1919 in the heart of Hollywood, a block away from the Egyptian theater and two from the Chinese theater (and 7 from my place). The place looks like it hasn't been decorated in 90 years.  Everyone who's anyone in Hollywood has passed through the distinct oak room, the Chaplin booth is still there near the window and the bartender who serves you the dry martini can tell you anything about any celebrity's drinking habits. Today he told us how Orson Wells was a bit out when he met him in the 70's.
There is this old world touch to Musso & Frank, this old Hollywood flair that makes you think you are in a Stroheim bourgeois extravaganza or in a Chaplin skit in an expensive restaurant. The chef is French (like in the day of the opening) and when I've eaten there I've noticed the salads are acceptable. Nothing has changed, the register machine seems to be the same as in the opening day and there are still wooden phone booths. You can sometimes find an agent or a familiar celebrity walking around especially at happy hour. Shit, whenever I'm there I always feel like Douglas Fairbanks can walk in at any moment and sit next to me.



segunda-feira, 23 de setembro de 2013

Late Night Surprise

Last Saturday night I went to a party in Santa Monica, Liami Lawrence's 50th birthday. I didn't know anyone in the room, I just went to be nice and give Liami a hug. At one point I decided to go for a quick walk around the neighborhood. I found this beautiful music shop still open at 11 pm. It's called Mccabe's (very interesting punt on the Jewish rebel army of the second century BCE). It's amazing! It has instruments of all shapes and forms and 2 thousand dollar classical guitars and sitars on the walls.
A few minutes after I got in I realized why this vintage jewel was open till so late. There was a concert going on in the back room and the music the electrifying music they had playing in the shop was from that concert. I still caught the end of the concert. Apparently they organize concerts with guitars every weekend.  The funny thing about LA, in this case Santa Monica is that wherever you are you are always next door to something amazing.

Beautiful classical guitars.

A sitar and a Chinese ehru to show a certain eclecticism.

The crowd after the concert in the back.

Beautiful but expensive. 2000 bucks a piece.
They even had washboards. A typical jazz instrument that is very hard to come by in Europe.

quarta-feira, 18 de setembro de 2013

Anatomy of the Wet Burrito

I met my friend Benjamin Weiss at his Glassel Park maison and we went out with the loose plan of drinking a beer, grabbing dinner and catching the latest Wong Kar Wai movie at the local theater. We started with the York Bar on York Street.
Benjamin was telling me how he is growing a bit tired of America and the Americans and he gave the bar around us as the example of the "same old". I understood his point but I thought how we always speak with a "full belly" about these things. York bar is just like any other bar in LA but bars in LA are great, service is fast, variety is great and decoration and environment are top. I was last year in Europe and to get into a bar like that I would need to pay 12  euros (14 bucks) for a crappy beer I could get anywhere else. When you spend a lot of time in LA you start to take these things for granted.
Then we went to this really small Mexican restaurant still in Glassell Park that had both hipsters and Mexican families for clients. "Always eat where the locals eat" goes the saying and this restaurant was great in that sense. It was small, not fancy and service was not the best, but it was cheap and the food was great. Me and Ben got the burrito mojado, literally the "wet burrito" and we asked for both salsas (sauces). The burrito is the Mexican answer to the hot dog, easy to prepare and with the typical ingredients of Spanish America and Brazil - beans and rice. The wet burrito works on top of this tradition, it is a Mexican francezinha of sorts. The salsas have two colors red and green which I took as an homage to the Portuguese flag.  The burrito itself is rich and spicy.  I drank water to take the hotness away but Benjamin drank this great lime and cucumber juice.
 In the end we were so satisfied we couldn't get to the theater for the Wong Kar Wai movie so we dragged our overfed butts back to Benji's where we watched the horrible World War Z. Goes to show you can't have everything.
Benjamin is living in Carmel till January so I won't be seeing him any time soon. Safe trips my friend!   
York bar at Glassell Park

Small but cozy Mexican restaurant at Glassell Park

Sorry for the bad quality of the pic but here is the big star "burrito mojado"

segunda-feira, 2 de setembro de 2013

Transvesty, transsexual, transylvanian night!

Yesterday I participated in a genuinely unique American tradition.  In this country there are multiple ways to watch a movie, and unlike Europe, being passive is not the only one. There are the sing along viewings in which you sing along the movie's soundtrack - I went to a sing along of Glee in a multiplex, two years ago, that was really funny. Then there are the act along in which the audience acts the film out.
The Nuart movie theater in Santa Monica boulevard organizes every Saturday night an act along of the 1976 release The Horror Picture Show. I had never seen The Horror Picture Show and I had never been to a sing along, but it was great. It makes the European cinematheque experience as exciting as watching paint dry.
The environment in the room is crazy, the film starts at midnight and the audience comes dressed like the characters of the film (lots of girls with nothing but their underwear on) and props are sold to the audience so that they can act out the film (in this case a rubber glove, a balloon, a newspaper, some playing cards and some toilette paper all wrapped up in paper bag). A troupe of actors warms you up, there is an oath of allegiance and if it's your first night and you are a virgin you are called up on stage to be symbolically fucked (and I was!).
Then the movie starts. The Horror Picture Show is a insane musical that only makes sense when you act it out with a hundred people next to you.  It was one of Susan Sarandon's first movies (where she was already showing off her boobs!) and a tour de force by Tim Curry, an actor I gave nothing for since he played Richelieu in the Disney debacle The Three Musketeers, but that shows up here as a magnificent "transvesty, transsexual, transylvanian from another planet". The film is a gay extravaganza that makes any Broadway show look macho.  The story is insane but in the context of  an act along it couldn't have been better. 
I know, there is in the American culture of the last 10 years a certain tendency to glorify mediocrity, picking up crap art from the 70's and 80's and say it's great because it's bad, and I admit there is a bit of that going on in this "sing along, act along culture" but one thing's for sure you have a great time when you are there! I advise it!

There is dancing on stage before the film begins.

A host warms you up, you swear the oath of allegiance, you get "fucked", a stripper does her stick and the cabaret begins!  

terça-feira, 27 de agosto de 2013

The Shower Excellence

In 1887 the German partners Ferdinand Claus e George Schweder founded a soap factory called Claus & Schweder in the city of Porto in the North of Portugal. Porto was then an important industrial center. After the First World War the Portuguese brothers Afonso and Aquilles de Brito bought the bankrupted Claus & Schweder. A legend was born, the Ach Brito soaps led the market in Portugal and its colonies for the following decades until technological innovations of the 90's like the bath gel made hand made soaps obsolete. 
In 2008 the Confianca group bought Ach Brito and took the immediate decision to not advertise Ach Brito and its luxury line Claus Porto anywhere. Their gourmet hand-made soaps would be for those who searched for them. It was probably the first time in the history of advertisement that a brand said "this shit will sell itself". The results were amazing, the Scandinavian and Japanese markets began buying their hand crafted soaps like there was no tomorrow. 
The big breakthrough in America came when the queen mother Oprah Winfrey herself did a whole segment about Claus Porto on her show and confessed she used it herself. It was our very humble version of the British invasion. It was the Portuguese invasion and with soap. A truly fresh and wonderful smelling invasion.
When I was in Portugal last year my mom was always buying me Claus Porto soaps, and I brought back to the states a bunch  of Claus Porto's to offer as well as a big bar for myself. My mom always says the way you smell is important for your self-esteem, and she is always right.
Yesterday, someone who came back from New York offered me a "brise marine" flavored Claus Porto bath soap. I am really happy. I just used it. I unwrapped it from its carefully folded paper cover. Claus Porto's are a piece of art. My bathroom still smells like brise marine. A piece of Portugal in Hollywood. All I wanted was to offer Claus Porto to the New York traveler and she ended up offering it to me.
My very own brise marine Claus Porto bath soap bar.

quarta-feira, 21 de agosto de 2013

Sub Wars

In the United States the urban legend says that the sub sandwich is a East Coast medium of communication. And it's a legend with good reasons to exist, not only because the Italians who came up with the sandwiches arrived first in the East Coast but because since I arrived in Los Angeles I only had one decent sub sandwich and it was in Bay Cities, an Italian East Coast restaurant.
Nevertheless some brave chains have tried to prove this urban legend wrong, Jersey Mike's comes to mind.
My latest adventure in the dangerous world of the Los Angeles sub was at Fat Sal's a joint that euphemistically calls itself a "deli", and that opened two blocs away from my place.
The menu is daunting, everything involves cheese and the choices range from roast beef, to chicken fingers (whoa! How original!)  I asked for a sandwich called "remarkable roast beef". The remarkable was part of the joke, it was a mayo soaked sandwich with pieces of unpeeled potatoes a peace of unseasoned beef all wrapped with the most mediocre french bread ever produced by a human being. Bottom line, when you come to LA stick to the Mexican food, you can't go wrong there. Otherwise you will eat something that will insult someone's culture.
P.S  If I was Italian I would sue Fat Sal's for all they have.

Fat Sal's, the best reason to miss New York.

domingo, 11 de agosto de 2013

Rock And Roll

Roller Derby is an American tradition. An exclusively female sport developed mainly in the 30's it makes for good entertainment. Here  it's played in Silver Lake in a warehouse, home of the LA Derby Dolls. This Friday I went to see a game between a team called Varsity Brawlers and another called Fight Crew (I know, I know it sounds menacing) and felt part of a very exclusive American tradition where LA's most pernicious plague, the hipsters meet a classic female sub culture the pin up girl. The crowd is of course more eclectic than that but the fusion of these two groups is clearly present mainly in the players - bad ass chicks with noms de guerre such as Skeeve Jobs and Marina del Rage.
It took me some time to get the rules of the game, where these women on helmets and roller blades chase each other and I didn't understand why men don't play it - girls just seem to be too passive aggressive. But it was an overall pleasing experience that I advise to any LA visitor.
During the 10 minute game break we got some pizza and listened to this hipster band composed by one guy and three girls playing eclectic rock . The guy's hair was an amazing jewfro and his pants were so tight I doubt he will ever have children. When I see acts like that I think French artists must feel proud. All those year's being moked and in the end their look, attitude and mannerisms have triumphed and officially spilled into the zeitgeist.  

quinta-feira, 1 de agosto de 2013

The Porsche and the city

Last weekend I got in a Porsche for the first time in my life. My boy Alex got a 76 vintage Porsche. I hate cars and driving but I have to give it to Alex his Porsche is something else. The engine is loud but not particularly powerful and the inside is classy and vintage.
We went to the Hudson we had a few beers and we finished at his brother's Amza Moglan. A car like that only makes sense in a city like LA made for the car. Tickets are stupidly expensive here and the cops are more worried with hunting you down than protecting you, but the highways are big, and all the apartment buildings have garage.
Some say, the bigger the car the smaller the penis. I don't know if that's true, but when you have a Porsche 76 I think your penis size is the last thing on your mind.

sexta-feira, 26 de julho de 2013

No Age, No Concert, Great Evening!

Los Angeles is a conurbation, meaning a region comprising a number of cities, large towns, and other urban areas that, through population growth and physical expansion, have merged to form one continuous urban and industrially developed area.
Santa Monica is part of this conurbation. Of the old Spanish mission and fishing pueblo nothing remains. Santa Monica is only a rich suburb of LA built in the 20's by rich white people who saw in the Pacific beaches one of the the last frontiers of the ever-expanding America. Like in the rest of LA there are no squares or monuments to speak of in Santa Monica except some names in a plaque and a canon remembering the times when the white people thought emperor Hirohito would drop some souvenirs in their seaside paradise.
KCRW is my favorite radio station. A once government subsidized station,  KCRW broadcasts great talk radio and music and they are now organizing some summer concerts in the Santa Monica pier. 
Yesterday we went to a KCRW concert at the pier but first we grabbed some sandwiches at Bay Cities - a great Italian deli, and one of the few places in LA where you can get cheap good Portuguese wine (Grao Vasco bottle for 8 bucks!)- and then we picnicked in the beach and listened to the bands playing.
The opening act was called Tijuana Panthers and they were pretty decent. They are one of those hipster Hives wanna-be bands with base, guitar and drums. They aren't doing anything new or exciting but you can still listen and shake your butt to their music. But then came the main act, these two guys who call themselves "No Age" but in truth have really "No Music". I know I am beginning to sound like by grandmother when she said all young people hear is noise, and god knows I've always admired the balls of John Cage (since I couldn't admire his music) but these two sounded like they were playing at the bottom of an empty bottle. They produced the sound a garage band produces in their first demos, those demos who usually come with the note "it's like this but with bass."
I was in such great company, the sunset in Santa Monica was so beautiful I really didn't give a shit about the noise pollution "No Age" were trying to spread. It was a really great evening in Santa Monica, and showed that all you need to have fun is someone great by your side.
My beautiful finger and our picnic - Trader Joe's pie, Bay Cities sub and a gorgeous psychedelic blanket.

terça-feira, 23 de julho de 2013

Back to Basics

My friend Tomas Szelazek invited me to go play football (soccer for suckers) at the USC campus track. I hadn't done that in years. Last time it happened I was still living with Tomas, Tim and Jon in the same house. Now we all moved away,, they are all married and I decided to return to the USC campus and meet Tomas for the first time in years.
The campus has changed a lot, the film school I went to does not stop growing, our old pitch is now a building for the football team (the American one) and the previous food court is a parking lot. More than a University, USC is a real estate venture where buildings change as fast as the students, and where both are just numbers.
 One thing I didn't feel was nostalgia. So much water has passed under the bridge since I left that place yet the absence of real weather seasons in LA makes everything seem like it was literally yesterday.
As football is concerned it was as if I never left, the Mexican guys still don't pass the ball, the euro trash like me and Tomas still play D. I'm out of shape but not as much as I thought.
 It was good to see Tomas again. For a moment I thought I would never see him or the USC campus and it's eternal spring ever again.
Tomas showing his best side on the track.

sábado, 20 de julho de 2013

Doctor Love, the Shepherdess and the Little Bundle

When I was in Petra a young Bedouin approached a taxi I was catching with some friends and asked from high on his donkey "What's your name?" The female in our group said her name and my friend Ethan Kuniyoshi asked back to the Bedouin with his American swagger "What's your name?" The young Bedouin answered immediately looking at the girl in our group "I'm Doctor Love..."
Ethan and I came back to Jerusalem answering every question with "I'm Doctor Love." My screen name on Facebook (AIM)- I had just joined- was, and still is, doctorlove. But Ethan was already under the spell of the good doctor because he had met a girl earlier on his trip when he arrived in Israel. Her name was Monica, she was from New York, but he referred to her simply has the Shepherdess. I guess, just like me, Ethan was looking for someone to guide his flock. They would spend hours on skype because she had come back to the States. She traveled later that summer to meet him in London, and two years ago I held the chupah at their wedding.
Last year Monica gave birth to their first daughter Avivah, the cutest baby in five States (reminded me of little Matilde). 
The three of them came down to LA this weekend to visit Ethan's father and stopped by to say hi to yours truly and we went out for coffee. Ethan preferred the Grove over Canter's to show the later to Monica - so West Coast to think you can impress a New Yorker with a mall. 
The Farmer's Market was empty and sort of depressing. There should be more night animation around that part of town. I still find Farmer's Market overrated, but we eventually sat down around that place and talked for a while. When they brought me back home I noticed a lot of animation around my area... I guess they heard "Doctor Love" is in town. 

quarta-feira, 17 de julho de 2013

LA Story

Once I went to a Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces party here in LA with my friend Doron Bergman, himself an ex-member of the Israeli army - tzahal. The party wasn't anything special and they gave me a t-shirt with the picture of a serpent with wings, the standard of Hativat HaTzanhanim the paratrooper brigade.
The t-shirt was visually interesting and I kept it. While in the States I never thought much of the meaning of the t-shirt but when I was in Portugal last year I thought someone could recognize it and get me in trouble for what could be perceived as a very "reactionary", "zionist" t-shirt. But no one recognized it.
Today I took it to work because it's been really hot in LA. When I was coming back from work walking down La Brea a bicycler coming in the opposite direction pointed at my t-shirt and I thought "Shit, I was found!" but he said with a thick Israeli accent "That's my brigade! That's my brigade!" Then he started speaking Hebrew, I said "Yes, yes paratroopers!" He was really excited, I shook his hand and because I had nothing else to say I just said "Baruch haba!" (welcome), imagine me a foreigner welcoming him to a country that's not mine! Only in LA!
I got home and saw two episodes of Prisoners of War on Hulu... I'm under the sign of Israel today.   

Euro Luau for Carmen

Yesterday my friend Benjamin organized a small concert, a euro Luau with performances by  Jont Troubador and Sam Babayan.
Ben's point was to introduce his better half, Carmen, who just arrived from Zurich with a magical green card,  to the LA scene and he succeeded. The word love was thrown around a lot, as it's normal in these circumstances, but it was true , the view was breathtaking, the company was great, the food was exquisite and if that doesn't make the love flow I don't know what will. There were stars in the sky and the music was poetic, it was a bit of the 60's in Glassel Park.
Jont Troubador the heart-breaker making his magic
Jont trying to sound louder than the neighbors

Benji and Sam Babayan schmoozing

domingo, 14 de julho de 2013

Proper Hispster Haircut

Today I went for a hair cut with my friend Alex Moglan. I usually go to the Imperial Barber Shop in down town's Little Tokyo, but the owner/hairdresser is recovering from surgery to her forearm so this time I decided to follow Alex's advice.
Alex is an actor and a good looking mother fucker so I knew this had to be good. We went to the Proper Barber Shop on Fairfax and 3rd.
The place has a very interesting vibe. It's like you are in a tattoo parlor – the guys who cut hair there have more tattoos than many proud sailors – the decoration is barroc kitch and there's even a bust of Ron Jeremy on the wall next to skate boards, posters and paraphernalia from the iPhone generation.
During the haircut the hairdressers talk to each other about musical tastes, which I thought is an upgrade from the football (yes, yes I don't say soccer) comments from the barber shop I used to go to when I was a kid with my dad. Your chair spins as they cut your hair and the music is mainly heavy metal, but the good stuff like Pantera and Metallica, no Nickelback shit. As far as haircuts go, they follow the Cristiano Ronaldo school of shaved on the sides with a sort of pompadour on top, a crew cut for the mentally sane that goes by hipster fashion these days. All the guys cutting hair there had that cut and all the customers, including my boy Alex asked for the same. Yes, originality only goes so far, but not for me, I had to be different, and I was.
My haircut, after a lot of chair spinning, was not as good as I wanted it. I like my hair, really, really short and really, really messy, but by the third time I asked the guy to cut it a bit shorter I gave up. It was 20 bucks and I gave a 4 dollar tip (got carried away). I didn't get what I wanted but I loved the vibe of the place, and if the Imperial hairdresser doesn't recover soon I may comeback to Proper for a hair cut and some more hipster moments.
After  the haircut, chicken wings and beer with my boy Alex at the Hudson. It's good to spent time with friends.
Proper Barber Shop in LA (Ron Jeremy bust on top of cashier)

Hipster client waiting for shaved on the sides Hipster North Korean hair cut.

My boy Alex waiting for me by the window, that guy would look good even with a Mop-Top

quinta-feira, 11 de julho de 2013

Nights In White Satin

Today something extraordinarily rare happened. It rained in Los Angeles.

On the way back  home, walking (because I always walk home from work) I took Sunset Boulevard on La Brea and walked all the way to Cherokee, on top of the Cherokee's Seven Eleven I saw a beautiful rainbow, my first here in LA.

My nights in my new place are strange. Time Warner has installed internet so I have email but I still don't have gas to cook, and I don't know what to do with the still couchless living room. I miss having people around I guess, I can't really focus in either my writing or my reading. I need activity around me, quiet, organized chaos. Me by myself I just turn inward to my thoughts and dumb youtube cooking videos. I think I've seen the francesinha recepy some 300 times and today I was watching the Bolhao Pato clams recipe. I need gas in my kitchen so I can make my own damage...

I need to find an attack plan for the evenings, install gas, put the curtains on my bathroom tub and get a couch... so much to do, so little time.    
Rainbow over Sunset Boulevard

segunda-feira, 1 de julho de 2013


This weekend I had my first guest, my friend Benji Weiss. After dinner we had some beers on my apartment's floor. I still don't have the power in my apartment in my name because they can't find my social security number but I had, at least, light for a guest.
Saturday I went to the 101 coffee shop for a tete-a-tete with David Gittins and Antoinette O'Grady. Because we discussed Facebook and privacy they shall not have a portrait here. Before I left I had a 1 hour conversation with Time Warner so they could explain to me how to install Internet, since I picked up a modem from their shop. No one from their technical support line could help and they all hanged up the phone in my face. I spoke to a salesman and he told me that Tuesday the latest they would turn on the Internet  in my apartment. That's when I fond out that the Internet hadn't been turned on yet and I didn't need the modem till then so "thank you Time Warner."
 I left home and I went to the 101 coffee shop to meet David and Antoinette. The place is a dinner and celebrity hot spot in Hollywood. It's in a hotel and it has, to its credit, a lot of charm. I had a smoked salmon mash that I can put up there in my top 10 smoked salmon dishes. The vibe of the place was really comfortable and friendly. It was good to have an intelligent conversation with grown ups again. I feel there is a thin cultural layer that separates me from angelinos- not Americans in general- but just people from around LA. Europeans are way more mature in general though considerably more gloomy. I hope I am not becoming arrogant in my assumptions about angelinos, since I am the one who needs to adapt to the locals and not the other way around.
Sunday I had a very nice incursion into the Ikea world with Danielle Reder who gave me a ride there (thank you mademoiselle). We had In and Out before we got to the Swedish giant store.  Ikea beats Macdonald's in patronization, all Ikea stores look the same EVERYWHERE around the globe. They don't even bother to adapt. I bought some dishes, a curtain for the shower and some glasses, but forgot the cutlery and the hooks to hang the curtain on the shower pole. I will get those when I get cable.
Now I need to get power in my name (I hope I still have power today)... do not miss the next episode...  drop me a line if you had similar experiences with Time Warner.
Benji on the floor

Benji with Doron's back light



quinta-feira, 27 de junho de 2013


Kubrick exhibition at LACMA ends on Sunday. I'm taking the table...

Vimeo killed the MP3 star

Yesterday I listened to music on my old MP3, given to me by my friend and uncle Jorge. It has been a year since the last time I heard music there, I got stranded in Lisbon last year and a million things happened. It was funny to listen to Leonard Cohen, Pink Floyd, Keith Jarret, Narod Pschi Vojaku, Waltz for Bashir Soundtrack, Zeca Afonso,  Ludwig van and Wolfgang Amadeus again, but at the same time it was also cathartic. I turned the light off in my room and I went with the music as if I never listened to it before. It was hours before I went to bed.
One of the songs I liked the most was "Solitude Sometimes Is" by my second favorite band Manic Street Preachers. This song is underrated in Europe and unknown in the US, but last night in the darkness of my room it was great. 

quarta-feira, 26 de junho de 2013

Periodic Poem

If Mandeleev could study what I feel...
He would be surprised with the struggle
Between what I want and can't steal
And the mug of my double.Life is a mirror, cold and unstable
Where I make my own periodic table.
My missing element in the mirror reflection
Has no color, smell or taste and lives within me.
Like a visual illusion, or vapor Mercury.
Two sides to the same ordeal,
If Mandeleev could study what I feel... 

terça-feira, 25 de junho de 2013

LA Pics

Melancholic Fairfax

I was going to see "Melancholia", yes, yes the film Lars von Trier promoted in Cannes by declaring himself a "nazi" that "loves Hitler". My friend Benjamin Weiss had promised to come and watch it with me, but as usual, he bailed out.
I had an expensive and flavorless pastrami sandwich at Canter's Deli - that would make the New York, Katz's pastrami sandwich look like filet mignon- and afterwards I walked up Fairfax to the Silent Movie Theater ranting to myself how Benjamin always lets me down. There was a girl sitting on the floor in front of the theater texting on her iPhone. I guessed she was waiting for an event in that same theater. I bought my ticket at the booth and I kept walking up Fairfax till I heard "Stop him! He took my phone!" I turned back to the Silent Theater. A guy was taking the girl's phone and running with it. She was running after him but out of the dozens of people in the street, grown men included, no one was doing anything about it, NO ONE.
I've always been a firm believer in the power of suggestion so I started running, not with the intention of catching anyone but so that other people who were closer to the robbery could be shamed into doing something about it. I started gaining speed, and no one in the street was moving, I began to run faster down the street, but nothing, not even a sound from the people watching. The thief cut a corner into an alley and the girl followed him.
 I got to the alleyway. She had stop running and looked back at me. It was the first time I really saw her, she was a beautiful half white half black girl tall with the most beautiful blue eyes now swamped in tears. "He went that way!" she said "I have to go pick up my bag that I left on the street!" and she walked back. I thought "Shit, my health insurance sucks and I don't wanna die over an iPhone." But I had ran that far and I could run a bit more and then tell her I tried but I couldn't get the guy.
So I kept running and got into a really bad neighborhood behind Fairfax. Slum would be an appropriate term for that in a different country,  a place you would never imagine existed in that part of town. I ran through a patio like I was Vic Mackey on The Shield with Mexican people looking at me suspiciously from their balconies. When I got to the next street, the place was completely empty. Just when I was about to walk back, the robber climbed down a wall. "Shit!" I thought. I could see the headline "Portuguese dies in showdown over iPhone!" He was black, seemed to be less than 18 and he had a crucifix on his chest hanging from a rope neck-less. I decided not to confront him, I looked away and said "That was not nice!" and he went "What?" and I repeated never looking him in the eye "Stealing the phone from that girl, that was not nice." I extended my right hand to him and said "Give it back to me and this will remain between us. I promise not to call the cops." Some seconds later he slammed the phone in my hand, I walked away shaking looking straight ahead as if he wasn't even there "You did the right thing, this will remain between us."
I got back to the girl, she gave me a big hug and asked me how I got the phone. I answered "You don't want to know" figuring it might make me look tough, but I really didn't want her to know how I got it because that robber of hers was a smart kid, and I don't think she was ready for those words yet.
I saw 'Melancholia" by myself, another public therapy session from my youth hero Lars von Trier. While I was seeing it I got this text message from an agent I was suppose to meet at CAA the day after. I needed to call the agent back but my phone ran out of battery, when I walked out I found Kalla (yes that's the girl's name) and said "You wanna make it up for the phone?" she looked at me fearfully thinking I was gonna ask her on a date or for a piece of underwear, but I said "Could you lend me your phone so I can make a local call?" She breathed out. I called the agent from her friend's phone and rescheduled the meeting. 

LA On Foot

I started walking to work. I walk through Fountain, pass Highland and La Brea go up Fuller all the way to Sunset where I find Sierra Bonita.  The sidewalks of LA are always empty, no one thinks of walking anywhere. It's one of those LA rules, walking is for suckers. I disagree. It takes me 40 minutes to get to work, and I know that is too much time for most people but it's worth it. It's great exercise to begin with and I need it because I sit all day in my job.
Only skaters and hobos make me company in the morning LA sidewalks, the middle class is in its cars, but if my fellow street walkers don't pick pocket me I think I am in good company. Skaters don't warn you when they need you to step away and drunk hobos tend to scream but nobody bothers me or wants my attention, I'm not looking at suits or pretty girls, it's like I'm in a dorm city around Lisbon or in a street of Prague in Winter. The people inside the cars are isolated and don't pay attention to me, I can talk alone - I make 5 UN general assembly addresses every morning - pay attention to the buildings and the architecture, to the restaurants opening at this time, I can check my emails... 
The car is your fortress but it not only keeps the exterior world from coming into your life it also keeps you from the exterior world. This, a car ticket and an accident that will both cost me a fortune, led me to the conclusion that LA is better on foot.

sábado, 22 de junho de 2013

Moving II

So in LA you need to have a credit check to pay power as gas... and apparently someone in my apartment is paying for a Timer Warner account so I can't install internet in the place. I would solve all this but I have to go out to pay a traffic ticket given to me by some excited cameras who thought I passed a red sign although I was turning right. I work all day every day!  It's funny, living in LA is like living in an industrialized society that behaves like a third world country.

Edison For Beginners

It was a strange, magical almost transcendental episode that happened. So much so that when I speak to Tomas Szelazek, my ex roommate, I still ask him if he remembers this dream like story or, depending on the point of view, this LA black hole.
Tomas and I lived in the same place and one of our roommates was leaving. So he decided to celebrate his farewell party in a Downtown club called Edison. Edison is one of those retro clubs with 20's neo-decadent Moulin Rouge decoration. The burlesque strip tease shows they have there try to get your mind off the dipshits in Armani suits who frequent the place but they only remind you that for as much as they spent on the interior decoration you are still in a titty bar.
Me and Tom always had a peculiar relationship because he grew up in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn but he was born in Poland. So that made him a sort of a foreigner in his own country, someone who could come off as an American be popular with the Pepperdine boys we lived with but at the same time understand what it is to come to this country and start a new life. Sometimes his parents would visit the house where we lived and his mom would wake up early just so she could leave her son (all of us really) an amazing chicken soup. For a couple of hours our kitchen was a piece of Warsaw, a piece of Europe in the land of the wild Californias.
That Friday night Tom's girlfriend wanted to leave the Edison earlier and so the three of us walked up to the first floor of the club so we could exit the building. While we were waiting for the rest of the gang to come up the stairs and for Tom's girlfriend to finish texting, me and Tom saw two hassidic Jewish boys that couldn't have been more than 16 years old (they had peyote but no beard). I thought there was something off with this image but they walked straight to Tom and asked for the time. Tom told them the time and one of the boys said "You are from Dyker Heights, aren't you?" Tom was speechless, so I decided to approach them "Hi..." I said and one of them told me immediately "You are Sephardi aren't you?" They guessed the origins of Tom and I without even exchanging a greeting. And then they walked down the stairs to the club. "Do you know them?" Tom asked me but "Did you just hear what I heard?" was my prompt question.  Nothing made sense, their presence there on a Friday night and their crystal ball conclusions about me and Tom. Whenever I see Tom I always ask him if he remembers this episode. Probably they were lost, probably they weren't even religious Jews, probably they were angels, and in that case they were at the right time time at the right spot. There aren't a lot of angels at the Edison because the interior decorator made the place look like hell.  

sexta-feira, 21 de junho de 2013

Jaime the Man!

So yesterday I sat down with my old landlady, Carmen, and she told me Jaime, the gentleman who helped me move, told her I will never get married... I was very surprised with the diagnosis, I only met Jaime for a couple of hours and somehow he concluded between moving a desk and a cupboard  that I had no hope with women?
"Why did he say that?" I asked, but Carmen was fast on the trigger "Because you were on the phone to your mother while you were moving, and we women don't like men who talk to their mothers everyday. Jaime knows that." I'll be damn! Good old Jaime had a point after all! Am I becoming what I hate the most? A South European man who worships his mom like those forty year old Italians who live with their moms and refuse to let anyone into their lives? I live alone, and I don't have many friends in LA so it really feels good to have a voice in the other end of the line, to listen and drop the sporadic advice. Sometimes just so I can vent and scream.  But is that pulling me away from relationships? Should I go to a bar and talk to the bar tender as if he knows me?
Once I heard that an explorer introduced TV to a lost native tribe in Brazil and for a week the tribe sat around the device as if it had divine powers but after that they lost interest. The explorer asked the chief why the tribe was not paying attention to the TV anymore and the chief answered "Because my Shaman knows me." It's the same with me, I talk to my mom, because she knows me and no one around here does.
This morning my mom send me a message asking me how my day was going, I said  "Not now, mom..." but that made me feel more of a teenager than anything else.  It should also be added - not in a Richard Nixon "My mom was a saint" kinda of way- that my mom is indeed the most amazing human being I know, and never gave me bad advice. I'll probably start asking Jaime about the big questions of life, he for one, seems to have his shit together. 

quinta-feira, 20 de junho de 2013

Voce Fala Portugues

 I went to the doctor here in LA. It was one of those small clinics for uninsured people (Blue Cross what are you for?) and got the most peculiar doctor's appointment.
"Eu falo Portugues" the sixty-year-old bald doctor who was seeing me said. "Great another Mexican who saw one too many Brazilian football games." I thought, but he continued "My father was Basque and my mother was Sicilian." That intrigued me, you see, my friend Charly Zarur was born in Mexico and keeps telling me he is not Mexican because he is Jewish and that minorities in Mexico do not consider themselves Mexican because they don't mix. Now I had a half Basque, half Sicilian, Portuguese speaking Mexican in front of me, so much for Zarur's theory!
"I was born in Sao Paulo and I moved to Mexico when I was 12. " The man was beginning to make sense, especially because he was prescribing some antibiotics for my flu while he spoke. I always find doctor's stories make more sense when they are told next to an antibiotics prescription. "We had a problem in my house, my mother was Palmeiras and my father was Corinthians." There! I bought his story! I have this weird interest in Brazilian football clubs that remained with me from a couple of lost summers in Brazil while I was growing up. I know Palmeiras is the club of the huge Sao Paulo Italian colony because they had to change their name from Palestra (what a fucked up name!) to Palmeiras during the Second World War. Brazilians were dying in Italy and Palmeiras (palm trees) sounded more Portuguese than the Italian Palestra. So if a half Sicilian was from Palmeiras that makes sense but "Why would your father be from Corinthians?" I asked.
"Because Corinthians was the club of the Spanish colony." Spaniards? In Sao Paulo? I always thought Corinthians and Sao Paulo F.C were the Brazilian clubs of the city and Portuguesa dos Desportos and Palmeiras were the clubs of the two big foreign communities: Portuguese and Italian. But the good doctor explained to me that Corinthians was actually founded by Eastern European Jews and later the club moved from Bairro da Luz to the Spanish neighborhoods. The Spaniards embraced Corinthians and that was what most likely alienated the Portuguese community from the club forcing them to create Portuguesa. It made sense the last president of Corinthians was Andrés Sanchez, a Spaniard...
 "I didn't know there were that many Jews in Sao Paulo in the 50's." I said, and the doctor replied "There were... thousands The polish girls" he explained "opened the first brothels of the city in the 20's." This might sound like an exaggeration to you, dear reader, but it was the Askenazi women who first smoked in the cafes of my native Lisbon so this was sounding kosher to me.
"I once got lost in the red light district of Bairro da Luz." This man was beginning to sound like a novel to me. I just wanted some antibiotics for my LA flue and I was having a lesson on 1950's Sao Paulo Jewish Polish hookers and coming of age boys.  "It was magical!" God knows what the doc saw in that red-light district street when his Sicilian mother was not paying attention but whatever it was, it still makes this 60-year-old man smile all these years later. "Yes, we are all refugees", I thought, I had to run from Portugal here, his parents had to run from Spain and Italy to Sao Paulo he had to run from Sao Paulo to Mexico, and those girls, those glorious girls he saw that make him smile had to run to Sao Paulo from some really horrible situation because for them giving pleasure to strangers was better than being a slave in a camp. Little did these girls know that there is a happy doctor in LA who smiles when he thinks of them and greets his Portuguese clients with a friendly "Eu falo Portugues."          

Moving to Hollywood

Moving to Hollywood is a drag, power, internet, gas... so much to do so little time...