We stepped into the night, into a sort of balminess I’ve never experienced. I’ve experienced hot, I’ve experienced humid. This was neither. This was balmy, which maybe I thought I had some sort of an idea of, but had I ever thought that in the past I would have been wrong. Because this was my first truly balmy night, my first encounter with Southern air. It was thick, but not in an unpleasant way. Thick in an oddly welcoming way, like the city was so welcoming that even the air wrapped itself round you in a welcoming embrace. It didn’t sit atop your skin with a stickiness, but you could feel it, and could not help but be aware of it. It simply made its presence known. This was the pleasantly balmy Spring evening I had always read about, and imagined in all the wrong ways.
Our first Uber driver was a non-native and non-talkative. When we asked if he had any recommendations as to where to go, what to see, what to eat, he paused for half a second, and then answered, “No.” One single word, and not a single recommendation for two weary travelers, first-time visitors. Picking up people from the airport, with no language barriers to speak of is literally the easiest conversation one could make, really. And recommendations in a big city for first time visitors is another easy task. Is your city so bad that you can’t think of a single enjoyable thing to do, see or eat!? For fuck’s sake, even something as common and obvious as “Bourbon Street” would have been better than a monosyllabic “No”.
As we exited the freeway and glided down surface streets towards our Lakeview AirBnB, we could see the lush green lining the streets even in the dark. A thirty-three dollar Uber ride landed us on a quiet street corner. The place was was every bit as beautiful as the listing photos. A cosy yet spacious mid-century modern dream nestled in the midst of a gorgeous little neighborhood. We were starving of course, and everything was closed of course, unless we wanted a bar. So we did what any other red-blooded American would do. We called for pizza. I know… in a city steeped in rich history and culinary gifts our first meal was the common mundane pizza pie. And it wasn’t even a local must-try. It was a run of the mill chain, but desperate times call for desperate measures and it was delicious and it saved our lives and it was a wonderful pre-breakfast mini meal the following morning, and the girl who answered the phone said “ya’all” and it made me smile so there was something to be said for our seemingly lackluster first culinary experience for two newcomers to an historic city.
We feasted on pizza and reveled in the excitement of being in a new city, electrified by the anticipation of what tomorrow morning could bring. Properly fed and fueled, we explored our little domicile – our home for the next five nights.
District is the sort of coffee house I’ve always wanted to work in. Greeted by a “what’s up, ya’all!” The baristas are having fun, the music is upbeat (think Def Leppard and Bon Jovi), the decor is a cool rustic/industrial style and when a regular walks in the vibe is more like you’re hanging out at a friend’s place. But the friend is a wicked talented chef, an innovative baker, and brews really amazing coffee. Even if you’re not a regular, the District crew makes you feel warmly welcomed before stuffing you with warm gigantic donuts.
We visited this place twice. On our first visit it was the Croque Madame (which we properly butchered the pronunciation of) – thinly sliced smoked ham, havarti, dijon and bechamel with a District twist. All this goodness was sandwiched between a soft, warm donut and topped with the traditional sunny side-up egg. The donut was not overly sweet, which I was thankful for (I’d choose savory over sweet every time) which gave the sandwich a sense of donut texture without an overwhelming donut sweetness, allowing for a more savory flavor to come through. The egg wasn’t a hot mess level of runny, just runny enough to provide the satisfaction of carefully breaking the yolk to watch it run over.
On our second visit, it happened to be April Fool’s Day, and District was offering up some special donut mashups in celebration. We opted for the Irish-Fetti. The Irish Coffee donut with a funfetti twist. Tastes like dunking funfetti cupcakes into an Irish coffee. In a word… amazeballs. Would have loved to try all the flavors, but these things are so giant, even the two of us could barely finish it. We also got to try out one of the famous sliders this time around. We went for the tofu slider- mushroom vermicelli tofu, mapo mushroom chutney, sichuan pickles and cilantro atop a soft Hawaiian roll. This bad boy is spicy and delicious. I’m a pretty big spice wuss, but it was so flavorful that I just dealt with it for a few bites and did my best to put out the fire with a raw green juice. Which totally balanced out the gigantic donut, I’m sure.
We also tried their hot drip coffee, and nitro cold brew. Yasssssss! Really cannot say enough good stuff about this spot! Go, go, go! Original location is on Magazine Street, we only visited their newest Lakeview location on Harrison but I’m sure all four locations are equally epic.
I like to think I’d look like a badass in the zombie apocalypse. Toting around my crossbow and machete and clad mostly in black fitted clothes consisting of leather and various other textures. The boots would definitely have to be leather. Maybe I would start off that way. But as the months, and maybe years, went by I imagine I would have to scavenge for clothes. Mostly ill fitting clothes and most likely not always entirely fashionable outfits. Somehow The Walking Dead crew, (the girls especially), manage to find fashionable clothes in their size. This to me is probably the most miraculous bit of the post-apocalyptic world they inhabit. The new band of trash dump dwellers is fashionable in a “models in a post-apocalyptic world” sort of way. If I were in the Walking Dead world and stumbled upon their camp, I don’t think they’d let me in.
Coachella who? This is not a joke. This is not a drill. This shit is going down for real. I honestly thought it was a fake bill, only because this is pretty much the closest to my teenage wet dream lineup as I’ve ever seen.
“Life, Animated” follows Owen Suskind and his family as they navigate their way through life and autism. With no real communication, the family discovered Owen’s love of classic Disney films was the key to unlocking his entire world. The film is inspiring, uplifting and relatable. Owen’s coming of age touches upon milestones we’ve all grappled with – graduating, growing up, finding our way in the “real” world and even heartbreak. So much of how Owen expresses himself is incredibly pure and honest, “Mom, why is life so full of unfair pain and tragedy?” We’ve all been there, but likely very few of us have been able to express it so concisely in adulthood.
After years of non-speech, Owen and his family are gradually able to begin communicating using the Disney films Owen has memorized. The reciting of lines progresses into linking certain scenes to expressing real life emotions.Bullied at school, he likens it to the character of Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, watching the world pass him by exiled in his bell tower. He learns to read by memorizing the credits. These films act as the gateway to Owen’s further development of communication, reading and writing skills.
Owen is a hero to root for, warm, endearing, talented and really just a funny and clever guy. It’s no wonder he was invited to Paris to address an international autism conference. This movie is really a love story at its core. The love the Suskinds have is proof of the strength derived from being surrounded by people who believe in, uplift and love unconditionally.
There’s this really cool trend taking place of shared communal spaces. Grand Central Market is nothing new but it’s undergone a sort of revamping swept up in the downtown renaissance/gentrification (whether you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing, it is unarguably a thing). The Anaheim Packing District is a newer polished streamlined version of the concept. These places are like mall food courts on steroids. Sleek modern fancified steroids. I happened upon Long Beach’s new SteelCraft endeavor by chance. A smaller version of the above concept, eight different food/drink vendors to choose from and a communal space of wooden tables underneath open skies and patio lights. Craft brews, coffee, pizza, burgers, ramen, shaved ice, baked goods and even waffles.
Each year I try to make my way through as many of the Oscar nominated films as possible. While most are easy to track down (all the nominees for Best Picture are still in theaters, for example) some of the smaller films can be a bit harder to find. Here’s a (nearly) complete list of where you can (legally) watch all of this year’s nominated films.
Official Oscar nominations are out. No surprise, “LaLa Land” tops the list with 14 nominations, making it a three way tie (“All About Eve”, “Titanic”) for the most Academy Award nominations in history.
The list also shows the face of Hollywood is changing. Filmmakers are telling more diverse stories with a more diverse cast of characters and that’s an interesting movement to be a part of. The filmmakers themselves are becoming more diverse. This shift gives us films like “Moonlight” and leading ladies like Ruth Negga. New perspectives, new faces and new voices, it’s an exciting time to be a cinephile. And if you feel you’re not represented on screen- write yourself up there. Make something or seek out and support the filmmakers who are trying to tell the stories that represent you.