Winter thou goest – Part I

Clearly my thoughts have evolved on this blog as to what I can do for you, what I can share to make your life more beautiful after you visit here, and am pleased to have settled on creating a travel sticky page for this website over the past year to go with each season. I have been lucky enough to travel all over the world and so consider myself a veteran. Ideally, I would have had this post up on December 22 of last year, but the holidays intervened and well, better late than clever, right? So, the title of this particular article seems especially apt.

Bay

Now, let’s remember that all of these recommendations are subjective and based on three key factors: where I’ve been, what I like, and iconoclasm. By the latter I mean, I am not going to recommend the predictable places that everyone thinks of for each season.  Most people’s favorite season is the spring. As you might guess, not mine! My absolute cherished time of year is and always has been the winter. For the first half of my life, I got to be in a four-season climate as my home base and so winter rolled around every twelve months and delivered my preferred weather, notably in Manhattan where I spent most of that time, with cold, clear, sunny, dry days and the occasional snowfall that draped the landscape in its magical glitter.

Mountain Home Inn II

However, here I am in one-season Southern California, where the temperature is hot or hottest and the skies are cloudless and blinding unremittingly.  So, when I tell you my recommendation, I am going to avoid my reflexive wish to suggest Banff or Quebec or St. Moritz. Or to my preferred beach resorts (the rare times I have gone to them of my own accord) like Montego Bay, Jamaica, or Nassau, or Fortaleza, Brazil. We are going to stay local and so, voilà, my choice: Oakland, California.

Oakland and the Bay Bridge

Whaaaaa? You are going to start to object and recommend that at least I switch this to San Francisco across the Bay Bridge. But, uh-uh.  Please do this. Forget about every single thing you have ever heard or thought about Oakland. I know the Bay area intimately (having lived in the East Bay and and visited friends and relatives who have lived there for decades) and SF is not where I want you to pin your protractor.  Put it right in the middle of the Elmwood section of Oakland in the up and coming East Bay and then draw a 50 mile (or 25 mile, depending on how much time you have) radius around it. That is where I would head if I wanted an exciting, rain-free, interesting and even exotic at times, winter getaway.

From Oakland, you are within biking, sailing, motoring, walking, boating distance of all the stellar things the lower end of Northern California has to offer.  And, you will be able to afford the hotel because you will not be staying in downtown San Francisco. It is mostly first-time visitors and businessmen on expense accounts who stay there anyway.

Oakland

Because the area is so vast and packed with things to do and places to see, I am going to divide this into two posts. First will be where to stay and eat. In a future sequel, I will remind you of the hundreds of museums, parks, beaches, theaters, aquaria, forests, and special features that the entire Bay area is known for, as well as a few words on shopping.  There is no better place to spend a week or a month, than this part of Northern California. You might not want to go home.

ca-oakland-city-call-c1940

First off. Where to stay.  I would suggest Elmwood via an AirBnB. Another good option is a VRBO (vacation rental by owner). Check out these videos on my link, strung back to back — there are several, all about the area and worth watching. Elmwood is just off College and above Telegraph Avenues, the main arteries through the best part of Oakland, near Berkeley. The homes in Elmwood are straight out of Nancy Drew or Father Knows Best. They are roomy, well-to-do Craftsman-style homes from the pre-WWII era. In fact, I cannot think of a better neighborhood in all of California, and I have been everywhere in the state in the 20+ years I have lived and visited it. If you stay there, you will be in walking distance of shops, eateries, poetry readings, concerts and lectures and all the marvellous perks for visitors to the UC Berkeley campus.

Elmwood II

If you are feeling really flush, you can stay at the Claremont Hotel in Claremont, between the Berkeley campus and Elmwood. You will get the full European spa hotel experience, but you will pay for it. It is an old East Bay institution, now owned by the Fairmont Group and they are the crème de la crème as far as hoteliers go.

The Claremont

My other two suggestions are my personal favorites. I have stayed at both hotels numerous times and would rave on about them if you and I had the time. The first is the Hotel Durant, as they style themselves, a ‘hip boutique hotel’.  It is old, maintained beautifully, immaculate and has impeccable service. Its breakfast library room and restaurant are first class. And, you can walk to the campus and transportation from the Durant, effortlessly. Take a virtual tour and you will get a sense of these two luxury hotels. Oh, and the Durant is affordable and they always find a way to give you discounts. I always request room 535/37 on the 5th floor, adjacent to the elevator. It is cheaper and amazingly quiet despite its location. Love the Durant!!

Hotel Durant

My last suggestion is the incredible, little known, beautiful, sprawling Woodfin now Hyatt House at the wharf in Emeryville.  You can get a view of the Bay and San Francisco from some of the rooms on higher floors. The rooms and suites (with bedrooms separated from the sitting area and full kitchen) are beautiful and reasonable — geared toward the business community and people relocating.  At the ground level, the Woodfin was planned to be in proximity to a sort of mini mall, old style with food, amenities and little shops. The food store delivers to the hotel. You can get pizza and Chinese takeout or sent to your room.  You can walk around the edge of the water and absorb the marine atmosphere. And, best of all, they allow pets!  We attended a wedding a few years ago in the area and brought both Psyche and Ollie with no problem. The Woodfin even put a mat and food and water in for Ollie. Can you imagine? All this in a beautiful place, with great parking (a big issue in the East Bay), at a rock bottom price. The Woodfin was sold to Hyatt and so I hope the new owners will keep all these wonderful features and pricing intact. Ssshhh. Keep this on the down low. I don’t want them to jack things up!

Hyatt House

OK, so now you have a jumping off place to stay. You want to get out and start seeing, doing, shopping and eating, right? Let me start with the restaurants and other eateries in the East Bay. You will be happy to hear that you are in the midst of what could modestly be called The gourmet ghetto of the Western United States.  In every direction for miles and miles are incredible elegant inexpensive (as well as costly, if that is your thing) places to get every cuisine on earth. It would take a year of blog posts to cover San Francisco, Sausalito, Monterey, Carmel, San Jose, Walnut Grove, Montclair, Rockridge, Marin, Solano and greater Oakland/Berkeley itself just to give you ideas of where to go. And a lot of boutique shopping flanks these restaurants, conveniently.

Vics III

Instead, I will list my personal favorites, which are ethnic, clean (spotlessly so), serving delicious, homemade exquisite food at prices you can afford. They cover: Greek, Indian, Mexican, Israeli, Chinese, Italian, Cambodian and Ethiopian super stars. This is where the locals who know the food scene eat, so you can throw away Zagats and forget about Yelp.  I will start with the most popular of them, La Méditerranée on College Avenue near the main hub of Ashby serving Greek/Middle Eastern food that is so delicious, you will want to order another meal or two to take home. You will definitely want to go back, but don’t give in to the temptation as you will need to visit the others before you go. I promise you, whatever Middle Eastern dish you have ever had, it is twice as good here. Trust me — in fact, I have eaten at every one of these places I am recommending at least half a dozen times.

La Mediteranee

Being a college town, there are no end of Indian restaurants to try. But, if you want the kind of food they eat in India, you have to try the hole in the wall, Vik’s on Fourth Street near the Berkeley campus.  It is cafeteria style, no atmosphere (other than brains and politics at every table, if you can hear it amid the din), cheap and delicious, authentic, aromatic Indian food from every part of India. There is a grocery section so you can buy things to take home. Believe me, you will walk out of there with bags of food — so be prepared and bring your totes.

Viks IV

Mexican restaurants are usually two to a block in California. But Cancun on Shattuck — one of the main drags in Berkeley — is special. It is more a take out place than eat in, but you can do that too. Believe me, the cognoscenti in the area come here for authentic, inexpensive, perfectly cooked to order quality Mexican food, Cancun-style. The Saldanas are the family that own Cancun and a farm that supplies its organic, natural products. Farmers and cooks, isn’t that what we would dream of? Having the farmer feed us. Healthy food, expertly prepared as you watch, delicious and fresh. What more would you want? It’s as close as you will come to Mexico in Northern California, in my opinion. From farm to table, what more could you ask?

Ordinarily, who would advise anyone to seek out Israeli food? After all, it is enough like — forgive me, all my Jewish friends — Middle Eastern food that you might think you could just eat at La Méditerranée and get the experience of the region you crave. Well, this is no ordinary town and Holy Land is no run of the mill restaurant. Don’t expect it to be particularly remarkable in appearance. It is clean and pleasant. But! The menu is the thing.  If you have never had Israeli cous cous, this is the place to get your initiation. It is fragrant, fluffy, perfectly seasoned and divine. Try the latkes and the Israeli pickles and olives.  They have shifted to include the non-Jewish foods of the region as well but you will be able to sample some of Israel’s best dishes, including hummus (pronounced hoo-muss by natives) and other kosher dishes including some that are vegan.

Holy Land

Most of us have had Chinese food from humdrum restaurants all our lives. If you live in NY or SF or Chicago or LA, you have likely had some unusual and very good Chinese meals. But, Oakland has, in my experience, one of the very best.  Shen Hua, is a beautifully simple, classic Northern Chinese noodle house, upscale and not inexpensive, but worth every penny.  Conveniently located right on College Avenue in Elmwood, it will be steps from your AirBnB. You will want to take home the leftovers, believe me.  There are rarely Chinese restaurants that could be termed elegant in every respect. This is one!

Shen Hua

While you are in an Asian food mood, you simply have to try the homey but sophisticated Cambodian menu at Battambang on Broadway in downtown Oakland. It is similar to Thai food but a bit more complex, heartier and with banana leaves. Think Siam-meets-Puerto Rico 😀 Delicious, whether you are a carnivore or a vegan as I am — a really unusual menu in a family-run establishment that prepares each dish fresh when you order and serves it in a warm and friendly manner.

Battambang I

There are literally hundreds of Italian restaurants throughout the Bay area so you might wonder why I picked just one. Because, while you can get pasta almost anywhere, great pizza is more elusive. One place that never fails to serve and also deliver, is Lane Splitters, by far the best pizza in the greater Oakland vicinity.  The ambience is pure urban hipster black, white and gray. They serve fabulous, handmade pizzas and a variety of other things including lasagna and calzones.  Eat there or order for local delivery.

Lanesplitter

If you are a lover of the exotic, and complex flavors outside the pedestrian, you probably crave Ethiopian food the way I do. The East Bay is loaded with Ethiopian restaurants, but if you want to know where Ethiopians themselves eat, it is hands down, Addis on Telegraph.  The atmosphere is basic but it is clean, friendly, and bright, and most importantly, the food is out of this world.  If you have never had Ethiopian or Eritrean food before, Addis is the place to start. I just wish we had one in Valencia, anywhere near as fine as Addis.

Addis

There are just a few more things I want to recommend here in Part I.  First, you simply must take a trip to Mill Valley and stay at the Mountain Home at the top of Mt. Tamalpais.  If you can’t manage a stay, then at least have breakfast and watch the sun rise, or have a drink there at the end of the day. Romantic, with breathtaking views, you dine or sip overlooking the entire Bay area.  Mt. Tam is exquisite and well worth the trip. Nearby are vistas that you can’t find anywhere else in the San Francisco basin.

Finally, you cannot leave Oakland without visiting Berkeley Bowl. There is no way to describe this indoor fruit and vegetable bazaar.  You simply have to go.  It is the largest and most bountiful food store I have ever seen anywhere. Its proximity to the fruit basket of the world means items so unique and so varied, that you will be tempted to buy them just for their beauty and singularity.

Mountain Home InnNo matter where you land in Northern California, a trip to Berkeley Bowl is a must. It is 40,000 square feet of gourmet heaven at farmers market prices. Think of a Home Depot for chefs’ quality fresh foods. Cheeses, condiments, olives, fish, breads, pastries fruits, vegetables, coffees, the list goes on and on.  So popular in its 40 year history, that they opened a second one.  Go to the original on Shattuck and prepare to be astonished.  By the way, go early, be nimble (parking is difficult) and arrive hungry. Bring bags, you will want everything you see, trust me.

Berkeley Bowl mushrooms

While you are at it, if you are anywhere near the Berkeley campus, hit the Gourmet Ghetto area and make sure you visit Andronicos, the Rolls Royce of “supermarkets”, since 1929. One thing I love there are the full line of European D’Arbo syrups that can be used to flavor everything from ice creams to cakes to carbonated drinks, ala Alice’s Restaurant nearby. I ordered a case of them and especially like the Elderberry syrup. When you add carbonated water to it, it tastes like champagne!  More on Alice’s coming up in Part II.

Andronicos II

Next time: Part II: what to do and see when you are not eating or sleeping ;-D

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Images: Public domain from travel sites, Chambers of Commerce and the establishments themselves

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Ooh la LA

The weather has been so delightful lately, that I realized it was time to invite people to visit Southern California before it’s too late and we are either roasting alive or dying of thirst, LOL! These are my insider’s tips on visiting La-La land: the only five places you will need to know to party like a native. 😉

Rooftop Bar, Hotel The Standard, Downtown L.A., Los Angeles, California, USA

New York is the place to visit in autumn, as I wrote last year.  Spring is the time to visit LA. When I was reflecting on Los Angeles, and trying to summarize what it is about LA that is so attractive to people — apart from endless sunshine, that is, natch — the word seductive came to mind.

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A few years ago, I read this book about France and the French character.  It is worth reading just to see how differently the French look at everyday life, relationships, food, tourists, Americans etc.  Not to say that they are right or wrong, necessarily but truly it is a culture apart. France is seductive.

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Los Angeles is like that. Someone should write a book about it (note to self). Unlike NYC that instantly triggers love or hate, Los Angeles sidles up to you and lures you in with that sultry come hither environment that allows everyone to be utterly, nakedly themselves. And that is no mere metaphor. You have permission to be as uninhibited and as outrageously ‘you’, as you want here — and that is what I love most about this city, its welcoming diversity.

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There are three urban hubs that you need to hit if you want to understand California.  In some ways it should be two or three states.  San Francisco and San Diego are distinctive megalopolises with their own sphere of influence and mindsets.  You won’t get to know or understand all three, by just visiting one of them.

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People everywhere are drawn to Los Angeles, but not for the beaches, because, honestly, there are others far more beautiful.  If you are looking for the ideal beach environment, go to Cape Cod, Monterey, the Northeastern coast of Brazil or the Caribbean.  Don’t come to LA for that.

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People love Los Angeles because of its gigantic entertainment industry and the allure of being close to the stars. If you are a wannabe, the magnetism of LA is powerful and rightly so. But, I think the true main attraction of LA is that, you can park philosophies and ideologies at the threshold when you land at LAX and step into a completely welcoming, accepting culture that signals immediately: anything goes. Relax, have a great time. Not a Hawaii-lie-around-the-pool great time.  A get-out-there-and-have-a-ball. Mingle, go to barbecues, hit the club scene, do a night on the town. Be free to enjoy yourself, however you like. Angelenos are incredibly outgoing and friendly, right away.  They don’t need time to warm up to you.  For a transplanted NYer it was palpable immediately. Smiles and welcomes, sincere ones, not papier-mâché politeness, characterizes the citizenry.

13081782663_936de88270_z the patio at Citi Group Plaza

Last week, my cousin was in Los Angeles on an assignment. She always stays at the London West Hollywood.  Claire and I chatted in her sleek ultra-modern suite and then went up to the roof patio for dinner.  It was a beautiful clear day looking out over LA on the top floor of the hotel in late afternoon.  As we were sitting there gabbing, afloat over the city, evening fell, draping everything with its violet shawl. All around us was a crystal view of the sprawl that is the LA metropolis,  its lights flickering on and the stars popping out overhead. Some miles to the east, Downtown appeared as a cluster of glittering stacks that huddled together like intimate giants sharing a secret. Farther along Wilshire, Century City was gazing across the concourse toward Westwood. It was pure magic.

The-London-West-Hollywood

Come to Los Angeles between April and July.  Summers here are too brutal now, the autumn is unremarkable and the winters, well, they can be misty and dull.

13285833245_38ba2a9787_z the Queen Mary Long Beach

Here is where I would start.  Stay at one of the newly restored more affordable hotels Downtown or on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood. There is a lot to do at night on this stretch of the Strip. If you like off-off-off Broadway entertainment, lol, the Strip is the place to go.  Start at the Whiskey.  You can walk to it from the London WH, and frankly, that is where I would stay.  Rooms average about US$350, reasonable by LA standards. The other advantage you would have is being able to get to Beverly Hills, Century City, Westwood, the Melrose restaurant row very easily, even using LA’s notoriously limited public transportation.  I have ridden the Metro bus and train system locally and they are clean, air conditioned, safe and comfortable.  Not like London, Paris or NY, not efficient, fast and ubitquitous, but good. You can even get to Downtown and Pasadena using public transportation, from a central hub of West Hollywood. Hollywood itself is also east on Sunset, so you couldn’t ask for a better place as home base.

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Not to oversell this location, you can also take Sunset to Santa Monica, Brentwood and Venice Beach. Although, as I will explain in a minute, I would suggest the South Bay or Beach Cities instead.  They are far more exemplary of what Angelenos consider beach living, while Santa Monica and Venice are for tourists.

From the hub you choose, I would visit the following places, depending on how much time you have:

  1. Downtown, LA
  2. West Hollywood/Hollywood/Melrose
  3. Pasadena
  4. South Bay beach cities: Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach
  5. Beverly Hills/Westwood

As you plan your visit, just remember the LA Golden rule:

Everything is always 45 minutes away from everything else …

16585403846_19c427b102_z The Natural History Museum

Downtown, as I have said previously somewhere on this blog, is really hopping now.  If there is a happening place in LA, DT is it.  It is packed with restaurants, clubs, bars, loft-hotels and entertainment.  The Disney Concert Hall, the Chandler Pavillion complex and other similar venues for traditional theater- and concert-going are at the north end.  There are museums and cathedrals as well as the very trendy and cool Grand Central Market that is worth an afternoon of eating and coffee in itself.

There is also a fab Art Walk that takes you around to galleries and the hidden creative underground/grunge that makes LA appealing for millennials right now, from burning men to urban hipsters.  The Natural History Museum and the Staples Center are at the bottom of DT LA and both are worth the trip.  Just walk up and down the north/south artery of Figueroa and you will see a history of architecture from the 18th through the 21st centuries, rising on either side of you.  While you are doing that, make sure to stop at Fig&7th to have a snack or a drink and get in a bit of shopping. Just a block or two north and you can eat at the famous, original Pantry, continuously open since 1924. Or take Wilshire from DT, via the Metros, all the way West to the beach, and watch the progress of the city the automobile built, materialize as you go.

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And while you are there, make sure you have afternoon English tea at the Biltmore Hotel. It is an LA institution and I guarantee you will gape at the world’s glitterati parading around you as they stream into DT in droves, snapping up refurbished buildings to re-rent out or install start-ups. It is very reasonably priced at about $200 per night for old world luxury.

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When we are DT, we eat at various places.  You can always grab a bite at the Grand Central Market, with all its many food stalls. If you are deep in the dough, try the Water Grill for perfect food in a flawless upscale environment.  If, like us, you are on a budget, head to the Fisherman’s Outlet.  An LA legend is Philippe’s for sandwiches.

West Hollywood/Hollywood/Melrose I probably don’t need to tell you too much about this part of LA, West of Downtown.  This is the hub of the night scene. There is shopping, of course, with a robust array of boutiques and galleries. But clubs and restaurants are the main draw. The Viper Room, Whiskey a Go Go, the Roxy Theatre and all sorts of sky bars are strung along Sunset.  Just drop your stuff at the hotel and head out in either direction on the Boulevard and you will stumble on them.  Whenever I am in this area and I have time, I make my way over to Little Ethiopia for lunch.  Not only is it affordable, it is exotic and exquisite food made and served by natives.  Try Messob, my fave.

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Pasadena may be a bit more staid but for my money, skip the Getty and the LACMA and head straight to the Norton Simon Museum, Gamble House, Asia Pacific Museum and Huntington Library and gardens that stretch from one end of Old Pasadena to the other.  There is more shopping and eating in Pasadena, with every kind of food from all over the world, than in any place outside of DT LA. It is a beautiful, pristine, elegant old city that has been updated and now boasts an influx of condo dwellers at an unprecedented rate.  Every possible kind of entertainment is available and you can walk to it, from the Metro which has several stations in Old Town. Definitely check out The Pasadena Playhouse for live theater, as well as various cinema complexes up and down the main east-west thoroughfare — especially at The Paseo –, Colorado Boulevard.  You can attend free concerts all summer at the Levitt Pavilion or the symphony at the stunning, world class Ambassador Auditorium.

Make sure you stop by the largest independent bookstore in Southern California, Vromans and have a homemade sundae at the 100 year old Fairoaks Pharmacy in South Pasadena. Eat dinner at the incomparable El Cholo, for Mexican food, SoCal style.

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Southbay/The Beach Cities This may be a bit out of the way, unless you have a car. If so, head west on Sunset to the 405/San Diego Freeway and points south.  Get off at Rosecrans and go west to Pacific Coast Highway, turning south again.  You will be in Manhattan Beach, the largest of the three.  Turn right on Manhattan Beach Boulevard and take it down to the Ocean. There you will find yourself amid the real coupon-clipping laid back millionaires that teem all over this part of LA.  These are the Angelenos who never work. Everywhere around you will be bronzed blonds zipping along in Italian convertibles.  There are literally dozens of places to eat, in every price range, as well as boutiques and bars.  But, of course, as you rise over the crest of the hill on MB Blvd., you will see the Pacific gleaming and winking ahead of you.  Bring a towel and beach wear. This is the place to watch the roller-bladers gliding along The Strand in front of the multi-million dollar manses that perch at the sand’s edge.  Take your margarita down there and imagine what life would be like if you had nothing to do every day but gaze out at the ocean liners and Catalina, while your help kept you supplied with refreshments.

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MBch is the best kept secret in the Southland.  Try the ancient Kettle for lunch and Love&Salt for dinner. Farther down PCH pointing south is Hermosa Beach.  Like Manhattan, it is for play not work, but trendier, younger, hipper and more bohemian.  Finally, a bit farther down is Redondo Beach.  It has the Pier and attracts an older, quieter crowd.  You can’t go wrong with any of the three.  Hermosa has a comedy club that is actually fabulous. You never know who is going to do a gig there, often well known comics, so check before you go and reserve a seat.

13306235795_dac947ac8a_z Cruise to Catalina Long Beach

Beverly Hills/ Bel Air/ Westwood I typically avoid the first two.  By the way, Century City is in this area but it is largely businesses and residential.  There is not much there to recommend you spend time in CC when you could be Downtown, in Manhattan Beach, or Pasadena. Beverly Hills needs little introduction. If mansion-crawling is your thing, just go west on Sunset from West Hollywood, and you will be in Bel Air in ten minutes.  It is self-explanatory once you see the sign (you can’t miss it). If you find yourself in Bel Air, visit the North side of the UCLA campus, the old part of this 419 acre magnificat.  You shouldn’t waste time looking at houses in BH, the main attraction of which is that Sultanic mecca known as Rodeo Drive. By the way, if you want to stay in this part of LA and actually go to the LACMA anyway, you can stay at the iconic Beverly Wilshire (Pretty Woman). But, it’s pricey.

Don’t bother eating in BH either. Overpriced, overhyped, mediocre food.  No celebs will be eating there, just tourists.  Eat instead in Westwood, the home village of UCLA, SoCal’s other premiere University (beside CalTech).  There are so many fantastic places to eat in Westwood, I would need another post for them.  Our favorite is Native Foods.

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Ok, ok, I hear you saying, but what if I absolutely must tell people I ate in Beverly Hills and money is no object? Then absolutely, you have to go to Crustacean, if for nothing else, the experience of the place.  You won’t be sorry — broke, but happy.   If you just need to use a restroom and grab a snack so you won’t faint while shopping, go to Neiman Marcus, located on Wilshire.

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Then head over to Westwood, gape at billionaire’s row on Wilshire as you approach the Westwood Village, and rest on the UCLA south campus after all this activity.

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By the way, there are three more items you might want to consider: LAX, Burbank Airport and Union Station.  If you want to start in the South Bay and see these three beautiful and entertaining beach cities, by all means fly into LAX.  They are just 15 minutes south on the 405 Freeway.  If you want to start in Pasadena or West Hollywood? Use the very nice, easy, safe Burbank Airport, you will be just minutes away from both.  If you plan to start Downtown, consider taking Amtrak to Union Station and see a classic with one of the best restaurants anywhere, Traxx.

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That’s it.  If you just hit those five key spots, you will be immersed in LA and totally ‘get it’ ever after.

Images: Beth Byrnes, The London West Hollywood and The Examiner

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Dumocracy

Every single day, for as long as I can remember, stretching back to when I was a toddler I have tried to learn as much as I can about the world around me.

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And, every single day since I was 17 or 18 and discovered that the key to getting the most out of being a member of the so-called most intelligent earthly species was to be conscious, to study and think deeply, I have also sought to develop awareness, of myself, others and that same world, starting right in my little family and radiating outward.

Radiating outward to encompass the neighborhood, the city, the region, the country, the world, the universe.

If I want to be healthy, I have to study hard, a lot of complex subjects that include biology, physiology, anatomy, chemistry, biochemistry, agriculture, climate, ecology. Just for that one endeavor.

When I buy a car, I do extensive research, now made easier by dozens of online sites that put every car on the planet at my fingertips.

So too any household products or a vacation or an academic course or a home to buy or rent.

This is just common sense to me. It is the way I was raised. My parents counseled me to do whatever I could to the very best of my ability and to stretch beyond what I thought were my limits, so I could grow. And the ultimate goal was not only to ensure my own success but that of those and the world around me too.

That is why the current mental sophistry is so unfathomable. When did learning — excellent learning — and reaching higher toward the best that human beings can be and do become suspect?

I can understand the fear about job scarcity and terrorism, while vehemently disagreeing about the way they are being handled.  For example, the current administration head has lied and given coal miners the false hope that those jobs are returning. They will not return, because the owners are increasingly mechanizing operations and clean energy  manufacturing is becoming more cost effective than fossil fuels production. Terrorists have caused fewer violent deaths in the US than toddlers with their parents’ guns. But, those lies appeal to the fearful. Those I can understand because people are reacting to the world emotionally and not thinking it through or doing their homework with sound information sourcing.

What I cannot understand is the reverse intellectual snobbery that attends the destruction of our information sources, sciences and schools. A small group of dark, destructive men is taking over all three areas.

Clearly, there are dual motives in attacking our free public education system: power and money grabs. But, learning systems cannot be based on profiteering. They must be founded in scientific and empirical knowledge of human (i.e., child) development and a sound, thorough understanding of the physical and social world in which that child is held. Ideology is fine, theorizing a natural outgrowth of human study, but there are actual provable traits and features of human growth that must form the basis of a curriculum. You can’t just dream things up in your head and then ramrod them through by force, if you want an educated, thriving species.

According to the man who runs the White House, the white nationalist, Stephen Bannon, a main aim of the new regime dictating US policy is to “deconstruct” the Federal government. They will be bolstering defense and national security (lucrative defense and weapons contracts, building of private prisons, an enormous militarized deportation force that will involve the erection of massive detention centers and of course the infamous ‘wall’) but destroying other structures such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Education under a completely unqualified woman whose only credentials are being the sister of the man who formed Blackwater and marriage to a billionaire.

When do you ever hear of benevolent entities wishing to disasssemble protective apparatuses and strip ordinary people of basic human necessities?

Even Glenn Beck, someone I rarely agree with, has sounded the ominous bell about the minds behind the new isolationist and white national philosophy of this administration, the late French philosopher, Jacques Derrida who came up with the idea of applying Deconstruction wherever one wishes to dismantle ideology and Aleksandr Dugin, a Russian who promotes economic nationalism.  According to Beck, Bannon is dangerous.

It is highly irresponsible for people to vote for figures who will determine the world’s fate without knowing what beliefs and agenda are behind their actions. Apparently, 25% of the American adult population did exactly that.  No, good paying jobs in obsolete sectors are not being created by these people. They are not improving the economy for the average person and greatest number of people (for example, the middle class will see virtually no tax breaks at all under their plan) and worst of all, they have aimed their deconstruction at education.

By the way, the world’s “white” population is only 10%. So who are these malicious white nationalists doing this for? Certainly not humanity writ large.

Now, as they blatantly defend their ties to the Russian government and a growing circle of illicit oligarchs, they attack the free press and begin to take down the schooling of the populace. If you want to take away someone’s rights and resources, that is how you do it.  Keep people disinformed and diseducated.

When you vote, you have to be more proactive than apparently this 25% were. What investigation of this group did they do? Are they willing to give up these intellectual freedoms for the fools’ gold they were promised last year? How about those who did not vote or protest voted for a third party candidate.  How will they make this up to us?

I am sorry for being so serious, but this is a grave forecast. This is the aspiration of Steve Bannon and his coterie of nefarious puppetmasters with their megalomaniacal dream of upheaval and world domination. And make no mistake, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, who have economic aspirations to transfer massive wealth to their corporate cronies, are quietly sitting back and handing the keys to the kingdom to these rasputins.

Again, every single day, I strive to be awake and aware, no matter how painful. Yes, I would like to bury my head and wait this out. But at the other end of this process, which may be a full 16 years from now, America and the world will be very different places if we continue on blithely ignoring what is unfolding right in front of us. No science, no education, no legitimate press, in other words, no facts, no truths, just lies to keep us compliant.  1984 will look like a picnic when these people are done with us.

They need to keep us stuck on stupid. And we are still doing little to stop them.

He must go

Image: Wikimedia commons

Up-stares Down-stares

OK, everyone, I feel badly.

It has been how many weeks since I last posted? I admit it. My schedule has been overwhelmed and I don’t know with what really, as things have been somewhat unremarkable but jam-packed.

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I am back up at our main place in Valencia and have had a chance to recover from baby-watching (although he has to be the cutest, smartest baby ever) and then dive into all the projects that went begging while I was down south. Including (remind me I said I would never do this again) making a sweater for one of my many sisters-in-law.

The darn thing is patterned on a couple I have made before with Noro wool yarn that I absolutely love. But, it’s pricey and a bit scratchy and even though I love working in wool, in SoCal wool is a mother, i.e., a moth-er. Moth-bait, moth-meal … you get the idea.

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So I decided to get a beautiful hand spun yarn with variegated colors similar to the Noro, but made of acrylic. Slippery devils, had to match self-striping, used three different color-ways so designing and coordinating and putting seams together so the stripes were consistent were real bears. I didn’t get much else done for almost two weeks so I could deliver it in time for a birthday bash this weekend. Oi vey.

Before I forget, welcome newcomers. I have had an explosion of new followers and I am so grateful to you that you are willing to endure my tedium.

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Back to the main topic, my absence here and my crazy frenzied life now in two places, with two sets of everything to clean (I may finally have to get help, but I hate to do it. I need the exercise and I prefer to spend the money on stuff. Oh well.)  I have to give Geoffrey credit though. He manfully did the laundry (and folded it — setting it out in neat piles like decorations all over the bedrooms, hee hee), the yard, the animals, even the bathrooms (!!) and still got all his work done. Then he gave me the most thoughtful Valentine gift and card. What a good guy.

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One thing I discovered while in SD is that the places above Downtown are referred to collectively, by the locals, as Uptown.  I hadn’t really known any other place that seriously identifies itself as Uptown, as it has sort of a noblesse oblige sound to it that relegates the term (in my mind, anyway) to the 19th century. But then I realize that I always seem to gravitate to upper reaches anywhere I go. I wonder if this is some past-life mandated longing for the Arctic? 😀

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As I wandered around taking random shots, I felt more scrutiny than usual. Literally people eyeing me suspiciously. This seems to be happening more and more and makes me less likely to drag out the big cameras and lenses and just take cell phone shots or my smallest camera and lens. I am thinking of buying a Nikon Lens Baby and just pop the smallest camera into my purse, discreetly. That is why a Rolleiflex would be so handy – as it sits at the waist, is viewed from above and no one really knows you are taking pictures.

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This last trip to the southern reaches made me realize as well that I had not been to Downtown San Diego at all.  I am going to have to remedy that, as it is quite unique and beautiful in its own way, much like the other old city centers around the country. That will be upcoming.

Now I have rambled on enough, caught you up. Still raining here every week. Can you believe it? I hope it continues as it makes me feel like I am back home in NY.

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I will be around to visit my friends here. A hug to you all in a belated Valentine wish.

Images: Chez Bibi assets: Uptown San Diego 

 

 

 

 

 

Wasms

I wasn’t going to post this week, as I have been swamped down here with getting the house in better shape, helping care for the baby, running around shopping with Deanna et al. and dodging the torrential rains (joy!).

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But I had to say something today as the New Deal and Great Society draw to a close.

Yesterday, I heard an interview with a man in Erie, PA who explained why he voted for the next man to enter the Oval Office, later today. He said it was because he had “borrowed a million dollars from his father and made it into ten billion”. I felt sorry for that guy. That was an urban myth that has floated on the surface of superficial factism that has now characterized the news for the past eight years.  What that man and many like him doesn’t know is that the current electee received two hundred million dollars upon the death of his father and only has three-quarters of it left.

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I am simultaneously reading a prodigious 1100 page tome on Nixon. What strikes me is how the politics and shenanigans of dirty pool and lies of that day were exactly as they are today. Nixon was a much more fit occupier of the roles he assumed but just as underhanded and ruthless in politicking as the future POTUS. Nothing much has changed, except the blindness of the voters here and the far right politicians who pushed back on tricky Dick in those days who seem absent today.  Everyone is onboard with his fleecing the public now. And the press is luke-warm in exposing the true agenda.

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What we are losing is the calm, intelligent, deliberative, intellectually curious mind of a dedicated humanitarian for a selfish, egotistical, inflated dabbler who will offload his duties to his daughter, her spouse and his VP. I never thought I would be grateful for that trio of fools, but I am. The last person who should be “guiding” our country is the man only a few sad, misguided, desperate people voted for in three rust-belt states.  I know those people are suffering. At least they are used to it, because it will continue and then some. They are living in their own fantasy now and I hope it carries them through what is ahead. They failed to take the policies espoused to their logical conclusion, something every good logician should do.

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Goodbye science, education, ecology, gun-safety, international harmony, free speech, honest press, access, transparency, social security, medicare, medicaid, earned benefits, low inflation, bank oversight, the helping hand, Americanism.  Think about what’s in store. Russophiles have triumphed. Even Nixon would be horrified.

Images: Thomas Kincaid in the public domain

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/exposure/

Lake effects, no?

First off, Happy 2017!

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This may be a completely disjointed post. Hopefully short on verbiage and long on photos.

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We had a whirlwind Christmas with visitors and trips to the mountains, dinners out, and crazy weather.

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Seriously, we are having lots of precip, which for us is a miracle. Cold enough to drape everything around us in beautiful white snow.

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As I am writing this morning, it is raining outside. It has rained off and on for three weeks. Hope it continues.

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I will be heading down to our other house on Sunday and staying through January. One reason is I have volunteered to help with the new baby. Another thing is getting our house in better shape. It’s still chaos. Wish me luck.

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We walked around our lake on Christmas eve, so you can see some of the shots I took. All the lights were magic and just seemed to dance and float on the water at blue hour. The rest are on my Flickr page.

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Do you make goals for each new year? I usually think about them briefly and promptly forget them, LOL. This year it will be more organizing and decorating.  I need to start a serious purge of things that are just being stored and never used. I am such a materialist in many ways that I hate to part with anything I like, and I like everything I buy. Ha!

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My Israeli friends, who I have known since our days in NYC, have assured me that Trump’s election was an angelic-instigated event and that he will save the world from impending doom. Oh Boy. I try to keep an open mind and they kept telling me that they are plugged in to the real news, while ours is “cooked”. OK, let’s see what happens … but!

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One of Geoff’s brothers gave me a book for Christmas on the coming financial collapse, based on the fact (among other things) that the credit default swaps practice is worse than ever. It even says something about the Ice Nine Freeze or something like that, which portends all our assets being frozen and seized to prevent the world financial system from complete annihilation. Do what? Put cash under the mattress?

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I figure I have at least one marketable skill for the apocalypse: I am a trained baker. Provided we have ovens, that is — or hot rocks? 😀

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My presence here in January will be spotty but I will try to get around to everyone. I am so grateful to all of you, my community, which seems to be growing without me doing anything special.

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Thank you for putting up with me.

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More soon … hugs. ❤

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Images: Chez BeBe assets: Bridgeport/Valencia, California

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/float/

Winter thou goest – Part I

Clearly my thoughts have evolved on this blog as to what I can do for you, what I can share to make your life more beautiful after you visit here, and am pleased to have settled on creating a trave…

Source: Winter thou goest – Part I