Saturday, April 29, 2006

weekend plans

Sorry for the scarcity of posts, I didn't mean to alarm anybody. This working for a living thing is really messing with my blogtime. I'm working on a screenplay for the past three weeks, it's due to the producer this week. I can't say much about the project or which studio, but I can blog about the effect it has had on the rest of my life. Other than immigration protests and marches downtown, I have no idea what else is going on in the outside world.

Last night was my first night out in a long time where I didn't have to check the time and think, "Okay, gotta get back home and back to work on that screenplay." Jim and I went to Cole's for dinner, but didn't stay for I See Hawks in L.A. - I had to be up early this morning and after two drinks I was done. This morning I went to San Diego with my mom to try on a wedding dress. That's a whole other post.

Tonight, Jim and I are going to a Lyric Opera Los Angeles performance of Manon Lescat at the Los Angeles Theatre. Brady Westwater of the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council is nice enough to hook up downtown residents with some tickets, gratis, and if it's free it's me - so we're there. My brother and his date are joining us, and as usual I'm running late, so I better go. There's another show tomorrow, if you're a downtown resident and into it, hit up Brady/DLANC for tickets.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

cole's in the l.a. times

Did anyone catch this article in today's LA Times about Cole's? (Registration required)

It's social security
Everybody knows your name at L.A.'s oldest restaurant and bar.
By Margaret Wappler, Times Staff Writer
April 13, 2006

IN the swampy back room of Cole's P.E. Buffet, L.A.'s oldest restaurant and bar, the downtown dive feels like a small-town church. Lights beam through stained glass while the audience sings "amen" with the ragtag country band I See Hawks in L.A., some with their eyes closed, some holding hands.

It's the kind of moment that defines Cole's, a welcoming beacon occupying a stretch of 6th Street, an area jaunty with downtown hucksters by day and spookily desolate by night.

On this particular cold and drizzly Friday night, everyone's wearing peacoats and sweaters. But despite the New England wear and weather, this is definitely L.A. When the Hawks' Rob Waller and Paul Lacques harmonize about an SUV flipped over on the 405, the crowd whoops in knowing, ironic tones.

The dimly lighted Cole's, ratty and elegant with its old-fashioned signs advertising buttermilk for 15 cents and tiled floor covered in wood shavings, has many identities. But most of all it's a downtown institution embraced for its cheap beer, easy conversation and family-like ambience. Forget the Standard and its ilk, with prickly doormen, VIP rooms and overpriced martinis du jour, or hipster hangouts such as Pete's or the Golden Gopher, which feel more like annexes of Silver Lake. Cole's, open since 1908 and famous for its French Dip sandwiches, is where a discerning drinker can find authenticity in all its junky splendor.

Scrappy, young and fiercely tightknit, the Cole's Friday night crowd is drawn to roots, blues, country and folk-rock with retro style but modern bite. Amy Farris, Kenny Edwards and Mike Stinson have played here, plus Carlos Guitarlos, tonight content to observe in a sozzled haze from the sidelines.

I See Hawks in L.A. have played nearly every Friday without amps and only one microphone since 2003, letting the starch acoustics and attentive room carry their golden-hued music.

"Cole's is full of ghosts and history," singer and guitarist Waller says, pointing to a booth where, according to legend, Mickey Cohen and Bugsy Siegel bet on cards.

"We've played in a lot of clubs and here it's so real. We get to choose who we play with, there's no sound man messing things up, no cover. We just pass a bucket around and we do all right. It's just turned into something magical."

Many of the Hawks' fans feel the same. Rye Baerg, a UCLA student who lives in West L.A., has been coming to see the band play at Cole's for a few years. "To me there's something very honest about their music. And something very L.A.," he says. "Whenever I listen to them outside the city, it makes me think of here."

Outside of the back room, the rest of Cole's is content to listen to night manager Ali Mazarei's iTunes with its head-scratching mix of Turkish dance music, Guns N' Roses and Coldplay. For the first time, someone has hooked up the TV to a live feed of the Hawks' performance in the back, but no one pays it any mind. Patrons buzzed on Chimay, the de facto house beer, crowd into red leather booths and chatter aimlessly about work, friends and lovers, while barflies ages 20 to 50 cling to the mahogany bar or each other.

Chuck Dedeu, the bartender from Spain who calls Cole's his home away from home, has a bandage wrapped around his elbow from the blood drive Cole's hosted earlier in the day in memory of Laura Esguerra Adams, a bartender who died last year.

Mazarei has reluctantly managed Cole's for nine years as a favor to his aunt and uncle, Gitti and Marty Benishti, who bought the bar 27 years ago. But he's also had the biggest hand in rebuilding Cole's. In the mid-'90s, Cole's didn't have the customer base to stay open past 8 p.m. Though Mazarei was smart enough not to change its comfort food-heavy menu with most items priced around $5, he brought in some bands, a first for the bar.

Steadily, as downtown gentrified and the Pacific Electric building that houses Cole's rented out lofts, the establishment's fan base grew. Now it stays open every night until 10 p.m. and often later, if there's a party or a show.

THOUGH Mazarei regularly greets orders with a grunt, there's no denying his affection for many of the regulars. He knows all about them: Allan eats the same meal everyday, a turkey plate with a side of broccoli. Celia writes about downtown on her blog. The USC guys play poker with Mazarei. Cole's has become his social life.

"It's a community help-out kind of bar," he says. "It goes past employees and customers. If I'm busy, people help me out and step behind the bar."

He also admits it has its drawbacks. "This place is worse than Cheers," he groans. "Everyone knows everyone's business. I went on a date on Sunday and some of the regulars tried to meet me at the place. I had to change my plans at the last minute to throw them off my path."

But while he's in Cole's, Mazarei belongs to the customers and they belong to him. Mona Shah, a 30-year-old regular who lives in one of the Pacific Electric lofts, finds comfort in the bar's cast of characters.

"We're all living here, this weird place," Shah says about downtown L.A. "Cole's has been here for ages and ages but none of us has. These cast members are like my family. I feel safe here."

Margaret Wappler may be reached at weekend

While the article does strain for veracity in some sections, overall, it's a nice piece. But it is still open season on Ali.

Monday, April 10, 2006

i was punked

Ali tells me that I was punked. Cole's is still for sale. Yeah, like I'm going to believe anything he tells me from now on. For the record, he didn't really play an April Fool's joke on me, the sale didn't go through as planned. But as far as I'm concerned, it's open season on Ali. Anybody want to help plan payback? Should we hold the planning meeting at Phillipe's (mmmm, lamb french dip)? Let the practical jokes begin!

shopping for a new bed

One of my girlfriends emailed this picture with the subject line, "Are you and Jim looking for a bed?" A friend of hers was selling a bed and she thought Jim and I would be interested:

I am trying to sell a bed frame I recently purchased. I ordered it over the Internet - it was a bit of an impulse buy. Now that it's arrived, I realize that it doesn't go with any of my other oak furniture. I can't send it back because it was made to order. The bed frame is 100% hand carved and imported from India. The mattress is orthopedic, brand new, and hasn't been slept on. I thought I would give you first dibs, but if you know of anyone else who might be interested please forward this, as I'd like to sell it ASAP. I haven't named a price yet, but if you're interested let me know and we'll work something out. Anyway, have a look below and let me know.

I don't think it'll go with either mine or Jim's furniture, but this could be a new design direction for our future home. What do you think?

Monday, April 03, 2006

who wants to be a superhero?

This should be a hoot: Legendary comic book creator Stan Lee, SciFi Channel, and Nash Entertainment will produce a six-episode, one-hour weekly competition reality series that will challenge a lucky few to create their very own Superhero and reward the winner with the best reality competition prize yet: immortality.

Open casting calls for the reality series Who Wants to Be A Superhero are scheduled for Tuesday, April 4th (Zoinks! That's tomorrow!) at the Sunset Gower Studios in Hollywood at 10AM. If you plan on auditioning, superhero costumes are mandatory. You must also be prepared to strut your superhero, um, stuff and present your, ahem, credo. The winner of the competition gets their Superhero immortalized in a new comic book created by Stan Lee , as well as star in an original SciFi Channel movie.

From their website: don’t have to love comic books to be the Superhero we’re looking for. If you have a great imagination, love adventure, and have a hero hiding inside of you, we want you on this show. Students, teachers, firemen, soccer moms, you’re all invited to try out to see if you’ve got what it takes. From thousands of hopefuls, Stan Lee will choose 11 lucky finalists to move into a secret lair and compete for the opportunity to become a real-life Superhero!

Finalists will leave their former lives behind and live as their brainchild heroes 24/7, all under Stan Lee’s watchful eye. Each week, our aspiring heroes will be challenged with competitions designed to test their true Superhero abilities. Don’t worry, no one will be leaping over tall buildings in a single bound. Our Superheroes will be tested for courage, integrity, self-sacrifice, compassion, and resourcefulness, all traits that every Superhero must possess. In the end, only one aspiring Superhero will have the inner strength and nobility to open the gates to comic book immortality forever!

Oh yeah, must TiVo that. Just for one day I wish I could work on the Sunset Gower Studios lot again, just to see that parade. If you can't make it tomorrow, you can also send in an audition tape (more information on their website).



TUESDAY, APRIL 4, 2006 - 10 AM

1438 N. GOWER ST


Saturday, April 01, 2006

he asked me, and i said yes

Celia's engagement ring
UPDATE: It's true, we're engaged, it's not an April Fool's joke.

last days of cole's

Ali told me it's a done deal, Cole's has been sold. Previous buyers had backed out because of the landlord's "unfair" terms, which won't happen this time because his landlord bought Cole's. He said that we're probably looking at three months before Cole's as we know it is gone. Damn.