All posts by Kevin Ott

Kevin was discovered in 1987 by a team of climatologists deep within a Greenland glacier, wearing a flight engineer's coveralls and carrying what appeared to be a United States nickel dated 1332 and bearing the image of Tomas de Torquemada. After years of socialization and language training (he only spoke Middle French and had a paralyzing fear of birds), he was allowed to rejoin modern society. Today he lives in Los Feliz with his girlfriend, Alanna, and makes a hobo's ransom working as a freelance writer.

What’s Your Favorite Bookstore?

I don’t own a Kindle. Or a Nook, or any of those other digital book-reader things. Maybe they’re more awesome than I think – I’ve actually never really even tried one – but nothing beats the feeling of walking out of a bookstore with a book in your hands.

That’s why I’m glad The Last Bookstore in LA had its grand re-opening last week, after vacating its former (and much tinier) spot at 4th and Main. Los Angeles may not be Seattle, but we’ve got our fair share of great little bookshops.

Me, I’m a fan of Skylight and Wacko, mostly because both are walking distance from my apartment. I also love two Glendale shops right across the street from each other, the Brand Bookshop and Mystery & Imagination (whose sign outside actually reads “BookFellows”). And I know at least one of my fellow bloggers (as well as many of you, I’m sure) is a fan of Book Soup (and with good reason; that place rocks). And I know Travis is a fan of the Taschen shops; I like the one in the Farmers Market because I pass it on my way home from work every day.

But I’m sure there are a bunch I don’t know about. What’s your favorite bookshop in LA?

The sidewalk’s for regular walkin’, not fancy walkin’

Missing Persons was wrong. The problem isn’t that nobody walks in LA.

No, actually, the opposite is true: On warm days like the ones we’ve been having lately, nearly everyone gets out and does a little perambulating. No, the problem is that when people in Los Angeles choose to use the sidewalk, they do so while forgetting or being wholly ignorant of the rules of sidewalk travel.

Seriously: My resolution for the second half of 2011 is to try to be a little more cognizant of my fellow pedestrians, which means staying alert and making sure to share the concrete with everyone. And, frankly, I think some of my neighbors could use a little refresher on sidewalk etiquette as well; the sidewalks here tend to be narrower than in other metropolitan areas, and it’s a bit more of a challenge to maintain proper respect for the people around you. As such, hereare some answers to a few of the more frequently asked questions about sidewalk etiquette:

Continue reading The sidewalk’s for regular walkin’, not fancy walkin’

Blogging (in) LA: Reddit Los Angeles

OK, so it’s not technically a blog. Or, I dunno, is it?

Spend more than five or so hours a week on the Internet and you’re bound, at some point, to come across Reddit: A group blog with about a zillion users who post questions to other members, links to interesting (or, more often, snicker-inducing) content, conversation starters and the like. The entire site is composed of smaller “subreddits” that focus on specific topics, like world news or sandwiches.

One of the best is Reddit Los Angeles, where users post all sorts of stuff about our fair city, like this reminder that LACMA is free on Memorial Day, or this picture of the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile at Griffith Park Observatory, or this discussion of street-paving inequality.

If you want to post or take part in the discussions, you have to be a registered Reddit member, which takes nothing more than a username and password (you don’t even need to give ’em an email). But lurking really gives you everything you need, whether it’s a primer on local brewpubs, a food truck alert, or tips on living in LA without air conditioning.  Of course, if you do sign up, you can take part in meetups, buy some dude’s fish tank, join a D&D group, or share vital information about a missing dog.

I kind of prefer Reddit Los Angeles to a lot of other LA blogs; because there’s such a broad diversity of personalities among members, you don’t get that off-putting sense of you-should-totally-care-what-I-think self-importance that many individual bloggers seem to develop (a phenomenon that isn’t at all limited to LA blogs). It’s not exactly a good place to read a good restaurant review or an account of someone’s urban expedition, but  it’s an excellent resource for finding other LA-related web resources. And the conversations are good, too.

Blogging (in) LA: The LAFD Blog

Generally, I’m a pretty skeptical person, but for some reason I always thoroughly enjoy in-house blogs. Maybe it’s because the best of them aren’t simply shills for the parent organization, but providers of interesting or valuable information. I always cite the Google Blog as Exhibit A.

In Los Angeles, one of my favorite in-house blogs is the Los Angeles Fire Department’s. Aside from providing a pretty comprehensive list of brush fires in the area — useful for those of us who enjoy hiking — it also features occasional heartwarming gems like last week’s hawk rescue in Woodland Hills, or the most recent post detailing the rescue of nine pets from a Hollywood Hills home.

Lest you think the LAFD blog is full of self-congratulatory posts about cuddly animals, wonder no more; the blog doesn’t shy away from mentioning deaths from fire, both animal and human. It reports firefighter injuries as well. A strong part of the blog’s mission is encouraging public safety, as evidenced by this post featuring images of a suspected arsonist.

If I’m being completely honest, not every post is a winner; the post congratulating Seal Team Six for killing Osama bin Laden was a nice gesture, but is more press release-y than truly informational. But who am I to judge? On my own blog I once wrote a 300-word post on oatmeal. And that was after writing a separate 200-word post that also featured oatmeal.

Overall: Great blog, and thanks to the LAFD for maintaining such a friendly and positive presence on the web. Oh, and also for making sure we don’t all die in fires. That probably also deserves some thanks.

Menu Mining: Iced Chai & Red Velvet Latte at Sabor y Cultura

Like a lot of Angelenos with extremely tenuous connections to the entertainment industry, I spend a lot of time in coffee shops. As a result I’ve learned a lot of things. Like the fact that Starbucks coffee tastes more or less like an armpit no matter what you do to it. Or the fact that male-to-female transgendered folks sometimes have to shave their nether regions in coffeeshop bathrooms. I sympathize, ladies, I do. But you could at least flush after.

But the nice thing about frequenting the coffeeshops of LA is finding the best drinks. Sabor y Cultura at 5625 Hollywood Blvd (Facebook, Yelp, Citysearch) has two of these: The iced chai latte and the red velvet latte.

Still life with iced chai.

Continue reading Menu Mining: Iced Chai & Red Velvet Latte at Sabor y Cultura

Has anyone seen a Papaya King truck?

An adorable future hot dog. Photo by Flickr usr be_khe.

I saw one a day or so ago, in Hollywood, and was baffled, because I hadn’t yet heard the news that the famed NYC hot dog merchant was opening up a restaurant here in town. Now I wish I had snapped a picture, but alas, my phone sucks anyway. A quick tl;dr for those too lazy to click the link: There’s a Papaya King opening up in Hollywood later this year, and they’re starting the party early by tooling around town in a food truck.

As a fan of mechanically-separated beef and pork sausages this excites me; as a native Philadelphian who thinks LA kicks NYC’s ass in every possible regard while barely breaking a sweat (sorry, Travis), I’m a little dismayed. What, Pink’s extra-salty tube steaks don’t satisfy anymore? Skooby’s can’t slake your thirst for hot, glistening wieners? A thick, hot, West Hollywood-style pork dachshund slapped between two warm and willing buns at the Sunset Strip Carney’s just doesn’t do it for you anymore? Fine, LA. Turn to the New Yorkers. See if I care.

Ah, who am I kidding? I’ll try it and I’ll probably like it. Unless the casing is thick. My girlfriend is a New Jerseyan who thinks that hot dogs are best when they snap when you bite them. She is beautiful, and I love her, but she is woefully wrong. We’ll see how these Papaya people measure up.

So, anyone seen the truck? Readers with pics of the truck can post links, or give me permission and I’ll post one here.

Before you blast that beehive…

Terrifying! But ecologically important. Photo by Bilby.

UPDATE: If you’re interested in learning more about bees and colony collapse disorder, you should head to one of the Laemmle Theaters this weekend to see VANISHING OF THE BEES, a new documentary on that very subject. It’s narrated by Ellen Page, who I’m pretty sure I saw in Whole Foods once, so I have a personal interest in this film.


Let’s face it: Honeybees are jerks. They fly around your face, buzzing and buzzing, trying to get you to swat them so they have a legally bulletproof excuse to sting you. They’re the Nelson Muntzes of the animal kingdom. If they were bigger than us and had hands, they’d constantly be imploring us to Stop Hitting Ourselves. So when you find a beehive on your property, your first reaction might be to call in Seal Team Six.

But wait. Little snots that they are, honeybees play a valuable role in the natural environment. They provide free, natural pollination to commercial crops, valued in the billions of dollars. They also produce honey, without which we would not have the hilarious adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh. So it’s important to maintain the bee population, particularly in light of their recent decline in population.

Fortunately, the Backwards Beekeepers are here to help.

Continue reading Before you blast that beehive…

Friday Night Bumpin’ of the Brains: Cornel West & Carl Dix

Does your brain have plans Friday night? Why not treat it to some much-needed nourishment? Come on, you know it deserves it — after a week of mind-numbing work, royal wedding news and Fast Five trailers, your gray matter could use some exercise.

Not to worry: We’ve got just what it needs. Cornel West — yes, that Cornel West, the Princeton prof, the cerebellum of the civil rights movement, the guy who calls everyone “brother,” even people who vehemently disagree with him — will be chatting with Carl Dix, conscientious objector founder of the American Revolutionary Communist Party. What are they gonna talk about? I’m guessing bundt cake recipes.

No, seriously: They’ll be discussing the state of education in America against the backdrop of police brutality and the prison system. The discussion begins at 7 PM at the DeNeve Plaza Lecture Auditorium at UCLA.

EDIT: Forgot to post the link. Here you go.

Bears Love Chicken, Because Chicken Is Delicious

Unlikely to be a problem

First the lizards invaded Los Angeles. Now it’s the bears. No, not that kind. Stop it, you.

I live in Los Feliz and see plenty of coyotes (no, not that kind; stop it, you) and even the occasional hawk. But I’ve never seen a bear. For that, I’d need to move to Altadena, apparently; recently, bears have been showing up there at an unprecedented rate, devouring domestic chickens and getting shot by possibly unscrupulous residents (Warning: Somewhat unsettling photo of an adorable bear cub lying dead).

Apparently, though, bears are not a huge deal in the northern environs; residents report sightings all the time, last week’s ursine poultrophile notwithstanding. But it’s unlikely anyone will get hurt. In the past three decades, only about a dozen bears have attacked humans, and that’s throughout the state of California. If you’re a human, and you live in the LA environs, bear attacks probably aren’t something you need to worry about.

But whether two sudden reported bear incidents is a symptom of human encroachment or  journalistic follow-the-leader is beyond my ken. Any Altadenans or wildlife biologists out there care to comment?

We’ve Got Valentine’s Day Licked: Forplay

I’ve always sort of wondered what the deal was with costume and role-playing fetishes. Here’s the thing: There’s rarely any real spectrum of social equality.

Seriously. One one side, there’s the dominatrices and the angry schoolteachers, and on the other there’s the naughty girl scouts and remarkably accommodating flight attendants. Either your boss is taking off her blazer to punish your tardiness with what must certainly be a violation of some kind of workplace sexual harassment policy, or you’re putting the waitress over your knee for misunderstanding your request for “cream gravy on the side.” The power dynamic is always deliberately tilted.

Yeah, yeah, I know: There’s no fetish that doesn’t exist, everyone has differing tastes, Rule 34, yada yada yada. Whatever. I’m well aware of my limitations; I download a lot of porn, and I’m sure I haven’t seen a millionth of what’s out there. But I digress: Regardless of what your costume fantasies are, Forplay in Hollywood is probably the place for you.

Actually, most of the costumes are in the back of the store, and there’s a bit of a thrift-store feel to going through the racks, as they’re pretty disorganized and many are unlabeled. But a little dedication will reveal pretty much whatever you need. Several were, oddly enough, military-themed, and I found enough fairy tale outfits to make me wonder if there’s a dirty movie where someone in a Snow White costume gets drilled by seven little people in turn. Producers, my email is at the top of the article.

More common are the “theme” outfits, ranging from 60’s hippie to, um, sommelier, which was a little weird. Yes, there’s a sexy sommelier costume. No, I do not know which wine pairs well with pussy.

Other folks who might feel at home at Forplay: Leg and foot fetishists. There’s an absolutely huge selection of thigh-high stockings: Argyle, animal print, neon, nurse-themed, fishnet… the list goes on. And once you come to the end of the stocking selection, the wall drops away and you happen upon the surprisingly generous sexy shoe selection. Seriously: It’s like someone built a Foot Locker with the express purpose of encouraging public boners. I’m not into heels, and even I got a little al dente.

For such a sex-positive place, though, Forplay’s selection of actual sex toys is pretty underwhelming. Locked in a glass counter at the front of the store, it seems almost like an afterthought. It’s mostly a heap of nipple clamps and cock rings with a riding crop sticking out of it. Unlike the rest of the store, it’s pretty unimpressive.

Which isn’t to say the cock rings themselves were unimpressive. Like hula hoops those things were.

Changes coming for the Los Feliz post office

I love the Los Feliz post office. It’s walking distance from my apartment, it’s got one of those package machines in the front lobby so you don’t have to stand in line, and the employees are so sweet that I often wonder whether they’re some sort of unholy human-dessert hybrid born of mad culinary science, a theory bolstered by the building’s proximity to the House of Pies, which is another great reason to go there.

But changes are brewing. First, as Jodi blogged a while back, the parking lot — which used to be free to use after the post office was closed — is now an income-generator for the US Postal Service. And the building itself might be seeing some changes, as a postal representative recently told the Los Feliz Ledger. Change #1: It might be sold.

Don’t worry too much, though — the postal rep, Richard Maher, told the Ledger there’d be some stipulations, mainly that the retail postal service still be in operation no matter what happens on the site. So we’d still be able to buy stamps and maintain PO boxes.

If I can still use the package machine and buy stamps, I’m not too concerned about the loss of the post office as a sorting station (or whatever other behind-the-scenes function it may serve). And if half the structure turns into some kind of restaurant or store, so much the better. And there’s always the super-sketchy postal station on Western just south of Sunset, which is far as I know is in no danger of going anywhere.

So what do you think? What would you like to see there?

Parking Is About To Get Worse

Living within walking distance of Los Feliz Village means never having to park there (which is fortunate, considering you can’t park there for free anymore). And what’s more, I can easily walk to just about anywhere I want to go — grocery stores, Thai take-out, even the movies. So take that, seminal new wave band Missing Persons: Some people do walk in LA.

But occasionally I like to put on a pair of pants that don’t close with a drawstring and go out for a night on the town. Usually, this means shelling out a few bucks to park. And I always counted myself lucky that I didn’t live in one of those insanely expensive east coast cities that charges as much as $20 for a single evening of parking. But it looks like our luck is about to run out.

Mayor Villaraigosa has proposed a plan to lease several city-owned parking structures to private investors, and in turn allow the owners of other structures — in a move I don’t totally understand — to triple their rates over the next five years. That means the cost of parking for dinner and a movie at the Arclight Hollywood could go to ten bucks.

In a way, I’m relieved. More expensive parking means I’ll make more of an effort to find street parking somewhere in the vicinity and just walk to my destination. I don’t mind strolling a few blocks if I can leave my car in a decent neighborhood, and it prevents me from waiting for ten minutes behind some jackass who doesn’t care that he’s backing up traffic six cars deep because he absolutely has to have a spot that’s currently being vacated by some poor bastard who has to do a 13-point turn because the selfsame jackass is hovering four feet from his bumper.

The real down side is that I’m much less likely to be able to take part in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse wherein mysterious trench-coated men chase me through a parking garage.

I dunno. What do you think? How do you handle pain-in-the-butt parking situations? Street parking, like me? Take the bus? Or just pay the stupid fee?

Chai-Yok: Yes, You Can Get Your Vagina Steamed

"Blue-Green" by Georgia O'Keeffe. I couldn't find any Judy Chicago prints in the public domain.

Disclaimer: I do not have a vagina.

But even so, I did perk up at the article in the LA Times headlined “Vaginal Steam Bath Finds a Place Among Southern California Spa Options.”

Seriously. It’s a new spa treatment, called “chai-yok” and imported from Korea, wherein you sit on a special stool over a hot vat of herbed water that steams out your flaps. Western medicine apparently doesn’t approve, but I ask you, what has western medicine ever done for us? Huh? Cured cancer yet, there, Doctor Mensa? No? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Go prescribe some Lipitor and get out of my face.

Anyway, it can — allegedly — clear up or prevent a whole host of ills, such as menstrual cramps, bladder infections, and even infertility. Naturally, as a male of the dudely gender, I didn’t really think I’d have much use for this.

But then I noticed this wonderful sentence: “The identical treatment is available for men, to steam the perineal area.” And after a hasty Google search of the term “perineal area,” I decided that this is something that I really, really want to do.

So: Should I try it? Has anyone out there done this? Ladies? Gentlemen? Leave your experiences and thoughts in the comments.

Sweet Charity: The LA Gay & Lesbian Center

Dan Savage was right: It actually does get better.

This weekend, the Senate finally stopped screwing around for five minutes and repealed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law that — until now — has made “LGBT” pretty much the only acronym the military couldn’t handle. It’s a civil rights landmark, and a pretty great Christmas present to boot.

But there’s still a lot of work to be done, which is why organizations like the LA Gay & Lesbian Center exist.

The Center (I’m going to go ahead and call it the LAGLC) provides a pretty extensive variety of services to the LGBT community across Los Angeles, including HIV/AIDS testing and patient care; care for homeless youth, because apparently it’s goddamn 2010 and parents are still kicking their own children out of the house just for being gay; diversity training and advocacy; social networking for the queer and ally community; and a heck of a lot more.

I’m not gay, so there’s really no way I can truly understand the struggles that gay folks deal with every day. But the fact is that this is our generation’s defining civil rights issue, and the LAGLC is right there on the front lines. Toss a bit of cash their way for the holidays.