The Kids Are Alright…But Life Is Hard. Cobalt Cafe to Close After 23 Years

The beloved all-ages venue in the far west Valley that has given thousands of local kids their start in music, tens of thousands of poets a chance to read their work, and probably millions of young people to tag/sticker bathrooms (and hallways…and sidewalks…and rear exterior walls…and everything else), and just generally get the F outta the house without having to go to the mall–will be closing at the end of the month. I regret to pass this news on so late but I only just found out myself.

Vanna, 2009, Creative Commons by photog Carly Hoskins.
Vanna, 2009, Creative Commons by photog Carly Hoskins.


Extremely patient and awesome owner Dave Politi founded the Cobalt Cafe coffeehouse in 1991. Grunge was a rising tide, emo was in its early stages, weird ska/funk/pop-punk hybrids particular to the Valley and south LA in general were bubbling up from high schoolers’ garages, and Starbucks wasn’t here.
I was a high school goth chick, shy as hell and loathe to speak to anyone. My friends’ bands played the shows. Seeing them, their openers, and those for whom they opened, up close and personal on a stage about a foot off the ground and approximately three feet from my face so their sweat flew in my eyes, lit off a fuse within myself that altered my DNA, transformed my passions and creative dreams forever. I got up the guts to read my mediocre emo high-school-girl poetry at the weekly poetry readings.

Credit Cobalt Cafe. Artist & photo unknown, obtained from Wikimedia Commons via Creative CommonsI got to know people. I became a regular. I met my first long-term boyfriend there, played chess there, bought punk records from unknown bands there from small private presses before records were collectors’ items, met some of the folks I’d run into long, long down the line ten years later in Silver Lake at Spaceland (and in other rooms), watched the comfy overstuffed furniture go the way of the dodo (too many episodes of puking, sweating and cigarettes leads them to an early grave), giving way to a more Spartan interior.  People liked my poetry enough that I got a featured reading at a coffeehouse on Sunset Blvd, and I kept writing long into my late 20s. I sometimes wonder if all that writing didn’t lay the groundwork for my public blogging and journalism career, which itself has led to experiences and interactions that could never have been imagined by the mind of a repressed, shy 17-year-old black-lipstick-wearing girl in 1996.

Augustus, 2005, photog Stacey Jischke via Creative Commons
Augustus, 2005, photog Stacey Jischke via Creative Commons
Photo credit Cobalt Cafe.
R.I.P. overstuffed chars and couches.
Bitter End in 2011, photog Robert Bejil via Creative Commons.
Bitter End in 2011, photog Robert Bejil via Creative Commons.

Every time I have returned to the Valley to see a line of self-conscious green-and-black-haired high schoolers goofing off with each other in front of the venue, or bros in short pants and Deftones t-shirts unloading a 350 Ford, I have smiled to myself, grateful that sometimes, good things don’t change, and that there’s a place for us weirdos to go–still. Yeah, sometimes the music sucked. Well, usually it does when people are that green. But it was music, and we–now, they–were and are making it. Some of them got really, really good. Some of the poets went on to long careers as luminaries in the poetry arts scene throughout the US. Records were make, books published. Creative dreams came true.

The cool blue light and scrawled-upon bouncer's desk in front of the venue.

The place reeked of sweat, coffee and cigarettes; the bathrooms are an archaeological dig though layers of paint, Sharpie, and stickers; sometimes the baristas were overwhelmed or had a ‘tude (as is proper, whiners!), but that all just made it better. I have been everywhere, man, and seen a lotta shows, but the Cobalt was the most genuine, unprepossessing, free-spirited creative fermentation machine I had ever seen. You did not have to be hip to walk in. You did not have to wear the right clothes. In fact, it’s still pretty hipster-repellent.

Sadly, Dave’s got his own Life S**t going on these days, and there’s less and less money coming in the doors with promoters and bookers being less supportive than they used to be; and let’s face it, non-Starbucks-priced coffee will never keep an indie business afloat, especially when your clientele is allowed to just hang out and buy nothing the entire time they’re there.

Dave Politi should be lauded for giving so much of his life and energy to a cause–“the kids” and “the music” and “the words”. The longtime host of Tuesday Night Poetry–he’s been doing it almost as long as the Cobalt was open–Rick Lupert–should be thanked, and I encourage you to see him read his funny and thoughtful work at other venues around town. All the hosts of Monday night open mics, all the baristas who endured patiently for many years, every doorman who had to bust kids doing the things that kids do–thank you, one and all. Here’s to the Cobalt Cafe. From such a humble little corner of the West San Fernando Valley, her influence has already spread around the world. Dave and the Cobalt are studies in how simply making space for others to be themselves, can ripple outwards in a quietly irresistible wave of transformation.

Hover over photos for Creative Commons/other photo credits.


Free stuff from Honda Black Friday until Christmas

I don’t know which tagline to use for this post.  “Happy Honda Days” and “Helpful Honda Man” both apply here.  In short starting Black Friday through Christmas the Honda Dealers are sponsoring a fun promotion.  They’ll have guys in blue Honda shirts working the malls handing out free hot cocoa and coffee.  They’ll be passing out mints too to kill the coffee breath.  Drive a Honda?  Really look for their big blue Honda gas truck…they’ll fill you for free!  They did it last year and worked the city from The Valley to the South Bay…probably the same range again this year so do be on the look out.

Grazing your way through the L.A. County Fair

official post card
Official Post Card of the L.A. County Fair

Well, its that time of year again, and boy howdy did I have fun grazin’ my way through the Los Angeles County Fair the other day. It was Foodie night the other night, an invitation only event for us media and blogger types.  A great selection of vendors were open showing off their wares for our consumtion…and blogging later.

Of course for me it wasn’t all grazing, it was imbibing in some wonderful booze and wine and a detour through the Los Angeles County Model Railroads exhibit next to the food court.  The best part about the latter is that you get to go beyond the fence and get up close and personal with the trains and dioramas.  Win!  Continue reading “Grazing your way through the L.A. County Fair”

Get Your Fix in Studio City

Coffee Fix Studio City

Here at Blogging.LA, we’ve always got an eye out for a good cafe to #occupy while we bang out our freelance writing, novels, screenplays, and even an occasional blog entry. We Valley-dwellers don’t have much to choose from, and the list gets even shorter when you knock off the places that lock up for the night when it’s still early evening. Sure, there’s the mandatory minimum 1.0 Starbucks/square mile ratio, but we all know that doesn’t really count. Studio City’s Coffee Fix, on the other hand, does qualify. Continue reading “Get Your Fix in Studio City”

In Search of a Quiet West Side Coffee Shop

Intelligentsia Coffee
Intelligentsia Coffee in Venice

Although I work mostly from home, a large residential construction project next door this summer has pile-driven me out of the house. Therefore, I’ve been searching for the perfect West Side coffee shop in which to work. While this subject has been picked before, and others have their own considerations, I have a challenging qualification to add to the  basic requirements of tasty coffee and free WiFi: the place has to be kind of quiet.

Before you ask, I’ll answer: (1) Yes, I’ve tried local libraries. Have you  been to one lately? Loud talking and even cell phone chatting is now standard practice. (2) Yes, I own noise-cancelling headphones, and use them frequently. (3) Yes, I realize that coffee houses have a long history as places of lively conversation. (4) A real office or shared workspace? Yes, I’ve thought about it. But how’s their coffee?

Here’s what I’ve tried so far:
Continue reading “In Search of a Quiet West Side Coffee Shop”

The Pinnacle of Donut Summits

Joker Beethoven
Joker Beethoven, Jesus, and Justin Bieber all showed up

How awesome was yesterday’s 2nd Annual Donut Summit? A picture is worth a thousand words, so you can look at the pics after the jump and judge for yourself.

We had enthusiastic attendees (I estimate at least 100). We had the creative crew, especially Alexandra and Lucinda whose production and organization were off the charts. We had expert celebrity judges. And we washed it all down with stellar Intelligentsia Coffee. Yeah, it was something special.
More pics after the jump

Donuts, and donuts, and coffee, oh my!

We are very, very excited to let you know that the fine folks at Intelligentsia Coffee are sponsoring the 2011 Donut Summit, and are providing us with delicious coffee!  If more tasty donuts than you could ever hope to eat wasn’t enough of an incentive for you, then, surely, the best coffee in the city should be enough to convince you to come!

We’re also changing locations this year – so come join us on July 31, at 2pm in Elysian Park.  We’ll be in picnic area 6, which you can find on this park map.

More details to follow!  Mark your calendars for the Donutocalypse on the 31st!

Shaky Alibi Waffles Like You’ve Never Had Before

Click to make larger and more drool-worthy

There are so many reasons why I need to let you know about Shaky Alibi. Perhaps most signficantly, they have perfected the sweet/savory balance. I always have this brunch dilemma at restaurants. I often think this, above all other unmet needs, will drive me back into a serious romantic relationship: if I had a boyfriend, I could order the cinnamon apple French toast and he could order the Greek omelet and we could go halvsies. Sigh. But now, Shaky Alibi has saved me from propelling myself into yet another ill advised coupling just to avoid making up my mind about what to order for breakfast. They specialize in Belgian waffles, and by “Belgian waffles,” I mean that Mr. Shaky Alibi’s German great grandmother used to make an authentic Liege recipe that has inspired the opening of this coffee/waffle haven on Beverly Boulevard’s.

I read about the place on Urban Daddy a while back but only recently got a chance to go there. What hooked me in the review was the fact that the espresso is infused with tobacco and chocolate notes. I should have gotten a photo of the machine when I was there but I didn’t (I was too overwhelmed with the waffle), so you’ll have to trust me when I say it’s a thing of beauty–orange with lots of chrome. The espresso is delicious, so much so that I couldn’t even bring myself to try the shots of liquid chocolate. Let me say that again in case you weren’t paying attention: shots of liquid chocolate. Fuck yeah. [An aside: with all due respect to Urban Daddy, here are two differences between a review and an Urban Daddy review. First, we say “fuck yeah” when we really like something (well, at least some of us do). And second, while Urban Daddy says you can meet up here “before catching Inception at the Grove,” I’d suggest it’s equally well located for a pre-Tapeheads screening at the New Beverly get together, except that Shaky Alibi closes too early–5pm Sunday and Monday, 7pm Tuesday through Thursday, 11pm Friday and Saturday.]

Yes, I came for the espresso, but I stayed for the waffle. Just cast your eyes on that beauty. It was delicious–a funnel cake-beignet-ish waffle sliced in half and filled with black forest ham and fontina cheese. This is what happens to a Monte Cristo when it grows up and goes to finishing school. Plus the place itself is well appointed and has cute and friendly servers. What more could you want? So now, in a three block stretch of Beverly, there is Susina Bakery, Milk, and Shaky Alibi. I’m calling it LA’s newest dessert row. Next time I’m committed to getting at least one shot of drinking chocolate.

Sunday 9am-5pm
Monday 8am-5pm
Tue-Thurs 8am-7pm
Fri-Sat 8am-11pm

Canter’s: The Famous Jeanie

Jean and Mel

At the back of Canter’s, on the far left side, there is a wall of photos with stars, personalities, regular customers, family and friends. This is one of those pictures (Taken by Kev-O). That’s Jeanie with Mel Brooks.

Jeanie has worked here for 54 years.

I’ll give you a minute to comprehend that.

54 years.

(Quick interruption here: it is now 7:19 and there are 3 patrons, not including me.)

Jeanie moved here with her husband and kids from Chicago a long time back. Her parents had already moved out here and they lived on Robertson and Cadillac which she called “West LA.” She had two babies at the time and needed to work so she started at Canter’s. Her husband (who passed away 13 years ago) had been a taxi driver in Chicago but got a job as a mail man here on LA. Both her kids and grandkids live in other states now.

Jeanie says the secret to her success is that she’s very friendly. “It takes a lot to make me angry.” She’s built quite a following and loves to kibitz around with her customers. She’s become good friends with many people you may have heard of, Michael Mann and Shotgun Kelly, as a couple of for-examples.

Her birthday was last Thursday and she worked on Wednesday night, which is when Shotgun (she calls him Shotgun) usually comes in. The Canter’s family got a big cake for her and Shotgun got up, grabbed a ketchup bottle and serenaded her with a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday.

Everybody loves Jeanie. She’s famous and she says that everything she’s done, tv shows, documentaries, movies, newspaper and magazine articles, it’s all because she’s been here at Canter’s.

I hope some day I can say I’ve done something I love for 54 years.

If you want to meet Jeanie, she’ll be here until about 1pm today. We’ll be here until noon, blogging and collecting canned food and cash for the LA Foodbank.

Canter’s: Can’t Decide What To Have For Breakfast

Breakfast is my favorite meal. I’ve been here almost an hour and still can’t decide what I want to eat. I love pancakes. I love bacon. I love french toast. I love eggs. I love toast. I love biscuits. I love bagels. I love almond croissants.

What to do, what to do!

This just in: Mr. Canter has arrived!

ICME – Episode 4.5 – A New Cuppa

Pic by Melinda Canett
"TK-421, Why aren't you at your post?" "I needed a Latte."

So, this caught my eye, but it caught it on Facebook. My friend Melinda snapped this from her cell and posted it there with the title, “Storm Troopers need coffee breaks too.”  She was kind enough to let me share it with you. (I have agents in the field!)

Where else but Los Angeles can you happen across a Stormtrooper making a call on his cell from a coffee shop? Well, where else on Earth. I imagine it’s fairly common on the Death Star.

This does, in fact, appear to be a Coffee Bean and not the Death Star Canteen, as described by Eddie Izzard. (Be Advised, that link leads to hilarity, but there is also liberal use of the “F-Bomb.” So, its NSFW rating depends largely on your work place’s attitude toward the word, “Fuck.”Aren't you a litle Hot for a Stormtrooper?

So, I’m wondering if this is who he’s calling.

Pictured is Courtney Cruz, taken by Shannon Cottrell for the LA Weekly’s coverage of Star Wars Burlesque. Click the lovely photo to go to the article. That photo, incidentally, has been immortalized in Tattoo Ink. Click here to see the Ink, and LA Weekly’s article about that. (I don’t blame ’em, I’d be proud, too.)

<Darth Vader Voice>Impressive.</Vader>

Free Coffee At The Open Daily Launch Party Tomorrow Morning

Hey Westsiders:  tomorrow (Tuesday, February 23) The Open Daily is celebrating its launch by giving you free coffee and pastries!  The Open Daily is a new daily newsletter and blog informing you about all things Westside: Restaurants, politics, family fun, events, history, art, you name it! They want to get to know you so come by Venice Grind tomorrow morning from 8:30 to 9:00 am.

To get your free cuppa joe, go to their Facebook event page and RSVP then come by for your morning rev-up. There will also be gluten-free pastries to nosh provided by Yvonne’s Gluten Free Goodies.

If you can’t make the launch party, sign up for their free newsletter and start getting your daily helping of Westside action. You can also submit your event listing to be included in their newsletter.

See you tomorrow at Venice Grind to celebrate The Open Daily!

Venice Grind
12224 Venice Blvd.
Mar Vista

Groovin’ to R-Stew in LA’s Hippest Enclave

So, I’m in one of my favorite coffee haunts — Silverlake Coffee — doing some work and hanging out, as I often do. I’m a cheap bastard so I tend to get an iced tea (lots of caffeine, and among the least expensive drinks on the menu), do my work, and grab a dollar refill on the way out. They also have free wi-fi and don’t quibble about the fact that I spend three to five hours there and spend a grand total of three dollars and fifty cents. I try to tip well. I often fail. I’m sorry, Silverlake Coffee.

Here’s the odd thing about Silverlake Coffee, though, and I in no way mean this as a slight: The music. Right now I’m listening to Van Morrison. Earlier it was Rod Stewart. Rod Stewart! “Forever Young!” Before I moved to LA, I assumed all the coffeeshops would be blaring the hippest new music that you never heard of. Hey, that’s how it was when I lived in Boston. It was also freezing cold all the time, which is why I left.

But yeah, here I am listening to soft rock. It’s kinda cool in a weird dadaesque, juxtapositionish way, like wearing a tailored suit in a homeless shelter, or washing your hair with dish soap, or eating a vegetarian hot dog.

So: Do you care about the music your favorite coffeeshop plays? Or do you just stick headphones in your ears and turn up your own music, like the guy at the next table I’m silently making fun of? Hey! Hipster at the next table! Trim your damn beard! You look like Osama bin Amish!

As you can see, it’s a slow week for me.

PS: While I was writing this they played Rod Stewart again. “Maggie May” this time, which you gotta admit is a pretty good song.

Geisha tastings at Intelligentsia Tuesday!

Coffee geeks know that the Geisha from Hacienda La Esmeralda in Panama is one bad ass cup of coffee. So bad ass that if you are lucky enough to find it for sale, you can expect to pay upwards of $100 a pound for the beans. A single cup is over $10. If you’ve tasted it, you know it’s totally worth it. If you haven’t, well tomorrow if your lucky day! Both Intelligentsia locations (Silver Lake and Venice) will be doing a free tasting that if you like coffee, you really really don’t want to miss. Swing through Venice between 4-6pm, or Silver Lake anytime after 1pm to have a cup and talk to Devin or Chris, resident experts who can tell you all about this super rare coffee. More details on the Intelligentsia blog.

You got your DJ in my coffee shop

FuelCoffee shops have long been a kind of alternative exhibition space for various forms of creativity. From the design of the space itself, to the words scribbled down by people amped on the caffeine, to what is hanging on the walls or playing through the speakers. And in almost a reflective relationship, it’s a pretty safe bet that the worse those orbiting extras are, the worse the coffee itself will be. And justly the better one is, the better the others are. That’s why when the folks at Intellivenice (that would be the Intelligentsia in Venice) say they are bringing in some DJs to provide the soundtrack of an evening it’s a pretty safe bet this will only turn an outstanding environment into something even better.

This Friday (coupled with the monthly first Friday Venice events) they are hosting DJ Nitedog, and then following that up Saturday morning with DJ Mayer Hawthorne. The crowds on Friday might make parking a bit rough so I’d recommend walking or riding a bike if you have the option, and Hawthorne Saturday will be just the thing to help you relax for the weekend. And if you like a little education with your entertainment, apparently there are still spots in this weekends home coffee making classes.

Venice Coffeebar, 1331 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291
Sun-Thurs: 6am-10pm / Fri: 6am-11pm / Sat: 7am-11pm