Compiling a Year-End list at the Top-End of a new year is surprisingly liberating: the last year’s over, so you don’t feel like you owe it anything. As I pointed out a few days ago, there were some things in 2009 that I could have done without. But, in the dawn of 2010, I’d like to go back and consider some of the moments that were tops last year, and are waiting to be topped this year. My Favorite Finds of 2009:
The interior of Starbuck’s Viper (above). There are props (i.e., Luke Skywalker’s light saber) and then there are props (i.e., the Millenium Falcon). The series finale of Battlestar Galactica notwithstanding (do we really need another lesson about both imperialism and the dangers of technology?) (the answer is: no, no we don’t), the sci-fi opera ended in May, concluding the run of one of the best television shows of the decade, if not straight up ever. If you haven’t started, move this one up to the top of your new year’s resolution and Netflix queue. After the series aired its final episode, the show had its last frakkin’ auction in Pasadena, during which everything from crew badges to Six’s deadly sexy red dress was auctioned off. During a preview of the auction items, I found myself inside Starbuck’s Viper (above). It was like I snuck off into my crush’s room to smell her clothes. Scary, but satisfying.
Almost salon-style cuts for $15-20, no tip. After leaving my job and needing to cut back on things, I discovered that beauty schools like Aveda and Vidal Sassoon offer super cheap cuts by their cosmetology students. Supervised by instructors, they eye your hair, help you decide on a style, and cut away. The downside is that you have to invest at least two hours to the whole affair, which is an understandable reason to stay away if you don’t have the time. For those of us now funemployed, it’s a fair trade. On top of that, these students are prohibited from accepting tips, which means the price you see is the price you pay.
You can kick out nuisance tenants even in crazy rent controlled cities like Santa Monica. I’m not particularly proud of this one, as aiding a landlord evict a tenant is fundamentally against every landlord/tenant case I’ve ever worked on as pro bono counsel, but my neighbor downstairs… From drunken rages to storming through your door unannounced, Crazy Lady was, as they say in them laws, violating every tenants’ right to quiet peace and enjoyment. Putting together the eviction papers was no fun, going to court to testify against her was no fun, but, I’ll tell you what, her demand in open court that the judge ask the neighbor’s dog – that she tried to steal, once – about how much he loves her, was pretty funny.
Unique LA. An enormous, somewhat overwhelming fair downtown held right before the holidays, the organizers of Unique LA rounded up local artists and craftspeople to set up shop and sell their wares to LA residents. Support the arts, support the community, done. Wares ranged from outrageously cheap ($5 tshirts) to outrageously expensive ($60 tote bags). Nonetheless, with persistence and the beer that came with your entrance ticket, it was all worth it. Another event is planned for the spring, so mark your calendars!!
Huckleberry’s English muffin. I found Huckleberry’s English muffin when I stopped to breathe as I inhaled their overpriced but delicious green eggs and ham (which, by the by, are not green eggs the way Idgie Threadgoode would make them; no, they’re just eggs with some sort of pesto aioli). The muffin was sweet, light, fluffy, beautiful. If I could just have the muffin every morning, sans eggs or anything else to take away from the muffin itself, I would be so, so happy.
Food trucks. Sure, there is an awful lot to be said about the vendrification of the food truck, but really, it’s about time that LA had proper street food beyond the burrito and bacon-wrapped hot dogs. Finding the Kogi truck, once, alone, in a calm before a foodie storm, and biting into a short rib burrito less than 10 minutes after I ordered it was one of the sweetest 10 minutes of 2009.
When in dire straights, honesty actually does work. I went to the hugely hyped LudoBites, and walked into a hectic night that resulted when a sous chef left the job mid-service. At most restaurants, the most you would get would be an apologetic server, maybe. On this night, you had an apologetic server (our Royal/T server did her best to handle the service gaps); an apologetic hostess (Krissy Lefebvre); and apologetic and angry-at-himself chef (Ludo). Both were unabashedly honest about the night’s problems, and in the words of Tabatha, were first to admit that that night was not indicative of their best work. So, at a dinner where I would have been extraordinarily disappointed in every way, I found myself completely understanding and forgiving. My ex-girlfriends should have been so lucky.
When in dire straights, honesty actually does work, part (a). I was lucky enough to re-try LudoBites a week later, and wow, night and day in a different country. The scallops with brown butter, pineapple, and black powder in particular were so damned good that my girlfriend licked the plate.
DASH’s online tracking system. In an ideal world, we’d have our Metro bus stops with nice little countdown clocks above them, so you knew whether your bus was running early, on time, or late (looking at you, 704). DASH’s online tracking system, in which you can check the status of your DASH bus on your phone and online, is an awesome, more economical way to achieve the same thing. That is, for those of us lucky enough to own a cell phone and/or a computer.
LEX. Hailing itself as “a lesbian cultural guerilla group,” I discovered LEX by happenstance when I visited their GenderPlay exhibit at the ONE Archives on Robertson. The founders – Lynn Ballen and Jeanne Cordova – moved back to Los Angeles a few years ago to find a somewhat disjointed lesbian cultural/political scene. Intent on pulling together disparate elements of the community while educating us youngsters of our own history, the two founded LEX. They plan additional events for 2010, all of which I’m looking eagerly towards.
MGM Auto Body. After someone somewhere in Echo Park managed to punch a hole through Yaris’s driver side door – yes, an actual effing hole – I needed to find a reliable auto body shop. On the advice of Ed Little over at Ed Little’s Auto Service, I headed over to MGM Auto Body. There, I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in something like 8 years, who also happened to be there waiting for an estimate. That was a good sign. When it came my turn, the auto body guy, Fred Ojeda, said, and I quote: “Oh man, someone put a hole in your car!” He proceeded to give me a more than reasonable estimate; he was honest about what he would, could, and might do; and he didn’t treat me like some dumb girl who didn’t know the first thing about cars (which I don’t, but that’s not the point. I run across that crap even at gas stations, when I’m squeegee-ing my windows. People, stop it.). Yaris was fixed, and we were back together in no time, continuing our hole-punching thriller that is Los Angeles traffic.
Mary Lynn Rajskub-the-comedienne-not-the-Chloe. I have a very weird crush on Mary Lynn Rajskub. I think it’s because she owns her awkwardness with such confidence that it is at once disarming and sweet. In any case, I’ve seen her standup show three times now – twice at the Steve Allen theater and once at the lovingly tiny and tattered Upright Citizens Brigade – and these were the best stand-up shows I’ve seen in a long while. If she’s around between shooting 24, you must see her.
Manohla Dargis’ review of the non-directive power of women in Hollywood, and Manhola Dargis generally. I think the critique of (the nonexistent) clout of women in Hollywood reduces to the same, boring conclusion: glass ceiling; women can’t translate their gender into financial capital; if only they could find a good screenplay and shop it around, it wouldn’t be a problem; etc., etc. Manohla Dargis, who leapfrogged from the Los Angeles Times and LA Weekly to become one of the top two film critics at The New York Times, is the exceedingly rare critic who will slam a movie for not only being bad, but socially irresponsible. Her review of The Ugly Truth, for example, was a searing critique of the treatment of women in Hollywood; going back a bit to 2005, she put out one of the very few critiques of Crash, in which she called director Paul Hagis out on making a movie that “is nothing more than an encounter session writ large.” Her recent recap of the year of women in Hollywood was a frustrating read on the decreasing role of women making movies, much less making movies about women devoid of sexism. The essay was followed-up by a fantastic, all-gloves-off interview with Jezebel (“If you buy Variety or go online and look at the deals, you see one guy after another smiling in a baseball cap. It’s all guys making deals with other guys. I had a female studio chief a couple of years ago tell me point blank that she wasn’t hiring a woman to do an action movie because women are good at certain things and not others. If you have women buying that bullshit how can we expect men to be better?”) [ital. added]. Read it, and hope that Hollywood reads and absorbs it too.
On to 2010!