Los Angeles is one of those places where you can feel like you have a purposeful life as a part of the city, that your existence is intertwined with the culture that surrounds you – as opposed to a city where you simply exist as an element within the hive. This was our first visit to Zabie’s Neighborhood Cafe in Santa Monica and the owners welcomed us as though we were familiar regulars coming in as we would on any other Sunday, you won’t find that in Phoenix very often. Caroline and I both ordered the Whole Grain Pancakes but couldn’t choose if we wanted blueberry, strawberry, or banana, so we asked for all three and that is what we got. Breakfast at Zabie’s was perfect, starting us off on the right track to enjoy our Sunday.
It was still too early to do much in L.A. – even in go-go Los Angeles. So there was but one thing to do, head on over to the beach for an early morning walk in the sand and surf. In a few hours as the day warms up, this beach like most others along the southern California coast, will fill up with worshippers of the sun. My preference is for a quiet walk on an uncongested strand where for a moment, the beach is an idyllic island setting, and it is all mine to enjoy.
Free parking is not always easy to find in L.A., as a matter of fact, just around the corner from this stop sign that asks us to "Stop Eating Animals" , we saw our first parking meter that allows the use of a debit or credit card in addition to coins. We kept on driving into the neighborhood and found an empty parking spot free of charge. Approaching this stop sign we saw a placard outside a small duplex advertising a two bedroom unit for rent. I called the number to see what they were asking for, $2,400 a month; I choked. We pay less than a third of that in Phoenix – one of the main reasons we put up with our desert town.
Years, it took years for Caroline and I to finally make the time to visit the Craft and Folk Art Museum on Wilshire Blvd across the street from the La Brea Tarpits. Every time we drove past this small museum, one or the other of us would sound off the reminder that one of these days, we need to stop in. Today was that day. On the second floor is where the exhibits begin, the museum typically hosts two artists or themes. For three and a half months, the second floor would be dedicated a bug art exhibit by Jennifer Angus, titled: All Creatures Great and Small. When you walk in to the main space, you don’t immediately recognize what you are looking at, it doesn’t even look all that striking from a distance. Then as you approach and start to see the detail of what makes up the exhibit, you are struck. You are looking at insects. Brightly colored and arranged in patterns or made up in scenes within the cases, filling in for what might normally be figures in a dollhouse. Extraordinary and fun.
The artist occupying the third floor was Ann Weber, her exhibit was titled: Love and Other Audacities. Ann weaves together large sculptures created from found cardboard. We should have started up here as her work is really nice, but being overwhelmed from the exhibit a floor below, it was hard to change channels from shock and amazement to interest and subtlety.
Time for lunch on our unfolding perfect day. I had read about Wurstküche on some blog some time ago. They have become somewhat famous and very busy. The line was longer before I snapped the photo, then it snakes through the lobby before you arrive at the cash register and place your order. We split three sausages, the Mango Jalapeno with chicken and turkey, the Rattlesnake & Rabbit with jalapeno – this is one of their signature sausages and it was yummy. The one sausage we didn’t really enjoy was the Vegetarian Mexican Chipotle, it was too spicy, and we love spicy, but there has to be other outstanding characteristic flavors besides just hot – this sausage didn’t cut the mustard. We also split an order of Belgian fries glazed in white truffle oil with two dipping sauces, the first was Bleu Cheese Walnut and Bacon, the other was Chipotle Aioli. Caroline topped off her lunch with a rare find, a bottle of Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier from Bamberg, Germany – a smoked beer.
Over to 2nd street for a drive through one of our favorite landmarks in L.A. – the 2nd Street Tunnel. If you don’t remember this sight, think Blade Runner, Terminator, and recently the movie Transformers. We have on previous visits taken a moment to go over to Union Station, another location used in Blade Runner. One of these days we’ll visit the Bradbury Building where many of Blade Runner’s interior shots featuring J.F. Sebastian’s apartment were filmed.
When you live in a desert, splashes of unexpected colors can be startling. We were meandering through the downtown area as we were not in a hurry to get to our next location. Along the way, we came across a bunch of Royal Paulownia trees in bloom – WOW. Our destination was Mitsuwa Marketplace at the corners of Centinela Ave and Venice Blvd. There is a Japanese grocery that also features four or five small restaurants around an open court, a Japanese bookstore is near the entrance. We stopped here Saturday night with the hope of eating at Santouka Ramen, a highly rated and super popular ramen shop, but we arrived shortly before they were closing. As we just had lunch and weren’t hungry, we wouldn’t be eating at Santouka today either, we were going back for Caroline to check the bookstore for their collection of Japanese craft books.
We had come back out towards Santa Monica and West L.A. because we had reservations for eighth row center at 4:00 p.m. at The Landmark Theatre on Pico Blvd for a showing of The Tree of Life. This and the Burmese food were the main reasons for our weekend trip to southern California. I was nearly certain that The Tree of Life would not play in Phoenix, or if it did, it might play to near empty theatres for a week and be gone. As it turned out, The Tree of Life would end up playing in Phoenix for almost two months – who knew? Yes, it was worth it, driving to L.A. for a movie – we loved it.
After the movie we took a drive through Hollywood. By 8:30 p.m. we were getting hungry again but with so many choices of small funky little restaurants, it is hard to choose one. We had considered Korean in the Koreatown district but kept on driving looking for something really different. Then at 8:58 p.m. on a Sunday night we spot this place called Green Leaves Vegan Vegetarian Restaurant
on Santa Monica Blvd in West Hollywood. Drats, it’s 8:58, they’ll never seat us, but we’ll try anyway. Hey, no problem, come on in have a seat – we are open until 12:00 a.m. Big frowns ensue for the city we live in, is anything open past 9:00 p.m. on nearly any day of the week in Phoenix? I’ve stated this before on my blog, I am not vegetarian, Caroline is, but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying something different, and for most of the country, vegan and vegetarian is as exotic as finding cuisine of central Africa. This place rocks, we split the Cha Cha Pumpkin – worth coming back for. The other dish is lost to forgotten memories, but it must have been good too, because we both want to go back.
Now this was a perfect day.