Los Angeles

teachersdesk.jpgAs I have mentioned, I am a teacher in the LAUSD and this year the budget cuts cost me dearly. I lost the auxiliary class I have taught for the last nine years, and though this class added the stress of an extra preparation, it also padded my wallet, which made it a little easier for me to inure myself to teaching four one-and-a-half-hour classes each day with only two scheduled breaks, twenty and thirty minutes each. Gates and locks define the boundaries of the campus and these gates and locks are not to be opened until the school day ends, so this means that for the last nine years, I have been almost literally chained to my desk.

Not once in nine years have I ever “met a friend for lunch” or gone off campus to “grab a bite.” Since there is really no time to do anything but teach my classes, answer student questions, and make small talk in the bathroom line, I practically live in my little isolated realm. I have packed my little island with the essential modern conveniences like a fridge stocked with berries, Greek yogurt, organic peanut butter, whole grain bread, cheese, water, juice; a kettle to boil water for my coffee and oatmeal; and my iPhone so I can enjoy the promise of at least some contact with the outside world during those two luxurious breaks I get.  A colleague of mine once asked whether I was hiding a Murphy bed in my book closet.

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saba.jpgLiving in Southern California, we enjoy rich ethnic diversity. Those of us who explore culture through cuisine are very happy about that. Located in West Los Angeles, Yabu, which has a devoted following and is a good example of a neighborhood Japanese restaurant. Because Yabu has a much larger, sister restaurant in West Hollywood, when you call to make a reservation, you will be asked to confirm that you want to eat at the Pico restaurant.

You do.

There are lots of chain restaurants with Japanese names, but Yabu's kitchen prepares authentic Japanese comfort food. Serving lunch (Mon.-Sat.) and dinner (Mon.-Sun.), the restaurant is perfect to drop in for a quick bite at the sushi bar or with family and friends to hang out at one of the tables tucked into the corners of the room. Order cups of hot green tea, ice cold bottles of Japanese beers or hot (or cold) sake and try out new dishes as you enjoy easy conversation and good food.

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ImageHeadaches are the worst. And if you don't catch them right when they start, they're hard to cure. I've had one for four days. My mom told me to drink lemonade.

Lemonade?

I've taken naps, sat in dark rooms, taken Aleve, even taken Fiorinal. What the eff is lemonade gonna do?

But I was desperate, and unable to operate a motor vehicle, so I walked to Cabbage Patch.

I told them my mom sent me and was convinced they could cure my headache. As if that was a normal thing to say to a cafe owner.

He told me of course they could and prescribed French lentils (which were beautifully presented with avocado and drizzled oil and tasted like they could purify your soul) and told me the mint lemonade was on Dr. Cabbage Patch. 

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hmsqueenmary.jpg This year on my summer vacation I actually played tourist in my own home town. I've lived in Los Angeles for 20 years – never thought I would be here this long – and have pretty much seen/done everything over the years. Or so I thought. With keyboard at the ready, I searched the Internet for attractions that would appeal to both adults (me and my sister) and our 16-year-old niece, sort of a child, until you have to pay for her. 

Since the trip was for her birthday and she loves animals, especially sea creatures, the Aquarium of the Pacific was a must-stop. I had no issue with driving to Long Beach, but the aquarium is not that big and I didn't want to go down and back in the same day, as we'd assuredly end up spending more time in the car than experiencing the wonders of the deep.

I knew the Queen Mary was right across the bay and figured that would be an interesting thing to see, too. (Well at least for the real adults.) There's nothing wrong with learning a little something on your vacation, right?

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Suzanne Goin, the uber-talented celebrity chef of Lucques and A.O.C. Wine Bar fame, was rumored to be the front runner for the 2005 James Beard Chef-of-the-Year award, and as far as I was concerned, she could just skip the swim suit competition and pick up her gold toque and tongs. Because praise the lord and pass the friggin’ salt cod, if food could cure cancer, it would be this food. May The God of Good Eatin’ please keep Suzanne Goin’s hands hale, hearty, and forever heating up the small plates. 
   
sign.jpg Having earlier experienced both the exquisite pleasure and excruciating pain that comes from washing down four or five pounds of Chicken Liver pate with fifteen dollar glasses of 2001 Chateauneuf du Pape, I was careful to prepare my sensitive digestive tract by fasting for practically an entire half-day on Fiji Natural Artisan water, plus a supplemental half-inch rind of smoked salami that I discovered under a plastic tankard of Barefoot Contessa Moussaka that I accidentally made five weeks ago in a bizarre attack of culinary industry. As a note, I have a firm policy of never throwing away any left-over that originally took more than sixty minutes to prepare,  unless it starts to stink worse than my daughter’s feet did after two weeks at Catalina Camp, where filth is a fashion statement. 

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