Monday, October 31, 2011

If Every Party Was a Halloween Party...

I went to a Halloween party by myself this past week. I'm used to doing things alone, having gone to bars by my lonesome once a week for a year. But that doesn't mean that I no longer have fear walking into a soiree or a bar alone. In fact, as I was wearing the board game Twister with a cutout for my head as a costume, approaching my friend's spookily decorated house, I was nervous. Did it look like I was just wearing a giant plastic sheet? Would no one want to talk to me? Would I push the girls in the bunny costumes into the bonfire? But then I remembered the magic of a Halloween party.

Halloween parties naturally give you a beginning, middle and end to a conversation. First, approaching people is rather simple, you just need to ask them what they are dressed up as or compliment their outfit. "Is that Harry Potter's wand?" or "Are you one of the boys from the film Newsies?" And then promptly break into the theme song, "Open the gates and seize the day!" People feel uninhibited to do the same to you- a handful of boys and girls were eager to talk to me about the beloved childhood game wrapped around my body.

Once the conversation is initiated, there is a plethora of things to talk about. You can discuss what inspired the costume, where it was bought and the back story behind the character. "Mr. Jailbird, why are you in prison? Are you guilty or were you just in the wrong place at the wrong time?". People watching and pointing things out to each other is also a fun way to keep the connection going. Once you've secured this initial bond, you've got some fodder to keep the conversation going or sufficient insight to decide if it's time to find a new friend with whom to discuss make believe.

A Halloween party then naturally gives you an out. "Oh, I really want to go ask that person what their Occupy Wall Street sign says," or "I'm gonna grab some Almond Joys from that witch's cauldron." My costume itself gave me the perfect exit. I admittedly took the idea from someone else because it sounded clever and the game was in stock at Target. Being the innocent and sometimes oblivious girl that I am, I thought I was wearing a very family friendly outfit. In reality, when I took out the spinner, it was rather promiscuous. So if a man suggested he put his hands on a certain colored circle, my response was easy, "I think I would need another drink for that." And with a smile I would head to the bar having made a perfectly acceptable exit.

I haven't been keen on Halloween parties for a few years. I used to celebrate an anniversary around this time and the holiday had made me a little salty since the breakup. But as I talked to strangers that night, with steam rising from the ground and Monster Mash playing on the iPod, I realized I love Halloween. A Halloween party might just be the best kind of party- inhibitions fade with makeup, costumes spark conversations and bonding occurs over bobbing for apples. And despite all those ghosts and zombies, it turned out that it wasn't a scary thing to do alone.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Birthday Bar Conundrum

It was my birthday recently. As happens once a year, I had to figure out how I wanted to celebrate my entry into the world. I contemplated taking a weekend camping trip to Ojai, finding a friend who could host an autumnal themed house party filled with pumpkin shaped cookies or planning a last minute trip to visit my sister in DC. But I was uninspired. As the weeks neared my day of birth, I felt the best option was to pick a bar where my friends could convene for some libations and laughs. But as the week of my birthday arrived, after much contemplation, I was struggling to find the perfect Los Angeles bar for birthday party-time.

Picking a locale to handle the honor of your day of birth party is a weighty decision. Like the phrasing in real estate, it came to mind that I tried to make my decision based on location, location, location. Location one: the actual part of town. My thoughts went to the ocean -- the roof of the Hotel Erwin with a stunning view, plush lounges and sleek heating devices. I thought of the urban streets of downtown -- Seven Grand with dark wood, pool tables and jazz nights. But either horizontal end of the LA compass could drastically reduce the odds of those on the opposite side attending. So I thought to stay somewhere in between in my neighborhood of West Hollywood -- Fat Dog (I support dog friendly patios), the Hudson (I like trees sprouting in the middle of a room) or the Surly Goat (shuffle board is a good ice breaker). But nothing tickled my Girl at a Bar fancy.

So I studied location two: where does a bar stand on the style spectrum? Pali House warrants a pair of heels, a sharp outfit and a reservation for a large group. In juxtaposition, Mandrake welcomes blue jeans, Toms and houses a minimalist environment to sip a brewski. And then there's casual attire at Lola's combined with a sophisticated martini list. I imagined the vibes and style of my friends and the ambience I hoped for in a potential establishment as I toasted away the old and danced in the new. But nothing felt right.

And then the most important location of them all: where does a bar find itself in the timeline of my life? And this is where I gave up. I had a party at Village Idiot for the end of my year-long journey to bars alone, Dominick's hosted my birthday gathering two years back and Citizen Smith held the goodbye soiree when I left LA for my first paid creative gig. The establishments all made sense to what I needed and wanted at those times. But during this transitional year in my life, picking a bar that epitomizes who I am and where I am right now seemed impossible.

So I took the idea of one big bar celebration and spread it out -- a drink the night before at Wood and Vine with one special friend, a concert at the Wiltern with a few close compadres on the big day, a dinner the following night at Taste offered by my favorite married couple. And when I went to meet my two oldest friends for a post-supper drink, I told them to pick the bar. They led us to the rooftop of the new Hotel Wilshire. At Crescent Heights and Wilshire, I found a place that would have been perfect for a big birthday group -- no pretension at the door, a surprisingly phenomenal view of the city, a bustling, gregarious crowd and space to gather in a lounge or mingle at the bars and pool area. But as I blew out the candle of a peanut butter and jelly sundae with my two friends from childhood, I knew this was the right way to celebrate. Maybe next year will be more definable. Or maybe even more will be up in the air. But either way I'll be one year older. And that deserves a drink.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I Get a Kick Out Of...

Some people get a kick out of the beach. For others, it's a rousing game of sport that tickles their fancy. And there are those that enjoy growing massive pumpkins. We all have something. As I walked down Vine Street last night, attempting to head to four bars with animals in their name in one evening, I laughed at how my delights can often be found in the unconventional.

In honor of the six month anniversary of the end of my journey to bars alone and to prep for a piece about "animal" bars for Huffington Post, I decided to take myself out on a solo bar adventure. An adventure I am well acquainted with, but one that brings something new with every jaunt out the front door. The agenda included a trio of furry related Hollywood haunts- The Hungry Cat, Blu Monkey and Blue Goose Lounge, with a cap off at the jazz bar Blue Whale downtown. Apparently, adding the color blue in front of an animal makes for a suitable bar name. I kept the rule to not be on my phone, but gave myself no minimum stay so I could tackle all four places with quality time at the end, for a much needed chance to relax my breath into the rhythms of my beloved jazz music.

The host at The Hungry Cat welcomed me graciously and I perused the "Thirsty Cat" drink menu in the doorway. Knowing I had three more stops, I was planning for a short stay at this classy seafood bar and restaurant on Vine. Plans. Silly Girl at a Bar. My old instincts snapped into action- I found the bar, spotted the lone patron, sat next to him and commented on his fancy drink. Therein began an hour-long conversation. There was talk of why the place serves Natura water with the bartender, a discussion on how a full moon actually does make some people crazy and when he genuinely asked me if I was happy, I could not have thought of a more relevant question to this month of my life.

Realizing it was close to 11pm, I sadly bid my conversation partner adieu and found my way east to the Blu Goose near Western. With a one drink minimum sign on the door, I amusingly verified with the bouncer that as soon as I crossed the threshold, I would be locked into a beverage. So I merely peeked inside at the doorway to see a couple of patrons in the colorful lounge and decided to move on. Heading south on Western, I pulled into the strip mall of the Blue Monkey. With a tug on the locked door, I realized the bar was closed. Blue monkeys and geese were giving me a hard time. It was time for a blue whale. Found in a mini-mall in Little Tokyo, the Blue Whale is one of those gems that I feel like a prize idiot for not knowing about before. Tuesday nights is a jam session and the place was filled with musicians supporting each-other, patrons enjoying burgers with a whole wheat pita option and a space akin to a sleek art gallery. I looked up to the quotes sprawled on the ceiling and smiled as I read, "If someone can't hear a trumpet melody, sprinkle dirt on his head and declare him dead." Soon after I slipped into a seat, a patron next to me offered some of his french fries. Giving up my chance to let stress fade into the music, I gladly engaged in conversation with the downtown cats for the rest of the evening. They know a lot about jazz. And hipster glasses.

Before opening my car door to head home, I looked up to a palm tree in dark silhouette against the soft orange glow of the night sky, with a fraction of the downtown skyline in sight. It was an image I have rarely seen, if ever, in my years of living in Los Angeles. An image I would not have glanced upon had I stayed home and watched the finale of Master Chef on my couch. My eyes moved up to the moon and in the silence of the downtown street, I found my time to breath. Those nights- discovering something new in a comical mission and those moments- the stillness after an adventure alone... I get a kick out of that.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Huffington Post

I am supremely delighted to announce that I am now writing for The Huffington Post! Through their Los Angeles page, I will be sharing some old posts and moving forward with recommendations and other news-related tidbits on life. I hope you will join along! Here is a little weekend recommendation list to get the ball a rollin.

Thursday, July 28th
"Also I Like to Rock" at the Hammer - Museums and rock music. I feel hip. In the last night of their summer music series, the Hammer in Westwood features the tunes of one of my favorite bands, hometown rising stars Lady Danville, and LA veterans The Henry Clay People. DJ set from Chris Douridas of KCRW starts at 7pm and bands begin at 8pm. Admission is free; $3 parking under the museum after 6pm; galleries stay open until 9pm.

Grease Film Screening at Beverly Hilton Hotel
- Oh, those summer nights. Grab a Mai Thai as this classic film is projected pool-side next to the iconic Trader Vic's restaurant. Reservations are not required, unless you want to dine at a table while you do the hand-jive. Free seating begins at 7pm and the film plays at dusk, approximately 8:30pm.

Culver City Music Festival - Always wanted to do some self-inspired Irish step-dancing in the middle of Culver City? Now is your chance. Celtic band Molly's Revenge with vocalist Christa Burch provide the music for this week of the music festival. City Hall courtyard opens at 4:30pm; tunes begin at 7pm.

Friday, July 29th
Jazz at LACMA - Museums and jazz. This time I feel cultured. Unwind from the day in the entrance courtyard of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in Miracle Mile, sipping wine and swaying to the music. The event is free; no reservations required; begins at 6pm. Buy tickets in advance to check out the much anticipated Tim Burton exhibit while you are there.

Barnsdall Wine Tasting - You never knew there was a hilltop that overlooks the entire city with a Frank Lloyd Wright house and wine tastings every Friday during the summer? Well, now you do my friends. Watch the sunset at the top of Barnsdall Art Park in Los Feliz while enjoying pours from Silver Lake Wine and music from KCRW's Dan Wilcox. 5:30pm until dark. Tickets must be purchased online, proceeds benefit the park; $25 gives you four flights of wine and a fancy commemorative glass to keep!

Saturday, July 30th
"Saturdays Off the 405" at Getty Museum - Riding in trams is fun! Riding in trams to a spectacular museum and listening to the tunes of local gem Lord Huron is even more fun! The free music begins at 6pm, but arrive well before the start time to beat the crowds fighting their way up the hill.

L.A. Confidential Film Screening at Los Angeles Historic State Park
- Food trucks, Russell Crowe, Kim Basinger and Kevin Spacey. Now that's a party. Purchase tickets online or at the door -- $10 for adults; $5 for kids 6-12; under 5 is free. Doors open at 5:30pm, music at 6:30pm, screening at 8:30pm.

Friday and Saturday
A Midsummer Night's Dream in Coldwater Canyon Park - Shakespeare stripped down to one fun hour. You might just want more. LA's best-kept secret is the small amphitheatre nestled in the wilderness of the park, run by the nonprofit Tree People. With different events through September, this weekend's performance reinvents the classic. Bring food to picnic up to an hour before the 8pm start. General Admission - $15; TreePeople members/seniors - $10. Cash or check only at the door.

Sunday, July 31st
Reggae Night at the Hollywood Bowl - Let Ziggy Marley wash away the stress of the week as you loose yourself into some smooth tunes. Groovy dance moves encouraged. An evening in this stunning venue is always a summer night spent well. Bring a picnic of food and drinks; tickets online or at the box office; 7pm.

Friday, July 15, 2011

I had plans to go to a bar dowtown, but...

A friend of mine has moved to a loft downtown. That special part of LA where warehouses are turned into hip living spaces, housing without a safe parking spot is unthinkable and people spend time riding trains (yes, real trains) to artwalks, urban museums and yoga class in galleries. In juxtaposition to my strolls through lush West Hollywood streets, Kings Road coffee in hand while I pass the Alexander McQueen storefront... this downtown world feels intelligent, dangerous and sexy.

So when my friend and I made plans for drinks near his spacious loft, I was excited to enter the urban atmosphere for the night- walk by high rises, duck into a speakeasy, and feel transported into a citified environment. But when he texted me an hour before our meet-up to say he had to reschedule, I sadly took off my stylish jumper and switched to the comfort of my tiny Japanese robe for the night. Girl at a Bar decided to be Girl at a Bar another time.

I got into a groove with writing and at 2am, it was well past the hour to take my pup out before heading to dreamland. I often contemplate putting on real clothes when I go for a quick walk with my loveable dog, but decide I won't actually see anyone important in the five minutes outside of the building. You would think after running into a famous Hollywood producer and the lead singer of Augustana, that I would learn. As I opened my door and saw two cops walking up the staircase, then seeing eight more in the courtyard below... I learned.

"Ma'am, did you scream?" the burly officer closest to me asked.
"No," I replied.
"Did you call 911?"
"Uh, no."
"We received a call from this courtyard that a woman has been screaming, you didn't hear anything?"
"Nope," I repeated as I looked down, embarrassed at the robe that barely covered my thighs.
"Is that your window?" he asked as he pointed to my neighbors' apartment. As I said no, the ten officers all spoke fervently into their shoulders and approached my neighbors' door. I was stunned and immediately recoiled into my house, locked the deadbolt and waited. Ten minutes later, I heard the cops leave and called next door, demanding they escort me the two feet into their apartment to explain what happened.

My actor neighbor Hunter, who I have written about as quite the Internet Sensation, is putting on a Christmas Play in July. That sounds fun, but what is even more fun is that they were filming a promo video for said play at two in the morning. In the video Santa (played by Hunter) becomes annoyed with his lowly elf (played by his friend Francisco) and a mock beating ensues. Their fake cries echoed out their open window, prompting a call to 911 for fear of a woman's safety. The cops opened the door to this West Hollywood apartment to find a man dressed in a Santa outfit and a man in an elf costume that fell just below his hip region. As the police moved through the apartment to be sure the boys were not hiding an abused woman, they found a bedroom decorated as Santa's office. Christmas came early. And it looked kinky. That one is surely going to be donut conversation for weeks to come.

It has been five months since I completed my year-long solo bar journey. I continue to do things alone, go on Los Angeles adventures and find stories. After all, that's what the year has taught me to do. To make up for my missed downtown jaunt, I think I'll go on a date with myself in the urban oasis soon. And next time a friend bails on me, I should continue our plans alone, perhaps even at a bar. But on the nights when a bar outing was in the original plan and I choose to stay home, I may just find something better in my apartment complex...watching the Christmas elf being rescued by the Los Angeles police.

Friday, June 10, 2011

An LA Bar Story

"We know each other, how do we know each other?" he asked at the Troubadour last month. "I know, I recognize you," I replied. After a run-down of college, jobs, and possible LA connections, we came up with nothing.

The next night, I awoke from my slumber in revelation- "It's that guy!"

Four years ago, I went to my friend's birthday party at the Stone Rose Bar at the Sofitel Hotel. I met a boy who had moved to LA just days prior. With stars in his drunken handsome eyes, he told me about his black BMW, dreams of being an actor post Wall Street living and kissed me. Over time, I forgot if he even got my phone number, we ever spoke again or his name. I remember every detail of everyone I meet now, I swear.

"I used to have a sports car before this one," he said as he drove me to our first "date" location.
"Oh yeah, what kind?" I asked.
"A BMW."
"Was it black?" I knew what the answer would be.
"Uh, yes."
Not wanting to out-rightly admit I made out with a random guy at a bar in my early twenties (cause no-one has ever done that), I proceeded to ask more investigatory questions to be sure it was him before revealing my discovery. We looked at each other in awe. We hadn't even finished our first date yet, but this just had to be the greatest fated love story of all time.

The thing about fated love stories is, sometimes they are fated to turn into... nothing. I remember thinking- it's so great that we never went out four years ago, I am much more mature and aware of who I am, it's definitely better timing. But after a sequence of "dates" (I put that in quotes because he apparently thought sitting on the couch watching SportsCenter was a date), I realized that something that was a chance meeting once, can still not be meant for anything more than that. It was not a magical story to tell the grand-kids, it was just simply an LA bar story. But a pretty good one at that. Apparently, I like to find them.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Girl at a Bar's Band of the Week

Announcing a side blog venture, Girl at a Bar's Band of the Week!

Throughout my glorious year of going to bars alone, I would dare say I became knowledgeable in the bar scene in Los Angeles. As the year went on, I felt myself gravitate with the same fervor I had toward bar outings to a shelved love- the music scene. From the amazing venues in LA of The Echo/Echoplex, Satellite, Bootleg, Hotel Cafe, Largo, Troubadour, The Mint, Greek, Hollywood Bowl, and many others, I want to share in my music discoveries while I edit the novel and contemplate my existence in the Milky Way. I'm not reviewing music and it won't be long-winded- I'm just bringing what the touring acts and local bands of LA have brought!