Sunday, June 27, 2010

And Then I Saw My Ex

I am a mutt of five different European countries, though I felt growing up that I was ninety percent Irish. Norway was allowed a little importance, but the other un-named countries had apparently screwed up something horrible in my Dad's mind. St. Patrick's Day was celebrated almost as much as the birth of my parent's savior. We had corned beef and cabbage and wore orange with pride. In case you've been influenced by America's perception of Ireland from this holiday, orange represents Northern Ireland and green for Southern Ireland. Religiously, you could even categorize these colors as Protestant versus Catholic. We did have green dyed milk at the dinner table on St. Patty's Day, so no-one was trying to start a color war, but I was raised to wear orange on that day and still do today. Do not screw with my Irish pride!

My first stop in Irish Pub month was Tom Bergin's, a tavern adorning a huge green shamrock outside reading "House of Irish Coffee," on Fairfax just south of Wilshire. I went on a date here when I first moved to LA and I vividly remember sitting in the corner, holding hands with a boy as he told me he went to juvie for being a drug dealer when he was a teenager. Ah, dating in LA. I entered the bar on Friday night with my hair freshly colored and in a particularly hip outfit- I felt sexy and saucy.

Before I continue, I would like you to re-read the entry-
Bar Hopping...Literally- May 4th OK, you done? Great.

I entered the pub and approached the wrap-around bar, seeing a boy in a green hoodie. After a double take, my mind slowly computed that this boy was my first love and heartbreak, there in the flesh, and I heard myself saying- "Ben?" He turned to me and looking just as shocked as I am sure I was, said hello. I believe we both must have said something to the effect of "Wow, how are you?" because that is what you say in those situations. He introduced me to his friend, "We uh, she um, we... grew up together." That is one way to put it. "It's been what...?" he asked. "Seven years," I said. "SEVEN YEARS," I felt like screaming, a la Grosse Pointe blank. I screamed that later in my car comically. Many times.

He asked how long I have lived out here. He was either forgetting our AIM conversation three years ago or glossing over it. I asked him what he was doing for work. He asked about my family. I asked where he lived. He lives two miles from me. We got all the standard questions out of the way and I felt a lull, so I wished them both a good night as he told me it was great to see me. Again, I do not think "great" would be the right choice of wording. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall to hear what he said to his friend as I walked away. I headed for the back of the bar and realized it quickly turned into a dining-only area. A bright EXIT sign glared in front of me, above what might have been an emergency door. I debated making a break for it, but picturing the alarm sounding as I ran full-force through the door, decided this was not exactly the last image I wanted to present.

I turned back and headed toward the other end of the bar and after passing way too many other doors, found the ladies bathroom and ducked in. I made some terrible facial expressions and texted and called a few people. I then took a few calming breaths and decided that my blog had already written itself this evening. I did not feel that sitting at the other end of the bar alone was the right move at this juncture of my life. Talking on my phone, admittedly very loudly discussing meeting my friend, I had to walk by him again as I exited the bar. I felt his eyes burning on my back and once free on the streets, jumped up and down in shock.

I knew it was only a matter of time before I would run into Ben; we have lived in the same city for four years. Two months ago, I consciously walked into a situation where I could see him on this blog and yet here he was when that was the last thing on my mind. Years ago, I imagined running into him, grabbing a Guinness, and hearing him say he realizes and feels truly guilty about how he treated me. I mildly wonder now if he does feel that way, but I do not need to hear it. His face was my whole world once and now it was a face that I barely recognized. He was all I knew of love and I could never have imagined as a teenager that piling on years of more people, more loves, and more life would make our story, albeit significant, just one in a long list.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Cuba


I found myself in Portland this past weekend, experiencing Wine Bar Month in actual vineyards of bliss. Returning to LA, I longed for this Oregon countryside to be my backyard, but would settle for a lovely glass of red to bring me back to happiness. I headed to Vinoteca Farfalla in Los Feliz, on Hillhurst, in the same neighborhood as recent visits to Ye Ole Rustic Inn and Good Luck Bar. I had just woken from slumber and was very dazed as I entered the bar, ready to loose myself in a haze of wine.

Moving through a narrow dimly lit space between the high tops and the bar, I sat at a stool at the end of the bar on the cusp of their small dining area. I stared at the large board with dozens of varietals written in white chalk and sported a dumbfounded smile. The bartender suggested the daily special, Rossi di Montalcino, and I love a good Sangiovese. I sipped my glass and felt I could spend a good hour relishing in the glass. The young girl near me was sitting alone reading Middlesex and I felt she was a kindred Girl at a Bar spirit, but one that did not want to be disturbed. After a good thirty minutes of watching the words on the board dance around my eyes and contemplating the poetry of Oregon's waterfalls, I was really starting to think that nothing would happen on this blog night besides my own daydreams. As fascinating as my mind might be to myself, I know I must provide you all with something more than my wee little thoughts!

I was then approached by a man and wife and their friend, asking me if you had to ask the hostess to sit at one of the dining tables. I said I was not sure, but if they wanted to sit at the bar, I could scoot down so there was room. They graciously settled into the bar and I joked that they then had to talk with me. Boy did we talk! The couple lives in Oakland with their two children, and were making a pit-stop in LA to visit their friend on the way to Sea World. The wife is a school administrator and the husband is a Grammy nominated Salsa Singer, both of them born in LA and second generation from Cuba.

They told me of the time in LA when school was cancelled due to "Smog Days" and when "NoHo" was just called regular ole, not-trying-to-be-an-arts-district, North Hollywood. I actually felt better about the state of our planet, knowing that LA has made some slight reduction to the horrifying pollution cloud hovering over our city. After a glass of wine, my discussion with the wife turned very intellectual and intense. She expressed how higher education is a true privilege, conquered mainly by the wealthy whites and however sad it might be, our society was designed this way to have functional and repressed masses. I started to feel nauseous considering a purposeful and deliberate dumbing of humanity.

They graciously bought me another glass of wine, which I knew I could not finish, and our conversation led to a commentary on the high level of education held by all in Cuba. The couple explained how all professions are valued equally, from doctors to teachers to musicians. Most directly in opposition to our culture to me is that a person who shows an affinity for music, theater or arts, is employed and paid by the government to take on that profession. I imagined how strikingly different the world of musicians, actors, artists and writers would be in LA, if given a salary to focus and make their dreams come true. The hours of working another job, in order to survive to make your art, would not need to be wasted. Of course, how this aspect of their model affects an entire system and the other differences beyond this singular fact are too many to even begin to attempt to juxtapose. Though, I would not turn down fifteen dollars a month to write this blog. I am contributing to society darnit!

I walked out with the trio as they showed me pictures of their children and invited me to stay with them in San Francisco. I had just had one of the best conversations during this blog experience. I felt enlightened, angry and elated. I am sure they were not expecting to have a random conversation buddy last night, just as much as I was hoping to find that... And now I close this month of wine bars. I fell one night short for you all, but feel I will find more adventure moving on to a new month of Irish Pubs! Even amongst all of the beers, I will probably still order myself some wine.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Discovering a Gem

Just as you cannot judge a book by its cover, you cannot judge a Bar for being in a Strip Mall. It is most definitely not their fault that LA real estate prices are out of control, especially if you want to stay in a hip area! There are quite a few bars in this town that reside in Strip Malls and by golly, they rock! Who doesn't like being able to do your laundry, grab a doughnut, or get a killer tattoo after enjoying a lovely beer? Or in my case, a crisp glass of Kir Royale at my new favorite spot, the Wine Bar by the name of Lou.

Lou's is on Vine just north of Melrose in Hollywood. Usually, I am angered by Strip Malls in this area at night. I drive by their empty parking lots, hearing their evil cackles as they taunt, "Sure wish you could park here, mooo ha ha!" I loved the fact that was I able to pull right into the lot on Saturday night and park literally next to the front door of the bar with no fee. The large glass windows surrounding the door are completely covered by deep pink, black and white flowered curtains, keeping the inside hidden to the outside world. Through the doors, I found the most amazing gem of a spot, a narrow room with candle-lit tables and a tiny bar at the end facing a pink wall.

Pulling up a tall stool, the bartenders were all smiles and I felt immediately at home. I glanced at the seats at the other end, where three stylish women in their mid-thirties were enjoying a girls night out. I immediately recognized the middle woman. I keep seeing Tara around town, from work events to the gym and we've talked a few times, trying to figure out how we first recognized each other and have not been able to sort it out. I think I will look like her when I grow up and that we should be friends. I tried to grab her glance, but failed, so I focused on the clever wine list. Lou, the owner, makes changes to the wines weekly and describes each wine in a fun way- St. Laurent is the black sheep of the family, Moulin au Vent is the windmills of your mind, and categories include "Gnarly Reds."

I was taken care of by three of the bartenders/waiters, as they revolved in and out of the bar area while serving the diners. I was graciously given sips to taste as bottles were continuously pulled from a big red cooler and the glass shelves, which held a stereo playing the sounds of a lazy guitar and raspy voices. The very fun and cool bartender, Bethany, had a drink with me and would stop in to chat between running food. She made a boot out of a napkin for one of her tables and they did not notice her efforts, so she was bummed. I wanted to learn! This then lead to a full-on teaching session of how to make Napkin Art. Bethany, John, the all-smiles bartender, and I spread out white napkins on the bar, turning them into tuxedos, birds of paradise and cowboy boots. I could not have been happier with my new-found knowledge and friends.

I was able to get my doppelganger's attention at the end of the night and we laughed at how we keep running into each other. We shared gym stories, from my yoga teacher asking me out to "lunch," to the pilates teacher who always seems stoned. Tara had just come from seeing a play with friends called, "I Made Out With Him Anyway." She said it was such a fun show to see with your girlfriends. After all, who hasn't uttered that phrase? I'm pretty sure he didn't understand English, but hey, I made out with him anyway! I don't really know how old he is, but yeah, I made out with him anyway! He had framed photos of Betty White around his apartment, but, well, you know.

I bid everyone goodbye and the staff exclaimed, "Don't go!" I assured them I would be back very soon. After all, I had found the gem of a Wine Bar that is the perfect fit for the wine elitist and hippie in me. I have been reassured again of the age old lesson- Do not judge a book by its cover. I am pretty sure my mom never thought, as she recited this phrase to her young child, that her daughter would one day apply it to a bar in a Strip Mall. Ah, wisdom.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Food Coma

Spending my Memorial Day weekend in Vegas took a lot out of me, but I knew I was due for a bar adventure, so I forced myself out to the streets of LA last night! I headed to AOC on 3rd street, just east of Crescent Heights, a tapas and wine bar widely known for excellence in food. As I pulled open the enormous and daunting door, I entered a very well lit space with modern decor and a nearly empty bar. Hmm, maybe I should have come here on the weekend when the lights are low and the crowd is hopping. Oh well, the show must go on!

I sat down near a fabulously attractive gay couple and was immediately attended to by the sophisticated bartender. I actually wished that I was ignored for a while, that would have made it easier to be there for ninety minutes. The bartender and I settled on a glass of the Bolognese after I said I was in a "medium mood." I stared at their impressive Cruvinet wine unit, which holds 50 bottles of wine ready to be dispensed, and tried to use my wit and charm to chat with the bartender. Disappointingly, he gave me very by-the-book answers about the wine and the menu. I knew I would have to order food to prolong this experience or else I could see my smooth glass of wine disappearing in fifteen minutes due to boredom and overwhelming awkwardness.

I ordered a burrata, fennel, and salbitxada (tomato nut mix of joy) salad and bacon-wrapped/parmesan-stuffed dates. The dates were mind-blowingly delectable. Run to AOC to try them right now. Run, I say! After realizing I had not even been there an hour, I felt I needed to order dessert to keep the night going. Apparently I thought my wallet was made of money and my stomach could handle more food in order to cope with feeling uncomfortable. I feigned that I needed to use the restroom and took a gander around the upstairs while my chocolate french toast was being prepared. I was immediately approached by the manager telling me the area upstairs was closed. Oops. I snapped into a sophisticated persona to save myself from embarrassment and asked about the area for a private party. She graciously told me about the space, casually mentioned that the minimum was over two grand and I nodded in concurrence. "Sounds great, what a lovely option, I'll let my friends know."

Back at the bar and faced with a fifty dollar tab, I chuckled as I thought- where's a boy like the one who took care of my tab at the Four Seasons when you need him? Nope, no such boy here. In fact, where did that boy go? Well, I had huge moral qualms in the beginning of this experience about how much to divulge of my personal life and others, so I kept a big secret from you all. But now I shall tell you a story. Commence story:

On a night long long ago in the month of February 2010, I ventured out for the first time for this very blog. I met a boy who picked up my tab. He asked for my phone number in a very endearing way. A few days later, he asked me out and I was excited. We went on two dates. He picked me up, opened the car door, paid, and I liked the music on his iPod. He introduced me to his family on the third date. We both glossed over the fact that his grandfather called me his girlfriend. The night before the fourth date, he cancelled via text message and said he would reschedule when he got back in town. He got back in town and did not reschedule. I was sad. The end.

I idly sat at the bar, waiting for my amex to run through, wondering what the heck did really happen with that boy. There is a common occurrence in the LA dating scene where people disappear off a cliff into oblivion.
No explanation is necessary, you must just accept that another one bites the dust. Have fun in the land of not dating me! Dating in this town is particularly tricky since being single is valued very highly. No attachments lets people be fully committed to their cut-throat career, leaves the door open for the many alluring options, or never forces one to sort out his childhood fear of clowns. I smiled at the manager and bartender as I left, pushed open the daunting door and felt the cool spring air on my face. Perhaps one day I will be privy to what or who makes me leave single-land forever. For now, I could not have been happier to have left my present situation and breathed a sigh of relief that the night was over, gladly walking off my meal on the streets of LA alone.