Life’s little luxuries

September 8, 2015 § 1 Comment

Cbone sweet boneementing Silverlake’s downward slide into terminal gentrification, the space that once housed a laundromat in the strip mall at Sunset and Parkman is now Bone, Sweet Bone, outpost of a Studio City emporium by the same name. Those among us who lack en suite laundry facilities must look elsewhere, but canine companions need not go without. Daycare, grooming, food, and life’s little luxuries: This doggie boutique has it all.

Meanwhile, the outbreak of chichi on Silverlake’s strip of Sunset near the Junction has spread eastward to the block across from Millie’s. APC 2Summer brought a proliferation of shops of the kind that display one resplendent item per square yard amidst a forest of blonde wood shelving.

Gone are the smoke shop and computer repair guys. In their place, Detroit’s Shinola has brought its odd line-up (bicycles, watches, and pricey leather goods). Next to it, Aesop, from Australia, prossibly the world’s sole skin-care company with its own literary magazine, sells high-end body-pampering lotions and potions.Mollusk

Surf shop Mollusk, its proprietors apparently believing the Silverlake hills must shelter at least a few surfer dudes, rents next to Pop Physique.

APCA.P.C., beloved for its $250 skinny jeans,* displaced Dustmuffin, which was shoved further east to the cluster of small shops near Descanso Street.




In place of the mid-century furniture store, retrofuturesuper [sic] has taken up residence. Lady Gaga and Yoko Ono are known to buy the design firm’s high concept eyeglass frames.

More changes are taking place two blocks away, where Heywood, A Grilled Cheese Shoppe, closed in the spring. (I marvel that it survived four years in that location serving only variations on bread and melted cheese at $10 to 14 a plate.) AYet another coffee bar will open in its place, despite being less than 100 yards from Muddy Paw, Muddy Pawthrowback to an earlier era, with its fair trade brews and and donations to pet rescue charities.


I feel the need to point out that in the block between these stores selling goods no one really needs at top dollar prices lies Micheltorena Elementary School. Micheltorena’s entire student body—roughly 300 pupils—qualifies for free breakfast and lunch.

A bit of relief from this press of hipster chic comes, surprisingly, from Diablo, the bar/eatery that pushed out family-owned La Parrilla. Diablo originally touted itself as an “Urban Taco Fabricator.” DiabloNo, really; it used to say so on the outside of the building, right underneath it’s red-on-black name. If you look closely at the photo you’ll see that its pretentious tagline has been quietly painted out.

Sometimes, things do get better.


* To give you a sense of the high regard in which these garments are held, I quote from a Yelp posting by Tyler B. of NYC: These jeans are everything. Seriously, APC makes the best jeans. Never in my life have I had a pair of jeans I’ve adored so much. I’ve been through them all in my life, back in the day I liked Sevens, True Religions and Rock & Republic, you know, jeans that were trendy and loved ONCE UPON A TIME, NOW THEY MAKE ME SICK TO MY STOMACH. I’d rather be a fucking homebody and never show my face in public then wear fucking True Religion, gross. Since then I have tried other designer jeans and I never LOVED them, I never have had a pair of jeans that I truly adored, that truly fit me perfectly and showed my perfect legs…UNTIL A.P.C.

These jeans are so necessary, words really can’t describe. I bought my first pair and the next day went back to the store for more. They mold to your body, you will look amazing as long as you’re not like 300 pounds…actually maybe even then you’ll be okay because these jeans are THAT good.

A new heaven; same old earth

July 23, 2014 § 2 Comments


Silverlake living is yours in the height of contemporary tri-level townhomes with a rare sophistication in luxury and style. Lavishly appointed residences offer 2, 3 and 4 bedrooms, offices, stunning roof top terraces and square footage ranging from approximately 1,243 to 1,910. You are minutes from downtown and everything that is happening. Follow life’s directions to a new experience . . .

A writer got paid for coming up with this bit of promotional fluff, which, as a member of the National Writers Union, ought to make me happy. To the contrary, my teeth hurt reading such drivel, particularly as it describes a condo development in my neighborhood.

Nebulous, and a more potent signifier for being so, “Silverlake living” hints at more than just “residing in the neighborhood of Silverlake.” “Silverlake living” is now a commodity, a desirable thing that can be bought and sold. “Silverlake” used this way is not a place on Earth, a neighborhood with tangible houses, streets, trees, coyotes, and people but an adjective modifying “living.”

Lacking explicit meaning, “Silverlake living” becomes a repository for whatever potential residents might desire: a residence close to the Meadow and Griffith Park; good schools; relative safety; high resale value because of all the foregoing. Regardless of what ownership might in reality entail, and the high tension lines running across the property are nowhere mentioned, this fill-in-the-blanks ad-speak offers everything and nothing.

More than mere habitation, these condos, the developers suggest, will endow their owners with a certain cachet, a social significance that bestows identity on residents—-but will their lives as actually-lived define what “Silverlake living” consists of?

According to the copywriter, residents will acquire sophistication and style, along with a lavish and luxurious home. They will be close to downtown—which could mean Disney Hall, Bunker Hill offices, or clubs like The Edison, but not, presumably Skid Row—and “everything that is happening,” a promise of cosmic proportions.

I don’t imagine that the “life directions” we’re urged to follow are our moral compass, or urgings of conscience, social concern, or revolutionary zeal, but the lemming flow of perceived hipness and nonconformist conformity. This “new experience,” the website intimates, will elevate us above the hoi polloi, or, failing that, at least be new, the true marker for American exceptionalism.

And what have the site’s developers christened their project? The perfect ad-speak appellation: Latitudes, a word suggesting “scope for freedom of action or thought.” The designation insinuates that wherever you live now, you are constrained, prevented from reaching  heights you know you deserve to inhabit. Move to Latitudes and an expansive life awaits you.

Back in the day, only religions offered these kinds of pie-in-the-sky inducements. Tri-level townhomes, it appears, are the new Paradise.

Unclear if pearly gates are part of the package.

Anybody home?

May 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

Is it a never-licensed restaurant? A private dining club? A television production set?

Silver TakeOn Rowena in Silverlake, just south of Silverlake Blvd. West, sits a storefront restaurant that looks as if it were just about to open. Peer through the front window and you’ll see place settings resting on white tablecloths. The cash register awaits transactions. A mostly empty display case holds a few nonfood items.

And it’s been like this for years.

It’s name is a clever play on the neighborhood’s: Silver Take –as in take-out obviously. “A neighborhood restaurant,” reads the sign.

And yet, it’s never served a single meal that I know of.

Silver Take interior That’s why I wondered if it were created as a recurring location for a television soap opera or sitcom. But no, they’d simply build the set on a sound stage.

Another neighborhood mystery.


There goes the neighborhood

July 3, 2013 § 1 Comment

It’s official: That re-do of the Ralph’s shopping center on Glendale Boulevard in Silverlake that I wrote about in the spring will feature, according to the L.A. Times, a Whole Foods store. Right now, the closest WF is in NE Glendale, with the one across from The Grove a distant second.

I should be ecstatic, right? I’ll no longer have to worry about Rice Dream bars melting before I get home.

But ecstatic I’m not and here’s why:

1. Ralph’s is staffed by union workers who get union wages and benefits. Ralph’s will move out so WF can move in–and WF has made sure that none of its stores are unionized.

Full disclosure: I don’t shop at Ralph’s much, preferring Trader Joe’s, which also is non-union. But lots of other people in the neighborhood do shop at Ralph’s, providing those union workers with jobs. Where will those employees go and where will neighborhood folks shop?

2. Not necessarily at WF–or Whole Paycheck, as friends prefer to call it–an upscale emporium selling natural and organic foods along with gourmet speciality foods (Exhibit A: their selection of olive oils). WF doesn’t carry the lower cost brands that Ralph’s does.

3. WF will not be a neighborhood store; shoppers will come from all around. Which means traffic, lots more traffic. The Silverlake/Glendale/Fletcher intersections already are gnarly during rush hours; what will it be like with WF in that block? Thinking about it gives me a headache.

4. WF’s founder and CEO, John Mackey, is a free market libertarian who called the Affordable Care Act “fascist”* and thinks climate change is not necessarily a bad thing. From one natural foods store in Austin, TX, WF has grown to more than 340 in the U.S., Canada, and U.K. Mackey’s business model has been to buy up or merge with other companies, often in a predatory manner, driving many local and regional chains out of business. I hate giving money to this guy.

5. Lastly, I keep thinking about those Rice Dream bars. How am I going to resist taking a three block walk every time I feel the urge for one?

DrillingDrilling rig in Ralph’s parking lot taking core samples in advance of construction.

Not just another grocery store

June 3, 2013 § 2 Comments

IMG_2886There’s a grocery store in Glassell Park that I think of as existing on the boundary between Mexico and Armenia.

Just off the 2 freeway on San Fernando Road, Super King is where you shop if a) you want “ethnic” foods that few stores stock and b) you have to feed a lot of people on little money and c) you believe meals don’t come from a box, can, or freezer compartment but from hours in a kitchen and d) standing in line is a way of life and e) you believe reusable shopping bags are optional.

Super King is never not busy. I’ve driven by at 8:20 a.m.–the store opens at 8– and not only are cars streaming into the lot, shoppers with stuffed plastic sacks wait at the curb for MTA buses that will take them home.

Shopping begins before entering the store. Outside the entrance, bins the size of Rhode Island hold bargain-priced produce: oranges or corn or watermelons or whatever else is in oversupply.

Before shopping, however, you have to find a cart to put your stuff in. Few shoppers return carts to the front of the store or even to satellite holding pens; they’re left . . . wherever. IMG_2887

Once you corral a cart–and they’re BIG ones–you have to fight your way inside the store and through the crowded aisles. I quickly learned that WASP-y behavior doesn’t get you very far at Super King. No one–and I mean NO ONE–gives way.

[I’ve often wondered: Is this “every shopper for him/herself” M.O because customers come with so many different languages and cultural norms that the idea of “common” courtesy is meaningless? Or because “every shopper for her/himself” IS the cultural norm in shoppers’ home countries?]

The massive produce section (where nothing is pre-packaged and digging through an entire pile of plums to find the absolute best is A-OK) could house an entire Fresh & Easy store. Items barely represented at Ralph’s or Von’s–Russian pickles, Armenian relishes, two kilo plastic barrels of Kalamata olives–occupy extended shelf space. They bear labels printed in Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, Lebanon, and the West Bank.IMG_2888

You’ll find coffee at Super King, but tea rules: the store had enough pressure-packed, one-pound bricks of green, black, and fruit infused tea to rebuild the Berlin Wall.

And then there’s rice: 10 and 25 pound bags of the stuff stretch for entire aisle. Ditto bags of beans, peas and lentils.IMG_2891

At the deli counter you can buy eight different nationalities of feta and salamis from every country east of the Danube. Fish, poultry, meats, baked goods, nuts & dried fruits each have their own counter: take a number and stand in line. You want baklava? Halva? A tamale steamer? It’s there. As are modest quantities of standard items like orange juice, paper towels, and breakfast cereals.

Your cart of goods will be rung up with dispatch by a bored-looking woman named Nare or Milena or Anahit, though there might be some more of that waiting in line business to get through first.

Exit past the water-pipes, lottery tickets, and security guards, then watch out for in-coming cars as you cross the parking lot.

And your cart? Do something radical: Put it where it belongs.

Under the sign of the dove

May 8, 2013 § Leave a comment

Eat. Meet. Shop. Do Good.

It’s the motto of  Mercado La Paloma, where you can, well, do all those things.

Eat food from the Yucatan, Oaxaca, Michoacan, Thailand or have a  good ol’ American burger.

Meet friends, pull a few tables together, and have a leisurely meal or rent the mercado’s community room.

Shop for gifts from Oaxaca or the Yucatan, get a garment altered, buy insurance or groceries.

Do good because the mercado is a project of the Esperanza Community Housing Corporation and serves an incubator for new businesses and a bit of economic development for the Figueroa Corridor south of downtown.

The second floor of the building is home to half-a-dozen nonprofits, including the Program for Torture Victims, which produced We Are Here.

Esperanza was founded by one of those remarkable women drawn to Roman Catholic religious orders who do so much good work: Diane Donoghue, MSW, a Sister of Social Services.

IMG_2863But you don’t need to know all this to enjoy the wonderful food at Chichen Itza, the mercado’s Yucatan restaurant where we ate recently. My mouth waters as I remember the pollo pibil, chicken marinated in achiote, sour orange juice and spices, then cooked in banana leaves.

“Honey, let’s eat at Mercado La Paloma tonight. I’m hungry.”


Open during construction

March 13, 2013 § 1 Comment

20 DVDMysterious happenings at the Glendale Blvd. strip mall in Silverlake: Enterprises are shutting down, slipping away silently into the night.

Ralph’s is still there and CVS has a big sign announcing it will be open during construction. But what construction?

It’s whispered that a make-over is planned. Only it’s been more than a year, maybe two, since stores began closing their doors. For now, as with other Silverlake construction projects, it’s in limbo.

Gone are Baskin-Robbins, Roundtable Pizza, 20 DVD (once known as 20 Video), KFC, and a barber shop. Wong Wok and Winchell’s are hanging on.

I didn’t patronize any of the closed businesses, 20 DVD excepted and that only when we didn’t feel like driving over to Video Journeys. (It was staffed by stereotypical adolescent male  clerks with zero interest in customer service.) But the empty storefronts make our neighborhood mall look like collateral damage from the Great Recession: It’s dirty and down-at-the-heels. And, despite fewer stores, the parking isn’t even better!

Another place in the ‘hood where Something Better is supposed to come along, but all we’ve gotten is Nothing.

Buy, sell or trade

February 26, 2013 § 1 Comment

IMG_2729In a former bank? haberdashery?  at the corner of 5th and Spring downtown, some mad genius has created a bibliophilic Wonderland called The Last Bookstore.

Rows of free-standing bookcases march across an expansive floor covered in the original tiny ceramic squares. Redwood-sized columns support a two-story height with a mezzanine level running along three of the walls. CDs and bins of vinyl LPs occupy an alcove that’s the size of many downtown shops.

And then there’s the book-themed artwork. Books and sheet music fly into the air, support the check-out counter, create an arch along one wall.


Have I mentioned the superabundance of comfy chairs and couches? The many readings, panels, events? The open mic every Monday @ 8 p.m.? And finally, as if gilding the lily, ensconced on the mezzanine is a yarn emporium while a coffee bar occupies a corner of the main floor.

Mystery lot #2

February 25, 2013 § 1 Comment

Coffee Table 1 It’s no mystery what used to be in this empty lot on Rowena: Blackburn Lodge—a down-at-the-heels board & care facility—a couple small cottages, a showroom with ever-changing tenants, and a neighborhood restaurant called The Coffee Table

Food at the Coffee Table was good enough that you’d take out-of-town friends there for weekend brunch and prices were reasonable. (Plus it was one of the first places around to have a vegan entree of scrambled tofu). They also sold The New York Times.

Seating was plentiful:  a smoking section out front, large roofed patio in the back, and, in between, tables surfaced with colorful mosaic tiles.

All sorts of folks turned up at the Coffee Table: moms met other moms for coffee while their kids slept in strollers, community groups gathered  for committee meetings, writers bogarted the tables near the windows, employees from local businesses came in for lunch.

Then, abruptly last year, our Peaceable Kingdom was upended: The landlord gave the Coffee Table  one week to close up shop. Staff who had worked there for years were suddenly unemployed. Everyone was stunned.

We could have seen it coming. Years ago, developers bought the building and land under it intending to build condos. Blackburn Lodge shut its doors, but the other businesses held on while the new owners went through the permitting process. Neighborhood push-back forced the developers to integrate the Coffee Table into the project and to decrease the number of units being built.

Then the Great Recession hit and/or the developers got fed up with city and neighborhood demands, the project stalled and eventually the property was resold. The Coffee Table lived on, using portions of the Blackburn Lodge property for parking.

But, invisible to us, deals were in the works. New owners appeared, shut everything down, razed the buildings, and put up a chain-link fence. Rumor was that condos were in play again. That was at least a year ago.

I believe the property has changed hands again–or maybe I’m thinking of yet another sale during the Great Reprieve. In any case, nothing has been built–not even a building permit posted–and the lot remains empty save for castor plants.

Sic transit gloria mundi.

Roger that

February 14, 2013 § Leave a comment

IMG_2659Remember when giving human names to business enterprises was in vogue? There was, for example, Ted (United Airline’s brand that attempted to compete with low-cost regional carriers) and George (the glossy monthly co-founded by JFK Jr.).

The commonality of these efforts, besides the attempt to anthropomorphize decidedly unanthropomorphic entities, was how short-lived they were. Five or six years and they were history.

Except here in Silverlake where we still have a building named roger (yes, small R).

Some things last. The Slinky. Rock ‘n’ roll. Patriarchy. The Koran. Others do not: Nehru jackets, pet rocks, the Pennsylvania Railroad. And male names for businesses.

Roger excepted.

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