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    May 20th, 2011adminAmerica, Food, Los Angeles

    Heather displaying our lovely meal

    The restaurant...

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    May 18th, 2011adminAmerica, Bazaars & Markets, Food, Los Angeles

    CAJUN food! Gumbo with cornbread, carrot raisin salad and chickory coffee from LA's 3rd Street Farmers Market

    So, I spent 3 weeks in America and 1 day in Rome, Italy. Just came back!

    The 3rd Street Farmers Market is fantastic, by the way.

    More photos & commentary coming soon…

    The lovely menu (I hope to visit the *real* New Orleans one day!).

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    October 3rd, 2010adminImagination, Istanbul, Los Angeles, Religion

    Mosque cemetery from the Ottoman era (in Fatih)

    Cemeteries are so interesting, especially in foreign places.

    In Los Angeles, I used to live across the street from a cemetery. For years, people smoked, played music, chatted (even broke up!) on that balcony, overlooking a vast  military cemetery. The intermingling of life and death also struck me — it was a bit eerie and a bit comforting.

    Last month, in the Fatih district, I passed by an old mosque. It was early evening and families gathered for prayer, weaving their way through the cemetery. One man reached to feed a street cat, hiding behind a tombstone. And then they quietly entered the mosque.

    The ubiquitous Turkish street cat -- in this case, a baby kitten who was as equally scared of humans as it was eager for food. I'm a huge feline fan, so I'm basically in love with all the street cats and wish I could take them home.

    I took these pictures in the cemetery, directly behind the mosque. It was so very green. The place felt magical, like a fairy or unicorn lived behind the brush. Really, that’s what it was like!

    I’ve been thinking about cemeteries …how revealing they can be. Some are so stark, so direct — dirt, a simple cross and the sky. Others are ostentatious & ornate, like the absurd mausoleums of Hollywood.

    Cemeteries tell us things. The kinds of stories we, sometimes, find in coffee shops or taxi rides. But they’re more quiet ..and they’re just different …they seem to communicate something else. Cemeteries are a way to understand people — how they memorialize life, and love, and how they interpret memories. That’s another reason why I visit them. I may not know the people, yet I wish I somehow did.

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    May 21st, 2010adminHollywood, Los Angeles, Surreal Travel

    Beverly Hills from the Bus

    Beverly Hills from the Bus

    Here’s the thing about LA: It’s deceptively normal! If you spend enough time in Los Angeles, and you see a monstrosity of a rhinoplasty center across from a children’s playground, and then you see a Scientology center, secretly (but still ostentatiously) housed in some Hollywood mansion, it becomes (somehow!) normal. Really, I don’t know how it happens. But it does. Personally, I grew desensitized after a few days. Probably because I had no other choice. And I used to live in LA, so I’ve accepted the insanity. But if you want to experience LA — and really “experience” the town — you have to drop the spectator’s awe. And just accept that, yeah, there’s a rhinoplasty center across from a children’s playground.

    And I love LA, which is not a cool thing to say in San Francisco. But, okay, here’s an example: I met my friend, Gia, on Santa Monica Boulevard in the West LA district. We shared $4.95 glasses of cabernet at a crappy late-night diner. This place is, basically, a dump. Most of the employees are surly and bored, the food is tasteless and the decor is 1970s (in a bad way). But I had a great time! I can’t quite explain the appeal — but I knew it wouldn’t happen that way in San Francisco. Or, here’s another example: I went to see a screening of Wizard of Oz at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery …and the movie was projected onto Rudolph Valentino’s mausoleum — a truly palatial way to be buried …one would think he was Genghis Khan. But, no, he was just an obscenely lucky Italian boy who played a sheikh, cavorted with Hollywood ladies and was maybe gay.

    LA is so strange! Yeah, I know, LA is a massive, diverse thing. The sprawl alone makes it impossible to categorize. But there’s something so darkly absurd, yet appealing, about the peculiarities of LA culture.

    Not to mention, many of the town’s perceived priorities (if we can draw any conclusions from architecture and urban planning) are completely bonkers. From Valentino’s mausoleum to the overwhelming car culture, to the drive-in ATMs and Starbucks, it doesn’t seem entirely “real” …or, in my case, fully livable. There’s this psychedelic sub-reality of what’s really important. And it’s interesting, in part, because you wonder if everybody else is “in on it.” Are they also keenly aware of the weirdness? Or do they no longer care? Or do they actually take it seriously?

    I remember one time, in Istanbul, somebody asked me, “Where are you from?” I said, “California.” Then the man inquired, “Where? Los Angeles?” I began explaining that I’m a San Franciscan who studied in LA during my college years. But he didn’t care about San Francisco. He just interrupted me, “Ah, Los Angeles! I would love to go there!” And I just imagined his completely inaccurate image of the city, which he probably treasured. Maybe it was a combination of his priorities/proclivities — hot women, beaches, whatever. But, anyway, that’s what I love about LA …the fact that some Turkish guy, serving coffee, was so entranced by a land inhabited by drive-in ATMs and late-night diners selling $4.95 glasses of wine.

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    May 16th, 2010adminArt, Food, History, Los Angeles

    I have been in LA for just over a week now. Below, I just listed some things I have done (below), which may be of general interest.

    Things I have done in LA (so far):

    FRIDAY NIGHT – Went to the Venice Art Walk, a monthly art event. The Walk extends down Abbot Kinney Boulevard, which is  flooded with food trucks, including Korean-style burritos (!). My friend, Emily, commented that the food truck phenomenon is a copy-cat of the scene in Austin, TX.  Anyway, this was an outdoor, street event — always a good thing in my book. The crowd was more of a general, West LA hodge-podge than an elite entourage of art scenesters.

    SATURDAY – Visited the Getty, which has a fantastic panoramic view of LA, & saw the Leonardo da Vinci exhibit. Loved da Vinci’s sketches — brilliant illustrations of profiles juxtaposed with undoubtedly prodigious inventions. Aphorisms scribbled on sheets & everything so lovely… How do/did people like this exist? Who is our da Vinci today?

    TUESDAY – Persian sandwiches & ash soup (divine!) at Attari Sandwich, the first Persian restaurant to open in Westwood, followed by a visit to the Hammer Museum for the Red Book of Carl Jung exhibit. The illustrations were truly beautiful; my friend, Saewon, took pictures.

    Jung, Red Book

    Jung, Red Book

    Also attended a talk with Bill Viola that evening at the Hammer, which was surprisingly calming. He talked with some New York psychologist/professor on the mind, symbolism, spirituality. I came to the “conversation” with no expectations &  found Viola to be very approachable and real.

    Demon, Aztec Pantheon

    Demon, Aztec Pantheon

    WEDNESDAY NIGHT – Upright Citizen’s Brigade — a nice, local comedy experience for only $5.

    FRIDAY — Visited the Getty Villa to see the Aztec Pantheon exhibit, which I recommend. Two highlights were the 1) the “tzitzimit1l” (demon) with his liver protruding from his ribcage (see below) and 2) the “cihuacoatl” goddess/serpent woman. It was also fascinating to see which Roman gods the Europeans pairs with which Aztec mythological figure. Some seemed wildly off, a product of Eurocentricism & the false assumption that Roman gods could serve as universal archetypes. But, on the other hand, there were some interesting comparisons, like placing Quetzalcoatl (the supreme god) with the god, Mercury, rather than the expected Jupiter (the Roman supreme god).

    SATURDAY (tonight) — Just got back from The Hollywood Forever Movie Screening & watched THE WIZARD OF OZ. As corny as it sounds, the movie made me emotional (!) — the whole idea of a new land, one that’s removed from “reality.”

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