Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Midsummer Weeknight's Dream

Playing "L'aventure Fantastique" by The Fantastic Plastic Machine (aka Tomoyuki Tanaka of J-Pop/DJ fame)

Mzzz. Faboo (because she is ab-fab!) invited me to a midweeknight break at Maison 140, a boutique Beverly Hills hotel, for a wine and cheese tasting at their Bar Noir. The hotel is small and beautifully appointed with French and Far East-influenced decor, otherwise known as chinoiserie (one of my fave words for the way that it irreverently rolls off of my tongue with a self-satisfying superiority). The tasting was cozy and quiet, a perfect setting for us to catch up with each other.

After two hours of delicious vin et fromage, we stepped into the warm night...and walked around the corner to the Beverly Wilshire (yes, the former Reg-Bev-Wilsh). We made our way to sidebar, the lounge right across the foyer from Cut (Wolfgang Puck's famed eatery). The only available seating in the popular lounge was a quasi-comfy silver couch against one of their large windows overlooking the valet. We parked ourselves and ordered martinis. I saw steak tartare on the menu (a must-order for me) and we added a seared-ahi-something-yummy on mini wonton chips with wasabi paste and chives.

Perusing our surroundings, I noticed the usual cast of LA characters: a glut of attractive people who sort of looked familiar, but not really (commercial actors? bit-t.v.-role types?) and the sprinkling of average joes trying to fit in, but not really (vacationers? inlanders?). What piques my interest the most are when the twain meet (i.e., the relative-attractive majority who do not look famous or familiar, and who also don't mind suffering from the social constraints of living in LA while trying to survive first impressions).

Not two moments after we started sipping our classic 'tails, there were flashing lights outside. Mzzz. Faboo and I turned to look out the window joking with each other that someone was getting arrested in valet. We were trying not to look too earnestly because we wanted to maintain that modicum of cool, but someone loudly whispered "TomKat" and then everyone turned to look outside the window none too conspicuously. Sure enough, right underneath our little quasi-comfy silver couch stood Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes waving at the 'razzi and climbing into a large black tagless SUV, bodyguards in tow. Because we were so close (separated by a window pane), I had to look on TMZ the next day for those pics, and as I suspected, you could see me and Mzzz. Faboo in a video clip of the celeb power duo getting into their car. We were visible for about three seconds (an eternity on TMZ, mind you). Apparently they were having dinner at Cut that night with the Fresh Prince and his lovely wife (Will Smith and Jade Pinkett Smith) and Posh and Becks (David and Victoria Beckham). Nicknames for power couples...another LA trait.

After a few failed attempts at convo with us by well-dressed older men, Mzzz. Faboo and I decided to call it a night. As we walked back down Wilshire Blvd. towards our cars, we passed Saks Fifth Avenue and stopped to examine their display windows. Each display case had a row of headless mannequins wearing nondescript black prom dresses with their arms stretched out holding different pairs of Jimmy Choo shoes in their motionless hands. For a split second I felt like Holly Golightly in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" peering longingly into the Tiffany display case while (not really) eating a croissant. The shoes were very LA...and I loved them. Yet again, I was separated by a window pane from a lifestyle that I could hardly identify with, if at all, but looked on with slight envy.

Don't get me wrong. I am not turning this into a "poor me and my life as compared to theirs" essay. I love my life. I also choose to live in LA. And most assuredly my experiences tonight are no different than many others I've had while living here. They do in fact make up for me what is quintessential LA: that healthy mixture of bold, beautiful, insecure, and selfish. In LA, there is no split neighborhood where the railroad tracks divide the seedy side from the wealthy side. Everything, good, bad, and ugly, is kind of all mixed in together with its inhabitants agreeing to disagree at nearly every socioeconomic level. And therein lies the beauty of LA. I cannot think of anywhere else that has this dichotomy with such a prevalence, where everyone enjoys the status quo, is even fascinated by its fuzzy, yet deep groove in the sand.

Mzzz. Faboo woke me from my reverie with a tug on my arm. Time to stop dreaming, gorgeous. You've got the rest of your night for that.

I suppose that I do.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

City Hall (The SS Remix)

Thanks to an invitation from a friend, I was able to join a mixed group of sorts at, oddly enough, a DJ set on the lawn of City Hall in downtown Los Angeles where one of my old favorites was spinning, Groove Armada. They were being opened by Jason Bentley who many forget was a DJ before he became a radio personality for a reputable music program on KCRW.

I’m listening to Radio1’s Essential Mix (they are showcasing Moby’s set in Miami from this past WMC) courtesy of my girlfriend in Grenada; she is there for medical school (and always a good source of music).

My friend and her boyfriend picked me up on their way; and we made one more stop to get Chef Matt, an interesting and worldly friend of theirs whose music tastes trend towards the largely under-discovered European electronic artists (minimalists he calls them). He is so-named because he is a personal chef. He just got back from Miami and was sharing his WMC experiences with us in the car. For those not in-the-know, the Winter Music Conference is a weeklong electronic music event held every March in Miami. It is a who’s who of electronic music and attended by fans from around the world.

Switching up my music to The Faint’s “The Conductor” remixed by Thin White Duke on their Danse Macabre Remixes album

We got Downtown early enough to reminisce at the Standard, where both good and bad memories haunt me…and so be it. What fun is nostalgia if it cannot offer you a pointed experience when strolling down its familiar lanes?

At the bar we ordered Ketel-sodas and Ketel-Citron-sodas. Admittedly I am not a soda girl. I switched from tonic to soda several years ago only because soda has no sugar, but it also has no flavor. So after a season or two of ordering vodka sodas, I switched to straight, clean vodka, neat with a twist and served in a snifter. No more watered-down versions of what could be a smooth and tasty liquor for me…although I had to change this preference as well because I am a fast drinker (not a tippler, mind you).

Les Rythmes Digitales “Jacques Your Body Makes Me Sweat”

Of course that put me in my kind of a frivolous bind. What should become my drink of choice now? Should it be socially influenced or driven by my taste? I happened to visit Cuba several years back (it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience) and for a while I was faithfully hooked on Mojitos, but invariably none are ever as good as I had tasted in Cuba, so on to the next. An old friend of mine, a southern belle, would always order Black Russians, so I had a flirty stint with those as well...but enough about cocktails. I settled on the Ketel-Citron-soda because Chef Matt ordered one, and it seemed like a nice, light starter cocktail for me.

We also ordered food: overcooked sliders with dried-out skewers of steak and chicken and a wilted frisee salad. Yes, I didn’t know it was possible to wilt frisee either, but apparently it is. The French fries were dark and crispy, which is fine to me, but they were also heavily salted (but who doesn’t make that mistake these days unfortunately). All things considered, it is the rooftop bar at the Standard, and that culinary experience has always been a mixed bag of sorts for me.

Another one of their friends, a private practice lawyer, joined us as we repositioned ourselves at the couches. He played football in Nebraska and came out to California like many others do, for a sunny, more successful, upbeat change of pace. He found his refuge in Hermosa Beach. Not a shock as many supplants first migrate towards the beach cities, also known as the South Bay, when coming to California. I myself live in Hermosa, and up until about three months ago in Manhattan Beach.

Felix da Housecat “Silver Screen Shower Scene” (Thin White Duke Mix by Jacques Lu Cont)

Our conversation spanned an array of topics, from the delicate to the severe, from the perceived loss of habeas corpus for non-citizens to Top Chef, a cooking show on Bravo TV. I am a huge fan of Top Chef, so all of my questions were of course directed at Chef Matt. “Have you considered being on the show?” “What knives do you have in your knife roll?” “What is your favorite ethnic food group to prepare?” etc.

On our way out, I stopped in the restroom and was surrounded by the happy alcoholic buzz of three rambunctious Newport Beach women pitstopping on the rooftop before heading home from a designer jeans sale at the LA Convention Center. They proudly pulled out their Hudson and True Religion purchases from their purses for my inspection. Yes, I know, why? I guess I have a friendly smile--and they were also drunk.

The Whitest Boy Alive “Golden Cage (Fred Falke Remix)”

We parked at an outside lot a few blocks away; the opening acts had already begun and we could hear a persistent electronic bass line from our outside lot. That alone was enough to give me that giddy feeling akin to a teenage girl before a school dance. We started our beeline through the parked cars towards the sound.

Tickets, will call, nasty bathroom stalls, and a few grassy knolls later, we were standing in the middle of a crowd of head-bobbers and enjoying Jason Bentley. With cheap cocktails in hand, and a little over an hour later, we appropriately shouted our welcome as Andy Cato and Tom Findlay, aka Groove Armada, strode onto the stage.

Their set was pleasant and pumped. It had the perfect crowd-pleasing crescendos that broke into ear-splitting bass lines. And as I enjoyed the music and soaked in the experience, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of jealousy at how many other people were experiencing something akin to my appreciation of their music. A part of me wondered if my best-kept-secret-of-yesterday had become the latest kitschy music craze.

Hot Chip “The Warning”

Ah, well. I cannot deny that I love the music, no matter how popular it is or not. I just do.