Staycation: Little Tokyo Edition

I am very Wesssiiide but I love everything about Los Angeles and make a point to explore the City.  The Boyfriend and I have been on this staycation kick in the past few months. L.A. is not just for tourists. We wanted to enjoy it, too. So we’ve made a point to stay the night at a local hotel, dine at local spots, and explore everything by foot only.  This Labor Day Weekend, we explored Little Tokyo.

FRIDAY

Our hotel of choice is usually the DoubleTree because 1) the amenities, 2) the price, and 3) the cookie. #keepingitreal #doubletreecookie

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We were only a couple of blocks away from Grand Park so we had a chance to enjoy The Music Center last night of Dance L.A. It was salsa night and I learned a step or two.

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After DanceLA, we ventured southwest to Gallery Row but ended up returning to Japanese Village Plaza for sushi. I can’t remember which restaurant because we stopped at a few spots and then picked the one with the shortest line. Even though it didn’t have the wait like others, we enjoyed the albacore tataki– which we were both craving.  It hit the spot which was all that mattered.

At 10 pm, it was still hot as Hades. After consulting my phone for an ice cream spot that was still open and had at least four stars, Honeymee was it.  I had the Matcha Affogato with was milk ice cream with liquid honey swirl and organic matcha. Heads up that I was on a matcha kick during this vacation. More matcha reports ahead.

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SATURDAY

Get there before 11:00 am or you will likely face a rush.  But, Jist Cafe next to EastWest Players is worth the wait. Thankfully, we arrived before the line out the door formed. The portions leave you satiated at least until early dinnertime.  They offer a unique twist to the familiar. I had a char siu pork with potatoes– akin to corned beef hash. Order it with rice to cut some of the richness. They have adult beverages, like mimosa but with soju, but I opted for coffee.

After brunch we, headed to the Arts District, which was poppin’ even during the day. We walked to the Arts District Co-op to pick up my race bib and swag for Blacklist LA’s HBDLA5K, which was happening the following evening.  Had I not been trying to Marie Kondo my closet, I would have purchased a stylish grey tote for $25. The Co-op had a lot of sylish and cute stuff at an affordable price.  Skip Forever21 and support the local designers that have their stuff here.

XLanesLA in the Little Tokyo Galleria was a blast.  For $50 an hour, we managed to get three games of bowling fun.  I might have even gotten quads and arms workout.  The bar at the back was legit and showed college football and Dodgers game on t.v.  Folks were friendly and the dude we sat next to worked at a very popular brewery nearby.  He gave us inside scoop about an upcoming event. Always be nice to people for they might give you delicious intel.

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Matcha! Matcha! Matcha! was the theme this weekend, especially with the 99 degree temp outside. On our way back from the Arts District and bowling, we stopped by Midori Matcha and ordered their match soft serve. It was really the right thing to do: hot weather + Little Tokyo = matcha soft serve.  I dont’ know how else to explain it. Since matcha is not sweet, add a little bit of honey for a light, sweet kick. You’re welcome.

After all the walking in the heat and  indulging in the matcha soft serve, I had to take a nap.  When I woke up, we headed to Highland Park for drinks and then a friend’s party.  This was sort of a cheat on the staycation, but I didn’t want to flake on plans made a month before our spontaneous staycation.

SUNDAY: RACE DAY

It’s been on our list so we’re happy that we finally made it.  The original plan was Eggslut but the line was waaay too long. I’m a grown up and don’t do lines.  We peaced out after we saw the line and decided that in order for us not to WWE and continue to love each , we needed to find a restaurant with A/C stat. Heat and hanger were really getting to us and affecting our usual positive affects.  Happy that despite our hungry delirium, we managed to think of Clifton’s.

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The kitsch was so worth it and the food was suprisingly good.  I had chilaquiles, oj, and a gelatin conconction (can’t say Jell-O anymore; ’cause, you know… that guy.)

They had a jazz band that was awesome. Adult beverages were served upstairs.

We walked back to the hotel, watched bad reality t.v., and I napped for two hours. Then I got up and ran BlacklistLA’s HBDLA5K.  The 5K reminded me why I loved running: it’s so great to be a part of L.A’s running community and be supported by people who don’t know me. I loved being told that ‘[I’m] almost there’ at every turn.  I finished the race better than I thought. I wasn’t last. The 5K got me re-energized about running again. Once upon a time, I ran one marathon and two half-marathons per year for 10 years.  I loved running so much but then I discovered golf and that didn’t suck at it.

I need to figure out how to do both…

 

MONDAY: Our Last Day

While recovering from my 5K from the previous evening, I flipped my Westways Magazine (that magazine you get from AAA) and checked out their various SoCal recommendations.  They actually had a page on matcha!!! So, for breakfast, I heeded their advice and headed to Cafe Dulce.  I have been to Cafe Dulce before but I followed their recommendation: matcha roti and coffee, black. It was perfect.  Do it!

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After our coffee and roti, we hung out at Marukai in Weller Court as we waited for Kinokuniya Bookstore to open. It was hot outside and we knew that Marukai would have air conditioning. The ice cream aisle was perfect.

The Boyfriend discovered Kinokuniya the previous day when he was out for curry and I was napping. I was in search of scented highlighters and the selection from the Sanrio store and other gift shops we visited were just aight. I wanted a couple of new highlighters and pens that would be fun to use. I am old school in that I enjoy writing letters and going crazy with highlighters when I read long docs. Kinokuniya was worth the wait. It was like being in a pen candy store! I bought of a couple of highlighters, a pen, and a new journal. I didn’t even make it to the back of the store or the locked and staffed pen case area.  It was too much for a first visit. There will be a next time very soon.

Next up:

We have staycationed in Hollywood (La La Land at Hollywood Bowl, Walk of Fame, Spiderman, stayed at Loews Hollywood Hotel on Highland,) and Pasadena (Rose Bowl, Old Town, and stayed at The Westin Pasadena). Not sure of our next destination– Universal, El Segundo, and San Pedro have all come up.  I/we suggest staycationing because there’s so much more to L.A.  Real staycationing– staying in a hotel and staying super local– offered an immersion to the different cultures and vibe in this great City. Were it not for our Little Tokyo staycation, I would not have discovered my new love: matcha.

 

 

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Hanging Out With the Cool Kids

A video of my favorite group in Los Angeles.  I previously blogged about The Fringe @ Center Theatre Group on Culver City Patch.  Check out the video and the blog and you’ll understand why I am proud to be a part of this group: nice, smart, accomplished, inspiring, and ridiculously fun!

One Friday Afternoon…

Hidden gem in the City of San Fernando.  A cool place to be alone with other people.

Spotted:

  • A girl organizing her personal finances (as can be seen with her receipts and other files)
  • Someone on their laptop, intently typing
  • A group of three guys in their 20s, discussing how to improve instruction in schools
  • A group of women, just chit-chatting

If you are in the City of San Fernando, definitely check out Compañía de Café.  Check out this LA Times article to learn more about their story.

Compañía de Café

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Following the Path of Bieber

Trying to learn how to become a superstar in one happy hour.

Pics from YouTube Space LA Happy Hour.  Basically, it’s a YouTube movie studio.  Access is for those with lots of followers.  My friend Jacob and I were probably the only two without a YouTube station.  Ok, I have one but I only have one video. Anyway, the event was fun and had “HollyTechies”– a portmanteau of ‘Hollywood’ and ‘Technology’.  My friend Jacob coined this word so I can’t take credit.  But just imagine the kind of people you would see sipping chai latte on Melrose Avenue on a weekday and techie folks in one big, industrial, artsy room.  The name badge displayed our name, interests, and channel.  Jacob recognized YouTube personalities (is that what you call it?) in the room and most seemed to know each other.  Meanwhile, we toured the space, explored, and people-watched.

It was so… L.A.!  We loved it!

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Sadly, There Are Homeless People In L.A. Year-Round

In L.A. where there are no seasons, you have to rely on the holidays and even the entertainment industry to mark certain times of the year, e.g. awards season, Fall pilot season, etc. But between MLK, Jr. holiday and Memorial Day, there’s not really much else going on. Between Christmas and summer, we are pretty much all doing our own thing, which probably involves trying to lose weight and getting ready for the summer. Spring and summer are pretty much all about Us. But my friends Rebecca and Matt are different. They are legit good people who are always doing good stuff: they volunteer for various causes and not just during the holiday season. Rebecca and Matt recently invited me serve breakfast at the St. Francis Center with them and the Order of Malta. St. Francis Center feeds and serves homeless people. The Order of Malta prepares and serves breakfast at St. Francis twice a month. They were short on volunteers and Rebecca recruited me. Since I was free, I agreed.

I went to a play at the Mark Taper Forum the night before and then an after-party. I had a late night and was a bit out of it and ended up taking a detour/got lost on the way to the St. Francis Center. St. Francis Center is located on Hope Street, between Washington Boulevard and the 10 Freeway Grand off-ramp. The entrance to the street is near L.A. Trade Tech. The street dead ends at the I-10 Freeway off-ramp’s wall. The only other business on Hope Street was a tow company. My detour forced me to drive around the down-trodden neighborhood, but it still didn’t prepare me for the day. I had to be at St. Francis at 7:00 a.m. Not a lot of people are up at 7:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. But as soon as I turned on Hope Street where St. Francis was located, I saw no less than 100 people getting up and slowly putting their tent away and/or preparing their shopping carts. The only parking option was at one of the metered spaces, which was located right in front of people’s tents.  I pulled up one of the spaces. I felt like I just parked my car on someone’s lawn. I got out of my car and people greeted me.  I walked towards the door to St. Francis, passing people who were already lined up for breakfast. The door was locked but one of the other volunteers let me in and led me to the preparation area.

Order of Malta members were in the middle of preparing breakfast, which they will later serve restaurant style: like a restaurant, they will seat the guests and serve them breakfast, as oppose to a buffet. Breakfast included buttered toasts, eggs, corn with vegetables, and bacon. Hosts sat the guests and waitstaff brought them the food as well as coffee or juice. I helped prepare the many gallons of coffee and then, with Rebecca and Matt, prepared the plates that the servers brought to the guests. Although they needed a lot of servers, I opted for the easier role: one that did not involve interacting with homeless people.  I chose the easier role of being in the back and preparing the plates instead of serving guests because I felt guilty. I felt guilty because I couldn’t do more. I wanted to make their situation better. But I couldn’t. I knew that providing food and nutrients was supposed to help, but that seemed so temporary. What about lunch? Dinner? And the days after that? I felt guilty that, the night before, I was at the theatre with an “r-e”, drinking wine and nibbling on charcuterie and petit fours.

In less than 8 hours, I was in two different worlds: both of them in Los Angeles, down the street from each other. The reminder and the guilt definitely contributed to my cowardice. But I know that I can’t continue to be a coward and that I need to do something. I know that I can’t solve the problem of homelessness.  But like my friends Rebecca and Matt, I hope to open peoples’ eyes that there are homeless people year-round.  Hopefully, we would go beyond just volunteering once in awhile. I hope that some of us could go one step further– maybe write an elected official and advocate for better conditions, choose a particular shelter and make it your “official” charity, or organize a group of friends to volunteer so they can see it for themselves, too. There are homeless people in L.A. throughout the year. We should not keep it to ourselves.