October 3, 20141 Comment

Fiction in a minute: Killer app

Ashley and Calvin stood behind their orange shopping cart, arms touching but eyes fixed on their smart phones as they waited for the one Big Lots cashier to work her way through a line of 20 customers.

“That candy corn display has me thinking," Ashley said. "Let’s go to one of those haunted house thingeys. There is a zombie one at Universal Studios."

“I’m so over zombies,” he said, his eyes flicking through football scores on the tiny screen. “Anyway, tickets to that are, like fifty-five dollars. We don’t have that kind of money.”

Ashley sighed. He was right. The ramen noodles, no-name laundry detergent, and scratchy toilet paper in their cart were a testament to their lack of funds. She swiped and clicked the phone’s touchscreen, looking for budget Halloween festivities.

“Hey, here’s a free app. Spooky crime scene sites in Los Angeles. Says it guides you around haunted sites in LA.”

Calvin pulled his eyes from the sports mobile app to Ashley. “I bet I can name most of them,” he said, tapping his fingers against his crinkled forehead. “Black Dahlia murder site near USC. The Manson murder site in Benedict Canyon. Fairfax & Wilshire where Tupac was shot. Nicole Simpson's condominium in Brentwood. Robert F. Kennedy at the Ambassador Hotel.”

“You’re a trivia ghoul, Calvin,” she said. “Look, one of the places is right around the corner. It’s that boarded up house on Weddington.”

Calvin squinted at her screen. “A young couple was found brutally murdered in an abandoned house in North Hollywood. Suspects were never found; no motive was discovered. Does it say when that happened?”

She scanned the text and shook her head. “Nope. But let’s load the stuff in the car and walk over there. Cheap thrills.”

The house was a shell of neglect, its yard a wasteland of dried up plants and fast food wrappers. Sandwiched between two derelict warehouses, it smelled faintly of burning trash. Calvin shivered. 

“This is stupid, Ash, let’s go home,” he said, but she just smiled and scrambled through a hole in the fence to stand on the porch. “Take my picture, honey,” she said. 

The front door creaked open. Ashley screamed as a man’s dark silhouette covered her and disappeared into the house.  

Heart pounding, Calvin ducked through the cut chain-link and ran through the door. A second man stood in the shadows, light glinting off of the gun he held.

“Come on in,” he said. “We’ve been waiting for you.”

September 19, 20141 Comment

Fiction in a minute: North Hollywood Park

Urban Camping

Urban camping along Tujunga Blvd.

The normals abandoned the park to the squirrels and the homeless that white hot afternoon. They retreated to air-conditioned hinterlands with their fancy red headphones and silly dogs and trilling smart phones and neon sneakers, and left in their wake an easy and welcome camaraderie among the urban campers who called this patch of city land home.

Squinting in the sun on the doorstep of his shabby RV, James was relieved to be free of the ever-present normals. Their sidelong glances barely masked their quick judgments about people who lived in vehicles parked along Tujunga Boulevard. And their whispers were so easy to overhear. I can’t imagine living like that, can you? Where do you think they shower?

James wanted to tell them he’s between jobs. That this was better than sleeping on concrete or in a shelter. But he doubted they would listen.

They would not want to hear that he’s just like them. Nor would they believe it.

Shaded by the weeping branches of a eucalyptus tree, James smoked marijuana and drank warm beers with his neighbors. They swapped made-up stories about where they came from and let the sun and the drugs and the laughter convince them they'd get back there someday.

January 6, 2014No Comments

Things to do in NoHo in 2014

New year, new experiences. And my North Hollywood neighborhood has lots of new and stand-out restaurants, shops, theatres and studios to try out this year. Here are ten I'm going to put on my list for 2014. 

IMG_0925Bob's Espresso Bar, 5251 Lankershim Blvd (at Weddington)

Cute little coffee house with room for just about 20 people. Hosts open mic nights and you've got a fair chance of ordering your Americano from the owner, Robert Romanus aka Damone from "Fast Times at Ridgemont High."

Antaeus Company Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd (at Otsego)

Critically-acclaimed classical theatre company proves LA art is more than movies. Last year's line up included David Ives' adaptation of "The Liar" and Arthur Miller's "The Crucible." Plus they did a hilarious naked fund-raising video on YouTube.

California Institute of Abnormal Arts, 11334 Burbank Blvd (at Lankershim) IMG_0933

I've simply got to see a show this year at CIA, which calls itself the ultimate FreakShow experience. The venue hosts the best of the underground featuring art, music, magic, puppetry and independent film.

The Road Theatre Company, two locations: 5108 Lankershim Blvd & 10747 Magnolia Blvd

One of the few theatres dedicated to plays you've never heard of by playwrights no one knows.

SC Fitness, 5101 Lankershim at World Fitness Center

I've heard great things about the Zumba and Cardio Body Sculpt classes taught by Sandy Campy at the World Fitness Center. High-energy, fun, good music and reasonably priced.

Yoga Noho, 5257 Vineland (at Weddington)

Yoga studio with the usual vinyasa flow classes plus Tai Chi, belly dancing and something called a sound healing offering cleansing vibrations from planetary gongs and crystal singing bowls.

Movement Lifestyle Studios, 11105 Weddington (at Blakeslee)

Hip hop dance studio offering drop-in classes for intermediate and advanced dancers. Would love to check out one of their exhibitions.

Besame Cosmetics, 3505 W. Magnolia (at Avon)

Technically in Burbank but a stone's throw from NoHo, this store features its modern reproductions of classic luxury makeup from the 1920s, 30s and 40s. It offers hand-crafted lipsticks in vintage packaging to die for.

Pinup Girl, 3606 W. Magnolia (at Cordova)

Not too far from Besame Cosmetics is the California rockabilly headquarters, Pinup Girl, a clothing store devoted to vintage-looking dresses and outfits from the glam days of Hollywood. Pick up wiggle dresses, thigh-high stockings, leopard car coats and more.

Skynny Kitchen, 5166 Lankershim Blvd Unit D (at Magnolia) Skynny Kitchen NoHo

Boasting a menu where every option is under 500 calories, Skynny Kitchen offers bison burgers, protein shakes and tempeh bacon (whatever that is). I hope Skynny Kitchen has better luck than its location's previous tenants, the now-defunct Otis Jackson's Soul Dogs and Cefiore frozen yogurt.