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A Humble Food Guide to #AWP16 in Los Angeles

20 Mar
The Last Bookstore

The Last Bookstore. Photo by Michael Kent.

Caveat # 1: I am an L.A. ingenue!

Caveat #2: I’m not even going to AWP this year!

But…I happen to be here right now, on a writing retreat while M takes a class for work, and I so enjoyed writing my little food guide to Seattle for the 2014 AWP, I thought I’d give this another spin, albeit with outsider humility.

I write to you from the Los Angeles Public Library cafe, which offers a Panda Express, TCBY, and a vendor called Food 630 which is closed and obscured by some potted plants. The scent of orange chicken is bringing me right back to my teenage field trips to the Staten Island Mall. Not incidentally, the downtown library has been a great place to hunker down and work. Free WiFi is not as ubiquitous here as in Seattle, but at the LAPL, the world is your oyster. I love libraries.

But,  I digress. Where do you eat? If you’re like me, downtown and car averse, there are several great options.

For breakfast, I cannot quit Pitchoun, a French bakery that will surely kill me. So far, I’ve enjoyed a plain brioche sprinkled with otherworldly-large crystals of sugar; a Kouign-Amann, more luscious than a croissant and oozing with syrup; a banana chocolate chip muffin, because, you know, it had some fruit on it; a pain au chocolat; and an almond croissant. Opt for the Kouign-Amann. It’s special.

As a New York transplant, I was very pleased to find Wexler’s Deli in the Grand Central Market.They smoke their own lox and pastrami masterfully. Their bagel is crunchier and less dense than a New York bagel, but it maintains a chewiness that saves it from being round bread with a hole in it. I did wonder whether there is an L.A.-style bagel, distinct from the holy New York and Montreal varieties. Indeed, this L.A. Weekly article confirms. If I were to return, I’d opt for corned beef on rye with a schmear of mustard and a pickle, which, I suspect, would hit a spot the bagel just so slightly missed. If deli food is not your thing, there are a bajillion other vendors at the market hawking foods of all kinds.

Wexler's

Photo by Michael Kent.

Chelsea Kurnick introduced M & me to B.S. Taqueria, the casual sister to fancy pants Broken Spanish. The lemon-pepper chicken skin chicharrones were tasty, and I would venture to say you should go there just for the outstanding rice & beans, flavorful with fresno chilis & cotija & delightfully crunchy thanks to rice being toasted. I enjoyed my tongue tacos, but next time I’d try the clam and lardo. (The Duritos, alas, were much too spicy for me.)

An easy Metro ride up into Hollywood brought M & I up to the old-school gem Musso & Frank, which is not cheap but not as expensive as I’d feared. An elderly barkeep in a red jacket made me a $10 gin martini, with a carafe of excess drink thoughtfully stowed in a little bucket of ice. The clams & linguine dish was well worth the $22 price tag and a side creamed spinach brought me right back to 1987.

Thanks to Kima Jones, I did eat *some* fresh vegetables this week at Bäco Mercat: deeply satisfying “caesar” brussels sprouts and a delightful sugar snap pea & pear salad. Kima urged me to dig deep into the salad, lest I miss out on the heavenly layer of burrata at the bottom. Seattleites will also kvell at the bicycle-powered ice cream parlor, Peddler’s Creamery.

We ventured up to Mohawk Bend in Silver Lake, a $5 shared uber ride, for beer,  buffalo cauliflower, and a garlicky white mushroom pizza that was very good. This spot is great for vegans; everything on the menu is vegan unless otherwise indicated.

For a down to earth meal close to the convention center, check out The Original Pantry Cafe, a 24-hour cash-only diner established in 1924. My dad has been going there every year for the last 30 years, “a good meat and potatoes” place. I had Portuguese sausage & eggs, incredibly savory and rich,  which plunged me into a pleasant food coma.

For an entirely different experience, and a good escape from the conference, take the Expo Line to Culver City for the Museum of Jurassic Technology. Fabulists will love the exhibits on old superstitions, pseudo-science, and other tantalizing mysteries. (There’s a whole room dedicated to Soviet space dogs!) The rooftop garden is a magical oasis, where you’ll be offered tea out of a samovar, doves flutter under billowing awnings, fountains burble, and an abundance of ferns, palms, and birds of paradise will sooth your overtaxed eyes. Many thanks to Sean Michaels for the stellar suggestion.

That’s all kids. Play safe. Eat well. While you’re at the conference I’ll just be up here in Seattle sitting in the rain, munching on kale.

 

The Furnace & More Like Home Than Home &

8 Aug

Kicking off The Furnace Reading Series last week was wonderful. The space was cozy and the crowd friendly, and I’m looking forward to coming back in October to help out with Buffy Aakaash’s radio play, “The Last Night at Manuela’s”. In the meantime, check out audio and video from my reading on Seattle poet Greg Bem’s website , a very lovely review of the event over at City Arts, and Morgan’s Martini Hour, the gracious on-air host of The Furnace.

In other collaborative-art-project news, I’m participating in Art & Words, a show curated by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam down in Fort Worth, Texas on October 6. Eleven writers and eleven visual artists are exchanging work and creating forty-four collaborative pieces. I’m excited about the new piece I wrote for it, and I can’t wait to see what gets created based on my short-short “A Meal”. Bonnie’s got a Kickstarter going to help make the event extra special. Prizes include discounted art, a commissioned jazz composition, or haikus, dactyls, limericks, or pieces of flash fiction written just for you!

Story Sounds

5 Jul

So I’ve got this reading in a month, and I’ve been thinking a lot about sound and how important reading aloud is for writing. Even without having a performance to prepare for, I like to read drafts aloud to see where they’re working or not. The story I’ll be reading this August 1, “More Like Home Than Home,” uses a lot of footnotes, which is a special listening challenge, so I’ve enlisted my friend Kristen Young to perform the story with me as the voice of the footnotes. I’m really excited to be working on this with her.

I’ve also been playing with SoundCloud and hope to record a story or novel chapter soon (and I posted a recording from my last Castalia reading for now). In the meantime, here’s a fabulous article on writing and sound from Constance Hale.

Glass Steak

12 Mar

Cherry blossoms were bursting all over the city today. M and I wandered down to the Belltown Top Pot to read and write. It was helpful to revise some Brooklyn scenes of my novel with the Monorail gliding by in the periphery –  a quieter, sleeker elevated train. We also poked around galleries in the neighborhood. Form / Space Atelier had three neat works, including the Interstitial Theater, a space for video installments. The video on view showed a glowing-hot knife burning through paper gently swaying in a dusky breeze; incense burned in the room and birds chirped and cooed in the background. Very calming to watch the paper char into strange maps. The Interstitial Theater is there until tomorrow and is apparently moving to SoDo after that. But the gallery has openings every third Thursday of the month, and I think we’ll be heading back.

In other news, the audio from my reading at the Hugo House is now available here. I had a fabulous night reading with Rachel Welty, Johnny Horton, and Heather McHugh!

Carciofes a la Malaise

9 Mar

Photo from my reading at the Cornelia Street Cafe, courtesy of Max Tzinman.

A Hint of Spring, A Touch of Phlegm

27 Feb

Well, it was my birthday today, and the weather was just as I like it: snow on the ground, spring in the air. Too bad I’ve got the last bits of bronchitis rattling around in me. Ah well.

Sunday night I read “A Meal” and “Lemon Tree Palace” at the Cornelia Street Cafe. As we were competing with Oscar night, and as one of the other readers was home with the plague, it was an intimate gathering, and very pleasant too. Chris Brandt read a series of poems on Thomas Jefferson, and another on Odysseus, and all were excellent. “Stars bouncing on waves” was a phrase from one of the latter that stayed with me.

After the reading, a few of us ate at the restaurant upstairs (delicious) and watched the snow come down on pretty Cornelia Street. A delightful night, with the only disconcerting bits in the fiction performed.

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