My first attempt at a cinemagraph, a bird overlooking the Pacific on the Santa Monica Pier
Many consider Los Angeles, California the Entertainment Capital of the World. It is where people go to chase their dreams, to make it big.
Some stay, some go, some just pass through. Few leave their mark, many more don’t.
On Sunset Boulevard I recently visited a place where one musician has left his mark, even if he doesn’t know it.
You might not know the name Elliott Smith, but you’ve probably heard his music. He was heavily featured on the Soundtrack for “Good Will Hunting”. His style incorporates whisper-soft singing over simple acoustic guitar with lyrics that can be mellow yet haunting. Much of his music is both simple and complex, the sort of music that’s best enjoyed at night and while not distracted.
The cover of his album Figure 8 is a black and white photo of Elliot standing in front of a mural of curved red and black lines. It’s pretty simple and straightforward, probably one of dozens of other promotional photos taken that day at various places near the music studio.
But like the cover of the Beatles’ Abby Road or Bob Dylan’s The Freewheelin’, this simple image and place has now become eternally linked with this artist and his music.
The wall is located on the South Side of Sunset Boulevard next to a McDonalds and a Mexican Taqueria, and recently I went to check it out.
The red and black swirling lines were accompanied by a combination of graffiti tags, tributes and lyrics. The wall has been painted, and repainted many times since the albums release in 2000 and become an ever-evolving place of expression for fans and as well as graffiti “artists”.
Inspired by visiting the wall, I figured I’d put together a list of 4 of his songs I’ve enjoyed most over the years.
Junk Bond Trader – Figure 8
Unlike many of his other songs, this one is best listened to at a high volume. In this relatively uptempo song the piano and bells drive a strong momentum. The song’s energy peaks towards the end, before seemingly being cut short. The energy is punctuated with this line at about the 2:50 mark:
Now I’m a policeman directing traffic, keeping everything moving, everything static.
I’m the hitchhiker you recognize passing, on your way to some everlasting…
St. Ides Heaven – Self Titled
This song paints a vision of world through a lens smeared by the effects of drugs and alcohol. It’s performed with the honesty of a man dealing with addiction and regret, and his voice and guitar tell the story of a guy walking alone late at night with cloudy vision. Through it you see a blurry vision of the moon above the artist and a darkness within.
High on amphetamines
The moon is a light bulb breaking
It’ll go around with anyone
But it won’t come down for anyone
Pitseleh – X/O
A prototypical example of the artist’s style, Pitseleh combines simple acoustic guitar, heartfelt lyrics, and whispering melodic singing. It’s the kind of song that easily melts into his other works, yet can stand up on its own.
The first time I saw you, I knew it would never last
I’m not half what I wish I was
Say Yes – X/O
Say Yes is the kind of song that sounds like it was recorded on a cassette tape sitting cross legged on the floor of an upstairs bedroom of a suburban home. The short song is full of lyrics which tap into the universal desire to be desired, doubtful optimism, and heartbreak. It’s stripped-down and clean, and the message boils down to a simple yet profound request – “say yes.”
I could be, another fool, or an exception to the rule
you tell me, the morning after.
Ramen is often thought of as a quick, cheep food eaten by college students on a budget. But in Japan, where Ramen originated, it’s a complex and delicious dish served in an almost infinite amount of styles.
For a quick lunch I stopped into a Ramen Shop in Little Tokyo, near downtown LA. It’s a great neighborhood to visit for people watching, shopping, and of course eating. There are bakeries and grocery stores, as well as (non-touristy) gift shops and public spaces.
I had a bowl of Tokushima Ramen at Men Oh, a small clean restaurant in a nondescript shopping center. Much like I noticed while traveling in Japan a few years ago, the exterior of the restaurant was dark, plain, and almost uninviting, however the interior was bright and welcoming.
Service was fast, and the noodles were warm, hearty and delicious. It wasn’t too salty, and you could customize the style with extras like scallions, chili pepper flakes and more.
I’m sure there are many other styles of Ramen to find in LA, but Men Oh probably had the best bowl I’ve eaten so far.
Living the in the vast sprawl of Los Angeles, sometimes it’s nice to get away from the crowds and the freeways.
The other night a friend and I took a long hike all around Griffith Park to view the lunar eclipse.
I’ve hiked in Griffith Park before, usually under a hot sun on a clear day, but at night the park takes on a whole new feel. It’s more quiet, more empty and more wild. We heard birds calling in the distance and kept our eyes peeled for coyotes or snakes (fortunately we didn’t see either, although there were a few times when an errant tree branch appeared quite serpentine in the moonlight).
It was nice to be able to hike in the cool air, to look at the vast city below with it’s sparkling lights. Above the city helicopters flew low, planes flew high, the moon rose brightly until the vail of the eclipse – the reflection of all of earth’s sunrises and sunsets painting the moon amber and red.
I didn’t get any great photos of the moon that night, but I did get a few of the view.
This was my first hike by moonlight, but it certainly won’t be my last.
A quick post with some photos from the LA County Air Show up in the high desert last weekend.
This morning K and I visited the The Original LA Flower Market in the heart of the bustling LA Flower District downtown. As you could probably expect, it was a sea of colorful and fragrant fresh flowers, both potted and cut. We picked up a few for a dinner party tomorrow night, and I snapped some photos with my new camera lens, a Canon f1.8 50mm prime lens that takes sharp photos with a nice shallow depth of field.
For the latest instalment of my quest to eat various food of the world here in Los Angeles I took the train down to Chinatown and checked out the Chinatown Bakery& Deli.
Located in the heart of Chinatown, this small restaurant was full of older asian guys chatting away in a language I didn’t understand as I picked out a few steamed buns to snack on before work.
If you’ve never had a chinese pork bun, or cha siu bao, you’re missing out. As I understand it, a cha siu bao is a baseball-sized bun of dough that’s stuffed with pork, sauce and seasoning and either steamed or baked. The result can be either a fluffy, sticky cloud that’s still moist with steam or golden brown and sometimes toped with a sweet, honey like glaze. Both are good, but I prefer steamed. Seriously, next time you see and chinese bakery go in and try a steamed pork bun. So good.
Although these buns weren’t the best I’ve ever had (nothing compares to the subway station in Tokyo) these baos were tasty and for only ¢.60 each you really can’t go wrong by giving them a try. The young woman behind the counter was friendly and told me this type of food is found in Guangdong Province, in South East China near Hong Kong.