A Safari Tour of the San Fernando Valley Cafes

It’s hard for me to get any writing done at home. This misfortune has led to a patronization of coffee establishments in the Encino/Sherman Oaks area. I anticipate much of this would have been flagged and reported were it written on Yelp, so I’m keeping it urban.

1. Starbucks – Ventura and Hayvenhurst

The caffeinated anchor in yet another manufactured suburban entertainment complex. There’s an outdoor patio where the young and old school each other in speed chess matches. Illegal checks usually lead to a flurry of Farsi across tables.  The police came down hard on the establishment about eight years ago when one of them pulled out a gun on a cop.

Pros: Adjacent to Barnes and Noble. Frequented by cougars. Hot moms make for pleasant eye candy. Radiohead will pop up on the store playlist about once a month.

Cons: Persians.

2. Coral Tree Café – Tarzana

Serving panini, pasta and wine, the food and the prices draw an upscale, professional crowd that come for meetings, awkward lunch dates, and coo over newborn babies with gargantuan heads. I know this because I’m sitting right next to one.

Pros: Curried Chicken Sandwich. The counter to table service, and endless cups of drip coffee.

Cons: Pricey. But you pay for what you get. The sandwiches are enormous and come with a green salad.

3. Coffee Bean – Reseda and Ventura

Where suburbia goes, coffee will follow. I have a special place in my heart for this one –I did my barista training here, got wired on 8 shots of espresso in half the hours. Shaky hands brings angry service. Lisa, the manager, liked to close up on time, so she’d put an out of order sign on the bathroom 30 minutes before close to avoid the heavy post clean-up. They reopened it after Israelis started peeing in the parking lot.

Pros: Equidistant to nearly everybody I know, I’ll see someone every time I visit.  Good place to meet Jewish girls. They have a fireplace during the winter, and Coldstones and Robeks Juice is next door. But who the fuck ever goes to Robeks Juice?

Cons: CB pays no attention to furniture: it sucks far worse than the Office Depot desk my brother gave me for my apartment in San Francisco. Also, Israelis tend to get rowdy during the midnight hour, smoking cigars and eventually turning into werewolves.

4. Aroma Café – Encino

An Israeli style Café in the heart of mini Tel-Aviv, the crowd is mostly Arab and Nazi sympathizers. The food is REALLY good (get the Tunisian on a Jerusalem Bagel), you can smoke on the patio – they also put out misters during the summer! – and the waitresses are all hot Israeli chicks looking to get a Visa. Bring a ring next time you go.

Pros: Besides the food, the best part is that Aroma is a scene, which is exceptional since it’s in the VALLEY. The Hollywood feel, without the pretentiousness. Waitresses like it when I talk in Hebrew. Still, I always leave heartbroken and dateless.

Cons: Expect to wait a long time for a table, especially if you want to sit outside. Flirt with the hostess by commenting on her stupid necklace she bought off her friend in the mall. Usually, you’ll get seated earlier.

5. Starbucks – Kester and Ventura

Same drinks, different feel. This Starbucks stays open till midnight every night, one of the few places in the area to do so. In typical Valley behavior, a spat broke out last time I was here between three burly, goateed Armenians and an older Persian guy, who I call Mr. Bronze. He was hitting on a few young girls. 10 minutes later he was about to “get his jaw cracked and knocked the fuck out for talking shit.” Another ten minutes passed and nothing happened.

Pros: You can sit in the corner, start working, and not order a thing. If the staff can’t see you, they can’t bother you. The music is not too loud or distracting. And you can’t beat the late hours.

Cons: I would again say Persians, but I don’t want to diminish the entertainment possibilities.


Surveillance #1

Oh the Glory of it All

You know that rich family whose kids all turned out fucked up? This is that story, told by Sean Wilsey, a San Francisco native.  A socialite mother who saw God and coaxed him into leading song sessions to foreign heads of state during the Cold War. A neglectful father who flew helicopters, divorces Mom and marries her best friend. He says things like: Wash your hands before you go to the bathroom. Your penis isn’t dirty but your hands are.

Then there’s Dede – evil stepmom who wears millions in ice and ruins Sean’s life. Wilsey is the geek inside all of us, with his problems only magnified under the writer’s lens. He gets kicked out of high schools, steals scooters, rides up Lombard and wastes money on sunglasses just to impress kids in the neighborhood. It’s a deep and juicy, even more so than the porn in your next browser tab. Get into this. Thanks Luke!

Waltz with Bashir

Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 trying to root out Yassir Arafat and the elusive fat kid from the Goonies. They didn’t capture either but they did break a lot of hearts in the process. Filmmaker Ari Folman was a one-man show for this animated documentary. We watch him re-piece together his own experiences in the war, with the Sabra and Shatila massacre forming the nexus of the story. The art direction? You’ll go gaga – so realistic you’ll forget you’re watching a cartoon. But you are. Other cool shit worth mentioning:

A) Waltz with Bashir is in Hebrew, so the Heebs should feel privileged to catch a few words here and there. Think back to what the soldiers on the Birthright bus taught you when you were drunk. It’ll come.
B) Actual footage of the massacre and the war is scant, which makes this story even more compelling. Bashir is a cross country mind trip down an Israeli militarized memory lane, all done in anime.
C) The soundtrack is mostly classical; dark, bittersweet, and fitting especially during the war scenes.

Rethink Communication

An ad shop based in Vancouver. Most of what’s transmitted in my ad circle of is soon forgotten, but there are a few weekly gems that come down the pipeline. Noah introduced me to do this, and fuck, these guys get comedy to a funny science. Check out their science museum stuff, and their BC Lions spots. Useful information delivered to your eyes.

Also! Stepbrothers with Will Farrell and John C. Riley. Thank you Judd Apatow for doing what you do.

china. obama. a test. i’m more than slightly drunnk.

The Chinese seem to be testing Obama. this is like Risk, only in real life. Here were go. Get your dices reeady.


The background, fully expalinedin the article: the us, not obama, the hus sent ships towards china. they complained it got harrased. okay sobver enough to write htis p[ost. it’s monday? wh i have class totomorrow. what am I droing wasterfd? gthere/. there’s the D i need. phew. okay.eyes bruningg./

this is great too:

A Republican lawmaker called the standoff a critical “early test” for President Barack Obama just weeks before he meets Chinese President Hu Jintao in April.

The Chinese ships surrounded the USNS Impeccable, and after two ships came within 15 meters, waved Chinese flags and told the Americans to leave the area, the Defence Department said in a statement.

The tension on the high seas took an odd turn at one point when the Americans sprayed water at the Chinese boats and the crew responded by stripping to their underwear.

now the chinese say the us was in violation and will not accept the US aggression? what will obama. do. sory a bout the qestion mark. totally uncessary. let’s watch the us – china party play out. here i used alliteration. do youlike it? my poems are grand that smell like cheesesake. ha. haha. sake and cheese cake. thats like dan korn on a weekend. he’ s a good guy. this is so embarraseing. im about to hit publish. hooray for the internet. you are such n editor. do you realize we are all vegetables?

Nightmare on 8111 Batha Street

My stomach was all torn up this morning.

I had this time portal dream where Gil and I are 7 and 9, respectively. (I’m 2 years older)  For reasons unexplained, we’re being held prisoner by this pudgy WASP type in this modernized house in Reseda. The address is 8111 Batha Street, and there are spruce and cherry trees out front, a toy plastic bicycle on the lawn, and fallen acorns on the driveway.

It’s gray outside, like San Francisco gray, where no one wants to get out of the house but smoke and cook vegan pasta and read books in living rooms. Anyways, I’m freaking the fuck out, being older than Gil, who is exploiting his youth and naivete to his advantage. The thought of being kidnapped by a strange, manic, but sweet guy hasn’t fully entered his brain, but it’s all I can think about. My stomach is compressed, my lungs burn from restrained tears and my head is shaking in panic. He’s offering Gil cookies and milk – smiles sadistically and restrains me with his fat hand on my chest, pushing me back into the plush, beige couch if I try to move too quickly.

It’s night.

I have my Google phone on me, which is somehow impossible because it hasn’t even been invented yet. I write a message to my brother Edahn…I can see the words…

We’ve been kidnapped. This is not a joke. We’re on 8111 Batha Street. Send the cops. There’s a hallway to the left when you enter, and we’re in the first door on the left. I’ll be, I am waiting. This is not a joke. He has weapons. Bring SWAT.

Gil called me at 9.36. I tell him everything, my stomach still hurts. It was so real. It took hours to go through. He looks up the address. It EXISTS. But it’s in South Carolina.

You want to know the sick, twisted ending? As I’m walking to school  I started thinking how I could work this whole thing into an ad.

64 degrees and out of place

Winter was interrupted last night; t-shirt and Le Tigre vest weather.

64 degrees and out of place, I had no reason to complain. Ebullience in the kitchen led to vegetable lasagne and after I overshot the cooking directions I watched the ricotta burn a horrible dandy death at the top. Full of pasta and marina sauce, headed to Haight with not much of a plan other than being outdoors.

Divisadero cuts the city in two. Follow it up to flipcup in the Marina or get gay in the Castro, the middle section is where I tend to call home. I spend more time there than anywhere else, being as its so close but so different from Haight headshops and their poor patronizers. Are you loving this alliteration? It’s giving my fingers the chills.

Passed by the Page, a dive bar designed by a moron. Inside a jukebox stops playing when its not juiced up, beers are happily never over 5.50, and that invites the cougars to stay and pick up the scraps after last call. I know the bouncer there, a pleasant tall black man named Tony who somehow always recognizes me. We exchange a nod that says ‘I don’t know your last name, but if you’re ever in some shit around here I’ll help you out.‘ That would be the last time I’d see Tony that evening.

The weather calls for skirts and mini dresses, and that calls for compliments. ‘You look great!‘ I tell the girl in black with the silver sash. She’s tall, pale, with thick, nervous eyebrows that keep staring forward, even though they should be focused on her heels which aren’t behaving. I turn around and she looks back, confused by the nice things that people you don’t know say. They are an odd bunch. I hope she didn’t meet the floor during the night.

Walking. Walking and snooping inside, not making much conversation until I find a wooden bench outside Mojo cafe/restaurant/bike repair shop. I was there earlier with Lindsay. She was out in the garden, and I met Andrew, a friendly fellow wearing a conductor hat and a dark orange beard that requires serious dedication. I am not one for facial hair, or hair in general, but: School and work, money and laziness have left on my hair long. I’m disgustingly approaching 3 months and should anyone care to notice, it IS beginning to form an afro. I am Iraqi. This is the curse I was born with…

Sitting at Mojo with 4 other bohemians, we decide to form a high five parade for all the passerbys. Dozens of people, a few deja vus, plenty of high fives – this is our neighborhood and we own this place. We score five fingers for most who walk past – some are serious and do not want to be molested. Some are young and excited by the interaction. Some look weird and we do not offer them our hand.  I meet J.D. He wears pants that are too tight for him. He probably played football or ate a lot of meat when he was younger and is the definition of ‘burly.’

burly (comparative burlier, superlative burliest)

  1. (usually of a man) Large, well-built, and muscular.
    He’s a big, burly rugby player who works as a landscape gardener.


(1) Empire Strikes Back was the best of the three because the good guy must LOSE. Vader is your dad, and he wants to bring you in the family business. Luke refuses, and his dad CUTS HIS HAND OFF. You want to be the good guy? You’ll never succeed single-handedly. I’m your dad. You are me. Don’t believe me? I just cut your fucking hand off.

(2) No one talks about Obama anymore. Why? The real action is on the right. All moderates have joined the Dems, and anyone who stayed is at the far edge of right, and the furthest edge of reason. Good luck to those motherfuckers in 2012.

(3) Go see Waltz with Bashir! An Israeli animated film about Sabra and Shatila. Animation is a hard sell. Go see it and help it reaching the tipping point.

Leave Mojo. Head to Weizema for a drink. Talk to a few girls, Mattie and Gretchen and their best friends birthday’s whatever, who are too smart, too bland, or too boring for any game. I leave. Two bowties on the street. I walk with these gentlemen for a while, solely because they’re in bowties, hate those who hate Jewish people, and one of them is carrying a gigantic orange construction cone.  One of them is on a mission to find us cans of Sparks, energy flavored malt water.

The weather turns to water as Sunday approaches. The 71 is full of girls in piercings, discussing where to get the best tattoos for the cheapest prices in the Mission. Or is it Berkeley? I don’t know. I’m tired and want to get home, shower and shave. I’m back on my feet again, and convinced that as of now, I am headed in the right direction.

my friend just had a Kid!

Traveling takes its toll on friendships…Maybe not yours, but definitely mine. LB asked me today if my friends are from college or high school and blah I have friends linked to different time periods in my life, friends who were once close to my heart and still are, but are somehow disconnected from each other.

My earliest friends still remain in their respective places. There were four of us. One’s in South Australamerica or somewhere, working the hostel scene. Another is in Palo Alto, married, looking to move to Israel (???) and electrical engineering. I’m in SF at the moment learning how to write commercials and ads you’ll hopefully not hate. The 4th is in LA.

And his wife just gave birth to their first daughter.

She looks like him and has fat rolls on her arm. 8 pounds. The weight is important, a sign of health and good fortune. Fersht slept 3 hours over the past two days – his wife Aviva even less.My brother calls me with the news.

He sounds sedated, exhausted.

“everyone’s been calling me, sending me texts. Shit. Why can’t you just wait till we come on Monday and then you can see her. It’s all crazy and shit”  He’s protective, already. My friend. The Aba. I love it.

I have questions. A million questions.

“So? What was it like?” I ask. “What’d you feel?”

He’s too tired for words. I’m embarassed, giddy. I tell him it’s as if we had a child. Me and him, we just gave birth to something. During this conversation.

“That’d be one hairy ass kid,” he says back.

I miss home. I miss LA and Shabbat and Friday nights singing songs and playing tennis with my dad, music with my brothers, and getting sushi and coffee with my mom, talking walks around the block. I hype it up, though I know I will miss my apt in San francisco when I’m home for break. But who cares. These days, I am lonely, seeking love and something bigger to hold onto – my life is school school school work work work and I’m missing the city, missing people, missing you, missing me, just missing.

Miracles do happen. Pain and lonliness is temporary, as is all suffering. I’m happy. I’m happy that this girl’s entry into this world did the trick.  So keep smiling.