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I Guest Blogged on Wild Prestige!

 

My very first podcast guest on SideKickBack, Leslie Dysart, has a wonderful blog of her own over at www.wildprestige.com and was kind enough to have me write a little post about how I enjoy myself in this odd hometown of ours. Here’s a repost of the article for you all 🙂

 

 

I can’t tell you how strange it is, the looks I get when I tell people I’m from LA.

“No, where are you from before LA?”

“No no,” I say. “I was born in Santa Monica, hung out at the old Sherman Oaks Galleria, the one from Fast Times. I slept through the Northridge ‘quake. I remember a time when downtown LA was not cool, just creepy and hipster-free.”

I am an LA native, and it is weird. This place is weird. Its identity in flux, fractured, and big: Really, really big. “Sprawling” I believe is the word. Some parts of it I love; some parts of it I hate. But here are some of my favorite things to do in and around LA, so maybe you can enjoy it just a little bit more.

 

DRIVING

Surprised? This is probably the most tired and spent topic when it comes to LA.  “The traffic, oy, the traffic!”  It alters the course of people’s days, dictates social gatherings and even business decisions. I’d love to give some home-grown tips but that could take me days because of the case-by-case nature.  I can at least offer my favorite ways to go in the hopes that you will work them into your drive and enjoy your time in the car a little bit more.

Mulholland Drive is my favorite way to go East/West. It is surprisingly efficient and you get stunning views, especially as the sun drops from the sky and the valley is bathed in some epic sidelight. The Santa Monica Mountains on the other side usually get a nice smoky haze going.  The best section is between Laurel Canyon Drive and Roscomare Road, but if you can keep your jealousy intact as you drive past dozens of dream homes heading West, all the way at the end is LA’s Nike Missile Site, a decommissioned missile defense station  from the Cold War Era that offers an unobstructed 360-degree view of the city. It’s a 10-15 minute walk up a dirt road, but if you fancy s’more hiking, there are plenty of trail heads in this area.

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My favorite North/South way to go is Topanga Canyon, including Old Topanga Canyon Rd. It’s another world in there, with twisting creeks, massive boulders, and caves that beg for exploration. What I recommend is bypassing the first part of Topanga, you might be tempted by the overlook at the top, but it’s only a decent, less-interesting view compared to the above mentioned. So, take Mulholland Drive West (Mulholland Drive is not continuous), to Mulholland Hwy and then to Old Topanga Canyon Rd. It’s a much more fun. A virtually empty road that takes you past secluded houses and mini-ranches that joins up with Topanga Canyon after a mix of tight turns and straight-aways.  Keep taking it South and you’ll hit the crest of the canyon, and begin a descent, feeling smaller and smaller until it spits you out into Malibu and the Pacific Ocean. Not too shabby.

EATING

Where to begin?  So much has changed in the last 25 years. A lot of my childhood favorites are actually gone, (rest in peace Weiner Factory) but a couple still stand.

In Santa Monica, you will find Bay Cities Italian Deli and their scrumptious fresh baked bread. A lot of people swear by the Godmother Sandwich, including Susan Feniger on an episode of the Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate (a show that has inspired me into a challenge of eating all items that have been featured). Nevertheless, I recommend the chicken salad. But always get the works, always. And don’t be tempted by the avocado spread, you don’t need it.

If you want to go a little fancier Italian, Fabrocini’s in the Beverly Glen Center is a great option. It’s tucked in the corner offering a nice secluded feel, and everything on the menu just tastes great! I recommend the Chicken Fabrocini; it is sautéed chicken topped with eggplant parmesan. Yes!

If lighter fare is what you’re feeling, Hugo’s will satisfy you for sure!  Located in, both, West Hollywood and Studio City there are tons of options for every diet imaginable, including a ‘nomnivore’ like me. Get the Pasta Mama if you want to partake in another item from The Best Thing I Ever Ate challenge.

Lastly, I’ll finish off this incredibly difficult list to keep small with one of my favorite new spots:Blue Dog Beer Tavern in Sherman Oaks. Great beers, great food, especially the Good Karma Burger, topped with pulled pork, caramelized onions, double cheddar and coleslaw. Enough said.

GOING OUT

Let me warn you: I am not your average ‘night-outter.’  When I join friends at places, it’s usually a bar that’s overpriced and way too loud with jerk bartenders; I have to fork over a day’s salary and end up with a sore throat from the simple challenge of trying to talk.  Call me old, call me lame, but I just don’t enjoy that experience that seems to be oh so popular these days.  I am sure there are dozens of places that break this mold and I have been to some of them too, so I know they exist.  But I most enjoy slightly more unique approaches to a night out on the town, such as grabbing some wine, cheese and crackers (or any favorite picnicking items) and heading to Griffith Park Observatory just before sunset. You can watch the city change colors and light up as the sun goes down and then head into the free museum when you’re done.  On certain days, there are observatory workers with high powered telescopes on the lawn showing people the various beauties of the night sky.

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If your budget can handle it, a night at the Hollywood Bowl is a must. It’s far and away my favorite venue I’ve ever been to with so many gorgeous memories. I’ll never forget watching a brilliant sea of neon wristbands light up as Coldplay took the stage.  Or seeing John Williams on July 4th conduct the LA Philharmonic as they performed his classic film scores with fireworks exploding above our heads.  Grab your favorite picnicking items once again, sneak in some booze and get ready for a guaranteed evening of magic.

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GETTING OUT

One of my favorite things to do in LA is to leave. Harsh, I know, but there are so many wonderful spots that lie just beyond its borders, that it’s almost like LA knows it can be a pain in the butt to live in. So it offers some nice escapes as a concession.

I went to UC Santa Barbara for college, I have done that drive so many times, but it never gets old.  Just 90 minutes (without traffic) partially alongside the Pacific and you are in a picturesque, perfectly sized town that has great eats, wonderful weather, and good vibes all around. As a bonus favor to yourself, hop over the mountains for some wine-tasting and finish with dinner at the Vineyard House in Santa Ynez, one of my favorite eateries in the entire world.

If you’d like something a little closer, Lake Castaic offers up an interesting opportunity.  Grab some delicious Bay Cities or Mendocino Farms sandwiches, some lawn chairs, head up the I-5 past Magic Mountain, and take Lake Hughes Rd. East up the hill. You can park the car, then your keister and enjoy a really nice sunset while overlooking the lake and the hills behind it. Stay long enough and you’ll get to do some great star-gazing as this spot is just out of reach of the ambient light of the city.

If you want a lengthier escape, camping in the Lake Arrowhead area is so nice. And you might even find some old carvings of mine in and around the Dogwood campground that I and some campers made back in the day. If you find yourself struggling to muster the energy to cook up your own meal, try the Cedar Glen Malt Shop for some peachy keen shakes, burgers and fries.

Well…that’s all I got for now. I’m sure I will be kicking myself as I come to realize all of the options that I left off the list but I hope I provided you with some unique spots and ways to experience the City of Angels, whether you’re a newbie, a transplant going on their third year, or a native like myself.

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It’s been a pleasure guest blogging for you here on Wild Prestige.Please check out my own blog and podcast at www.sidekickback.com and feel free to contact me andrewfromer@gmail.com if you’d like specific directions/tips/escapes.

Happy trails everybody!

The Sidekicks of Havasu (and Beyond)

For those of you whose first experience with SideKickBack is this post, welcome! And thanks for reading 🙂 I just want to take a moment to set up the forthcoming gratitude by explaining one of the founding principles of the main squeeze here, SideKickBack Radio, the podcast in which I interview friends and colleagues who are doing really amazing stuff. I strongly believe in altruism, in people helping people. I wanted to provide a platform for my friends and colleagues to talk passionately about their various endeavors and record it for you fine folks to hear about. As they promote themselves, new points of view are shared, great stories are told, and there is a guaranteed educational experience with each new guest. As corny as it sounds, it is the SideKickBack way. Everybody wins.

During a recent phone call with Amber Goetz, one of the producers of the forthcoming mega-hit comedy film Highway to Havasu, we brought up how simply amazing some of the citizens of Havasu (and some beyond its city limits) were in helping us achieve our dreams of making an iconic movie. Food, boats, private residences and businesses, even a golf course and hovercraft were offered to us, all by people looking for little or nothing in return. Perhaps the smallest of financial compensations and/or a shout-out in the credits of what could very well be a major breakthrough independent film sensation. People helping people.

I’ll never forget riding around on Gary Meyers’ hovercraft. He emailed our producer Amber, offering  up his awesome little vehicle. We had no place for it in the story, so we made one.  Three hours later I was gliding across Lake Havasu, with cool and fresh Colorado River water spraying in my face as we spun a couple 360’s; all whilst sporting a sweet Jet Tribe life jacket. I’ll never forget the delicious tacos of Javelina Cantina or Vinnie’s Pizza, a lot of Vinnie’s pizza. The fellas and their Commander Boats, whose intimidating rides flanked our Backyard Beauty as we pulled into the channel to celebrate spring break Lake Havasu style.  And then the other fellas of Sea Tow, who helped out with our water shots. And let’s not forget SWAT for letting us partake in the partiest of parties.

Then there’s simply the good individual people who dedicated their time and support to us. The students of Lake Havasu High School who hung around WELL AFTER SCHOOL LET OUT to be background actors. The people walking by set who asked us what was going on, and then left as a new Twitter/Instagram/Facebook follower. Whether it was one minute of time, a whole day, or its still going, your support in our endeavor is so much appreciated.

I’m sure my list is incomplete, and that’s what’s so great about all this. So many folks offered a helping hand in so many ways, big and small. To you all I can only say, a very big thank you. Lake Havasu City was my home for two crazy months and it will always have a special place in my heart, because of all your kindness and generosity. Can’t wait to see you all again soon and eat your food.

SideKickBack blog post…WA-CHA!!!

SideKickBack Radio’s Sundance 2015 Review!

Last Days in the Desert: Ewan McGregor masterfully plays a humanized version of Jesus (and a demon alter-ego) in an imagined chapter of his life in which he encounters a family that has fallen on hard times. It is an incredibly beautiful film, shot by Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki, the genius cinematographer behind Birdman. The scene-work in writer/director Rodrigo Garcia’s true work of art is a joy to watch, one fireside scene in particular, where McGregor tries to outwit his own self.

Brooklyn: Saoirse Ronan plays a young Irish immigrant who comes to America in the 1950’s. The acting is stellar in this truly touching and delightful tale directed by John Crowley. It has some of the funniest of laughs, some of the sweetest of moments, with heartbreak and suspense throughout. Bring tissues.

Slow West: A throwback Western tale of a boy in search of his lost love with a little help from Michael Fassbender.  While it was not one of my favorites, there are some uniquely hilarious, stylized bits in this one and it most certainly does not lack in freshness. It did win the Grand Jury Prize of the World Cinema category after all, so it is definitely worth a gander.

Don Verdean: Sam Rockwell is a Biblical Archeologist in search of the next big discovery for the Christian people. This Jared Hess film is a charming and funny commentary on religion as we see it today.  Also, Jemaine Clement’s portrayal of an Israeli artifact smuggler is a must-see…the best I can do is to call him an Israeli Borat.

The D Train: An eternally dorky Jack Black tries to wrangle former high school royalty turned “Hollywood” actor James Marsden into attending their high school reunion.  Jarrad Paul and Andrew Mogel have written and directed one of the most unique and fun comedies of the last decade. With a fantastic cast and great writing, it really all comes together perfectly in this “late-bloomer coming of age tale.”

Results: Guy Pearce and Cobie Smulders play personal trainers who try to handle a difficult yet endearing new, recently divorced client, an oddly brilliant Kevin Corrigan.  I’ve never seen a love story quite told like this and writer/director Andrew Bujalski wonderfully applies his avant guarde roots to the romance genre and what we get are characters so uniquely flawed and complex that I wanted to watch them all day.

The Stanford Prison Experiment: A dramatic portrayal of the famous experiment carried out by Dr. Philip Zimbardo. This was my favorite of the festival. It was extraordinarily fascinating as this intensely psychological event provided such rich terrain for all of the fantastic young actors to explore and director Kyle Patrick Alvarez puts together an incredibly deep experience.  Michael Angarano was a standout as the infamous “John Wayne Guard.”

I Smile Back: Sarah Silverman plays a housewife struggling to maintain normalcy as she battles her own demons with drugs, alcohol and adultery.  It is provocative in all the right ways. This was one of the more anticipated performances of the festival and while I may not be the biggest Sarah Silverman fan, she does a wonderful job in director Adam Salky’s sophomore Sundance film.

Stockholm, Pennsylvania: Saoirse Ronan returns home to her birth parents after being held captive by a child kidnapper for most of her young life. The family attempts to readjust to a normal life as Stockholm Syndrome lurks around every corner. It is a true work of fiction as writer/director Nikole Beckwith did not draw from a single real-life case and for this reason the story is exceptionally captivating with quite an unexpected turn.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl: Thomas Mann is a high school senior who strives for social neutrality in the hopes of surviving high school.  His mother, Connie Britton, forces him to spend time with a family friend who was diagnosed with Leukemia.  It is a remarkably well-made, unique movie by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, as clearly evidenced by its taking of both the Audience and Grand Jury Prizes.  It is a fresh new look at coping with high school angst, fitting well into its deserved place in the Pantheon of high school films.  Bring tissues.

By: Andrew Fromer