Pardon my French ’cause the correct title might be “Le Fin a L.A.” Obviously, my French is out of practice.
The gist of it is that I went to Los Angeles for New Year’s Eve. I flew into LAX the morning of December 30th. Through AirBnB, I’d rented a room with a private entrance at a house in West Hollywood. The room was immaculate, comfortable and tastefully decorated. Amenities included a TV, free WiFi, a hair dryer, plates, coffee mugs, wine glasses, cutlery, a mini refrigerator, a microwave, shampoo, conditioner and body wash. The owner of the house also rents out a very cute pool house, which means that there’s a lovely pool as well. The house was very conveniently located for my purposes. The owner himself was excellent at communicating, in case I needed anything, and was an interesting man in his own right. His rescued Pit Bull, Hulu, was an added bonus – a dog with one of the sweetest temperaments ever!
After arriving at the house, I freshened up a bit and made a mad dash downtown to the Jewelry Mart. I had six watches that needed batteries replaced, had other jewelry that needed repairs and had some gemstones that I wanted to have set. In San Francisco, I’d had one watch battery replaced at a wholesale jewelry place for $15. Another place closer to my apartment had replaced two watch batteries for $10 apiece. Knowing that I’ve always been able to replace watch batteries at wholesale jewelry places in L.A. for $3 to $6 apiece, I saved up the rest of my watches for L.A.! One of the places that sells watches told me that they’d replace all 6 batteries for $5 apiece and it would take 20 to 30 minutes. I went to have lunch in the meantime.
During my previous jaunt to L.A. in June, I’d had lunch at a Thai restaurant called Soi 7. The food had been good, but I’d been crazy about a tea called Midnight Blue something-or-other. I went there again for the same spicy basil chicken and the Midnight Blue tea. I mentioned to the waitress that I was mad for that tea; she said that it was her favorite as well. When I asked if she knew what company made it, she explained that only the owner knew. She sent him a text asking him and promised to let me know if he answered her while I was still there; unfortunately, he didn’t. I enjoyed my lunch nonetheless.
Back at the Jewelry Mart, I was most determined to set a small cameo that I’d purchased in New Orleans in August. I wanted it set as a gold ring. Of the 4 or 5 jewelers that I originally found, all of them already had diamonds in their ring mountings. One jeweler asked my budget, explaining that his ring mountings started at about $500 and went up to about $1000. Well, even $500 was out of my price range! All I wanted was a simple gold ring mounting to showcase the cameo with absolutely no other stones around it. As I went in search of the Cambodian man that’s been repairing my jewelry for decades, I noticed that the shop across from him sold mountings. I dashed in and asked the owner if she sold basic, simple settings for rings in both gold and silver. Once she said “Yes,” I pulled out the cameo and some other gemstones and we set to work finding mountings that fit them. I ended up finding mountings for that cameo (yellow gold ring), star sapphires (white gold earrings), fire opals (a silver ring and a silver pendant) and a mother-of-pearl intarsia (silver pendant). When the owner mentioned that she takes cash only, I ran to an ATM to withdraw cash. Unfortunately, the ATM said that it was unable to complete my transaction. As I was dashing around in search of another ATM, the Cambodian man happened to see me. When I explained that I was looking for another ATM, he suggested the Bank of America a few blocks away. I went over there, but it also refused to complete my transaction. My last ditch effort was at my own bank, although the ATM was at least 4 or 5 blocks away. I ran there in the rain, but was still unable to get cash. I was sweaty and stressed out by this time, realizing that there must be something wrong with my ATM card; possibly demagnetized. I went back to the woman to explain, asking if she was open the following day (December 31st) or on Friday (January 2nd). She hadn’t made up her mind about December 31st (probably not) and was definitely closed on January 2nd. At that point, the Cambodian man told the woman that she could give the mountings, the cameo and the gemstones to him. He would set them for me in the morning, which would allow me time to go INTO a branch of my bank, see what was wrong with my card, in addition to withdrawing cash. I could then take the cash to him, pay him for his work and leave him the money to pay her for her mountings. That was a great solution for me and I was incredibly happy that the Cambodian man knew me well enough to offer to do that for me. I left everything with him, told him that I’d return by noon the following day, then went back to West Hollywood.
My plans for the evening were to have dinner with A.; we’d both attended college together at California State University, Chico for a year. She lived in L.A. and we’d hung out frequently back in the 80’s. Her family had invited me for every holiday. Once her mother had told me that, on the holidays when I hadn’t shown up, everyone would ask “Where’s Tina?!” For some reason, A. and I hadn’t seen each other since about 1989, though. Thus, in keeping with my New Year’s resolution, I was re-establishing contact, although the New Year hadn’t quite begun. When A. picked me up, we both commented to the other that we didn’t look that much different, aside from the obvious – a few wrinkles and a little added weight. For dinner we decided to see what was available at The Grove, as there would obviously be plenty of parking. We ended up at Umami Burger. As soon as I saw a Truffle Burger on their menu, my mind was made up. A. had never had truffles or truffle oil before, but trusted my judgment and ordered the same thing. She loved it! During dinner, I showed her pictures of various Chico alumni that I’d reconnected with who were my friends on Facebook. After dinner, she hung out in my room for about half an hour and we promised to keep in touch more.
I forgot to mention that AFTER I’d already left the Jewelry Mart, my bank had sent me a text questioning as to whether I’d made a $1.75 purchase on the L.A. subway. Apparently, they were worried that it might be fraud. Seriously?! My card/purchases have never been flagged over the past several years when I was in New Orleans, Honolulu, Newark, New York, Santa Fe, etc., etc., but they were questioning my $1.75 subway charge?! I was heated, to say the least. In about 2011, this same bank had let two charges on my card go through – one at a Red Lobster in Virginia and another at a Walmart in Virginia. On the other hand, they’d flagged the $1.50 charge for a Coke in Virginia, which came AFTER the other two charges. None of it made sense to me.
So first things first, I called my bank to make absolutely sure that my ATM card would work the morning of December 31st. They assured me that it would. I took the subway back downtown and showed up at the Cambodian man’s shop, where everything had already been set. I was very happy with his work, as usual, and his pricing is very reasonable. I paid him for his work and left the cash for him to give the woman for her mountings. As he put her money away, he said “I don’t know why she charged you so much for those mountings. So much for so little.” I explained that other jewelers were charging much more for their mountings, but she was the only one who had basic mountings that fit my cameo and gemstones. I then said to him that I had other jewelry to repair (which I’d forgotten to give him the previous day), if he had time. He promised to start on it immediately. I said that I’d go to lunch and be back in a few hours, so there wasn’t a huge rush.
Rather than more Thai food at Soi 7 (although it was tempting), I walked down to Grand Central Market. In all my years of living in L.A., as well as my myriad visits there after, I’ve never once been inside Grand Central Market. It was interesting, with a majority of Mexican places, but also Chinese, other Latin, Jewish, etc. I got a huge combination plate from a vendor that included a chicken taco, a beef taco, rice, beans and a tortilla for $8. She even asked if I wanted onions on them and if I preferred mild or hot salsa. The chicken taco was pretty tasty, but there was no way I could finish that entire plate.
Walking back to the Jewelry Mart, I took a few pictures inside the Grand Central Market and a few at Angel’s Flight across the way.
Once my jewelry was repaired, I did a little browsing. I needed to find a present or two for my cousin from Hawaii who just graduated from college in Arizona. Luckily, I found exactly what I wanted, so headed back to West Hollywood.
My New Year’s Eve plans were to have dinner with S., a former co-worker. She’d worked in my office in San Francisco for another division. After 3 years, she’d moved back to L.A., eventually moving to Phoenix. She ended up hating Phoenix even more than San Francisco, so was once again living in L.A.! Although our dinner reservation wasn’t until 8:30 p.m., she showed up at the house around 6:45 p.m.! The owner was kind enough to loan her a parking permit, though, so she could wait while I finished getting ready. She was very impressed with the room and also mentioned how adorable the owner’s dog is.
Dinner was at Hutchinson Cocktails and Grill on La Cienega near Santa Monica Boulevard. It’s a steakhouse with Indonesian influence. Neither of us had ever been there, as it opened less than 6 months ago. The reviews on Yelp were pretty good, though. We arrived about half an hour early, so contented ourselves at the bar while they readied our table. I drank Prosecco, S. drank something non-alcoholic and they served us shrimp chips. S. had never eaten shrimp chips before and found them much to her liking. I told her that my Thai boyfriend and I used to smuggle shrimp chips & Cadbury bars into the movies back in Kansas, rather than eating popcorn and Good N Plenty! When we were seated in a booth, we shared the nasi goreng, which had been highly praised on Yelp. S. asked me what nasi goreng was. Once I explained that it was Indonesian fried rice, she was fine with sharing it and yes, she liked it as well. My entrée choice was the filet mignon (no surprise there!) with a Szechuan peppercorn sauce and a side of roasted cauliflower. Hers was the filet mignon with the bone marrow sauce and a side of butternut squash. I had never had bone marrow sauce before, so tasted hers and was pleasantly surprised. It tasted much better than I’d anticipated! We shared a chocolate/peppermint panna cotta for dessert. While eating dinner, I also downed a few glasses of Malbec.
During this time, an ex and I had been in contact; we haven’t seen each other for 3 years. He kept calling and texting me during dinner. I told him to chill out and that he’d get a text from me as soon as dinner was finished. So we finished, I sent him a text and we drove back to the house. It was about 11:45 p.m. While S. and I were sitting in the car, I texted him that he better be kissing me at midnight, to which he replied “That’s the plan!” At 11:59 p.m., I sent him another text saying that if he didn’t make it by midnight, I’d have to kiss S. Midnight came and went, yet he still hadn’t made it there. S. and I wished each other a “Happy New Year,” though. A few minutes after midnight, I texted him to say that it was too late – I’d been forced to kiss S. at midnight and was now a lesbian! He showed up a few minutes after that, though, and ran over immediately to kiss me. He hugged S. as well, as they’d met about 4 years ago. She handed over the parking permit to him and drove home. Suffice it to say, I had a lovely New Year’s Eve – and it was all about reconnecting again.
New Year’s Day found me a little tired. I slept in a bit and didn’t leave the house till 11:00 a.m. I went to the Farmers’ Market at Third and Fairfax. Monsieur Marcel there used to carry a Moroccan spice mix by Namu that is my favorite to use as a base for soups. To my disappointment, they no longer carry it. I walked around both the Farmers’ Market and The Grove awhile, had lunch at The Cheesecake Factory, then went back to the house and took a nap.
For dinner that night, I was reconnecting with J. He’d been a temp in my office in San Francisco many years ago before moving to L.A. Once he moved to L.A., I only saw him once, but that was probably in 2000. So this was another reconnection. We met at a Thai restaurant in my old neighborhood, Galanga Thai Fusion. He looks much the same as before, too. Even though we don’t contact each other much, we ended up having a much deeper conversation than expected, which caused a few tears to be shed. Sometimes in life you end up having a more meaningful connection with certain people that you seldom see. When you see them again, you truly connect and share. That’s how the evening went. By the way, the food was good, too!
I walked back to the house passing many places that brought back bittersweet memories of the boyfriend that I used to live with in L.A. Truthfully, it made me a little sad. Back in my room, reflecting, I thought that having a drink or two on my last night in L.A. would ease my melancholy a bit. After about 10 minutes in my room, I received a text from the owner asking if everything was ok, since he’d barely seen me since my arrival. I mentioned possibly going back out for a drink. After a bit of back and forth texting, we decided to have a drink or two at Pikey together. It was something like 2 or 3 blocks away; we walked there together. He had vodka and cranberry; I had rum and Coke. He’s a very interesting man; English, though born in Chile, and used to photograph punk bands in CBGB. We talked about our favorite places to travel, he told me about funny guests that he’d had at the house and we discussed our love lives (or lack thereof). When he asked if I thought he should try on-line dating, I told him that my experiences had been far from good. We laughed over a few of those stories as well!
On Friday, the second I left the house, some man on Sunset insisted that he must buy me a drink. He was wanting alcohol, but it wasn’t 11:00 a.m. yet, so no bars/restaurants were open that sold alcohol. He settled for tea at Starbucks on Sunset and Crescent Heights. He really wanted my phone number and kept mentioning that he would like to visit me in San Francisco, but that wasn’t going to happen. I managed to ditch him after awhile and walked to Melrose. The remainder of my afternoon was spent window shopping in stores there, having lunch at The Village Idiot, having a drink at Aroma Bakery/Café on Sunset (SLOW service!) and hanging out with the owner back at the house until my shuttle showed up. The owner hugged me goodbye and said that he hoped I’d stay there again, then I was off to LAX.
Me and A.
My $8 Lunch from Grand Central Market
Hollywood Walk of Fame
Menu at The Village Idiot
Inside The Village Idiot