Tuesday, October 11, 2005


The Tuesday Top Five, Week Three

Sorry to be getting to this a little late in the day this Tuesday. It's been meeting central in the office today, so there's been so little time. But I haven't forgotten about the three or four readers who occasionally peruse my Tuesday Top Five. No, sir.

And I haven't cheated you with this week's list. Given the time of year, it would be really easy to put an entry like this one:

"5. Halloween Candy. Yeah, folks, not one but two people in my office have out the baskets of candy for the Devil's Night season, and there's no finer way to spend a 3 p.m. break from work than to rummage around for the spare mini Kit Kat or tiny bag of peanut M & M's."

Note: Not a real entry.

I also have been feeling guilty for not doing more with music in the blog, mentioning it or whatever, especially since the Club Bally's I attend is just blocks from the famous Capitol Records building. But alas, I can't. I don't know much about new music except what I hear on the radio, and I can't recommend something when a) I don't know the words; or b) I haven't heard the album.

So when I considered doing a listing of the Killers song that currently burns up the radio dial, I relented. After all, for all I can tell, the lyrics to this particular ditty (don't know the title, either) are: "Coming out of my head and I am feeling just fine and I am . . . it started out with a kiss and how did it . . . it was only a kiss"

That's no good. For all I know, those aren't the words at all. It might not even be the Killers who sing it.

So here's the real Top 5:

5) The Los Feliz Movie Theater. Just two blocks away from the new Casa del Wieland, and better than that, it's everything that you could ever want in a neighborhood movie house. Matinee prices that go all the way to 6 p.m. even on weekends. Free refills on popcorn and soda. First-run cool movies (playing right now: History of Violence, Thumbsucker, and In Her Shoes).

Our Woman in LA and I went there to see In Her Shoes on our date night Saturday. It was Steph's turn to pick the movie, but it was a decent outing. You can't go wrong with Toni Collette and Shirley MacLaine, even if Cameron Diaz was out of her depth.

But the theater was super cool. Small and intimate, but clean and well-maintained. Cool designs painted onto the walls. No odd smells that usually accompany the tiny movie house. AC that's cool but not too cold.

How could a man in LA do anything but love it? And I didn't even mention its proximity to places like the HOUSE OF PIES, The infamous Dresden, and a bevy of other Los Feliz attractions.

Another win with the neighborhood.

4) Gasa Gasa Girl by Naomi Hirahara. A friend at work passed this along to me. It's a fun, fairly standard murder mystery taking place in Brooklyn's Park Slope neighborhood. But what makes it stupid cool is its protagonist. Mas Arai isn't your standard hard-boiled PI or drawing room Sherlock type. He's a 70-something survivor of Hiroshima, now working as a gardener in the So Cal suburbs of Pasadena and Altadena. His English varies between fair and poor. He's lived a tough life. And he makes the roller coaster ride of this mystery worth taking.

In this book, Mas travels from LA to New York to visit his daughter and her family. Daughter dearest is, of course, caught up in a web of murder, misplaced family allegiances, and Japanese-American relations that stretch back to the World War II internment camps.

I'm a sucker for a good mystery novel, and this is one. The characters are fun, the pace is fast, and I came away feeling as though I'd learned something about Japanese-Americans and even gardening. Cool stuff.

3) DA Giannino. So one half of my date night Saturday took place at #5, the Los Feliz Theater. This was the setting for the other half.

DA Giannino is a cool little Italian place set back in a tiny shopping center on Hyperion and Griffith Park. We're talking Ground Zero for the Silver Lake crowd. So it's got your mixed crowd - middle class families, hetero and gay couples, the odd hipster here and there.

But what a great location. Excellent food, good wine, terrific service, and best of all, affordable prices. We're talking the kind of cuisine that gets a little dangerous if you're trying to eat healthy. But if you're looking to go out in style . . . dig in.

Slabs of garlic bread to die for. Amazing pasta and seafood. And the lightest Caesar dressing I've ever tasted. Can't wait to go back.

2) The University of Texas Longhorns. I know that I've already covered these guys earlier in the week, but some times you can't help but burst with some pride.

Over the past five years, the Horns have been a terrific collete football team. Poised in difficult games, fit with amazing, pro-level athletes at nearly every position. Last year, their game against Michigan in the Rose Bowl is without question one of the five most exciting football games I've ever seen. If you want to know the other five, let me know.

But they couldn't climb the mountain. They couldn't dispatch their most hated rival - the University of Oklahoma Sooners. Since Bob Stoops' arrival in Norman, my boys from Austin just could not get it done. Not in five tries.

This is, by the way, the second time in my life that I've seen a beloved fan appear perfect except when under the glare of a most hated foe. And I really, really don't want to talk about Ohio State's record against Michigan during the John Cooper years. No need to.

It's torture.

But not this week. With a 45-12 whooping, the Horns crossed the threshold. Don't talk to me about Oklahoma not being great this year. Doesn't matter. 45-12. That's all she wrote.

And this is all I wrote: Hook em, Horns!

1) Cafe des Artistes. I know, I know. It's a two restaurant Top Five, something never done before. On the other hand, there have only been three of these things.

This place just had to make the list. Tucked away on McCadden just south of Hollywood Boulevard. You'd never know that you were so near to all the action of the boulevard. It's silent outside. Beautiful, but quiet. And yet, drive (or walk if you feel like it) just a block south and a block east, and you're right in front of a Scientology center.

See? Hollywood is there, right around the corner if you're looking.

Keep this in mind. The intersection of Hollywood and Highland is just a few blocks away. That's the closest thing we in LA have to Times Square or Clark and Division. Bright lights, beating sound machines, and so on. Yet here we were, on a darkened street, hanging out in a cool little bar and restaurant, its sign partly obscured by Ivy. We were off the beaten track, but still in a cool place, still in Hollywood.

Anyway, on to the place. Went there on Friday after Steph's show (Cloud Cuckoo Land, see last week's list) with some of the cast and the writer. Good food, tremendous drinks, and the coolest atmosphere around.

Our Woman in LA told me it was decorated the way she'd like to decorate our house. Which is to say Italian tiles, a huge fire place, dim lights all around, an open window looking out into a well-maintained courtyard. It's just a gorgeous old house, and a great place to hang out.

It's so cool that I'll even forgive the strange Rutger Hauer-looking bartender with an attitude. It didn't affect the evening at all. Some night, if we're kicking back with a drink, I'll tell you the rest of the evening's story. But that's not what we're here for now. This is the Tuesday Top Five - cool things to read, to see, places to go in the City of Angels. I'll get to the story later.

Suffice it to say that when it comes to Cafe des Artistes, we will definitely be back.

So that'll do it for this addition of the Tuesday Top Five. See you here next week, folks. Hasta.

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