Tuesday, February 28, 2006


After a long hiatus, it's the return of the TUESDAY TOP FIVE!

Now that you all know about Our Man in LA's Bottom One for the week, it's time to move into the good stuff. I know you folks are swamped, sneaking a read during working hours, so we'll get right into the middle of it.

And away we go . . .

5) LA Clipper Nation - Since the beginning of the NBA season, I've been in high gear about my new hometown's Clipper basketball team, which remains the best team in Los Angeles, and the second best in the Pacific division, far ahead of the better-known but not better-playing LA Lakers.

Got a chance to hit another game last night. Free tickets, courtesy of my place of employment (which meant they were just about as high into the rafters as you can get). But because I do work for a non-profit, I did get a chance to meet Clipper owner Donald Sterling in the moments before the game, which was super cool. How often do you meet a sports owner at all, let alone one who's been happy to let his little Clippers grow and develop, even in the shadows (and same arena) as big, bad Kobe? Yeah, I'm saying it sort of tongue in cheek. Yeah, it's a little sarcastic. Whatever. It was still sort of cool.

The game itself, not as much. The Clips, without center Chris Kaman (ugliest man in the NBA - look it up at nba.com!) played the anemic Charlotte Bobcats. But it gave me, and my good buddy Dave, a chance to observe Clipper culture. Like this:

It's possible that David Hasselhoff is the Clippers' Jack Nicholson.

There he was, the former Knight Rider, the former Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD, the huge-in-Europe pop star, and the brains behind Baywatch, sitting at half court on the floor. Staying to the bitter end of the game, chatting away with on-lookers and entourage. Polishing the glasses that I'm still not sure he needs.

Sure, I always thought he was TV's version of Patrick Swayze, but apparently Hasselhoff is so much more. With the Clips, he holds court. Dave and I began a chant of "Hasselhoff! Hasselhoff!", pretty much to the cadence of "Air Ball! Air Ball!" We got the kids in the crowd into it.

Of course, the Hasselhoff didn't look up. He's too big for us fans these days. Like the Clips, we're just privileged to be in his presence.

4) Ye Rustic Inn and The Drawing Room - When you think about coming to LA and doing a little bar-hopping, you usually think it's going to be at some hoppin' place on Sunset with beautiful people, martinis that go into three figures, and the like. Or maybe it's one of those darkened clubs with no sign out front, off an alley somewhere, where the hipsters drink and play the bongos.

And sometimes you just want a bar. Nothing pretentious, nothing too heavy. Just a hole in the wall with a decent juke, good deals on tap, and maybe a few hardcore alcoholics crumpled up in a corner somewhere.

I'm happy to say that once again, my home base of Los Feliz delivers the goods. Friday night was girl's night in this section of the world, which meant that Our Woman in LA was off partying with the ladies. So my buddy Nick and I headed out in search of beverages. There was a stop at the Improv Olympic bar on Hollywood, but mostly because he knew the bartender, and that meant drinking cheaper. But later, we ventured out to Ye Rustic Inn and The Drawing Room, two holes in the alcoholic wall, across the street from each other on Hillhurst.

No frills, but full-up, these bars were. Good times. Loud metal rock from the 80s playing, good deals on bottles of Stella and Sam Adams, and attentive bartenders with a lot of tattoos. If I closed my eyes, I could hear the echoes of the late lamented Lakeview bar on Broadway at Barry in Chicago, torn down years ago now to make room for a Quizno's.

A real bar, I thought, smiling. No smoke inside, which gave the lungs a break. But a real bar. Happy is Our Man in LA.

3) Yoga. From the liver-damaging effects of a good bar, to the return of holistic health. Our Man in LA has lived in SoCal for 20 months now, and though he's still the same guy, it seemed only a matter of time before he started taking up more of the "California lifestyle".

It started with the 5K and 10K races. The wife and I working out more. Continued on with more attention to the wine list at restaurants, complaints about paying for parking, and shock - SHOCK - when it rains outside.

And last week, I started something else. Took a yoga class for the first time.

Not a hard one, not heavy duty. Just stretching and moving the body in a different way. Just restoring the breathing and the blood flow. Just clearing the mind a little bit.

Mostly, I really liked it. I won't lie. I'd never done some of those stretches before, so no matter how relaxing someone says "Child's pose" is, well, after 30 minutes, it starts to hurt. And after one two-hour session, the wife and I both came down with a noxious flu-cold mix.

But the rest was amazing. I've never been able to shut down my brain like I did during this. Found myself impressed by the ways I could control my breathing and stretching.

We're signing up for the classes. Our Man in LA (and Our Woman, too) are getting yoga-fied. Starting this weekend.

2) SEA CHANGE by Robert B. Parker. Longtime readers know that Parker's just about my favorite mystery author, both because he delivers the goods and because I have fond memories getting to know the genre through his early Spenser novels.

This one's a Jesse Stone novel. Jesse, who's appeared in a few other Parker books, is an alcoholic ex-LAPD detective relocated to a small town in Massachusetts. He lives in the same world as Spenser and Hawk, but he navigates it differently, and he's got a load more in the way of personal demons. A couple of these books have made it to TV in two-hour dramas with Tom Selleck in the lead role. Not bad movies, better books.

This one might be the best Stone novel so far. Funny at times, with crackling dialogue, but the plot will disturb. Best of all, it's got that Parker flow. You won't put it down.

Did I say best of all? No, actually, best of all, is that my copy is signed by Parker himself, and personalized for me and Our Woman in LA. I saw and met Parker at a signing at Vroman's Books in Pasadena. It's something I've wanted to do since I was a kid, but he generally only hits spots in New England and the warm weather states in the book tours. It's not that he said anything I hadn't read in a million interviews. It was just being around someone I've read since adolescence, then getting him to sign the book, and then getting to take it home and read it. Cool stuff.

And finally, at long last in a long post . . .

1) Masters of Comics at the Hammer Museum and Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. One of our friends gave me two tickets to this exhibit for Christmas-akkuh this year, and because of busy schedules, the wife and I only got there over this past weekend.

If you're in LA between now and March 12, go. Period. Just go.

If you're not, but you will be in Milwaukee or Brooklyn - the next two stops on the tour - this year, check the website, find the time, and go.

Here's that site, by the by:


Go for any number of reasons. Go because you will see an emerging artform that hasn't previously gotten the credit it deserves in the United States. Go because you'll be amazed at the ways in which the 15 truly fine artists meld words and picture to tug at the heart or communicate a message differently than what you see on TV, or read in novels. Go because you'll be shocked at the pure energy and intensity that you feel coming off the comics page.

Our Woman in LA found herself a little worried before we walked in the door of the Hammer Museum. She imagined us going through room after room of pictures of Spider-man and Batman, seeing super-hero comics where women display, ahem, peculiar proportions.

But actually only one of the artists in the exhibit - the late Marvel and DC Comics great Jack Kirby was virtually all-super-heroes, all the time. The rest looked at the world - the whole world - from a variety of different perspectives. You had the sorrow of urban life in Eisner, the childhood pathos of Schulze, the violence and pain of Panter, the obsessions of Crumb, and self-reflexive artistry of King.

Taken as a whole, really, truly amazing. And a wonderful sign that this artform - huge in Japan and Europe, not as huge in its home here in the States - finally begins to rise to its natural level. I look forward to the day when it won't seem so strange to be talking of comics in the same way we discuss novels, movies, theatre, painting, dance, sculpture, and all the arts.

Did I like every artist on the panel. No. They're not all my taste. Like Our Woman in LA, my three faves were the late great Charles Schulze and Will Eisner, and the living, breathing Art Spiegelman. Some of the others I like a great deal, some not as much. Which is exactly the way I feel after any kind of art exhibit.

So there you have it. Get to the exhibit if you can. Marvel at the artistry and storytelling in this much-derided artform. Or if you can't, you can always view the collection in your own home. Check this volume out:


That's about all for today, folks. See you tomorrow!

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