Yearly Archives: 2007

LA October 07: Flesh and Wood

Before my recent trip to the US, I was asked by Friend James to provide an analysis of that seminal* piece of Americananana, the corn dog. While shopping at the Glendale Gonor-sorry-Galleria in Los Angeles, I took the opportunity to try one and document the experience.

Here’s what Wikipedia says about corn dogs. The article links to Hot Dog On A Stick, a famous chain of corn dog stands. And it was from a HDOAS stand that I bought a regular HDOAS, and a regular Lemonade.

I ordered the stuff, and the server grabbed a Not-Yet-Hot Dog On A Stick from the fridge, dipped it in the thick pale yellow batter, and plunged it into the hot oils. While it was cooking/heating/sterilizing, she filled a cup from the big clear plastic dispenser containing ice and lemons. Then she removed the dog from its golden bath**, laid it in a printed card tray and presented me with my meal.

HDOAS 1

Let’s examine the components more closely.

Hot dog: Standard turkey frank, pre-skewered.

Batter: I thought it was going to be corn bread, but it turned out to be corn-based “party batter”, into which the dog was dipped before deep frying.

Stick: Wood (unknown species).

Dressing: Heinz ketchup and Heinz mustard from large pump dispensers, in classic “wavy line” pattern, or at least my interpretation of it.

Lemonade: The traditional lemon juice, water and sugar mixture as sold by children from trestle tables underneath pecan trees. Tangy and sweet – very nice.

HDOAS 2

I took a bite.

HDOAS 3

The batter was hot, and sweet, with the grainy texture of polenta. The hot dog was a hot dog, but didn’t really go with the sweetness of the shell. But I bravely carried on, until nothing was left.

HDOAS 4

I have now eaten a corn dog. It was OK, I guess. I like hotdogs – not as much as Christopher Walken, mind you, but I like them. But combined with the sweet flavour and graininess of the batter, I have to say I wasn’t so keen. It wasn’t disgusting, but neither was it a taste sensation. Maybe next time I’ll try one with the meat replaced by cheese.

Next up, the deep fried turkey, with a side helping of Pork Brains in Milk Gravy, washed down with Bud Light. On second thoughts, that would be disgusting. Bud Light, yechhhhh.

* I’m not sure I like the dual meaning here.

** Or here.

Country Life (well, Surrey)

After spending the night in Reading visiting all the fam-er-ly, I took the train home via Guildford, where I met Esther and Bill, their toddling boy Archie, and Mira and Matt at the Weyside Inn for a pub lunch.

The place looked OK at first, we sat out on the [veranda? patio? deck?] and watched the narrowboats chuffing by, traditional clouds of blue diesel smoke belching from their behinds. I always want to call them longboats, but those are different. Guildford does have an Mare of Steel in the town square though, this being true-blue Surrey.

Guildford Pub Lunch & Walk
E and B

Guildford Pub Lunch & Walk
M and A

Guildford Pub Lunch & Walk
M, A and M by the river

But when we ordered food from the halfwits (Toby, Dan and Bathsheba) behind the bar, the BITE review some of us had read turned out to be well deserved. The service was a bit shambolic, and despite it being a quiet Sunday lunchtime, the meals all came seperately. Very expensive if you got a simple veggie dish as well – it’s like charging the same for a soft drink as for a pint. Anyway, great view of groups of teenage girls rowing and struggling not to get mown down by the Long Ships. They weren’t rowing down the river so much as caroming off the banks.

Guildford Pub Lunch & Walk
Guildford from the Castle

Guildford Pub Lunch & Walk
Dented History!

Guildford Pub Lunch & Walk
E & B, A, M & M

Guildford Pub Lunch & Walk
Guildford Castle

After eating, we walked up to the castle, and took in the view. Lovely fresh breezy day. Walking up one hill was obviously not enough though, because then we walked up Pewley Hill to the big open ground, donated by the Friary Brewery to Guildford to celebrate the end of the Great War. Nice typeface on the monument, which was good to lean on while my calves stopped audibly screaming. Great view of the rolling downs, stables, and some conifer logging. Matt and Mira took the opportunity to pick a good bagful each of the silvery-black ripe sloes that were covering the hedgerow. They’re going to make sloe gin, which is all you can do with sloes in my opinion, which is echoed here. It’s the alcohol and sugar that do it.

After taking the air, we strolled down the hill, making sure not to let go of Archies pram, and went for coffee and cake, before we went our seperate ways. Esther and Billy look very happy with Archie – he is a lovely kid, even if I was jealous of him being pushed up the hill in a trolley. M&M were looking good too. Everyone wished me luck in LA next week.

When I eventually got home (via Clapham Junction, Balham, Tooting Broadway) I was knackered, so laundry, sandwiches and TV were in order. Lovely weekend.

Edinburgh Festival 2007 Photos

Here are some pictures from the trip to Edinburgh in August. Not much in the way of pictures of performances. Hopefully the next entry will paint pictures in words of the shows and stuff that we saw. Ha.

planning the day
what’s next?

gothic?
the scottish are into warhammer 40000

no solids
elevenses

the caledonian riviera
it rained

stone
steps

Largely Very Dangerous
This guy had a Scottish accent, even with the voicebox.

LA Story 10 – Tuesday 3 April – The Last Full Day

More old notes. Nearly there…

~

After the revelations of Monday, and as the time to go back to London approached, Cassie and I realised we couldn’t waste any time. So we had an extra-busy day on Tuesday.

It started, as had become customary over the few days I was there, with a walk for Gordon in the dog park. Coffee, sunshine, standing around in the yellow dust, talking. Met with Heather, Cassie’s friend. She’s really nice, and since I came back to London, it turns out she is going back to her native New York, so I may not see her again. A real shame, because I could do with as many friends as possible over here. As the coffee took hold, we though about what else we wanted to do. First up, lunch.

As Cassie’s Mum (or should that be ‘Mom’?) was still around, and offering to buy, we went to ‘Home’ again, which does a nice line in erm, food. Another nice time, I can now call Cassie’s Mum Joan, so inroads being made, eh?

After thate Cassie took me to the celebrated Amoeba records, where she used to work know people who worked here. Great place, huge independent record store. I bought some CDs (Spacemen 3 and Meat Beat Manifesto, if you must know) and reflected on how much new music I am completely unaware of. I never know what to buy in these places.

Later in the evening we made an effort and got dressed up for dinner. Well, I made as much of an effort as I could with my limited suitcase wardrobe. I looked less like a sack of shit than usual, put it like that (Cassie looked gorgeous).

We went to Cliff’s Edge, which strictly speaking is walking distance from the apt, but this being posh night in LA, we drove and got the car valet parked. The outdoor veranda area was done up like a tree house, which in effect it is – all suspended in a tree, with huge tropical plants shielding you from prying eyes, and traffic. We ate, drank, talked about my next visit (!) and so on. After a delicious meal, we drove downtown for a cocktail in the Hotel Buenaventura Bonaventure where we drank Dirty Martinis (apparently not a macho drink) in the famous rotating bar, with it’s amazing views of downtown LA, full of skyscrapers and lights. Apparently the foyer of the hotel was used as location for parts of the film ‘Logans Run’, which I can well believe. Curved surfaces and beige.

A wonderful last night. But the next day brought sadness…

LA Story 8 – Sunday 1 April – Lunch With Charlie

And still they come…

~

I met Charlie when he was a member of the Carlton Dramatic Society. He moved to LA a few years ago, because he had met a girl over there, fallen in love, “dated” transatlantically for a while, then they got together and both moved to LA. He’s really happy, it would seem. I knew the basics, but the details I got over lunch at ‘Home‘, an open-air cafe bar in Los Feliz. I’d arranged to meet him for a chat about old times, stage stories, you know. I ended up getting the full story. He was curious why I wanted to know the details – so was I at first. I kept asking him about how easy it was to fit in, and what the visa situation was, and so on. Then I started to realise that it looked like I was following the same path. I’m not one to write about emotions here, but there’s something going on here alright.

I am considering figuring out how to possibly spend conceivably more time in Los Angeles with Cassie, because I am of the opinion that spending lots of time with her would be a nice experience, and I am informed that she shares this opinion. I don’t think I can be any more candid than that.

Anyway, after that little revelation, and the hilarity and enthusiastic congratulations it spawned, we strolled around the cool shops in Los Feliz. I bought a Silver Lake t-shirt, which I can’t actually wear in Silver Lake cos that would be naff, second only to wearing a “BROO(zip)KLYN” hoodie that you bought in Peckham, where you live. Skylight Books were good enogh to supply me with some PK Dick and Ender’s Game for the flight home.

Of course, no visit to a major city is complete without a MoFi meetup. So it was that I went to mandyman‘s place where we met Space Kitty, Space Kitten and a gang of other banana-munchers. Mandyman had cooked up some great food, we had ‘some’ wine, and we generally arsed around for a few hours. Great fun – so much so that the traditional shout-outs were a pretty rushed and shoddy affair. And for this I apologise.

~

Nearly as shoddy and rushed as this blog, in fact.

LA Story 07 – Saturday 31 March – We’re Off To See Something Wizard

Cassie said to Brendan and I, “Let me show you something”. So we looked at each other, raised eyebrows, and followed her to the car. Then followed one of those short-yet-long journeys you seem to get a lot in LA, where we discussed ideas for a TV show based on the web site www.theyfightcrime.com, and featuring about two gay private detectives. After driving toward the Hollywood hills and seeing the original realtor firm that erected the sign on the hill, Cassie parked and led us to a painted yellow gate. Producing a key, she unlocked it and led us into an amazing place – the Garden of Oz. Beads, crystals, crockery, metal tat, all embedded it into the floors, walls and outcrops of this grotto. Various thrones dedicated to different people, causes, events. It went on and on, and I wish I had taken my notebook because no photos are allowed, and people seem to obey this unwritten law (although it’s not unwritten because there is a big sign up that says ‘no photos please’).

Many artists have added to the garden since it was started in about 1968, and as such they became Citizens of Oz, and their children are Children of Oz. Cassie said there are only supposed to be 25 keys, but she suspected that there are many, many more than that. She was given a key by a friend when they wanted her to see this amazing place. We spent half an hour just wondering and wandering at every new corner, step or throne, all encrusted with beads, coins, perspex windows protecting postcards, and by the gate was a pot where various leftovers had been left for people to dip into for a souvenir. Cassie gave me a green glass stone straight from Oz.

On the way back we passed a large school building which was the set for Rydell High, the school in ‘Grease’, and right nearby the site where Charles Manson and his Family committed those grisly murders. The same block. Fantastic – I’ve always hated Grease.

~ Edited based on more notes from the notebook ~

When we got back to the apartment, there was a problem with the doorknob. So Brendan and I, for we are MEN, went to the HARDWARE STORE and FIXED IT, with TOOLS and GUSTO! Then we bought Sports Illustrated and it was like ‘Real Men’ by John S Hall and Kramer.

The evening was cool – Cassie’s parents just happened to be in town (!) so they bought us a very nice dinner in Cassie’s hometown of San Marino. Never even saw the check – those are the best meals. They all had coffee, but I felt I needed a Sambucca – is that OK? The lone boozer?

LA Story 6 – Friday 30 March – Burn Hollywood Burn

Surely the final chunk of notes from LA March 2007 – this is getting embarrassing.

~

A nice day today. What am I saying? They’re all nice. The weather is just great (LA doesn’t suffer from damp) and I’m feeling very relaxed. Lunch today was at a popular Chinese restaurant. Delicious, and I took some leftovers home in those fold-up cartons you see people eating from in movies – you know, the couple have just moved in, they’re surrounded by still-packed boxes, a bottle of wine has been opened (they’ve unpacked 2 glasses), and they’re sitting on the floor by each other, eating from the cartons as the city lights tremble below.

After lunch, I did some more shopping, then Cassie got a text from her friend and fellow dog-owner Heather*, saying that Griffith Park was on fire. As we were in a tall parking structure at the time, we looked up to the hills, and lo and behold, a plume of smoke was smeared across the sky from the hill. Luckily the Observatory wasn’t touched, but a lot of the lovely hiking grassland had gone. LA doesn’t suffer from damp.

*more about her later…suffice to say she’s very nice

~

It was time for another pub. This time, the Fox and Hounds in the “valley” which Cassie said was like Essex – more money, less class. The pub was a nice place, a covers band were “rocking out” and Cassie introduced me to her good friends Brian and Stacy. Brian went to London Film School as well, and I got on very well with him and Stacy his fiancé. I hope to seem them both again soon. Brian is a bit of an Anglophile, and I was happy to indulge him, so he gave me patches for his scooter club, the Vespastics. Am I an honorary member now? I did have a Piaggio for a while…

After a few drinks and a good chinwag we headed off to a local Mexican food place, by which I mean it sold Mexican food, in Mexican, to Mexicans. Much like the Lahore Palace in Tooting that looks like a canteen – LA and Tooting have a lot in common.

Settling In

That went very well last night. The last minute tweaks and figuring out where to leave stuff for easy access has seemed to work. If I sort out the Scriptless Wonder game cards on the train on the way home (or on my desk at work) I can be ready to go immediately we get there. No fussing backstage.

Couple of sound cue glitches, couple of tripped-over lines, but in general it was great. Daneeta and PJ were not disappointed (well they didn’t say so) and it was cool to catch up with them and how the film is coming on. Sounds like they might actually be finishing soon.

LA Story Part 2 – Running Through Airports

He went back to LA? Why? All will be revealed… (more dusty notes from the Moleskine)

~

It seems weird to travel during early rush hour through London to get to an airport. I’m used to driving, or getting lifts, or a taxi. But here I am in London City Airport, out in the marshes, near the Tate & Lyle factory. The journey out on the DLR was quite interesting. At Pontoon Dock there’s a bizarre white stepped apartment complex, with its own nicely-tended strolling garden, girded round by a hedge so the residents can’t see the surrounding scrapyards and terrifying scenes of many a desolate Dockland crime. Add to that the flyover, and the DLR itself swooping down over it all, and JG Ballard would have a field day.

~

The Fokker 50 was a bit late. I like prop planes – they’re a throwback to a classier age of aviation I’m pretty sure never existed, no matter what Brabazon thought.

~

Somewhere over the North Atlantic. Well, I’m glad for a bit of a sit down! Because the Fokker was late (stupid Fokker), I had to literally run to the LA flight gate through the huge Amsterdam Airport, overtaking several beeping carts on the way. As a result I got that lovely ragged asthmatic breathing/teeth aching thing I get. Another result is that my case is not on this plane, so I’ll be relying on Cassie’s hospitality. In fact I was offered business class tomorrow, with my case, but I wanted to see her today. I’m sure she will provide me with executive service, so I’m not missing out.

I should probably clarify things here. When I went to LA before, in March, it was to visit Cassie as a friend. But over the course of the week, and in the time since then thanks to email, AIM (or Pidgin in my case) and Skype, we came to realise that it would be very nice if we could spend lots more time together, and in close proximity. I hope you understand what I’m saying. Basically, I’m going back to LA now because I desperately want to see Cassie again, and sort out a way in which the Company can find work for me in the LA office, so that I can spend an extended period of months in LA, in close proximity with Cassie Destino. That’s basically what I’m saying. So.

Anyway, I hope KLM give me one of those emergency washbags with toothpaste and a t-shirt like they did that time they forgot to load my luggage on the flight to Germany when I was working in Braunschweig in 1998. That was a miserable time. But the t-shirt has lasted really well.

Note to self: when checking in online next time, don’t book seat 21K in a Jumbo. It may be on an exit row, so you think it will have extra legroom, but in fact it’s right by the door, so the big door bulge containing the inflatable slide/life raft gives you less legroom than you would have had. Plus there was a little ice-cold draft blowing right on my ankle. I had to steal the guy next to me’s pillow to plug it. Time to eat.

~

Well that was rank. “Always ask for the veggie option” should be up there with “Never get out of the boat”.

Absolutely goddamn right.

LA Story 5 – Thursday 29 March – Watch The Skies

At dusk we went up to the Griffith Park Observatory, recently refurbished with money donated by Mr. And Mrs. Nimoy. It’s up in the hills in Griffith Park, overlooking the city, the Hollywood sign, etc. So after riding the shuttle up to the observatory through the twisting hill roads we had a look at the small museum describing how the tides work, why the moon changes shape, and how a camera obscura works. Most impressive was the full size Tesla Coil – standing 8ft tall in its Faraday Cage. A curator described how it worked and how it would be safe to stand in the coiling white plasma as it leapt 5ft from the ball on the top to the bars inside the cage. I wasn’t going to test his knowledge, but it was completely spectacular.

Not as spectacular however as the view we got from the veranda – as the sun sank, the sky lit up with all the delicious particulates and smog, a bright fiery red – the sort of color that if you painted, no one would believe. And then slowly, as it got darker, the city of Los Angeles lit up in a shimmering network, and you could see why it was the location for Blade Runner, and so many other movies. I wouldn’t be surprised if the makers of Tron hadn’t been inspired by it – a grid of glittering pixels suggesting a surreal cyberworld.

It was quite a sight, and I felt very happy to be witnessing it for the first time with Cassie standing next to me.

~ Appended with more scribbles from the notebook ~

After the magical views of the city, and a fantastic close-up view of the Moon through a telescope, we had dinner at Casita Del Campo, a very nice Mexican restaurant with a tree in it, where we had a couple too many margaritas. Very atmospheric, margaritas.