Call it jet lag or just the early sunrise, but by 5:30 a.m. I have been bouncing out of bed to the dawn of a new day. It started out cloudy and rainy — not the usual L.A. weather — but that’s okay. The blue skies still peaked out eventually reminding me that this is southern California, the country’s most ideal climate with less than 20 inches of rain a year and sunshine 73% of the time (reportedly #1 by currentresults.com/Weather/top-10-us-states-with-best-weather.php). It’s the opposite of Paris when it comes to weather — and that’s just the beginning of the contrast.
L.A.-style coffeehouseMy first day in L.A. was a car culture shock when I drove in and out of four parking lots along San Vicente Boulevard in Brentwood, taking a ticket from the attendant, checking out to see if there was a restaurant in the strip center in which I could lunch and work on the computer with WiFi, only to find out NO, there wasn’t, to get back in the car, drive out of the lot and ask for forgiveness from the attendant so as not to pay. I drove around the streets a multitude of times before landing in the Coral Tree Café where one gets “Honest Food” — “healthy and organic California-style cuisine in a casual indoor/outdoor atmosphere.” Of course, parking was valet only, cost $3.50 WITH a validation and on top of that was the tip to the attendant.
L.A.-style coffeeWhile it was a sort of miracle to finally land somewhere after all the trials and tribulations, this is when I was seriously missing my corner café (on just about any corner of Paris) where one can do just that, with full service and WiFi, while watching people do what they do in Paris cafés. By contrast, however, the iced tea at the Coral Tree Café was refilled free, the service was really friendly and pleasant and the food quite tasty — particularly the Caesar Salad that was as authentic a Caesar Salad as one can get. As you may have already learned from past Nouvellettres®, Paris is seriously lacking in great authentic Caesar Salads.
Take notice American entrepreneurs. Americans need more corner cafés where they can eat, drink, commune with whomever and work using WiFi. If I were so inclined, it would be tempting to give Starbucks a run for their money while they pump out mediocre coffee and a few pastries, to open a chain of French-style cafés that make being with other people — strangers for that matter — so pleasantly pleasant. But if you do take my suggestion, do me a favor while you’re at it — make the parking free, for crying out loud, and give the others stiff competition!
The sushi in Los Angeles was one of the first things to get my undivided attention. This has been another sad case of affairs in Paris, where the sushi until recently has been ‘cookie-cutter’ stuff mostly produced by Chinese restaurant owners. This is not the case in the Pacific Rim where the fish is fresh and the chefs are creative. Yes, it’s changing in Paris with a slew of new Japanese restaurants, so perhaps the French will finally learn what ‘real’ sushi is supposed to taste like (although I’m sure the Japanese think that the sushi served in Los Angeles is just as phony!). Time Out says there are some great sushi finds, so it must be true. See their article for a list I might have to try.
I forgot what it was like to have to wait till your entire party is present before a restaurant will seat you. That’s never happened to me in Paris that I can remember, but of course they aren’t worried so much about ‘turning the tables.’ Economically, turning the tables makes sense, but economics are not what life’s about in France. The more they earn, the more tax they pay, and it’s just not part of their psyche to think about the ‘bottom line.’ That could explain some of France’s economic woes, too. America doesn’t think twice about being open 24 hours a day in the interest of doing business, while the French are still arguing over what’s allowed to be open on Sundays and what’s not — seeing it as an ‘exploitation of labor’ while we see it as an opportunity for someone to earn more money.
Typical L.A. landscapingL.A. is still full of great friends. Whoever said that Angelenos are shallow? The city gets a bad rep for having a populace of egocentrics and eccentrics. Eccentrics, yes. Egocentrics, maybe, but many of the friends I made more than 20 years ago are still here and still close friends who are definitely not egocentric, even if a bit eccentric. I really quite like Angelenos, who seem infinitely happy and fun-loving. One such friend told me that this is really the case thanks to the “negative ions.”
“Negative ions are odorless, tasteless, and invisible molecules that we inhale in abundance in certain environments. Think mountains, waterfalls, and beaches. Once they reach our bloodstream, negative ions are believed to produce biochemical reactions that increase levels of the mood chemical serotonin, helping to alleviate depression, relieve stress, and boost our daytime energy” (webmd.com/balance/features/negative-ions-create-positive-vibes).
This may be one reason being in Nice feels so good, too. The moment I land, see the palm trees and breathe in the salty air, a feeling of euphoria takes over. The euphoria doesn’t last long when stuck in traffic in Los Angeles, however. At Yosemite Falls, there are over 100,000 negative ions per cubic centimeter while the level is far below 100 per cubic centimeter on the Los Angeles freeways during rush hour.
As I was driving around looking for a bakery and ultimately a place to park in order to pick up some fresh croissants, I realized the mission was virtually impossible. Sure, I might find a bakery by chance, but maybe not one which would have fresh buttery croissants — the kind we know and love. Oh well, you can’t have everything.
California real estate officeVisiting friends in their big spacious California ranch-style homes, reminded me that my 70 square meter apartment (753.5 square feet) could easily fit into some ‘normal’ L.A. kitchens. The owner of one home I visited with two bedrooms apologized for the small size of the house and I thought ‘what a shame she feels she has to apologize for it not being at the ‘usual standard.’ Still the average home price in the area is $1.1 million — so imagine what she could purchase in another city for the same price tag.
The outdoor space is what is really inviting — those patios and pools where one can be there almost 365 days a year. If I were living in L.A., that’s where I would be — soaking up the sunshine and the negative ions, trying to avoid the time spent in the car driving around looking for a place to park.
Over dinner with friends I was reminded how much fun it used to be to ‘star spot.’ We called them “luminaries” — the rich and famous who live and work in L.A. with whom one can rub elbows. The friends were ‘one-upping’ each other on who they had seen or shared a moment with at some such occasion. It was a kind of ‘keeping up with the Jones’s,’ but fortunately didn’t have anything to do with money. One really good spotting tale told was seeing Sydney Poitier and Harry Belafonte, both dressed in beautiful linen suits, walking together exiting Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills. That’s one that would have bowled me over, but I also loved the story one told about being next to Barbra Streisand while making a purchase when the sales person, a young woman who obviously didn’t recognize her or perhaps even know who she was, asked the ‘Funny Girl’ for her I.D.! L.A. is full of these stories.
The kids are out of school, the traffic is greatly reduced and Christmas is getting closer by the moment. Meanwhile, there is not much sign of the Christian holiday in L.A. One friend who hosted a Chanukah party by making tons of “latkes” (potato pancakes) for her family and friends, decorated the house with an abundance of Chanukah “tchotchkes” (knick-knacks). One such item was a hand towel on which had been embroidered a menorah, but the tag left on it (on purpose) had a drawing of Santa Claus. It was ironic and funny, but typical of a world where the Jewish population is so high that even the Christmas decorations cater to them.
Simpletoremember.com reports that metropolitan Tel Aviv, with 2.5 million Jews, is the world’s largest Jewish city, followed by New York, with 1.9 million, Haifa with 655,000, Los Angeles with 621,000, Jerusalem with 570,000, and southeast Florida with 514,000. France has approximately 600,000 Jews, but they are leaving by the droves, many emigrating to Israel, as reported by the Jewish Agency for Israel. Jewish leaders say the main reason is the acceptance of anti-semitism in France and Europe, but economics are a big factor not to be ignored. Israel has a vibrant economy and is attractive, particularly for the young where opportunities in France are slim.
Christmas eve I head back to Paris — one of the least expensive days of the year to travel, but just in time for Chinese food and movie on Christmas Day…”à la tradition,” Jewish style.
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris & The Adrian Leeds Group
(in Los Angeles)
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