Monday, August 4, 2008

The dog days of summer!!!

Oh the dayspins in this metro de angeles perdidos have been ravaging my cousins, your own Metrowalker has darted from shade to shade lest he burst into flames and crackle down to ash. But there has been so much to see, the festival of books where your own lampooning literati lunged at the leagues of literature looking for levity, as well as every other kine festival that you can imagine from sumo to swordplay.

It was in the shadows of the bear campus that your narrator discovered The STAND, now I know chains are not what we dancers frequent often, leave corporate grinds to thems that love them we always say, clowns are meant for circuses not galleries of gastronomy. The STAND has 4 locations, and the closest one to me is in UCLA’s own backyard...I would risk it, after all hot dogs demand dedication.
Since my own hoa aloha the Photo Princess has moved to the mountains, there is little reason to travel over the hills to the valley, so the one in Bruinville fits the bill.

The STAND specializes in that comida of da kanaka, hot dogs, and as you well know your own Harlequin loves him a good hot dog. Hot, snappy, naked or dressed, the hot dog is the kinda of grinds that brings a grin to any dancer’s face. Is it my masochistic mania for mystery meat you may ask oh my sisters? Is it culinary thrill seeking, or the deep need to walk the razor’s edge of indigestion? This I cannot tell you, but your uncle will cavort near and far to find himself a good frank.

After perusing the menu, I settled on two dogs, one with sauerkraut, spicy mustard and onions and one with cheese, tomatoes, deli mustard and onions. They both came with house made potato chips, and as I do hate redundant repasts I substituted one of my sides de perros with their own house made fries.

When my ilio arrive I accessorized them with pickles that are available at the counter,( a nice touch as you never know when you need a pickle or a pepper to cut the grease) and set to chow. The dogs were grand things, juicy with a good snap and nestled in soft steamed buns, the home style potato chips were crunchy if not a little dry, and the fries were plentiful and tasty.

Da Kine grinds yea? KANAK ATTACK!!!

All in all a fine tuck in my cousins, can I advise it? Well The Stand is not a boho burger walkup, it is a restaurant for bohos and aristos alike, but I liked it and I will go back for something like their blue cheese perro some time soon.

I shan't lie my dancers, the tuck costs some gelt, but I pushed back from da kine mesa and I was not sorry. Each of the dogs is escorted by chips or for a bit more you can add fries like your very own uncle...something to rattle in your brain pan yes?

What is that my cousins? Did I know that July was hot dog appreciation month? Goodness no, but since it is I shall tell you what I found when I went to the Chili Dog Factory in Glendale’s own mega mall. A mall outlet you cry, oh Harlequin have you lost you spangle covered mind? First a chain and now a mall grindery, has the heat of the temperate dayspins addled your poor brain to have you caper into such a place?

Perhaps it has oh my dear cousins, for the tale of the Chili Dog Factory is grim indeed. Now I expected very little from this kennel of comestables, and I was not disappointed. The place de perros is on the second floor nearest the Mervyns, where once a noodle stand once stood, you can still see the darkened neon noodle sign above the desolate doggery.

Could that clown hot dog bode ill for your own Metrowalker?

Your very own narrator approached the stand and found it deserted, with no one at the stand, and no one in the dining room except the few abandoned patrons who presided over their own passionless pups.

With no one about,I Harlequin thought of a multitude of merry mischiefs I could play unseen. I would substitute all the franks with cold slimy frogs, so that when someone finally did return, they would not find hot dogs, but cold frogs hopping and jumping about. What fun! Acrobatic amphibians ambling everywhere, that would certainly bring a smile to one and all.

Out came the bag my croaking cronies, and I crept around the counter to let them loose when the door to the kitchen opened and out came a bespectacled countermaid. I quickly hid my bag behind me to a chorus of disappointed croaks and ribbits…

“My good lady” I said, smiling my most dazzling grin, “I was up to no tricks, no hijinks or shenanigans…I am but a humbling purveyor in frogs…here to procure a bit of noonday nourishment.”

She did not see me, did not even raise a carefully coifed eyebrow at magnificent magical me. I waved my hand in front of her face, and she just walked by. It was not until my bubbling bouncing brain came up with the idea of putting one of my froggy friends in her apron did she stop and look around.

I ordered from their small but descriptive menu, one dog with sauerkraut, onions and mustard and one of their Chicago dogs. Now the dogs of our big shouldered dancers are very special indeed. Kind of looks like the grinds you used to get in the cafeteria of the old eight to three huh?

A wise kahuna once described a Chicago dog as an all beef perro, yellow mustard, onions, emerald relish, tomatoes, pickles, sport peppers and celery salt. He said that all of this would sit in a steamed poppy seeded bun.

Does this look like the mythical Chicago dog oh my cousins?

The dogs were weak, no snap, no spice and no love. The toppings were perfunctory, and put on with a mano that could care less about the dancer munching the dog. When I asked where the tomatoes were for this puppy pretender, my frog laden serving nymph grunted, "Uh, we don't serve tomatoes."

So the menu is as untrue as the comida I nearly broke down in tears, but girded my loins and slipped another few frogs down her dress for good measure! The frustrated frogs hopped back into my bag, not being able to get a rise out of her either. Perhaps she was clockwork, an automoton that collected money and needed to be wound up occassionally? What else would work in a Chili Dog Factory yes?

The duo of dogs, accompanied by some passionless potatoes that had to be bought seperately, and a pop cost over 12 bucks . This is again is steak gelt, and to put down those kinds of dinar for a drab, depressed, dog denied delicacy by a docile drone is well, disappointing.

But merry marvelous Metrowalker you say, it’s the Chili Dog Factory, why did you not get a chili dog?

Oh my cousins, a host of horrible hostilities can lurk under the blanket of chili. If you viddy my meaning, if these denizens of the depraved doggery cannot even do a basic hot dog correctly, then dear Odin what would they hide under a blanket of chili?

What is that my only family? The Chicago dog a myth you say? No where in this metro de lost angels can we find such a comida? Well feast your glassies on this…that’s right, the Stand does a Chicago dog, just like the wise old wavebreaker said.

Look dancers! It's all there, deli mustard, pickles, sport peppers there is even the neon relish and tomatoes!!!

There are many more doggeries to discover my dancers, so don your cloaks, festoon yourselves with ribbons and leave those stodgy SUVs behind...

The Stand Westwood Village, 1116 Westwood Boulevard (310) 443-0400

The chili dog factory, 3233 Glendale GalleriaGlendale, (818) 242-5157

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Not the same old same ORD

What a wonderful globe spin it was my own cousins! I went to go to see that marvelous muso from Moscow, Ms. Marina V. The sonorous songbird so charmed your own harlequin that he glided through the streets of Hollywood dancing to her melodies oblivious as to where he was.

Suddenly your own traveling trickster found himself in front of ORD NOODLES, a noodle-ya that specializes in those grinds seen in the lands of reclining buddahs and boat filled klongs.

Well there was nothing more to do than to sit down and engage a big bowl of the house special, a bubbling broth of pork, pesci balls, and floppity rice noodles. Accompanied by a salad of lime spiked ground pork called larb, your own harlequin was prepared for some soul warming grinds that would only lift his already buoyant spirits through the roof.

He did not have to wait long, the server sped the soup to the table and boy was it busy bowl. I mean look at the biosphere of brothy bounty that your own clown of comestibles tucked into, a veritable aquarium of chewy slurpy bits.

All set was your uncle to doctor up the so called spicy soup with the carnival of condiments on the table, that he nearly did not take a test sip. BOOM! The spices and the chilies in the soup caused my glorious hat to shoot three feet off my head, it was obvious oh my brothers, that this soup not only did not need a doctor, it was gym going and could run a marathon.

So with hashi and spoon, your narrator happily attacked the bowl, alternately slurping and panting from the heat.

The larb arrived not too long after, a wondrous plate of chopped carne flavored with cilantro, chilies, and lime all to be spooned up with crunchy cabbage leaves.

Between the soup and the larb you would think that this story would end tragically, your own gamboling gourmoo bursting into fire like a match head. But my own aqua angel, kept my water glass filled, obviously worried that a melting harlequin would spoil others diner’s grinds, and a sweet milk laden Thai tea cooled the inferno in my mouth.

So can I suggest ORD NOODLES to you oh my brothers and sisters? I can! Go plug a cool voiced chanteuse into your ear holes and set to slurping some chili laden noodles. With a cool voice and a spoon full of fire, be prepared for some sun and ice that will make your own little red pump beat brightly. Also be prepared to bring some folding gelt, not a lot, but some, as that is all they take, the cashee money, no cards made of dinosaurs.

Ord Noodles 5401 Hollywood Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90027 (323) 468-9302

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Perils of Pastrami at a Bastion of Boredom

The Sinister Center of Pastrami Punishment
Oh my cousins, what a set of light spins it has been here in the ciudad of Los Angels; cool, grey and actually kinda refreshing. The makai was soft and cool, and it jangled the bells of your own Harlequin’s cap ever so softly as he danced through the streets looking for pranks to play and jests to make.

In my odd wanderings your own clown of comestibles came across a Greenblatt’s Deli, a veritable temple of the pickled, the smoked and the cured. Without hesitation I capered in, to find out what wonders waited within.

The place is small with a deli counter to order from, and a wine and spirits store connected next door. There is a small dining area in front and a larger one up the stairs that the rather bored wait-staff rest at. Not once, not twice but thrice did your own Harlequin pass this group of servers, jingling bells and parading his majestic beribboned staff. Not once did they look up from their conversations, which boded only mischief for them from your own victual vagabond.

I set to play my finest prank of the day on the trio of torpid teenagers, I would tie their shoes together, so the gaggling group would become one big server, sprawling and crawling on the floor like a great rat king. How the customers and cooks would laugh to see them tied together like a great octopus.

Giggling wickedly, I set to tying and then I saw her, my Columbine, Kourtney with a “K”. She had a wicked smile, and sparkling glassies, surely she was only being held captive by these muddle headed minions of mediocrity. Determined to free her I sat down in a booth right in front of the three to plan my rescue of fair Kourtney with a “K”, my thoughts of mischief and mirth abandoned to nobler thoughts of my Columbine.

She noticed me immediately, my diamond patterned hat and bells making me hard to miss to the alert eye, and hers was most alert, it made me wonder why she did not see me the first three times. She brought me a menu and a glass of cold water. I sipped at it and found it tasted of soap and old food.

A trick! I thought she knows that Harlequin would appreciate a fine jest even if it were played on him. When I showed her that I did appreciate her joke by blowing soap bubbles, she hurried away to fetch me a clean glass with soap free water..

Clean glass in hand, I set to ordering a grand luncheon to fortify myself for my daring crusade to liberate Kourtney with a “K” from the clutches of boredom. I decided on a favorite of deli dancers of the past and ordered a hot juicy pastrami sandwich with a side of potato salad, sauerkraut and pickles.

When I was ready to order, my Columbine needed to hear it twice, as she was dazzled by my magnificent visage, and forgot the order as soon as I said it. Moments later, she brought me my grinds and I looked upon it with wonder, the sandwich was a thin thing, modesty layered with unimpressive, tasteless gyu. This was not the carne of places like Billy’s, Langer’s, or even Canter’s, it was flabby without any smoky character or even yummy fat.

Another trick! I thought with a grin, Kourtney with a “K” was trying to signal your own victual vagabond of the desperateness of her plight by substituting his hot and juicy pastrami with supermarket carne. I turned to catch my Columbine’s eye, to assure here that I had understood the sandwich signal for help. She was however talking animatedly with her fellows at the stairs again, could it be that she was not my Columbine after all?

I polished off the peaked pastrami, the perfectly perfunctory pickles, and the pallid passel of potato salad, after all, your own narrator was still famished. I cleared my plate and awaited my check, my plan was to grab up my Columbine when she came with my check and to spirit her away so that she could join us to dance in the sun and gambol away from this grotto of grumpiness.

She did not notice me, still animated talking and laughing with the gormless gaggle of grumbling groupies. I shook my bells and raised my harlequin staff in salute, nothing. It was not until I stood to leave that she even approached me sullen and sad.

“Come with me Kourtney with a K,” I cried, “come see the sun and dance far away from this place where the food weeps because of its mediocrity and shoddy treatment.”

“Foolish harlequin,” Kourtney with a K growled, “I am happy to work here, and now that we have your money, why would I wish to walk with you…a foolish pauper of potables…begone.” I left defeated, my jester’s bells tinkling sadly.

Oh brothers and sisters, Greenblatt’s is nay not the deli for me, the food demands a great deal of the folding gelt, and you say to your own Metrowalker, all deli delights are costly. But cousins, Greenblatt’s food is not excellent, and its servers seem bored and unhappy at their jobs.

Most of all dearest ones, Greenblatt’s is where my Kourtney with a “K” works, and there she languishes amongst the mediocrity.

Greenblatt’s Deli
8017 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles
(323) 656-0606

Saturday, April 5, 2008

A fellow dancer put pen to paper and look how cool!!

This of course is a small dalliance, Harry Dresden and all the worlds he lives in is Jim Butcher’s. I am just playing for a time. Simon Wu, is mine, and I hope he amuses you, amused the hell out of me.

This takes place perhaps just after Grave Peril, and before Summer Knight. This Harry is not as shell shocked, and this Ancient Mai, is more like the television series’ portrail.

Of course I appreciate comments, and I hope that this amuses you for a short time...the band is hired, the hall is rented…I guess this is my dance….


The knife in my hand was sharp, heavy, and comforting. Have you ever held something so beautiful that as your hand warmed it, it warmed you from the inside out? That’s what my knife does; it’s a friend, a cohort, an extension of me. I always thrill a little when I hold it, its weight steadies me, makes me feel bigger than I really am.

I had run it across my sharpening steel only seconds before and it fairly rang with potential, almost as if it was eager to be about its work. I rolled my head slowly on my shoulders, hearing the deep cracks and cricks of my loosening muscles. There were simply no more excuses; it was time to get to it. The deep thump of bass pounded in my ears from the boom box in the corner, music of the devil my Grandfather used to call it.

I brought the blade up perpendicular to my body, and moved with confidence. The carbon steel blade glided through the flesh like a freight train through tissue paper. I increased my pace, letting my arm follow the knife, falling into old patterns that my body knew all too well.

In moments there were two dozen Roma tomatoes sitting in a steel prep container, halved, seeded, and hollowed waiting for the crab salad mixture I had prepared. I passed their pulp through a sieve and into another container already containing lemon juice, spices and oil. I could already taste how good this dish was going to be.

See I’m a cook, a simple preparer of food, one of the hundreds of invisible souls that fix the thousands of meals that folk eat everyday. I slice, sauté, and sauce day in and day out, happy to make something I can be proud of, if only for a moment. The fact that I am also a magician; well that’s kinda a whole different kettle of won ton.

Magician you say, like with kids parties? Like pulling rabbits out of hats, and sawing beautiful women in half? Well no, I am the other kind of magician, you know with the throwing lightning, summoning demons, and causing broomsticks to dance. Not that I have ever really done those things, cause that’s just creepy. I mean have you ever seen a demon? Those things will jump on your face and lay eggs in your eyes man.

I whipped the tomato mixture furiously, forcing liquids that had no business being together into an emulsion that would hold together forever if I had any say in the matter. I poured the dressing into a small plastic squeeze bottle and capped it. I took my knife back into my hand, and attacked a small bundle of chives, reducing them to a fine green mist.

My grand pop was a magician back in the old country, and he brought the lore and the power with him. He married my grand mom, who was from here, but still had ties to a different old country, and they had my pops.

Now there is much you can say for my dad, he was a great cook, a brilliant business man, and quite the tinker, but a magician, not so much. Dad was a practical man, his head was supported by Mr. Science and the Los Angeles public school system and he wasn’t about to dabble in things that he couldn’t see. Part of me really can’t blame him, I mean knowing what I know about magic I would have stayed away from it too if I had the choice.

Thank the celestrials for my mom, I don’t know if it was fate, coincidence or if my dad was looking for someone like dear old grand mom, but he fell in love and married one of the west coast’s more power witches. She and my grandpop were the ones who taught me to use my talents, to control them so as not to hurt myself or anyone else. They kept it a secret from my dad for sixteen long years, teaching me to feel the unseen world around me while teaching me to slice tomatoes into roses.

My pop’s restaurant is in the heart of Los Angeles, near the park that Wilshire cuts across. The Cloud Dragon is a 1920s storefront with a parking lot behind it and a funny pink neon dragon sign over the doorway. My dad wanted a fiery red dragon, but there must have been a thing with the magic cause all it ever did was flash a very cute pink. See with most people who use magics, technology kinda goes haywire around them, or fails to work at all.

Our sign reads the Cloud Dragon in English, the Celestial Dragon in what I believe is Chinese, and not one person in the area can give you directions to us if you ask them where either of those places are. But you ask them where Pinky’s is and they will point us out without hesitation.

We are closed on Sundays, as the area’s business foot traffic dies out completely and the area becomes a market place for street hustlers and the homeless. I spend many Sundays cleaning the kitchen, and playing with dishes that I will never be able to serve, like the crab and tomato salad that I was working on now.

See we‘re a Chinese restaurant, one of the hundreds of small places that serve fried rice and two meats to the hungry Los Angelelinos that have only an hour for lunch. We are clean, and our egg rolls are pretty good, but the crowds won’t be beating down our doors for them.

But someone was doing just that, a sharp rap on the glass door was loud enough to be heard over the devil music and to bring me back from my concentration on my cooking. I hate when people interrupt my day off, I really hate it. I wiped off the knife on a side towel and went to go vent on the poor fool who chose to bother me. The lights were off, there were no servers to be seen, heck even Pinky was turned off, why would anyone think we were open for service?

I got my answer maybe a step or two past the counter. A small spot between my shoulder blades began to itch fiercely. See my grand pop on my eighth birthday took me to a friend of his, and with promises of ice cream and a video game if I was good, got me tattooed like a sailor.

Not just with any kind of tattoos, glyphs and dragons all over my body with inks from the old country. I remember being held down and screaming for what seemed like hours as a man with a very kind voice burned horrible shapes into my body. I remember also waking up shaking and crying in my grandfather’s Oldsmobile, completely mark free with my mom asking me what was wrong.

When I told her what grandpa had done, she just held me and told me it was all a bad dream, and that I was okay and that she wouldn’t ever let anyone hurt her one and only baby, and you know being eight I even believed her.

The rapping came again and the spot on my back began to itch furiously, I steeled myself for some very bad news. That particular spot thanks to the magics that my grandfather had etched into my skin only reacts to powerful magics, the stronger the magic, the stronger the itch.

A tall lean figure tapped on the glass of the door with what looked like a mop handle, sometimes homeless folks will ask if they can wipe down our windows for a meal, and most carry their own tools. This guy was not one of them, he was dressed in a long duster, dark pants and sneakers. The duster had a sort of cape thing that fluttered behind him in the April breeze.

When he saw me his lean sharp features broke into a ragged smile and he waved at me with his free hand. I reached under the cash register for the bamboo backscratcher I keep there for just such emergencies and pushed it down my back to give me a little relief. Not only does my backscratcher provide me a straight line to focus my will through, it is also hella good for getting the itch I can’t reach.

“Simon Wu?” the man asked through the glass with a friendly enough voice. He kept his eyes locked on my nose and that told me volumes. See certain wizards can look through you if they catch your eyes. They can see all the truths of you in one fell swoop if they get you a staring contest, and they can pretty much open your soul up like a sardine can if they do one of those lifetime channel dramatic stares at you.

“Closed!” I shouted in my best bad movie accent, you have to keep up appearances, “No open! Come back Monday, closed!”

The man’s smile went from friendly to businesslike, and he tried again, slower and more deliberate. I love it when people think speaking slower makes English universally understood. He probably thought I couldn’t understand him through the door.

“I am looking for Simon Wu, I was told that this was his place?” he reached into a pocket and produced a scrap of paper. I could see a small silver pentacle on a chain around his neck. I was hoping that I could bluff him into go away. See our type of folk are exclusive, not hermits you understand, but we really don’t work well with others.

“No food!” I shouted again, yes I felt stupid, but I try to give folks what they expect. “No clean windows! Comeback Monday please, food Monday.” I turned away and started back toward my kitchen. I could feel the man’s eyes on my back literally and I scratched a little more furiously with my scratcher.

“Look bub,” the voice boomed from every flat surfaced in the restaurant, “Why you gotta go and bust balls?” The kitchen lights flickered and my boom box squealed, sparked and died. I froze, something like that took a lot of power, and to go and do it out in the open meant that this joker wasn’t afraid to hurt someone when he didn’t get what he wanted.

I spun around and in one leap, was back at the door, I pulled the backscratcher out of my jacket and slammed the “hand” part against the small brass symbols mounted on the door jamb, most folks think it’s Chinese, but those symbols were ancient when Chinese was just a bunch of grunts and hand gestures. I pushed my will down the line of my body through the grain of the bamboo and into the symbols activating the circle that my grandfather built into the walls of the restaurant.

Like I said grand pop was from the old country, and he learned coming here that even if you are not looking for trouble, it sometimes trouble comes looking for you. He built guards and wards into the building when he bought it back in the day. Mom put even more protections on in the way of glyphs and sigils painted into the walls and the roof of the place when she married dad, and I added a thing or two when I learned how. All these magics made the Dragon one of the most secure places in the spiritual world.

My will wakened the magics that both grand pop and mom set, and the walls of power shot up with a bang that I felt in my very core. I was pissed, I hate bullies, and ones that use magic like a club, well they really pissed me off.

The man must have felt it too because he stumbled back from the door like he was pushed, he looked shocked and angry and I prepared for the suck. A scarlet aura sprang up around him, outlining his form as I felt the power flood into him. His eyes seemed to glow with fire and I pushed even more will down the backscratcher.

“Bug off Gandalf!” I shouted, “movie ‘s over, and the Shire is four thousand miles that way!” I said hooking my right thumb over my shoulder. The man, ’s aura stuttered, his eyes opened wide and he began to chuckle, the chuckle turned into a laugh, a deep one of real mirth. He covered his face with one hand and leaned on his mop handle as the laughter shook him.

When he could look up again shaking his head, the friendly smile had returned, great, this guy wasn’t just a magus, he was a crazy magus. I wondered if mom had ever had to deal with something like this.

“Sorry. sorry,” he chuckled, “Gandalf…that’s funny,” He put up his free hand again placatingly, “bad manners, it was a long trip. I had to ride a train here, and they almost lost my luggage. I came off like a jerk. Is Mr. Wu available? I was told I could find him here.” I lowered the backscratcher and found that my back had stopped itching.

“And who are you again?” I said without the Mr. Miyagi accent, he told me and the fear shot back into my throat.

Do you remember the last time you were pulled over by a cop? Remember how your stomach fluttered as he walked up to your window. Well multiply that by a million, this guy wasn’t a cop, most cops had guidelines, rules they had to follow. This guy was Luca Brazci, he was an enforcer, and showing up at my door meant something very bad was going to happen.

We might be an exclusive people, but things get around. Where he’s from, this guy is legend, he killed a vampire baroness, smashed up a full grown loup garu, and death followed him like a small dog on a leash. People died when this guy showed up, weather they deserved it or not.

He must have seen the fear on my face, cause he put down the mop handle and held up his other hand showing it was empty.

“Whoa, whoa, “he said, “what’s the problem? I said I was sorry about the showboating.”

“The problem,” a pleasant voice out of nowhere said, “is that Mr. Wu has heard of you. He knows your reputation for mayhem, and he is a very cautious man.”

The voice belonged to a girl of about twenty who had just appeared to the right of the man. Now when I say appeared, I don’t mean she walked up, or slipped around him, I mean one moment she wasn’t there, the next she was. She was cute, dressed in a green t-shirt, blue jeans, with a black backpack covered in cartoon character stickers. Her hair was cut in a rough mop, and was purple on one side. She looked like a club kid, wide eyed and innocently sexy. Both the man, and I jumped away the door, and he stumbled nearly falling to the sidewalk.

“Hells Bells Mai!” he shouted, “what are you trying to do, give me a heart attack!”

“Oh and the lightshow I just saw was what, to impress Mr. Wu here on eco-friendly light bulbs?” Mai purred, he looked sheepish and picked up his mop handle, or should I say his staff, cause he sure as hell wasn’t here to do the windows.

Ancient Mai walked up to door and smiled at me, her green almond eyes were warm and she was careful not to get too close to my threshold.

“Mr. Wu, I have to apologize, this is all my fault. I should have notified you immediately when I called this one here,” she said pleasantly. “I became involved in some council business, and it slipped my mind, if there is any damage I of course will make it right. May we come in? I am sure we can straighten out matters to your satisfaction.”

I unlocked the top and bottom locks of the door, but I didn’t break the circle. I pulled the door inward, and stood away from the threshold.

“Why is this all about, why are you here?” I figured I would get right to the point, no sense in delaying it if Ancient Mai was involved. She would try to kill me or not, and I would hope that all of my protection magics would turn aside enough of the blast so that someone could identify my body.

“Oh no trouble to do with you Mr. Wu, we just needed a safe place to meet, the war you know.” She glared at the tall dark wizard, and by all the celestrials the man glared right back at her. “Just let us in, we will be about our business quickly and then we will be gone. “

“You’re bringing the war here?” I said, my belly fluttering again. My family had stayed out of the council’s way by working subtle magics, nothing to directly influence others. We built things, traded information with the Los Angeles wizarding community, created protection spells for people who didn’t use magic, but mainly, we cooked.

My mother was the one who had started trouble, she put down a group of ghouls who was tired of eating corpses and had started going after homeless people. She said it was because embalmers were using stronger chemicals, and the bodies that the ghouls usual fed on were becoming poisonous to them. It was during a battle at the city college that my mom had met Ancient Mai.

“Oh by the stars and stones no boy, your mom and I had an agreement. I just need a place to discuss some business with this out of town wizard. So will you please invite me in?” She smiled warmly and her green almond eyes smiled with her, “I promise you, that during this meeting you will have my full protections.”

Now you may think with all the talk of protections, that I am a coward, I am not, I am a cook. Listen buddy, you try to bring in a lunch rush when you are down a server, your second cook is half asleep and you suddenly run out of onions, then you’ll see real bravery. My folks (except for my mom) never had to go toe to toe with the darkness. We used the craft, knowledge, and surprise to fight the things that threatened jumped out of the never never. The war between the vampire court and the white council was big, it was all about going face to face with the things that went bump, and it was no place for a little old fry cook like me.

I reached out my hand, breaking the circle and Ancient Mai took it gracefully, I felt her power thrum up my arm like I had dipped it in ice water. I shivered a little, remember the glyph on the doorway? Well Ancient Mai was teaching that language a couple of hundred years before to whatever was on the earth before there was a China. She stepped through the doorway like a princess, confident and graceful and then turned around to face the wizard who was right behind her.

“Not you,” she said, and the tall man stopped, his face surprised.

“What?” he said exasperated, nearly tripping again.

“A lot of testosterone was splashed around just now boys, and I don’t need the fall out from you monkeys messing up the business, so I want you to shake hands and make nice.”

The man made like he was going to say something smart, but Mai shut him down with a look, you just don’t mess with a million year old something carrying a cartoon covered back pack. He shook his head, and stuck out his left hand without hesitation.

Not wanting to look bad in front of Mai, I took it, he didn’t try to crush my hand like a jerk. He simply gripped it firmly, and pumped it up and down once. Then the strangest thing happened, it was like someone gently took my chin in their hands and turned my head to meet his eyes. At first I thought it was him, a compulsion spell or something to do with force, but the look on his face showed me that he was just as surprised that it was happening to him. I tried to turn my head away, but it was too late.

We saw each other, and the bottom dropped out of my head. I rarely use a soul gaze, it is to much like standing naked in front of an audience and trying to belt out the stars spangle banner. It opens you up, both for the person looking at you to see, and for you to see them. Humans aren’t supposed to see into each other that deeply, it shorts out all the pleasant lies we tell each other as social lubricant.

I was wrong, this man wasn’t an enforcer, he didn’t like hurting people, the violence that he had done hurt him deeply. He was a passionate man, one who was sick of no one helping those people who didn’t have magic. Sick of people with power just turning away and letting those didn’t die for them like ants. This was a man who had lost a great deal, and was willing to lose even more to stand by his convictions. This man wasn’t a bully, he was a hero, and I felt like a jerk not treating him like one.

I saw something else too there in his eyes, rage, dark and terrifying. Not like anger all hot reds and blasting whites, this was something so dark that I didn’t have words for it. His rage was built like a stained glass window made up of his fears and frustrations, but mostly it was made up of loss. He had lost so many he loved, and the thought of losing more drove his rage into a force that if he unleashed it, would probably turn half of LA into a new satellite. He held it in check though, using his knowledge, his humor, and most of all the duty and responsibility he felt to those he still loved. This was a good man, hollowed out by tragedy and violence, but a good man.

I broke the soul gaze first and sat down hard on one of my tables causing a little earthquake of teacups. He spun around and threw up on the sidewalk. Like I said, soul gazes are not something that any magician likes to do.

He came through the door wiping his mouth, and he was more than a little pale, but his smile was back and it was genuine. I don’t have a lot of mirrors in my life, too many things jump out of mirrors, and I really don’t want to be that honest with myself about anything. What he saw in me made him barf, and I hoped that he never needed to tell me about it.

“Sorry about the stupid accent thing,” I said not really thinking, “People usually leave me alone if they think I don’t understand them.”

“Got that” he said sitting down in one of the seats at a nearby table, “it’s why I read science fiction.” Now it was my turn to smile.

“Good,“ said Ancient Mai cheerily, “now we can get down to business.”

“Do you think I could get some water?” the man asked, his dark eyes coming up to rest on my nostrils.

“Sure Mr. D”, I said getting up, I closed the door and then bolted it. “Say are you hungry? I was playing around in the kitchen and I have some stuff.”

“Hell yes!” he said with gusto, “whatever you’re making smells great.” I looked to Mai who nodded and sat down opposite Mr. D.

“Thank you Mr. Wu,” she said, “there is nothing better than good food to eat when discussing the apocalypse.”

Both Mr. D and I turned to her and stared at her stunned.

Pho, a long long way to ruuuun!!!

It was a cool and grey dayspin when your own Metrowalker went to chase the blues away with a little levante de ferro. As you remember oh my brothers and sister, Glendale is the place where the palace of FE resides.

After a bit of sweating, grunting and general contortionating that goes with chasing away the blues, the growling winds of hunger buffeted your harlequin to and fro. How strange that your uncle thinks of grinds when shortly before all he could think of was air.

Quickly I made my way to a new palace of grinds called The Pho Hut. Once the abode of Korean eats, the Hut of Pho is a very comfortable space, lined with bamboo and slowly turning ceiling fans.
Oh mi familia, we all know nothing beats a cold and damp dayspin better than a big bowl of noodles and broth, so your uncle wasted no time.

Now the first thing that my glassies miraed was a flow chart on the ordering and eating of pho, a honto to Odin flow chart my brothers! Like one of those old doodle drawings you used to make in the 8 to 3, remember? When teacher use to make you clicky-clack the old thinking machines!

I wasted no time and ordered myself a big bowl of pho, with three types of gyu meat. The bovi treats ran to flank steak, thin slices of round steak, and leaf tripe, (and you know how Uncle loves him his tripe) with a side of those fresh spring rolls wrapped in that rice paper that feels like dolphin skin to put pau to my growling stomach.
Oh cousins, the size of the bowl was amazing, you could have bathed a baby in the bowl, with a strong dark broth for the little biosphere of meat and toppings to swim in. The steam off the bowl made it look like an August day here in the smoggy metro of lost angels.

I set to slurping, and found the broth to be salty and flavorful, with hints of ginger, onion, and lots of gyu flavor, there was also the msg….sooo much msg.

I swallowed my soup and the room swam, then a shaker bottle on the table asked your uncle if “he was experienced” whatever that meant. Now dear family, your vibrant victual vagabond, is a hearty creature. No added chemical taste enhancer could fell my desire to grind me some Pho.

Yet all of those silky strands of sumptuous starch were sadly squished into a sphere! They were sunk in the bottom of the bowl and refused the deft enticement of your narrator’s chopsticks. Oh horrors my cousins! A fellow dining with his familia bravely fought with his noodles using his chopsticks and spoon. He finally lifted the entire ball of pasta out of his bowl to wrestle it into airborne submission.

It looked like he had the noodles at his mercy, when with a starchy roar, the creature squirmed away from him and dove back into the dark broth. Its abrupt plunge, splashed him, the lady who accompanied him, and her little keiki with a shower of hot soup causing them a little laughter and the man’s renewed campaign to conquer it.

Well Metrowalker is no noodle novice, he is a patron of pasta, and he knows cousins that the only way to subdue spaghetti, to capture cappellini, is to corner it and douse it with hot liquid. So with spoon and stick I fluffed the pho, and with the help of the broth in the bowl untangled it to all of its glory.

Once subdued, the pho was tender, and alternating bites of fresh spring roll with slurps of soup quickly beat down your own harlequin’s hurricane of hunger.

Can I suggest the Pho hut to you dear cousins? Well if the MSG doesn’t send you shrieking into the night, and you are close to Glendale then it isn’t a bad place at all. The folks are nice, the bowls should come with lifeguards, and the challenge of eating those sticky noodles makes the pho kind of like a prize after defeating a dragon.

The Pho Hut
312 N Brand Blvd
Glendale, CA 91203

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Fantasy In A Food Court (or how my winter of discontent changed into a glorious spring of pork!)

Oh my brothers and sisters, your uncle has been away too long. This dreary, dark, and dank life has nearly driven your own dervish of dining down under. But take heart! The long nights are a fleeing, and your own harlequin begins the Mayday dance once again!!!!

So what grinds did your own Metrowalker eat whilst caught in the fist of the snow king? Well let me tell you…

Whilst awaiting a showing of that Ciney, “The Golden Compass” in Pasadena, your own Metrowalker nearly blinded by hunger stumbled weak and frozen into Kansai, a modest noodle shop of the Nihon persuasion.

Say what you will about the Samurai of old reigning supreme with their sushi, and their one pot nabes my friends. Today, the great arcologies of Tokyo are built on noodles. Ramen and udon are the jet fuel of many a circuit jockey and software savant, without those long strands of carbohydrate goodness I think many a high tech business would grind to a halt, not to mention many a college campus.

So your narrator knew that a luscious lifesaver of lipids was being thrown to him to save him from the shipwreck of starvation.

Kansai is a small storefront on Fair Oaks in Pasadena, just a few steps away from Colorado Blvd. It has a familia run feel to it, with a comfortable casual air to its operation and a sorta homey sweetness to its servers.

Kinda like your living room huh?

The small shop reminded me of the noodle shops in Tokyo, with its homey atmosphere and plastic food displays. A mom and pop noodle shop, just the thing!

Kansai serves udon, and soba with an assortment of toppings and broths for them to swim in. They also have sushi, sashimi and all the other wonderful grinds that end in “I”.

Your humble harlequin chose a favorite from his keiki hood, that being tempura udon. Crispy lacey shrimp and vegetables, soft noodles all set to sea on a bubbling broth? Oh my dears, how can you get any better than that! An extra order of tempura to set my hunger on its head and I dug in.

The broth was subtle, its surface speckled with jewels of fat from the tempura. The udon noodles were soft but chewy, and the tempura was crunchy and hot. This washed down by some hot green tea warmed your own clown of consumption all the way to his belled shoes.

So what’s the problem you ask? How could hot noodles, crispy tempura and a subtle broth make your narrator cringe? How could a warm tummy full of slurpables sadden your own victual vagabond?

CAUSE IT COST ALMOST 25 DOLLARS! Seriously, that’s steak gelt, it was good, but not 25 dollar good. I hear you brothers and sisters, harlequin you say, you read the menu, your brainpan does the clikity clack to figure the price. How could you not know the roll of folding gelt that it took to buy a bowl?

It was my hunger, it was the cold…I was young and I needed the shiny…no, that was for the other thing. Cousins, all I can tell you was I was shocked at the bill, the food was good, but for the price I really needed great. Was the tempura made of gold? Were the noodles home made in Brunei? Was the broth going to restore me to my own multicolored youth? I stumbled out into the winter night, poor, and alone…it was only the sight of armoured bears and dirigables that kept me from being caught in a prison of my own frozen tears.

But the cruel winter was not over my dear friends, your mummer of meals was further battered when one dayspin he took the heel toe through Hollywood. There he found The Dip, a sandwich stand on the third floor of the Hollywood highland shopping center.

The Dip specializes in French dip style sandwiches, lusty hoagies bathed in pan juice and served sopping and sweet to the hungry masses who need the calories. Well my family, that was me, my Harlequin staff was drooping, my hat noticeably unjaunty…I was starved , and “The Dip” was just the place to go.

The first thing I noticed was the condiment bar, a plethora of mustards, hot sauces, and pickles to customize my order even further. A good sign, as I have a general dislike of just putting ketchup on anything.

My glassies settled on the half pastrami dip, french fries, and a pepsi. (they only have the pepsi on the fountain, and you know my dears how the harlequin loves to sploosh soda). The order came quickly, and lo and behold it was just as it said on the menu, a half of a sandwich.

Look the fries are bigger than the buttie!

Long ago, Metrowalker’s granny gran used to make him grinds, and she would always serve those squishy dinner rolls that came in the bag with the little pioneer on it. Remember readers? Those tiny fist sized cotton balls, that served as butter caddies, two bites and they were gone.

This was the hull of The Dip’s pastrami sub, although it was piled with pastrami, your own Metrowalker could not get over its size. The carne was flavorful, but it was not Katz’s, it was more like The Hat, like good Boars Head meat, a workhorse pastrami, nothing special but tasty.

The fries were the seasoned “long horn” types, fried well, and crispy. A little splash of “Kick Ass” ketchup and garlic mustard and they were right as rain. So again, you ask, dear Metrowalker, why oh why are you so sad…Pastrami dipped in pan juices, crispy fries and a fistful of tasty treat tweeking sauces, why oh why are you not cart wheeling and carousing in your usual countenance?

Once again because the tiny sandwich, and the pre made fries with a drink cost me OVER 12 DOLLARS!!!! What had happened my sweet suffering siblings? Had I become a cynic, caring more for the money than the art? Had I lost the love of the dance?

The food both at Kansai, and The Dip were good serviceable comestables, both restaurants were clean and friendly, and the service at both polite…I liked both restaurants well enough. So what could it have been?

I cried, and retired to my castle of cards, determined to surround myself in spangles and stars until the winter world went away. I would no longer eat out in this bad ol city, I was done. If I cared more for the art then I would not look at the price of it…just enjoy the grinds and feel satisfied…but I wasn’t satisfied.

A baseball sized bomber, even if it was stuffed with pastrami should not cost as much as a hoagie twice its size at The Hat, or Johnnies. A bowl of noodles should not be as much as a steak and egg breakfast at The Union Street Steakhouse , this bad old city had drowned your poor own Metrowalker in its freezing tidal pool of winter.

Like Fortunato, I bricked myself up and waited out the winter.

It was Ms. Bon V, and her love of noodles that broke sunlight into Metrowalker’s own cellar of solitude. “Come to Santouka Ramen my little Punch, come have a bowl of Shio Ramen, and feel the sun shine on you again!”

She gathered your own crumpled clown, and we adventured to Santouka Ramen, a food court store within the Mitsuwa supermarket. Your own Metrowalker was skeptical, he had been frozen so bad, another disappointment would probably just kill him.

Madam Bon V. assured him that if they got there in time (they sell out in a hurry) the special broth would revive the dance within him.

We ordered medium shio ramen, with special pork, (ramen with a pork broth flavored with salt) and for your own Metrowalker, a bowl of rice frosted with salmon eggs as a side. The noodles came with a plate of slices of that special pork, green onions, pickled bamboo shoots, and a tangle of seaweed.

Oh mi familia, the first slurp of salty rich shio broth caused the glacier around your own harlequin’s heart to crack. It sang with rich pork flavor, the fat covered my lips with smaking goodness. With the luscious slices of pork., the soup became a symphony of slurpability. Each new addition of onion, or bamboo, made the ramen soar. Winter was over I was saved!!!

The salmon eggs were sweet and juicy, Santouka bathes its fishy huevos in something sweet, ridding it of salt and giving them a wonderful crunch.

Now you say, with all that salt in the soup, did you have to drown yourself in water just to keep from drying out? I did actually, but I would do it again in a high blood pressured beat of my little red pump. The combination of chewy noodles, rich salty broth and luscious pork makes some of this one of the best bowls of noodles your Uncle has ever had.

I was revived, Bon V being my Columbine, reviving my heart and my spirit, I will go there again soon and try everything on Santouka’s menu! Its spring my family, the dance awaits, lets get out there while the music is still playing!!!!

And no you my brothers and sisters, I did not take the last photos of Santouka Ramen, but I love them just the same!!!

3760 S Centinela Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90066
(310) 391-1101


6801 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA, 90028
(323) 871-0888


36 S Fair Oaks Ave
Pasadena, CA, 91105
(626) 564-1560

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A simple thank you to heroes

So let’s talk bravery cousins, simple bravery. We have all heard the words, we all know the meaning. Athena knows we all have faced things that have terrified us, and come out the other side.

But beloved, there are some who face things that terrify every living thing and come out the other side. Fire fighters are those who face a terrible hungry enemy who is gigantic and grows only larger if not combated. Any living thing with a hot red pump is secretly or opening afraid of fire.

An old alohaloa once told your own Metrowalker that fire is alive, that it has intelligence , and will actively seek to kill any fool who underestimates it. He once told your own uncle that fire once chased him up a staircase where there was no fuel to burn, when it could have roared into a room full of torchable cosas.

So short and sweet cousins, I would like to say thank you to all of you warriors who put yourselves in harms way to save stuff, and lives, and me. This bad ol city has experienced the worst wild fires it has seen in many years, and you have battled the monster with such bravery and courage that it has been relegated to the stuff of talking heads on the 2d, and worried casual discussion around water coolers.

I salute your valour, and your courage and if any of you should meet Uncle in the 3d, step up tell me what you do,and I will buy you a cold one and salute you like the heroes you are.