Friday, December 19, 2008


The other night, I saw a story on the television about an ex NBA player who had grown up in a rough, blighted neighborhood of Detroit, where he had recently built a shopping center and was employing 200 people from the neighborhood at a barber shop, pizza place, shoe store and some other businesses. It got me thinking about what I could give back to the community that raised me, Brentwood, on L.A.’s Westside.

If I were ever to become wealthy, I would like to open some more boutiques in Brentwood. Brentwood ladies love boutiques and Brentwood could surely use a few more. As far as I know there are no bakeries for dogs in Brentwood. I would like to open a franchise of Three Dog Bakery in Barrington Court. The poodles and Lhasa Apsos of Brentwood have suffered too long without fresh baked treats. Make the suffering end! I would also like to construct a giant, incredibly ugly, modern Jewish temple. The architecture must be truly repugnant to all the neighbors, who should complain endlessly about it as well as the traffic congestion it creates. It should be like a Frank Gehry knockoff, but more cheaply constructed and with a hideous design that only an overpaid, out-of-touch architect could justify. The rabbi should be a young, liberal, outspoken firebrand who speaks often of transgendered rights to the disdain of his congregation. I also believe Brentwood needs a few more Starbucks because high-strung Brentwood residents don’t care much for waiting in lines. And how has Brentwood survived so long without a Gelson’s! It amazes me. Silver Lake, Century City and the Pacific Palisades have Gelson’s and Brentwood doesn’t. The audacity!

It’s all about not forgetting where I came from; the streets that raised me and made me who I am today. It’s about keepin’ it real yo.

Monday, December 15, 2008


For a while now, I’ve been obsessing over pupusas, handmade, stuffed corn tortillas from El Salvador. Common fillings are white cheese, white cheese and beans or white cheese and loroco, an edible flower common in Salvadorian cuisine. You can also stick chicharróns, squash or cactus in there. It is always served with curtido (pickled cabbage) and a mild red sauce on the side.

L.A. is crammed with pupuserias from South L.A. to Koreatown to Silver Lake to my favorite one in the city, which is in Highland Park, Restaurant Y Pupuseria La Arca (5570 N Figueroa St. 323-340-8528). This fairly large place, which is just down and across the street from Mr. T’s Bowl, has the best pupusas I’ve ever had. But don’t order the El Salvadorian horchata there. There’s a sign in Spanish warning that if you do order it, you can’t get away with saying that you don’t like it and exchange it for something else. El Salvadorian horchata, at least at this restaurant since I’ve never had it anywhere else, is like a thick paste.

So, there are a million good places to have pupusas in L.A., but I was surprised that they weren’t at all hard to find around Atlanta. You can actually find just about any type of food item in the metropolitan Atlanta area. It’s hardly Burkina Faso or North Dakota (bad food there). I’ve been to three different places here and all were good. Every pupuseria I’ve been to anywhere is much the same. There are always TVs blaring Mexican television shows. They are consistently dumpy places with almost no decor. One must invariably wait a while for the food to arrive and the pupusas usually take a minimum of 30 minutes. You may hear the chef pounding them from scratch in the kitchen.

The first place I went to was Rincon Latino, a giant, very popular place (5055 Buford Highway, Doraville, 770-936-8181) with numerous blaring televisions. The pupusas were a little on the thick side for my taste, not bad or anything, but not too special. However, my wife ordered the Honduran Breakfast, which included fried eggs, plantains, beans and rice, if my memory serves me, and that was delicious. The other day we checked out Los Ranchos Restaurant (6200 Buford Highway, Norcross 770-840-0130). Along with a couple of pool tables, they have a stage and some sort of entertainment there that was starting as we left. The pupusas were excellent. The salsa that comes with the tortilla chips here is spicy, very yummy and fine for heaping on the pupusas. The wife had the El Salvadoran breakfast, which was the same as the Honduran Breakfast mentioned above and also excellent. But the best pupusas I’ve had yet in the Atlanta area were at El Salvador Restaurant (2566 Shallowford Rd NE Ste 110, Atlanta 404-929-9080), the dumpiest and tiniest of the three places. It’s the only one with its own beckoning billboard off highway 85. The arrangement of the booths and the seats in this place is ridiculous and the jukebox was blasting the day we were there. Though, all I really care about are the pupusas and at El Salvador Restaurant, they are divine, scrumptious little tortilla mounds. I would recommend you check out all three of these places.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


As an addendum to what I wrote below about Southern rock in “5 Things About Living in the South that I am Sort of in the Middle About,” I have since begun to really dig and appreciate the unsophisticated pleasures of Lynyrd Skynyrd and not in a kitschy way. This group of furry-maned redneck wankers from Jacksonville, Florida personified Southern rock with their swampy, mosquito-bitten, ramshackle groove-on and had just a little bit of soul to their sound. Rather than a greatest hits collection, which mostly feature their numerous classic rock standards, I would recommend their debut record Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd, which includes “Mississippi Kid,” a very authentic-sounding blues tune about corn bread and killing folks from Alabama set to some fancy mandolin pickin’, and “Things Goin’ On,” which has a dandy keyboard riff and some nonsensical funky lyrics from Skynyrd front dude Ronnie Van Zant. You know that you are gettin’ used to yer new digs when you are a Westside Jew raised on Run DMC and Benny Goodman shakin’ yer tail to Skynyrd while dreaming of a pimento cheese sandwich. Something has happened to your insular Jew, Frappucino-guzzling, post-election-befuddled, complaining-about-the-economy world when you find yourself reconsidering “Sweet Home Alabama” and tapping your foot and shaking your finger to “Swamp Music.” You are many moons away from your bagel noshing homeland.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


This week, we got out a bit. Tuesday, we saw a screening of Mike Leigh’s latest film, Happy-Go-Lucky, which is about a 30-year-old gal named Poppy with an exceedingly bubbly personality and toothy smile who is quite content in her humble life of teaching elementary school kids, going to dance clubs with her younger sister and beloved flatmate and striking up conversations with random homeless men and bookstore employees. Poppy has never learned to drive and it is her driving lessons with an extremely uptight and almost murderously indignant driving instructor that are the nexus of this very humorous and quite lovely film, which I highly recommend.

Wednesday evening was my first death/prog metal concert in Atlanta. The pregnant wife wasn’t up for it, so I went alone. I saw Swedish metal titans Opeth at Center Stage, a comfy, yet fairly large venue in Midtown. I have long been a fan of Opeth’s meandering, Cookie-monster-voiced, Scandinavian art metal and this was a fine, lengthy concert of elegant guitarsmanship, double bass drum rattling and thundering power chords, with the surprising and unusual for a metal concert addition of very funny, between song comments from the singer. He is Swedish, but has a very proper sounding English accent and almost everything he said was amusing like, "This next song is from the new album... Did I just see a bunch of people roll their eyes?" I don’t recall ever seeing a metal band where the singer cracked so many jokes. Though, the main thing I was interested in was whether a death metal concert in the South would be any different than the many I’ve attended in L.A. The only difference I observed was that people were more into it, yelling out requests, moshing with their shirts off (gross) and whipping out their lighters for a ballad. But that I’ve noticed is the case for most good concerts outside of L.A., New York or London, where everyone is very blasé about seeing bands and can barely be bothered to clap. The only thing particularly Southern was a guy with a thick accent who yelled, “Play some Skynyrd!”

I also went to my first Jewish event in Atlanta this week. We saw a holocaust film called The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, which was part of the Jewish Film Festival. I was a bit shocked when we first entered the theater to find it filled with yarmulke-wearing dudes, many of them speaking Hebrew. My people. I have been to the Jew part of Atlanta and seen the Jew stores and Kosher pizza places and even flipped through the local Jewish newspaper, but I had not yet been to any sort of event that was packed with Jews up to this point. While we were waiting for the film to start, I was doing impressions of NY Jews and L.A. Jews and Israeli Jews and trying to explain which group could be more obnoxious to my non-Jewish wife, who was shushing me, when a yarmulke-wearer plopped down right next to us and I had to abruptly can it. Hebrew-speaking mofos right here in Georgia! Who knew? Also, very Jewish, was during the opening credits when someone said aloud, “Could you please be quiet?” to the few people who were still talking.

Then this evening, we went on the Castleberry Hill art stroll, which is similar to the Downtown Art Walk in L.A., where they were having an event called Le Flash. Castleberry Hill is a quite fantastic neighborhood of galleries, art lofts, tiny stores, ancient hole-in-the-wall barbershops, clubs and old brick buildings adjacent to Downtown Atlanta. The highlight of the evening was one gallery where a group of kids were gathered in a circle breakdancing. Just like back in the day, when I was a snot-nosed junior high schooler attempting to spin on the gym floor, these kids would circle around clapping and shouting to an old school mix, while each would move to the center of the group poplocking and spinning and bustin’ some super fancy moves. Some of them were wearing track suits. They all looked to be between the ages of 15 and 20. Guys were spinning on their elbows and doing flips. I hadn’t seen nuthin’ like that in a long, long time.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Autumn on the Blue Ridge Parkway, NC
1. People are real nice and friendly here

2. Southern cuisine

3. Autumn and so many trees you wouldn’t believe

4. Sweet tea

5. People are real funny, even if most of the time they don’t mean to be

6. Real estate, groceries, gas are all cheaper than most other places you might want to live in

7. The countryside is always nearby and real perty like

8. Southerners have a hearty sense of humor, even if it can be kinda dim-bulb-ish sometimes or often

9. Hillbillies and bluegrass music

10. Pie is gud. I like pie.


Dixie Republic in South Carolina

1. The summer is too sticky, nasty, yucky.

2. For the most part, bugs run the place

3. Way too much nutso Jesus b.s.

4. The widespread concept that being a dumb-ass or a redneck dumb-ass is something to be proud of

5. Southern vegetable side dishes are often cooked in bacon fat or some other pork-based grease, so being a vegetarian, I can almost never eat collard greens, black-eyed peas, etc.

6. If you go into a country antique store, it will almost surely contain racist books, dolls, toys, art and various items with offensive images.

7. Too many soldiers, too many parents of soldiers with varying patriotic bumper stickers

8. People are overly fanatical about football

9. There are conservative black Republicans and they don’t necessarily like Obama at all

10. Not everybody is so well edumacated, like the gentleman who emailed me, “Can I meat you at 4 pm?”


1. There’s a lot of Civil War history, but who really cares?

2. Southern rock (Lynyrd Skynyrd, .38 Special, The Allman Brothers) is a fairly dunderheaded genre of music, but when you are cruising on some godforsaken highway past rotting houses and unwavering nothingness, it seems very apt to the surroundings

3. Falling acorns are nice, but not when they dent the windshield of your car

4. As for Dirty South, can’t stand Lil John or the Ying Yang Twins or most of it really, but Young Jeezy and Lil’ Wayne have their moments and of course all white people like Outkast

5. Not so many Jews around to make Jew jokes with

Monday, October 6, 2008


Blairsville, GA

Courthouse, Murphy, NC

covered bridge in NC

City Hall, New Hope, TN

Anderson, SC

Drive-In Restaurant, NC

old church in Murphy, NC

Old Texaco Station, Northeast GA

animatronics in oldest schoolhouse in St. Augustine, Florida

St. Augustine, FL

Newnan, GA, City of Homes

The sign reads "Pabst Quality Always Comes Through" Near Juliette, GA

Sunday, October 5, 2008


So inviting

When in need of gas, the Georgia motorist may choose between the gleaming Quik Trip with its perpetually spinning taquitos and wiener dogs and friendly uniformed employees or the Citgo station, where one can perhaps help Hugo Chavez foment social revolution, or the usual Exxons, Chevrons and Shells, which are virtually indistinguishable and found everywhere. But the enterprising motorist who wants to save a couple of dollars can also choose to procure their gas at the much livelier, often independent ghetto gas station.

Though it may not have made the national news much, Georgia recently went through a gas crisis for a couple of weeks, where the vast majority of gas stations were closed and the few that were open had long lines of cars and gas available only for a few hours. Gas was available randomly at one gas station or the other and occasionally at the ghetto gas station.

Normally, it’s not everybody that wants to get their gas there. While many gas stations attempt to entice customers with bright red and yellow color schemes and incredibly cheap and disgusting greasy food offerings, the only thing the ghetto gas station has going for it is a price that is sometimes 20 cents less per gallon, though not always or even half the time.

The customer must consider a number of questions before entering the ghetto gas station. Is that place really open? Will I be killed for 20 cents less a gallon? Is that worth giving my life for?Is the credit card machine thingy at the pump going to work or do I have to go inside past everybody who, for whatever reason, is hanging out at the ghetto gas station?

There’s the dudes in white baseball caps and matching white T-shirts drinking soda and soaking up the fumes and the guys in SUVs who have pulled up seemingly just to socialize loudly with each other in the harmonious environment of the ghetto gas station, and the crackhead lady with a look of true desperation and the squeegee guy, who doesn’t even have a squeegee, and some other dudes just hanging out for the love of the ghetto gas.

Though I have nearly no friends in Atlanta, crave social contact and occasionally talk to the chipmunk in my backyard, I have not yet resorted to palling around the ghetto gas station.

This Wings Plus is attached to the Candler Marathon Gas Station

"Blood" has been spray painted on this ghetto gas station. It is open.

This ghetto gas station on Moreland Avenue has no name

Some ghetto gas stations have little takeout places attached like Burger Win, which serves burgers and Chinese food

Ghetto gas closed

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


This sign points to the trees where one can buy the bold pnut.
(Near Dahlonega, GA)

Friday, September 26, 2008


Pitter pattering along, they have crawled in mass this summer; from the cockroach in the trunk of my car to the mosquitoes circling around my head to the hundreds of ants setting up camp in the dishwasher to the crazy little guy with the spinning red butt I spotted on the porch to the Eisenhower-dollar-sized spiders descending from the roof of the garage to the carpenter bees drilling holes in the porch to the cockroaches assembling for their nightly neighborhood watch meeting next to the fence to all the other beasts who cannot be named. With several cans of Raid, I have battled them ceaselessly, eviscerating battalion after battalion, but they replicate like Cylons controlling the backyard and creeping through the door cracks and pipes at will. If I were not a hygiene-obsessed Westside Jew, perhaps I could ignore them.

And who or what is this?

Now the weather is cooling and I am able to take a breath as they dissipate and slowly die out. During the fall and winter, the all-season cockroach will still appear in the middle of the night waddling across the floor, barely aware of the hovering figure holding the can of Raid. It is clear that it is not they who do not belong, but I.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


It’s nothing I ever really noticed when living in L.A., the rude, lunatic, outraged-at-humanity style of driving. But coming back now, I notice. If for a few milliseconds, while spaced out, I put on my left blinker light where there’s a sign that says “No Left Turn from 5 to 7 PM,” the drivers behind me will honk and swear as if I had just goose-stepped across the intersection Sieg Heiling while wearing full Nazi regalia.

I’ve spent a lot of time driving in Italy and there it’s a more Darwinistic approach of speeding up to an inch of your bumper, sitting on your ass and then passing you on a blind curve. In my experience, drivers in New York and Boston are perhaps more aggressive and crazier than Angelenos.

But not so here in the old South.

There are no problems merging. 95% percent of drivers will let you in, no honking, no threats on your life. In an old fashioned way, like in Japan, people have manners here. The traffic in Atlanta is supposedly the second worst in the country behind Los Angeles (which is really a hundred times worse), but people here are chill. It’s a Southern thing.

“Sir, it would be my great pleasure for you to merge in front of me at your convenience,” other drivers appear to be telling me. “At your leeeisure.”

When there is no traffic, or regardless really, people drive slow in the South. You can drive 55 in the fast lane of the freeway and no one will aim a gun at you from a passing car. Sometimes the Angeleno in me can’t handle the slow driving, when every lane of the freeway in front of me has someone skipping along like they are on a Sunday stroll in the park. But I’m getting used to this more relaxed, less animalistic style of driving.

Another difference between the South and most of the rest of the world is the whole unusual practice here of holding the door open for someone. It doesn’t matter if you are man or woman, you must hold the door open for anyone approaching in front or from behind. I would say if there is any person within 10-15 feet of the door you are opening, you absolutely must hold the door open for them, even if they are a six-year-old boy sucking on a lollipop and you are a 60-year-old grandma with a cane. That’s how they do things down here. I didn’t make up the rules.

And there’s something to it. I may be a neurotic Jew from the Westside, but I tip my hat to the Southern etiquette.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


North of Gainesville, GA, there’s an aging, not completely forgotten, but hardly thriving road, the Old Cornelia Highway, which was once the main route from Atlanta to South Carolina. When the interstate was built nearby, this humble, country byway began its rapid decline. Towns on the old road such as Lula seem to have sunk back into the earth.

The infinite sadness of Downtown Lula

Church in Mt. Airy, GA

Once a Gas Station

The Lord commands ye to buy a trampoline for thine children

Cornelia, Home of the Big, Red Apple

no gas here either

Sir, you need to move yer truck!
(this is pretty far from the highway)

tiny rural barbershop

James Town has seen better days

These dang Ten Commandments are everywhere, on suburban lawns, in front of messed-up lookin' stores. Thou shalt not litter the Earth with dumb-ass cardboard signs bearing dated biblical schmuckdom.

Friday, August 22, 2008


“Did yuu see that Jamaican?” shouts the hefty, red-faced, middle-aged man who has swung open the post office door and stands twenty yards away from the postal workers he’s addressing. His deeply accented voice thunders through the large silent room like a sudden tanker explosion, startling the few customers in line who are unfamiliar with him and his penchant for nonstop conversation.

Walking up to counter, he delivers cold juice and soda beverages as gifts to the postal workers, whom he considers close friends and who smile and thank him, and then takes his place in the short line bellowing the whole time like a cannon.

“That Jamaican was soooo fast. He just blewww away them other guys. It wasn’t even close. Did you seeee that?” he exclaims.

“He was fast,” says the postal manager smiling knowingly at the man

“Do yuu know he’s only 21 years old?”

“21 years old,” he repeats for emphasis. “I can’t wait to see the relay. He just burned them other guys. There was nobody in sight. That Jamaican just flew! Have yuu ever seen anything like it?”

“Carl Lewis,” says the postal manager.

“Well, now Carl Lewis was fast in his day,” continues the burly man, “but not like this Jamaican. Was that an Olympic record or a world record that he broke?”

“A world record,” confirms the manager.

“He was so far ahead of them other guys. He just blew past them. Them people in Jamaica must be real proud of him. He’s the fastest man in the world, the fastest man who ever lived,” he says also proud.

“Ya know,” he continues after a three second pause, evidently ill at ease with even a moment’s silence, “I always fall asleep on the couch and wake up during the rowin’. I hate the rowin’. It’s so borin’. I’m always asleep and then I wake up and it’s always the rowin’.”

“Always the rowin’,” he repeats in a resigned tone.

“Yes sir, the rowing is not very exciting,” the manager concurs. “I like the track & field, the gymnastics, the swimming.”

A regular at the downtown post office, the man always bursts through the door, conversational topics at the ready. It could be the work they’re doing on the freeway downtown causing an awful traffic jam, the thunderstorms that have been predicted for the weekend or his upset stomach after a delicious seafood lunch. He is a hit with the post office’s bored employees who enjoy the free cold drinks and don’t mind the one-way blabbing.

“Now, I’m ashamed to say it,” says the man with a hint of embarrassment, “but the women’s basketball, they shouldn’t even show that on TV.”

The lady working the other counter laughs at this assertion. She has been smiling, along with everybody else in the post office, since the man entered.

“That’s not sport. They was playin’ this Swedish team and the girl was like 5’5. That ain’t no competition. That ain’t no basketball. Who wants to watch that? Now, the American men’s team, they’re good. Nobody can beat them.”

“But that Jamaican, Oooee!” he yelps making a full circle back to the subject closest to his heart, “he was spectacular.”

“Yes sir,” the manager agrees. “He was fast.”

Sunday, August 17, 2008


With Christianity in all its most cockamamie forms as fervently popular in the South as liposuction and frozen yogurt are in Los Angeles, outsider art, which frequently features peculiar Christian subject matter, is an idiosyncratic, local tradition. A rural, religious upbringing often inspires the outsider artist to start painting his or her vision of the apocalypse involving wild turkeys descending from the heavens on pieces of scrap wood. He or she might be mentally challenged, hear voices or see visions. A non-religious outsider artist could be an outcast in a small town who collects hubcaps and kitchen utensils and twists them into robot-like creatures. The High Museum of Art in Atlanta has an exceptional assemblage of outsider art in their permanent collection, including a portion of the late Reverend Howard Finster’s Paradise Garden, which can be viewed in Summerville, GA.

This weekend we went and checked out Folk Fest, an annual convention of galleries that specialize in folk art, about sixty percent of which could qualify as outsider art. This was as large a collection of outsider art as you’ll find in any museum. Though, it was all for sale and for the most part amazingly cheap, with regular folks buying it up in great quantities. As you’ll see in these photos, the most popular themes are: Elvis, Jesus, angels, chickens and other farm animals. You’ll also occasionally bump into a fucked-up clown holding a monkey in its lap while smoking a cigarette.

These face jugs are very common in the South. These little devil, goblin guys are a bit nicer than the usual ones you see in every antique store.
The Parade by J. Whipple

Three other works by J. Whipple

Daniel Johnston performed and had a booth at Folk Fest

Elvis with Teddy Bear

A customer

Some outsider art in the bathroom stall