Thursday, July 26, 2012

LA: The Anti-Paris

My time in LA has been a lot of things, but most specifically, it has not been like my time in Paris, which is a good thing.  If it was the same everywhere, why go anywhere. These two cities that I'm fortunate to both call home right now, are vastly different in people, place and culture, but that's a separate post, coming soon.  First, I thought I'd recount some of the highlights from my summer stay that make LA, the anti-Paris.

One of the first things I was quickly reminded of on my first beach run is that Angelenos' fitness fetish is in your face.  I do see Parisians running in designated areas, and occasionally I'll catch a distant glimpse of people on stationery bikes on the 2nd floor of an old building, but the fitness regime in LA transcends any simple run on the treadmill.  Strike that.  It didn't transcend the treadmill until I saw a friend's specially designed computer keyboard holder and screen that allow you to work, while working out.  Duncan, you could probably sell these to anyone, except the French since I don't think they'd want to sweat in their well pressed suits.


Speaking of sweating, I'm all about getting a sweat on, but I try and make it a point to shower before going anywhere after, especially a place serving fresh food.  I've spoken of the CA casual attire, but unless Whole Foods has started offering yoga classes in the produce section, and I wouldn't put it past them, I'm just wondering if people can put some clothes on while picking out their organic greens.  Yes, this could be a sign I'm turning Parisian, but I must admit that I've logged some serious hours in my yoga wear - off the mat, but that will all stop the second wheels touch down at Charles de Gaulle.

The fitness fetish is everywhere.  One step on the beach and I was reminded of the many activities you can do in the sand and surf - yoga, rugby, surfing, kite boarding, paddle boarding, kite flying, and now add dodgeball.  Pourquoi pas?

I myself even dusted, or rather, pumped up my old, pancake deflated beach volleyballs, and got myself back to the court to see if I remembered anything from the glory-ish days.


I did remember all the hand slapping and hive fiving for good, bad and mediocre plays, but what I didn't remember was how the game uses so many different muscles that evidently are not needed in Paris.  Luckily I didn't have to find that out until après drinks at our local watering hole, Lula's, where we picked up some stragglers and took over the bar and left them with a new indoor sandbox.  I then remembered where my week-ends used to go following this tradition since you can blink and have spent 8 hours beachside having lots of fun, and lots of drinks.


There are also beach activities for the less motivated.  Perhaps a little medical marijuana?  LA has 762 marijuana dispensaries, or at least had, because just this week there was a unanimous vote to close them all, except for those that were set up to help the most needed before the thing snowballed a bit.  We tend to get excited about an idea then go all in.  Cupcakes anyone?

There are plenty of opportunities to get a tattoo in the beach areas.  For the less serious and committed, there's the less permanent henna, or you can go big with real ink, and when you sober up, you can remove it with Dr. Tattoff (wonder what the tat med program is like).


Can't decide if you want to treat yourself to a toe ring or some botox?  There is some good, one stop shopping along the beach for the indecisive.

And then there are the organized beach partiers who we happened to stumble upon one lovely afternoon while we were enjoying a few unorganized drinks in Venice. A dozen or two friends were doing a themed golf bar crawl.  There were score cards, costumes and many characters.  Now, I have seen some costumed bachelor/bachelorette parties in Paris, but they had pending nuptials as the purpose.  The golfing drinkers did it for the pure fun and joy it brought them...and then us.


And then there's the food.  I've been feeling a bit like an overstuffed squirrel, packing away many different CA food groups to last me through the Parisian winter.  One of my favorite CA food groups is Mexican cuisine.  I've had nachos the size of my head and bottomless chips and salsa and most meals.  Ah spice.  I will you my friend.

Paris has come a long way in the Mexican department.  They do now have a Chipotle afterall, but I'm afraid they still have a long way to go.  The same goes for sushi.  While you'll see a lot of "fast food" sushi around town, and it's even one of the few items you can have delivered, it just doesn't seem to have the same freshness and diversity to me, though I'll give them credit for interesting meat and vegetable rolls.  So, yes, check the Mexican and Sushi storage boxes.

The Parisians have beautiful produce at all of their many farmer's market, but I still can't believe I can't get big leafy greens like kale there.  I've been foraging like a bunny in LA, but luckily there's another American equally distraught, but more motivated, who's taking it to the streets, farmers and restaurants with her kale project to attempt to get this luscious staple into this lovely city.  My fingers are crossed!

While I can get brussel sprouts in Paris, I have yet to see a brussel sprout and bacon pizza like the one at Larry's in Venice.  I may or may not have had it 3 times during this trip, but not all at one sitting.  It could be a long winter.

Ironically, as I returned to LA this trip, I was here for the implementation of the great CA foie gras ban. You can't get foie gras, but you can get pot, at least for a little while. It's hard to believe that they've banned this beautiful product, but most French chefs are finding ways around with orders of $30 toast that happens to come with a surprise side of foie gras.  I had to bring some back with me so my foie friends would not be deprived, but it's another great reason to come visit me!

I've put a self imposed ban on myself while I've been in LA to not drink any French wine.  Yes, it's wonderful, but the French don't include CA wines on their menus, so I've had a chance to fill the places in between my squirrel cheeks with some nice wines from Napa, Carneros and Paso Robles.

I also need to inform you that it's just not possible to be beachside without drinking a beer.  I realize Americans get accused of large portions and sometimes I defend it when I see the paltry Parisian pours, but Big Dean's two handed beer can't be condemned.  It can only be enjoyed as you watch the sunset, but hopefully not rise again.

And then sometimes even the biggest cup in CA won't do, and you just need to supersize it a little bit more.  Voila!

During my LA, non-Parisian break, I've fed my cheeks, belly and all places in between with great food and drinks and I've even tried to balance it with some fun fitness while enjoying the casual lifestyle, but I will say that the greatest feast of all has been catching up with my friends and family.  I even reconnected with former colleagues with several surprises and a little curiosity.


There's nothing that feeds my LA soul like the laughter between long time friends.

There never seems to be enough room to stock up on times with friends, but I've fit in what I could, and look forward to visitors' trips to see me, and the next return to my wonderful non-Parisian home.

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