Wednesday, March 8, 2017

How to experience Santa Monica like a local

One Day Itinerary for Santa Monica

Are you a traveler who'd like to experience Santa Monica like a local? As a resident here for over a decade, I'm often asked by visiting friends for local knowledge about Santa Monica bars, restaurants, entertainment ideas and more. So here's a one-day sample of how to experience Santa Monica like a local:

Where to do morning exercise in Santa Monica? Santa Monica Stairs
At the northern edge of town, a few sets of staircases connect the coastal community of Pacific Palisades with Santa Monica. These sets of stairs have become a workout mecca for anyone wishing for fresh air and bonus views of the coast. No matter what time of day you visit, you'll see people, like ants, climbing up and down the nearly 200 stairs. In addition to bumping into locals and personal trainers, you're also likely to see celebrities and athletes cloaked in hats and sunglasses. (During the NBA off-season, I consistently ran into Paul Pierce.)

Local tip: As with anywhere in Santa Monica, read parking signs VERY carefully.

Other morning exercise suggestions: Pacific Palisades Park, Marvin Braude bike path

Now that your blood is pumping, time to find somewhere to hydrate and eat a bite of breakfast.

Where to get coffee in Santa Monica? 18th Street Coffee House
The worst kept secret in town is that the place is owned by legendary musician (and Nobel Prize Winner) Bob Dylan. The staff is always friendly and jovial. The place is fairly low-key, which means you're likely to spot a celebrity if you hang out for a bit. As it's a coffee shop in L.A., you're also bound to see folks hammering away on screenplays and hear name dropping. Grab a seat on the spacious and serene patio to soak up the sun. If you need a jolt of energy, buy a cup of the Bitches Brew coffee, along with a piece of coffee cake or a scone.

Local tip: There's no wifi and no talking on your phone. This might seem overbearing, but it helps preserve the atmosphere.

Also try: Unurban Cafe, Dogtown Coffee, Cafe 212

Where to eat lunch in Santa Monica? Urth Caffe

Also try: Tender Greens, Flower Child, Shaka Shack Burgers, California Chicken Cafe

Where to grocery shop in Santa Monica? Santa Monica Farmer's Markets
Stock up on some local produce at one of the many weekly Santa Monica Farmer's Markets.

Local tip: Be sure to try some Gaviota strawberries from a vendor like Harry's Berries; they're some of the sweetest, juiciest fruits you'll ever taste.

Where to buy more groceries?
After you've loaded up on produce from the farmer's market, you can round out the rest of your grocery shopping at Co-Op. The store's organic/vegan/other health buzzword offerings are akin to Whole Foods, but Co-Op is community focused.

Local tip: The parking lot is small and cramped, but after 6pm parking at any nearby open street meter is free.

Also try: Bay Cities Italian Deli & Grocer (don't leave without grabbing a sandwich!)

Santa Monica's abundant sun and laid back atmosphere makes it a glorious place to day drink. There's a plethora of great spots to soak up the sun and some suds, but my favorite is Big Dean's Cafe.

Where to day drink? Big Dean's Cafe

Operating in the shadow of the neighboring Santa Monica Pier is Big Dean's Cafe, a mellow, mostly open air bar/cafe. If you can, grab a table on the front patio to watch the tourists and local characters stream past on the boardwalk. Or chill on the back patio and watch some local sports broadcasts. Drink up some local brews and try a corndog. And once you're ready to wind down, you'll be a short stumble from the sand.

Local tip: After you're sufficiently soused, you'll be a short stumble from the sandy shores of Santa Monica State Beach, where you can spend some time recuperating.

Once you've recovered from the day's escapades, head over to Cha Cha Chicken for some delicious Caribbean fare. And don't be put off if the ordering counter's line snakes out of the restaurant and onto the sidewalk--it tends to move fast and the wait is worth it. The restaurant is self-seating, so if you're with others, delegate one person to order food and one person to venture out onto the patio to lock down a table. You can't go wrong with any of the menu items here, but my personal favorites are the jerk chicken enchiladas and a fruity beverage.

Local tip: It's B.Y.O.B., so stop by one of the many local liquor stores to come prepared.

Other options: Solidarity

Where to watch the Santa Monica sunset?
Given it's coastal coordinates, Santa Monica enjoys majestic sunsets that dip down into the Pacific Ocean. There's plenty of spots to snap photos to fill up your Instagram account, but here are some personal favorites:

Bluffs at Palisades Park
The park is a long, narrow green space which runs the western side of Ocean Ave from Colorado Ave all the way north beyond California Ave. The railing which runs the length of the bluff is a great place to lean over to catch the glow of sunset illuminate coastal Santa Monica.

Another option: rooftop bar at Shangri-la Hotel

Where to find nighttime entertainment in Santa Monica? There's no shortage of entertainment options in Santa Monica.

Tucked away in an alley between the Santa Monica Promenade and a parking garage is a performing arts gem. Show tickets are affordable, often less than $10, especially when you consider there's no two-drink minimum normally imposed by competing comedy clubs. Inside you'll find a full-service bar with reasonably priced drinks and talent ranging from world beaters like Dave Chappelle to the open mic set.

Other options: Magicopolis, Burlesque Show at Trip Bar, live music at Harvelle’s, catch a classic flick at the Aero Theatre, Bowlmor

Where to get late night drinks in Santa Monica? Speak Easy Cocktail

A rare Santa Monica dive bar. Laid back, local clientele, devoid of tourists. Cheap, faux-wood paneled walls. Pool tables. Karaoke. Cheap drinks. Friendly service. Surprisingly clean bathrooms (not usually a hallmark of a dive bar, but hey—no one's complaining).

Other options: Ye Olde Kings Head, Bodega

Where to get late night munchies in Santa Monica?
DK Donuts (open 24 hrs), Holy Guacamole (tacos, burritos), NY&C Pizza

Friday, October 21, 2016

Donald Trump's LEAKED Presidential Concession Speech

What follows is the purported transcript of Donald Trump's leaked Presidential Concession Speech:

Thank you.

(hold for applause)

Thank you, my friends.

(hold for more applause)

Thank you. Thank you, bigly.

(hold for hot piece of ass groupies charging the stage so they can be wrangled by security and held on my tour bus)

I've just called Crooked Hillary to congratulate her on winning this totally rigged presidential election. I would've emailed her my congratulations, but we know what a total disaster she is with that technology. And for the record: when I mark Crooked Hillary's email with a “C”, it doesn't stand for “Confidential”, it stands for “C U Next Tuesday”.

Crooked Hillary's supporters and campaign staff deserve special congratulations for the tremendous job they did pretending like she doesn't have serious medical issues.

And congratulations to Hillary's husband, Bill Clinton, who gets to resume “vetting” White House interns. Folks, he's ready to Make America Rape Again.

Congratulations to Hillary's wardrobe stylist for single-handedly keeping Chico's & Talbots in business. If you're unfamiliar, Chico's and Talbots are chain stores that cater to “mature” women. “Mature” is code for the type of women who only come forward with sexual assault allegations when they're decades past their prime. Just sayin'.

Folks, this is a time of tremendous challenges for America, and I pray to Trump that someone stops Crooked Hillary's 30 year streak of making America not so great. I don't know who could do it, maybe the 2nd amendment people?

I want to thank Mike Pence, my running mate. Aside from my inevitable next wife, Mike is the best choice I've ever made. And trust me, I've made a lot of great choices. Fantastic choices, really.

I want to thank Melania—who according to our marriage license, is the love of my life at the moment. Can you believe she's only 46?! We all know a woman's expiration date is the day she turns 50, which is why I've been chanting “Four More Years!” Four more years until she's decommissioned as my wife and shipped back to Slovenia. Don't worry, she doesn't understand a word I'm saying right now. Melania would have been a wonderful first lady, but she'll have to settle for being a wonderful third wife.

I'd like to thank my former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski. Corey was the battery that kept the campaign running--as in “assault and battery”. Man, does that guy know how to punch a protester! He's got a bright career ahead of him. I've recommended him to my good friend Don King.

I want to thank my sons: Eric, and Donald Jr., and also the really young one. What's his name again? Anyways, Eric and Donald Jr. really stuck out their necks for me, which showed what they're made of. It also showed what their jawlines are made of: nothing.

Thank you to my daughters, Ivanka and Tiffany. Despite what people say, I have zero sexual interest in either of you. Because that'd be illegal. And I respect the law as much as I respect women.

I'd like to thank Governor Chris Christie for always having my back—which is a great back by the way--believe me, my doctor says so. Any disagreements Governor Christie and I had during the primary was just water under the bridge he'd closed illegally.

I'd like to thank former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. I've heard people say that Rudy Giuliani shows the symptoms of suffering from a stroke, and they're right—a stroke of genius for supporting Donald Trump.

Thank you to Paul Ryan, Reince Preibus, and the entire Republican party. I couldn't have done “it” without you. And when I say “it”, I mean lose this rigged election to Crooked Hillary.

And thanks to everyone here and across the country who supported our campaign, even though it meant enduring constant ridicule from total pussies. I hope you grabbed those pussies by the pussy and showed 'em not to screw with you.

Let's face it folks, America is a total disaster right now. Americans are using their phones to catch imaginary monsters, when they should be using their phones to call INS and catch the real monsters—foreigners.

We're getting killed in trade by the Chinese, and we're getting killed in math and science by the Chinese-American immigrants in our very own schools. Sad!

Jobs are leaving the country faster than ever. Just a few weeks ago a job left NBC's Today Show. Which proves that no one is safe, not even the Bush family.

I had the best plan to lead this country, but unfortunately the people rigging this election have spoken, and I will not be the person to Make American Great Again. Your loss!

In closing, you're welcome, everyone! For the endless hours I worked to Make Politics Entertaining Again. And may Trump bless America. I am the best. You're welcome. You're really tremendously welcome.

And follow @realDonaldTrump on Twitter for a live-tweet of Crooked Hillary's entire presidential term.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Jokes for the Republican & Democratic National Conventions

Last month I was asked to submit jokes for a "confidential political special" about the Democratic & Republican National Conventions. Here's what I came up with (WARNING: MANY--ARGUABLY, ALL--OF THESE ARE REALLY, REALLY DUMB):

I’m here in Philadelphia, where Hillary Clinton is the first woman in American history to serve as a major party candidate for President. Or as historians are calling it, she's broken the pantsuit barrier.

It's nice to see Donald Trump show his support for the host city by painting his face the same color as a Cleveland Browns football helmet.

Look at all of these protesters. I wonder how many of them had to take the day off from unemployment.

“As a member of the Westboro Baptist Church, you've protested funerals for military officers, homosexuals, and celebrities. But is this the first time you've protested the funeral of an entire political party?”

The Democratic Convention is being covered by 20,000 credentialed media members from around the world and broadcast by all major television networks in the United States. There's more slime balls being filmed here than the last Ghostbusters movie.

The only thing at this convention less secure than Hillary Clinton's emails is Bill Clinton's pant zipper.

The last time Philadelphia held the Democratic Convention was in 1948, which is also the last time Bernie Sanders held a hairbrush.

Jeb Bush has decided to skip the convention because he's trying to distance himself from anything that might be too popular.

Donald Trump is the first major party nominee since 1940 who hasn’t held political office or a military rank. Of course it's hard for Trump to hold anything because of his tiny hands.

Only 18 of the nearly 2500 delegates at the Republican National Convention are black. And of all 50,000 convention attendees, only 1 is orange.

All of Philadelphia's 6,000 hotel rooms are booked for the Democratic National Convention. Though there's still space for young, attractive women to crash in the Bill Clinton suite.

Bernie Sanders is at the Democratic convention in an attempt to flip superdelegates. Which will be tough, because he doesn't even look strong enough to flip an Olsen twin.

The Republican National Convention is tasked with approving a platform to guide the party, and making sure the platform doesn't shatter under the weight of Chris Christie.

It's only the first day of the convention and Bill Clinton has already been caught staring at the cleavage on the Liberty Bell.

Media outlets have reported that Donald Trump had a tough time deciding whether to choose his daughter as his running mate or his life mate.

“Would you say the Democratic candidate nominating process is unfairly rigged? Or is it just fairly rigged?”

"Why did you volunteer for the National Convention? Was it because you wanted to help showcase your city and provide a positive experience for guests? Or because you wanted a new crappy shirt to wear while cleaning your kitchen?”

“How do you expect Bernie to push Hillary left when he can't even push his hair left with a comb?”

Chris Christie is expected to have a prime speaking role at the convention. He’s also expected to have a prime rib.

Here's a group of protesters called 'Stand Together Against Trump'. And after the convention they'll be reuniting to 'Stand Together in the Unemployment Line'.

“How'd you receive the details for this convention gala? Did Hillary send you a confidential invite from her hotmail account?"

The Democratic convention will host 6,000 delegates and alternates representing 50 states, the District of Columbia, six U.S. territories, and most corporate interests.

There are over 10,000 volunteers for the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Jobs range from managing phones, delivering boxes, transporting attendees, assisting the press, and taking harassment from Bernie bros.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Topical Monologue Jokes That Busted Your Bracket

A video has surfaced of a man urinating onto a factory assembly line for Kellogg's cereal. Which explains why the new slogan for Rice Krispies is "Snap, Crackle, & Flush".

Chipotle is offering free burritos in an effort to combat the appearance of empty stores. The offer is also expected to help combat the appearance of empty hospital beds.

North Korea's supreme court has sentenced an American student to 15 years of hard labor. But on the bright side, the student hasn't even graduated college yet and he's already found a job.

After five seasons, CBS has cancelled its crime drama "Person of Interest". It's being replaced by the new crime drama "Person of Hopefully More Interest".

Uber has announced that it will now make one-way trips from the US to Mexico. They're calling the new service Uber Trump.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Thursday, October 15, 2015

11 ways to be an effective Couchsurfing event organizer

Learn from my triumphs and mistakes as a seasoned Couchsurfing event organizer in Santa Monica, California. The tips below will help empower you to organize your own successful Couchsurfing events.

  1. Be proactive – Visit your chosen venue one week before your event (preferably the same day/time as your event) to see if the location is appropriate for your group. Introduce yourself to the manager to discuss your needs/expectations. Even if it’s a place you’ve visited many times, contact the venue to confirm that it’ll be open and can accommodate your group. Reserve a space if possible.
  2. Be specific – Include helpful information on your event page such as: how to access your event with public transportation, an address/map/contact information for the venue, a description of the meeting area, any age restrictions, dress code regulations, and parking information. 
  3. Be inclusive – A Couchsurfing event should be open to all members regardless of race, creed, color, age, sexual orientation, etc. I’ve heard stories of some events that attempt to “gender balance”, the purposeful exclusion of people based on their sex. Couchsurfing isn’t a speed dating website, so if you’re worried about your event being a “sausage party”, sign up for instead.  
  4. Be transparent – Manage expectations of event attendees by disclosing their obligations, financial or otherwise, for the event. Withholding pertinent information from your attendees is a deceitful practice that will only harm your reputation amongst CSers.
  5. Be promotional – You’ve chosen your event space and created a Couchsurfing event page, but now you need to let the CS community know about it. Create a post in the “Find Discussions” section of the CS site with a short description of your event and a link to the event page. Search the discussion board for travelers who’ve posted about being in your town and are looking for something to do. Find profiles of active CS hosts/members in your city and invite them and their surfers. Post an event link in your area’s CS page on Facebook.
  6. Be punctual – Arrive 15 minutes before the listed start time of your event. If you don’t have a space reserved, ask an employee if there’s an area your group can commandeer. Let the employee know you’ll have folks looking for the group when they arrive; ask if it’s possible to have people directed to your area.
  7. Be welcoming – Greet each attendee with a smile and a handshake, or even a hug. First impressions count. It’s easy to talk and mingle with the people you already know, but remember that some people at your event may not know anyone or even the native language. Introduce new attendees to the ones you might already know.
  8. Be vigilant – Keep an eye open for wandering people who appear lost – they’re most likely event attendees looking for the group. Watch for people who you feel are making others uncomfortable and for attendees in distress; you’re the event leader, so don’t be afraid to interrupt a conversation to ask if everything is ok.
  9. Be available – Monitor the comments section of your event page so you can respond to any questions from attendees or prospective attendees. On the night of your event, regularly check your phone for messages, emails, and calls from event attendees who might be trying to locate your group. 
  10. Be patient – This has been the toughest part for me, but try to remember that many attendees aren’t familiar with your city’s geography, culture, customs, and language; this means that you’ll be inevitably asked many of the same questions and sent many of the same messages. People will complain no matter what (it’s human nature), but over time you’ll develop thicker skin. And the bonds and connections you develop with fellow CSers will make it all worthwhile.  
  11. Be persistent – Don’t get discouraged if your event doesn’t happen as you’d envisioned. There are many factors involved with organizing an event, most of which are completely out of your control. But ruminate on the things within your control and ask yourself how you’d do it differently next time. A 25-50% attendance rate from the RSVP list is the norm – anything above 50% percent is exceptional, but anything below 25% and you’ll want to revisit your planning process.
If you’ve read this far, congratulations! Please feel free to leave your own CS organizing advice and experiences below in the comments section.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Two Week Vegan Challenge - Days 3 to 9

Ten days into the Two Week Vegan Challenge and I'm not dead yet.

Apologies for over a week of radio silence -- unless you're annoyed by my self-serving exploit, in which case, you're welcome?

A few days into the challenge, my brother asked how I was feeling, to which I replied, "There's no way a slaughtered cow feels worse than I do right now." But after the initial 48 hours I've felt mostly ok.

Also, I should note that I've already received more invitations to get vegan lunch/dinner than I have regular lunch/dinner throughout all of 2015. Maybe it's just part of the vegan recruitment effort, but the sentiment is nice.

Eating food is no longer something I give much thought to; it's more of an emotionless process now. Before this vegan challenge, my mind would often ponder how, when, where, and what my next meal would be. I freely admit that untethering myself from these thoughts feels liberating, as I can focus my time and energy elsewhere. (Like on writing things that sound even more douchey than that last sentence.)

Most mornings I've had almond milk and vegan cereal for breakfast. The consistency and flavor is close to what I'm used to, and I could actually see myself continuing to include these things in my post-vegan diet. That's right, soon I'll be self-identifying as "post-vegan", which I hope takes the country by storm and lands me my own crappy reality show.

Monday, Day 3
I'm convinced that staying busy at work will be a blessing because I'll be too busy to remember that I'm depriving myself of regular food. By cruel coincidence, I've chosen not to eat animal byproducts during the same week I'm tasked with staring at mouthwatering sausage recipes/pictures for hours on end at work. It's part of a website launch for a client that specializes in -- you guessed it -- sausage products! I get it, God -- you're a first rate novelist, but maybe you could dial it back every once in a while?

A late night at work and I didn't bring dinner. So I've convinced a coworker to order from Green Peas, a local joint with a reputation for tasty regular food and vegan options. I opt for a vegetable quesadilla. In hindsight, it seems strange to have ordered a dish that basically has the Spanish word for cheese, "queso", in its title. Of course we all know that "dilla" is the Spanish word for "delicious". If cheese is the mortar that binds together Mexican food, guacamole is the layer of paint that hides all blemishes. And boy did I smother that quesadilla in guacamole. It was my first run in with the impostor vegan cheese, which was decent, but a world apart from the real deal.

Tuesday, Day 4
I've stumbled upon PETA's "Top 20 Accidentally Vegan Foods", a list of junk food that's technically approved for me to eat. This is a huge loophole, and a sight for sore stomach. So now I'm loading my shopping cart with items like BBQ Pringles, Airheads, Wheat Thins, Sour Patch Kids, and more. After showing friends this list, they'd remark that I could be the first person on a vegan diet to gain weight.

Wednesday, Day 5 and Thursday, Day 6
I don't really remember any significant Vegan-related events happening. The lack of protein may be causing my body to consume my brain. But I've noticed that all I've done with friends is talk about my vegan experiment, and in this way I'm only furthering the stereotype.

Friday, Day 7 - The Challenge Within the Challenge
I've grown so tired of saying the word "vegan" that I've challenged myself to go a full day without uttering it. This challenge was nearly a success until about 10pm, after I'd imbibed some whiskey and the forbidden word came barreling out of my mouth.

Saturday, Day 8 
A very late night out and I realize there's no satisfying or convenient late-night vegan option to soak up the booze. So I'm in my kitchen at 5am slicing a red pepper and dipping it into hummus. Later this morning I wake up amazed that my fingers weren't victim of a drunken knife accident.

I take a nighttime trip to the Getty Center with some friends. For being an art museum and a place you'd think would cater to progressive types, the cafe lacked any decent vegan options. Aside from fruit, the next best/only other option is a $7 pita/hummus combo.

Sunday, Day 9
I'm perched atop a bench on the back patio of Big Dean's Oceanfront Cafe, watching friends binge on beer and fried food that I can't touch. This is one of my favorite places in L.A., but seeing as they don't serve liquor, it's a completely different experience as a vegan. There's basically nothing on the menu I can eat/drink.

Later I meet friends for dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Playa del Rey. Based on the menu, all I can do is cobble together a meal of side items: tortillas filled with zucchini, lettuce, jalapenos, and guacamole. We think the zucchini was probably prepared with butter or something non-vegan, but I'm not about to run into the kitchen to find out.