Sunday, July 18, 2010

This is LA

Jeeves and I haven't taken a vacation that was longer than a few days in awhile. Well, I shouldn't say he hasn't - he did go to India for 6 weeks, after all. But I personally have not been away for more than a few days since we went to New Orleans over New Year's 2008-2009. Sure, sure, last October I got to go to Chicago, but that was from a Tuesday night through Saturday morning. Not a long trip. I wish I could tell you that this all changed in June with a blockbuster trip to Los Angeles. But it didn't. Since I'm new to my job, I didn't feel comfortable taking a full week off of work. So, I took three days, and flew out to LA on a Wednesday morning, returning Sunday night. Jeeves, who had plenty of vacation days and needed to use them up lest he lose them, headed out on the previous Friday and went to San Francisco first to visit some old friends.

Jeeves and I have a good friend who moved to LA a couple of years ago. Jase missed his family who live in the Southwest and was tired of NYC. He loved the weather in LA and thought he would give it a try out there. A few months ago, he moved from Marina del Rey (site of the Banana Stand for all you Arrested Development fans) to northern Venice, near the border with Santa Monica. He kindly offered to let us stay at his studio which is one block from the beach. He went to stay at his girlfriend's place, which is just a mile away in Santa Monica.

I had never been to LA before, and based on what I had heard about it, I wasn't necessarily dying to see it. But lately I've had a lot of friends who have made it out there, and raved about it. Plus, we hadn't seen Jase in awhile, and missed him. Now that I have seen it, I can say that I walked away with an appreciation for the sprawling town, but I'm glad I live on the east coast.

My trip started out well - I flew out very early in the morning from JFK and on my flight, we had direct TV, so I was able to watch the US play Algeria. Apparently everyone else on the plane was watching too because when the US scored the only goal of the game, the flight erupted into cheers and applause.

I rented a car when I arrived, since LA is such a car town, and made the very short drive out to Venice. Jase's place was unbelievable - just what I imagined it would be, and you could actually see the ocean as you walked up the block to his place. I was starving, so Jeeves and I went to Lula's, a Mexican restaurant in Santa Monica, where we had some super yummy and fresh enchiladas. Jeeves and I then went for a very long walk from the the restaurant to the fishing pier down by the canals.

And this brings me to one of my first negative comments about LA - the smog. You can't tell from this picture, but there are very beautiful mountains in the distance... almost completely obscured by the famous smog. It's a shame, and it was true of almost every vista we saw, except for Malibu. It's just another issue I have with LA's car dependence.

That evening, Jase picked us up and the three of us went to Father's Office, a well-known bar and restaurant.
The tap list was great, and the burgers were exceptional. Nom nom nom.

Speaking of burgers, the next day Jeeves and I went to In-N-Out for lunch. It was my first time there, and I have to say that while it was pretty damn great for a fast food burger - far, far superior to McDonald's, Wendy's or Burger King, it wasn't better than say, Shake Shack. I guess I was expecting a thicker burger, but it was skinny just like the other chains' burgers. Still very tasty. And though I did not get the burger animal style, we did get the fries animal style. Yummy.
Next up, we drove to Burbank for the Warner Bros. studio tour. I had read in my guide book that this was the best and least cheesy of the studio tours. I am a huge movie and TV fan and it seemed silly to come all the way out to LA and not see a studio. The tour was completely fantastic and I would highly recommend it to anyone. Super informative, and you just get to see a ton of cool stuff, like Heath Ledger's Joker costume from The Dark Knight, a Harry Potter museum, and the last standing set from Casablanca. There was a lot of Gilmore Girls stuff too, since that was filmed on the studio lot. That evening we had a big fancy dinner planned to thank Jase for having us, but I'll save that for another post, along with our visit to Griffiths Observatory, Mulholland Drive, Malibu, and my celebrity sighting of the trip.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The days are just packed

I realize that I am describing last weekend... hopefully next week I'll get around to describing this weekend a little sooner.

No matter how tough work is, there's always the weekend. Last week was exhausting for me as far as work was concerned. I worked late every day, and got in early. When my assignment that had to be done by Friday was finally finished at 4:45 that afternoon, I knew I would be getting out of there promptly at 5:30, and I would *not* be thinking about it again for the next two days.

Saturday Jeeves and I hopped the train out to New Jersey to visit my pops. I worry about how my dad eats, so as I usually do on my visits to Jers, I planned to cook several large batches of food for him. To that end, Jeeves and I hit the Fairway in Paramus. Fairway, you are the grocery store love-of-my-life. Sadly, the experience was a little less fun than usual because they were remodeling. It was very difficult to find just about everything and there were so many people there, I felt about ready to throw elbows. So we got out of there as quick as we could.

I then got to enjoy cooking in my dad's very nice kitchen - wiener schnitzel and meatloaf. Hey, don't look at me - that's what he asked for! He likes to take the wiener schnitzel and put some anchovies and an egg on it, thus turning it into schnitzel a la Holstein. I then cooked dinner for the three of us, left a big mess for Dad to clean, and then Jeeves and I took the train back to the city.

When we got home, we couldn't figure out what to do for the evening. Eventually we settled on Smith and Mills, a very small bar and restaurant on N. Moore Street. The place occupies a former carriage house and it is tiny. There are only about 8 seats at the bar and about 8 tables in the room. In order to sit at a table, you have to be eating, which we were too stuffed to do. But we ordered our drinks and stood about. Now, when I am in a crowded bar, restaurant, whatever, I get very competitive about snatching seats. I eye everyone with a seat and try to figure out who will be leaving first. Then I position myself right near them, and as soon as they start to move, I pounce! Frankly, it's a little stressful, especially when I get into a staring contest with someone else who is doing the same thing I am. But in the end, it worked out and we got a great seat at the bar. My Old Fashioned was not traditional - there was actually a lot of seltzer in it, and some fruit that isn't traditionally in an Old Fashioned. But it was delicious and refreshing on such a hot night. And that's the thing. I'm not so sure that Smith and Mills is air-conditioned. It got pretty sticky and uncomfortable, especially as more people poured into the tiny space. So Jeeves and I decided to move on to The Brandy Library for another libation.

But when we got to the Brandy Library, there was actually a sign on the door that said "We are at capacity." I kid you not. The host couldn't be bothered to turn people away in person? Weird. Jeeves was tempted to go in anyway, but I figured why bother with a place that doesn't want us? Especially when Ward III is so close by.

Ward III has definitely become my favorite nice cocktail bar lately. I love the set up - a few small sitting areas in the front, the long bar that runs along the wall, and then a back area filled with more proper tables. They have some funky cocktails that are their own concoction, but in my opinion, they really shine when making classic cocktails. Their Manhattan may be the best in Manhattan that I have tried, and that's saying something. But what I really love about it is the staff. The bartenders are friendly but not snobby. And the waitresses (not trying to be sexist here, but I've only ever been waited on by women at Ward III) always go out of their way to find me a table. It's not that I'm special, or a regular - it's just how they are. While the decor can sometimes make this place seem a little too cool for school, and the hipster doing the tunes selection looked like he just got off the L train, I have never felt anything but 100% welcomed when I walked in the door. And that's even when I have walked in wearing sneakers and jeans - most of the clientele is wearing decidedly nicer duds than I usually am. But it's no matter.

Anyway, we finished off our Saturday night at Ward III and that was the end to a very fun and full day.

On Sunday, it was World Cup time. We had stupidly decided to host a little get-together at the last minute. I always like having people over, but not necessarily when I haven't had time to properly clean my apartment. And what about snacks? We needed snacks! It all worked out in the end thanks to the very speedy tidying skills of Jeeves and we had a lot of fun watching with some of Jeeves' law school friends. Well, at least it was fun to have the company... the game itself was pretty dullsville until Spain finally scored a goal in extra time.

After everyone left, we headed to the John Jay School of Criminal Justice. Shockingly, it wasn't for anything lawyerly, but for a concert of the Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou. Poly-Rythmo is an afro-beat (and funk, and vodun, and soukous) band from Benin - they've been making music since the 1960s, and they have played all over Africa and in Europe, but last Sunday was the first time they played North America. They. were. amazing. Seriously, so full of joy, and I just don't know how you can hear their music and not want to dance. It was a great show.

When we finally straggled back down to Tribeca, we were both a little hungry, but still kind of bloated from all the snacks we had during the World Cup final. So we were in the mood for something light, but it being past 10, we were limited in our options. I suggested that we try The Odeon, which is super close to our apartment. We had never been there before. We both ordered BLTs, and I learned that Jeeves had never had a proper BLT before! Four and a half years together, and I still learn interesting things about my fella on a regular basis. The BLT was super - crisp bacon, thick tomatoes, fresh lettuce, served on a warm baguette. Yummy. But the best part was the awesome fingerling potato salad with grainy mustard. I want that recipe. We finished our meal by splitting a root beer float with Odeon's homemade vanilla ice cream.

It was a great weekend, and packed full of fun things. This weekend has been much quieter, and other than a few good recipes, will not warrant such a long post. I enjoy both types of weekends, the busy and the quiet. As long as they are filled with people I love and things I like to do, it's all good and it makes getting through the work week a little bit easier.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

In which I am reminded that work is for suckers...

Late last year, I decided that I really, really could no longer stand to be a lawyer. I had thought about trying to get a sweet government law job, but every time I sent out my resume, there was a deafening silence. I mean, I didn't even get rejection letters. So I decided that I would get my social work license and apply to Americorps for one year of indentured servitude. While I was in the midst of that process, a good friend whom I had worked with before (who shall remain nameless in an attempt to keep us both anonymous) told me about an opening in the government agency that he worked for in New York City.

I had been planning to move in with Jeeves in January, so this seemed like something I should consider. After all, it wasn't that I was totally opposed to being a lawyer, right? It's just that I didn't want to bill my life away, wanted to leave work at 5:30 every day, wanted a significant reduction in my stress levels, right? Right? That's all true. What I had forgotten to take into account was that I actually really hate the whole ridiculous fighting over stupid stuff that comes with being a litigator. I enjoy the intellectual pursuit of an argument with friends or family. And I love research and writing. But so little of what I find enjoyable actually happens in litigation. To me, so much of litigation is bickering over dates and documents.

Anyway, I submitted my resume for the position. I got an interview, and I nailed it. I knew I was super qualified for this job, and the idea of working with/for an old friend seemed like it would be great fun. I got the job offer a few days later, and didn't hesitate to accept it. I started in the winter, and at first, things started off pretty great. I have an amazing office-mate, it was fun to work for my old friend, the work was maybe not rocket science, but interesting enough. There were things I didn't like about it, but it seemed like such a huge improvement over firm life.

In early May, The Powers That Be (as I will call my bosses from now on, or TPTB for short) instituted mandatory overtime for attorneys. We now had to work 5-10 extra hours per week. Sure, sure we got *paid* for it, but I had already left a job where I was paid generously - I don't care about the money. I want my evenings to myself. At first they said this would just be till the end of June. But now we're in July and mandatory overtime continues. Then, about six weeks ago, my old friend announced that he was transitioning from his position as our supervisor to a regular old attorney position, just like the rest of us. TPTB decided they wanted someone with more managerial experience in his position, and in any event, my poor friend was so stressed and fried from the supervisor position that he was actually relieved to be a straight up attorney again.

For the rest of us in the department, things got tough. No longer having my friend as our buffer, we had to answer (or attempt to get answers/clearance) to TPTB. Dear Reader, to say that this has been an unpleasant experience would be like saying the LOL Cats are just a little funny. On top of having to endure regular painful meetings, I have gotten the sense that The Powers That Be want to change the way this governmental unit works. In other words, instead of my sweet 9-5 gig where I have no problem running out for lunch with a friend, they'd like us to work late every night, weekends, and scarf down lunch in 5 minutes at our desk. At least, that's the only thing I can figure based on this continued mandatory overtime and the absurd, absurd amount of work that has been dumped on me and my office mate.

Right now, this job is actually worse than working at the firms I was at before, where at least my opinion was somewhat respected, and managers didn't look at me suspiciously when I assured them I have a lot of work on my plate. I am thinking that now may be the time for me to respectfully bow out of the law, having given it my best shot. But until I figure out where to next, wish me luck.