Category Archives: Travel

Best Coffee and Tea Drinks of Los Angeles!

Yeah, and I don’t mean tea shirts! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. I am so funny.

But seriously, I go to cafe’s a lot. Before kids, with kids (there was a lot of drawing), and after kids. After kids meaning kids are teens now and even though they still love a good “coffee cookie” as we called it, they are just really busy, and like in college and stuff. So, since I figured out that variety is really helpful for my creative process ( I used to write in the same cafe for months and then switch. I called them residencies.), I end up trying a lot of different coffees and teas in Los Angeles. There is still so many more drinks to try, but for the most part these are served close by where I teach or live.

So, I am so excited to share with you my “Best Coffee and Tea Drinks of Los Angeles” list! But, because this IS a Clothes Story, I will describe the outfit that would best go with each cafe. Naturally.

A word about “best”. Now, you think because a place has the best matcha then why doesn’t it have a killer cappuccino? It is clearly a mystery of the coffee and tea universe. Also, this of course is all just a matter of my taste buds. But I have to tell you, that yes, I have tried cappuccino’s at all of these places and more and there is only one cappuccino that is the best in my book in LA County, and I know a lady from Milan who agrees with me. But just because they make the best cappuccino at that fine establishment does not mean they make my favorite chai latte. I know! Is there any rhyme or reason to this? Let’s just enjoy that there is a reason to venture and mix it up. Because depending on what hot caffeinated drink you are in the mood for, there is a cafe for every occasion.

Latte: Coffee Tomo

Shout out to Bryan for the latte and to Alejandra for the cutie bear Tomo Latte.

To be honest, sometimes I get the worst impressions of people the first time I meet them. There have been instances when someone who ends up being dear to my heart is also someone I thought I would never be friends with the first time I met them. Usually, it’s just crazy circumstance. That is what happened with Coffee Tomo. It was one of those ozone depleted days. I parked near Cinefile because I needed to purchase a Miyazaki film to give to a birthday girl. Evan wanted coffee and we didn’t want to re-park, so we walked and walked under a sun that seemed to grow hotter and more scalding with every step towards the epicenter of Sawtelle. Maybe I was close to sun stroke; I don’t know, but when we walked into a cafe I ordered an iced coffee and I don’t even like iced coffees. I put sugar in it. I don’t usually put sugar in my coffee. See, how we were off to a wrong start? That was Coffee Tomo. So, then I would see the cafe from afar on other visits to that hood and subconsciously think, “Oooh, sunstroke coffee.” But then one cool and breezy night, I was meeting a friend at Balconi down the street and there was no place to sit, so we wandered down Sawtelle finding no other espresso bar type places. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted Coffee Tomo. “Well, I guess we can go there.” “Oooh,” said my friend looking at the menu on the wall, “Let’s order a pretzel!” She’s a foodie. “What?” I said. “They don’t have food here. Where do you see that?” “Right there,” she said, pointing at the menu. “They make FRESH pretzels to order. I’m getting one with red bean paste and cheese!” Before I knew it she inquired about the Tomo Latte made with condensed milk. We ordered two pretzels and two Tomo Lattes. Incredible. Then I loved the place and kept going there ordering pretzels filled with cheese and Tomo Lattes. Of course, the Tomo Lattes were tasty; they had condensed milk in them! But, then, one day — no, this riveting story is not over yet — Evan and I just slipped in for a moment to get two coffees to go and I ordered a simple latte. I didn’t even think about it. I was skipping the Tomo Latte because I go off sugar at least once a day. I stepped back onto the sidewalk, took a sip of that latte and it was like the clouds parted and the most beautiful ozone-protected sun shined through right onto me and my latte. I had gone to latte heaven. I’m not kidding. I actually said, “What is this?!” And Evan said, “Laura. You ordered a latte, right?” “Yeah! But it’s so GOOD.” Did I mention they roast those beans every morning in house? Maybe that matters.

And this I know because I have tried lattes EVERYWHERE. Yeah, like donuts, which brings us to…

Oh, wait. The outfit. Coffee Tomo is best in a super comfy cashmere oatmeal beige hoody sweater with equally comfy black stretchy modern slacks. Slip on leather sneakers. Hair in up do. Bring your homework.

Hong Kong Milk Tea:  Cafe DulceThe crown of all Hong Kong milk teas can be found at Cafe Dulce. (And the best Spirulina churros) in Little Tokyo.  I know this list is Japanese neighborhood heavy so far. I know. I never even had a Hong Kong milk tea until I tried this one, and then I thought, “WHAT just happened to my mouth?!” I have since tried others, thinking, “Yay, they make Hong Kong milk teas, too!” only to be disappointed. Don’t be disappointed. Go to Cafe Dulce. And everyone is really friendly that works there. I would put Cafe Dulce on my “Friendliest Cafes in LA” list if I had one. Did you know that some cafe’s actually train their staff to not be friendly? I know this for a fact, and I have this game I play at those cafe’s. It’s like trying to make the guards at Kensington Palace laugh, except getting it to actually work. You might be surprised that you don’t have to try that hard. It’s just that everyone gets intimidated right away and usually doesn’t try. Tangent! Oh, yeah, and because Cafe Dulce is in Little Tokyo, you can go to Footland, my favorite place for sneakers.

Outfit: Well, cosplay. Duh.

Matcha Latte:  Gjustamatcha-latteYou know how when you go to Paris, you feel like Paris just makes you a better person? That is what the unsweetened 100% organic homemade almond/hazelnut milk matcha latte at Gjusta in Venice does. When I’m drinking that nut milk matcha latte in an earthy cup, I just feel so… right. I feel smart. Like, “I made a smart decision today.” Sure, it was just about what hot drink to get, but it feels like so much more. Did I mention that EVERYTHING at Gjusta is locally grown and organic. That’s right. That biscuit will not give me a stomach ache. Yay. And they serve it in a cup that feels so satisfying to hold. The cup is a collaboration between Gjusta and a ceramic artist, and you can buy them next door. Again, locally grown; I’m not kidding. So, yes, that is a fresh biscuit and homemade jam that is not too sweet in the background. Gjusta is a bakery after all. I know I keep saying homemade, but at Gjusta everything tastes like someone loved you while they made it.

Outfit: Omg; I have a WHOLE Pinterest board about Gjusta as an outfit. Not even kidding.

Macchiato: The Conservatory for Coffee and TeaThe Conservatory for Coffee and Tea has a decades-old, excellent reputation for quality and personal attention. Macchiatos are a drink where you need a strong, beautiful espresso. With only a mark of steamed milk, the espresso is on stage. It’s live! This macchiato at The Conservatory on Friday afternoons could become a tradition for me. Why? Two words: Live. Jazz. Imagine my surprise when one Friday afternoon — well, first of all, I found parking in the back! — as I approach The Conservatory doors I hear a sound that goes straight to my heart: a live stand up bass and a dreamy electric guitar. I had the pleasure of meeting on bass, the amazing Michael Saucier and on guitar the super pro Josh Skair. I talked to A.J. the owner of The Conservatory and he said they try to have a couple of hours of live jazz every Friday afternoon. Omg. The secret is out. You had me at coffee roaster right in the room, with specially chosen beans, expert baristas producing the a superb macchiato in a cup that reminds me of Coyoacan, Mexico. Then, you had to put live jazz on top of it?? An embarrassment of riches. THIS is an experience. You’re welcome.

Outfit: One of those 40’s silk flowered dresses with jelly heels we used to wear in the early-mid nineties. Crocheted matador style wrap. Red lipstick. No jewelry.

Photo by Evan Hartzell.

Cubano: Commissary

I feel like so many of my coffee and tea stories are about surprises. It’s true! Here’s another one. Now, everything on The Commissary (which has four locations, but I am speaking of an unassuming little industrial modern spot below a modern apartment building in Palms – yeah, I know their website says Culver City) menu is pretty solid — God, we are so spoiled coffee-wise in LA — but it’s The Cubano  that made me go there just for the drink. This is not a traditional Cuban coffee. The coffee is “espectacular” from Ethiopia, the cinnamon sugar syrup is added, creating all at once a cappuccino like drink that takes you to a fantasy version of Cuba that is very “internacional”. The drink was a surprise because I wasn’t expecting anything so out of the ordinary, and ordered The Cubano on a whim. The name was inspiring. I’m not going to tell you that the iced matcha latte is also supreme because I am really strict about only talking about one drink per establishment.

Outfit: Understated yet elegant gray linen dress like a flower grower in Japan crossed with an unexplainably stylish programer. Copper earrings. Clogs.

Iced Coffee:  Philz CoffeeDon’t be put off by the Halloween candy corn hoe down aesthetic of Philz Coffee (or the strange lighting. No seriously. One was covered in fluorescents. Another was spookily dark. I’m sensitive to lighting.) If you have to put on shades or bring a flash light, do it because of the Mint Mohito which is an iced coffee indulgence like no other. Medium blend coffee (their actual straight coffee comes close to competing for my just plain coffee winner), sprigs of fresh wild mint, cream, and organic brown sugar. Not too sweet, coffee has depth, and the mint mixes with the cream like they are in deep love with each other. I’m not the only one who has a Philz Coffee Mint Mohito story of coming to Jesus, but here’s mine. We were visiting our son during his freshman year of college. The three of us sat on a bench under a canopy of trees.  Suddenly, he turned serious. “Oh. (Pauses) I want to tell you guys about something.” We were on the edges our seats. This was obviously some big news or revelation he wanted to tell us about. He didn’t usually talk like this. Normally, we asked a lot of questions and he was “encouraged” to share with us. “There’s this drink. The Mint Mohito. At Philz Coffee. I think you would like it.” This was not a simple sharing of a new favorite drink. We took him seriously, went to a Philz the next weekend, and ordered said drink. Upon tasting my drink (I hadn’t looked at it’s description on the menu) I realized that our son was trying to tell us something.

My baby had started drinking coffee.

Outfit: I’m thinking Ginny Weasley home on holiday. Enough said.

Chai Latte:  Intelligensia

With the matcha dipped croissant? I usually do not indulge! To be truly enjoyed, the chai latte needs to stand alone, but it was so pretty! Photo by Evan Hartzell.

I used to make fun of Venice. Well, Venice is always an easy target. Always has been. Even in the 1920’s newspapers people wondered “why all the flotsam and jetsam always ended up in Venice?” They were referring to people, not marine debris. I lived in Venice for a number of years, dragging myself down the hill from sunny Santa Monica where I had spent most of my LA life and which I understood because Santa Monica was a “real city” with a mayor, a top notch recycling program, and everything. And it felt solid. Someone who has been through a couple of major quakes appreciates living on bedrock. So, when people would say, “Oh, you live in Venice. That’s so cool!” I would respond with “It’s a swamp.” They didn’t understand. But you know, places grow on you. And then places change. Some places change A LOT in a really short amount of time. Like Venice. Now, Intelligentsia on Abbot Kinney is old change. It goes back to 2009! Ancient. People swear by their Intelligentsia coffee experience. It’s pretty serious behind that counter. They roast their beans and everything. But I’m weird. I go there for the chai latte. And I get it with almond milk, so just imagine how delicious it would be with dairy. Don’t imagine. Go try it. Again, had this chai latte; disappointed by pretty much all others. It’s not too sweet. Elegant foam. Not too spicy, but spicy enough. Every sip makes me so happy. Besides the chai latte, the people watching is top notch. Lots of “creatives”. See? Can’t stop making fun of Venice.

Outfit: Oh, man. I gave Gjusta my Venice outfit board?! Okay… Blue Nepalese wrap skirt, black Hungarian, embroidered top, gold leather flats. “I know the person who made this” necklace.

Honey Latte: Bardonna

 This drink could go on the “Recent Discovery” list. I really shouldn’t include it since I only went here once and so only had this one drink there, but I am still affected by the experience. This was an emergency experience so I feel a little indebted to these people. Very FWP. Here’s what happened. The other day I took a risk and ordered an “almond latte” at a VERY fancy pressed juice establishment in a VERY fancy neighborhood. I did this because I was cold and about to sit in the wind for 3.5 hours. Don’t ask. (Okay; related to teenagers that don’t have time to go get coffee with me.) I even looked up best coffee in the area I was in and found nothing. See, I tried. The moment I saw the latte, I knew it was a mistake. It looked like a disaster. I took a sip and it was scorching. Instead of leaving it right there on the counter (because the barista was so sweet looking), I took it outside and decided to walk around looking for a trash can. So sad. It was four dollars, of course because it was ORGANIC and in a fancy shop in a fancy neighborhood, like I said. And like the mystery of best coffee and teas, this chain of juice stores has the BEST smoothies. None of it makes any sense. Anyway, I wandered into a clothing store, awkwardly still holding the latte I was never going to drink. The super friendly shop assistant saw the cup in my hand, and it turned out she was a major coffee appreciator as well. I told her what happened to me. “You have to try Bardonna! They just opened one across the street. BEST coffee. And they make their own nut milks!” So, I skipped on over, and even though it was my first time there, I didn’t do any writing, and they just opened four weeks ago, I am putting them on my list. Best honey latte goes to Bardonna. Okay, I’ve never actually had a honey latte before, and it’ not even on the menu (although a vanilla honey latte is) which makes it cooler. Not too sweet. Awesome milk. Perfect transcendent foam. They use Klatch espresso. Oh, and the inside of the cafe looks like the beginnings of the Bay Area Figurative Movement transported to Carmel in the 1920’s. It will make sense if you go there.

Outfit: Oooh, this is fun. Crimson red silk shirt dress under ivory car coat. Large thick leather brown simple tote. “To Catch a Thief” sunglasses.

Lavender Tea Latte: Milk and Honey

(Click on a photo –  all by Evan Hartzell –  to start the slide show above.) I will be brief because I am SO breaking the rules right now. But, come on. The traffic has gotten so bad in LA proper that an hour trip to the OC (when there’s no traffic… like, on a Sunday) isn’t really going that far for tea.  When I’m in Huntington Beach on the weekends I don’t go write in cafe’s. Instead, I do things like clean my dad’s bathroom, make waffles, and walk the dog to the beach. We make wonderful stove top espresso on my dad’s O’keefe & Merritt. But there’s this place that caught our eye on a walk to the beach. It didn’t look very O.C. Milk and Honey had lots of moss and eclectic, funky industrial furniture. We decided to venture in. Doggies welcomed. I perused the menu and was intrigued by the listed “lavender tea latte”. I tried it hot. They also serve their hot drinks in vintage cups. You know I love that. I was instantly transported to a French lavender garden. The air was suddenly pleasantly dry. Did I hear the sound of pétanque? I kept ordering it on future visits. I was just going for the lavender tea latte now. In the photos above, I tried it iced. So. Good. Sometimes you have to go to the OC because you’re kid is so ace at soccer. You know who you are. Milk and Honey. Two locations. You’re welcome.

Outfit: Oh, yeah. There’s one in the photos above!

Cappuccino: Caffe Luxxe

Cappuccinos are the Mexican rice of cafe’s. You’re a pretty hard core foodie or just Mexican if you know that the best way to judge a Mexican restaurant is by their rice. Do you know how hard it is to find a drinkable cappuccino in LA? If you’ve had tons of them, and you don’t understand what I am talking about, then you have never had a truly perfect cappuccino, and I am deeply saddened by this. I have three standards that I compare things to when someone tells me something is good. TV series? I ask if it is it as good as Sherlock. They usually say, “Sherlock? Right, then. Well, no. But this one grows on you after a few episodes. Blah, blah, blah.” I’m not listening. I don’t have time for a show that “grows on you”. That’s called lowering my standards. Food? “Is it as good as Gjusta (yeah, the place with the best matcha lattes)?”  “Oh, well… Gjusta? I mean, you can’t really… I mean, Gjusta. Right. Well, no.” Cappuccino. “Is it as good as Caffe Luxxe?” Ha. You know what? I just realized I never ask that question. BECAUSE I ALREADY KNOW THE ANSWER. The only cappuccino that is worth drinking is at Caffe Luxxe. It’s just perfect. Well, I think it is what a cappuccino is supposed to be. Like, you go to Italy and you just go anywhere like the Illy Cafe and it is like this. People in Italy just wake up and assume they are going to have cappuccinos this excellent. Oh, if only it were true here. Cappuccinos are the things that are the hardest to get right. When we go to some random cafe we’ve never been to, and I say, “I’ll have a cappuccino, ” my love says, “Whoa, are you sure you want to do that?” He’s eyeing the machine, the barista, looking around.

Little piece of Italy, I tell you. No passport required.

Outfit: Crisp white “boyfriend” shirt tucked in,  501’s distressed rolled up, real gold jewelry, messy French hair, no makeup, black leather sandals.

 

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Viva Italia

I last worked on the following post October 29, 2016. I got busy with other stuff, and then the election happened. I thought about scrapping the whole post, starting over with a different perspective. Honestly, I even thought about never doing another Clothes Story again. But, those feelings were all part of the grieving process, and now I have a renewed belief in the power of sharing our stories. I also have a renewed appreciation for stepping outside of our bubbles and for being in community. Oh, and the exploration of fantasy and illusion in the film, 8 1/2 is something that’s come up repeatedly in this post truth moment in history. So, without further ado…

One early October morning “certain parents” made the mistake of telling their teen that “Ha, ha, ha, the truth is we don’t know what we are doing!” as they dropped him off for an over night camping trip. Don’t do that. Teenagers’ hormones are trouble enough, and they don’t need their parents sharing their  existential crises – or at least displaying such a dark humor about it. They need their parents to make oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and smoothies and tell them everything is going to be okay.

Early Fall of 2016 I waded into a midlife crises – I’m being dramatic, of course – and in such a dramatic state I started to fantasize about remaking the film, 8 1/2.

From a female artist’s point of view.

Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. Back up. Midlife crises? Why now? Maybe because I had come off a summer where I did things I had previously been afraid to do. That always shakes things up, doesn’t it? I had fallen into a tiny acting role on a friend’s movie – an exhilarating experience. I had also started playing shows with k-blamo on which I do vocals. Another exhilarating experience. Oh, that golden chakra. And the turquoise one, for that matter! Fall meant “back to work”. Even though I had taught all summer, the boys going back to school meant it was time to buckle down in the studio. Buckle down? I didn’t want to buckle down. Like Guido in 8 1/2 I wanted to break out of that traffic-trapped car and float up, up, and away. Something had changed within me, and I needed to explore it further.

In Federico Fellini’s 1963 black and white film, 8 1/2, the main character is an artist as well. He is film director, Guido, just off one production and now being hounded to give his vision for his next film – a science fiction piece, no less. Guido starts out at some sort of healing spa, and ends up swimming in a sea of his own memories and dreams. Marcello Mastroianni, at the height of his cool style quotient, plays Guido.

So, here I am. A female artist wandering the west side of Los Angeles that no movie crew is really looking for. No mistress is showing up – unless she is represented by social media distractions. Instead, my co-conspirator is patiently taking filming direction from me by the bus depot. The bus depot matches my skirt.

Big Blue Bus blue.

Big Blue Bus blue.

Like Guido, the film director character in 8 1/2, I avoid my artistic project’s completion (in this case, a graphic novel that is so long it makes me want to cry) by wandering the city in a beautiful outfit and revisiting my entire life’s story. I even start my journey in my own spa – my childhood bathtub full of healing salts where I end up talking to my mother as if I was ten again, and to the moon outside the window – a window that is no longer there. Fellini talks to his dead parents in a sunny graveyard, suddenly dressed as a priest. Dream sequences, heavy symbols, Jungian imagery that 8 1/2 is known for? Check. Like Fellini, I need a note attached to the camera reminding me that this is a comedy – that life is a comedy. Eventually, Guido contemplates the idea of the “ideal woman” in an actress he wants to cast. I contemplate who I strive to be, as my own “ideal woman”.

How did I get to deciding that a piece of Italian cinema so illustrated my crises? The seed was planted with a wander into an Italian menswear shop. One thing led to another, and through a series of cappuccinos, a visit from Tuscan friends, and on-the-street filming, I ended up at 8 1/2.

Brioni

I like portals, and the Brioni store in Beverly Hills is a portal to the elegant, gorgeous Italian bespoke shops of the 1940’s and 50’s. The Artist and I wandered into this epicenter of fine fabrics and spectacular stylings of fine men’s tailoring one lovely Fall afternoon.

It was the red velvet that beckoned us initially. What is it about velvet suits that grabs us? It’s decadent, luxurious, and oh, so soft. It conjures up falcons, estates, and silver goblets. Three out of four people in my immediate family love velvet suits. My husband even contemplated a velvet suit for our wedding in 1993. One of my favorite moments from a trip to Florence, Italy in 1997 was taking a photo of a business man in a blue velvet suit, standing in a plaza chatting with his friends at lunch time. Casual. No big deal. I performed with a band in a velvet jumpsuit around the same time. Now, The Artist wears a similar, red velvet jacket to the one in the top photo. Velvet is back.

Once inside the store, the atmosphere was all mirrors, gold, and black. I felt like I was inside an Italian race car with bouquets of roses everywhere. We were greeted by Sheila, who because of our enthusiasm (and probably our outfits!) treated us like we were museum goers, and she was the knowledgeable docent.

Clothing can be art to me, especially when they are so well made. Once Sheila told me about the attention and work that went into each suit, handmade in Italy, we bonded about the scene in Valentino, the Last Emperor that shows the handful of seamstresses making one of his incredible dresses. I love that scene – the intricate craftiness of it all. I grew up starting Saturday afternoons at the fabric store with my mom and then going home, each of us with a project at hand, cutting and sewing at the machine. Now, The Artist is pretty skilled himself, manipulating suit jackets with silver thread, vintage buttons, and yes, even adding Rushmore patches like you see on his jacket above.

If the Fall was the filming of my 8 1/2, then Brioni was a trip to the wardrobe department.

Caffe 8 and Half

If there’s catering on this movie set, then for me it would be  Caffe 8 1/2 in Santa Monica which I started getting into this past Fall as well. It’s kind of hidden, but oh so good. EVERYTHING is good here. I kind of went overboard on the sugar last time (Two words: Nutella. Pie.), but I do not dissuade you from completely giving in to the whole experience. Any cafe that has a Fellini theme and a Marcello Mastroianni photo mural wins me over easy. Next time I am trying a panini, for sure. Getting ideas from Yelp at the moment where the reviews are all glowing.img_1318

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Wait, are these photos of my OUTFIT at Caffe 8 and a Half? Why, yes they are.

The owner, Gaetano makes your visit to Caffé 8 1/2 even more special.

The owner, Gaetano makes your visit to Caffé 8 1/2 even more special.

Which brings us back to Brioni because…

On the Brioni website we see some red carpet photos of people wearing their suits, and one of them is of Chiara Mastroianni (French-Italian actress and singer) who is the daughter of Marcello Mastroianni (AND Catherine Deneuve… but that’s a whole other post. Wait, I already did that one). I don’t usually get stars in my eyes, but I swoon for the European art house cinema stars of my youth – my youth of seeing the films back in college, I mean. Marcello actually wears Brioni in this film. His look created a desire for a lighter suit, a more modern, on the go presence that reached all the way across the Atlantic.

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Oh. My. Goodness.

Under a Tuscan Sun

Lastly, there was Tuscany. I had one of those rare, sleepy afternoons this Fall where I curled up with a blanket and a self-indulgent movie. The “airplane” movie was something I found on Netflix called Under the Tuscan Sun. I’m not even going to talk about this movie in the same post as I mention Fellini – but, then again there is a whole character in this film who is obsessed with her past relationship with the great director. She even acts out a scene from one of his movies. Didn’t see that coming. I just wanted an escapist hour and a half, and I am back on set! Besides the always charismatic Diane Lane, the film’s other star is the location of Cortona in the Tuscan province of Arezzo.

Now, here’s the crazy thing. Next thing you know, in the last days of October we were so happy to hook up with our friends visiting from Italy. He was originally one of our good British friends from our year in Leeds, UK. She was the wonderful Italian woman he met while camping in Spain, and lucky us, they brought along their six year old daughter who taught me a bit of Italian. And where do they live? In that same Tuscan province of Arezzo! A highlight of the visit was the little girl trying her first skateboard on the Venice boardwalk. They brought with them a bit of child like curiosity from the village which I so needed.

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Italy was everywhere, and it was guiding me through a Fall of transitions. I entered through a suit shop, took to the streets making a handful of haiku like music videos in support of a new EP, and was infused with fresh energy by our Italian visitors. The summer had already been a gateway to embracing my love of performance, as my partner and I performed music and spoken word at a couple of Los Angeles events (with plans for more!). Like Guido in 8 1/2, I realized a film crew was in fact following me. In this case, the crew turned out to be the world that constantly encourages me to produce, that promises to eat up whatever I make. So, I ordered a new business card… and splattered them all with hot pink acrylic. The circus-like ending to 8 1/2? Maybe that’s what 2017 needs. The artists, the dreamers, the lovers, the activated… dancing in the new year across what looks like a barren landscape, still hoping to make the world sing.

Thunderbird

I received a package recently, and in it was this story and a gift…

Here is a birth month story I want to tell you. Once, three days ago or three hundred years from now, there was a beautiful artist who lived in a dry land. This artist sang and wrote and painted about women who could fly, women who rode on cloud-buffalo and stepped over skyscrapers, women who could melt into their ancestors or disappear into daily life, women who could soar above circumstances as though gravity simply did not exist for them.

"Cloud-Buffalo", watercolor on panel, 8" x 8", 2011, collection of Lissa Carter

“Cloud-Buffalo” by me, watercolor on panel, 8″ x 8″, 2011, collection of Lissa Carter

This artist had a friend who had left the dry country and traveled far east, into a land of frozen winters and wet summers. This friend sat beside a fire one thundering, rainy night and watched tongues of lightning flicker through clouds. In the patterns of fire on her eyelids, she thought she saw the shape of the cloud-buffalo woman her friend had painted. Rain fell in sheets and drenched her to the bone as she ran back to her home. 

That night, she dreamt of the artist. The artist was hovering in a night sky filled with stars, and every time she stretched her arms out, rain fell beneath her. “How are you doing that?” called her friend. The artist laughed and said, “The ground needs water so I came up here where it is!”

A few days after she had awakened from that dream, the friend was wandering through a merchant’s trove of junk and treasures. A small box filled with a spill of bright color caught her eye, the colors of rain and rivers and deserts and sunsets. Lifting it into her hands, she saw that it was a Thunderbird, the Navajo icon of rain, power, creativity, and magic. The friend thought of dry land, and art, and women who could fly. She knew this talisman belonged to her friend, the artist, in whose hands it could bring water of many kinds to the thirsty ground. Aho!                                xoxoLissa

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Hat by Roxy. Stone necklace by Nicole. Blouse by Promod. Levi’s jeans altered by me. Sunglasses by Ray Ban. Thunderbird bead necklace is gift from the goddess, Lissa.

Vacation Living How To

Remember those layouts/articles in women’s magazines like “Go From Day to Night in this Outfit” and “Pack a Bag for the Weekend With These Three Easy Pieces”? Oh, that last one! As a young teenager, I would look at these mini wardrobes that were so chic and simple and imagine my life as a young career woman going to San Francisco for the weekend, living a life of adventure with a French scarf tied around my neck and the top down of my vintage little convertible.

Here is the short story of how a series of events gave birth to something like the “Pack a Bag for the Weekend With These Three Easy Pieces”. We didn’t actually go away for the weekend, but because we were having the vacation attitude, someone actually said to us, “Enjoy your trip!” as we left their shop. Comments like that means you’ve won the game of vacation living. At the end of this Clothes Story I list some tips on how to exude the vacation living attitude.

Outfit #1:  My “Weekend With These Three Easy Pieces” started with this white cotton floaty dress from Velvet my friend, Jodi gave me from her closet clean out. I LOVE clothing from closet clean outs. It was maybe my second time wearing it. It’s so soft and feels like I’m wearing a cloud, but I kind of knew it wasn’t the right shape for me. So, I subconsciously put it on this day because I knew my friend, Leah was coming over for dinner later and that it would look so good on her. By the end of the evening I told her it would soon be hers, and she said, “Yeah, I’ve been eyeing it all evening thinking I never see a dress like that. It’s perfect!”      

Outfit #2:  But before Leah even came over, Evan and I went for a walk to buy what we needed to make dinner. On the way, we planned to stop at Surfing Cowboys because E had eyed a birthday present for me there the day before. “I want to get you a Hawaiian shirt for your birthday!” he said, “What do you think?” It was one of those times where I think I am hearing a crazy idea from him, and then in an instant, like a lightening bolt, the true brilliance of the idea hits me like a beautiful symphony piercing through the static of my closed mind.    Walking into Surfing Cowboy, my eyes are illuminated by the sight of a whole rack of the best and softest Hawaiian shirts that came from someone’s collection that was amassed over decades. I remember seeing Surfing Cowboys when it used to be on Abbott Kinney, and while I never properly checked it out, I would peek my head in from time to time and see that it had a great individual vintage, beachy but intellectual vibe – like a fantasy Venice beach house from the Beat 1950’s that had an impossibly good sound system and a great library. Now it’s on a newly cool and breezy stretch of Mar Vista’s Venice Boulevard with more space and natural lighting. So, just like when I was a kid and had a new clothing item, I had that shirt on and tied at the waist by the time we crossed the street towards the Japanese market. Layer it, Baby!     Outfit #3!:  Next morning we were shuttling our youngest to his internship in the arts district in DTLA (downtown Los Angeles), and there was no way I was going to not wear that Hawaiian shirt again (did I mention how SOFT it is? They have more of these. Go get one!) – this time with jeans. This is not rocket science, people! Shirt. Jeans. Flipflops. Come on. Okay, now that the three outfits with three easy pieces are all squared away, let us enjoy what wonderful things are happening to the once sketchy, grimy neighborhood of the arts district. It’s getting Googled, Baby! I know; I should just call this post, “Baby!”  

Vacation Living How To:

  1.  Dress in an outfit that exudes relaxation and/or adventure. Sun hats help.
  2.  Don’t walk; float.
  3.  Try bossa novas as the soundtrack of your day.
  4.  Make a grand ceremony of meals – even if it is just a little snack at home.
  5.  Marvel at things. Trying saying “Oooh!” a lot with your eyes wide.  Pretending becomes reality.
  6.  And lastly, if you are going to move your big tech company into a neighborhood, be cool and subsidize some of the housing so that some of the really cool people can stay there. Wait, a second. How did that get in here? Vacation Living How To… maybe??

Dress by Velvet. Similar here. Similar shirts available at Surfing Cowboys. Hat by San Diego Hat Company. Sneakers from Footland. Jeans by Joe’s. Necklace by Evan Hartzell. Coffee, croissant, and flowers by Black Top Coffee. All photographs by Evan Hartzell.