Introducing the end of the pessimist. Dream killers – as I like to label them, are people who perform the function of an unwanted fire fighter to your ambitions. A wise woman once told me that you should always win in your dreams – after all – it’s your dream!
The you can’t do it crowd is always a very healthy, eager group of people willing and ready to shoot you down. There must be some reward I’m unaware of for dousing a dream or goal by serving up the proper mix of doubt and unreasoned rejection. You probably know a few people like this I’m sure – we all do. They come in all forms for all sorts of reasons. There is a distinction I should make – Kids like to challenge one another’s goals – usually without intentional malice and frankly, kids will be kids. They usually aren’t locked in on daily exercises in optimism. So, kids get a pass.
Taking a position that reduces the possibility of a positive outcome isn’t automatic for many of us. It’s often a calculated choice. Dare I suggest that it is a position we learn? A position we adopt as a defense to increase our own feelings of optimism? Sure. Why not? If you decide to try something new – you’re probably now at odds with the established level of comfort in your social and professional circles.
Why? – well, you’re no longer predictable. You’ve suddenly changed. You have become ambitious. You’ve also become difficult. Your perceived faults become measurable. You’ve also become crazy (I’ve never understood that one). You’ve become less desirable and you certainly can’t be relied upon. You’ve also become the one who won’t make it.
All nonsense right? Of course it is! Pessimism should be classified as a disorder – something like an arrested state of thinking. A position that deserves to be rejected as soon as it’s recognized. Optimism is so much easier anyway. Who doesn’t want to be encouraged? Lifted up? Supported? Sounds crazy huh?
It is crazy so – make sure you make a little room for those crazy ones.
My belief is that every state and every large county has an area that thrives on shared intellectual energy and individualism. These areas are usually void of corporate dominance and sustain their economic independence from the support of the local community – who appreciates the opportunity to stand strong on their own. In Los Angeles, the area that best fits this description for me is Los Feliz.
Los Feliz is like a return to a world before the Internet grabbed us by the hand and forced us to communicate through an electronic prism of thumb approvals and status updates. Intimate by choice, the commercial ambition of the area is non-existent. Small restaurants, a movie theater, a newsstand and a bookstore operate as they should – on their own.
East of Hollywood, art, culture and independence are all kissing cousins. Corporate muscle doesn’t carry any weight here. If you’re looking for a Gap clothing store or a Barnes & Noble, you’ll be disappointed and the community wouldn’t have it any other way. Geographically, the area is too tight for an enormous consumer appetite. Taking their place is Skylight books – what a neighborhood bookstore should be and Bru Coffee bar. No socializing allowed seems to be the unwritten rule; this place caters to the writer in you.
In Los Feliz, less is more. The area is primarily residential with a small retail and dinning square, which serves as the heartbeat of the neighborhood. I’ve probably eaten or had a cocktail at most of the establishments there. Favorites of mine include the Dresden Room and Fred 62, which specialize in comfort foods – 24/7.
The independent theme is the ethos thru and thru. The Los Feliz 3 movie theater operating independently since 1934 stays within an arm’s length of big budget movie releases, but you can bet that documentaries and small budget releases are what they want you to enjoy. You would never guess that Walt Disney drew his first image of Mickey spawning the Disney empire right here. Traveling 2 blocks north on Vermont leads you to the Griffith Park Observatory and the Greek Theater. Like to hike? The Santa Monica Mountains are there for the taking with multiple trails to challenge and burn you out.
Nice neighborhoods are great. Cool neighborhoods are rare.
Nightlife in Los Angeles offers plenty of options depending upon your mood. There are hundreds of establishments willing to make you wait in line because nothing attracts a crowd better than – seeing a crowd. It’s the Macintosh Apple store approach to marketing; create buzz by offering limited exclusivity. Yes, it still works but no, it no longer works on me. I’ll take a Sex and The City rerun or a Los Angeles Clipper victory over an artificial line any evening. Yup – I’m too old to stand in line.
I say all that because, there’s a spot worth waiting for even though they have no lines. The Hudson Bar in West Hollywood may be one of the best happy hour spots in town. Located on a small corner lot on Crescent Heights Blvd and Santa Monica – it is a grown up experience. A restaurant disguised as a bar is the best way to envision the experience. They offer a full bar along with reserved seating if you’d like to dine.
Happy hour is a can not miss, but this place really shines in the evening. The crowd on this night was young, hip and progressive with plenty of lively conversation throughout. Now, when I say lively conversation – I mean to say, loud. If you’re looking for an intimate discussion, this isn’t the choice you want to make. The menu is broad and appealing with perfect portions sizes. Nothing is too much or overly offensive; the food won’t spill off your plate. Everything
is priced just right. I vouch for BBQ burger.
The décor is sleek with two enormous trees running through the dinning area. Yes, restaurants grow around trees. Parking offers two options: valet or finding a spot in the surrounding neighborhood. There’s also two hour meters, but you’ll be there longer than 2 hours – trust me.
As a child of the MTV generation, I can appreciate the motivation of the youth movement and the frenzied nightlife that caters to them. The Hudson feels more like VH1 – a bit more refined with a focus on a mature mid tempo rhythm. This place manages to be cool without trying to be cool.
No gimmicks. Walk in. Order a drink. Have a meal. Have a great time.
Homeless people have always captured my interest and imagination. It’s always moved me to imagine the difficulty in existing naked. No shelter is essentially living bare. How do you remove the fear or uncertainty and just live – uncovered and completely vulnerable? What cataclysmic events causes this? How do so many people end up here? The question seems so elementary, but it’s not. Assumptions pour over the reasons like warm gravy; lazy, addicted or mentally unstable right? It’s always easy to oversimplify and desensitize the very basic challenges we all face. It’s estimated that 82,000 people in Los Angeles – enough to fill the Coliseum, are without shelter on any given night. Fortitude and coping mechanisms aren’t gift wrapped and handed to any of us. We all require support in many different ways.
I used to be an unforgiving, immature young man. Homeless people were nothing more than a nuisance to me; I’ve never had the courage to verbally kick someone when they’re down, but I held preconceived beliefs that I refused to address or release for years. How many times did I walk by without making eye contact – fear that locking eyes would somehow make me accountable for my choice to ignore their struggle. I wasn’t raised that way. I grew up in a home where caring for others was the modus operandi – It’s the only way my mother operated. Being of service with a goal of achieving inner piece and paying it forward. At some point as a young adult, I turned that switch off for a while.
That switch should never be turned off for any of us – life is too beautiful.
After returning to that place of compassion – I engaged full force. Volunteered for the fatherless and fed the homeless, but never feeling like any of that was enough. I’ve never felt like it lasted long enough. How do you freeze those moments of gratitude and appreciation? Maybe the reward is wrapped in the gift of service.
In this city, the opportunity to serve in different ways is ever present. I used to believe that reaching into my pocket was the only way to engage. Money, clothes, food and time are great, but donations can be given in so many ways. Smile. A smile is always a gift worth the effort for someone who needs it.
We are all in this together.