Sleep It Off: An Eco-Chic Boutique B&B – Hollywood, CA


An eco-chic boutique B&B right in the middle of Hollywood? Wait a minute. Why haven’t I ever written about this before? I know I’ve seen it.

Good thing I was chatting up Erika McQueen, my Pilates instructor at Whole Body Gallery; otherwise, I never would have known just how cool it actually is. She and her hubby, Dougald, own the place.

Perfect for the semi-working actor, DP, writer, or family member, Hollywood Pensione is a 1915 Craftsman specializing in weekly stays. Featuring eco-pure rooms with specially-made organic mattresses, fine organic bed linens by Anna Sova, complimentary organic wine and dark chocolate truffles, and state of the art in-room technology like flat screen TV’s, DVD’s, and high speed WiFi, it was ‘designed for the discerning traveler and professional seeking the privacy of a hotel, with the comforts and conveniences of home for short and long term visits to Los Angeles.’

Walking distance from the Hollywood sign, Griffith Park, the Metro Station, cafes, markets, shops and Hollywood landmarks including the Mann Chinese Threatre, Walk of Fame, Kodak Theatre, Hollywood Bowl, and Hollywood & Highland, it’s close to the studios and offers a different, more unique sort of experience than the other (more pricey) digs near Sunset or Beverly Hills.

Just what you might be looking for when it comes to planting those creative seedlings.

Oh, and the owner? She says she’s adding a yoga studio so you can thankfully leave Hollywood with a tighter ass too.

Rates are from $149/daily – $2,000/month

1845 N. Wilton
Hollywood Ca. 90028
Tel: (323) 369-2411
hollywoodpensione@gmail.com

http://www.hollywoodpensione.com

A Flair Necessity: Brixton Hats

Question:
How did a couple of SoCal boys from the surfhood develop the coolest caps we’ve seen in years?


And how did they come up with the name Brixton?

Friends from their days at Transworld Media, a publishing company that owns some of your favorite adventure sports titles (Transworld Skateboarding, Snowboarding, and Surf), they were influenced by the culture around them and beyond. The name? A Clash song about Brixton (pst. Brixton is a part of London). While hunting for cool hats and accessories for the modern man and woman on the move, they hatched an idea and executed it, developing a line of goods perfect for the lover of surf, music, skateboarding, and art…

So here’s your hat.

Launched in 2004, David Stoddard, Jason Young & Michael Chapin, inspired by vintage designs and the cultures and influences of California, attribute their traditional, yet modern designs to the friends and associates they met through the action sports community.

Our kinda boys.
For wear.
For travel.

That missing piece of the outfit that brings you to the next level.
The cool hat.

Jaunt Magazine says, “Gracias amorcitos.”
The boys and I say check out:


The Clasp Women’s Hat which seems to go with everything, The Castor Brown, unisex hat great for vacation, The Parlor Tan, a great women’s beach hat…

And the Stout Fedora. Completely crushable, you can pack in bags and it will form back to shape no matter how badly you’ve packed it. Phew. Brad Pitt… it’s calling youuuuuu.

Retails from $10.00-45.00

Palabra.

http://www.brixtonltd.com

The Beautiful Grit of Burma: Part Three


The last in our Burma travel series, Jeff Duncan, Jaunt Contributor and GM of Stage Three Music, takes us to Bagan, the final stop on his journey throughout the beautiful grit that is Burma.

Part 3: Bagan, Original Majesty
“You’re scared aren’t you?” Said my friend.

We were up far enough up on the pagoda that a fall down the deceptively steep, sharp brick steps would be ugly. I wondered how many unlucky schlubs had taken that tumble over the last thousand years. It would be the type of fall that can’t be stopped. The victim would only gain speed and torque as they log-rolled to the bottom, each thud against the bricks doing real damage.

Was there even a hospital within 100 miles?
“Stop projecting. And, yes.” I replied.

Ungracefully (and not very heroically), we crawled, hunched over like crabs to summit the ancient edifice. When we arrived at the top, I looked out over the lush green landscape, punctuated by hundreds of clay-red stupas. It was still and a slight mist of rain cooled my face as the sun set slowly.

It was likely my emotions, but I sensed an energy, a deep & phasing, barely sub-aural cycling of power. I kept my mouth shut about it. It was the perfection I’d not even been aware I was searching for; simultaneous stillness, solitude, antiquity and natural splendor. It was fleeting.

Behind us, an agile old local had followed us up. He began his mantra of “You buy! You buy!” holding up his indigenous paintings. I gently indicated that I would have a look if he met us in 10 minutes down by our minivan (with the broken AC – every car we took in Burma had broken AC, at least that’s what we were told). He persisted, but I pointed at the view and gave him the 1 minute signal. The local vendors had extra vigor, presumably because the tourists were staying away due to the recent protests and unrest. Still, I felt a bit bastardly moving him along. The feeling later eased when I bought two of his paintings.

The two-punch combo of a depressed economy and repressive government is a wicked one, so far as I can tell, but the people live on and seem connected to their fascinating history.

We needed some local cash. Our US $20’s were slightly more fire power than necessary so we took a ride to our driver’s Aunt’s house; she had a black market side-gig changing currency. Very Burma. On the way, we passed the ridiculous golf course the military had built in the middle of the stunning plain…“Let’s shoot 18 in the ruins Bro….Sweet!” I think the regime is far more suited to run a dog circus than a country.

The Aunt’s dwelling was a dark-wood and straw mat affair slightly off the main drag. Lit only by candles (the whole town had lost power for no particular reason, which is common), it felt slightly spooky-warm and seemed an extension of the clay earth it was built upon. I caught myself scanning the dark corners of the room for some thieving marauder ready to jump us for our money belts, but quickly shrugged off my American paranoia when his thin old Aunt appeared with her happy eyes and missing-tooth smile.


The Burmese will only accept crisp fresh dollars; any tear, crumple, fold or stain and it’s rendered useless to them. I’ve heard tales of tourists damn near starving to death with a wallet full of worthless, fouled money who are then forced to go to their embassy for a hand out. Fortunately, mine wasn’t so dirty and the old lady, with surprising skill and speed, counted out a fat stack of the equivalent kyat, less her commission, of course. Kyat makes a man with forty bucks feel rich; the size of the currency and exchange rate the way it is leaves one with an obscene wad of the stuff that’s better stowed in a chamber pot than a billfold.

After dinner I was beat, and on the way back to the cabanas our driver noticed me rubbing my sore neck. 

“Can I recommend a traditional Burmese massage?” He offered in his unexpectedly polished English.
Now there is an idea, and a fine one at that. A perfect end to a perfect day.
“Where do we go?” I anxiously queried.
“Oh, they come to your hotel,” he said. I envisioned a slow, two-hour deep oil rub from some skilled, local beauty. She’d relax every muscle and smooth each sinew and I’d drift away deep and heavy to awake anew tomorrow.
“To send the man over it will cost $10 US dollars for each of you,” he added.

My prior vision was abruptly smashed, replaced by one that involved my lower back being tickled by some dangling beard…piss.

“Can’t you send women over?” I asked, before really thinking it through.
“Sir, I will tell you that this is a historic site and we don’t….” he rattled.

“Hey, wait… I’m sorry… I didn’t mean… I just want a massage, I think you misunderstand. I don’t like to get rubbed by men…” I foolishly stammered.
He was peeved.

After copious explanations and back trackings, the guy seemed mildly assured we weren’t another gaggle of American sex tourists who took a wrong turn at Bangkok.

As I waited for sleep with a stiff neck, I left the window open and listened to the thunderstorms rolling across the plain of Bagan and wished we’d had one more day there.

By Jeff Duncan

LA Local Gem: Gonpachi on La Cienega


One word. “Naga.”

Short for Katsuo Nagasawa, originally from the Fukushima region of Japan. “Naga” (as he’s better known) is applauded in restaurant circles for his 20+ years in Pacific Rim cuisine. Recently appointed new Executive Chef of the year-old Gonpachi, Beverly Hills on La Cienega’s Restaurant Row, he joins Masa Yamamoto, the Executive Sushi Chef (and six-year veteran of Gonpachi Tokyo), and Yasu Kusano, Executive Chef of Soba and Sumi-Yaki, where they can be found grilling robata, dicing sashimi, and pounding buckwheat noodles by hand nightly, a highlight Los Angeles Times food critic S. Irene Virbilia deemed “worth a trip just to see, and taste.”

Under different management when it first opened, the word has been slow to get out, but JAUNT says, ‘Great place, solid cuisine.’ Weekends draw more of a crowd, while during the week it’s a bit quiet, so spread the word… we don’t want to see it go away. Located across the street from Matsuhisa and down the way from Benihana has kept it under wraps, but the prices are a little less painful and the food on par with the likes of Koi and Kantana.

The atmosphere?
Well, it happens to be a world apart.

Imagine a two-story 11,000-square-foot Japanese spectacle steeped in Japanese carpentry, cherry blossoms, lighting fixtures imported from Japan, Zen gardens, and intricately-designed roof tiles. The dining area consists of a large sushi bar, open seating in the center, booths lining the perimeter, and private rooms where you can sit with a group on the floor, straight up Japanese style. We here at JAUNT love to sit on the floor and it’s tough to find that in this part of town.

Pst. the only other Gonpachi’s are in Japan.

Chef Naga’s inventive new menu consists of an array of traditional and fusion Japanese items like the always tasty Yellowtail Carpaccio with enoki mushroom in a warm ginger jalapeno dressing and traditional hot robata plates.

They also present several interesting sobas, both hot and cold, and add unique touches to dishes like their baked dynamite by resting it on eggplant and topping with corn and the occasional spicy crunch of red peppercorns, a welcome revision from the sometimes deliciously mundane. Try the Yuba Roll with accents of madras curry and wasabi aioli wrapped in soy paper or the Flaming Grady, a mix of spicy lobster, albacore and jalapeno. With the introduction of new flavors to the already popular, standard sushi dishes around Los Angeles, Naga’s competing with the best.

“A restaurant of Gonpachi’s magnitude needs standout cuisine to rival its visual excellence,” reveals Naga amid his lavish new surroundings. “My goal is to help make an already-impressive experience…unforgettable.”

Gonpachi is open for dinner, sushi and cocktails seven nights a week, so let’s keep it in business. We could use somewhere good, cozy, close, and NEW to go.

134 N. La Cienega Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA
(310) 659-8887

The Beautiful Grit of Burma: Part Two


Inwa, Treasure of Mandalay
By Jeff Duncan

I stepped carefully, picking only the driest and most solid looking patches of ground that rose up from the primordial swamp of horse piss that constituted the path to the tiny improvised dock.

Christ, I was tired, which was odd considering there was a strict 10pm curfew. People couldn’t venture outdoors until morning under penalty of death. It seemed dramatic from the clerk gal at the hotel, but I was in no humor to test it out. We knew the drill before coming to Burma in the first place. Still, the idea of some bloated “Officer of Civilian Compliance” stamping papers and chirping out orders that impacted my destiny switched on some weird pitchfork wielding, ‘don’t tread on me’ inner rage-thing (that I, of course, ignored).

We were told that the best way from Mandalay to the old city was by boat. We paid a few kyat and climbed aboard a long narrow wooden vessel that had an old diesel engine sputtering in back. A kid, presumably the Captain’s son, no more than 10, made ready and we began chugging across the river. After completing his chores, the kid came over and sat by us. I noticed he was smoking a cigarette. Confused and alarmed, I acted out a pantomime that conveyed the sentiments,”Hey! Your Dad will see you!” and “You’re too young for that!” The kid, understanding me completely, carefully put the cigarette out, stowed it in his pocket and produced a ragged old cigar butt which he lit, laughing as he did. We roared; what can you really say to that?

From our first muddy steps onto Inwa it was clear that the place was special. 21st, hell, 18th century technology has passed the place by completely…save for plastic flip-flops. What’s sure is that it is a remote section of an already remote place and it looks, smells, and feels completely authentic. I sort of felt like a bastard even being there-hulking over the natives in my well-fed whiteness to “have a peek”. I tried to mitigate this feeling with the talk softly/smile broadly policy I was developing.

On the ferry over, the smoking kid had made several awkward references to the “Ho-Kaa” waiting for us on the other shore. We chewed on that one for a bit to no avail and it was only when the emaciated horse and wooden buggy appeared to tour us around that we had the “Ahhhh” moment.

We bumped & knocked our way down the narrow primeval roads stopping frequently for passing livestock. Coming out of yet another lush thicket, we caught our first glimpse of the superb ruins of Maha Aungmye Bonzan. Although not as old as the village itself (est. 1300’s) the Bonzan ruins are glorious and have a mystery and energy deeper than almost everything else I saw that day.

Dismounting our cart for a closer look, we were swarmed by about 12 local children, all peddling various chochskies. I agreed with myself that I would buy nothing as it would only add to their selling fervor, but they broke me down in about 4 minutes. I ended purchasing several pounds of crap for those back home from the little salesmen.

There were no security guards, ticket takers, guides or any of the usual tourist handlers that one expects at a historic sight. Indeed, the place is no Colonial Williamsburg or renaissance fair and thank heavens for it. Ruins are ruins for a reason, and a few centuries of neglect had beaten the old monastery into perfect antiquity, complete with weeds and grasses growing from the walls.

The kids instructed us to dispense with our shoes before entering the hallowed area. We explored the various shrines, turrets and sculptings, and made our way to the cavernous first floor. Lit only by the 3 or 4 other entrances, the tomb-like structure was dark and cool with low ceilings. It smelled of the ox and goat dung that littered the dirt floor. In almost total darkness we walked carefully along in our bare feet. I quickly grew more concerned about making it across to the exit than actually seeing the place. I snapped a flash for a picture and wished I hadn’t. Slight squeaks and a tiny breeze right over my head confirmed the presence of bats, now stirred by our blustering. Panic suggested that I run full bore towards the door stepping on or over my companions as needed. Amazingly, my voice came slow, yet high and quivery, when I said “Guys, I think we need to go.”

Twenty seconds later found us outside again; I manically patted myself down paying special attention to my head and neck area to be sure some damn bat hadn’t taken up residence there. Foolish & unwarranted, but the little fuckers scared me cold. The kids covered their mouths giggling and pointing at our silliness.

As we rounded the corner back to the dock (and eventually to the magnificent U Bien Bridge), I saw 2 local women bathing themselves in the waters of the Ayeyarwady river. They wore some type of sheer bathing frock and were as natural and shameless as they were beautiful. My inclination was to avert my eyes, but I did not, rather I drank them in with the rest of the simple grace and authenticity of Inwa. They waved and smiled as we passed.

To be continued…

The Beautiful Grit of Burma: Part One

This week, Guest Blogger and Jaunt Contributor, Jeff Duncan, takes us to Burma for an in-depth look at life behind Burma’s military dictatorship.

Professional musician and GM of Stage Three Music, when he’s not in the Former Soviet Union competing in Jujitsu or trekking into dangerous third-world countries, Duncan can be found performing around LA or composing soundtracks for feature films. Currently, his music can be heard on the film, Exact Bus Fare, set to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.

The Beautiful Grit of Burma
By Jeff Duncan

Part 1: The Docks at Yangon
We were uptight. It was a week after a Japanese photographer and untold numbers of locals had been killed when Myanmar military goons fired shots into a crowd of docile protestors. We’d applied for our passports a few months in advance, before they stopped allowing foreigners in, so by chance we ended up on one of the first flights back into the tense Burmese dictatorship after the borders were reopened.

One of my travel pals had picked up “The Fever” in Bangkok and was generally pissy; the other had some strange allergic funk of unknown origin spreading across his muzzle, swelling his lips to cartoonish proportion. I had stepped deeply onto a nail in a sludgy red-light grease-trap of a back alley and was concerned I’d contracted Hep C. It all added to our anxiety.

Our taxi driver, who felt strangely ‘assigned’ to us at the airport, spoke perfect English and German. He asked us several times if we were journalists or if we thought America was going to come and challenge the junta. He was very funny and engaging and provided much history on the place, but I sensed something was not altogether right. We later agreed it was very likely he was on the government payroll.

After dumping our bags at Traders, we headed to the docks, passing the house-cum-prison of Aung San Suu Kyi, the pro-democracy activist. Our driver told us “ABSOLUTLY NO PHOTOS” and that we may look, but only as we dove by. He added, “Don’t stare, the Army is watching!” From the quick glance I was allotted, I saw razor wire and a pathetic looking barricade, likely there to prevent the protestors from springing Suu Kyi from her in-house arrest (since ‘88). The army was out in force, but after a few days in country we noticed that the soldiers were oddly friendly. Gentle and curious, many were equipped with outdated AK47s & flip-flops. I got the distinct feeling that the bastards who stole power in the 60’s, and continue to maintain it with savage brutality, are the only real criminals Burma has to offer (as they send their wives on shopping trips to Tokyo & Paris and their children to schools in the West while the rank and file starve). It seemed that the average foot soldier was simply trying to get by. Then again, we know where “just following orders” gets you… what a mess.

The country is known for its swarms of monks; however, we saw only a small handful in eight days of heavy travel. They were lying low or otherwise detained.

For many decades the relentless heat and swamp-like humidity have molested the colonial handiwork the Brits left behind. Unchecked by upkeep, the Anglo buildings and roads have fallen into a semi-Jungle state.

Their man-made edge dulled by nature and leaded fuel; they’ve taken on a dirty camouflaged appearance. We drove through the disrepair and chaos to the waterfront.

I was immediately mesmerized by the teeming microcosm that sprawled before us. Vast ships docked to be loaded and unloaded lined the wharf with smaller contraptions ferrying cargo from vessels anchored 200 yards out. It easily could have been 1918. Hundreds of laborers schlepped large bags of rice, tins of lard and other essentials from the bowels of the ships and off to massive green warehouses for storage. Grinding work made only more difficult by the mauling heat. An impromptu bazaar had sprung up catering to the workers and selling beverages, food and betelnut.

Chewing betelnut is a local tradition that delivers a mild coffee-zing and gives the chewer ghoulish red-stained teeth and gums, as if they’d just eaten a child.

The work was ordered and rhythmic but there was an overwhelming, broad lawlessness as well. There must have been a system holding it all together that I was ignorant to. We walked unquestioned down the pier and onto one of the boats. The laborers we passed, clad in their traditional man-skirts were interested and friendly but focused on the .01-.03 USD cents they earned per load. There were more than a few young boys carrying sacks on their backs that must have equaled or trumped their weight. We soaked in the scene and chewed some betelnut …I damn near choked myself to death on a mouthful of red spittle, laughing at my zombie-like friends. The guys on the pier had a laugh.

Returning to the car we noticed our driver was on his cell phone which he quickly clapped shut and put in his glove box when he saw us. The government had pulled the plug on internet and telephone service several days prior and we posited that he was either on a government channel or a 2 way walkie. Perhaps sensing our suspicion, he proceeded to tell us a sex anecdote, a surefire way to reroute our paranoia. He said that as most people aged 18-35 live at home with their parents there is little time for enough privacy to “Make the fuck”. He claimed that going to a local motel was out as well because it was commonly known that the owners of such places spied on young lovers through holes in the wall and often video taped the act for sale on the streets. The solution to this was for the lovebirds to go naked under their longi (aforementioned skirts) and tear a quick one off in the car parked innocently by the side of the road. “This way we learn to make the fuck very quick!” We laughed as expected, but remained uneasy.

The place was amazing and filled with color and brilliant humanity, but the fear and oppression was palpable and more than a little depressing.

To be continued…