|The Griffith Observatory overlooks
the clubhouse at Roosevelt G.C.
|Downtown L.A. from the 5th tee at
|Ralph and Tommy "Mayor of Roosevelt"
start their own game in the "loser's lounge"
|Gary's kidergarten class photo
(Gary is top row and center)
|I'm happy to report that I've once again enjoyed another fun weekend with Gary in L.A.. I've been doing these
type of weekends visiting Gary for almost 20 years now (!) and we always have a great time. This trip to L.A. was
the first since my 3 day stop-over when returning from Japan last April, and the first visit with my golf clubs in
tow for almost a year and a half. In fact, it was my golf clubs that were the first issue to be dealt with on this
particular trip. When I arrived at LAX my clubs didn't. Neither did the bags of about 20 people on my flight. Delta
claimed that it had to do with having prioritized the baggage of people who had been delayed previously due to
the extreme weather back east (?). I calmly collected my reference number and hoped for the best.
Gary picked me up and we went straight to his place to hang out until it was time to head out to the
Izakaya/Yakitori-ya at which I had made a 7:00pm reservation. I have been looking for good sushi in L.A. for years
and have almost always disappointed. I know there are a couple of places that do good sushi in L.A. (Matsuhisa,
Koi) but always thought I'd be able to find a lesser-known/unique place to make my own. I sort of gave up that
idea a couple of years ago and instead started to look into the izakaya scene as opposed to strictly sushi. I'm
happy to report that I've had some success on this front, including my most recent discovery, Nanban-kan.
Thanks to some fairly intense online research prior to this trip, I discovered this wonderfully authentic and long
established izakaya on Santa Monica Blvd. in West L.A..
Gary and I arrived early but were able to take our seats at the bar right away. I knew immediately that this place
was the "real deal," given the Japanese staff, the authentic artwork, the cleanliness, and the menu items. I went
ahead and ordered for both of us; most of which is pretty typical stuff I would order at an izakaya: nasu (eggplant),
yaki-tori, kimo (liver), shishamo, asparagus/bacon, pork belly, shitake mushrooms, shisho-wrapped pork, tako
(octopus) sashimi, Nanban-yaki (grilled steak), horenso (spinach), and hotate-gai (scallops). We also drank
Sapporro beer and Onigoroshi sake, which was served traditionally in a fairly large glass set onto a "spill-over"
dish. Wow was it good! Everything was just the way I like it, although the shisho-wrapped pork, the Nanban-yaki,
and the octopus were the weakest dishes. Gary was also impressed and seemed to really enjoy everything, but by
the time we were back to his place he realized that perhaps one beer and one sake should be his drinking limit!
By the next morning my clubs had yet to be delivered, so we posted a note on the door instructing the delivery
guy to leave them by the door. We then headed out for a day at the PGA's Nissan Open at the Riviera Country
Club. We first picked up Gary's friend Ralph (a guy I've met a couple of times at Gary's Saturday skins game),
then went to pick up another of Gary's golf buddies, Jim. The weather was glorious, with clear skies and
temperatures looking to peak in the mid-80's. The shuttle ride from the parking lot to the course (approx. 3 miles)
was fast and smooth, and we were able to quickly purchase our tickets at the entrance.
This was the 3rd time I had gone to L.A. to see the Nissan Open and was somewhat familiar with the course and
the layout. However, this day was to prove particularly enjoyable. First, the weather couldn't have been better,
second, the company of Gary, Ralph, and Jim was great fun, and thirdly, the fact that Tiger Woods wasn't in the
field this year made for smaller crowds and allowed for much better opportunities to walk around and watch
various holes being played. The highlights of the day included my being able to assist Bart Baird find the yardage
marker prior to his hitting a spectacular shot from out of the trees, watching Retief Goosen make a hole-in-one on
#16 from about 20 ft. away (I've seen another hole-in-one on this hole before), and watching a heap of Aussie boys
(Adam Scott, Geoff Olgilvy, Aaron Baddeley, Peter Leonard, Stuart Appleby, etc.) on the driving range pounding
some unbelievable drives.
We ended the day sitting in the stands on the par-3 #14 watching several groups come through. Although Gary
and I both thought it to be a good idea to leave for the shuttle buses early, Jim and Ralph both thought we should
wait for a few more groups to come through so that we could see the Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson group play #14.
While it was fun the see Ernie and Phil, it wasn't at all worth what we had to put up with on the shuttle ride back
to our car! From the time we loaded up onto our shuttle until the time we were at Gary's car we had been sitting
in traffic, barely moving for about an hour and 20 minutes! We were SO happy to get off of that shuttle! Next year
we will definitely leave earlier!
After getting back to Gary's place I could feel my legs/feet throbbing from all the walking we had done during the
day. Although I only gave my legs a rest of an hour and 1/2 or so, it was enough to get me off of the couch and
walk with Gary down to one of our regular spots, Loteria in the Farmer's Market. The Loteria taco is a huge seller
and a favorite of mine and Gary's, however when I saw the Chile Relleno plate on the specials board I was too
tempted to pass it up. Boy am I glad I didn't. The plate consisted of two types of Chiles, one red one green, rice
and some type of mixed-vegetable dish I had never seen before (containing veggies, raisins, and nuts). I literally
couldn't believe how delicious the whole thing was! After eating and contemplating, and eating and
contemplating, I finally turned to Gary and said something quite unbelievable: "Gary, this honestly is the best
plate of Mexican food I've EVER had!" And it was.
|The next morning, Saturday, my clubs had still not been delivered. I had an argument with the guy on the phone
who claimed that there was no note on the door the day before! Gary made us a nice breakfast and we sat around
watching the golf from Australia (the Nationwide Tour's Jacob's Creek tournament in Adelaide) as well as a cool
documentary called "Fallen Angel" about singer/songwriter Graham Parsons. As we were getting ready to head out
for a round of golf with Gary's regular Saturday skins group I realized that not only wouldn't I be playing with my
own clubs, but that I would have to buy balls and wear my tennis shoes. I was not in a good mood. However, as fate
would have it, just 5 mins. before we left the apartment the phone rang. It was the delivery service saying that they
were out front with my clubs! I sprinted out to retrieve them and immediately felt a huge sense of relief.
Again we had gorgeous weather and I was really looking forward to playing. I've been lucky to have played in Gary's
skins game several times over the years, and have come to know several of the guys in the group. Some guys
recognized me right away (and me them) and some were reintroduced. This particular group of guys and their
social dynamic readily reminds me of my group of poker buddies and that similar social atmosphere. It's fun to
know that I'm a small part of Gary's skins scene while Gary is a frequent visitor to my poker game.
Speaking of poker, we arrived at Roosevelt Golf Course (in Griffith Park) with an hour or so before the group's first
tee time. We had 18 players that day, so it was decided that we should play some poker while we waited. This was a
cash game where one could get in or out of the game at will. I started off poorly, but by the time we were called to
the first tee I was up about $25. Gary had made over $65.
I wish I could say I had similar success with my golf game, but I unfortunately struggled through most of the
round. It was fun to be out and swinging the clubs, but given the way I was playing I must say I was happy when it
was over. I also was anxious to play in the traditional poker tournament that always follows the golf round. Gary
had followed on with his luck and ended up making some good money in the golf game. We both sat down to play
in the main poker tournament well in the black.
The poker tournament is a size and style very similar to my regular poker game at Lumpy's, so I felt pretty
comfortable. The tournament started out with about 10 or 12 entrants and lasted a good couple of hours. I was
almost embarrassed by the result, given I was the visitor, but I won! I pocketed some good dough, leaving both Gary
and I feeling flush as we headed off from the course to have dinner and hang with some friends at Bruce's house.
|Bruce has been a good friend of Gary's for almost 20 years, and through having visited Gary in L.A. for almost that
many years, I too have come to be able to count Bruce as a friend. A few years back Bruce bought a beautiful house
just below the famous "Hollywood" sign (I've often said, only half joking, that Gary could hit the sign from Bruce's
front porch with a 3 wood/9 iron combination) and it's become a bit of a tradition to spend an evening hanging out
at his house each time I'm in town. This time was no different, and it's always great to see Bruce and spend time in
his very cool place.
When we first arrived only Bruce was at home, but within 30 mins. or so we were joined by Sasha and his wife
Suzanne. Sasha and Suzanne are also two wonderful people I've come to be able to call friends over the past few
years, and they are always kind enough to want to spend time with Gary, Bruce, and I whenever I'm in town. Gary
and I were too worn out from our day of golf and poker to go out to eat, so we all decided to order in. While we
waited for the food to arrive we had a couple of drinks (Gary and I stuck to water) and had a good visit.
The food arrived from a place called Bossa Nova and we all ate the Brazilian-style cheese-steak sandwich called the
Copacabana. I now know why they all insisted I try it. It was great! But the highlight of the meal were the fried
plantains that accompanied the sandwiches. Wow! They were fantastic! I combined them with some vanilla ice
cream Bruce had on hand and I was in heaven.
Following dinner we played "hearts" for an hour or so and continued to have a relaxed visit. Although I used to play
hearts fairly regularly back in the early 90's, I couldn't for the life of me remember how to play. Even after about an
hour of playing I was still just winging it. Although everyone was encouraging, it was still a bit embarrassing,
especially after I had just won the big poker tournament at the golf course!
|Sunday was another beautiful day, though about 10 degrees cooler. Gary once again made a great little breakfast
and we were off for the golf course by 10:00. Gary had arranged for us to play with a few other guys in another
small skins game at Penmar G.C. in Venice. I had played Penmar twice before with Gary and really quite like it.
It's a small 9-hole public course that is relatively flat and therefore quite playable. That having been said, I had
another very shabby round despite chalking up a birdie on the first hole. I still must admit I had fun. Ironically,
my one birdie was enough to split the entire skins pot with Gary. So once again we walked off the course having
made some good money.
During the round, one of the guys in our group, Larry, had mentioned that there was an English pub nearby that
had some really nice Guinness. After golf I was really thirsty for that Guinness! Me, Gary, and Larry made our way
to the Cock n' Bull Pub which ended up being literally around the corner from Penmar. Larry was right! The
Guinness poured at the Cock n' Bull was the best I've had in a LONG time. Larry and I drank 4 in an hour and it
hit the spot in a way I can't describe. While we drank our beer we watched, along with the other pub patrons, the
final holes of the Nissan Open. Phil Mikelson, up one stroke on the 18th tee proceeded not only to bogey 18 and
put the match with Charles Howell III into a sudden death playoff, but continued to play terrible golf in the playoff
and gave away the victory to Howell. Throughout the final holes all kinds of bets were being made amongst the bar
patrons and Gary ended up making another $25 through Larry.
|Once the Nissan Open had concluded we decided to make a casual drive up through Venice. Dark clouds were
moving in and the temperature was beginning to drop. The traffic was also surprisingly light driving north along
Ocean Avenue. Gary pulled up to a place called Chez Jay which is a small, locals oriented pub/restaurant right on
Ocean Ave.. He said that he had been there several times but not for a couple of years, so we decided to stop in for a
single beer. The place was busy but uncrowded and I immediately liked the vibe. It seemed to be the type of place
that caters to a large variety of people, many of them no doubt regulars. Gary and I drank our beers and chatted for
about a half an hour. When I saw two lovely ladies looking for a place to sit I decided that was our cue to leave. So we
offered them our prime seats at the bar and were off to get some good southern BBQ.
Prior to leaving for L.A. I had done some research online in order to find the most authentic BBQ place in town. I had
concluded that a place called Baby Blues BBQ was probably the best option. I had mentioned this to Gary when he
had first picked me up at the airport. We then discovered that Baby Blues is, like the Cock n' Bull, right around the
corner from Penmar G.C. and decided that we would check it out on this particular day, given that we were already
going to be in Venice.
We arrived at Baby Blues at just the right time, just prior to the big dinnertime rush, and were able to take a seat at
a comfortable table in the north dinning room. I had been under the impression that Baby Blues was a
Carolina-style BBQ place, but after looking at the menu I realized that it in fact it offered mostly Memphis-style
dishes. The only Carolina-style offering appeared to be the pulled pork sandwich. Well, I love Memphis-style BBQ
and immediately decided on the 1/2 rack of ribs with baked beans, spinach, and cornbread. What a meal! I loved
every bite, and knew without a doubt that we had struck BBQ gold! Every dish was spectacular and I can guarantee
we will be going back the next time I'm in town. The only downside to the place is that they sell no beer, and it
seems everyone just packs there own in. I went to order a Pacifico at one point and was reminded by the waitress
that they didn't sell beer. Well, I just happened to have ordered the right beer because when the guy sitting with his
family right behind me heard me order Pacifico from the waitress and he told her to give me one of his. Thanks mate!
|Again that night we spent a couple of hours just hanging out at Gary's place. At one point we were looking at some
old photos of Gary when he was a little kid. He had some class photos from kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grades. He
started telling me about each and every kid in the photos and how "so and so went to prison...," "so and so turned
out to be a lesbian...," "so and so wet themselves a couple of times at school...," etc.. He wouldn't stop! I was
laughing so hard I was crying! The more I laughed the more he kept up the stories. It was one of the most hilarious
moments I've had in a long time. After I calmed down enough to snap a photo of one of the pictures in question I
did, if only to remember how hard Gary made me laugh that night.
|Monday was President's Day, so Gary didn't have to go to work. We both slept in a bit and decided to go out to
breakfast at Swingers coffee shop. Swingers is a perfect breakfast place, located on Beverley just west of Fairfax, it
has a traditional "greasy spoon" feel mixed with a sort of hipster Hollywood vibe. Gary and I used to go to Swingers
quite regularly years ago but I hadn't been for maybe almost 5 years. I had the "Hell's Kitchen," which is sort of a
chorizo/bell pepper omelet. It was quite good but I made the mistake of drinking a cup of coffee (something I rarely
do because I'm sensitive to caffeine) and I felt anxious for the next few hours. I hate that feeling!
We went directly from Swingers to the G-Star clothing store just a couple of blocks away on Melrose. I try and make
my way to this particular store maybe every other time I'm in L.A.. I really like G-Star jeans and occasionally buy
them at a local store in Salt Lake called Bastille. Several years ago the guy that ran Bastille, Jeremy, moved to L.A.
to open and run the G-Star store on Melrose. I usually talk with him whenever I'm in the Melrose store, but now
there are several G-Star locations and Jeremy functions more as a regional manager, so he wasn't there this time. I
mentioned to the sales guy who was helping me that I had known Jeremy originally from Bastille and this guy,
Jesse, said that he too was from Utah and had once worked at Bastille. He said that in fact there were a couple of
guys originally from Utah who worked for G-Star in L.A.. I made Gary wait, like a patient girlfriend, while I tried on
several pair of pants. I finally bought two.
We spent the next couple of hours at Gary's place. I packed up all my stuff and we then headed out to kill a couple
of hours before I had to get to the airport. Again the weather was beautiful yet quite cool. Gary had a great idea to go
to the Westchester Golf Course near the airport and hang out on their patio area. It was just the right thing to do.
We sat out in the sunshine drinking a couple of Tecate beers and watching the golfers come and go. The far north
runway of LAX was just over the fence on the far side of the course and we could easily see planes taking off and
landing. I've always noticed there was a golf course from that runway, but I never knew until now which one it was.
After an hour and a half or so of spending time at Westchester I was ready to eat. One of the last times I was visiting
Gary in L.A. he had taken me to an In And Out Burger very near the airport and it had proved to be the perfect
pre-flight meal. So I asked Gary if we might go there again and he seemed as anxious as I was to eat there. I couldn't
finish my last beer at Westchester, so I smuggled it to In And Out Burger and drank it along with my two
cheeseburgers at a table on their outdoor patio. Once we had finished up our meal it took us all of about 5 minutes
to get to the Delta terminal at LAX.
So, another fun and successful weekend with Gary in L.A. came to a conclusion. Of all the times I've spent in L.A. I
must admit that this one was one of the most satisfying. In particular I think that the food I ate this time around was
especially enjoyable. Thanks again for the great time Gary! We see you again soon!
p.s. My clubs miraculously met me on time at the Salt Lake Airport upon my return!