Big Apples & Oranges

New York Press, NY
Aug 3 2004

Are L.A. and NYC interchangeable?

By Jennifer Blowdryer

I recently took a quick flight to Burbank Airport from Oakland,
fondly remembering the days of peacetime, back when I was considered
a threat. Once at Gatwick Airport, they actually dismantled one of my
tampons, tipped off perhaps by my traveling outfit of men’s pajamas.
Now I have bright green hair and they don’t even blink. At the
Burbank Airport, “Bow Wow Wow” played as I waited for my luggage, and
I could tell that L.A. was different, despite a recent Los Angeles
Times article bemoaning the fact that NYC and L.A. have become

I was silent on the airport shuttle, just in case, but the driver
didn’t seem like the type to talk about his screenplay anyway. The
hotel I’d carefully selected was the Coral Sands, a gay cruising spot
known informally as the Crystal Sands. A sign at the desk warned of
the health hazard of staying there, and I did notice a moldy smell
that overpowered the front lawn. It cost about $80 a night for two
beds, and “I’ve Got You Babe” was playing on the oldies station as I
jumped in the empty pool. If I wanted, I could have taken a hustler
to my room – giving the hotel a $10 cut from the hours of midnight to
six – but I was eager to sample the culinary side of the local fare

I was staying in the part of East Hollywood known as Thai Town, where
a take-out stand called Thai Express had a gigantic hotdog in front.
One of the things I love about L.A. is the architecture. The pad Thai
was bland, but the green curry chicken was good – it’s always kind of
the same anyway. At the local Starbucks, I ran into the comedian Rick

“I hate it here! I miss New York so much!” he exclaimed, practically
tearing up, before launching into an account of his recent downfall,
reform and dying father.

I took the 217 bus to the Hollywood branch of Zankou Chicken at 5065
Sunset. I’m not crazy about Zankou Chicken’s dreary, greasy ambiance,
but it’s my favorite place for Armenian broiled chicken with hummus
and pickled radishes. (Word is that Al Wazir, an Armenian place on
Hollywood, is even better.) At the Glendale branch, a family member
went berserk and killed three other family members, in an episode
referred to as the Glendale Tragedy, and a resigned sadness is
displayed by the staff.

My friend Russell, who does not get to live in New York City, always
wants to visit Canters, a famous Jewish-style restaurant on Fairfax,
where Barbra Streisand once ate. He is obsessed with the place, where
an exiled East Coaster can get chopped liver and matzo ball soup. I
sampled the Monte Cristo, just because its time has come and gone,
understandably since it consists of fried bread sprinkled with
powdered sugar, containing both sandwich meat and jam. At least
Russell didn’t embarrass me by wearing his Canters t-shirt.

I wanted to find a new L.A. place, so I met my friends Alexis, Terry
and Sandel at Electric Lotus, a nouveau Indian place on Franklin.
Silk fabric was draped over the walls and ceiling, striving for a
sexy atmosphere. The Naan was enormous, the size of an arm, and the
chicken korma ($13) was too light for Indian food. The only good
result of redoing a classic food that is perfectly fine on its own
was the spinach, which was fresh and had tofu instead of cheese.

Alexis pointed out a nearby rock star: “Look, he has big hair, and
his date has big breasts.” I strained to see them through the dense
mood lighting. Across the street was the House of Pies, which was
crowded despite their mediocre fare. “The whole place is based on
pie,” pointed out Terry, who collects bowling balls “And the pie
isn’t really that good. Plus, it has medical lighting!”

Apparently the industry has made everybody sensitive in this way.
Alexis, who had just spent some time in New York, claimed she was
sick every day here due to our bad restaurants. I smarted a little at
this, taking comfort in the fact that she’s probably never gotten a
Vietnamese sandwich on Broome St.

I asked poet Keith Niles, who works at the zoo, to take us to a bar.
We went to the White Horse on Western. There were only four other
people there, and one of them was angry because the jukebox, which
stops at 1995, wouldn’t play his White Snake selection – on purpose, he

“The key to a good bar is poor management and overpriced drinks,”
Keith explained. He also likes the Tiki-Ti, an old school Tiki bar in
Silver Lake that looks like a shack and charges at least $9 for every
drink. “It weeds out the beer drinkers, and despite all my hijinks
it’s never turned into insanity.”

He also likes Virgil, south of Santa Monica Blvd., but advises
would-be patrons to watch their change, and the Grasshopper on
Fountain and Normandy, a Mexican cocaine bar where he once fell in
love. Nodding my head to the vintage heavy metal, I sipped my soda,
vowing to return to L.A., if not the Coral Sands. I liked the
atmosphere of the place, but this camel-colored blanket that was
tucked in between the polyester bedspread and the sheets was worse
than anything I’ve seen in a squat.

By 2 a.m., men had crawled out of their grubby rooms and were
lounging seductively on the lawn furniture by the pool, eyes sweeping
the area like finely tuned, single-minded radar. o