Archive for April, 2014

LA coffeeshop encapsulates what’s to hate about hipsters

April 24, 2014

LA Hipsters can be revolting, partly because so many of them actually are cool. You know, they work in the entertainment or design business. They can afford a $1500 studio in Downtown. They have something I want. But please, gods let me never become like them. I’ll get religion just to avoid that fate. You know what I mean. The people who think it’s cool to read Vice, but would never do anything in it.

What brought this on, Jean? Oh, just an innocent cup of coffee. I have been reading a book for potential adaptation all day. I needed a break and I needed to get out of my apartment – out of Koreatown for a bit too. So I drove to Grafitti on La Brea, which advertises “sublime coffee”. I expected it to be be as pretentious as an Eraserhead haircut, but I also expected to enjoy it as a change from the tatty but loveable life I live day to day.

I mean, look at this place. It's like a laboratory in an airport bathroom, and everybody's wearing black. Even that one customer there.

I mean, look at this place. It’s like a laboratory in an airport bathroom, and everybody’s wearing black. Even that one customer there.

This should have been a clue to me that I should just leave, but instead I got into the line-of-one on the pretentious carpet and before I entered, read the rules. Yes, the rules. Which are posted all over the place, including as you walk in.

Now at THIS point, I really should have known to leave. The Barrista shot me a bored look. I felt out of place, like he could tell my clothes came from a thrift store - and not a trendy one.

Now at THIS point, I really should have known to leave.  There’s also a sign telling parents that their kids may not raise their voices or play in the coffeeshop. It felt unnecessarily aggressive. This isn’t the kind of place you bring kids, but if you do, it’s clearly a quiet environment. So why make a thing of it?

The Barista shot me a bored look. I felt out of place, like he could tell my clothes came from a thrift store – and not a trendy one.

But I’m stubborn, as we all know. So, feeling a little nervous,  I ordered a pour over. And a glass of tap water. Now, the first thing I noticed is that despite the eco-conscious, profiteering use of peace signs and organic wadawada-wa they use disposible paper and plastic cups. God forbid their hands should get wet or something… Where do these idiots think paper and plastic come from. Trees? Well, yes, but it’s more complicated than that.

I got my glass of water. When it was empty, I tried to refill it from the handily positioned tap on the counter but I couldn’t figure out how to open the tap, so I gave up. I got my coffee and sat down. The music was soothing and I settled into a trendy but uncomfortable chair to enjoy it and keep reading when… along came the Barista. I smiled at him. He didn’t smile back.
“I just came to inform you,” he said, with a glance up above the counter, “That sometimes they watch on the camera up there. And they saw you trying to take a glass of water. It’s against health regulations.”
I thought he was kidding. Surely he was kidding. No. He was not kidding.
“Oh… what?” He kinda hovered, so I felt obliged to say. “Well, I failed to figure out how your tap works.”
“Well I just wanted to inform you.”
It was humiliating. I sat there for a while as he walked away, feeling like a kid caught stealing, even though taking a glass of water shouldn’t be a crime when you’re buying a $4.35 cup of coffee.

For a while, I tried to stay, but I couldn’t. I left my coffee (which was good, but I couldn’t bear to drink) on the counter for the dude to clean up.

It looks like these guys just realized they broke a rule. Maybe that's not a real Mac?

It looks like these guys just realized they broke a rule. Maybe that’s not a real Mac?


So twee it makes me want to vomit.... but wait! Look! There's a sign there that says "Water Closet" in the far right corner. Maybe that's where I was meant to get my second plastic cup of the precious liquid? Or maybe the barista could pee in the cup - I'm sure his urine is pure as sunlight.

So twee it makes me want to vomit…. but wait! Look! There’s a sign there that says “Water Closet” in the far right corner. Maybe that’s where I was meant to get my second plastic cup of the precious liquid? Or maybe the barista could pee in the cup – I’m sure his urine is pure as the sunlight of angels.

Turns out my infringement recorded on their CCTV had nothing to do with hygiene, and everything to do with profit. They charge – get it, CHARGE – $1 per cup of water after the first one.

What should be written on all parts of the sidewalk outside Graffiti.

What should be written on all parts of the sidewalk outside Graffiti.

Anyhow, I felt like shit driving home. So much for my big treat of the day. But I felt a little better when I went to yelp looking for pictures and found that many – no, most – of the reviewers who had some hilarious and completely right on things to say about this pretentious bleached asshole of an establishment.

Here’s a short selection:

“The space is not welcoming at all, in fact there is signs everywhere with there different rules. I don’t have children and I was offended by there sign about keeping children’s noise level low and it won’t be tolerated..I don’t know if they know but children aren’t that easy to teach to keep there voices down..they are kids for gd sake!” Dadli Y.

“…my friend and I decided it definitely smells like a pool (you know that weird humid-chlorine kind of air thing?)” – Kira S.

“I appreciate the space. I think its beautiful. What I did not love are all the signs with rules everywhere. “kids cant talk loud” “kids cant run around” “Every person inside must make a purchase.”  “One wifi password per person. No outside food or drinks.” It made me feel like such a bad bad kid. After blowing 10 bucks on a juice I decided I probably will …. never go back.” – Molly s.

“Overalls they come off as cheap and unhappy, however it’s apparently for a good reason- to keep away moochers. Though they don’t even give free water continuously, the first cup is free, then $1 per cup.” – Josh H.

“Stay away from this place. Aside from the overpriced coffee, and list of rules (literally, there is a list of rules to follow when you are inside), the customer service is atrocious. The baristas were condescending and cold. They were blatantly making fun of a customer right in front of me. I had to sit outside so I wouldn’t have to overhear anymore jackass conversations.

Also, what’s with their list of rules? I felt like a child in a catholic school where every move I made was being watched. “Every person inside must make a purchase. One wifi password per person. No outside food or drinks.” DId the owners forget this is JUST a coffee shop.” – Marina M.

“EEK! I’m surprised they don’t have a dress code!” – Ami S.

“We were in line ordering our 2 coffees, and a hot chocolate for our daughter (which would have cost us about $20), when our 8-year old daughter went to sit in a chair about 10 feet from us. Out of nowhere, the barista starts waving at us to get our attention… in front of our faces… and says, “We aren’t kid-friendly, so can you keep her close to you?”. Was she going to damage the gigantic stainless steel table in front of her?
At first, I thought there’s no way this woman just said this to me, but when I said, “excuse me”, she repeated herself. With no shame, said again, “Yeah we aren’t kid-friendly”. Kid-friendly?! The kid who gets excited to go to Graffiti to get a hot chocolate, who was sitting quietly in an empty chair. Our daughter couldn’t understand what she did wrong that we weren’t welcome anymore.
Needless to say, we walked out. As soon as we got in the car, our daughter then tells us that the owner yelled at her to get off of the chair she was sitting in. Where do you get off?! You overgrown steroid geriatric a$$hole dressed like you’re 15!”  – Noah W.

The people have spoken.

LA’s ever-shifting wall-art world

April 17, 2014

Most of the art I get round to seeing is painted on walls. I love the people who beautify the city I live in with their work.


A new one. I gather it’s all about peace and love.


“All you need is the right kind of love”. Don’t I know it. And if it’s out there, it’s out of reach right now. A married friend recently gave me a well-meaning lecture about how hard love was – as if I didn’t know. But I still think life is better with it than without it, and I still believe finding it is sadly, rare.


Yeah. But do it the right way. I love how you don’t even see the car advert dominating the wall.


Check out that cell phone that uses the pipe of the building as an aerial. One of my favourites, which I pass almost daily.


The beautiful Wiltern. I wish I could live inside it. I must go see a band there sometime. Somehow managed to miss Amos Lee when he played.


On an electricity box opposite the big Wiltern… a little Wiltern. So cute. I hope nobody messes it up.


A lot of the wall art that survives unscathed over the years does so because it’s high up. But unfortunately nobody’s too high up to hide from capitalism.


Don’t remember where I took this. It’s so cool.


Some places need art more than others. I nearly missed this one, just after a burned out building.


Someone has badly defaced it so it almost blends in with the lost, run down strip of Chrenshaw, with $20 tattoo parlors, pawn shops and 99c stores competing for sparse clients.


Punch-in: It’s like whoever defaced this with crude, pointless black paint doesn’t realise how what they are doing just underlines what the words are telling them.


Punch-in: A woman passing saw me looking at it and stopped to talk. “I watched the artist painting this for half an hour,” she said. “The kids who drew all over this should be arrested. That’s what we need. Zero tolerance. I live around here but it’s so dangerous.” Then she crossed the road and I wondered if I’d ever see her again.


Punch-in: It’s called “The Gift”. Hey whatever you think of what the artist is saying, it’s still something better to think about than what car to buy, or which four letter words to tattoo on your knuckles.



Stencil art is big in Cape Town too. Damn the moron with the purple crayon!

But hey, let’s end with my favorite, of all time, so far unblemished.


Because in this sometimes lonely city, the writing underneath the angel picture says: We are all angels with one wing. We can only fly holding each other. I also love the paintings on the wall of the Peter Pan Market and 99c Store opposite it.

Little Los Angeles: Look closer for sad stories and small miracles

April 13, 2014

Look at LA. Isn’t she beautiful? What always amazes me is how much is hidden behind, around, and underneath the buildings that I remember from watching LA Law re-runs as a lonely tween on Saturday nights in South Africa long ago.


Taken from the parking lot at Galleria Mall, Koreatown


Oculus just released. It’s the story of two grown kids who destroy a killer mirror (yeah, for sure!) by the makers or Paranormal Activity and other horror gems.

Look closer: Someone has drawn red horns on the girl.

Look closer: Someone has drawn red horns on the girl, and made her eyes red. Probably a burned out Hollywood nanny on their day off.


A building near mine on a cloudy morning. There’s a story poking through from under the fresh coat of white paint…


Two nights before, I went to buy oranges at the Guatemalan market near my apartment. As I left the lobby, I saw a guy tagging the wall, as his getaway car waited in the street. They stopped and admired it and took a photo before they left. The police didn’t come for 25 minutes when I called 911 the other night to report a guy in a white pimp suit shaking a girl in his car, parked in the middle of the road. Just in case you thought the police in SA were the only slack ones. By the time they showed, 10 minutes after I called again, the girl had run off and the guy had driven away.


A sign board at a queue for a ride at Universal Studios’ theme park, reflecting happy holiday-makers. Notice anything?


A little snail made it’s way under the glass somehow. I guess it must have arrived when it was smaller and grown up inside the glass.

Sometimes it’s fun to do it in reverse. See this billboard?


LIVE THE CALIFORNIA DREAM… A swimming pool lined with palm trees in the center of your courtyard. They don’t mention you need to earn a fortune to have that in LA. Apartments like that cost $3-5k a month.


And look where it is! Above a fleabag apartment building with cardboard-thin walls, on a triple lane road full of pot holes and cracks, near the freeway underpass where people who don’t even have a home eek out a living from under tarpaulins by the bridge. They recently re-painted this block, but it’s another great LA cover-up operation.

What I love about film-making is how it’s taught me to really, truly look at things. Once you begin to do that, there are stories everywhere you go.