Exploring LA, where there is much to love

From the old streets of the Toy District to the Art Deco towers to the starry sidewalks of Hollywood Boulevard, there is much to love about LA. For one thing, it’s population is about 50 percent Latino, plus a healthy percentage of African Americans, Asians and Arabs, among others, so there’s this wonderfully American ethnic stew feel to the place, especially so in the less touristed neighborhoods like, oddly enough, downtown. What’s also nice about this is that the stew part of it he picture isn’t confined to the working class part of the picture (at least not to our just-passing-through perspective) but extends to the young hipsters and the wealthy shoppers and so on.

Downtown is an interesting place, historic in its appearance, and a working place — the streets are busier at the start and end of the day than in between, and the crowd is mostly blue collar — but also clearly neglected, with boarded up old theaters and warehouses alternating with the grandest of old art deco towers imaginable.

Here’s a few shots from one day, which began wandering in the Toy District among the wholesalers (which was a really cool window into that end of the small business economy and both a reminder of how damaged it is right now as well as how vital it remains, if that makes sense), meandered through spicy ramen noodles en route to Hollywood Boulevard (where I found the pulsing presence of so much WANT — for success, or fame, for simple recognition – sort of exhausting) to the working class end of Melrose, where hair salons and car washes mix it up with book shops and Thai groceries, to the Griffith Observatory and a perfect sunset (where the dramatic effects of LA’s famous smog are, well, clear). We wrapped the night up at Daikokuya, the busiest restaurant in Little Tokyo’s bustling noodle shop row and seen here in a daytime shot from our hotel window. We waited over an hour to get in, and it was well worth it for the delicious, sweet and seaweedy pork noodles and rice bowls.


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Lebanese in LA

Try not to miss Zankou Chicken. There are five or six in LA that were founded by a guy who moved from Lebanon in the 80’s, according to the company’s website. There’s at least one other Zankou’s in LA, on W. Sunset Boulevard, that I was told is the same but owned by a different branch of the family.

We hit the one on South Sepulveda — it looks and acts just like a fast food joint: cold and not too comfortable — and stuffed ourselves on tri-tip shawarma and chicken plates, making sure to order extra sides of this fantastic garlic dipping sauce that no one else can figure out how to replicate (KK thought it had lemon in it). Massive helpings for about $9.95 a plate. Each came with a big helping of something pickled and purple. I asked the girl behind the counter what it was but she said all she was ever told is that it was pickles. I think it was daikon or perhaps some other kind of radish. It was a nice counterbite to the rich and salty sauces.

By the way, Los Angeles County has the most residents of Arab ancestry of any U.S. county (yes, more even than in the Michigan counties); the Zogby International pollsters estimate that, as of 2000, there were about 225,000 Arabs or people of Arab descent in LA.
Zankou chicken

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Life in the market

LA’s Grand Central Market is exactly that, a grand place to eat and meet in the middle of the city’s old downtown. We had breakfast there, choosing to go with Mexican, from Roast to Go and Ana Maria’s (Langston got chicken noodle soup from China Cafe), just a few of the market’s several dozen food stalls.

I’m trying to find out how much the rent for each vendor is, but it was definitely a wonderful version of the big eating and shopping markets in Asia, Mexico and Central America that I love. Big roll-up gates that open directly to the street and invite passersby in. Each food stall is about 300-50 square feet. We ate for less than twenty bucks and all was delicious.

One check of authenticity — Langston’s soup was full of the kind of chicken that Chinese love, from all over the bird, not just the white stuff. As for the rest of us: chile rellenos for KK, a carne asada torta with avocado and red onions for Dante, and for me, two tacos, one was carnitas and the other pork nose (tromar, I think).

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Pho in LA

Eating our way through Los Angeles. Stopped at Pho 97 in the Chusan Plaza on Broadway for Pho with rare beef and a round of cafe su das and Thai Iced Teas. Mmmmm. The pho is some of the best in the city, and comes with hefty sides of mint, bean sprouts, lime and jalapenos. The place was started by a waiter at another pho joint, according to my aunt, who first introduced me to the place. Thirty bucks (cash only accepted) for four people (with five drinks altogether).

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Take down of the financial news network

Don’t miss this reminder of why Jon Stewart’s so powerful, and powerfully funny, and also of why there’s nothing inherently honorable about journalism.


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In case you need it.

How to Escape from a Straitjacket

from wikiHow – The How to Manual That You Can Edit
Even though straitjackets are designed to restrain someone who’s in danger of harming themselves or others, they also make a good challenge for any escapologist. In fact, one of Harry Houdini’s most famous tricks was to escape from a straitjacket while hanging upside down from a crane![1] Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to dislocate your shoulder in order to perform this feat, but you do have to practice the following steps.


  1. While you’re being buckled up, use one of your hands to inconspicuously pinch the front, giving you about three inches of slack. Take a deep breath and tighten your muscles in order to make your upper body as big as you possibly can. As your sleeves are pulled behind you, try to make sure your stronger arm is over your weaker arm.
  2. Loosen up. Once the straitjacket is secured, relax your upper body and breathe out. Make your upper body as small as possible, and let go of the slack you created in the previous step. The straitjacket should feel looser now.
  3. Push your strong arm forcefully towards the opposite shoulder. This will move the slack to where you need it for the next step.
  4. Bring your strong arm up and over your head. Keep your weak arm down. Once you’ve done this, you’ll be able to move your arms around.
  5. Unbuckle the sleeve buckle with your teeth.
  6. Unbuckle the top and bottom buckles behind you, using your free hands.
  7. Step on the material of one of your sleeves while tugging your body out of the straitjacket.


Instructions begin at the 1:20 mark


  • Houdini found that audiences enjoyed the trick more when they could see him struggling to escape.[2] To increase entertainment value, you might want to exaggerate your efforts.


  • There are some straitjackets with which this method won’t work, such as if your arms are restrained so that you can’t bring one over your head.
  • Keep the person who helped put on the jacket close to you just in case you cannot escape and need help getting out.

Related wikiHows

Sources and Citations

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Houdini#Suspended_straitjacket_escape
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straitjacket

Article provided by wikiHow, a wiki how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to Escape from a Straitjacket. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.

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Valentine’s Day

I wrote this story for Valentine’s Day several years ago and to this day it’s one of the things I’ve done as a reporter than I’m most proud of and happiest about.

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