Athena Scalzi

Day 1 of Santa Monica

Athena ScalziLast week, a family friend asked if I was busy at the end of the month. I said no and was then asked if I could possibly cat sit… 2,000 miles away. I quickly accepted the chance to hang out in LA for a week, and yesterday I boarded a 7am direct flight to LAX.

Every time I fly to Cali, I always arrive in the afternoon or evening, so arriving at 8:30am was a little unusual. Though sitting for 4.5 hours straight in a middle seat was not amazing, I would say it was better than stressing about making a connection, having a layover, having to go through the boarding and unboarding process twice, yada yada. Plus, I managed to read one whole book on the flight!

I read Verity, by Colleen Hoover, and while this post is not a review or anything, I will say I really enjoyed it. I definitely recommend checking it out if you like thrillers, and I’d recommend it even if you don’t because thrillers are certainly not my usual genre but I loved this one!

Anyways, my friend that picked me up from the airport took me to a local coffee shop called Gnarwhal Coffee Co.

This corner coffee shop was so cool. It was small, but had a sort of clean/sleek minimalistic look to it. It felt very modern, and the iced chai latte I got was banging.

After that, I arrived at the lovely home I’m staying in, met the cat, and settled in. Then, I walked to a market nearby and got a few groceries for the week. On my walk back, I noticed a bread shop, and realized I forgot to pick up a loaf at the store, so I decided to get one from the bakery, Jyan Isaac Bread. I wanted the cinnamon raisin brioche, but they were out, so I said I’d take the city loaf sourdough, but they were also out of that. The worker said I could have the multi-grain porridge loaf instead, and I agreed, despite not being a huge fan of porridge or multi-grain bread.

It definitely looked… oaty. I actually did not like this bread at all, unfortunately, but I didn’t really expect to so at least I didn’t have high hopes going in. I’m more of like a Hawaiian Sweet Bread person and much less of a super hearty oaty loaf kinda gal. I really wish I had gotten to try the brioche. This bread was just too hard or too dark or too something.

Moving on, it was my first night in Santa Monica and I was determined to go out to dinner. I knew there were probably a hundred restaurants in the area and I’ll be damned if I don’t get out and try at least a few.

After looking up several places and debating how far I wanted to walk, I settled on a place called Rize Thai & Sushi.

The inside was relatively small, just a few tables and booths, and some seats at the bar. The decor was definitely on the modern side, with Edison bulb light fixtures that gave the place some atmospheric dim lighting.

The menu was quite varied, as it offered both Thai dishes and sushi, as you might’ve guessed by the name of the place. The menu also boasted a generous happy hour, but I had missed it by fifteen minutes.

I was tempted to try a Thai dish, as I’ve never had Thai food before, but I had a feeling everything would be a little too spicy for me. Mostly because all the names of the dishes included the word spicy in it, so I wasn’t going to chance it. I settled on a shrimp tempura combination plate. It came with miso soup, a house salad, rice, a California roll, and five pieces of shrimp tempura.

I’ve had a lot of shrimp tempura in my day, as it’s one of my favorite Japanese dishes. But this shrimp tempura was seriously the best I’ve ever had. I was blown away by how crispy, flavorful, and overall delicious it was. And the whole combo plate (soup not pictured, but also really good) was seventeen dollars! Not too shabby, I’d say.

I also got a Thai iced tea to go with my dinner, which I am a fanatic for.

If you have not tried Thai iced tea before, I cannot recommend it highly enough, this stuff is life changing. And this place had a really good Thai iced tea.

I was totally stuffed by the end, so I got a mango sticky rice pudding to go and ate it around midnight.

Mango has always been one of those things that is hit or miss for me, but I am confident when I say this mango was the single biggest hit I’ve had in my life. I don’t know where they get their mangoes from, but holy shit this stuff was unbelievably good. I’m so glad I didn’t pass up on dessert.

As if you needed even more reason to check this place out, the wait staff was super friendly! I had a very enjoyable experience and highly recommend going here if you’re in the Santa Monica area and like Japanese or Thai food.

So, yeah, day one in Cali was a total success, and I’ve loved every minute so far. The weather has been incredible, I love the cat I’m watching, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the week!

Have a great day!


Personal History of Music

A Personal History of Music, Day 20: “Jennifer,” by Falling Joys

I think everyone has a favorite band that literally no one else they know has ever heard of. Not in the gatekeepery “I’m so unbearably hipster I only listen to bands that broke up even before they recorded their album” sort of way, but in the enthusiastic “I don’t understand why more people haven’t heard of this band, they’re really cool” sort of way. For me, that band was the Australian group Falling Joys, who arrived on the scene (here in the US) in 1990, cranked out three albums over a few years, and have spent the rest of the time since then mostly doing other things, with the occasional reunion gig, one presumes mostly for fun at this point.

The Internet being what it is, even mentioning the name of the band will have people crawling out of the woodwork to say “Hey I love Falling Joys too, you’re not special, pal,” so let me qualify that my being The Band’s One Fan is a highly qualified thing. They were popular in Australia, to begin; the song noted here, “Jennifer,” was a number one indie hit in its day, and at least a couple of their songs made the mainstream charts. So Australian Gen-Xers, I see you! Thank you for your service. Likewise, I imagine there are American/Canadian/UK fans as well, even if they may be sparsely dispersed. They’re not hopelessly obscure. What I mean, however, is that in my day-to-day life I’ve never met anyone who, when I mentioned the name of the band, was “Oh! I know them!” I always had to talk them up.

Which was fine! Randall Munroe talks about the 10,000 people daily who learn about something that “everybody knows,” and that the best response to people who don’t know what you is not to ridicule them but to be excited that you get to share with them. Well, clearly in my experience, more than 10,000 people daily don’t know about Falling Joys, and Whatever, via direct visits, RSS and e-mail, has about 50,000 readers daily. So I’m really outkicking the coverage in getting to bring them to people’s attention.

So, here’s “Jennifer,” which is my favorite Falling Joys song (although I understand in Australia “Lock It” is their best-known song, which is fine, it’s terrific, too), for its jangly guitars, snappy drums, and story by lead singer Suzie Higgie of a singular sort of girl who moves through the world on her own terms. Rather later I found out Higgie wrote the song about her own sister Jennifer, who would become a writer and editor of some note; she has written essays, books and films, the latter of which makes the song’s observation that “her dreams could be filmed for a motion picture” somewhat prescient. I think that’s kind of cool.

“Jennifer” was a staple of my post-college mixtapes-and-CDs for friends, back in the day when we used to do that. I was always happy to put the song on there and to give my pals something they might not have already heard, that they might like. I guess I’m still doing that. What can I say, I like sharing.

— JS

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