Stronghold Climb

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The Stronghold is crushing it, giving the LA climbing community a base of operations. The place was built by climbers for climbers. When I walked in and confronted the massive boulders, a cave and the mountainous climbing walls towering beyond, I was like whoa.

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The indoor climbing facility was way bigger than I was prepared for: photos do not really convey the height of the climbing walls, which are nestled into every nook and cranny of the historic Edison power plant building. All skills levels are welcomed, even somebody like me that has no experience a total noob.

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The helpful people at the front desk were totally welcoming to this first timer and their professionalism and friendliness put me at ease: I was a noob in the capable hands of the pros. They even got me laughing talking about fun items (like the number 2 most important thing to bring climbing – a portable toilet system.)

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Route setters post the Stronghold’s latest routes up the walls (changed every few weeks) on vimeo (see below for link) a really cool touch that made me want to check out their new creative challenges. The managers and staff are down to earth and involved in all aspects of the climbing world. Non-profits store adventuring gear behind the walls, to take underpriveledged LA youth on backpacking trips to nature. There is a wood-floored canopy-covered yoga room, for climbers to take classes that improve coordination, balance and flexibility.

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The smokestack visible from the freeway is now home to a lookout on the upper walls, as well as an art installation. When I visited the smokestack housed this amazing magnetic pendulum. There is a lot going on here, but the strongest feeling is the love and passion for climbing at The Stronghold, and it’s contagious.

The latest videos of climbing routes and bouldering puzzles: vimeo.com/strongholdclimb

Blueberry Honey Lavender Coffee

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Wait a second. What are all these people doing hanging out on the street. It’s after 9PM and there’s crowds of people at this ice cream place that does vegan ice cream cash only. You know they doing something right, and that something happens to happily be flavor. HELLO FLAVA. I can’t believe it’s vegan ice cream. I am a cosmopolitan city dweller and a black hole for artisanal ice cream, and even I was impressed with their flavor creative and creaminess. I had a two scoopa, one blueberry honey, one lavender coffee, damn I wouldn’t have ever thought of all that together. It was delicious and I would go back, even if it meant braving the nightlife and more bunches of millenials.

Good Girl Dinette

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I don’t know what time we arrived for dinner, but at first I was thinking the place may not have “it.” Seeing the cool concept fleshed out in the menu I started to warm to Good Girl, just as Peter arrived just then with wine (it’s BYOB) and the stereo started some chill musica. I started to “get it.”

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The neighborhood seems to embrace the chillness of this vegetarian friendly spot, and I warmed up to it as well because the food was outstanding.
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Crisp jicama slaw with juicy pomegranate was amazing, I would order that again hands down. The offerings that are diner conversions in Southeast Asian flavor are creative and tasty, and I want to try more of them. You got it going on Dinette, you’re more than Good Girl, you’re a neighborhood gem.

Grand Central Market

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The concept behind markets like the one at Grand Central makes a lotta sense. In a city with real estate prices that soar beyond reach of many mom and pop operators, sharing space lowers everybody’s rents, and provides the consumer all these options to choose from. I was happy to have a hand pulled espresso and local ginger beer, as well as a Salvadorean pupusa, on an afternoon exploring the museums and shops of DTLA.

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The cavernous indoor space was well lit and comfortable for a pit stop with snacks for everyone, from raw vegans to lovers of exquisite wooden huts that look like nutshells. Though GCM may not be LA in a nutshell, the market has many solid offerings, plenty of treats and goodies, and handful of total gems (pupusa me.)

The Broad

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The Broad is a breathtaking new LA art museum.

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From the very first sight of the building draped in modern architecture, I was hooked.

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The pouring of so much concrete with precision is an art to itself.

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Precision guided by love produced these clean curves.

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The collection was equal to the beauty of the grounds. Japanese psychedelics, full-on treasures from the NY art world, thought provoking in how I was thinking about reality, and in more ways than one.

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The Broad shines as an example for how the one percent can pay back society.

Point Dume

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The jagged outcropping into the Pacific is a sanctuary for local wildlife. On the top of the bluffs, there are native Cali plants and migratory birds.

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Point Dume the kind of place I seek out, where it’s possible to gleam the fullness of native natural wonderment.

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The view from the top is Malibu-icious, the coastal highway and the town. When I turned my gaze from the people centric and looked down, that’s where I found the most nature.

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A family of seals barked and swam, the apex predator of the Point Dume tidal pools teeming with sea life. Surfers expertly rode breakers thru the giant boulders.

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Later, the sun set was like an explosion of purple, red, orange beauty in the sky above this small piece of wild California.

In the Pacific

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The Malibu Surf Shack was outstanding in the rental of kayaks. Reasonable prices for an amazing experience, my first time in the Pacific ocean. They provided excellent and clear instruction as well as safety gear and procedure for a total noob like myself, who considers the weekly trip to Walgreen’s to be a big adventure. The cove beside the Malibu pier was well protected and an easy launch for the kayak, even for a total noober. The Malibu Surf Shack made ocean kayaking an awesome experience for this first timer, until I committed the error of listening to my sister.

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BAM! Our adventure got taken up a notch when my sister wanted to take her 2-person kayak (she and her husband are experienced adventurers) in to shore farther down the beach, way beyond the protected cove that Malibu Surf Shack provides. At the time, I was pretending to be brave and followed them in.

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TBH, I would not recommend doing this to anybody reading this, especially those kayaking out on the Pacific for the first time. For me, taking the kayak in and out amidst full grown waves, having to crest an impossible wall of water wave similar to the Clooney-killa in Perfect Storm, triggered a full-on flight or fight panic attack, but maybe that’s just me.

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Better for me are the memories are of the calm, open sea, the view of the coast opened up from the water, floating in tranquility like a seaweed. Malibu is kinda weird, the laid back dudes who run the place embody the funky charm, as did an RV with sunning dogs, an old Volkswagen camper converted by deeply tanned leather surfers, and a homegrown California crazie wearing a hand painted sign that read, “STAY POSITIVE.”

Not A Nugget

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Being in LA, as a visitor, feeling the LA culture, I put down the porkchop and embraced the local spots like Orean’s. It’s a roadside fast food place that first focuses your attention on the evils of meat (it’s murdah) and then offers an irresistible alternative. I’m talking a decadent vegan cheeseburger that dripped with melty (I can’t believe it’s not) cheese, pickles, onions and packed a punch of umami.

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Sauteed peppers and onions served over an Italian sausage made for flavorful satisfaction, with salty crunchy thin cut fries. The outdoor patio was the place to eat and damn, I was into the tasty guilt-free offerings and anti-meat vibes. No longer a nugget, becoming a Total Vegetarian.

Echo Mountain

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Hike this trail as a visitor from another city (I was in town from Chicago) and your eyes will be opened to the scope and sweep of LA’s beauty.

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Even in the winter, the hot sun made for a comfortable climb up the sloping trail.

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We did not make it to the summit, but we got high enough to touch the sky, with vistas of the ocean and a killer sunset.

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Every twist and turn up the mountain rewards the exercise with another photo opportunity that does not exist in flatland (the Midwest.)

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Even this total noob would hike it again, just for those views man.

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Breathing in nature.

Nasty Nutt

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Blue City Cycles is my go-to for bike repair in the neighborhood. Their location on Halsted is prime, right around the corner from damn good coffee and in a building with beautiful historic tile floors and copper ceilings, fun to imagine all the living those walls must have held. The folks who work here are the salt of the earth type of bikers who would rather give advice that keeps their neighbors safe on Chicago’s roadways rather than just going for a quick sale. Blue City Cycles has earned my repeat business with their quick turnarounds, super reasonable prices, and making this neighbor feel cared for.

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Antique Taco has managed to open a second location with their high standards intact, one of the most challenging gauntlets for any restaurant concept. Their offer of discounted delivery for their neighbors in Bridgeport enticed me to place an order thru Caviar, and as a big Caviar user I was blown away by AT:B organization and to-go packaging. The order had a checklist clothespinned to the bag full of all our delicious tacos (love the vegetarian potato taco) and sides. Our key lime pie and horchata milkshakes were the perfect sweet treats. Great addition to our neighborhood and executing mission impossible, these new guys are crushing it.