Friday, August 31, 2007



Last time I was in Berlin, the concierge at my hotel pulled off what seemed like a minor miracle.  He was able to book me on a flight that was already fully booked.  Today I overheard this same man, Torsten, effortlessly save the day for someone else.  His phone conversation went something like this:

"Hello, sir, your tickets to the Ballet are here.  I'm sure you will have a wonderful time ...  It's the best ballet company in Europe."  Pause.  "What's that?  I'm sorry, didn't you request tickets to the ballet this morning?"  Pause.  "I see. No, not at all, it can be arranged.  I will call you right back."  Pause, as Torsten dials another call, shouts in rapid German, hangs up, takes a deep breath and dials again.  "Hello sir, so sorry for the misunderstanding, I've fixed everything.  No more Ballet Dancing.  You have reservations at 8:30 to see some Belly Dancing ...Yes, I assure you, it's all quite authentic ...!"


Thursday, August 30, 2007



The "Messe" in Berlin is the name for what they call the "Fairground," which is where big trade shows take place.  Actually, "big" is an understatement.  I'm in town for a show called IFA which is the world's largest consumer electronics/home entertainment show.  It is so big that each "booth" can occupy an entire building and getting from place to place can be a nightmare.  I spent most of today rushing from meeting to meeting from 8:00 a.m. to nearly midnight and the show hasn't even started yet.  Oh, well.  I guess they don't call it "the Messe" for nothing ...!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007



The Starbucks in Berlin stands vindicated after I "raked them over the coals" yesterday for their lack of Triple Berry Cobbler Muffins.  To my horror, a Barista Berliner called my bluff this morning by smiling and offering me a freshly baked Very Berry Muffin.  "Good Lord, no," I replied.  "Those things are putrid.  They leave an indelible stain on your fingers."  No doubt I'll be thrown out of the country by tomorrow.  Meanwhile, seafood appears to be on the menu today at 7th and Montana as Genevieve reports that a young girl arrived on the scene with a giant, inflatable Lobster.  Perhaps on my next trip to the Starbucks near Potsdamer Platz I'll ask for a Fresh Lobster Dinner just to see how they react ...!     

Tuesday, August 28, 2007



I'm back in Berlin this week on business and, no sooner did I arrive, than I hit the proverbial wall.  My hotel, the Ritz-Carlton, is right near the site of the Berlin Wall at Potsdamer Platz, where they keep original pieces of the Wall on display for tourists.  I discovered a wall of another kind, however, at the Starbucks around the corner when I tried to place my usual order.  "I'll have a Grande Half Caff," I said cheerfully to the German Barista behind the counter.  I might as well have been talking to a Brick Wall.  "We don't offer half caffs here because we don't brew decaff," she said, coldly.  "In that case, I'll have a Grande Drip," I replied and then, to get her goat, I asked if she wouldn't mind baking me one of Starbucks' Famous Triple Berry Cobbler Muffins.  "I can't imagine why you don't serve them here," I said, "They're making such an indelible impression in the States ...!"

Monday, August 27, 2007



A team of builders is putting the pedal to the metal today -- in more ways than one -- as progress continues on the Monstrosity Under Construction at 7th and San Vicente.  In a new development, the upper story of the home, known among insiders as "Casa del Bozo," has been encased in a thin layer of metallic sheets that seem rusted to perfection.  "I've never seen anything like it," said one real estate executive.  "I'd call the look Mottled Metal."  Experts predict that the rest of the house -- from the walls that curve like funhouse mirrors to the strange appendages hanging over the doorway -- will be covered in Stucco.  The only good news is that the infamous "Stairway to Nowhere" now leads to a rooftop observation deck.  Unfortunately, it will offer a panoramic view of my bedroom ...! 

Sunday, August 26, 2007



It was a weekend of Hollywood Happenings at 7th and Montana as two of our own made waves in Tinseltown.  Leslie's latest documentary -- The Pixar Story -- is getting good reviews and generating positive buzz among the Top Brass at Disney.  Meanwhile, speaking of "brassy," another local -- "Mr. Agent" -- made headlines yesterday by sending a controversial "farewell" e-mail after leaving his job at The William Morris Agency.  In his e-mail, which spread like wildfire throughout the industry, "Mr. Agent" pokes fun at some of Hollywood's biggest movers and shakers, a stunt which landed him both in the Hollywood Doghouse and in yesterday's Los Angeles TimesI don't know "Mr. Agent" personally -- he usually keeps to himself quietly reading the newspaper -- but, to paraphrase Julia Phillips, something tells me he'll never eat lunch in this town, again ...!

Saturday, August 25, 2007



Ear-piercing screams filled the air this morning at 7th and Montana as a newborn infant cried out, repeatedly, in what sounded like shock or terror.  "What's he doing to that baby?," I wondered as the father tried, unsuccessfully, to calm the infant down.  Indeed, the more he tried, the more she screamed.  Then, again, you'd probably scream, too, if your father resembled a stunt-double for Ming the Merciless, complete with a sinister beard twisted into dreadlocks and a pair of dark sunglasses worthy of the "Men in Black."

Friday, August 24, 2007



Robin was practically Foaming at the Mouth this morning on rumors that Starbucks will be quietly phasing out Whole Milk from its cappuccinos.  Ever the perfectionist, Robin is the first to dismiss inferior foam as "icky."  In fact, just today, she rejected Barista Rob's initial batch of Foam in favor of something Fluffier.  As for me, I can't help wondering what Starbucks has against Whole Milk.  What are they trying to do, turn us into a nation of Soymilk Sissies?!?

Thursday, August 23, 2007


It was another exciting day here in "Tinseltown" yesterday as I ran into one celebrity after another, first at the office and later on my way home.  The fun began at lunch, when Actor Matthew Perry took the table next to mine at the Hamburger Hamlet on Sunset.  But then -- hours later -- I had an even more spectacular encounter with a local luminary I like to call "SloMoe:  The Slow Schmoe."  SloMoe has taken up permanent residence at the Whole Foods store on San Vicente, where he specializes in blocking the aisles for hours on end.  He moves in slow motion, like one of those 16 RPM record albums which were obsolete even when people listened to vinyl records.  The only thing I can't figure out is, if he's so slow, how does he always end up ahead of me ...?!?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007



How many Starbucks employees does it take to change a lightbulb?  That was the question this morning as yet another light went out over the pastry counter at 7th and Montana.  The incident -- which occurred just days after Starbucks finally put an end to what many are calling the Great Lightbulb Debate of 2007 -- has immediately prompted cries of foul play among local insiders.  Is Starbucks trying to cover-up certain deficiencies in the Pastry Department or is something more sinister at play? The Lightbulbs-in-Question first attracted international notoriety last month when "Podgy Poof Gaz" -- a reader from the U.K. -- noticed that one of the lights was out.  After the bulb was finally changed three weeks later, he commented, "Ya just don't know how my sleeping habits are going to change from now on.  At last I can sleep at night!"  No doubt Gaz will find today's news a real eye-opener!     

Tuesday, August 21, 2007



Baby Talk filled the air today at 7th and Montana and, for a refreshing change, it wasn't coming from the Babbling Psychopath with the Beret.  Baby Helena, who is less than ten months old, looked me straight in the eye this morning, smiled and said, "Dada."  All things considered, her father, Greg, seemed to take the news in stride.  You see, she calls him "Dada," too.  In fact, Helena calls everything from the family dog to her favorite umbrella stand "Dada."  Oh well, better "Dada" than "Doo Doo" I always say!

Monday, August 20, 2007



It was a Happy Reunion this morning for "inseparable twins" Leah and Karenina as Leah returned from her trip to Greece, Italy and Israel.  While Leah and her husband covered a lot of ground during their six-week sojourn, she especially enjoyed a trip to the Greek Island, Santorini, where she celebrated her birthday.  Meanwhile, Karenina -- the other half of the "dynamic duo" known for their strenuous early morning workouts -- downplayed Leah's absence.  "Oh, I just listened to a lot of books on tape," she said.  I guess it's true what they say, "Nobody is irreplaceable!"  

Sunday, August 19, 2007



Look out, folks, there's a new Hog in town!  Our Friendly Neighborhood Antagonist -- known to inadvertently start arguments at the drop of a hat -- has traded in his bicycle for a Harley-Davidson.  "It's used," he explained as he zipped into Starbucks for his morning latte ... only to emerge seconds later, empty-handed.  "I'm such a Sleazy Rider," he joked, "I forgot my wallet!"  And with that -- after a brief, pregnant pause during which no one, for once, argued with him -- he hopped back on his Harley and rode off into the distance ...!

Saturday, August 18, 2007


Good Samaritans were coming out of the woodwork this morning at 7th and Montana as not one but two "regulars" lent a helping hand to a pair of Damsels in Distress in two separate incidents.  The fun began when a Young Mother driving a Mercedes SUV popped a tire against the "Curb from Hell."  Her mechanic, who arrived on the scene shortly thereafter, was having trouble finding her.  Richard saved the day by running after the mechanic -- just as he was about to leave -- and pointing him in the right direction.  Surprisingly enough, the woman neither thanked Richard for his efforts nor tipped the mechanic.  Meanwhile, another Good Samaritan found an abandoned Protective Pylon and propped it back into place to prevent further accidents.  This same man sprang into action moments later to help a woman clean up her mess when she spilled two drinks on the sidewalk.  While it's nice to see that Chivalry isn't dead, I have to admit that today's incidents call my own character into question:  As soon as "the coast was clear," I removed the Protective Pylon ...!   

Friday, August 17, 2007



Fate conspired against me this morning as a group of "Busy Builders" erected a blockade on 7th Street, temporarily preventing me from getting to Starbucks.  Ironically, the builders-in-question were hard at work on the House That Time Forgot, a never-ending construction project just North of 7th and Montana.  "We're busy, busy," said one of the crew in an exclusive interview.  For years, locals have been taking bets on when the home-in-question would be complete.  In fact, Howard bought a round of coffee for everyone when his latest guess -- April of this year -- proved wrong.  As for me, I couldn't resist the opportunity today to ask the builders when they expect the home to be finished. "We're busy, busy," the worker repeated, enigmatically.  Either that's the extent of his English or he gets paid by the hour ...! 

Thursday, August 16, 2007



It was a Heartwarming Homecoming today as the gang at Starbucks kept a candle -- or in this case a light bulb -- burning for me while I was on vacation.  "Welcome back," said Barista Extraordinaire Rob, "We changed the light bulb and have your Grande Half Caff ready!"  The lighting fixture in question, hanging directly over the pastry case, became a source of controversy last week when word spread that the bulb had been out since July 23.  Speaking of Dim Bulbs, Our Friendly Neighborhood King of the Road, known for leaving his unsightly trailer parked in front of neighborhood homes for days on end, returned to 7th and Montana this morning after a brief hiatus.  Let's hope he left his trailer behind!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Scituate, Massachusetts might not have a Starbucks, but I found the local equivalent today at Circe's Grotto, a cafe that seems every bit as popular as "7th and Montana," where locals are greeted by a sign that reads "Unattended children will be given an espresso and a new puppy!"  While I didn't see any unattended children or puppies, I did notice a friend from high school who I haven't seen in more than 25 years.  I spent today making the rounds, checking out some of my old, familiar haunts ranging from the Lighthouse (where my friend Mary once lived) to Lawson Tower (a Tower built by a copper baron in the early 1900s to ensure that he and his wife always had an ocean view).  The Tower -- and Lawson's nearby Elephant Fountain -- remain, but his home has been converted into Condos.  Can a Starbucks be far behind ...?!?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007



Today I made a Pilgrimage to Scituate, the small New England Fishing Village where I grew up, on the South Shore of Massachusetts.  Scituate has a long history when it comes to pilgrimages.  The town was established by a group of Pilgrim settlers in 1639 as part of Plymouth County.  The word "Scituate" is an Indian word which, literally translated, means "Cold Water" and, indeed, I used to think everyone here was "all wet."  Today, however, I see things differently.  The quaint harbor, the tree-lined streets, the history-everywhere-you-look all seem intoxicating.  Scituate has changed very little over the years, except for what many consider to be the "appalling" addition of some Condos by the Harbor.  What next ... a Starbucks?!? 

Monday, August 13, 2007



For months now, my parents have been telling me about their daily phone conversations with my nephew, Jackson.  He's brilliant, they say ... a Born Communicator, a True Genius.  The only thing is, he hasn't been born yet.  Every night since January they've been calling my sister in Massachusetts, asking her to put the phone up to her belly, and wishing Jackson "Good Night."  My mother tells him how much he is loved by the whole family.  My father gives him a daily lesson in life.  I've heard so much about these conversations -- and Jackson's enthusiastic responses -- that, admittedly, I was ready to "Cry Uncle."  That is, until I witnessed the phenomenon for myself last night.  Sure enough, my parents got on the phone with Jackson and -- after a brief, Pregnant Pause in the discussion -- Jackson sprang into action.  Naturally, we can hardly wait to say "hello" to Jackson in person.  He's due next month!

Sunday, August 12, 2007



Ladies and Gentlemen, meet my seatmate on United Flight #162 to Boston, Mr. Hal I. Tosis.  No doubt his friends call him "Hal."  I spent the full five hours of the flight breathing through my mouth and thinking, "For the love of God, does anyone have a breathmint ...?!?"

Saturday, August 11, 2007



I have an assignment this weekend:  To get the Powers-that-Be at Starbucks to change the bulb in one of the light fixtures hanging over the pastry counter, the one closest to the door, directly over the Triple Berry Cobbler Muffins.  First, let me shed some light on the situation:  Nearly three weeks ago, a reader from the U.K. -- Gaz -- noticed in one of my photos that the light was out.  "You need to tell 'em there's a bulb out in the left hand lamp," he said.  I laughed it off at the time, marveling at how observant and insightful people can be.  Truth be told, I didn't even notice that the bulb was out and I must walk right by it nearly every day.  This week, however, Gaz reminded me about the bulb.  "It's been bugging the hell out of me," he said.  "Make sure it's replaced with a low energy one, too!"  Sure enough, I checked it out yesterday and the light is still out.  I wonder what Starbucks management would say if they knew that their little problem -- a failure to change a single light bulb in a single store -- has gone global, that there are people all over the world waiting for them to take action.  I'm on my way to the airport now, but am going to stop at Starbucks first and will bring a light bulb with me!           

Friday, August 10, 2007



It was a Hair-Raising Experience today at 7th and Montana as an Eccentric Newcomer with a Mohawk nearly caught me in the act of photographing his head.  "That looks like a Treo Phone," he said.  "Do you use all the functions?"  "No," I lied, quickly switching off the camera.  "I can't seem to master this thing ... I'm ready to pull my hair out."  I went on to compliment him on his Mohawk which, with its straw-colored base and red fringe, gives him the appearance of a Roman Centurion.  In reality, he's a Personal Trainer from Culver City who says "the Stairs" in our neighborhood give him a good workout.  I assume he meant the famous, 133 steps leading from Adelaide Drive into Santa Monica Canyon.  Then again, maybe he just comes here for "the Stares!"

Thursday, August 9, 2007



Good news, friends!  We finally have an answer to the classic question "Have You Seen the Muffin Man?"  Rumor has it he's in the back room at 7th and Montana washing his hands after sampling the latest addition to the Starbucks Pantheon of Muffins, the Triple Berry Cobbler.  The Muffin-in-Question, first reviewed here last month, evidently leaves a trail of indelible blue stains in its wake.  Lisa, who initially described it as "scrumptious" in her earlier review, went back for more yesterday, only to discover that it turned her hands blue.  "It was the Boysenberry," she said in an exclusive interview.  "I just couldn't wash it off no matter how hard I tried."  Say what you will about Starbucks, they sure know how to make a lasting impression!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007



Head for the hills, folks!  An Anonymous Loudmouth is on the loose at 7th and Montana and his lips are flapping up a storm.  The fun began this morning when the Loudmouth-in-Question pulled out a cell phone to call his mechanic.  "How quickly can I get the tires?!?" he boomed in a voice that no doubt carried clear across Montana Avenue ... if not the State.  Robin -- gratified that my camera was pointing somewhere else for a change -- seemed amused as the Loudmouth droned on.  As for me, by the time he finished discussing the full range of his automotive needs, I was ready to blow a gasket ...!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007



They say "progress marches on" and nowhere is that more true than Our Favorite Starbucks, where the Powers-that-Be finally installed new doors at the store entrances facing 7th Street and Montana.  While Barista Extraordinaire Nada -- who just last week fought what seemed to be a losing battle to pry the old doors open -- confirmed the good news this morning, she was uncharacteristically terse:  "They're new," she said.  Nevertheless, some had their doubts.  Greg, who is perhaps showing more signs of age than the old doors, thinks I've been fooled by a clever paint job.  As for me, I think Starbucks made a terrible mistake:  Given the nearly constant employee turnover at 7th and Montana, I think they'd be better off investing in a set of revolving doors ...!

Monday, August 6, 2007



The Germans invaded 7th and Montana this morning as a mother and two children arrived on the scene from Frankfurt, conducting what sounded like a Fierce Debate in German.  Frankly, the German language has always sounded very guttural to me and -- to my untrained ear -- it seemed like the mother was barking nonstop orders at her children.  To my surprise, however, she turned to me and said sweetly, "I'm trying to teach my children English, do you know the English word for this?"  She pointed to a picture of an inflatable pool toy, the kind that looks like an inner tube with an animal's head sticking out of it ... or like the offspring of an Unholy Union between the Michelin Man and a Moose.  I was at a loss.  "It's a pool toy," I said, vaguely.  Natalie thinks it's called a "Floatie."  Richard thinks it's just an "Inner Tube."  I don't think any of these answers hold water.  Does anyone else have the answer?!? 

Sunday, August 5, 2007



Teeth were bared and fur was flying as a Doggone Idiot let his dog roam free at 7th and Montana this morning.  The fun began when the dog -- a German Shepherd mix -- bounded right over to Our Favorite Sheepdog Charlie who, predictably, went into Attack Mode.  To add insult to near injury, not only did the owner of the Shepherd have a leash with him, but he moved in slow motion, hovering nearby while Richard restrained an increasingly ferocious Charlie.  Finally, Richard -- himself practically foaming at the mouth -- stated the obvious:  "Would you please put your dog on a leash?!?  Charlie is unpredictable with other dogs!"  The Shepherd was last seen bounding into traffic at the intersection of 7th and Montana.  Meanwhile, it seems somehow ironic that the incident occurred two days after tragedy struck at the nearby home of Actor Ving Rhames, where a caretaker died after being mauled by a pair of Bull Mastiffs.  All is quiet today at the Rhames home on San Vicente but a sign posted on the front gate -- "Beware of Dog" -- speaks louder than words.

Saturday, August 4, 2007



Another Happy-go-Lucky Goofball joined the crowd at 7th and Montana today, cracking jokes and giving new meaning to the term "August Presence" with his heavy down vest and hooded sweatshirt in 75-degree heat.  "Good morning," I cried in an obvious effort to distract him long enough to get a candid photo.  "Why Good Morning," he replied.  "Are you on your way to Church?"  He went on to explain that my "clean cut" appearance could only mean one thing:  I was heading to Church.  As one observer put it, "He's really full of crap, isn't he?"  Indeed, perhaps he's another case for Dr. Natalie, who discovered this week that some locals show up again and again to the Emergency Room to be "Dis-Impacted," meaning -- as I understand it -- that a Doctor removes the crap from them "piece by piece."  I guess it's true what they say, "With friends like Natalie, you don't need Enemas ...!" 

Friday, August 3, 2007



Is it my imagination, or is Our Favorite Starbucks going to the dogs?  This morning, not only did the K-9-to-Human ratio reach an all-time-high, but the dogs themselves seemed to be running the show.  A Black Retriever mix, for example, was in Puppy Paradise as it wandered unaccompanied from table-to-table without any owners, leash or tags.  I temporarily "adopted" him, just long enough to rename him "Raisely" in honor of the escalating prices at Starbucks.  Moments later, Our Favorite Sheepdog Charlie arrived on the scene, a bit more Sheepish than usual.  It seems the Sly Dog had a mysterious rendezvous in Palisades Park with a woman named "Lily" who left lipstick smeared across his brow!

Thursday, August 2, 2007



It was raining Work-a-Holics this morning at 7th and Montana as one high-powered executive after another made the scene.  The fun began when an Anonymous Duo pulled up a table inches away from me and began loudly conducting what sounded like a job interview.  "I'm basically a People Person," said the woman with her back to me, "I'm the ultimate Team Player."  I stifled a laugh as she went on to complain very loudly about her current employer -- one of the major movie studios -- for stifling her creative potential.  "I need to spread my wings," she droned on.  Meanwhile, in other local news, Robin announced that she is working at home today and Dr. Natalie starts her new job in the Emergency Room at St. John's Hospital!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007



In the wake of Starbuck's much ballyhooed rollout of its Blueberry Frapuccino, Barista Extraordinaire Rob convinced me to give the new concoction a try this morning.  Admittedly, I had my doubts.  Afterall, the drink looks like a Diabetic Coma in a Cup.  However, I accepted a free sample and here is my completely honest, unvarnished review:

  "It's inCredible, ANother BrEakthrough BRInging BluebEberries anD secret ingredients together in a cup!"