Monday, June 30, 2008



I spent my last day in Stockholm on a mission.  My assignment was to quietly locate and photograph Benny Andersson, the owner of the hotel I was staying at in Stockholm, the Rival, and a former member of the '70s pop group ABBA.  While, admittedly, I wouldn't know Benny if he fell out of one of the Eucalyptus Trees at 7th and Montana and started belting out tunes, THE NAME OF THE GAME as far as I was concerned was to get a candid photo of him for my blog, preferably doing Something Nutty.  I began my quest at the Front Desk.  "Tell me," I said in a conspiratorial whisper, "Does Benny ever hang around the hotel?"  "Oh yes," came the reply from the Front Desk Manager, "He stops by occasionally.  He loves the bread from our bakery."  I quickly ran upstairs to the restaurant.  "I hear Benny loves your bread," I said to one of the waiters, "Does he ever eat here?"  "Yes, indeed," said the waiter, "That's his table over there in the corner."  I grabbed a strategically placed table nearby, ordered dinner and bided my time.  No luck.  I knew if I hoped to get a candid shot of Benny, I'd have to TAKE A CHANCE on a more desperate approach.  I grabbed a basket of bread from the bakery, sat in the lobby bar and began whistling ABBA tunes until I thought the bartender would send out an S.O.S.  "This is the life," I said loudly, "Delicious bread, great music and a top-notch hotel ... I tell you, that Benny Andersson is a genius.  A pure genius."  Still, nothing.  MAMMA MIA!  I made a fool of myself and all to no avail.  Mark my words, Benny Andersson, one day I'll get a candid photo of you doing Something Nutty for my blog if it's the last thing I DO (I DO, I DO, I DO, I DO, I DO) ...!

Sunday, June 29, 2008


It was a picture perfect day in Stockholm today, ideal for exploring the nooks and crannies of this fascinating city.  I started by hiring a Tour Guide to show me around Gamla Stan, the Old Town dating back to the 13th Century.  Jenny, my guide, was an expert on the history of Stockholm and didn't mind telling me where all the skeletons are buried.  Take Christian the Tyrant, for example.  In 1520, he took over Sweden and -- with the help of a band of mercenaries -- set-up shop in the Royal Palace at Gamla Stan.  He threw a party shortly after taking over and, of course, invited all of his former opposition.  Midway through the festivities, he locked the doors, dragged off his guests and had them all executed in the City Center, at what is now the site of the Nobel Museum.  Some "Peace Prize," eh?  Then there's the "Mysterious Rabbit Square."  Nearly 200 years ago, a popular restaurant in Gamla Stan specialized in Rabbit Stew, a dish with a taste so rare it attracted a cult-like, international following.  One day, however, an expert arrived on the scene and declared "This is not rabbit!"  Closer inspection revealed that the restaurant had been serving-up Cat Meat for years.  Locals were so shocked, they burned the restaurant to the ground.  Today, the site is one of the few quiet courtyards in Gamla Stan, an ideal spot to read under the shade of an Oak Tree that stands where diners once enjoyed their "Fancy Feast."  From Gamla Stan, I made my way to the Vasa, a warship with an Ignominious History.  Built by King Gustavus Adolphus in 1628 as a spare-no-expense statement of Swedish Naval Supremacy, the Vasa sank in front of an audience of horrified spectators mere minutes into its Maiden Voyage.  It was raised nearly intact in 1961 and today can be found in a Museum on the Island of Djurgarden.  Of course, throughout the day I've been mindful of a Special Request from "Garnett109," who posted a comment yesterday urging me to "send pictures of the Buxom Blondes."  Inside Sources suggested I check-out an Intimate Little Establishment called "Marvelous Meduza and Friends" but, alas, it was closed on Sunday ...!    

Saturday, June 28, 2008


A funny thing happened yesterday:  I woke up with a start and suddenly realized that I'd never been to Sweden.  Call it a case of Stockholm Syndrome, but I felt strangely compelled to visit a city where the sun rises at 3:00 a.m. and sets at 10:00 p.m.  And so, here I am in Stockholm, a beautiful city dating back to the 13th Century, where the old and the new blend as seamlessly as the Baltic Sea and Lake Malaren.  Stockholm is actually a series of 14 small islands, each with its own personality.  I explored most of them today on foot and by boat and it was exhilarating.  The Swedes love nature and have gone to great lengths over the centuries to keep Stockholm filled with green spaces like the Royal Park of Djurgarden, a former royal hunting preserve, and the Skansen, an "outdoor museum" featuring Swedish architecture through the ages.  The only thing I didn't experience today was the world famous Smorgasbord at the Grand Hotel.  I checked it out briefly -- long enough to see that it was basically a High-End, All-You-Can-Eat Feeding Trough -- and took a pass.  "Will you be joining us?," asked the Maitre 'd.  "I'm afraid not," I replied, "But I must say this is the largest and most impressive Smorgasbord I've ever seen ... everyone seems to be enjoying it immensely."  Frankly, judging from the looks of some of their patrons, I think they should consider moving the whole thing from the "Veranda" to the "Rotunda."  Meanwhile, as for me, I'm staying at the Hotel Rival, a boutique hotel on the Mariatorget owned by Benny Andersson of ABBA fame.  My goal for tomorrow is to get a candid photo of Benny when he least expects it ...! 

Friday, June 27, 2008



In response to my post yesterday, Beckie raised an important question about Eindhoven City Center:  "Where are the pigeons?," she asked, "In Britain there would be pigeons everywhere ... Under chairs, tables, on people's heads.  Do they have pigeons there?"  Just to set the record straight, there are plenty of pigeons in Eindhoven but they seem to focus their energies on a single target:  The statue of Frits Philips that stands in the center of town.  In any case, it's not the pigeons you need to worry about in Eindhoven.  I was sitting in an outdoor area near our office this afternoon when one of my colleagues gestured towards a group of large, white birds floating in a man-made lake behind me.  "Those are Water Chickens," he said, "They can be rather aggressive ...!"

Thursday, June 26, 2008



I woke up this morning in Eindhoven -- the industrial heart of the Netherlands -- hungry for new experiences.  You see, whenever I visit Eindhoven -- and I come here a lot -- I stay in the same hotels, eat in the same restaurants, meet with the same people and work in the same offices.  It's high time, I decided, to break the mold, starting with breakfast.  For years, I've noticed what can only be described as the Dutch version of a Pancake House -- a restaurant simply called "The Pancake" -- right near the City Center.  I made a beeline there this morning, only to discover that it wasn't open for breakfast.  What next, a "Coffee House" that doesn't serve Coffee ...?!?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008



There's only one Starbucks in Amsterdam but, not to worry, I found it.  O.K., I'll admit it, I already knew where it was and I made a beeline for it shortly after my flight landed yesterday afternoon.  You see, the only Starbucks around here is at the airport.  The Dutch aren't so into Starbucks.  Why?  For one thing, their own coffee is very good.  For another, no self-respecting Dutchman would fritter away 10 Euros for a cup of coffee and a piece of pastry ...!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008



It was a case of "United we Stand" at the Los Angeles International Airport this morning as dozens of people stood for ages in a seemingly endless line to board United Flight #946 to Amsterdam.  The flight, you see, had "mechanical difficulties."  I wouldn't have minded waiting if I hadn't been sandwiched between the Travelers from Hell.  In front of me was the Swiss Family Obnoxious, a family of six who seemed to take great pleasure in cutting in front of me in line by ducking under a cordoned area.  "Mommy," said one of the little girls very loudly, "We just cut in front of that man."  "Shut up!," replied the mother (pictured above), "Do you want him to hear you?!?"  At this point, the man standing behind me in line -- an elfin creature with a mischievous grin -- tapped me on the shoulder.  "They say the plane has a mechanical problem," he said, "Of course, I know all about mechanical difficulties ... Airline Disasters are my business!"  "You don't say," I replied, "Are you traveling on business or pleasure?!?"  "Alas," he chuckled, "Duty calls."  "I know the feeling," I said, "If you'll excuse me, I need to check-in with the office."  And with that, I ran as fast as my legs would carry me to the nearest airport lounge and rebooked myself on another flight.  Last time I checked, "Mr. Disaster" was still regaling the crowd with details of Eastern Air Lines Flight 401 which crashed in the Florida Everglades in 1972, and the Swiss Family Obnoxious was busy staging a Family Feud ...

Monday, June 23, 2008



Eyes were popping at 7th and Montana this weekend as a Caffeine Desperado arrived on the scene, intent on serving himself a cup of coffee directly from the trash.  Indeed, he fished four partially used cups of coffee out of a garbage can, mixed them together to create his own, unique blend, and guzzled the whole thing down faster than you can say "Streptococcus."  No one should have to drink used coffee from a garbage can.  The least someone could do is pass the poor guy a Petri Dish ...

Sunday, June 22, 2008



It was "so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen and goodbye" this morning at 7th and Montana as Howard and Cathy set off for their annual Summer Sojourn in Colorado.  Granted, there are eight Starbucks locations in the greater Vail area, but -- let's face it -- few offer the "amenities" of 7th and Montana.  Perhaps that's why they're bringing a little piece of home with them in the form of 30 dozen frozen Cinnamon Raisin Bagels from The Nosh of Beverly Hills and an equal number of scones from the 3 Square Cafe and Bakery in Venice.  Thank God they're not into Apple Fritters or their plane would never take off.  Bon Voyage, Howard and Cathy ... We'll miss you!

Saturday, June 21, 2008



Bells were ringing at 7th and Montana this morning on news that the View Park Preparatory High School -- a public charter school for underprivileged kids founded by Neighbor Mike -- was featured in a heartwarming article on the front page of today's Los Angeles Times.  Actually, the ringing sound was coming from Mike's own cell phone as he received call after call congratulating him on both the article and the work he is doing to raise the standard of education in South Central Los Angeles.  Mike founded the View Park school after spending years at Harvard-Westlake, a private school catering to some of the brightest and richest students in the country.  This morning's article focuses on one of the teachers he brought with him to View Park, Phil Holmes, and the tremendous impact he's had on the lives of students who really need a chance.  As for Mike, he's taking all the attention in stride.  "I feel Vaklempt," he said, smiling.  "What's Vaklempt and how do you spell it?," I asked.  "It's a Yiddish word," he explained, "and it means emotional."  Actually, I did a little research and according to the Yiddish Online Dictionary, it's spelled Farklemt and it means "depressed, distraught, choked up, extremely emotional, on the verge of tears and grieving."  All of which is to say, I take it they don't teach Yiddish at View Park Preparatory High School ...!

Friday, June 20, 2008



Mouths were watering -- or perhaps it was just drool -- at 7th and Montana this morning as word spread that Our Favorite Starbucks was offering free samples of its all-new Lemon Blueberry Muffin.  As far as pastries go, the Lemon Blueberry Muffin is pretty standard fare:  A hint of Blueberry and a pinch of Lemon, topped with Ubiquitous Starbucks Glaze.  But appearances can be deceiving.  Rumor has that long-term exposure to the Glaze turns people's brains to mush.  Just ask Barista Robb, who seemed more glazed over than the muffins this morning.  "What's this?," he asked me, absent-mindedly pointing to a cup of coffee on the counter.  "I don't know," I replied, "Maybe it's my coffee?"  "Oh yes," he answered, "I just poured that for you a couple of minutes ago."  Ladies and Gentlemen, I rest my case ...!

Thursday, June 19, 2008



It was a Warm Welcome this morning at 7th and Montana as a new Assistant Manager, Julie (above, left) began work at Our Favorite Starbucks.  Julie may be new, but insiders are already giving her the "thumbs up."  As for me, the sudden change took me by surprise.  I've become so used to the fact that everyone at Starbucks automatically knows my order that I stood at the counter like a Silent Zombie before finally realizing that Julie couldn't possibly know what I wanted.  Congratulations on your new job, Julie.  Speaking of New Jobs, I got a lofty new title of my own, today.  Screenwriter Mark declared me the new "Mayor of Starbucksville."  I just hope they don't pay me in Apple Fritters ...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008



Heads were turning at 7th and Montana this morning as yet another Ring-a-Ding Kid made the scene wearing a Fedora.  Granted, the "Frank Sinatra" look is in this season, but this latest Fashion Plate is more than simply "Young at Heart."  He's only four-years-old and his Fedora is almost as big as his head.  I caught-up with his mother at the condiments bar.  "Wow ... Your son is making quite a Fashion Statement," I said, smiling.  "Yes," she laughed, "He said he wanted to look 'fancy' today."  I guess one person's "fancy" is another's "fedorable" ...!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008



A Zany Redhead made the scene at 7th and Montana on Sunday and wasted no time cozying up to Bicyclist Greg.  According to Genevieve, who sent me this photo, the woman-in-question -- a Bizarre Cross between Lucille Ball and Elvira:  Mistress of the Dark -- made a pest of herself.  "It was really weird," said Genevieve, "She asked for directions to the nearest freeway ... despite the fact that she was obviously traveling on foot!"  Greg seemed unphased by the incident.  Rumor has it he's been numb ever since the Jittery Nutcase threw a cup of Hot Chocolate at him ...!

Monday, June 16, 2008



You can run, but you can't Hyde at 7th and Montana ...!  Two weeks ago, Barista Robb warned me about a "Mysterious New Nutcase" on the loose.  "He has spikey gray hair and a beard," he said, "And if you see him, steer clear!"  Naturally, I've been snapping secret photos of anyone remotely fitting that description ever since.  I finally hit paydirt this morning when Robb gave me a Positive I.D. on one of my suspects.  Rumor has it, this latest "Nutcase" is a real Jeckyl and Hyde character:  He seems very friendly but likes to spew obscenities at Barista Robb for no apparent reason!

Sunday, June 15, 2008



Cheers erupted at 7th and Montana this morning as the so-called One-Eyed Bandit made a Bold, New Fashion Statement.  Mere days after arriving on the scene without his Signature Orange Bandana, the Bandit walked into Our Favorite Starbucks wearing a "Fry Cook" cap from In-N-Out Burger, the ubiquitous fast-food chain where "no burger hits the grill until you ask for it."  "How do you like my new hat?," asked the Bandit, cackling, as usual.  "Well done," I replied, "What a Bold Statement!"  Frankly, if I walked into a Fast Food joint and saw the Bandit flipping burgers, I'd be "In-n-Out" of there faster than you can say "Gastroenteritis" ...!

Saturday, June 14, 2008



Barista Tyler may be new in town but he's already making a Splash in the Entertainment Industry.  How?  By doing "audience work," of course.  This week alone, Tyler has been paid $8 an hour to appear in the audience of such shows as Divorce Court ("where they want you to just sit there and look serious") and Catch-21 ("a new game show where they want you to occasionally Whoop, Holler and Applaud").  I still think the Biggest Splash Tyler made this week, however, was at 7th and Montana.  On Tuesday, he inadvertently squeezed a plastic cup of water so hard that its entire contents -- ice cubes and all -- went flying into my face ...! 

Friday, June 13, 2008



Ladies and Gentlemen, meet "Chester the Jester," the latest newcomer on the scene at 7th and Montana.  Chester rolled-up to Our Favorite Starbucks this morning wearing a bright red and green Jester Cap and pulling a Little Red Wagon filled with trash.  Like so many before him, he glanced around furtively before sticking his head into a trash can and continuing on his merry way.  "Now there's something you don't see every day," I said, "A Court Jester ... Just what we need around here!"

Thursday, June 12, 2008



It was a Case of Mistaken Identity this morning at 7th and Montana as the Cashier-on-Duty gave one of the regulars a "less-than-desirable" new name.  "Hey, for some reason they think my name is Archie," complained the man-in-question, as one of the Baristas announced that "Archie's" cappuccino was ready.  As for me, I felt more like "Jughead."  Moments after "Archie" left the scene, a Crazy Honeybee dive-bombed my Jug of a Head and bounced to the ground where it wandered, dazed and confused, into the Starbucks Parking Lot.  A quick glimpse at the list of ingredients on my shampoo bottle reveals that it contains "pure honey" and "poly sugars" ...!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008



Eyes were popping at 7th and Montana this morning as an Army National Guardsman arrived on the scene, no doubt in response to last month's controversial Hot Chocolate Massacre.  I, for one, welcome the increased security.  Who knows, perhaps they'll find Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Pastry Display Case ...!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008



The crowd was atwitter at 7th and Montana this morning on news that the notorious "One-Eyed Bandit" -- known for wearing a Bright Orange Bandana over one eye -- returned to Our Favorite Starbucks ... without his Bandana.  "Perhaps he had Lasik surgery," said one observer, while the Bandit, as usual, cackled periodically at unpredictable intervals in the background.  "I don't know," I replied, "The very notion of our 'Bandit' without his Bandana gives me the creeps."  What next, the Four Horsemen without the Apocalypse ...?!?

Monday, June 9, 2008



For more than a year now, I've been warning people about the risks associated with the Apple Fritters at Starbucks:  They're Enormous;  They're Evil;  They look like Steaming Piles of Excrement.  That's why it came as such a shock last night to learn that my parents took my nine-month-old nephew, Jackson, to a Starbucks in Massachusetts and ordered the Poor, Defenseless Tyke an Apple Fritter.  "Dad and I are babysitting for Jackson for a few days," said my Mom, "He was getting fussy in the car so we stopped at a Starbucks to give him a little break.  We couldn't resist the Apple Fritter ...!"  Rumor has it Jackson took one or two bites of the Pachyderm Pastry and promptly vomited all over the place.  I just have one question:  Was this photo taken "Before" or "After" ...?!?

Sunday, June 8, 2008



Ladies and Gentlemen, meet "Lindy the Lint Lady," a Neatnik Newcomer who caused a real Dust-up this morning at 7th and Montana.  The fun began when -- in her rush to get into Starbucks -- "Lindy" accidentally dropped a Lint Brush on the sidewalk and scrambled to retrieve it.  You would have thought she was separated from her First Born, judging from the sheer look of panic on her face.  Who in their right mind carries a Lint Brush into Starbucks?  I don't know, but rumor has it she was late for a meeting with "Dottie the Dust Bunny."

Saturday, June 7, 2008



Kathy had her Game Face on today at 7th and Montana ... and with good reason.  She's set to appear Monday on Catch-21, a new Game Show combining the best of Blackjack and Trivial Pursuit.  The show sounds like fun:  Contestants answer trivia questions while collecting cards they can either keep or pass along to others for a chance to win up to $25,000.  Rumor has it that the show's Casting Director was so taken with Kathy's performance during her audition that they're already talking about Bigger and Better Things.  Who knows, by this time next year Kathy might be ready for "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?"

Friday, June 6, 2008



Eyes were popping at 7th and Montana this morning as an Unfortunate Lummox -- known among locals as "The Dyslexic Skywriter" -- swooped over Santa Monica.  Just yesterday, crowds across the Westside laughed out loud over a mysterious, backwards message in the sky.  Whoever commissioned that message obviously insisted that the pilot try again today.  "Look," I cried, "They've spelled out T-O-P!"  "No," said Kovar, "It's still backwards, they're probably trying to spell P-O-T!"  Indeed, the pilot was blowing a Peculiar Brand of Smoke:  It appears that he was really trying to promote "Tori & Dean: Inn Love," a nauseating reality show featuring a behind-the-scenes look at Poor Little Rich Girl Tori Spelling and her husband, Dean ...!

Thursday, June 5, 2008



Quick, call the National Audubon Society!  A new species of Loon has descended upon Goose Egg Park and, by all appearances, it means business.  Found in the early morning hours, the typical specimen measures just under six-feet tall, weighs 150 pounds, has a goatee and appears to be practicing some form of Taekwondo in slow motion.  Little is known about this species' migratory patterns, but it is believed to be indigenous to a Padded Cell.  Forgive me for not getting a close-up, but this Particular Loon is also known to carry a Samarai Sword ...!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008



Between the Jittery Nutcase, the Notorious Newspaper Thief, and the Happy-go-Lucky Bank Robbers in our midst, it's about time someone at 7th and Montana mobilized our neighborhood for the Greater Good.  That's where Malissa comes in.  Evidently, she's established a group called the Dangerous Darlin's -- or Double D's for short -- and they're doing great things in the Community.  OK, they're really just an all women's softball team, but they've won First Place in their league and I, for one, feel safer having them around.  Malissa:  Why don't you invite the team to Our Favorite Starbucks ... and tell them to bring their Baseball Bats! 

Tuesday, June 3, 2008



Rumors were flying at 7th and Montana this morning as word spread that popular local Pooch, Einstein, is in rehab.  A spokesman quickly dismissed claims that the Beloved Bichone Frise was "going out too much" and called for fans to respect his privacy.  "Einstein has made a proactive decision to take care of his personal health," said one insider, "He's in a very positive frame of mind and is looking forward to making a positive change in his life."  According to Nat and Robin, Einstein is being treated for a torn ligament at California Animal Rehabilitation, a Doggie Rehab Center where therapeutic services range from Gentle Massages and Conditioning Exercises to Hydro-Therapy in a Customized Swim Tank.  "They're really working wonders," said Robin, "Einstein is doing great and he comes home after each treatment smelling like a Spa Dog ...!"

Monday, June 2, 2008



Barista Trina may have left Starbucks, but she's been percolating up a storm, nevertheless.  Last Tuesday, she gave birth to a Beautiful Baby Girl, Chloe, who weighed-in at a healthy 7 pounds, 9 ounces.  Congratulations Trina and Michael.  We look forward to one day seeing Chloe at 7th and Montana ...!

Sunday, June 1, 2008



It was a case of the Blind leading the Blonde this morning at 7th and Montana as Greg strapped his mother, Cathy, into the stroller normally reserved for his Toddler Son, Hudson.  Why?  Rumor has it he's just plain tired of changing diapers.  "Sometimes I wish I could go on hiatus," he joked, "What I wouldn't give for just a few days in a row without having to deal with excrement of any kind!"  Howard promptly set him straight.  "I'm sorry to tell you," he said, "but Shit Happens!"  Perhaps they should all watch Jude's new show, Real Simple, a collaboration between Real Simple magazine and the TLC cable network.  The new series, scheduled to begin airing this Summer, will feature what Jude calls "Lifestyle Makeovers," meaning that each week experts from Real Simple will help busy women from all walks of life simplify their lives.  "We're currently casting for the show," Jude said.  If you're interested in getting a Lifestyle Makeover, check it out:  Casting TLC's Real Simple.