Monday, May 31, 2010


Let the Yogurt Wars begin! A Battle Royale is brewing at 7th and Montana between "TCBY" -- which for years has been the only yogurt shop on Montana -- and "Menchies," a trendy, new upstart that just moved-in across the street. For years, locals have complained about TCBY and its "take it or leave it attitude." "They measure each cup like its gold, as if it kills them to give you any extra ... and they're always nasty," said one customer. Then came Menchies, which lets customers serve themselves, including a choice of literally dozens of toppings, for 49-cents an ounce, plus $1 for a freshly-baked waffle cone. Menchies also draws people in with a party-like atmosphere. For weeks, Menchies has been mobbed and TCBY has been empty ... but now TCBY is fighting back. First came a sign on the window promoting "99 cent sugar cones with an Instant Smile." Then came a daily special. And now, just in time for Memorial Day, they've rolled out an all-new "All You Can Eat" special for only $5. I couldn't help noticing this afternoon that it attracted two people (my neighbors, who were letting their kids go back for thirds). Conversely, it was standing room only at Menchies, where you had to wait your turn to serve yourself, plus there was a long line-up at the cash register and every seat was taken, both inside and out. So, which chain will we be mourning next Memorial Day? Something tells me TCBY had better step-up its game or Menchies is going to knock them on their dairy-air ...!


There are a lot of Strange Birds at 7th and Montana, but the one I ran into last night at Palisades Park deserves a place at the top of the pecking order. There I was, minding my own business, just out for a stroll, when I stumbled across a bright red Scarlet Macaw perched at the edge of the bluffs. "Rrrrack, Rrrrack ... get back!," it squawked. It rotated its head nearly 180-degrees in my direction and glared at me through beady, little eyes. "You'd better watch it, she's mean!," said a man behind me. "You don't have to tell me twice," I replied. The bird stepped onto the man's arm, waddled her way towards his head and began whispering sweet nothings in his ear. "We've bonded," he explained, "We go everywhere together. She hates everyone else. I've tried introducing her to male macaws but she'll have nothing to do with them. She only has eyes for me!" He caressed her feathers and smiled suggestively. I left before he could break into a rousing chorus of "I love you, a bushel and a peck ...!"

Sunday, May 30, 2010


The Yentls went mental at 7th and Montana yesterday at the prospect of a budding, young romance between babies Ben and Rosemary. Ever since the two were spotted canoodling in front of Our Favorite Starbucks two weeks ago, rumors have been flying about their long-term prospects. "I hear he went to Jared's," said one source close to the situation. Others have their doubts. I just hope his first words aren't 'Uncle Governator.' Speaking of which, Arnold himself made the scene at 7th and Montana this morning, nearly breaking the speed limit in his zippy, silver Porsche ...!

Saturday, May 29, 2010


The crowd at 7th and Montana was agog this morning as "Sammy Sitar" -- the local loon who just two weeks ago seemed intent on impressing us all with his taste in Indian music -- changed his tune. He made the scene, as usual, pushing a baby carriage filled with garbage, but today -- before our very eyes -- he changed the tape in his boom box from his usual Sitar Symphony to a Mexican Mariachi number. "Whatever you do, don't make eye contact," muttered Neighbor Richard, but duty called. I whipped out my Spycam and pointed it in "Sammy's" direction. That was all the incentive he needed. He reached into a garbage bag, pulled out a slightly used enchilada and tried to auction it off to the highest bidder. Poor Sammy. If he really wanted to curry favor, he'd offer us all some Lamb Vindaloo ...!

Friday, May 28, 2010


My flight home from Philadelphia was delayed more than six hours yesterday ... and that turned out to be a good thing. It gave me the time I needed to visit my Alma Matter, the University of Pennsylvania, for the first time in nearly 25 years. Penn is a great school, and one of the first true Universities in the country. It was established by Ben Franklin in 1740 and his spirit lives on in the statue pictured above, which sits on the college green in the center of the campus.

When I was a student, I volunteered as a campus tour guide for the admissions office, so I was eager to see if I could retrace my old steps. I made a beeline for where our tours used to meet, at College Hall, and was pleased to see that everything still looked familiar. In fact, College Hall might look familiar to you, too. Another alumnus, the famous cartoonist Charles Addams, used the building as the basis for Gomez and Morticia's house in "The Addams Family."

I continued on to one of my favorite buildings on the campus, the Furness Library. Furness was always a quiet, inspiring place to study, but its style -- a blend of Roman and Moorish architecture -- was what attracted me the most. I used to love climbing what I called the "stairway to nowhere," a grand staircase of wood and iron which dominates the lobby but gets smaller and narrower as it twists and turns its way to the top of the tower pictured above. When you finally reach the top, you're left standing on a small platform, suspended hundreds of feet in the air, facing a brick wall. I tried climbing to the top yesterday, only to learn that they've blocked-off access to the uppermost level. And that wasn't the only change. After nearly 120 years, they've changed the name of the building from "Furness" -- after the man who designed it -- to "The Fisher Fine Arts Library." I guess money talks.

Locust Walk is the main pedestrian thoroughfare which runs through the length of the Penn campus. Back when I was a student, all it took was one quick trip up and down Locust Walk to get the latest news and connect with hundreds of friends. Yesterday, however, I felt more like a corporate suit lost in a sea of "youngsters." I ran to the bookstore (only to learn that some Moron moved it from Locust Walk to Walnut Street), bought myself a baseball cap and put my blazer in storage at the nearby Hilton. Now I was ready to continue, disguised as an "insider."

I continued my tour until I got to Phi Kappa Sigma, the fraternity known as "Skull House." It was always at this point in my tours that some acquaintances -- classmates who knew my tour schedule -- would lean out the upper story windows and yell "Penn Stinks ... Go to Princeton!" I'd always make a joke out of it, preparing the prospective freshmen on the tour by telling them to block their ears, "don't pay any attention to what you're about to hear" and etc. I guess every campus needs its Animal House.

On the opposite end of the housing spectrum was Hill House, a closed community where people pretty much lived and studied together, designed by the architect Aero Saarinen in 1960 to resemble a modern-day fortress. You even have to cross a draw-bridge to get inside. At this point in the tour, I always used to knock on doors at random to give the prospective freshmen and their parents an idea of what a dorm room looked like. I'll never forget the time when, after knocking unsuccessfully on a few doors, I finally found someone who answered: A guy with stringy brown hair hanging down to his waist, wearing no shirt, no shoes and a pair of purple pajama bottoms. He was smoking pot and blew a large cloud directly into my tour group. "Hiya, folks!," he said. I slammed the door in his face and said, "I guess that's why they call it a Higher Education!" Apparently, the tours today are more tightly organized. The receptionist at Hill House told me that these days, the University sends pre-selected Hill House Greeters to meet the tour groups and bring them to pre-approved dorm rooms. I like my way, better.

Somewhere between the craziness of Skull House and the eccentricities of Hill House is "the Quadrangle." Known as the first university dorm in the United States, the Quad was built in 1895 and modeled after the Tudor styles at Cambridge. When I was a student, the Quad was mainly used as freshman housing and you were assigned to a room based on a lottery system. Today, the Quad is divided into four separate "houses" -- Community, Goldberg, Spruce and Ware -- and, if I understand correctly, a computer places you into one of the houses based on your interests.

Next-up was a trip to my old stomping grounds, the Communications School. I majored in Communications so this was where I had most of my classes. The school -- and the building -- were funded entirely by Neighbor Charlie's family. I'll have to remember to thank him one of these days.

I concluded my visit with a trip to Franklin Field, Penn's historic football field and home of the Quakers. The stadium opened in 1895. It's the site of the nation's first scoreboard, the first football radio broadcast and the first football telecast. Back when I went there, thousands of people would crowd into Franklin field for every game and pelt the opposition with slices of toast. One of the traditional Penn songs -- called "Drink a Highball" -- ends with the words "Here's a toast to dear old Penn." That last line, sung in unison by a frenzied crowd, was always our cue to throw entire loaves of toast on the field. Wonder Bread was our weapon of choice. Today, those words -- like a fine wine -- really have matured with age. Here's a toast to dear old Penn, and to my parents for sending me there ...!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Philadelphia is steeped in history. Everywhere you look, there are plaques commemorating historic milestones. Take the corner of Chestnut and Juniper, for example. This was the site where America's oldest surviving photograph was taken on September 25, 1839. Flash forward more than 170 years and what do you have? Me, my Spycam and "Murray the Moron." Look closely at the photo above, and you might notice that "Murray" was harboring a soft drink in his groin. There he stood -- on the very spot where the first photo was taken in the United States -- balancing what looked like a plastic bottle of lemonade -- or perhaps it was a urine sample -- between his legs and laughing like a hyena. He looked like an executive on his lunch break, but he was obviously cracked ...!

Speaking of cracked, no visit to Philadelphia would be complete without a trip to the Liberty Bell. I made a beeline there after my meetings ended today. Legend has it the Liberty Bell was used to summon the citizens of Philadelphia for the very first public reading of the Declaration of Independence on July 8, 1776. The bell itself has been cracked ever since its first "test" ringing when it arrived in Philadelphia in 1752. But what do you expect ... they only paid 100 pounds for it!

I made a quick stop at Independence Hall -- where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were debated and adopted -- and continued walking due East through the city's cultural district, towards the waterfront and Delaware River.

I walked across Penn's Landing until I got to the Nina and the Pinta. Yes, it was that Nina and Pinta. Life-sized replicas of Columbus' ships are docked right near the Korean and Vietnam War Memorials and just across the river from New Jersey. Columbus never had it so good!

I finished my walk with a stroll through Society Hill, a neighborhood of quiet, tree-lined streets and rowhouses dating from the 1700's. Many of the homes here belonged to notable figures in the American Revolution and everyday tradesmen who no doubt prospered -- like their neighbor Benjamin Franklin -- by going early to bed and being early to rise. One thing's for sure, I doubt any of them hid plastic bottles of lemonade in their groin ...!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Philadelphia is known as the City of Brotherly Love. That's why I wasn't surprised to find "the Love Park" -- otherwise known as JFK Plaza -- right near my hotel. The Love Park is right in front of the City Hall and features Robert Indiana's famous "Love Statue" and a decorative fountain. Don't ask me what goes on in the Love Park ... I was only there for a few minutes this morning on my way to the Comcast Center.
Comcast Center is the tallest building in Philadelphia. It's 58-stories tall and offers commanding views of the whole city. I especially liked the lobby, which features an atrium where ten life-sized statues of pedestrians and businessmen appear to be walking on metallic beams suspended overhead.

Also in the lobby, directly over the reception desk, is a massive, 84-foot tall, 2,000 square-foot LCD screen which plays a series of incredible, lifelike video images 18-hours a day. For example, today I saw the lobby transformed into a tropical oasis, a modern artwork and a dance hall, complete with acrobatic dancers who looked like they were doing a tango atop the elevator bank.

Speaking of artwork, I had dinner under the shadow of an enormous Buddha. Yes, it was another evening of Asian-Fusian cuisine, this time at a fancy restaurant called Buddakan. I guess they call it Fusion cuisine because by the time I leave Philadelphia it will feel as if a pair of chopsticks has been fused to my hands ...!

Monday, May 24, 2010


It was a case of Mind Over Mood at 7th and Montana this morning as an attractive young woman seemed intent on multi-tasking her way to Nirvana: It sounded like she was chewing someone out on the phone ("I'm sick of it, just sick of it," she said, sternly), while at the same time she was reading a textbook called "Mind Over Mood." I decided to take a page from her book, figuratively speaking, as I left Los Angeles for a series of meetings in Philadelphia.

I've always liked Philadelphia. It's a great city -- known for its blend of old and new. I went to school here, so, with any luck, I'll get a chance to revisit some of my old haunts. This afternoon I took a walk around my hotel, which is across from the City Hall, right next to the Masonic Temple at the corner of Broad and Filbert (the older building in the photo above). The Temple dates to 1868 and is a major tourist attraction. The tall glass skyscraper to the left is Comcast headquarters, where my meetings are.

Not far from the Temple, I ran into a character worthy of 7th and Montana: a Local Loon with a song in his heart. He was zig-zagging his way up and down Juniper Street in a Motor Scooter, singing "Moon River" at the top of his lungs through a megaphone. It was so painful to listen to, that I gave him a dollar to stop ... but he didn't. He merely changed his tune to "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head." I didn't have the heart to tell him it wasn't raining.

From there, it was on to dinner with a colleague at Morimoto, a Japanese restaurant owned by Food Network Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto. Morimoto is famous for his creative fusion of Japanese and American styles. I had "Omakase," which means Chef's choice, a sampling of various dishes. Every one of them was great. So great, in fact, that I would have gladly eaten a tentacle if it appeared on my plate. Now that's what I call Mind Over Mood ...!

Sunday, May 23, 2010


The weatherman predicted it would be raining cats and dogs today at 7th and Montana ... but all we got were Cats. Mel and Paulette's granddaughter made the scene wearing the latest in feline fashion -- from her whiskers and fur right down to her tail. But at least -- unlike so many before her -- she had a purrfectly good reason for wearing a costume: She was in her school play. Rumor has it they were doing Othello ...!


Tempers were flaring at 7th and Montana this morning as yet another gaggle of census workers descended on Our Favorite Starbucks, taking up two tables without so much as ordering a Fritter. The Ringleader, an abrasive woman wearing a Panama hat that looked like it had crossed the border illegally, went for a land grab. "Is this seat taken?," she asked, snatching one of the chairs at my table. "Yes," said Joyce, sternly. Howard tried to direct the woman to what looked like an empty table nearby, only to learn that it had already been commandeered by her colleagues. "Oh well," he said, "They're only Census workers ... they don't count!"

Saturday, May 22, 2010


A collective chill ran up the spine of the crowd at 7th and Montana this morning as "The Handmaiden," owner of the Fancy Schmancy Cafe across the street from Our Favorite Starbucks, made the scene. Known for her tendency to drop bagels on the floor, then serve them up with her bare hands to unsuspecting customers, the Handmaiden has become something of a local legend on Montana Avenue. How she gets away with charging twice the price of other cafes for dusty bagels is anyone's guess. "Maybe she adds 50 cents per bounce," said one witness. If that's the case, I shudder to think where her Chicken Fingers have been ...!

Friday, May 21, 2010


Quick, call the Audubon Society! One of the rarest birds in North America -- the Yellow-Breasted Booby -- was spotted this morning at 7th and Montana ... and what a spectacle she was. Riding her customized Booby-Cycle, a 1950s-style vintage bike festooned with stuffed animals and plastic flowers, and wearing her signature yellow vest, she resembled nothing if not a Loon. But trust me, she's every inch a Booby. She stopped briefly at the corner of 7th and San Vicente, whistled a little tune to her various stuffed animals, and continued along her merry way. Some say she was rushing to tend to her brood, but I think she's more of an empty-nester. All evidence suggests that she's seen more than one Booby hatch in her day ...!

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Mark your calendars, folks: Rumor has it that on June 8th and 9th, the "powers that be" will cover the nearly vacant building across from Our Favorite Starbucks with a Gargantuan, Plastic Tarp. "We're spraying," said a source close to the situation. "Really?," I replied, "Is the building infested with bugs?" "Ha, Ha, Ha," said the Source, evading my question, "We spray and spray and spray before the new tenant arrives." I should hope so. The new tenant-in-question is a sandwich shop. For the sake of the lunch crowd, let's hope the landlord doesn't run out of TARP funds ...!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


It was raining this morning at 7th and Montana ... and you know what that means: "Noah," the local ne'er-do-well with a taste for all things nautical, made the scene, intent on riding out the flood. He weighed anchor by the curb on 7th Street, venturing inside only long enough to wring out his beard. "I think I smell an Ararat," said one witness. "Not to worry," I replied, "His ark is worse than his bite ...!"

Monday, May 17, 2010


A Corpse is a Corpse, of Course, of Course ... but don't just take my word for it. Ask Jack (pictured above), the proud owner of a Golden Retriever named Gigolo with a special talent: He digs-up corpses. "Wow," I said, "How exactly did you discover this gift?" I couldn't help wondering whether Gigolo as a puppy surprised the family by playing fetch with a fibula. "We trained him," said Jack, whose wife is a volunteer for the Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals, "We started off small -- with drops of blood -- and expanded from there." Today, Gigolo volunteers his time as a search and rescue dog, but rumor has it he's planning to join the Peace Corpse!

Sunday, May 16, 2010


It was a recipe for murder at 7th and Montana this morning as word spread regarding one of the most bizarre mysteries to hit the neighborhood since the Jittery Nutcase disappeared under police escort. Celebrity Chef Juan-Carlos Cruz -- otherwise known as the Food Network's "Calorie Commando" -- has been arrested by the Santa Monica Police on charges of solicitation to commit murder. Just how, exactly, does a "Calorie Commando" go rogue? The recipe goes something like this: Take one Crazy Chef, add three homeless men, sprinkle in $1,000 in unmarked bills and bring the mixture to a boil. According to Official Police Reports, Cruz approached three homeless men last week at the corner of Lincoln and California and offered to pay them $1,000 in torn up bills if they'd murder someone for him. "You'll get half now, half when you finish the job," he reportedly said, which I guess was just his way of telling them to clean their plates or there'd be no dessert. The men went straight to the police, who -- after investigating the matter -- promptly arrested Cruz and notified his intended victim. I went to the corner of Lincoln and California today in an effort to tie-up some loose ends, but didn't have much luck. No one seems to know who Cruz' intended victim was, but one man (pictured above) gave me a solid lead. "Something tells me it wasn't the Pillsbury Doughboy," he said. Cruz is being held on $5 million bail.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


It was lights, camera, action at 7th and Montana this morning as the stars turned out in record numbers. No doubt -- like me -- they were hoping for a chance to catch the Notorious Neighborhood Newspaper Thief in action. California's first lady, Maria (pictured above) made the scene with her brother, Our Favorite City Councilman. Desperate Housewife Marcia (pictured below) arrived moments later, apparently desperate for a latte. Sorry about the poor quality of these photos -- a dark shot of Maria and a clear image of the back of Marcia's head -- but, unfortunately, people who are in the public eye are always on the lookout for Spycams. At least I got photos of them, which is more than I can say in the case of Steven Spielberg, who made the scene earlier this week. His order -- a Grande, No Fat, Three Pump Chai Latte, no water, no foam -- was longer than Schindler's List. At least the Baristas got it done in one take ...!

Friday, May 14, 2010


Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Pippi Le Pew, a mysterious Femme Fatale who nearly killed the crowd at 7th and Montana tonight with her Peculiar Aroma. There I was, minding my own business, helping Kathy and Genevieve finish-up today's Crossword, when a cloud of what can only be described as "Essence of Diaper" floated in our direction. It smelled like someone slipped a gallon of baby powder into the Espresso machine. "Ooh Baby, Baby," said Genevieve, already thinking of a headline for my blog. "I just wish she'd take a powder," muttered Kathy. As for me, I couldn't help wondering whether she's the type to kiss and talc ...!


It was curtains yesterday at 7th and Montana for an Anonymous Fashion Victim who made the scene at Our Favorite Starbucks wearing what looked like a set of vintage drapes that she pulled fresh from the window at Archie Bunker's place. "Yikes," said one witness, "Maybe she's trying to 'spare the rod'!" "I don't know about that," I replied, "I'd say she's keeping Rod pretty busy ... Rod Serling, that is." As for the woman, she was last seen heading due East on Montana. Rumor has it she was window shopping ...!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


This just in: My two-year-old nephew, Jackson, played a game of "shock the pediatrician" today when -- during an otherwise routine check-up -- he grabbed his sister Leah's pacifier and gave it a good toss. "Dr. Larson," he said, "I throwed Leah's passy in the Bio-Hazard Bin!" The doctor was shocked, not at Jackson's behavior, but that he actually read the warning label on the bin and figured out that it said "Bio-Hazard." He's been sounding out words for a while now, but that one was a surprise. As for Leah, she didn't miss her Pacifier one bit. My sister travels with a whole bag of replacements ...!


It was a case of Island Fever this morning at 7th and Montana as Howard and Cathy's friend, Island, made the scene from New York, just in time for the Jackson Browne concert to benefit the Vail Jazz Foundation. I didn't waste any time asking him about his name. "Yes, it's Island," he confirmed, "My parents were thinking of the Carribbean." Personally, I think the name is kind of catchy ... and let's face it, there are worse things than being an Island. It sure beats being in-continent ...!

Monday, May 10, 2010


Tongues were wagging at 7th and Montana this morning as an Anonymous Tipster spilled the beans regarding potential plans at the nearly vacant building across from Our Favorite Starbucks. Ever since Blockbuster Video closed, locals have been speculating about what should move in. Some want a book store. Others want a gym. Our Friendly Neighborhood Antagonist thinks we need a Hooters. As it turns out, none of these ideas are in the pipeline. Current front-runners -- businesses who have been looking at the space so far -- include a multi-national bank (rhymes with "Pace" and is based in Manhattan) and a national drug store (Can't diVulge this Secret) ...!

Sunday, May 9, 2010


Ladies and Gentlemen, meet "The Bounty Hunter," the Local Clod who has made a career of searching not for escaped felons but for Bounty, the Quicker Picker Upper. He made the scene at 7th and Montana yesterday like an accident waiting to happen. Moments after he sat down, he reached for his coffee cup, gave it a big squeeze and popped it like an over-inflated balloon. Coffee went flying in all directions, mostly landing on the couple sitting at the table beside him. "Oops-a-Daisy," he said, "I'd better go get myself another cup." The drenched couple wiped themselves off and left. By the time the Bounty Hunter returned with his refill, a new victim -- a man in his early forties -- had taken their place. "Howdy," said the Bounty Hunter, hoisting his cup in a mock toast. Once again, he squeezed too hard and the cup exploded, sending its contents into space like a projectile missile. Something tells me it's time for the Bounty Hunter to change his tune. Maybe he should switch to Charmin. A little counseling from Mr. Whipple wouldn't hurt, either ...!

Saturday, May 8, 2010


It was a Taste of Bollywood at 7th and Montana this morning as a pair of Delhi Delinquents made the scene, intent on raising a ruckus. Both of them were pushing Baby Carriages filled to the brim with garbage bags, loose articles of clothing and miscellaneous musical instruments. One of them had a boom box which blared a fast-paced Indian pop number featuring lots of high-pitched whining accompanied by a sitar. The other babbled in tongues and danced up and down 7th Street.

"Yikes," said Richard, "There's a real Plethora of Weirdness around here this morning. What do you think they're up to?" "Maybe they're auditioning," I said. Sure enough, they were standing right behind Neighbor Tom, host of ABC-TV's "Dancing with the Stars." Rumor has it they're going for a spin-off: "Dancing with the Sitars."