Wednesday, March 30, 2011


It was Bye Bye Blockbuster once and for all at 7th and Montana this morning as a crew of workers removed the last vestiges of Blockbuster Video -- the 'ghosted' remains of the Blockbuster sign -- from the building across from Our Favorite Starbucks. Poor Blockbuster. They've been crushed by their debt ratio and punished by Wall Street for not being more like Netflix ... despite the fact that they actually do a lot of the same things Netflix does. Oh, well. Onward and upward I always say. Signs in the window of the former Blockbuster suggest that Chase Bank will be moving in soon ...!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


In case you missed it, Plum Balls are on sale at Whole Foods this week for only $15.99. Yes, you heard me right: Plum Balls. They're imported from Japan and come four to a pack. "I'll bet they taste just like chicken," said a fellow shopper who noticed me taking a photo of the packaging. Speaking as someone who has been served a plate of fish testicles in Japan (on December 11, 2008 in Miyazaki to be exact), I had my doubts. "I think I'm going to buy a box, just to try it" said the shopper. "More power to you," I replied, "The ball's in your court ...!"

Monday, March 28, 2011


They say that "love makes the world go 'round." That might be true, but a precocious young man found another way to keep things spinning at 7th and Montana this morning. He walked right to the middle of the store -- not too far from the pastry case -- and spun around in place for as long as he could stand it, just to see what would happen. What happened is he started staggering around and bumping into people. Maybe a nice Apple Fritter would anchor him in place ...!


It was a case of Turban Renewal today at the Whole Foods in Beverly Hills as an attractive woman wearing a tight-fitting turban made the scene at the "lunch counter." Don't get me wrong, I like turbans as much as the next guy, but I couldn't help noticing that she didn't buy anything. She was playing backgammon and -- unless I'm mistaken -- reading her friend's palm. I don't know how long she was sitting there, but I couldn't help noticing that a security guard was watching her very closely. Something tells me you don't need to be a palm reader to predict her future: A change of venue ...!

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Eyes were popping at 7th and Montana yesterday as a would-be Tsarina made the scene. Far be it from me to Russian to judgment, but surely someone -- maybe a good friend -- could find a polite way to tell this woman that her hat looked like a dead Chipmunk from Chernobyl. I'd have said something myself, but she was obviously in a rush. She ordered a coffee to go and Trotskied out the door ...!

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Ladies and Gentlemen, meet "Mr. Burpee," a top-seeded belcher who announced his presence at 7th and Montana this morning with what just might be the world's loudest burp. He somehow slipped it in the middle of a sentence that went something like this: "Oh, I don't know, we'll figure something out ... BUUUUUUUUUUUUUURP ... then, again, maybe we won't." Birds stopped chirping; Dogs stopped barking; Everyone looked in his direction. But Mr. Burpee just went right on talking as if nothing happened. "I guess it could have been worse," said one onlooker, "It could have come out the other end ...!"


Ever wonder what happens to all those day-old Fritters -- and other pastries -- when they're done 'serving time' in the display case at 7th and Montana? It turns they're donated to a good cause, Cherry Picked, which by coincidence is run by an old friend of mine named Justine. Imagine my surprise yesterday when Justine, who I hadn't seen in nearly 15 years, walked into Our Favorite Starbucks, grabbed a bag of day-old Fritters (pictured above), and start heading out the door. I gawked at her in disbelief, waiting for that glimmer of recognition on her part before I asked what she was up to. It turns out that she delivers all the pastry to local food banks. In addition, her charity -- "a just cause foundation" -- runs a thift shop on Pico. Proceeds go to St. Augustine's Volunteer Emergency Services (S.A.V.E.S), which provides food and clothing to needy people, and Harvest Home, a maternity home in Venice which provides shelter and support to pregnant women. Justine believes that "help starts at home" and she sure has lent a helping hand to those in need. She's currently looking for more just causes to support, especially in the areas of animal rescue, drug and alcohol rehabilitation and support for the military.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


You'd better watch out, you'd better not cry ... and you'd better keep your distance. A demented, would-be Santa Claus made the scene at 7th and Montana this morning ... and something tells me he wasn't in the mood for any reindeer games. He had a white beard, carried a large sack over his shoulder and muttered "ho, ho, ho" as he paced back and forth in front of the men's room door. He wasn't as heavy as Santa, but give him an Apple Fritter or two and, mark my words, we'll have our own miracle on 42nd Street ...!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


7th and Montana is turning into a real hub for bicyclists. It used to be you'd see them mainly on the weekends but lately I've noticed that more folks have been racing around in their Lycra bodysuits during the workweek, too. Today I was nearly mowed down by one (pictured above, to the left) as I was walking down 7th Street. I was crossing at an intersection ... and the cyclist barrelled through a stop sign without so much as slowing down. Seriously, aren't bike riders supposed to obey the rules of the road, too ...?

Monday, March 21, 2011


Ear drums were bursting at 7th and Montana this morning as the man known as "Mr. Megaphone" (a.k.a. Loudie McLoud) made the scene, yammering as usual so loudly on his cell phone that the walls were rumbling. Famous for once chasing Arnold Schwarzenegger up 7th Street yelling "Stop, Aaarnold ... I have an idea for you!!!," Mr. Megaphone is something of a local legend. When he talks, people listen. They can't help it. Yesterday, for example, he was screaming the details of his "hot date" on Saturday into the cell phone. Judging from his description, she seems to have everything going for her. I just hope she has ear plugs ...!


Eyes were popping at 7th and Montana yesterday as an Anonymous Newcomer whipped out a camera and started taking a series of photos inside Our Favorite Starbucks, using her flash. "Good God," I thought, "I hope the poor woman can make bail ... the Starbucks Police are liable to throw her in the pokey, at least if one Misguided Barista has anything to say about it." I shutter to think about it. On the other hand, maybe they serve Grande Drips in San Quentin ...!

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Forth Worth is a walkable city. I know because I spent this morning walking just about every inch of downtown, from my hotel by Houston and 13th, through Heritage Park and across the Trinity River and back. Much of the city was built in the 1890s and, astonishingly, the buildings hardly show their age. Brick rowhouses, art deco high rises ... they all look like they could have been built yesterday. It's a historic preservationist's dream. The Tarrant County Courthouse (pictured above), an impressive pink granite structure, was built in 1895 for a cost of $408,840. The townspeople at the time considered it such an unnecessary extravagance that they replaced the entire county commissioner's court. The city had fallen on tough times after the Civil War and something tells me their wounds never quite healed. Right in front of the Courthouse stands a monument to fallen Confederate Soldiers, erected by the Daughters of the Confederacy in 1953.

Fort Worth was named for Major William Jenkins Worth, a leader in the Mexican-American War in 1846. Worth, who after the war was placed in command of the Department of Texas, proposed a line of ten forts along the Texas frontier, then died one month later of cholera. His uniform (pictured above) is on display in a special exhibit -- "150 Years of Fort Worth" -- at the Fort Worth Museum.

Main Street has always been lined with interesting shops and restaurants, mostly housed in red brick rowhouses like the one pictured above. It was in one of these buildings in 1901 that a local photographer named John Swartz got his big break. A group of young men posed for a photo and Swartz was so pleased with the result that he displayed it in his store window. It turns out he had taken one of the only known photos of Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid and their Wild Bunch.

The picture ended up on wanted posters all over the country. The Sundance Kid is seated to the left and Butch Cassidy is seated to the right. They were never captured ... except, of course, in Swartz' photo.

No trip to Fort Worth would be complete without a visit to the Stockyards, the one-time center of the livestock industry which put Fort Worth on the map. Today, the Stockyard is a bit touristy. Every day at 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., weather permitting, a team of cowboys walks a group of bulls from the train station to the Stockyard before a crowd of cheering tourists. The bulls walk slowly ... and you can tell they're well used to their routine. "Pamplona, it's not!," said one of my colleagues, in reference to the famous "Running of the Bulls."

I ended my tour at the site of Hell's Half Acre. In its day, it was the most notorious district in town, known for its saloons, dance parlors and bordellos. The Fort Worth Democrat, a major newspaper in the late 1800s, described the area as a beacon for "lewd women of all ages 16 to 40, the most despicable of citizens and the experienced thief." Today, it's an Aerated Water Pool, designed in the 1970s by architects Philip Johnson and John Burgee. Their vision was to give visitors the impression that they could walk across the pool on tiles made of spraying water. I guess that's one way to clean the neighborhood up ...!

Friday, March 18, 2011


Eyes were popping at the Starbucks on Houston Avenue this morning when a Poor Shlubb ordered a simple bowl of Oatmeal and got less than he bargained for. Let me explain. I made the scene at about 7:30 a.m. and ordered a bowl of oatmeal and a banana. “That looks good,” said the Shlubb. “It is,” I replied, “And it’s good for you, too.” The Shlubb followed my lead and also ordered a bowl of Oatmeal. Five minutes later, all Hell broke loose. “Excuse me,” he said to the Barista on duty, “Can I have a spoon?” “No you may not,” said the Barista, curtly. “Seriously … I can’t get a spoon?!?,” the Shlubb repeated, his voice rising. “That’s right,” said the Barista, “No spoon for you! We’re out of spoons.” “What’s that I see right there … isn’t that a pile of spoons?,” said the Shlubb. “No. They’re not spoons,” said the Barista, sweeping a pile of what looked like plastic spoons out of sight. “How am I supposed to eat my Oatmeal, then?,” cried the Shlubb, “And what about him … did he get a spoon?” The Shlubb pointed in my direction. “Don’t drag me into this,” I laughed, waving my spoon in his direction, “This is strictly between you and that Spoon-atic behind the counter.” In the end, the Barista handed the Shlubb a fork and suggested he make do ...!

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Eureka! I've finally found something in the "pastry case" at Starbucks that looks even more repulsive than the Apple Fritter. Ladies and Gentlemen, meet the "Sausage-Egg-Cheddar," an Egg McMuffin-like combination of scrambled eggs, sausage and cheese. I'm sure it's tasty, but presentation is everything and for some reason Starbucks seems intent on leaving a "display version" of this sandwich on the shelf for hours on end. The egg and cheese in the version pictured above had visibly congealed by the time I crossed its path and the meat sported a glistening coat of grease. If you ask me, they'd be better off just showing a picture of it on the menu rather than trying to display a sample alongside the baked goods.


Leapin' Leprechauns: A Rogue Elf made the scene this morning at the Starbucks on Houston Street in Ft. Worth, and I'll be damned if she wasn't up to something. Her pot of gold, a green, plastic bucket which dangled from her left arm, was entirely empty. She wore a green velvet dress, matching striped stockings, elfin buckle shoes and a green cap. "Oy," I said, "Here we go, again!" "What do you mean?," she asked. "Nothing personal, but I seem to run into costumed loons at every Starbucks I go to, all over the world." She shot me a look like she wanted to hit me over the head with a shillelagh and said, "What costume?!?" Then she laughed and danced a jig in place. Moments later, she was gone. "Excuse me," she called, "But I have to go mingle with the masses." Was she a real Leprechaun or just a tipsy local loon? Your Guinness is as good as mine ...!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Fort Worth is an interesting town. It was established in 1849 as an army outpost on a bluff overlooking the Trinity River (pictured above). It quickly evolved from a sleepy outpost to a bustling mecca when it became a stop along the Chisholm Trail, the legendary path where cows were led to market. Even today, the Stockyards, just North of downtown, remain a center of activity for the livestock industry. Thus far, I've only been able to see the area of Fort Worth that surrounds my hotel, the Sundance Square, and I have to say it seems like a ghost town. Virtually no one was out and about when I took a brief walk yesterday, except perhaps for an Unusual Topiary Cowboy stationed in front of the Plaza Hotel building, a saloon dating back to 1908 which apparently rented "guest rooms" by the hour.

I couldn't tell whether the Topiary Cowboy was waving hello to passersby (which in this case was just me) or waving a gun. But that's not what interested me the most.

In case you're wondering, the cowboy's distinctive Topiary Horse didn't shit rose petals. I checked ...!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Someone call NASA: The Space Shuttle seems to have landed ... smack dab in the middle of Highway 121 near the Dallas Fort Worth Airport. I arrived in Texas last night for a series of meetings and hadn't been here for ten minutes when a contraption resembling a space ship pulled out of nowhere and zipped passed the taxi I was in. Like the space shuttle, it was white with a streamlined, cone-shaped tip and an impressive cockpit that would do the Starship Enterprise proud. It was doing 65 miles per hour. "What the hell was that?," I asked the cab driver. "I don't know," he said, "A UFO, maybe?" I'd say "Houston, we have a problem" ... except I'm in Fort Worth!

Sunday, March 13, 2011


It was horns a-plenty at 7th and Montana this morning as "Mrs. Buttersworth," the woman known for driving one mile per hour down Montana, then parking her car in the middle of 7th Street, made the scene after a year-long hiatus. "Look everyone, she's back!," I cried in delight, "You know what that means ...!" Mrs. Buttersworth is nothing if not predictable. She always leaves her car -- a late model Prius -- parked in the bus lane in front of Our Favorite Starbucks, then slowly, methodically meanders her way to every lightpost in a 20-foot radius. Some say she's merely sniffing around, marking her territory, but I know better. She's on the prowl for any signs promoting neighborhood garage sales. And like Mrs. Buttersworth, she takes her own sweet time ...!

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Ladies and Gentlemen, meet the Foot Soldier, a merciless mercenary who declared war on anyone looking for a chair this morning at 7th and Montana. Despite the fact that it was "standing room only," the Foot Soldier felt it necessary to keep an extra chair for himself as a foot stool. I watched in disgust as he ignored three people who were each making the rounds looking for a chair. Now that's what I call an Evil Sole ...!


It was a swell time at 7th and Montana yesterday ... at least I assume so, given that authorities were estimating that swells of up-to-five feet were surging their way to Santa Monica, the result of the devastating 8.9 magnitude earthquake that hit Japan on Friday. A Tsunami, they said, would hit our coast at 8:36 a.m. By 7:36, I was safely ensconced at Peet's, which is 14 blocks inland. Granted, a series of bluffs which are over 300-feet high in some places separates us from the beach, but why take chances? Besides Peet's is nothing if not safe. There's never a loon in sight. "Aha," said one regular pointing at my Spycam and notepad, "I know what you're up to!" And he did ... at least some of the crowd at 14th and Montana seems to know about my blog. "Oh, it's not what you think," I replied, "I'm expecting a conference call." Truth be told, I was looking for something -- anything -- that might be newsworthy. "We're in the midst of our annual brewing event," said one of the Baristas, "That means you can get 30 percent off on a coffee maker." Yawn. Meanwhile, it was also a "yawn" for the idiots who chose to camp out at the Pier watching for the Tsunami. According to The Los Angeles Times, "rubberneckers were mostly disappointed ... gently crashing waves lapped along the shore ...!"

Thursday, March 10, 2011


I made it home safe and sound yesterday after a grueling day of travel. If you can believe it, I had breakfast in Barcelona, lunch in Frankfurt and dinner in Santa Monica (pictured above). In between, I sat trapped on Lufthansa Flight 8845 with a group of 15 Egyptian high school students who were traveling to Los Angeles to take the SAT. I hope while they're here someone also tests them for Attention Deficit Disorder. They spent the whole flight yelling, throwing things at each other and changing their seats. The Flight Attendant tried to quiet them down repeatedly but they only laughed in her face and babbled to each other in Egyptian. By the end of the flight I was ready to call the Keystone Coptics ...!


It was Carpe Diem -- or "Seize the Day" -- in Barcelona on Tuesday as I spent the day at a press event talking about the next generation of consumer electronics devices -- and how they will all work together -- then made the scene at a dinner at one of the nicest spots in the city. First, the event: My company hosted hundreds of journalists from all over the world, briefing them on everything from the latest innovations in television and audio-video products to green, environmentally friendly products. My role was to answer questions about "interoperability," new ways that products such as connected TVs will work together with tablets, PCs, cell phones, and audio-video systems. For example, through a new Smart TV service we developed -- and a special iPad/iPhone and Android application -- you can control a number of different products and stream content from one device to another. You can also enjoy video-on-demand movies and TV content from the Internet or record your favorite shows. After the event, we hosted a dinner party at Carpe Diem, an Asian-style hot spot on the Mediterranean, along Barcelona's popular Marina Beach. We had a special guest performer, Jazz artist Benjamin Herman (pictured above) and his band. All in all, I'd say we seized the day pretty nicely ...!

Monday, March 7, 2011


I made it to Barcelona safe and sound today. Barcelona is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but you wouldn't know it from this photo, which was taken from my hotel. For a glimpse at some of the architectural treasures around here, I guess all I can do for now is point to my entry about them from last year: Barcelona. I've been in meetings from the moment I arrived and they're likely to continue throughout tomorrow. I'm here to talk to reporters about 'interoperability,' how you'll be able to wirelessly share content between TVs, tablets, cell phones and other devices in the future. It's a nice topic, but it'll keep me pretty busy while I'm here ...!

Sunday, March 6, 2011


I felt like a real Haarlem Globetrotter this afternoon as a colleague invited me to her home in Haarlem, a city dating back to pre-medieval times just outside of Amsterdam. Haarlem has a rich history. From the earliest days, the residents had to fight against the waters of the North Sea on the West and the Haarlem Lake on the East. In fact, the name Haarlem comes from the Dutch word "Haarloheim" which means "place on sand covered in trees, higher than the others." I understand that to this day kids are taught to respect the grasses on the dunes whose long roots still protect the land from erosion. During the famous "Tulip Mania" of the 1600's -- when tulip bulbs were sold for outrageous sums -- Haarlem became a major center of the Dutch tulip trade. Just walking the city streets is like reading a history book. One of my favorite stories is of the Catholic church pictured above. When it was being built in the late 1800's, local residents split into two groups -- one group of men and the other of women -- to build two clock towers. The women, so the story goes, raised the money for their tower almost immediately and were subsequently able to fund the construction of the tower to the left. The men, on the other hand, weren't quite so lucky. They raised the funds alright, but spent a lot of the proceeds on massive beer parties (Haarlem had quite a few breweries at the time). As a result, they couldn't afford to add a clock to the tower on the right. I'll bet they got their clocks cleaned over that one ...!


Thanks to the wonders of the Internet -- and the nine-hour time difference between Santa Monica and Amsterdam -- I was able to tackle the Los Angeles Times Crossword before daybreak in California. I'll be out exploring the Netherlands but if certain people are in need of any hints, just text me ...!

Saturday, March 5, 2011


I knew there was a reason I liked the Starbucks in Utrecht. If the cast of characters who made the scene there this morning is any indication, it's the next best thing to 7th and Montana. Take the "Pink Pimp" (pictured above) who was standing in front of me in line. He was decked out in a bright pink, feathered hat, with a matching boa and gloves. Oh, and his face was covered in silver polkadots.

Then there was the "Milk Maid," an Unfortunate Fashion Victim who wore a circa 1600 Dutch Milkmaid Hat with blond braids and multiple, multi-colored boas. She looked like Heidi on acid, but that was nothing ...

... Her boyfriend was dressed like the Frito Bandito.
Last but not least, I couldn't help noticing the oddball pictured above who was making a withdrawal from a nearby ATM. He was wearing a pair of colorful underwear over white sweatpants, with wooden shoes and a blue blazer. I guess nobody told him you're not supposed to wear wooden shoes after Labor Day! In case you're wondering, all the zaniness can be attributed to the fact that it's Carnaval, a holiday which around here is something like a cross between a pub crawl and Halloween.

Friday, March 4, 2011


I've been to the Netherlands a lot, but one thing I've always wondered was why there seem to be so few Starbucks around here. For years, it seemed like you could only find Starbucks at the airport. But if the Starbucks I visited today at the Utrecht train station is any indication, all of that seems to be changing. First of all, it was a model of efficiency. It was overflowing with customers, though the line moved quickly. Drinks were prepared by a team of five Baristas working along side each other like they were in an assembly line. Two people kept the cash registers whirring at a dizzying pace. You could also tell that Starbucks regional management was on an inspection tour. The couple pictured above were walking through the store inspecting everything closely. Two more "corporate types" were sitting at the bar. I sat next to one of them -- a friendly-looking executive who was busy reviewing pictures of coffee beans on her laptop -- and asked her what was going on. "We're expanding," she said, "In fact, we're opening another location here in Utrecht in just a few days." "Really?," I asked, "Where will it be?" I know Utrecht pretty well ... it's a quaint, University town with a lot of history and I was trying to imagine where another Starbucks might fit in. "Just 28 steps away from this one," she answered, cheerfully. Business is evidently booming so much that they need to open another location steps away just to handle the overflow. All-in-all, I'd have to say this was one of the best experiences I've had at a Starbucks outside of the U.S. They're even "camera-friendly." Several customers were walking around taking photos and one man was even shooting a video. You can bet I'll be back ...!

Thursday, March 3, 2011


I made it to Amsterdam safe and sound ... sort of. There I was this morning, rushing to a meeting, when I stumbled across a couple of ghouls hanging out in the Dam Square. "What is this the Dam square or the Damned Square?," I asked. They didn't laugh. The ghoul on the left waived his sycthe in my direction. I threw him a Euro and continued along my merry way. That's what I like about Amsterdam ... it's so much like home!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


After a solid week of photographing pastry, I was afraid my Spycam skills were getting rusty. So I whipped out my cell phone and decided to do a little practice drill with the gentleman sitting next to me in the United Red Carpet Lounge. I took his picture, edited it to protect his identity and uploaded it to my blog, all while carrying on a conversation with him. In fact, we're still talking right now. I guess operating a Spycam is like riding a bike ... you never forget how to do it ...!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


It was a mystery for the ages this morning at 7th and Montana as an Anonymous Corporate Type made the scene carrying a binder with the Starbucks logo on it. She sat near me and carefully thumbed through the pages of her binder, looking up every so often at her surroundings and clucking her tongue quietly. Over the years, I've come to recognize the regional Starbucks management and, unless she's new, she wasn't one of them. She was eventually joined by a colleague, and -- together -- they moved to a quieter, corner table. They were hunched over a laptop, looking at the Starbucks website, and speaking in muffled tones. My guess is they were visitors from Starbucks headquarters ...