Saturday, April 30, 2011


Sparks were flying at 7th and Montana this morning as an Inconsiderate Smoker puffed away in front of Our Favorite Starbucks, then tossed his cigarette in the trash and walked away. Moments later, a small fire erupted in the trash can. While some folks tried to put the fire out, an Anonymous Pyromaniac (pictured above) deliberately threw a plastic lid into the flames and laughed. I guess that's one way to get the neighborhood all fired up ...

Friday, April 29, 2011


Changes are brewing at 7th and Montana: Chase Bank has finally moved-in to the space formerly occupied by Blockbuster Video. In case the large "Now Open" sign and friendly welcomers weren't enough, Bankers-in-Suits have been chasing after folks trying to drum-up business. I have nothing against Chase, but ever since the economy took a nosedive I've had mixed feelings about the Big Banks in general. It seems to me that banks and mortgage companies played a major role in getting us into this mess, offering high-risk mortgages to folks who bought-in over their heads. When that didn't work out, the banks -- including Chase -- needed 'We the People' to bail them out. They've returned the favor by turning the thumbscrews on us. Now a lot of folks who should be qualified to get a mortgage find themselves left out in the cold. Maybe I'm wrong, but it just feels like most of the Big Banks have betrayed our trust. Until they earn it back, they can Chase after my business all they want ... I'm not biting. Unless, of course, they throw in a free toaster ...


The folks at 7th and Montana proved once again yesterday that kindness counts. I've been under the weather this week. It's nothing major, but as I was recovering from food poisoning, a minor cold set in. When the Baristas at Our Favorite Starbucks heard, they gave me a free, special "Starbucks Cold Cure": a combination of mint and chamomile teas blended together with honey. I added lemon to it when I got home. Whether it was the tea or not, I can't say, but I'm feeling better already!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


UBetter watch out. UBetter not cry. UFood -- the fast food chain that tried to live at the intersection of "delicious and nutritious" -- most likely served me up a helping heaping of food poisoning on Sunday. I made the scene at their location at Logan Airport in Boston on Sunday night and, while I like the idea of nutritious fast food on the go, I was suspicious from the start. The cashier who took my order wore soaking wet rubber gloves that dripped all over the money I gave him and the change he handed back to me. At first I didn't think anything of it. I was more annoyed with his attitude. He tried to mix what looked like Arabic currency with my change and, when I pointed it out and asked for American currency, he seemed angry at me. In any case, the idea of touching sopping wet money right before eating was enough of a concern that I doused my hands with Purell. I ordered a vegetable-rice dish with tofu and ate it quickly before my flight. About five hours later, I knew something was wrong. My stomach was rumbling and I felt queasy. By the time we landed, I knew it was food poisoning. While I can't prove UFood was responsible, nothing else I ate on Sunday (or Saturday for that matter) would have caused it. I guess there's a lesson in here somewhere. Next time you're at UFood, speak clearly. The cashier probably thought I said Ptomaine instead of Tofu ...!

Sunday, April 24, 2011


"How about a little fireball, Scarecrow?" That's all I could think of last night at the famed Capriccio restaurant in Providence as a tuxedoed waiter stood behind me and demonstrated what the fine art of flambe is all about. Flames shot at least three feet in the air and, for a quick minute, I wasn't sure whether to scampi or scamper. But flambe is a specialty of the house at Capriccio and last night was no exception. The restaurant itself is carved out of the cellars of a registered landmark building near the popular Riverwalk in Providence. It's a great place to spend time with your family, as I did, or take an Old Flame. To quote my sister, "This place it hot ...!"

Friday, April 22, 2011


A funny thing happened since my last visit to see my family in Massachusetts; My three-and-a-half year old nephew, Jackson (pictured above on the drums), has turned into a budding, young comedian and his little sister, my niece, Leah, has developed a real sense of humor. Jackson told the following joke yesterday: A duck walks into a pharmacy to buy a tube of chapstick. The pharmacist asks, "How are you going to pay for that." The duck says, "Just put it on my bill!" Jackson delivered this joke with perfect timing, paused just long enough for me to laugh, and said, "I'm here all week!" Leah (pictured below) thought this was the funniest thing she'd ever heard. Then, again, she's only a year old ...!

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Airport Food has never been much to write home about but, as I learned yesterday, at least one company is trying to change that image. The San Francisco Soup Company, located in the San Francisco Airport, has recruited the Easter Bunny to drum up some business. "Easter Bunny Says HI, Eat Soup!," said a message on the cash register display. As if Easter wasn't already commercial enough, now they have Peter Cottontail peddling soup?!? "What'll it be?," asked the cashier. "How about a nice bowl of Rabbit Stew?," I replied.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Ladies and gentlemen, meet "Hattie," an anonymous fashion victim who made the scene at the Whole Foods on 15th Street yesterday wearing two hats and two jackets. I couldn't help doing a double-take. She wore a baseball cap atop an extra broad-brimmed sun hat and two jackets -- a windbreaker and a sweatshirt -- were perched on her shoulders. I watched closely as she piled a heaping helping of produce into her cart. Perhaps she was eating for two ...?

Monday, April 18, 2011


A funny thing happened yesterday at the Starbucks on Hollywood Blvd. There I was, minding my own business, when I ran into everyone's favorite celebrity jailbird, Nicolas Cage. For those who haven't heard, a boozed-up Cage was arrested on Saturday in New Orleans on charges of domestic abuse, disturbing the peace and public drunkenness. He's out on $11,000 bail, posted by none other than Reality Star Duane "Dog the Bounty Hunter" Chapman. "Nicolas, Nicolas, Nicolas," I cried, pointing a finger in his direction, "It's time you grew up!" But I might as well have been talking to a wax dummy. He wasn't listening to a word I said. Something tells me there's another Cage in his future ...!

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Ladies and Gentlemen, meet the Rock Star, a recurring loon who performed an impromptu concert at 7th and Montana yesterday: He stood on the sidewalk muttering incoherently for nearly 30-minutes. Some insiders also suspect he's the person who recently tossed a rock through one of the windows at Our Favorite Starbucks. The evidence, however, isn't exactly rock solid ...

Saturday, April 16, 2011


"Why do stars fall down from the sky every time you walk by? Just like me they long to be close to you ..." Say what you will about those lyrics from the 1970's, but a good Carpenter might have come in handy this morning at 7th and Montana -- perhaps to build a concrete barrier -- as an Anonymous Newcomer dragged her table and chair right alongside me. "Is this too close to you?," she asked politely. "No you're fine," I and others answered. But to be honest, I had my doubts. She wasn't bothering anyone, but she did seem a bit too close for comfort. I whipped out my Spycam and pointed it in her direction. Was she pushing the boundaries? I don't know, but at such close proximity one thing was clear: There wasn't any moondust in her hair or gold and starlight in her eyes of blue ...

Friday, April 15, 2011


It was Old Home Week for me yesterday as I revisited my old stomping grounds from when I lived in Palo Alto. Contrary to popular opinion, I didn't live in the Nut House (pictured above). That was just a local hang-out near my condo.

I lived in a quaint neighborhood near Stanford University with tree-lined streets and small, craftsman style cottages. Palo Alto is Spanish for "tall tree" and there are plenty of tall trees in the city. The city, incorporated in 1894, was named for an especially tall Redwood Tree called "El Palo Alto" which even today is part of the official seals of both Palo Alto and Stanford. My neighborhood was originally called Mayfair. Much of it was bought up in 1876 by railroad tycoon and former California Governor Leland Stanford. He originally intended to create a horse farm, but when his son -- Leland Junior -- passed away at the age of 15, his grief-stricken parents turned the land into a world-class University in his memory. Local legend has it that they originally intended to provide a substantial endowment to Harvard, but were snubbed by Harvard President Charles Eliot. Anyhow, by the time the Stanfords created their University, very little was left of quaint, old Mayfair. What remained was "absorbed" into Palo Alto.

When I lived "up North," I didn't go to Starbucks in the mornings. Instead, I went to a cafe called Printers Ink (pictured above). Unfortunately, there were no "local loons" to blog about, but if it's any consolation, Printers Ink is directly across from the "Nut House" and just one block away from the Momentum Mental Health Clinic.

I was in the Valley yesterday to attend some meetings, and -- by coincidence -- one of those turned out to be in my old stomping grounds, as well. Imagine my surprise when I showed up to a meeting at Hewlett-Packard and realized that I was in my old office in Sunnyvale. In fact, my company opened the facility (pictured above, now used by HP) during the Internet boom in the late '90s and one of my assignments at the time was to announce that we were moving in. Everything looks the same, except they've replaced the Philips logo with HP!

I also had a meeting at Google headquarters. Much has been said and written about the fabulous "Googleplex" where so many innovative products -- including Blogger -- are developed, but no one ever really talks about their spare-no-expense bathrooms. Their toilets -- a peculiar brand called "Toto" which I recognized from Japan -- are heated and come complete with a small, interactive touchpad that allows you to oscillate and squirt water at your "rear" or "front." Also, each stall comes complete with informative "Learning on the Loo" reading material. Yesterday's topic was all about improving your negotiating skills. Hell, I think I could use a tip sheet on how to negotiate their bathroom ...!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


If you're like me, you've been wondering "What new taste sensation will the Crack Pastry Chefs at Starbucks come up with next?" Well, at last that question can be answered. Starbucks is in the process of rolling out a series of "Cake Pops" -- little bits of cake perched atop a lollipop stick and coated in what looks like colorful acrylic. I've seen pictures of them at 7th and Montana but it wasn't until this afternoon that I saw one in person at a Starbucks in Beverly Hills. They come in three flavors -- Birthday Cake, Tiramisu and Rocky Road -- and cost $1.50 a pop. Yes, that's $1.50 for what amounts to less than a single bite of cake but look on the bright side, they're packed with calories. Take the Birthday Cake Pop (the bright pink concoction pictured above). It's described as "a party for your palate" though a single bite is 170 calories and it constitutes 25 percent of your "recommended" daily dose of saturated fat. Starbucks calls the pink coating "chocolaty," which of course means there's not an ounce of real chocolate in it. The key ingredients, if you read the fine print, include: sugar, palm kernel oil, monoglycerides and titanium dioxide. "Celebrate Your Birthday Every Day!," says the Starbucks website. I guess the good news is, if you have one or more of these pink beauties every day, you'll probably be put out of your misery before you know it ...!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


It was Spring Cleaning this morning for the "Yellow Breasted Booby," the strange bird known for feathering her nest -- or bicycle as the case may be -- with stuffed animals and plastic flowers. She made the scene at 7th and Montana today with a decidedly smaller menagerie. Gone from their usual perch on her basket were Oscar the Grouch and the Cookie Monster. In their place was a stuffed monkey.

Monday, April 11, 2011


Ladies and Gentlemen, meet the Chameleon, an attractive young woman who changes the color of her hair so frequently it seems to have a mind of its own. Yesterday it was in the Pink. If I didn't know any better, I'd swear she was wearing a cotton candy wig ...!

Sunday, April 10, 2011


There was Trouble in River City this morning as Neighbor Mel spread the word regarding the latest atrocity at Our Favorite Starbucks. "They refuse to get a toaster in there," he said, "Other Starbucks have toasters ... but this one, no. They claim it's because they don't have the capacity to plug anything else in. Now we all have to eat untoasted bagels!" Oh, the suffering! In related news, the man sitting at the next table over -- a Local Loon known for his tendency to screech incoherently (pictured below, right) -- shared some problems of his own. "I thought I was toast," he shouted, launching into his life story, "There I was, training in the Air Force, when I fell out of a whirlybird, head first. Thank God my head hit the asphalt instead of something harder. Would you believe it took them three years at the air force hospital to pick the pieces of asphalt out of my scalp?" All I can say is, I hope they served him toasted bagels ...!

Saturday, April 9, 2011


Anyone who's ever worshiped at the shrine of Starbucks would be happy to know that a prayer circle gathered this morning and conducted a brief ceremony on the sidewalk at 7th and Montana. I was on hand with my Spycam, but couldn't quite make out what they were saying. Some say they were performing an exorcism. Lord knows we have our share of demons in the neighborhood. Others say they were blessing the pastry case. But I think they were making a delivery. Holy Water Cappuccino, anyone ...?

Friday, April 8, 2011


It's tax season and at 7th and Montana that can only mean one thing: The Accountant -- known for spreading out his confidential papers all over Our Favorite Starbucks -- is up to his eyeballs in work. Today he sank his teeth into a nice, juicy project, but much to my surprise, it wasn't a W-2 form. It was a set of dental records, which he left sitting on a chair while he went to the rest room. Holy Molars ...!

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Ladies and Gentlemen, meet the Stickler, an Anonymous Newcomer who made the scene at 7th and Montana this morning with what looked like a white plastic stick hanging out of her mouth. At first I thought it was a cigarette, but that wouldn't be allowed. Then, I thought it was a lollipop, but on closer inspection, it was made out of plastic. It didn't look like a thermometer, either. Whatever it was, it remained in her mouth as she ordered her cappuccino, picked it up and walked out the door. Some say she left it in her mouth when she drank her cappuccino, but I think that would be the last straw ...!


It was my lucky day at 7th and Montana yesterday as an attractive brunette woman proved that 'chivalry' works both ways. She walked into Starbucks ahead of me ... and, since I was just a few steps behind her, she held the door open for me. "Thanks!," I replied. Moments later, when we both got our coffee at about the same time, the cashier asked "Are you two together?" She smiled and said, "Not yet." Hmmmm. Maybe if I said "We are now" she would have paid for my coffee ...!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


One of the things I like most about my job is that I get to go behind-the-scenes at the movie studios and music labels. Sometimes I write about these adventures here, but until this point there's one location I've mostly left alone in my blog: Sony Pictures. The reason for this is that, in my opinion, this lot -- the site of the fabled Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio in Culver City -- has a tragic history. It's a story of mismanagement and greed, complete with a plot worthy of Hollywood. In the "Golden Age" of Hollywood, MGM was king of the heap, the studio everyone wanted to work at, cranking out one blockbuster movie after another. It was the era of the "star system" where actors were under contract to studios and MGM, under Louis B. Mayer, signed, groomed and created a stable of A-List actors. Their motto was "More stars than there are in heaven." But things started getting star-crossed for them when actors became "free agents," signing separate deals with multiple studios. For a studio whose whole branding strategy was based on its actors, this was a disaster ... and it was compounded by a string of flops and mismanagement. To survive, they sold off their vast real estate -- most of the back lot where movies were shot -- and auctioned off movie memorabilia to the highest bidder (which for many items turned out to be Debbie Reynolds). The facility itself ended up in the hands of Lorimar, then Warner Bros. and finally Sony, who bought it in 1990, back when the Japanese were on a Hollywood buying spree. Sony had already acquired Columbia Pictures in 1989, so they just moved everything over to the former MGM lot in Culver City. The building pictured above, the Thalberg Building, was the site of Louis B. Mayer's office and it's named for Irving Thalberg, who died young but was the creative dynamo responsible for much of MGM's success in the 1930s. Mayer must be rolling over in his grave to see the Columbia logo slapped onto his old building. Back in Mayer's day, Columbia -- a struggling "B-list" studio -- was nicknamed "Siberia" by MGM staffers. MGM sometimes "lent" actors to other studios and Mayer sent folks to Columbia when he wanted to punish them.

This is the main walkway through the studio. Sony has made the most of its limited space. At other studios, you'll find "fake" buildings/movie sets where films are shot. At Sony, some of these "fake" storefront buildings -- mostly along this walkway -- serve double-duty as real offices. There are people working inside buildings which look on the outside like shops including an ice cream parlour, bowling alley, sporting goods store and a police station. The original MGM commissary and some of the movie stars dressing rooms are also just off this walkway.

Sony wisely merged Columbia's heritage with MGMs. The result is sort of a mish-mash if you're looking for vestiges of the original MGM. Here is the "Capra Building," named for Director Frank Capra who helped put Columbia on the map.

And here's a shot including old MGM dressing rooms and offices, not far from the original studio commissary, where actors, management and stage hands ate together. One of the actresses under contract to MGM, Marion Davies, had a special dressing room designed just for her (and paid for by her significant other, William Randolph Hearst). When she left MGM, she had the dressing room moved to Santa Monica Canyon, not too far from 7th and Montana, where it's still used as a house. It was up for sale last year for about $2 million, as I recall. As for the MGM studio itself, the company which once practically owned Culver City, what's left of it sits in a nondescript office tower in Century City, a cautionary tale for any business which fails to change with the times.

Monday, April 4, 2011


Eyes were popping at 7th and Montana as the Powers-that-Be placed a new warning sign prominently on display by the condiments bar. "Yikes," I said to one of the Baristas, "According to this warning, we're at risk of exposure to cancer causing chemicals." "Well, that's just one of those things that happen in old buildings like this ... you never know when there might be asbestos or something overhead. Don't worry about it!" "Great," I thought, "Better lay off the powdered donuts." But the warning (pictured above) doesn't say anything about asbestos ... It's all about the coffee. The sign specifically says: "Chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and reproductive toxicity, including acrylamide, are present in coffee, baked goods and other foods or beverages sold here." I guess that's what they mean when they say "Good to the last drop ...!"

Sunday, April 3, 2011


The crowd at 7th and Montana was abuzz this morning as an Anonymous Loon threw a rock through one of the plate glass windows at Our Favorite Starbucks, smashing a hole right through it. The incident must have happened early this morning, but by 10:00 a.m. a glass crew was already removing the window and covering the gap with plywood. You would have thought I was responsible based on the reception I got when I arrived. "Where have you been?," asking Genevieve, "We've been texting you!" Granted, I was a day late and a fritter short, but I flew into action, interviewing potential suspects and trying to establish their alibis. "OK, you got me," joked Screenwriter Nat, "It was payback for their mochaccino!" Rumor has it police have a suspect -- one of the Local Loons who used to be a regular -- but something tells me their case is far from rock solid ...!


Ladies and Gentlemen, meet the Gnome, an Anonymous Loon who has taken to hanging out at 7th and Montana from dawn to dusk. There seems to be some debate regarding his or her gender, but one thing is clear: (S)he resembles a garden gnome with a pointy hooded, oversized fleece jacket, matching pajama bottoms and blue crocs. Why the heavy fleece jacket in 80-degree weather? Who knows, maybe (s)he thinks we're in Nome ...!

Saturday, April 2, 2011


Ladies and Gentlemen, meet the Hooters, a couple of women who made the scene at 7th and Montana this morning intent on turning Our Favorite Starbucks into their own personal Laugh-in. Don't get me wrong, I love a good laugh as much as the next guy, but these ladies (especially the one the right) were cackling so loudly it was impossible to tune them out. The only time they were quiet was when they looked around to make sure no one was watching, then slipped -- together -- into the rest room. I don't know what they were both doing in there at the same time, but after a few minutes the sound of their continued cackling drifted through the door like an unpleasant smell. "Oh well," I said to Genevieve, "I guess birds of a feather shit together ...!"

Friday, April 1, 2011


There's a new fashion trend in town: Tie Dye Pants. In the past few days, there has been a parade of tie dye trousers, pajama bottoms, sweatpants and even skin tight shorts coming through Our Favorite Starbucks. I like a good 70's flashback as much as the next guy, but I don't remember ever seeing tie dye pants before. Just shirts. I guess they're practical in their own way. Take the woman pictured above, for example. I'll bet she could sit in a vat of grape jelly and no one would know the difference ...!