Category Archives: Shopping

National Watermelon Day

Not to be confused with Andrew W. MellonDid you know that today is National Watermelon Day? Well, neither did we until a few minutes ago. In observation of so worthy a vegetable, we at NiceWork bring you this photo of actual bins of actual watermelons at an actual Ralph’s Fine Foods. It was snapped for no reason only yesterday, so the chances are good a quick visit to the Ralph’s at Topanga and Ventura will snag you one of these beauties.

If you prefer your melons shot to pieces with exploding rounds, you might want to CLICK HERE.

Not to be confused with John Cougar Mellancamp.

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Mosaic Law of the Jungle

And nothing but the Food, so help you...The Whole Food Market newly opened on Ventura Boulevard in Tarzana meets the description given by the security guy I chatted up by the entrance. “It’s like a Disneyland for food shoppers,” he enthused. Meaning the vastness and sensory overload of the gourmet shop were not unlike the famed Anaheim mouse park. The resemblance, I regret to report, does not stop at the aura of entertainment: the prices, too, are Disneylandish.

But it’s worth it! What a store! The produce could star in Veggie Tales. There’s a wine and cheese bar in the middle. And all the animals now on piecemeal display in the meat department lived beautiful lives of pampered gods before that day they were led, minds clouded by mescal and brows bedecked with garlands, to the stained stone altar atop the pyramid.

The escalator endlessly ascending and descending between the vast tiers of underground parking and the World of Men boasts a monumental mosaic by artist Jose Antonio Aguirre. It contrasts the metropolitan contemporary Tarzana (beep beep) with the pastoral Tarzana of yesterday (the sound of oranges). Study the picture carefully, for it includes a SECRET TARZAN:

Tarzana was named after Tarzan, but Burbank was NOT named after Luther Burbank.The untiring Señor Aguirre was busy with his tile cutters and grout out in front, too. The plaza splayed before the shopping complex sparkles and burbles with cheerful fountain pools. At the bottom of the pools our muralist celebrates the life and jungle habitat of Tarzan and Jane in chips of colored stone:

When he gets in a scrape he makes his escape...Come. Let’s lean precariously over the inviting waters to examine more closely those immortal love-birds, shall we?

...with the help of his friend, an ape named Ape.Let future archaeologists make of that what they will. If a home-grown Vesuvius preserves these fountain mosaics under ash, will 41st century scholars hazard inferences about 21st century San Fernando Valley life that are closer to Edgar Rice Burroughs than to Frank Zappa? We can only hope.

Oh, look: it’s CHEETAH!

...and away he'll schlep on his elephant, Shep...

Dark Green

I was shopping at Gelson’s Better Foods Than You Deserve in Calabasas. After having passed by one of those music-emitting displays which hold racks of who-buys-this-stuff? music CDs, I felt my subconsious mind tap me on the shoulder and say, “Did you see that odd CD title that just went by in a blur?”

My happy song was better than the song coming out of the display.

For blurred it was. I hadn’t turned my gaze upon the CD display; it was simply a minor background annoyance. And yet: Something had caught the hem of my cloak. Something caused me to wonder if I had just seen a CD titled Celtic Noir.

The Big Sleep in a Faery Ring

What the…? I said to myself. Did I just see a CD titled Celtic Noir? And if so, just what is “Celtic Noir’? Is it the genre in which Irish crime novelist Adrian McKinty works? Could it be Bono’s new men’s boutique?

I had to know. I turned back to see if my mind wasn’t playing tricks on me.

Silly mind! Tricks are for Ids!

It was. Playing tricks, that is. My mind, that is. My mind was playing tricks: The CD that had slipped past my Doors of Perception was, alas, no compilation of hard-boiled songs from black and white Irish crime flicks of the fifties. No. It was merely a CD of John McDermott — the eponymous Celtic tenor.

I laughed. I sighed. I went on with my shopping, all the while ruminating on Adrian McKinty’s ultra-violent Irish crime thrillers.

Dead I Well May Be
by Adrian McKinty
(Pocket Books, Mass Market Paperback, 384pp.)

Magical Mystery Bookstore

The identity of the cell phone lady remains a mystery.
We had no great expectations as we journeyed in search of The Mystery Bookstore in Los Angeles. Past experience with specialized bookstores had taught us to look for no more than a hole in the wall with thin inventory and a staff anesthetized with boredom. But this Westwood Village shop dedicated to crime novels surprised us like a Jeffrey Deaver plot twist.

I wish there was an all-talking-animal-book bookstore.

The Mystery Bookstore is spacious enough for that all-important browsing activity: wandering around stupidly. But it is also full of little secret nooks and crannies for that other equally important browsing activity: stupidly flipping pages. The inventory, wonderful to dictu, is actually more comprehensive than a ::shudder:: big-box bookstore because the proprietors wisely mix new and used books together, counting on their customers’ intimate knowledge of the order of the alphabet to sort things out. As for the staff, far from benumbed they rival Holmes himself in acuity, and in kindness they surpass Mother Teresa.

I'll let you know if "Plunder if the Sun" is any good, i.e. how trashy it is.Many — too many — prettily jacketed novels called to us, especially a spanking new copy of Dog On It by Spencer Quinn — autographed, too! —  but we were mindful of our pocketbook. We payed honor to frugality by purchasing only, at least for the moment, a contemporary reprint of a 1949 pulp actioner  — Plunder of the Sun by David Dodge, brought to us by hard-boiled publisher Hard Case Crime — and an old, old copy of Seven Keys to Baldpate by Earl Derr Biggers with an elegant Christmas inscription from 1914! We hope Aunt May enjoyed receiving her gift from Metta as much as we enjoyed taking possession of it nearly a century later.

But the Dog calls us to return…

The Mystery Book Store
1036 Broxton Ave # C
Los Angeles, CA 90024
(310) 209-0415

I'm posting on the 19th, so if you hurry there's still time to get to a signing!

Dog on It
A Chet and Bernie Mystery
by Spencer Quinn
(Atria Books, Hardcover, 305pp.)

Plunder of the Sun
by David Dodge
(Hard Crime Case, Mass Market Paperback, 222pp.)

You can read my review of Seven Keys to Baldpate by scrolling a few posts north, or, if you prefer, by clicking on the words WHAT SORT OF NAME IS “DERR”?

G.K.’s Week

The Man Who Was ThursdayWhen I was a kid I read the mystery story “The Blue Cross” featuring that amiable detective of sorts, Father Brown, and it made me a lifelong fan of G.K. Chesterton.

Besides being a funny mystery — You can read the story yourself HERE, or you can Netflix the Alec Guiness movie more or less based on it — “Blue Cross” serves up such G.K. good mots as:

“The most incredible thing about miracles is that they happen.”

That said, another Chesterton classic The Man Who Was Thursday flummoxed me when I was twenty-five and flummoxes me still. A new edition of the beloved classic oddity from good ol’ Penguin Books grabbed me with its snazzy cover and prompted me to revisit this novel, or narrative, or story, or allegory, or whatever it is.

Thursday has just enough plot to hold the duels, speeches, carriage chases, fights, paradoxes, witticisms and arguments together: Gabriel Symes, a young, idealistic Edwardian poet (or is he late Victorian?), blusters his way into becoming one of the seven secret leaders of an outlawed anarchist organization dedicated to the destruction of everything he exults about in his poetry.

The committee of seven — each of whom is given a pseudonym based on the days of the week — is named the Central Anarchists Council. Symes is dubbed “Thursday.” Before long he uncovers the Council’s bizarre secret which is the gist, kernel, nub, thrust and point of the whole goings-on, or would be if I understood what that secret was.

Oh, I get that Thursday was a Chestertonian riposte to the late Victorian (or is it Edwardian?) cult of nihilism (now in full bloom in our benighted culture). But why the six anarchists (plus their nonsensical leader “Sunday”), who are actually fervent defenders of law, wind up enthroned at a masked ball costumed as the seven days of creation from Genesis… well, I didn’t get that and still don’t.

The fellow who pushed the book on me so many years ago asserted that the anti-anarchist/anarchist-ringleader named “Sunday” should be taken at face value when he announces, “I am the Sabbath. I am the Peace of God.” But I don’t know about that. He didn’t seem so peaceful to me when he literally goes “bouncing like a great ball of india-rubber” down a London street and leads the anarchists/detectives in a reckless horse chase while pelting them with wads of paper bearing Dadaisms such as “The truth about your trouser-stretchers is known. — A FRIEND.” The book-pusher was dead wrong, as Chesterton himself made clear (sorta) when he drew attention, years later, to the sub-title of the novel: “A Nightmare.

All of which doesn’t make the weirdness of Thursday — shelved, by the way, for no reason I can understand, in the “Children’s Books” section of the bookstore where I bought it — any less weird. Still, it’s an exhilarating read if only for the liberal scatterings of quotable Chestertonisms like:

“Bad is so bad that we cannot but think good an accident; good is so good that we feel certain that evil could be explained.”

The Man Who Was Thursday
A Nightmare
by G. K. Chesterton
(Penguin Books, Paperback, 209 paradoxical pp.)

Antique Store

Keroppi cup!

Mlle. NiceWork wants to paint with acrylics and so we take ourselves to a nearby art supplies store — Mittel’s on Ventura. For her it is a weird adventure — like going to a phrenological equipment store. For me, it is a time machine. It has been years since I have set foot inside an art store — I am a tad surprised they even exist any more.

Never go to the zoo without a sketchpad and pencil.When the youngster was still younger, frequent trips to craft emporiums, like Michael’s or Joann Fabrics, were necessary for all our popsicle stick and dimensional fabric paint needs. But a real palette-knife, bristol board, easel and canvas art supply store? How long has it been? Well, let’s see… I’d stopped in a Blick‘s back in 2000 on the way to the wonderful Cosley Zoo in Wheaton. Bought sketch books and soft pencils. Zoo animals — especially the farm animals at Cosley — are very patient models.

Wandering the aisles of Mittel’s brings back the fun (a little) and frustration (a lot) of working with actual…um… actuality. I’ve been 90% computerized so long — only working up my sketches in pencil out here in the real fleshly world — that I’ve left paints and rulers and inks in the unlamented past.

When I was just learning art stuff and trying to break in to the unwelcoming biz, I would be so intimidated in an art store, looking around with wide-eyed curiousity at all the strange tools and gadgets and compounds and additives and blades and tools with French names and I would wonder what they all were and how you used them and did they somehow augment one’s limited talent. Well, here in 2009 I still wonder what all that stuff is but with little curiosity, and  ::deep sigh::  no feeling of intimidation.

They also frame.

Sur la Table

All temporary until rehab is done.The window display of the store on the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica was worthy of a marginal comic book shop, but we are always on the lookout for interesting bookstores, and so we braved the raw exterior to see what was what in Arcana, Books on the Arts.

I’ll tell you what was what: Art books.

A really staggering collection of art books, big and small, but mostly big; the sort of gigantic, weighty, pricey, printed-by-elves artbooks that you see on the coffee table in Frasier’s apartment.

Go ahead, name an artist. Yep: Arcana had a huge, illustrated book devoted to him. Name another. Yes, she was represented. And before you ask: absolutely! — and not a single oversized tome, but three.

Shelved books are wrapped. Sample books for browsing are on tables.

Normally we can’t afford this sort of luxury. Art exhibit tie-ins plus a museum membership discount are the only way we get to class up the joint with coffee table back-breakers. But we indulged today. A beautiful slip-cased 10×14″ edition of Gustave Moreau by the foremost Moreau authority (so said the bookseller) Pierre-Louis Mathieu was damaged enough to bring the if-ya-hafta-ask price down to $60. We lugged it away like drunken looters.

Look here is a photo of a photo of Gustave Moreau’s palette du peintre:

Flammarion, Paris, 1998. 308 pp. Actuellement indisponible. (You can't get it.)

Addendum: We’re new to this area of the world — SoCal — and so in order to find where nearby independent bookstores are I used the handy web tool that IndieBound Books provides. To find an indie bookstore near you — you may be surprised how many there are — click on these magical words: O! HOW THE WHEEL BECOMES IT!