• May 26th, 2008mr meanerurban living

    On occasion, I spend the night on the Queen Mary in Long Beach. It is the only ‘thing’ in the USA that actually truly evokes Great Britain. Yeah, there are edifices like London Bridge in Lake Havasu and fake English Pubs in every city but Queen Mary is the only thing built in Great Britain, storied with direct history from Great Britain (Winston Churchill, Laurel and Hardy, several monarchs, movie stars etc.), and sold to the oil-rich Long Beach Americans by Britain in 1969. Hell, it’s even had 75 people croak on it since it was launched back in 1933.

    In 2003, the ship had actually spent more time crippled and mummified in Long Beach harbor than it did sailing to and fro across the Atlantic for decades before. One of the most special places on the ship is the Observation Bar on the promenade deck, which is surprisingly well preserved from the original 1920s construction, and is one of the very few parts of the ship which retains its original function intact, as well as most of its interior fixtures and fittings.

    The Observation Bar, 1934

    Sitting at one of the tables, it’s possible to imagine the bar just as it would have been 40, 50 or even 60 years ago with tuxedoed barmen (always men in those days) polishing silver Martini olive spoons (500 gallons of gin were loaded up before each transatlantic sailing), before serving the perfectly shaken and stirred cocktails to the elite of America and Europe as they travelled on this five-day long party.

    The Observation Bar, 2008

    You can see from the pictures above just how well the physical presentation of the bar has survived through nearly 3/4 of a century, but the clientele have changed somewhat over the last 70 years…. 

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  • May 13th, 2008quarrygirltofutti, urban living, zephyr cafe

    long beach is great place to hang out in the spring. it’s got pleasant weather, tons of cool bars, a historic transatlantic relic, and now (i’ve finally found) the zephyr vegetarian cafe.

    mf burger: homemade patty, tofutti cheese, sprouts, tomato, onion, romaine, mushrooms, avocado & vegan mayo

    grilled tofu sandwich: tofu, grilled onion & mushrooms on toasted bread with vegan mayo $5

    zephyr cafe is a funky little vegan paradise tucked in between the busy streets of downtown long beach.

    the inexpensive fare, serene atmosphere, and all together tastyness of the food make zephyr a must on the list of places for vegans to hit-up when visiting the LBC.

    i, myself, was very reticent to even try out the zephyr cafe. the immediate association with a red hot chili peppers song was enough to turn me off…not to mention the hippie vibes and lack of burritos on the menu. however, being in long beach overnight surrounded by chain restaurants and fish joints was enough to make me swallow my pride and give zephyr a chance…and boy, i’m sure glad i did!

    i’ve heard a lot of complaints on reviewy type websites about the parking difficulties at zephyr cafe. well, i know from personal experience that those problems can be avoided by parking in the lot next to the rock bottom brewery just a short walk away. not only will you be able to park in downtown long beach for free, you’ll have time for a nice pint of cask ale before heading over to the organic-bottled-beer-only zephyr cafe. (i prefer to get my drinking done at a real bar and letting the nice vegan food soak up my drunkenness…rather than eating tons of lovely food with tasteless “healthy” beer—but suit yourself!)

    now, more about the amazing food.

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  • May 13th, 2008mr meanermore restaurants (not LA), urban living

    Usually, when somebody says they’ve hit “rock bottom” it’s not a good sign. when I hit Rock Bottom, though, Holy Mother of God it’s a GOOD sign!

    Rock Bottom is a chain of 32 breweries from Seattle to San Diego to Boston that offer so much more than a glass of Bud Lite when it’s “that time” of the day. I’ve had the privilege of eating and drinking in outlets in Bellevue and Seattle, WA as well as Denver and Colorado Springs, CO and Long Beach and San Diego, CA.

    I can honestly say that the consistency of the on-premise breweries are spot on. The only vegan food at Rock Bottom is french fries or a “ball park pretzel” – both of which have sufficient carbohydrates and/or salt/fat to soak up some of the amazing beer.

    Only last weekend, I was fortunate enough to be in Long Beach where I visited the Rock Bottom and enjoyed several pints of Dry Hopped Red straight from the cask, pulled expertly from one of two beer engines, the other of which contained Vanilla Stout.

    The ale had all the constituents necessary for a perfect palate. From the initial hoppy aroma through the sumptuous gulps of smooth malty goodness rounded off by a slap in the face of dry hops as an aftertaste I was completely hooked. This beer can be better than stuff back home in England (not always, but sometimes!), and I can highly recommend it.

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  • April 7th, 2008mr meanerurban living

    iPhone!On a recent trip to Silverlake in LA, I had my iPhone pressed to my face listening to a voicemail about something so uninteresting that I won’t even begin to explain it.

    I was also typing away a message on my BlackBerry at the same time, my remaining brain cells were having difficulty keeping aligned and delivering the right thought processes for me to be remotely competent at either endeavor. A bit like walking and chewing gum can (allegedly) be difficult for some people.

    The traffic on Sunset was pretty heavy (it being Saturday lunchtime) so I sought shelter in a natural place. So natural, in fact, that I felt a calm come over me and a sense of being “in the right” that is very rare.

    Damaged Phone BoothI was in a relic known as a “phone booth”, once the ubiquitous item of urban decorative utility found every few hundred feet or so along most city streets.

    Indeed, I recall a story in from the 1980s about bidding wars between telcos for prime locations to place a ‘phone booth. These corporate idiots, who probably thought a cellphone about as far-fetched as the communicator from Star Trek were paying up to $50,000 (yes, that’s 200,000 quarters JUST TO BREAK EVEN in cash) to cities for long term rights to lease 6 sq. ft. of real-estate.

    Of course, those leases came with dilapidation clauses and long term liability which, combined with decades of regulatory philandering, bankruptcies and in-booth drug deals have rendered these once valuable oases of purpose about as relevant as shoulder pads.

    As I ducked for cover, I snapped the picture above and remembered the age-old real estate adage that there are three things important: “Location, location and LOCATION!”. What I needed was a LOCATION, and there was one right where I happened to be.

    BlackBerry 9000Sadly, it looks as though it was at least five years since a call was made from that LOCATION, but I was standing there in sun drenched harmony listening to my voicemail and emailing at the same time. A thing that would have been unheard of when PacBell probably paid the City of LA $10,000 for that LOCATION back in the late 80s.

    How times change. I’ll take my BlackBerry over a ‘phone booth anytime.

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  • April 4th, 2008quarrygirlurban living

    i try to avoid hollywood boulevard at all costs. the stench of vagrants and the irritating tourists who stop every few steps to goggle at stars on the walk of fame are enough to drive any LA native crazy. unfortunately, i find myself there quite often, usually attending a concert at either the music box or the avalon.

    and as all experienced concert-goers know, when attending a gig, the band usually doesn’t start until hours after the doors open. so rather than standing in front of an empty stage surrounded by assholes and drinking 8 dollar beers, i usually spend those hours wandering around hollywood boulevard looking for a bar.

    luckily, a couple months ago, i happened upon this place:

    the frolic room

    the frolic room is a great little dive bar, located at hollywood and vine, right next to the pantages theatre.
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