Tag Archives: downtown la

The Extraordinary Case Of Mike Berger

FOREWORD BY STAN LERNER: downtownster does not celebrate its first birthday until February, but I still feel compelled to post the TEN BEST downtownster blogs of 2009. And while I think all of our blogs have been great, these are the ones that readers read the most and gave us the highest level of props for writing. In the case of “The Extraordinary Case Of Mike Berger” the great Alec Silverman shines a bright light on one of the best human beings I’ve had the good fortune of calling my friend. The wine tastings are not as frequent as they were when this was first posted, but Mike Berger is better than ever.

<Click Here: To Buy Books By Stan Lerner> 

Stan Lerner, editor-in-chief and creator of Downtownster is a revered cohort for whom I am indebted to Mike Berger, the subject of this entry, for making possible our acquaintance.  Mr. Lerner has been googled over 1.2 million times; his blogs (articles for Downtownster and his satirical serial Downtown Oliver Brown) have around 2 million hits; he is a screenwriter receiving residuals in seeming perpetuity; he is published in hardcover as a novelist, a long-form satirist and a children’s book author.  I am honored that he invited me to be a guest contributor to this blog and, after much consideration concerning what form to proffer (e.g., an op-ed piece, a film review, a vignette, etc.), I found it “altogether fitting and proper” to pay homage to Mr. Berger. This piece however, strictly speaking, could be classified as a restaurant review.  The restaurant is an ad hoc wine bar and it is Mr. Berger’s one-man show.

On the north side of 9th Street between Hope and Flower – as any denizen of downtown knows – is the entrance to Ralphs Market.  Its manifestation on the cityscape was like an oasis created by a meteor.  At last, under one roof, downtown had a purveyor of some of the most essential trappings of civilization.  What too many apparently do not know is, that within this architecturally unimaginative space, like gleaming crystals in a geode, lay a treasure for wine enthusiasts unparalleled anywhere in Los Angeles.  On Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays between five and eight p.m., one can get both the best value and the best wines by-the-glass downtown.  For twelve hours a week, four nights of happy hours, if you will….  Don’t blink or you’ll miss out.  This is all because the store opened with an exceptional department manager.  You see, dear reader, with the advent of this civilization, like a gift from an extraterrestrial race, came a subtle, dedicated, dyed-in-the-wool service professional – a one-off, wine and spirits manager by the name of Mike Berger. That’s right, you read correctly, in Ralphs Market.
 

Part of what makes him seem like he dropped in from another planet is Continue reading

ROCK ‘N FISH – ROCKS

Torn between readers who want stories about national topics and those who want to know what’s going on in the very happening Downtown LA always presents a conundrum for this writer. Balance being the key to most things in life and the fact that I’ve been desirous of writing about Rock ‘N Fish LA Live for a long time now—this one is for my people in my hometown The City of Angels. And for those readers abroad, you’re going to come to Los Angeles one day, so make a note: eat at Rock ‘N Fish LA live, you’re going to like it.

For the ultra faithful it could tickle your AEG bone that I’m writing about a dining establishment in the heart of LA Live given our stormy relationship, but this place is too good to throw out with the bathwater. And given that I’ve taken to eating at Rock ‘N Fish several days a week I wouldn’t want a Stan sighting to send the observer of such into shock. I should mention here that while most of the restaurants at LA Live are big corporate owned entities, Rock ‘N Fish is one of a chain of two, the original being a beach legend down in the South Bay.

So of all the restaurants in all of the places that I travel…It all started months ago when I ran into Eric / manager of Rock ‘N Fish…I’m leaving out the part about the hot publicist, but the story really begins with me sitting on the very nice patio, one of the best in Downtown, listening to some great rock ‘n roll, thus the name Rock ‘N Fish, and eating almost everything on the menu—not one thing that I wouldn’t order again. But before talking about the food I have to digress for a moment and say that Rock ‘N Fish LA Live is about more than food, Rock ‘N Fish LA Live is about community. All of LA Live combined has not made an effort equal to that of Rock ‘N Fish to be part of what’s going on Downtown and downtownster is all about supporting those that support us.

The food: Rock ‘N Fish much like another favorite restaurant of mine, Continue reading

DOWNTOWN OLIVER BROWN AN INTERSECTION OF LOCALS

1100 Wilshire had been an office building with no tenants before the most recent housing boom came along and made it a place that people who enjoy a sky-pool call home. Frankly, the pool at the Skyline, where I am currently borrowing a rich friend’s place, is probably the nicest in Downtown—I’ve used it once. Anyway, it was David Kean’s fortieth birthday so there I was.

“Happy birthday, old boy,” I said handing David a bottle of wine that I had just picked up from Mike Berger at Ralph’s.

About a year ago I signed a copy of my last book for a very nice woman who approached me at the Water Grill while I was having dinner. It turned out that her husband is the CEO of Kroger and much like Starbucks I got one of those plastic cards in the mail—I haven’t had a grocery bill in a year.

“Forty, welcome to my world,” I said to Dave.

 “I know. I woke up feeling older,” David mourned.

 “Not to worry old boy, it only gets worse.” I laughed. “Is that an olive spread?” I asked gesturing toward the red, lacquer, Chinioserie tea table.

 “It is, help yourself,” said David, happy to not have to listen to anymore of my getting old jokes.

 I plopped down on the modern, tan, mohair sofa next to Eric Everhard the porn star. I don’t think Everhard is his real last name, but if it is, I hear that it suits him.

 “Hi Eric.”

 “Hey Oliver!”

 I reached for a cracker and some olive spread. “So what’s up…I mean working hard…I mean how’s life treating you?”

 Eric smiled; he’s a very cool guy. “Oliver I’m a porn star, how bad can life be? Other than my back is just killing me—job hazard.”

 I had never thought of the strain that his particular line of work puts on the back and hips, but suddenly it made sense. Continue reading

OLIVER BROWN – HANGING WITH STRETCH

Foreword by Stan Lerner: as mentioned in a previous foreword, I’m working on the motion picture screenplay for our dear Downtown Oliver Brown, so I thought it a bit of fun to repost some of his classic adventures. Enjoy!!!

“Hey Oliver, slow down a second.”

I stopped half a block short of 7th on Flower so my homeless buddy Stretch could put a torch lighter to the pipe in his hand. I call him Stretch because he’s almost seven- feet-tall and looks like he weighs one-sixty or less. “Stretch, you know I don’t approve of you smoking crack.”

 “Oliver, I’m a homeless black man with HIV—give me a break. Smoking crack is the least of my problems.”

 “Well maybe you wouldn’t be homeless if you didn’t spend all the money you panhandle on drugs.”

 Stretch laughed. “Oliver, you spend more money on coffee than I do on crack.”

 “Not anymore, Howard Schultz sent me a Starbucks’ card with a couple of grand on it, for a signed copy of my last book.”

 “Does that mean you’re going to pay me back the money you owe me?” asked Stretch.

It was my turn to laugh. “I knew there was a reason I hadn’t told you about my Starbucks’ card.” I stopped at the corner and stared up at the Wokcano sign.”

Stretch looked at the sign as well, although thinking a completely different thought than my own. “I did some good business here when this was Burger King—it’s all about foot traffic for me,” said Stretch.

 I had a plan. “You really shouldn’t smoke crack on an empty stomach…Wait here I’m going to get you some sushi.” Continue reading

Poets on the Corner of 5th and Main

On Thursday, August 27th, at eight- o’clock, The Third Area presents the last poetry reading of the summer at Pharmaka gallery on the corner of 5th and Main.  This is an extraordinary opportunity for readers to get a dose of vital and utterly current poetry read by the top notch poets themselves, in a setting surrounded by the visual arts in one of downtown’s most appealing galleries.  For a cherry on top, wine, beer, bottled water and hors d’oeuvres are provided free of charge, (a five dollar donation is suggested).  Of course, that should be no surprise.  Writers are always talking about the importance of the mantra “know your audience.”  The doors open at seven, when mingling and noshing and perusing books and visual art begins.  We hope to see many downtownsters there.       

 There are always four poets featured.  They are introduced, often beautifully, by other poets.  One fine example of the art of language to be found at these readings at Pharmaka follows below.  Tony Barnstorm, whose résumé of literary awards is so extensive that we can’t list it here, read this poem, along with many others, among his amazingly divergent repertoire.

The 167th Psalm of Elvis
This poem comes from Tony Barnstone’s book, The Golem of Los Angeles, published by Red Hen Press

Blessed are the marble breasts of Venus,
those ancient miracles, for they are upright and milk white
and they point above the heads of the crowd in the casino.
Blessed are the crowds that play, and whose reflections
sway in the polish of her eggshell eyes,
for they circle like birds around the games,
and they are beautiful and helpless. Continue reading

IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME?

My writing has come to span a variety of topics. And because one can never truly know what lies beyond the next door I, on occasion, write about what was once reserved for my most personal of conversations—politics and business. You see, I admittedly have a passion for both subjects, but in the ideal sense; what people do in the reality of politics and business brings to my heart darkness, and this is for me a source of great frustration. But in this moment of extreme egomania I can’t help but to think that I may say something that will help others tread on a better path…Business in America has lost its way, and government intervention / artificial stimulus aside, it has fallen, appropriately so, on the members of the business community to be the causation of a now much needed, tectonic like shift in the business PARADIGM.

First, the context of my thoughts on today’s downward spiral of business is from the vantage of growing up, born and raised, to do OLD BUSINESS—my father was a World War II veteran who opened a car lot on Whittier Blvd. and later or additionally an auto parts business—he was a straightforward businessman. Because of my age (44) I came to majority as a businessman in the 1980’s the cradle of the commercial digital revolution, which much to my father’s concern I embraced. The net effect being that I think about business today, as everyone should, in terms of what was, what is and what will be. Or more simply put: did the old way yield a better result than the new way or is the inverse true and worthy of evolution?

“When times are good people drink. When times are bad people drink more!” an eloquent and insightful cliché. Do not step into the trap of thinking that clichés are myths in need of debunking, because more often than not a cliché articulates the most universal of truths. However, not all clichés are born from truth and great harm can come from such ideas.

“If you build it they will come,” a paraphrased line from a movie, now a cliché, but not exactly a universal truth. And be frightened, because this flaw of thought has permeated American business culture. IF YOU BUILD IT THEY MAY NOT COME!!! Please feel free to quote this humble writer. And, because my vocation is telling people about things, I am the first to divulge the obvious that it is in my interest to weigh in. That being said, business is as much about perception as it is product—you can have the best product in the world, but if nobody knows of its existence, financial challenge will be imminent, and that simple fact, AWARENESS, only broaches perception. A product can be great, people can be aware of it, and it still won’t sell.

 

American Cars For Example: Continue reading

NO DEFENDING LA LIVE

Funny, that hundreds of thousands of people have read my blogs either about LA Live or LA Live tenants and only two people have ever bothered to offer a comment in disagreement with the facts as I’ve presented them—that’s a pretty amazing statistic. So when the first comment of the two was submitted I had my doubts about its legitimacy, but I let it go. Yesterday, we received the second comment that disagreed with the facts as I’ve presented them with respect to LA Live, actually we received it twice, so please read both and note that the comment is referring to my blog “LA Live’s St. Patrick’s Day Massacre”.

Comment 1:

“do you really think bashing la live is going to get you anything?  we as a community should be supporting everyone and talking bad about someone on a BLOG.  you’re a jerk.”

Comment 2:

“oops, typo. 

we as a community should be supporting everyone and NOT talking bad about someone on a BLOG.  you’re a jerk.”

Now most of my readers know that I take being part of the Downtown community pretty seriously—I’ve lived Downtown for fourteen years and of course I founded downtownster. I was also a major supporter of LA Live until the time I concluded that AEG had betrayed the community and my trust. I met with Michael Roth, LA Live’s Vice President of Communications, he made promises that he did not keep—I’ve been more than fair to LA Live, I was willing to give them a second chance, and frankly for the good of the community, still would. But not by compromising on what I believe is right. And certainly not because of comments that call me a jerk.

AND WHAT ABOUT THAT COMMENT FROM THE CONCERNED MEMBER OF OUR COMMUNITY?

Here’s the problem for big corporate, corrupt, America—the Internet and blogs like downtownster have become the great equalizer. So now big corporate, corrupt, America is trying to defend itself—by lying. That’s right, companies like AEG either own their own blogs or employ people to post bogus comments in order to defend their interest around the Internet. AEG owns the examiner.com, which allows them to examine their own interest favorably. And apparently their tenant Outback Steakhouse Inc., the owner of Fleming’s at LA Live, has a bogus commenter doing their bidding—because, although the comment above was posted anonymously a trace of the IP address identified Outback Steakhouse Inc. 2202 N. Westshore Blvd. 5th Floor Tampa, Florida 33607 as the origination source. And yes we even know the name of the person whose workstation the comment came from, Patrick.

HOW DID A GUY WHO SENDS EMAIL FROM FLORIDA BECOME PART OF OUR COMMUNITY?

He’s not…And frankly, I can’t imagine what type of whore a person like this must be to throw away their integrity to defend a company from the truth…Hear this well bogus commenters…downtownster writes the truth and exemplifies why the founding fathers were such advocates and protectors of free speech.

So dear readers, to discourage corporate America from trying to interfere with the truth that we work so hard to bring to you, I’m going to repost at the bottom of this blog “LA Live’s St. Patrick’s Day Massacre”, “Three Things To Miss Downtown”, and “Why Pay To Bury MJ?” I urge you to read them, and use our share function at the bottom of each post to send this post to all of your friends—this helps to move the content way up on search engines and corporate, corrupt, America loves this.

Also, while downtownster loves getting legitimate comments, I promise the next bogus commenter that we will not only post your work address, we’ll post your full name and make sure everyone knows that you are fraud—Promise.

PLEASE TAKE A FEW MINUTES TO READ THE THREE POST’S THAT SOME VERY RICH PEOPLE DON’T WANT YOU TO READ!!!

LA LIVE’S SAINT PATRICK’S DAY MASSACRE Continue reading

SPECIAL GUEST BARISTA

A FEW MONTHS AGO

“Another Jack and Coke,” I said, ordering my fifth drink—I try to drink minimally at Lakers’ games. “Look Ray, you have to have an espresso machine at the bakery,” I urged.

“We’re going to have coffee,” responded Ray politely. He’s from Denmark they’re polite.

“That’s great, but you have to have espresso.” I wasn’t taking no for an answer. “Look how busy the Starbucks right around the corner is.” Referring to Starbucks at 11th and Grand. “You could take half their espresso business in your first month…They don’t even make their drinks by hand…And they still get the orders wrong half the time.”

“I don’t know why I come to these games,” chimed in Ed, as in Ed Yawitz our host. “Stan’s right Ray, you have to have espresso drinks.”

“Hell, I’ll be your barista—no charge, if you’re worried about the extra staff,” I offered getting carried away in the moment.

Ed nodded. “Stan’s a world class barista—I’ll come every day.”

Ray hadn’t had as much to drink as I. “Okay, I’ll put in an espresso machine, but you have to come in as our barista, not all the time, but…”

I held up my hand. “I’m there. I’ll be your special guest barista and I’ll train up some protégés.”

A FEW MONTHS LATER

Ray opened Hygge Bakery (1106 South Hope St.) and if you’ve read my blog “Let’s Hygge” you know that I was there crafting a very fine story, which I later wrote while on vacation in Las Vegas. Oh and while I was on vacation I launched downtownster’s sister site blogsincity.com a must read before any trip to Vegas. And if you haven’t read my blog “Let’s Hygge”, you should!!!

So on my way back from Vegas I received a text from Ray. “We’ve got the espresso machine.” I texted him back, that I’d be in the next day. Continue reading