Culture Connoisseur: My Perfect Day in Los Angeles

Even though I’m really from a suburb about an hour outside of Los Angeles proper, I consider myself an Angeleno. My weekend plans often include a trek to the city, in search of good food and a new cultural experience that I can’t get in the bedroom community I live in. There’s also something thrilling knowing that some of my favorite actors and writers have walked the same streets and been in the same places, and partaking in some of the cultural traditions that the city prides itself on. LA’s pace and vibes inspire me to be more creative, and I start to feel antsy when it’s been too long since my last trip.

In a recent daydream, I thought about what I would spend a whole day doing in LA — regardless of money, time and mileage. I still have a long list of places I want to go to and eat at, but I have spots I return to constantly and some new favorites. Traffic (both foot and auto) and parking would thwart the plan if I tried to make it happen, but a girl can dream. Here’s what my perfect day in LA would look like, from beginning to end.

Start with a quick trip to Echo Park to visit Shout and About. I love this little stationery store so, so much. I usually go here looking for gifts for the ladies in my life, and always come out with something for myself. I’d definitely pick up Compartes chocolate (which has next-level packaging), a few enamel pins for my growing collection and pretty cards.

Hop on the 101 and cruise some surface streets to have brunch at Republique. This restaurant had been on my to-visit list for a long time, and I recently visited with my squad on a pretty Saturday morning. It’s pricy, but it’s 1000 percent worth it for both how good the food is and the atmosphere. It feels like I’m back in Paris, which is always a wonderful feeling. I’d get the breakfast plate with eggs, potatoes, slab bacon and a crunchy baguette.

Drive around the corner to go to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. This is my happy place, and I feel lucky that I can visit so often. It’s easy to spend a few hours here, wandering from gallery to gallery. My new favorite thing to do here is enjoy a drink on the museum’s outdoor patio bar.

Go to the Westside to pick up coffee from Philz and sandwiches from Ike’s Place. Philz has a really good mint mojito iced coffee, but the last few times I’ve been I’ve really enjoyed the gingersnap iced coffee. It’s a pretty busy coffee shop, so I’d find an outside bench to sit, sip and enjoy the Santa Monica sea breeze. After coffee, I’d go north to Westwood to get a sandwich to go at Ike’s Place. This is the holy grail of sandwich places, and if you’re local and haven’t been there before you need to go ASAP. I always get the Stephan Jenkins, which has turkey, provolone, pesto and grilled tomatoes. And always, always, always get the dutch crunch bread.

Take the 405 back to the 101 to go to a Hollywood Bowl concert. This place is magical on a summer evening, and they have the best classical music concerts. I’m excited to go for the first time this summer in the next few weeks. Here’s also where the Ike’s sandwiches come in — picnicking in your seat with a cold beer or glass of wine would be the best prelude to a night of music. It would be the perfect cap to a perfect day in my favorite city.

What would you do for a perfect day in Los Angeles, or your own city? Tell me in the comments.

Culture Connoisseur: The Rose Bowl Flea Market

The weather was perfect for walking around a huge asphalt parking lot.
The weather was perfect for walking around a huge asphalt parking lot.

This past weekend, I decided to trek out to Pasadena to experience a true Los Angeles institution — the Rose Bowl Flea Market.

This flea market happens every second Sunday of the month in the parking lots and concourse that surround the stadium, and has been going on for almost 50 years. In total, the market has seven miles of shopping — over 2,500 vendors and 20,000 visitors come every time.

The typical view looking down a makeshift alleyway of vendors.
The typical view looking down a makeshift alleyway of vendors.

I try my best to take advantage of living just outside of Los Angeles, and this was next on the list. My girl boss inspiration Jen Gotch goes every month and documents it wonderfully on Snapchat, and getting a glimpse of the stuff she’s found there (including but not limited to short sleeve sweatshirts, pin flair and bandanas) fueled my interest. Unfortunately I’m not decorating a new apartment or house, but I went just to see what it was like and see if it really lived up to the hype. It does.

I am SO obsessed with this fabric, and I need to find a project and go back and buy it.
I am SO obsessed with this fabric, and I need to find a project and go back and buy it.

If you’re curious, there’s this whole cache on the Internet that’ll give you tips on how to have the best experience. I got there at 10 and paid $9 for admission, but if you were looking for furniture it would be worth it to show up earlier and pay more on the sliding admission scale. I brought a purse because I wasn’t planning on buying anything I couldn’t carry, but many people bring push carts for their hauls. The weekend weather was overcast and sprinkly, but bringing your own water and wearing a hat/sunscreen are good ideas. And since it’s a flea market, you’ll need to bring a wad of cash.

When I got there, I was immediately overwhelmed. There is just so much to look at, and you swim through a sea of people.  I walked through the entire market, looking at housewares, clothing and knick knacks. Half of the market is devoted to antiques and vintage merchandise, which is everything from clothing to furniture to collectibles. The other half is considered new merchandise, typical of what you might see at a county fair: plants, services you can buy, boutique items and general knick knacks. You can find just about anything at the Rose Bowl Flea Market.

So. much. beautiful. hardware.
So. much. beautiful. hardware.

My favorite things at the market were gorgeous glass knobs and handles by the trayful, turquoise jewelry, colorful rugs, piles and piles of black-and-white textiles (which I’m trying to brainstorm a DIY project for) and big potted plants. If I was decorating an apartment or house, it would be a great place to go and find home accessories. Some of the furniture is pricy, but it all has more character and style than something you’d buy at a superstore.

If you’re looking for a real LA experience, the Rose Bowl Flea Market is the place to go. Everything screams the true Angeleno aesthetic, from what the vendors are selling to the people who shop there. Vintage and used items are a really significant part of the culture here, for people who aren’t celebrities or multi-millionaires. These people go every month to hang out with friends, pick up something for their wardrobe or house and get a slice of culture, and that’s a great vibe to be a part of. When I was moseying through one of the aisles, I saw Drew Barrymore — bedecked in printed pants and orange-tinted sunglasses — picking out a rug and discussing it with her crew. That’s about as LA as something could possibly get.

What a great sign, right?
What a great sign, right?

I bought one thing at the flea that I was really excited to bring home. I’ve always loved agate slices, but never found one that was reasonably priced. I bought this beautiful purple one from a crystals vendor for $9. I haven’t decided its home yet, but it’ll probably end up on my bedside table or my dresser.


Next time I go out to the Rose Bowl, I think I might get some new knobs for my dresser, or a Himalayan salt lamp. I’m sure that next time there will be even more treasures to find.

If I had a house with unlimited rooms...
If I had a house with unlimited rooms…
You can even buy plants at the Rose Bowl Flea Market. You can buy basically anything here.
You can even buy plants at the Rose Bowl Flea Market. You can buy basically anything here.
Last photo, I promise -- look at how cool this coral is.
Last photo, I promise — look at how cool this coral is.

Have you been to the Rose Bowl Flea Market, or want to tell me about a flea market you love? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

Culture Connoisseur: The Broad Museum

You can't miss it.
You can’t miss it.

Way back in December, I reserved two tickets to the newly-opened Broad museum in downtown Los Angeles. At the time, the earliest tickets I could get were for a mid-morning Sunday in March. The Broad opened to much fanfare. I knew how hard it was to get the timed tickets the museum preferred its visitors to reserve, so I settled for a reservation on a mid-morning Sunday in March. If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile you know I love art, so you can probably understand my curiosity about a new museum opening in my proximity.

Two weekends ago, I took my grandmother — who I get my love of art from — to downtown Los Angeles, where the Broad has a new shiny building that looks like a square honeycomb. I was already familiar with Ely and Edyth Broad, as they’ve contributed to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and other philanthropic causes in the city. The Broads have amassed thousands of contemporary art pieces, and decided to reinvigorate the city’s art scene by establishing a new museum and making their private collection public.

I've got to hand it to the Broads -- they commissioned some incredible architecture.
I’ve got to hand it to the Broads — they commissioned some incredible architecture.

Overall, I was impressed with both the Broad’s architecture and collection. The galleries are on the first and third floors accessible by escalator and elevator, and the museum offices and vault are on the second floor. As you descend back to the first floor to exit you see the vault from internal windows. I thought that was a great design decision, making the vault as important as the work on display. My grandmother and I agreed that the honeycombed structure was a great decision for bringing in natural light and making the museum seem even bigger. My favorite pieces were works from Barbara Kruger, Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat and El Anatsui. I also loved the Takashi Murakami mural, a John Baldessari painting and this Cy Twombly piece.

Barbara Kruger.
Barbara Kruger.

People from all walks of life were there to see what this trendy museum had to show, which made me glad that the free admission allowed visitors to see the art. While there, I spotted James Goldstein in the first-floor gallery, a millionaire who recently donated his very famous house to LACMA. If that’s not a good example of how the Broad has permeated several LA socioeconomic levels, I don’t know what is.

What I found most interesting about the Broad, however, was the behavior of the other visitors. I can’t tell you how many young people I saw with DSLR cameras, taking pictures of themselves and their friends surrounded by sculptures and standing in front of paintings. There’s an entire protocol for the line to the Infinity Mirrored Room installation, and it was so long that I decided to skip it. At the time, I was particularly annoyed — I was there to see and experience the art, not for a photo shoot and not for people who were doing it all for the Instagram. I’m guilty of snapping a few photos when I go to a museum, which the photos on this post make clear. But bringing camera equipment seems to suggest that you planned the outing as a photo op to show everyone you had been somewhere, and I wondered whether or not those people actually remembered anything about the Broad’s collection once they left the building.

But the more I think about it, the more I realize that it’s just a reflection of the contemporary museum-going experience. The museum’s location, architecture and art is inherently populist, and the hype of the new drives people to want to go and say they experienced it first. (For the most part, if something is free in LA, people will go to it and if something that will make for a pretty photo is free in LA, young people will go to it.) While this isn’t a primary motive, the Broads want you to interact with the art in that way because you posting photos on your social media accounts gives the museum free publicity. Photos of the Infinity Mirrored Room are pretty, but they also cement the Broad’s name as the place to go for the pretty Instagram photo.

I’m not saying any of this is a good or bad thing — if you like to go to this kind of space and wish to have your experience in this way, more power to you. I’m also not really here to judge about the ways in which other people experience the world. It’s just an observation about the current ways in which we interact with each other and the art in the museum space, and how that affects our interpretation of the art inside those museums. I’m excited to see what the Broad has in store for the future, and how the Broads will go about acquiring new pieces to add to the collection.

Some Cy Twomblys.
Cy Twomblys.

If you decide to go to the Broad, plan far in advance and get reserved tickets. If you go on a weekend without a ticket, you’ll have to stand in a long line that wraps around the building. For my fellow museum-goers who like quiet spaces, prepare yourself for large crowds in the galleries.

Have you visited the Broad? Let’s talk about it in the comments.


Culture Connoisseur: Flight of the Conchords

This looks weird but I promise it's fantastic.
This looks weird but I promise it’s fantastic.

This summer I haven’t watched that much television. I’ve watched assorted Bravo reality television shows sporadically, the end of Hannibal (RIP),  the second season of True Detective (which was incredibly disappointing) and Show Me A Hero (GO WATCH IT, but that is not the point of this post). But when I heard that Flight of the Conchords had announced a new tour and potential movie, I knew I needed to rewatch the series.

For the uninitiated, Flight of the Conchords is a comedy that aired on HBO from 2007-09. The show is about two New Zealanders, Bret and Jemaine, who move to New York to achieve their dream of becoming a rock band. However, they’re really terrible and don’t have much success in the world of the show. But the actual show is essentially a musical, and the songs that Bret and Jemaine perform as part of the show’s narrative are excellent. Bret and Jemaine are essentially versions of the actors who play them, Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement. They are a very good comedy musical duo that is also named Flight of the Conchords, so it’s sort of art imitating life imitating art.

I watched Flight of the Conchords for the first time during my sophomore year of high school, when my friend Siena introduced me to it. We were obsessed for the better part of a year, watching the DVD and referencing the show whenever we could. I don’t recall watching it again between then and recently, and thought that an announcement of new material warranted a rewatch. And because I realized that it’s even better than I remember it, I wanted to share. Here are a few reasons why you should watch (or rewatch) the show:

It’s really, really, really funny. 

Flight of the Conchords is an unusual comedy in that they use music to their advantage, which they weave into the storylines. They give homage to a lot off of different artists and music styles that you might recognize, which 15-year-old Zoë, even with her diehard appreciation of 1960s music, did not catch in the slightest.

What makes it even funnier is that the Flight of the Conchords in the show is a really terrible band that can never come up with good material or get a break, while the real Flight of the Conchords are comedic and lyrical geniuses. There are a ton of jokes about New Zealand, living in New York and being musicians. It’s probably PG-13 since there are multiple references to sex throughout the series, but it’s the tamest of tame for HBO: teenagers will find it intriguing and like the songs, while adults will think it’s really great comedy. I think most of the one-liners and general storylines are funnier than say, most recent Saturday Night Live sketches or the kinds of sitcoms CBS seems to think are funny. I laughed a lot this time around, which I don’t really remember doing at 15.  I think I was just trying to soak the show in.

Everything about this show is musical and it is great.
Bret and Jemaine. 

If you picked out a random Flight of the Conchords song, you’d think that maybe it was a nonsensical or slightly weirder children’s song. Amongst many other great subjects, they make songs about being robots, speaking French and business time. In context (and even if you have watched the show and it comes up on iTunes shuffle), these songs are hysterical. For example, in the show the “Hiphopopotamus v. Rhymenoceros” song happens because Bret, who has decided he wants to be called the Hiphopopotamus, and Jermaine accidentally run into two street muggers who want to take their stuff.  A quasi rap battle ensues. The lyrics are fantastic and creative and I still love them.

Like, you can’t sit there and listen to “They call me the Hiphopopotamus / my lyrics are bottomless” followed my a lengthy silence and not think it’s funny. One of my favorite episodes is about David Bowie from different eras coming to visit Bret in his dreams (“David Bowie told me to do it in a dream” is FUNNY) with an accompanying song.

I don’t want to spoil the first song of the series for you, but just know you’ll get hooked.

You’ll recognize some of your favorite actors.

Kristen Schaal, who was on The Daily Show, plays the band’s only fan. Eugene Mirman, who voices Eugene in Bob’s Burgers, plays the landlord. Aziz Ansari plays a fruit vendor who is xenophobic towards New Zealanders. Jim Gaffigan shows up in an episode in the second season. David Costabile, who plays Gale in Breaking Bad, is Mel’s husband. Even Art Garfunkel has a cameo. Kristin Wiig, Patton Oswald, Lucy Lawless, Judah Friedlander and Sutton Foster are in it too. The point is that there are a lot of quality actors that come to hang out with Bret and Jemaine, so it’s not just a podunk show.

There’s actually some really interesting subtext to it that makes it excellent television.

You didn’t think you’d get through a Culture Connoisseur without some cultural analysis, did you? Watching it at 22 years old made me realize that there’s some really interesting themes that you could totally parse out as part of an analysis on comedy television: xenophobia, sexuality, race relations, and much more. Above the comedy of the situations Bret and Jemaine find themselves in, there’s even an entire conversation happening about whether or not the American dream of success is even accessible and attainable. So in one way, you’re watching a comedy about two dudes making funny songs. But in another, you’re watching two New Zealanders’ views on what America supposed to be and is. I think that is incredibly smart, which is why it is such a good show that you should watch.


I promise this is funny.
I promise this is funny.

You can buy a DVD of both seasons for less than $20, or if you have Amazon Prime (or presumably on HBO Go) you can stream it for free. You can even buy the music if you like it.

Have you seen Flight of the Conchords? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

Culture Connoisseur: The Hollywood Bowl

One of the most magical moments of my life was hearing George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" performed live at the Hollywood Bowl. What a night.
One of the most magical moments of my life was hearing George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” performed live at the Hollywood Bowl. What a night.

A special Friday edition of Culture Connoisseur. 

Last night I attended a classical music concert at the Hollywood Bowl. Not only did I get to see one of my favorite shows being filmed (something I didn’t know until the night before), I got to indulge in one of the best things to do in Los Angeles in the summertime. If you haven’t heard of the Bowl before, it’s one of the oldest venues in the city with one of the most storied histories. Set deep into the Hollywood Hills, the Bowl attracts people from all across Los Angeles to come listen to some of the best music in the world. I’ve gone to my fair share of rock concerts and festivals, but there are a few things about  the Bowl in particular that I really love. 

The calendar is wonderful. 

If you look at the summer calendar, you’ll notice that there’s a wide range and selection of concerts to attend. The three classical music concerts I’ve seen at the Bowl — a selection of Gershwin, Yo-Yo Ma performing Debussy, and last night’s Gustavo Dudamel conducting Mozart — rank up there in my personal list of favorites. The Los Angeles Philharmonic is really top-notch, and Angelenos are really lucky to have access. For people who aren’t super into classical music, they also have movie music performances (John Williams famously does shows) and other stuff (This entire weekend, Eric Idle is presenting Spamalot.) Sometimes other artists will come in and use the venue too.

If you're not lucky enough to be sitting in one of the boxes, you can see the musicians on the screens around the venue. Here's Yo-Yo Ma.
If you’re not lucky enough to be sitting in one of the boxes, you can see the musicians on the screens around the venue. Here’s Yo-Yo Ma.

You don’t have to get really expensive seats to enjoy the performances, either. Although I would love to buy a box, just about anywhere in that first tier of seats behind the boxes has an unobstructed view of both the screens and the stage (If you’re really interested, I like K2). The most I’ve ever spent on tickets in that tier is about $60 each, but that was for Yo-Yo Ma and entirely worth it. I’ve never gone and have wanted to, but legend has it that you can attend morning rehearsals for free.


The setup is great. 

The Bowl is on Highland Avenue right below the 101 Freeway, so it can be really terrible to get there. Plus, there’s a lot of stacked parking, and I have yet to figure out how people would leave if there was an emergency / I’m sure it costs a fortune. However, the really cool thing about concerts at the Hollywood Bowl is that you can buy a round-trip shuttle pass that takes you there and brings you back. I usually go to concerts with my grandmother who lives in Arcadia, so we jump on the shuttle that leaves from Arcadia County Park. It’s only about $6 per person, and you can buy shuttle tickets on Ticketmaster when you purchase your concert tickets. The first shuttle arrives about an hour before showtime, so you can relax and eat before settling in. And, you feel better about your carbon footprint and saving gas. Win win win win win win.

The Bowl has a few restaurants and table service in the boxes, but most people bring their own food and wine to enjoy before the performances. If you get there early enough you can snag a picnic table (I low key feel like you’d need to get there at noon for an 8 p.m. performance though). However, there’s nothing quite like getting to your seat early and cracking open a feast. Trust me.

There really is something indescribable about being  enveloped in darkness and music.
There really is something indescribable about being enveloped in darkness and music.

The atmosphere is magical. 

A lot of people think that classical music is “too cultured” or whatever, which is a phrase I really hate and one that is entirely not true. People from all walks of life come to enjoy the performances and the feeling of being at the Bowl. Music composed and originally performed hundreds of years ago can make you feel the same way as a contemporary song in 2015, and if you dig enough you can find stuff you’ll really like. Sure, the classical concerts are mostly instrumental or sung in different languages, and most of the time you’re watching what the musicians are doing via a large screen. But just sitting there after a good meal, soaking in the immense sound and appreciating that someone was genius enough to think of the beauty and commit it to paper / that there are people in front of you who are masters at what they do is an incredible experience that I hope everyone can have at least once in their lifetime. 

Have you been to the Hollywood Bowl before or have questions? Let’s discuss in the comments.


Culture Connoisseur: Zoë’s Very Official Southern California Museum Guide

One of my favorite things to do wherever I go is find the museums. In addition to coffee, museums are my thing.

For me, the best thing about visiting these institutions is looking at art that challenges the viewer to confront his or her own perceptions of what art is and what it can do, in both conscious and subconscious ways. It’s really easy for us in 2015 to look at a Picasso and say “that’s great art,” but it was difficult for the audiences who first saw the work to wrap their heads around what was in front of them — mirroring reactions to some of the contemporary art we see today. In the same vein, there are many objects of historical significances that need to be preserved for future generations to learn from. I like thinking about the progression of art history, reading about the artists and coming up with my own interpretations.

However, I know that museums in general sound overwhelming or maybe boring to a lot of people. But I can assure you that you don’t need to know anything about art or art history to enjoy a museum, and that a place you might not think of as a museum can count as one. A lot of people ask me about the best ones to go to in the area, so I present to you Zoë’s Very Official Southern California Museum Guide.

A beautiful, beautiful day at the Getty.
A beautiful, beautiful day at the Getty.

“I haven’t gone to any museums in the area, nor do I know much about art history. What do I start with?”

My initial recommendation is to try some of the bigger museums with big collections you can peruse to find what you like. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, as you may already know, is one of my favorite museums. Located on Wilshire Boulevard near the Farmer’s Market and the Grove, it has an incredibly diverse collection spread out over a large campus and fantastic programming. In addition to an extensive European catalog, the museum boasts large Islamic and Asian art collections. Some of the best shows I’ve ever been to, including a retrospective of Tim Burton and the post-impressionists from Van Gogh to Kandinsky, were held at LACMA. If you are interested in art but feel overwhelmed, this is the place to start. If you’re a student, the museum offers a very affordable membership option that pays for itself.

The Getty Center in Los Angeles is also a well-known museum worth attending. The Getty’s collection comprises of a lot of medieval, Renaissance and baroque art — not much in the way of post-1900 works. When I went, I thought the illuminated manuscripts were pretty cool. There are some modern sculptures out on the grounds of the museum, which has a few gorgeous gardens and vistas, but not many. If you don’t like modern art in general, this is your museum.  Admission is free for everyone, but you do have to pay for parking. The only thing I don’t particularly like is the museum’s location — it’s off of the 405 Freeway (yikes) and close to UCLA.

Rounding out the category is the Norton Simon in Pasadena. What I really like about the Norton Simon is the diverse range of art on display. From South and Southeast Asian art to Flemish tapestries to contemporary photography, the Norton Simon has it. The museum also has a great sculpture garden and lily pond, which brings back memories for me of Claude Monet’s home in Giverny. The Norton Simon is much smaller in scale compared to LACMA or The Getty, which makes it a good museum to start out with and soak in. It’s also feasible to spend an hour or two at the museum before going down the street to Old Town Pasadena. Admission is free for students.

The Rothko exhibit I went to at MOCA had so many Rothkos I could have died of happiness.
The Rothko exhibit I went to at MOCA had so many Rothkos I could have died of happiness.

“I want to see conceptual art.”

The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles has some pretty interesting, but weird stuff. You can see your standard Warhol or Lichtenstein, but MOCA has a large collection of pieces that incorporate aspects like film and sound into painting and sculpture. I went to a great Rothko exhibit here, but I really enjoyed just walking around MOCA and seeing what was on display. It’s not a big museum, and has free admission for everyone every Thursday.

If you find yourself in Palm Springs, you should definitely stop by the Palm Springs Art Museum. For being a small museum in the middle of the desert, it has an impressive catalog that includes some Warhol, Ruscha and Abramović. Granted, the museum does have a lot of Native American and Mesoamerican art worth looking at. However, the architecture of the museum itself lends for a really interesting postmodern experience. There’s one piece there that definitely freaks everybody out. I highly recommend making it part of your Palm Springs excursion.

“I really love the outdoors.”

The Huntington Library, Art Collection and Botanical Gardens in San Marino is one of my favorite Southern California spots. It’s kind of hard to describe the Huntington because of how vast the grounds are, but the beautiful botanical garden envelops buildings that hold true treasures. The Huntington collection is especially famous for Gainsborough’s Blue Boy and Lawrence’s Sarah Barrett Moulton: Pinkie, but also hosts a Shakespeare first folio, a Gutenberg Bible, the Ellesmere manuscript of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and more. The Huntington offers a really rare collection in a beautiful setting, and SoCal residents are really lucky to have the access.

The view of L.A. from Griffith at night is truly spectacular.
The view of L.A. from Griffith Observatory at night is truly spectacular.

“I’m not really into paintings or sculpture.”

The Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles can be considered a kind of scientific museum. Much like the way traditional art museums educate the public about art history, planetariums and observatories educate the public about scientific history. Check out the observatory’s exhibits about the solar system and devices used for measuring and viewing the universe. Griffith’s public star parties are also fun to attend, but a nightmare for parking. Admission and parking are free.

The California Science Center in Los Angeles is really awesome, and I’ve been going there since elementary school. (Zoë fun fact: my senior prom was held there.) It’s more of a museum of science than a museum of art, which still counts! It’s a great place to take kids because of how many hands-on activities there are and living things to see. My favorite exhibit I’ve seen there is the one they had about mummies from around the world, but I really want to see the Dead Sea Scrolls. You can also see IMAX movies in 3D about science here, which can be pretty fun.

Next door is the Natural History Museum. The museum has a lot of  taxidermy, gems and minerals, fossils and insect-related stuff. Again, it’s a really awesome place to take kids — including big kids (you know who you are) — who are interested in dinosaurs or animals. This museum is also part of a group that’s responsible for the La Brea Tar Pits, which is another kind of natural history museum we’re lucky to have in L.A. That spot, which includes a museum I’ve never been to, is next to LACMA.

“I’ve been to all of those places. Where else can I go?”

In addition to some of these big institutions, I’ve also visited some smaller niche museums of note. If you’re interested in learning more about the Holocaust, you should really go to the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. (Warning: A trip to this museum can be very emotionally draining, as you might imagine.) The next time you go to the L.A. County Fair at the Pomona Fairplex, walk through the NHRA Motorsports Museum and take a look at its vintage racing vehicles. The Autry Museum in Los Angeles also has a renowned collection of Western art that chronicles the birth and growth of California and Native Americans.

Other museums in SoCal that I have not been to yet (but heard good things about) include the Getty Villa, the Hammer Museum, the Orange County Museum of Art, the Museum of Jurassic Technology, the U.S.S. Iowa or U.S.S. Midway and several cultural heritage museums. Once you start going to museums and seeing what you like, you’ll find places all over the world you’ll want to go. And along the way, you’ll build your own knowledge of history and art history. It’ll be great. I promise.

Do you have museum recommendations for me? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

Culture Connoisseur: The Last Bookstore

When you’re a literature student, you get to be quite the purveyor of used books. I think my fellow English majors who read this blog can attest that while new books from Barnes and Noble or Amazon are awesome and beautiful, used copies are preferable. They’re already loved, and now they’re in your arms for much less money than a Barnes and Noble price. If you order a used novel for a class and it comes in the mail in the right edition with no weird smell, you’re golden.

My favorite place in Los Angeles to buy used books is The Last Bookstore, hands down. Located on Spring Street in downtown L.A., The Last Bookstore has copies of just about every book you can think of or would want, new and used.  Both times I’ve gone to The Last Bookstore I’ve gone with my English honor society, Sigma Tau Delta. We like going because it’s a fun place to buy books while bonding over our love of literature.

Spring Street is as New York as Los Angeles gets. I wish The Last Bookstore was closer to me, but it’s probably for the best as a) I’d have no room for things besides books and b) I’d be broke.


I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel at home in a Barnes and Noble — the lighting / ambiance is horrible, and even the wood the furniture and shelves are made out of bothers me. It all seems entirely capitalistic, in that they’re really not interested in you getting the books you really want beyond you buying them from their store. While I know I’m paying money for these books, I want the experience to be personal.

That’s why The Last Bookstore is different. It’s comfortable and relaxing, which really makes for the best browsing and buying experience. It’s entirely conducive to mellow browsing. The sounds of Spring Street make for perfect background noise, and there’s plenty of room for both the customers to walk around and the books to breathe. The customer service is fantastic too — I had two or three come up to me on Saturday and gently ask me if I was finding everything okay, which I really appreciate. The space itself is really beautiful. They also have some really interesting art installations with books, from book windows to interesting wall art.

Processed with VSCOcam with lv01 preset
I took this photo from the second story balcony. As you can see, there’s so many wonderful books to choose from, and lots of space. That’s another thing I don’t like about B&N — sometimes I feel cramped.
Processed with VSCOcam with lv01 preset
An example of a book window.

Upstairs is what the store calls the Labyrinth. When you go through the tunnel…

Processed with VSCOcam with lv01 preset
A tunnel of books!

…you end up in a room of endless bookshelves. Some of it is color organized, which makes for great photos. All of the books in the Labyrinth are $1, which is entirely justifiable. Most of the books in the Labyrinth are very old copies of books that have obsolete information or very obscure novels, which probably means they haven’t sold well downstairs. It’s the room in the store where books go to languish, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are books that have been there since the bookstore’s founding in 2005. There’s something oddly comforting about it though, knowing that all of the books no one reads anymore still have a place.

Processed with VSCOcam with lv01 preset
Isn’t this the most soothing photo?

In terms of prices for the used books, they’re comparable to what you would pay for a used book on Amazon. I got four books on Saturday — the complete Flannery O’Connor collection, Don DeLillo’s Underworld, David Foster Wallace’s Brief Interviews with Hideous Men and a really awesome 1960s copy of selections from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass — for about $30. The new books are slightly less expensive than MSRP.

My very satisfying haul.
My very satisfying haul.

While it’s pretty far away from me to frequent often, I have thoroughly enjoyed my experiences at The Last Bookstore. I really do hope it sticks around for a long, long time.

Do you have a used bookstore you like to frequent, or know another one in L.A.? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

Culture Connoisseur: The Top 10 Albums of My College Experience

Music of all genres has always been a significant part of my life. Here are a few of the vinyl records I enjoy most.
Music of all genres has always been a significant part of my life. Here are a few of the vinyl records I enjoy most.

The other night I tweeted about how I tend to associate music and books. I like to listen to music while I read or do homework (which usually involves reading anyway) and can often think of a book or album and what I was reading or listening to at the time. I also realized that there are certain albums that I associate with particular times of my life. As I approach graduation from college, I’ve been thinking about the albums that have had some kind of personal significance for me in the last four years. Here are the top 10 albums that have marked my college experience.

1. AM by Arctic Monkeys

I have been listening to Arctic Monkeys since I was 13 (it was one of the first albums I uploaded to iTunes and put on my iPod nano), and will wax poetic over the band’s entire discography for days. But what has a special place in my heart is AM, which came out in 2013. I saw the band perform three times for the AM era, and know 98 percent of the lyrics. This, I feel, will be an album that I will never get tired of. “Do I Wanna Know?” is my text tone. I have the digital version, the CD and the vinyl. Out of all of the albums on this list, it is definitely the most personal. AM reminds me of September nights, driving in Los Angeles and relationships that didn’t work out.

2. Modern Vampires of the City by Vampire Weekend

This is also another deeply personal album for me, and the record that made me a Vampire Weekend fan. I still enjoy dissecting the lyrics of MVotC, which deal with time and mortality and love and sense of belonging, amongst other things. I also got to see Vampire Weekend while it was promoting the album, and I desperately want to go again. This album reminds me of my school commutes, dancing around in my bedroom and rainy days.

3. Yeezus by Kanye West

This album is what made me a true believer in Kanye West and his cultural significance. Yeezus also changed my life. It is my go-to “gotta get shit done” album, and I find something new to analyze with every listen. This is not an easy album to listen to, but I think it’s the perfect example of just how powerful music can really be. Yeezus reminds me of many late, sticky summer nights.

4. Days and Atlas by Real Estate

This is a 2-for-1, but I discovered Real Estate in my second year of college and fell in love with the beachy sound. Atlas came out in 2014, and I have had it in heavy rotation. I also like how both albums talk about what it feels like to be displaced from home. Real Estate in general reminds me of both Berkeley and Washington, my discovery of lattes, and cold-but-bright winter weekends.

5. Sunbathing Animal by Parquet Courts

I believe my good friend Valerie recommended Parquet Courts to me, and I like Sunbathing Animal‘s balance between sentimental lyrics and good old fashioned rocking out. This is also a “gotta get shit done” kind of album for me, which has gotten me through many papers and planning sessions. This album reminds me of walking around on campus, feeling like a badass for the great things I said in class or about to go take care of business.

6. Is This It? by The Strokes

This is kind of a cheat, because I discovered The Strokes in high school (Side bar: I was in love with the friend of the boy next door [who I had never interacted with] and I found out through his MySpace account [this was like, ninth or 10th grade so don’t judge me on any of this] that he loved The Strokes) and have loved the band ever since, but I have found myself returning to Is This It? over and over again in the last four years. For me, it’s one of those albums you can play all the way through without skipping anything. I guess it’s my safety blanket. And “Someday” has been resonant for me at many points in the last four years. Is This It? reminds me of listening to vinyl records in my bedroom and doodling lyrics in cursive all over my French notebooks.

7. 2 and Salad Days by Mac DeMarco

I discovered Mac DeMarco last year through my brother Graeme. Graeme doesn’t like him much anymore, but I have a soft spot for Mac DeMarco. He’s a very weird dude with very weird preferences, but his music can be very tender. “Ode to Viceroy” and “Let My Baby Stay” are two very good examples of both the former and the latter, and happen to be my personal favorites. These albums remind me of Burgerama with Graeme and the Law siblings, the last summer at Public Affairs and multiple trips to and through San Bernardino.

8. Dead Man’s Bones by Dead Man’s Bones

I bought this album on a whim in October of my freshman year, mostly because Ryan Gosling was in it. I distinctly remember sitting in the library between classes, previewing this album on iTunes and immediately falling in love. It has sort of morbid subject matter, but it is very earnest and endearing. “In the Room Where You Sleep” comes to mind. Dead Man’s Bones reminds me of fall quarters and walking to a deserted parking lot after 7 to 8:50 p.m. statistics lectures.

9. If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late by Drake

This is a very recent addition to the list, but a great one. I had never listened to much Drake before this mixtape came out, and we listen to it constantly in the Poly Post newsroom. If I remember anything about my Poly Post experience, it will be our spirit animal Ferlinda Shedricks (don’t ask), “apparently” and this mixtape. It also has got some fantastic lines that I have made a part of my vocabulary, and I listen to a song from this album at least once a day. If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late reminds me of Sunday deadline night and boba runs.

10. George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue

Between my second and third summers of college, I started watching a lot of Woody Allen movies. The opening scene of Manhattan references Rhapsody in Blue, and when I looked it up I fell in love. Rhapsody in Blue is the aural version of my life. It is nothing like the other albums on this list, but discovering Rhapsody in Blue is a hallmark of my attempts to widen my cultural horizons and appreciate art to the fullest. I will never forget seeing it performed live at the Hollywood Bowl last summer. Rhapsody in Blue makes me feel invincible and bold.

My honorary mentions include Allah-Las, Albert Hammond Jr., Spoon, Divine Fits, The Shins, Beirut, Arcade Fire, The Police, Fleet Foxes and The Black Keys.

Do you have albums that you associate with particular points in your life? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

Culture Connoisseur: Zoe’s Very Official Southern California Coffee Awards

Smirking emoji.
Smirking emoji. (Also, we should talk about Special Agent Dale Cooper if you know who this is.)

One of my favorite things about living in Southern California is the close proximity to so many good coffee places. I appreciate the convenience of Starbucks (or making my own iced coffee) just like anyone else, but there’s nothing quite like a drink from an independent cafe. I’m no Yelp Elite, but I can enjoy a damn fine cup of coffee. So much so that I thought I should come up with arbitrary awards for the places I like that are relatively local. So tonight, I bring to you the inaugural Zoe’s Very Official Southern California Coffee Awards.

Best drip coffee that isn’t Starbucks: So I’m bending the rules a little bit on the independent cafe thing from above (and just this once, I promise), but I really enjoy Einstein Bros Bagels drip coffee. There’s an Einstein cafe at school that’s much closer to my work building than the campus Starbucks, and it tastes great with any bagel. Sometimes you just need an afternoon carb pick me up that isn’t Starbucks (¯\_(ツ)_/¯.)

I wish Klatch was closer to where I live, but it's probably a good thing because otherwise I would spend all of my time and money there.
I wish Klatch was closer to where I live, but it’s probably a good thing because otherwise I would spend all of my time and money there.

Best “treat yo self” coffee #1: Klatch. I started going here in high school with friends, and it is one of my favorite spots. I usually get coffee with a humongous slab of the coffee cake. It has a good atmosphere and lots of light. 10/10 would recommend.

Best “treat yo self” coffee #2: 85 C. I am not a humongous fan of Asian bakeries, but I love love love 85 Degree’s sea salt coffee. The first time I had it I got a huge first sip of salt, but I learned that shaking it is the secret. I still don’t really get the plastic film lid and having to puncture it with a sharp straw thing, but it tastes great.

Best enjoyed with breakfast: Some Crust Bakery. The last time I was here I got an iced coffee and a raspberry pinwheel, and it was a fantastic decision. My favorite thing about Some Crust is actually the waxy paper bags with the bakery logo, but I’m a nerd. Tl;dr get the iced coffee.

A honey cinnamon latte from Augies. The baristas know their latte art.
A honey cinnamon latte from Augie’s. The baristas know their latte art.

Best enjoyed with a friend after Thai food or a Eureka burger: Augie’s. It can be ultra-crowded in here — it’s in the same storefront as an ice cream place — but the honey cinnamon latte is a great after-dinner treat. Yellow metal chairs and cute baristas are pluses.

Best $5 latte that tastes like $5: Dripp. It is a really pricy place to go all the time, but every time I go I haven’t been disappointed. I recommend the vanilla latte. I also like that Dripp gives you a to-go cup that’s corrugated. If I’m paying $5 for a latte, I need all the hipster accoutrement.

A hand pie from N7 Creamery is basically a grown up Pop Tart.
A hand pie from N7 Creamery is basically a grown up Pop Tart.

Best enjoyed with a hand pie: N7 Creamery. I’ve been here twice — once for ice cream (which is also good) and once for coffee and a hand pie. I don’t know what was in that hand pie (apples and crack, probably) but the coffee was what really made it good. It was thick without being sledge-y.

4.5/5 stars, tbh.
4.5/5 stars, tbh.

Best enjoyed in Los Angeles: Philz. I went here on Sunday and I’m still thinking about this mint mojito iced coffee. You wouldn’t think that mint and coffee would go together, but it definitely does. My only complaint is that the barista made it hot and used a ton of mint, so the ice took a while to bring it to the right temperature. When it was cold enough, though, it was excellent. Again, corrugated cups are where it’s at. It’s probably the most hipster coffee place I’ve ever been to. Take that as it is.

I’m always looking for new cafes to try. Any suggestions? Leave a comment for me.


Culture Connoisseur: Encinitas

My best friend Paige always has the best ideas. One of her best ideas started with texting me about this art store in Encinitas, and subsequently us deciding to make a day trip out of it.

Encinitas is a sleepy beach town in San Diego about two hours away from where I live. Neither one of us had been there before, but after some careful research in the Instagram geotags and Yelp reviews, we set off on a cool Sunday morning to kick off our spring breaks.

I felt God in this iced coffee, to be quite and totally honest.


First things first: food. We had seen photos of Pannikin Coffee & Tea, and decided to stop there for brunch. It’s a restaurant in an old train station (which reminds me of this other place I’ve been to in Chino), with a fantastic patio view of the highway and the surrounding garden. If you follow my print, textile and design board on Pinterest, you probably know that I fell in love with the tile on the table (But really, you guys, look at that tile.) We each had a bagel sandwich with steamed scrambled egg, jack cheese and two orange slices, plus the best iced coffee I think I’ve ever had.

After brunch, we decided to go hang out at one of the beaches. Since it was 12:30 p.m. on a gorgeous Sunday, my inner Angeleno was worried that it was going to be really crowded, and that on top of there being no parking, you had to pay for it.

However, the one we decided to go to seemed to be so secretive that Google Maps had us take a lot of backstreets. Nobody was at the beach. There was plenty of parking. And it was free.

Welcome to the photo essay part of the blog post. So you have to walk down this steep wooden staircase to get to the beach but holy shit, this is what you first see when you walk up. Are you in love yet?
Processed with VSCOcam with lv01 preset
Are you crying yet? I was.
Everything grows so magnificently at the beach. But real talk, can you imagine the view these people have 24/7? (Photo cred Paige.)
This is currently my lock screen background and lemme tell you, it looks like I snapped it straight off of a Hollister bag.
We didn’t find any shells, but the fact that we could stand comfortably in the water without fear of swelling waves totally made up for it. (Photo cred Paige.)
We had a lengthy conversation about paragliding and skydiving after we saw this dude float by. You go, dude.

After the beach, we went to the art store (which turned out to be a bust [I’m spoiled]), refueled with some In N Out (#basiccaliforniagirls) and headed home (to sit in two hours of traffic on the 5 / discover a weird splotchy sunburn on my leg.)

All in all though, it was truly the perfect day. The point of this post was not just to show off photos or give you an extreme case of FOMO, but my way of telling you to go out and experience the world. I really needed a day to completely forget about any responsibilities, and I’m sure you can commiserate in some way. And even though the original plan ended up not being completely fruitful, I spent time with my best friend and a morning/afternoon in the warm sun and the beachy breeze — and that was really the point. I can’t wait for my next day trip, which I’ll tell you about next week. In the meantime, indulge your own wanderlust, embrace serendipity and find your own slice of the world to soak in.

See you later, Encinitas. (Photo cred Paige.)


Have you ever been to Encinitas? Or can you think of a day trip you thoroughly enjoyed? Let’s talk about it in the comments.