Monthly Archives: October 2014

Review of The Grill on the Alley

I have always had my eye on the Grill on the Alley. I hang out in Beverly Hills regularly, but seem to generally end up at Panini Cafe for a healthy salad and yummy plate of kabobs. But, enough about me. Finally, after years, I finally found the time in my schedule to make it down to the grill. It is a lot farther from my favorite parking lot, so I had to allow twenty extra minutes for walking both ways.

I got to the grill, and looked at the menu. It was “Dine in Los Angeles” week. Every year, we have a week or two where more than a dozen of Los Angeles’ finest restaurants offer a three course meal for a fixed price. The price this year at several places was $45. Not cheap, but this is for four or five star dining.

I had no idea what to order, but the raspberry pork chop caught my fancy. It was one of those thick cut chops with an imaginative sauce. I couldn’t resist. I ordered a mushroom barley soup to start with. It was very satisfying and flavorful. I correctly identified the bread as being from La Brea bakery, and it was cut thick, so I could break it with my hands. I had a choice of soft butter, roasted tomato paste, or olive oil with a touch of balsamic vinegar. I tried all three! Then, my main meal came — my chop with mashed potatoes. They have a dozen sides to choose from, but I went with something as standard as you can pick. The chop had this wonderful charred, yet juicy taste. It was just perfect, and the raspberry sauce was so imaginative and compatible with the chop as well. The mashed potatoes were nice too, but I don’t have any commentary about them other than, “They were nice.”

The waiters dressed in long white coats. They looked like doctors in their outfit. I asked for permission to see my x-rays. They do seem to have a lot of older gentlemen working there. They are an old school establishment that has been around since the mid-80’s.

Yes, I did save room for dessert. It was either ice cream with berries (been there done that,) or tres leches cake. Since I am a lover of trying new things, I went with the leches. It was relatively large for a dessert in one of these fancy joints. Each bite was rich in dairy pleasure. Yum!

If you have a chance to visit Beverly Hills, parking is slightly complicated, but much easier than other metro areas. I strongly recommend making time to visit The Grill on the Alley on Wilshire. They are top notch, very experienced, seasoned, and nice folks! I would give it three thumbs up after I wash my thumbs from the delicious meal!

10 things to do in Chiang Mai

Whose on 1st; Wat’s on 2nd
A guide to Chiang Mai’s temples, museums & attractions

Museum of insects and natural wonders – crawl on over!
Did you know there are more than 10,000 kinds of mosquitoes? This small museum contains all sorts of insects, butterflies, fossils, seashells, minerals and more. Much of the museum was devoted to a couple’s work researching mosquitoes. There are many newspaper articles on display in this unusual museum as well. Not all mosquitoes are capable of transmitting diseases. This museum has information about 436 of species of Thai mosquitoes.

Art in Paradise 3D Art Museum
Enjoy hundreds of paintings that sort of jump out at you. You’ll see alligators, giraffes, tigers, and ocean waves that seem all too real. Click on the link to see the Google pictures of this lovely unique museum. There are also videos on youtube that you can enjoy.

Highly recommended Thai massage at a temple!
Wat Mahawan is a temple near the night market. According to the reviews, there are many nice people who hang out there, and amazing massage in the back.

Endless Wats
There are hundreds of temples in Chiang Mai. (That’s a lot of wats.) Here are some of the most popular temples which include: Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Wat Phra Singh, and
Wat Lok Molee.

Wat Chedi Luang
Thie temple was built 600 years ago and once housed the famous Emerald Buddha. The architecture is stunning there.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Enjoy a long red brick stairway going through a densely forested hill. This temple has typical Thai architecture with an acute pointy roof, and an ornamented exterior. The temple is also near a national park where you can hike and see waterfalls.

What Phra Singh
This particular temple was built in 1345 under King Phayu. He was the fifth king of the Mangrai dynasty. This temple has a huge interior and is built right next to the parking lot. Don’t forget to bang the gong on your way out!

Wat Lok Molee
Wat Lok Molee has some very unusual architecture. One of the buildings has an earthy yellow brick exterior with typical Thai ornamentation.

Doi Suthep National Park
Hike and see waterfalls near the temple described a few lines above.

Enjoy Gardens at Royal Park Rajapruek
This is a nice place to relax, enjoy a slow walk, and see some amazing architecture too. See all types of flowers, manicured bushes, and more. This is a huge park, so prepare to spend some time.

Bua Thong Waterfalls
If you want to enjoy a nice walk in the woods, this is a nice place to go. This alleged waterfall is more of a raging whitewater river in some sections. The water cascades over limestone rocks in a very unusual way. I have never seen another waterfall quite like it. It wins the uniqueness contest, but be careful and don’t slip! It doesn’t quite compare to Yosemite, but the travel reviews of this venue have been very inspiring and happy.

Documentary Arts Asia
This is a very unusual type of museum with documentary films several times a week. Additionally, they have workshops on creating documentaries. This establishment was created to support photographers and film makers.

Chiang Mai Zoo
Elephants, pandas, lions, hippos, alligators, and more! This is a fun zoo to see Thai landscape and many types of animals.

Huay Tung Tao Lake
Enjoy a slow lunch in a bamboo shack next to a tranquil lake. Not a very exciting place, but very relaxing and no shortage of food either.

See Thai Kick-Boxing: Muay Thai
Burklerk Gym is a place where you can see live Thai boxing, or even get lessons. Although this is not for everyone, it is a very unique and exotic form of sport, and something every traveler should see at least a little of.

Lanna Folklife Musuem
There is lots of information here about Buddhism and folk life. Multimedia and exhibits with information to read. This is a good place to spend about an hour. Make sure they are open before you invest in cab fare.

A virtual reality Indian restaurant

A virtual reality Indian restaurant – culture shock not included.

We all love to travel, but sometimes we don’t have the time, money, or freedom to do so. Imagine a virtual reality travel theme park where you can enjoy attractions from around the world right in your city! Wow, what a concept!

Going to the theme park
Imagine that you park, and go in the main gate of the theme park and you can go to a restaurant in one of a dozen different countries, or visit other tourist attractions, or go on scenic rides. Well, I know what I want to do — I want to go to have Indian food at the Taj in India! 5 star all the way, buddy!

Going to India
The problem is, once I’m in the theme park, I need to get to India somehow. India is within the theme park, but you can’t just walk there. You have to choose some mode of transportation. There has to be some kind of boundary that you cross where the sounds, sights, and terrain suddenly change. You could take a virtual plane, train, boat, or something else. I’m going to take a cab to India in this blog entry, just to make this blog entry different from my other virtual reality entries of which there are several by now.

The cab ride
So, I get in a very American cab. The guy greets me in very American English. In real America, cab drivers are normally Russian, Pakistani, Iranian, or from some immigrant group. But, for the sake of virtual reality, we’ll make him a red blooded American. The guy drops me off at a location with a concrete road surrounded by 20 foot tall concrete walls. I walk down this road. There is an L in the road after 100 feet. I turn a 90 degree corner and have to walk another 200 feet. I go through a glass door. I see India in front of me. As I get closer, I hear more honking. The honking gets louder. I notice there is a sudden burst of heat. Heat is better than a monsoon or tsunami which would be a little hard for a theme park to approximate. I walk closer, and hear the police man dressed in an authentic tan outfit with red ashes on his forehead. The police man is having a very loud and convincing contrived argument in Telegu with a rick shaw driver who is nodding his head back and forth trying to explain how his parking spot is perfectly legitimate.

The rick shaw ride
I get in the nearest rick shaw. I ask him how much to go to the Taj Restaurant. I have to bargain with him to get a good price, and he only accepts rupees by the way. We finally get going, and have to pass by several large Indian trucks that are decorated the same way trucks are decorated in India. The trucks honk with their very abrupt high pitched honk. Then, we pass another rick shaw whose horn sounds like the type of horn a circus clown uses in America and I start to laugh. Then, we have a near miss head on collision with another rick shaw followed by some different types of honking noises. Finally we make it to the restaurant.

The restaurant
The restaurant is very nice on the interior. Coming in the door you hear the honking sounds. If you had to come to this restaurant directly from an American atmosphere, there would have to be some transition to take you to the entryway where you could hear honking and see rickshaws, etc. The windows of the restaurant would be TV screens with dramatic views of different parts of whatever city you were pretending to be in. On one side of the restaurant you might see a busy street in Mumbai. On the other side you might see some famous landmark, building or structure that is famous like Gateway of India.

Ordering my meal
I ordered some lamb kabobs. The waiter warned me as if it were a dire emergency that the lamb dish was dry. I almost had a heart attack. My lamb kabob would be dry. What to do? Nothing! I like it dry! The waiter reciprocated my near heart attack, but having his own heart attack when I tried to pour my own water. Then, I saw the wine list which was purely authentic Indian wines. India has become a great country for wine in the last decade by the way. I ordered some wine from Nandy Hills in Karnataka. The meal ends when I order the rick shaw cake. I get a phone call from a guy who explains how my rickshaw had a terrible accident and ended up in a ditch filled with liquid chocolate.

In a nasal tone with a thick South Indian accent.
“Dear respected sir, your rick shaw had a most terrible accident, but thankfully, the driver was not harmed. We will repectfully deliver the remains of your esteemed rick shaw to your table at once! Kindly make space on your table.”

I devour my mini rick shaw. The cake was delicious. The yellow part of the cake was cardamom cake, while the rest was made out of different types of chocolate. In real life, nobody has invented a rick shaw cake, but maybe one day they will. It would probably be expensive, but when converted into rupees, it might sound a little more affordable.

So, concludes my virtual India adventure. Next time perhaps I’ll go to virtual Tibet and get virtual altitude sickness if it is possible to get that!

Should Thai food be eaten near the beach?

Should Thai food be eaten near the beach?

When you see pictures of Thailand, you see picture perfect beaches, temples, and busy urban streets. But, the parts of Thailand everyone wants to go to are the beaches it seems. I have never been to Thailand, but I’m surrounded by Thai people and Thai culture right here in Los Angeles.

Since Thailand has a very long coastline, and many famous beaches near Phuket down South, it just seems that Thai food just isn’t the same if you don’t eat it near a beach. Hmm.

In any case, I have Thai food all the time in the city, but a discussion on Twitter made me think that I need to eat it on the beach. I tweeted that Thai food “should” be eaten on a beach and a few others replied that they agreed.

So, I headed down to our closest approachable beach. Santa Monica beach is the closest in miles, but parking is a huge problem. That is why I normally hang out at Pacific Palisades another mile or two up the shore when I go to the ocean. Last time I was driving around that area, I decided to head a little further

West into Malibu. I hadn’t been there for a long time. I had fun at both of Malibu’s Starbucks and on the way back spotted some Thai restaurants. The only thought that went through my head was that I needed to try one of those restaurants.

So, tonight, I finally tried one. I went to Cholada Thai Beach Cuisine. There is another Thai place a little further down the road which I’ll try next time. I ordered red curry sea bass. It was delicious. The brown rice looked more like black rice, but went very well with the coconut milk sauce.

I sat in the patio in the back, but in an elevated wooden structure that was kind of like a cross between a balcony and a cabana. The view from my seat was of hills, palm trees and the ocean. The view looked like photos of parts of Thailand a little bit. I asked the waitress if Thailand looked like this. She said there were lots of resorts near Phuket, and that it was more “fantasy.” Furthermore, the vibe near the ocean is very calming, just like the Thai culture.

Although I love Thai food anywhere, it was a different experience having it near the water. I feel that you “should” eat Thai food on the coast at least once to get that unique experience.

On a final note, I feel that this restaurant should have a few Mexican-Thai fusion dishes like a chili basil en-cholada, since their name is Cholada.

What would a fake Thailand be like?

Welcome to Clip-on Thai Land

I have never been to real Thailand, but I thought it would be amusing to write a travelogue about fake Thailand. Almost everything in fake Thailand is fake, hence the name — fake Thailand.

Plexiglass noodles & other cuisine
If you order glass noodles with chicken, you’ll get chicken was made out of a tofu substitute which they pan fry with some plexiglass noodles. I’ve heard of artificial meat, but I draw the line at fake glass noodles.

The pad Thai would be missing all of the critical ingredients except for noodles. No ground peanuts, no spicy sauce, no shredded carrots, and no lime. This fraudulent excuse for a noodle dish would be one big lie!

Another sham of an imitation of a real noodle dish. This dish simply would not be Rad-na. It would have wide noodles, but no gravy, pepper, spices, or broccoli. It would be Rad-Not!

Drunken Noodles
The drunken noodles are cooked on a hot rock like Mongolian BBQ. So, they’re stoned, not drunk.

Other Dishes
You would be served non-adhesive mango sticky rice cooked on non-stick pan after you finished your egg rolls served with a something’s fishy sauce.

The hill tribes lived on a plain, and then used a movie set of hills in the background. How disappointing. But, they did have real looking costumes and embroidery at least. So, not everything was fake. All of the beach lovers headed over to Faux-Ket to stay at a resort next to the beach.

In the large cities, there would be fake prostitutes with fake AIDS. What a concept. I’m not sure how they would create a fake AIDS, but this is a fantasy article, so there would be a way.

The main Buddhist temple in Bangkok had a really large TV screen showing the Buddha instead of having a huge Buddha statue like normal temples. Virtual Buddhas — What will they think of next? They even had imitation monks at the temple. The monks were government officials wearing Buddhist robes who were pretending to meditate.

Fake degrees
In real Thailand, you can get a fake pilot’s license for 20 Baht. In fake Thailand, you can also get a fake degree or license, however the money would also be fake.

Sham elections
In real Thailand there are sham elections. But, in fake Thailand there would be sham sham elections if there can be such a thing — not to mention a fake coup.

Culinary terms would adapt as well
Yellow curry duck would become Quack Massuman. And fake Vietnamese noodles would be Pho’-ny, or faux pho’.

In any case, I’ve heard that the real Thailand has nice people, great beaches, and amazing food. But, this fake Thailand… Hmmm. I’m not so sure about it.

Dining at the Gladstone in Pacific Palisades

I often visit Pacific Palisades to calm down. It is very pacifying by the ocean. I often drive up a road that is on a cliff, sit in my car, and enjoy the soothing vibrations from the gentle waves down below. But, this time I decided to change things up a bit. I wanted to dine at the Gladstone.

The Gladstone is a seafood restaurant right on the water. It just changed ownership, so the future of their menu is unpredictable. I ordered a few dishes which turned out to be interesting.

Macadamia crusted battered shrimp
This dish was very delicious. The batter on the shrimp had a very smooth consistency. But, the description on the menu didn’t have any consistency with the actual dish. They sprinkled on crushed macadamias as an afterthought instead of cooking the shrimp in an encrusted exterior of macadamias. I think the dish had good fruity flavor in the batter, but needed a lot more macadamias.

Crab cakes
This lovely dish came with some arugula, mini-tomatoes, and a sweet Thai dipping sauce for appetizers. The crab cake came with a subtle hint of dill and touches of corn to accentuate the flavor. I don’t mean to sound corny, but the crab cakes were dill-icious!

Mango Fish Tacos
This dish was the dish. I couldn’t believe the size of the plate it was brought out on. It was more like a metal dish covered with newspaper, and three huge tacos. To the left there were three chutneys. Mango, Avocado, and Roasted blackened salsa. All three were yum, and went perfectly with these huge salmon BBQ tacos. The tortillas were what I call flash deep fried, so they held their shape a little, but were not completely hard and crispy either. They cooked the tortilla just the right amount for the perfect touch. What struck me at first about these tacos was the aroma. Was I smelling chipotle, mesquite, or the barbecue flavor — or a combination of the three. Go and see for yourself.

Parking was the most fun of all. I parked next to the ocean. You can park until 10pm. The gentle waves caressing the shoreline was very relaxing. I love being in Palisades at sundown when the weather is in the 60’s. Daytime is nice too, but there is something very soothing about that combination of conditions.

In any case, I think you will enjoy dining at the Gladstone too. Next time I’m going to try their Thai yellow curry. I’m excited about that!

Beam me up biscotti

I often tell jokes. Sometimes they are not that funny. To craft a good joke, you have to work at it, and weed out the mediocre jokes. You also have to know your audience. There is a lot that goes into it. It’s a bit like being a blog writer. Writing the right blog that will please your audience is a matter of luck in the beginning. Being consistently pleasing to your readers requires skill.

I was thinking about the future as I often do. What would life be like if there were spaceships flying around? What would it be like if there as a spaceship from Portland, OR?

I remember going to the airport in Portland. There are five coffee houses in the airport itself. The entire culture of the Northwest is so coffee centered that it is funny. So, I pictured what it would be like if they had a spaceship from Portland. It would probably be shaped like a coffee cup with blinking lights going around and around like a UFO. They could beam people up and down whenever they ran out of creamer or scones. But, what would they say when they needed to be beamed up?

Beam me up Scotty?
No. This is a coffee house spaceship from Portland.
They would say, “Beam me up biscotti! And next time — a little less foam please…”

(1) Beam me up biscotti — a story about a coffee house spaceship from Portland, OR that beams people up when they run out of creamer or scones!

My Singapore Trip of 2007

I stopped over in Singapore on my way to India. I arrived at 2:30 in the morning. But, with jetlag, my body didn’t know what time it was. I love the Singapore airport because you can take a shower, a nap, get a massage, drink a glass of wine and more. But, that is only for those transfering there. So, I went through customers which was quick, got my bag, and a cabbie awaited me.

At the airport in Singapore, they have already checked your bags before you get them. So, you just pick up your bag and leave. A country designed for efficiency. I love it! The cab driver spoke Chinese and some English which was convenient for me because I happen to speak English and some Chinese. We drove to the hotel. It took only about 20 minutes. Singapore is a very small country, and there is never serious traffic since the government manages traffic so, sorry to use the same word again, efficiently!

The hotel was a four star hotel not far from downtown. I loved the staff there. It was very beautifully designed and comfortable. I took a shower, slept, and the next day, I was ready for battle.

I had a long list of things I wanted to do in Singapore. I wanted to go hiking, see gardens, eat gourmet food, meditate with people from my group, and see the zoo. Oh, did I mention seeing museums too?

Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve
It is all a blur now. I got a taxi to take me straight to this park. I remember taking a very nice hike at a park near the straits that separate Malaysia from Singapore. I’m pretty sure it was Sungei Buloh. They had nice hiking trails and a nice cafe as well. You could see views of the straight, and I believe that there was a large lake or lagoon in the middle of the park. I was enjoying a nice walk, when suddenly, about 50 feet in front of me a four foot long creature that looked somewhat similar to an alligator darted across the trail. I am glad that he didn’t bite me. You can walk around, and take a bridge over one of the inlets which is nice. Bird watching is one of the main activities at this park, and there are many species to watch! This was a fun way to start my day. Getting out of there was not so easy since I was in the middle of nowhere in this city-state. I was in the Northwest corner of the island. Luckily, Singapore is one of the most tourist-friendly countries in the world and lots of people speak English. I hopped on a bus that took me walking distance from my next destination. People were helpful, so I didn’t need to know how the bus system worked in advance! Oh, by the way, I had some nice street food including noodles and fish cakes on the way.

Bukit Timah
So many years after the fact is it hard to remember which place is which. I remember a hiking trail in the middle of the island. Bukit Timah was on my list. I remember the name, and it is indeed in the middle of the island. It was a steep trail going up with different trails you can take going down. I got slightly lost, but the park isn’t that big, so I got it straightened out. I remember warnings about poisonous snakes at the visitor center. Luckily, nothing bit me. But, it is strange hiking in a tropical place when you live in a semi-arid place near a desert! Bukit Timah is a nice place to hike. I’m amazed I had energy after my long walk at my previous destination.

Singapore Botanic Gardens
I took a quick cab ride to the botanical gardens which are only a few miles Northwest from downtown. There was a wonderful orchid garden to see. There were huge expansive lawns as well. You could do a lot of walking in this beautiful place. The Ginger Gardens sported a beautiful waterfall. I wish I could remember more details, because I really enjoyed walking around this park which was fit for royalty. I remember that it was huge, and that I really enjoyed it.

Fort Canning Park
You can see WW2 relics at this nice relaxing urban park. It is very near downtown and Chinatown. To me, 80% of Singapore is Chinese, so the whole country is Chinatown apart from the Malay sections.

Sentosa Island.
I was walking around near the hotel, doing some work on the internet. I stopped by a cafe for a bite to eat. The owner was a friendly and talkative guy. He took me on a ride to Sentosa Island. He needed to go there for business in any case. It was beautiful and there is a lot to do there if you are a tourist. There are beaches, there is underwater world, Sentosa cove, and more. This is just a few miles South of Downtown and a great place to relax and go walking.

The National Museum in Singapore
I got lost in this museum. I had to catch a flight, and there was too much to see. The history of Singapore unraveled before my very eyes. So much to read. I read how the government changed the island from a gang infested hell hole into the safe, modern, wonderful country it is today. Additionally, they have a rock from China that smells like chocolate. I sniffed this rock and it really does smell like chocolate. How bizarre. Singapore has many wonderful museums. Next time I go, I want to see at least a dozen of them and write about my experience.

Culinary highlights

In general, Singapore is famous for its Chili Crab, Singapore Slings (tastes like spiked Hawaiian punch,) and noodle dishes. The truth is that street food in Singapore costs only a dollar or two for a small meal and you can choose from half a dozen types of noodles plus chicken, fish cakes and other Southern Chinese type things to eat! I loved the street food, but got bored with it because it is all the same almost everywhere you go. I can eat Asian food every day, but honestly, I’m more of a Thai & Japanese food lover. Chinese food was popular with me until I turned 25, and then it got boring!

Singapore is multi-ethnic, and there are many Indians and Malays who live on the island as well. Rotis with sauce are a local Indian type of food. I had it on my list of things to eat while I was in town. Malay food includes lots of curry and rice dishes. Nasi Goreng is a famous rice dish. Rojak is a type of spicy salad. There are many other dishes that vary according to which province you are in. Additionally, the spice masala evolves and adapts from place to place. Many Indonesian masalas call for crushed macadamia nuts in many localities. I don’t know much about Malay food other than the fact that I like it, and want some now!

Additionally, downtown there are many “kopitiam.” In Mandarin, this would be called a ka-fei dian, meaning a coffee house. But, in fujianese which is commonly spoken among the elderly, it is called kopi-tiam. There are all types of coffee houses in Singapore ranging from those that actually specialize in coffee to those that offer all types of Chinese “Xiao-chi” or snacks! There are all types of dumplings, bao-zi, chicken wings, tofu dishes, and other culinary delights that you can enjoy on the streets of singapore. Downtown is a great place to see these little shops.

Clark Quay
East of the Downtown near the Raffles hotel, there is a quay near Marina bay called Clark Quay. It is North of the Singapore River and South of Fort Canning Park. There is an inlet or harbor, boat tours, and a restaurant section as well. There are restaurants of all descriptions there ranging from Spanish, Moroccan, Thai, Japanese, European style coffee houses, and it just doesn’t end. It seems like Singaporeans live to eat, and at Clarke Quay, you could go back every day for a year and still have interesting things to try!

Arab Street
I enjoyed making small talk with the Islamic merchants on Arab Street. In a sense this was my favorite part of the trip. I met people from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Morocco, Indonesia, and even a Muslim African-American girl! I saw wonderful carpets, and had many great conversations. I’ll never forget that 20 something Afghani guy whose entry mat had a design of an automatic weapon on it. I guess in his country you live by the semi-automatic and die by the semi-automatic. He was the friendliest guy none-the-less. I’m glad I live in peace! I met a Muslim lady from Indonesia who lived on an island. She took a boat to Singapore to go rug shopping. I took a quick peek at the mosque too. Nothing was going on there, but it was fun to look. Al-ham-dulillah

A nation surrounded by islands
Singapore is an island surrounded by a Malay peninsula with plenty of tourist attractions, and many other islands. You can take boat trips to many Indonesian islands nearby. The language in all of these places is similar. Malay and Indonesian are technically the same language. However, dialects range quite a bit from place to place. You will notice lots of place names will sound similar in Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

A final note
I apologize for not being more specific about my journey to Singapore. It was seven years ago, and I should have written about it then. I will say that I enjoyed being able to take a Mercedes cab for about US$25 to any part of the island, sit up front, and chat with the drivers. Singapore is a very safe, friendly, considerate country. The authorities are not heavy handed at all. They are much nicer than authorities in any other country that I have visited in my life — so long as you don’t litter, chew gum, smuggle drugs, or do anything else that upsets them (not necessarily in that order)! Additionally, Singapore is rated one of the world’s best travel destinations along with Japan, NYC, Dubai, London, Vienna, and a few other locations. Don’t overlook a visit to Singapore. It is small, and you might see everything you need to see in a week or less. You are walking distance from Malaysia and you can take quick boat trips to various Indonesian islands.

Finding the perfect tree – Santa Cruz

This is a very endearing, but strange and silly story. My guru told me that putting my back to a redwood tree on a regular basis would be good for my kidney energy. I try to do this, but honestly, finding redwood trees is not easy when you live in Los Angeles. To my lucky surprise, I found a mini-grove of redwoods in Bel-Air, not to mention Santa Barbara’s Botanical Garden, Santa Cruz, and Muir Woods. There are also redwoods at Yosemite, and many other places in California.

Healing properties of trees
All trees have healing properties. It is part of my healing work to be near trees. Trees, particular older trees have a grounding affect on humans. For those who are a little unstable, spending time near trees is fantastic. Trees also have energizing effects on humans as well. They are pretty to look at and emit oxygen which is helpful as well. But, trees are more than this. Trees also have spirits. Westerners are oblivious to the spiritual realities of the universe. But, for those of us with shamanic past lives, we are a lot more in tune! Trees can communicate with people. They are no humans, so they don’t communicate the way we do, but you can intuitively share thoughts with trees. Additionally, trees have feelings, so showing love and caring to trees really does make a difference!

What is unique about redwood trees?
Each species of tree has different attributes, as each individual tree is also different as well. Redwoods are a very special type of tree. They tend to be older, and they have energies which are particularly good for kidneys.

My experience
My first experience putting my back to a redwood tree was in Santa Barbara at the botanical garden. They have a little redwood grove at one end of the park. Those trees were healthy looking, but nothing spectacular. I noticed that when my back is to a tree, the tree inserts astral antennas into my body. These antennas if I may call them that are made of astral light, and curve around until they get to the place where they want to do some healing work. I guess they remove toxic astral materials, and open up energy channels that are blocked.

Being a tree requires decision making.
If you think about it, being a tree is a lot like running a business. You need revenue: water, CO2, and sunlight. You need to get rid of waste which could be oxygen, and you need to get minerals from the dirt which requires sending lots of roots very deep into the ground. as a tree. As a tree, you need to make lots of decisions. When to create a new branch, how to repair damaged branches, what to do with your roots, how much water to store in your core, etc. I don’t know the biology of it all, but it is complicated from a managerial standpoint. Trees use their own souls to make decisions to use astral forces to guide their own physical activities. So, they can therefor use that same force to help us humans. Trees have a lot of intelligence, so don’t overlook that.

Most trees…
Most trees put their astral antennas into me. Sometimes they want to do healing on my lungs, others stick to my kidneys, while others focus on my rear end. It is very bizarre. I have to be very quiet and introspective to intuit what is going on. But, what I learned, is that the astral power of each tree is proportional to how healthy their branches are, how old they are, and how close they are to water. Dried up trees that are far from a river will not be a good tree to get healing from. I found that Santa Cruz mountains had the best trees in general. But, there was one tree that stood out.

The perfect tree
The other trees had dead branches. Many of them only had their high branches in good shape. Trees near the river seemed more healthy. Finding a really big tree was fun, but there were not so many of the really huge ones. I hiked up the hill on my favorite hiking trail in Santa Cruz. Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. It has a nice huge parking lot and lots of different trails to take, not to mention a choo-choo train that goes over a bridge! I had tried out many trees along the trail and took mental notes about which trees I liked most. But, then as I got to the border where the redwoods died out and more deciduous trees started growing — there it was. The perfect tree. It lived separately from the other redwood trees. It could stand on its own. A non-conformist. Strong in its own rite. I inspected its branches. Each and every branch was healthy. It was a tall tree, not the tallest, but very wide and thick. It might have been a different species of redwood than the others as it was more shapely while the others were just tall. But, its bark was red and light to the touch. So, I walked off the trail to this majestic giant, put my back to it, and miracles happened. The spirit from the tree was very active. It was like an entrepreneur who tended to his business night and day. He fixed absolutely everything that needed to be fixed, and never took a minute to be lethargic. This spirit went to work on me. He worked on my kidneys, shoulders, lungs, and many other places in my body. It was like a handyman going to work at full speed. I stayed for about ten minutes. Wow! Next time, I will go to that tree first. It is a bit odd living in a spiritual world where trees are people too, but you get used to it. I told my psychic all about it and he was very happy. I had found the perfect tree for healing work — and it lived in Santa Cruz on my favorite hiking trail near the peak!

6 places to get empanadas in Los Angeles & San Diego

It is ironic, but the places I prefer to get Empanadas are in San Diego, not in Los Angeles. Los Angeles is a city famous for its culinary delights and movie stars. However, with our 40% Latino population, you will be hard pressed to find good Mexican or Latin American food here. San Diego, Phoenix, Tucson, and New Mexico are the optimal destinations for Latin cuisine! Ironically, once again, San Diego, which is right next to the border, has some of the world’s worst tacos. But, in Los Angeles, you can get very tasty tacos from trucks on the street at midnight!

Old San Juan: Los Angeles
This place has allegedly closed in the last few months. Their appetizers were spectacular, but their dishes didn’t suit me at all. They had amazing empanadas (which they call pastelillos in Puerto Rican Spanish) with chicken, beef, pork, and crab. The soft and flavorful fillings made these empanadas my favorite anywhere. Additionally, they had salsa tropical with mango and other wonderful non-Mexican ingredients in it which went great with their tarot chips. Something to try at least once. My favorite was their plantain alcapurrias. They were shaped like plantains made with ground and deep friend plantains. The insides were chicken, beef, pork, or crab. Personally, I liked beef the best in their pastelillos and alcapurrias, but all of their appetizer variations were amazing.

Here are some yelp locations that also have alcapurrias in the Los Angeles area,+CA

Nonna’s Empanadas: Los Angeles
This is a place right on the West-side of Los Angeles near Beverly Center and Beverly Hills that specializes in empanadas. They have dozens of varieties of empanadas including fruit empanadas. The place is run by Argentinians by the way. What I noticed is that the flavors for the Argentinian and Chilean empanadas seemed to my not that well educated palatte to be authentic. Unfortunately, although the other nationalities of empanadas tasted good, they were obviously not made by someone who knew the culinary culture of those countries.

I tried a samosa there. It tasted remarkably un-Indian. Good though! The shape of a samosa is supposed to be triangular and three dimensional, and a particular size. The shape adds authenticity. Food at this restaurant is in a sense mass-produced, so having customized shapes for the turnovers just isn’t part of the plan — so far. But, maybe things will change. I also tried a Russian Pierogi. I had one at a Russian Deli in San Francisco which had the authentic flavor. But, Nonna’s had neither the huge triangular shape, not the distinct greasy and brothy flavor that the real thing had. I recommend Nonna’s for a great experience and a fun time, but not for authenticity unless you order the Argentinian or Chilean empanadas.

La Paella: Los Angeles
This is a very nice restaurant right on the border of Beverly Hills on San Vicente. They have all types of paella to share (no individual portions to my dismay.) Their wines by the glass were very affordable and in very good taste as well. They have many traditional tapas dishes, and other entres from Spain. The staff is excellent and consist generally of people from Spain who prefer traditional food (based on my conversations with them.) The chocolate moose is a favorite of mine, and their empanada is the icing on the cake. Recommended, especially for a date!

Little Spain: Los Angeles
This is a place that has been in the 3rd Street Farmer’s Market for about two years. I went there twice and liked it. They offer paella for single customers in small sizes which is unusual. Great wine, nice service, and of course is it always a pleasure to be in the Farmer’s Market which has an ambiance of fun! They have chicken empanadillas too.

Bertas: Old Town, San Diego
There is a place in Old Town, San Diego called Bertas which has a very nice Lamb empanada. I enjoyed their ambiance, food, artwork, service, as well as the relaxing environment of San Diego in general.

Sevilla Night Club: Downtown, San Diego
It was a long time ago. But, I enjoyed some unusual tapas dishes there including an empanada. Great service. They are right on 5th ave in Downtown San Diego.