Postmark Here

Postcards from Travel Near and Far by Jia-Rui


Leave a comment

92264, Palm Springs

Robson Chambers house, 1947

Dear ——–,

Bryan signed us up for the Palm Spring Modern Heritage Fund‘s Modern Homes Tour on Saturday, with the caveat that we could take a time-out at any time if the baby was fussing/crying/peeing/pooping. With the baby tucked into a Baby Bjorn, we managed to see all the houses except for the first and the last on the tour, including this house designed by Robson Chambers as his own home. (For those of you who want to own a piece of architecture history, it is for sale — $575,000.) Most of the homes on the tour were vintage, including a house Arthur Elrod designed for himself that seemed frozen in the early 1960s, with a quaint orange-green color scheme in the living room, an enormous King-Arthur-esque round dining table, and a Steinway designed by the architect. The houses we liked best — a Dean Davidson house from 1965 and a Stan Sackley house from 1971 — mixed the indoor-outdoor space, with floor-to-ceiling windows, access to the pool from most rooms and terrazzo floors that allowed for wet feet from the pool. As the setting sun glowed golden-pink on the San Jacinto Mountains, we mused at how fun it was to see private houses in neighborhoods we never would’ve explored as tourists. You could almost hear the clink of cocktail glasses behind us.


1 Comment

92262, Palm Springs

Vintage Porsche 356

Dear ——–,

The Cook family took its first vacation together this past weekend, packing the baby, the dog, our luggage, plus the baby’s swing and Pack n Play into the Mini Cooper. (We definitely needed the roof box.) We got a great deal on a room at the Riviera in Palm Springs thanks to Jetsetter. As we pulled in on Friday, we saw Porsche flags waving. What was that about? Turns out, there was some kind of rally for Porsche 356s — the first of the mass-produced Porsches — and we found them in all candy colors on the lawns the next morning.  To me, these cars pop right out of sun-drenched scenes in a Fellini film, driven by some Casanova scamp. The Riviera was an old Rat Pack hangout, so why not conjure up the Italian version? We ordered a little take-out from Trio and it was a good start to the weekend.


2 Comments

90012, Little Tokyo

Wish tree in Little Tokyo

Dear ——–,
I’ve barely been out of the house since our daughter was born, but Bryan and I decided that we should try hiring a babysitter for the first time and go out for dinner for our 5th anniversary. We started at the Spice Table, a restaurant with southeast Asian specialties and an owner that used to work at Mozza. I had to try the Hainanese chicken and laksa because I wondered what the gourmet version of these humble comfort foods would be like. They were pretty tasty — less greasy, more focused, with sharper flavors. They also soared with the wine flight that our waiter recommended. After dinner, we took a walk around Little Tokyo, stopping to listen to an outdoor karaoke session (?!). After gawking at some mochi in the Mikawaya, I decided to pick up some imagawayaki, biscuit-sized pancakes filled with sweet red bean paste, for dessert. We stopped to admire a tree frilled with wishes on slips of paper. There was only a subtle breeze, but I was hoping one of the slips of paper would blow off, on its way to being fulfilled.


1 Comment

90027, Los Feliz

Dover sole at Puran's

 

Dear ——–,

Bryan and I were on the fence about going out to dinner last night. On the one hand, I’d had my first real, painful contractions yesterday morning, waking me out of sleep at 4:20 a.m. But they’d turned mostly mild by midday and we thought this might be a last opportunity to have a quiet night out together with no babysitter. We headed out to Puran’s on Hillhurst. There was unlikely to be a wait and it was close enough that we could make it home in less than 20 minutes. I also love their herb-grilled Dover sole — I’m picky about fish even though I know I should eat more of it! As we settled into our seats at dusk, I noticed for the first time that you could see Griffith Observatory from our table. I wondered why I’d never noticed it before, but was glad I still had time to savor stillness and quiet. We headed home last night a little giddy in anticipation, knowing that it would probably only be a matter of hours before we would head to the hospital.


1 Comment

90027, Hollywood

Two kinds of pizza at Mother Dough

Dear ——–,

We came to Hollywood tonight to join Erika and crew at the Moth, but bailed when we found out it was so full it was standing-room-only. (The guy at the door said that if we wanted a seat, we should get there next time at 6 p.m. for the 7:30 p.m. start time.) There was no way I could stand for more than 15 minutes, so we decided to use our trip to Hollywood to go to Mother Dough. So what if we’d been here exactly a week before for the first time? Their blistered, neapolitan-style pizzas had left us drooling for more. (The chocolate mousse and poached pear desserts were also heavenly.) This time we tried to arugula-prosciutto and margherita pizzas. I could do with a little more San Marzano tomato sauce and a few more slices of buffalo mozzarella slices, but the crust had a perfect toothiness. (The name comes from the old world practice of using a little bit of yesterday’s dough  — the mother dough — to help get the leavening process started on the next batch.) I was also impressed by the Bundaberg ginger beer, which might challenge Thomas Kemper’s ginger ale as my favorite ginger carbonated beverage.


Leave a comment

91109, Pasadena

Watching the last shuttle launch

 

Dear ——–,

I was don’t remember the first shuttle launch, but I remember the principal coming over the loudspeaker in 3rd grade to announce that the Challenger had been lost. We observed a moment of silence. It was a sober note in the booming, self-confident America of the 1980s, of which NASA’s space shuttle program was part and parcel. I remember being mesmerized by Kennedy Space Center as a kid, coming home with a t-shirt showing a shuttle framed by pink puffy paint. All of this contributed to where I am now — at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, writing about robotic explorers to the outer solar system. So at the final shuttle launch, I joined hundreds of others at JPL, one of the key places where our space program began to take shape, to commemorate the end of an era. The whole room clapped and cheered as the engines burned and the shuttle lifted off cleanly. I won’t mourn the shuttle per se so long as America keeps yearning to explore. But I do worry that the harsh economic reality will keep us from pushing boundaries, testing our limits, asking questions about the places we’ve never been. To me, these are the things that make us human.


Leave a comment

90291, Venice Beach

Walking along Venice Beach

Dear ——–,

It was boiling in Eagle Rock so Bryan, I and apparently the rest of Los Angeles headed to the beach today to celebrate Independence Day. It was a good 15 degrees cooler in Venice, with a deliciously cool breeze, so we took a long walk up to Santa Monica and back. Some people were decked out in red, white and blue sequins, while others thought that the most American thing they could do was walk around with their chests bared. I guess the best thing about this country is that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness can mean so many things — family reunions, serious barbecue spreads with food-service-grade Saran wrap and women in aprons wielding tongs, rollerblading in bikinis, biking in hijabs, drinking beer with your toes in the sand. With all the chaos in other parts of the world, it made me thankful that we are bringing our daughter into the world here. Los Angeles can be nutty and a little sloppy, but people aren’t afraid of those things.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.