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Postcards from Travel Near and Far by Jia-Rui


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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.

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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.


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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.


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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.