Hollywood Patch

I’ve started doing interview with the new Hollywood Patch. It’s a hyper-local website on the Hollywood neighborhood. I get to interview local businesspeople and residents on their life in Hollywood. Here is my latest, and links to my previous pieces:

Birds Offers ‘Fast Food with a Liquor License’

Mary Preston, co-owner of the Franklin Village hangout, also helps rescue lost dogs and provides a nightly demonstration of her hula hoop skills.

Mary Preston has enough personality to take over an entire restaurant—which she does most nights when she hops up on a table at Birds and hula-hoops (some nights she can be found teaching the basics in the bar).

She’s a hands-on owner who offers to climb the teetering ladder to fix a fan blade, and speaks fluent Spanish to her staff. The menu of basic homestyle cooking isn’t going to impress foodies, but Preston is the first to say that Birds is not primarily about the food.

Preston and business partner Henry Olek started the restaurant back in 1994 when he was a writer and she was an actress and a couple of writers’ strikes prompted them to seek other ways to make a living.

Both lived in the Hollywood Hills and wanted the restaurant to be close by. They bought the space, which used to be a Chinese restaurant, and the rest is chicken and wine.

Hollywood Patch: How did you come up with the concept for Birds?

Mary Preston: I think necessity is the mother of invention. I didn’t want to hire a chef because I knew that chefs take a third of your profits right off the top.

So, I wanted something that leaned towards the healthy side of eating. Rotisserie chicken was all the rage at the time. I knew that the machine itself would cook the chicken.

I’m not a great cook, but I’m more into the bar side. I’m not a chef, so we decided to do down-home recipes. A lot of the recipes are my mother’s. The corn bread and the chicken pot pie and stuff like that.  We wanted something that was fast and affordable, but not fast food. It’s fast food with a liquor license. That’s what I call it.
See more at Hollywood Patch.

My other Hollywood Patch pieces:

Tour Guide Has a Hollywood Story of His Own

Sitting Down with an Upright Comedy Director


Virgin America’s first flight to Toronto

I was lucky enough to go on a press flight celebrating Virgin America’s first flight to Toronto, Canada. The flight went from LAX to SFO with  Governor Schwarzenegger, Sir Richard Branson and Drake. Then, they held a press conference at SFO with Mayor Gavin Newsom (It was a handsome-a-thon, yes). Next, everyone except Newsom and Schwarzenegger got back on board for the flight to Toronto. In Toronto, the plane was greeted with a red carpet event. I was lucky enough to get an interview with Branson at that time. He’s a great speaker.

We then went to the Thompson Toronto, which is a brand new hotel in downtown Toronto. It’s beautiful, modern and has amazing views from the roof pool. Virgin America went all out with a multi-level party which lasted late into the night.

On the return flight, I was bumped up to first class, and got to really soak in the beauty of that.

But the truth of it is Virgin America is amazing even from coach. With individual touch-screen televisions that allow you to watch television, chat with other people on the plane, play games or watch LIVE television (everyone watched the ESP vs PORTUGAL game live!), Virgin is far above any other airline. On top of that, the in-air wireless feature makes getting work done easier than ever. Some people were even SKYPEing in the air! How amazing!

They also announced their intent to fly to Mexico in the future, which would make vacation trips to Cancun so much more appealing.

Truly, Virgin America is the only way to fly…


Costa Rica



As I continue my attempt to travel around the entire world, I went to Costa Rica last weekend for a wedding. We stayed at the Paradisus Playa Conchal near Liberia. It’s a beautiful all-inclusive resort right on the beach. My kind of place. I spent a day zip-lining, horse back riding and going to natural hot springs, which was probably one of the best adventures ever. It’s a beautiful country. I hope to make it back there someday.


Visiting Bali, Indonesia


“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

I almost feel like I’m about to make a terribly sacrilegious comment, but here it goes: Bali ain’t all that.

Now, wait, don’t freak out on me. Before you call me ungrateful, insane or delusional, let me explain.

Before my trip, I built up high, high expectations for Bali. People described a beautiful, serene island with sand for days and peace and quite. They talked about Ubud, an artist’s paradise, and Dreamland, a surfer’s wettest dream.

So I was ready to be impressed.

Then, we made the mistake of staying in Kuta. On the Southern part of the island, Kuta is the main tourist town. This is the town, that in 2002, was bombed, and 202 tourists were killed. After that tragedy, Bali’s tourism came to a near halt, but now, seven years later, there is very little sign of that.

Kuta is crowded, loud and sort of like Cancun on Asian steroids. The streets are lined with tiny shops selling wood carvings, Batik fabric, ceramics and other tourist junk. But when you are harassed every time you walk in front of one of these shops, it gets really old. There is no sign of the interesting culture of the island left.

Thankfully, we left Kuta after a couple days, and spent some time on the tiny island, Nusa Lembongan. This was more like. There are very few, if any cars in this tiny island, and you can walk on the beach to tiny restaurants for dinner. It is quiet, with the exception of the ridiculously loud roosters, who wake up at about 5 am. But when we were ready to return to the main island of Bali, our boat host conveniently told us that the fee for the return boat ride had doubled, leaving us to either pay up or be stranded. So, watch out for this, and settle your fees up front.

We then spent several days in Ubud, which is in the center of the island. This was my favorite town. We toured the monkey forest, where dozens of monkeys wander freely, and aren’t afraid to jump on you for a treat. We toured temples, and looked at art. This city is a perfect balance of peace and quite, and some conveniences.

All in all, Bali is a beautiful place. First impressions aside, there are places on the island that have what you’re looking for. If you need crowds and nightlife and tourists, head to Kuta. For a solitary life, head to one of the smaller islands. And for a balance of the two, check out Ubud. Just be prepared: hustlers and sales people are everywhere.

Here are some tips if you are planning a trip:

1. Watch out for scams. At a certain temple, the largest one on the island, the “guides” will tell you that you are required to take a Balinese guide with you in order to see the temple because there is a religious ceremony going on. This is not true.

2. When visiting a temple, bring a sarong. They are required, and there is often a free to rent or buy one.

3. Like I said before, if you are going to one of the islands, agree on the price of the return boat ahead of time. Make sure to take one of the legitimate companies.

4. Barter, and barter hard. Start very low (about 1/3 of their offered price). You can usually get things for at most, half of the offered price.

5. Enjoy!