Venice & Vintage

So I save the tour bus and Venice Beach for the last day.

What it’s fricking hot up here!

Venice beach in Santa Monica is our normal hang out when we come to LA, just really like the laid-back vibe, kind of reminds me of Brighton. I left it till last because I know my way around pretty well and I wasn’t actually sure how much stuff there be to look at that’s relevant to work, nevertheless it has a really awesome,  very LA typical vibe that will be great for photography and videos that I can use in my work.

Having a non yard sale here...Obviously I picked the day of the mass bike ride so all the roads were shut...

The bus takes me around lots of other tourist points, some I hadn’t been to before. Then I hit the Viper Rooms & some of our other old haunts on sunset; It’s funny – Whiskey a Gogo still looks the same. I jump off at Rodeo Drive, it’s pretty nice being able to jump on and off, but I don’t anticipate the rules; yes I am back in the real world now, where there are rules and regulations, where you wouldn’t even consider overloading your scooter full of shopping, then riding it the wrong way into the course of oncoming traffic, in fact I don’t even think you could try to do that if you wanted to – sorry I digress – RULES. You can only get on this coloured bus to do this loop, and it doesn’t just go round this loop indefinitely, it finishes, then you have to wait for another bus to start it again – yep annoying!

Love this!

Anyway you do the loop, I’m looking at the people, the shops, the environment etc. then you’re finished in Venice Beach which is a great way to end the trip, to get lots of shots especially in the skate park and to my surprise a really huge sneakers and stuff store which was not there before and where I get a bunch of great shots of sneakers.

Dude

Even though the odds were stacked against me I managed to get the last bus back, I think every bus except for 1 had NO air con, so we’re all melting onto our pleather seats and fanning ourselves aggressively with our tour maps – my god. I am so fucking relieved to get to my stop I levitate out of the doors where I have just enough time to go back to those vintage shops I was so desperate to have a look in.

My favourite was Flamingos, not only were the staff exceptionally lovely, friendly, helpful and just down right adorable, but all sales are done by weight I can’t remember exactly how it was split but I managed to get myself another two vintage Mexican dresses that need some minor sewing fixes (I’ve got a few of these, they’re staples, I wear them all the time and they’re kind of disintegrating because it’s a long time since I’ve been to Mexico) and and it was also stuffed so full of Kimonos, it was absolutely stunning, more than I’ve ever seen in Japan. Honestly the shop – it was just bomb, I recommend it highly, if you like vintage or second hand – this is well worth a rummage. Anyway so as I said I managed to get myself my couple of bits for 12 bucks, 12 bucks for 2 dresses!!

My suitcases were very full I’d already had to buy another, god only knows how much over my luggage was about to be, but hey, it’ll probably be another 8 years before I get to come back!

I finish the night and by getting vegan tacos in this adorable little charity taco place which is only two minutes walk from my house. Then I stomp up to Whole Foods to stock up on as much vegan stuff I could shove into my (already overfull) suitcases to bring back to Vietnam; you can’t buy any of this stuff here. (I should tell you about the uber stoned guys in wholefoods trying to act normal whilst they very badly do their shopping, but that’s a whole other post) Yeah I also found alcoholic Kombucha which made my day, and which is lethal by the way, I don’t recommend it because I had barely been drinking and as this tasted like Kombucha, like a child I drank it like Kombucha and it got me hammered. So anyway, there I am drunk on alcoholic Kombucha trying to stuff everything into my suitcases before getting myself ready for the next day – departure day aghhh..

My Uber driver to the airport, who is fucking awesome by the way, he served in the forces, has travelled all over the world, fought in the Middle East and speaks a billion languages. Well he wants to talk politics, and I’m always a bit concerned about talking about Donald Trump and peoples opinions, plus I am pretty ignorant about politics, but the past week or so I have done a lot of catching up on Trump, and although I feel reasonably ignorant, this guy wanted to talk, and I could just about catch up and he was absolutely fascinating, hilarious in fact, and so had a great banter with him all the way to the airport and I finish my trip on a high before the horrific journey back to Vietnam.

As I dump my suitcases onto the scales at the check in, I gaze into the distance waiting for the outrageous cost of the overweight luggage and instead I am handed my tickets and off I go.

My takeaways for LA are health and fitness – this is huge; and this is physical and metal, the side hustle is really the only way that normal people are able to make a significant amount of money and to survive in such an expensive city. Los Angeles is a lot more forgiving the New York, it’s definitely less expensive, the weather is better, it’s just a lot more laid back, well – Californian I guess. I found the people to be a lot friendlier than I remember them being, and in all honesty this is the best place I have been shopping for work outside of Tokyo and I do not give compliments like that away freely.

Los Angeles – yes! I’ll be back 🙂

Los Angeles

So it’s been a while, & by a while I mean a really long while. I’m guessing the last time I visited LA must be 7 or 8 years ago; things move pretty fast in a city like LA so I’m sure I’ll have missed a lot..

I’m there for work & contrary to popular belief my work is not as fabulous & glamorous as everyone expects it to be. I mean I’m arriving from a 4 day stint in Portland, jet lagged, flying economy, always economy… I did however manage to avoid the ridiculously overpriced, underwhelming hotel situation with Air bnb (obviously) & although Air bnb isnt always perfect, it does usually get you a sweet deal in a good area & this time is no exception.. check out my little trailer! CUTE OVERLOAD

Not only was this trailer on the adorable end of the hospitality spectrum, it was also a super convenient 1 minute walk from Melrose & my my Melrose you have CHANGED!

So I should say that most people seem to think for my job I just go around different cities, take random pictures of things & have a wonderful time. They don’t consider that I probably walk around 25 km every day, dodging in & out of shops chased by slightly terrifying, angry shop assistants who don’t want me taking photos in their store. Always on the search for the new, niche, original, special next big thing. You can’t (in my opinion) get insight about anything or anywhere unless you can see the big picture. If I just take pictures of shoes it tells you nothing about the city, of its people, its culture, what people are wearing, the feel of the place, so it’s devoid of any value. I have to take on an entirely different persona, try to blend in as much as possible with my surroundings, it’s not always easy sometimes my surroundings are alien, I usually travel alone, & I’m not a naturally outgoing, confident individual. I mean I’m British so I’m socially awkward & no matter how hard I try a little crumpled & rough around the edges… Still – LA I’m ready for you!

Normally when I travel & I stay in an Airbnb & I cook – many reasons for this; it’s convenient when you’re tired, travelling alone you don’t always feel like eating out by yourself, I’m vegan, so depending on where I’m travelling it can be quite difficult to eat decent food & a lot of the time, LA is no exception; the place will be stuffed full of exciting Vegan food that I can’t buy in Vietnam, & I enjoy cooking & trying all the stuff out.. However, I’ve only just got to Los Angeles, I’m tired and I can’t be bothered to cook; also I didn’t get a chance to go to Veggie Grill in Portland this time, & it’s not too far from the house, I mean trailer. So I think fuck it let’s do that, and I put on my little string sandals and off I go. I should mention my string sandals are from ‘nomadic state of mind’ I am telling you this because they always get a lot of comments & they are very comfortable they also look awesome.

Actually these are not my favourite pair, my favourite pair are mint & wearing them guarantees many conversation starters…. So anyway, I digress, at Veggie Grill I have some kind of fake crab sandwich thing, & oh my God it’s amazing! One of the things I love about Veggie Grill (aside from the food) wherever you go, is the super diverse crowd you get in there, it’s a bit of an institution from what I can work out, which is pretty awesome for a plant based fast food chain. The staff & customers never fail to entertain & the food is always epic. So after that, stuffed, I trot back off to my trailer to get a decent night’s sleep before the epic day I have planned for tomorrow.

On my journey to and from Veggie Grill I couldn’t help but notice that now Melrose seems to have turned into the epicentre of vintage, 2nd hand & thrift shopping. This is kind of surprising to me because the last time I came to LA most of the vintage stores seem to be centred around Venice Beach, with a few of the bigger consignment places on Sunset. I hadn’t really factored in going to vintage shops, as it’s not really super relevant to my business, but as it seems to make up a pretty big proportion of the shopping on Melrose, with a spattering of specialist sneaker stores, it sort of makes itself relevant, this gets me pretty excited & I’m wondering how I’m going to fit all of this in, I’m on a time crunch of 3 days…

The Cats…

So do they get on?

Hmmmmm, well not exactly.

Phú is super easy, a cats cat if you will. He was thrilled when we found Star & wanted to play with her immediately. As she was in heat, we had to get her spayed, and make sure she had all her vaccinations before we could introduce her to Phú. 2 weeks of the the introduction process, a bit of fighting for dominance & they were & are thick as thieves, best friends.

Sadly the same cannot be said for Ozzy. Phú was typically gentle & kind, whereas Star decided she must surely dispose of this imposter in our house. We’ve had moments where we thought we were almost there, moments of peaceful napping together on the sofa, sadly these moments are so easily broken by one cat or another deciding to make a swipe, triggered by anything or nothing at all. So here we are 8 months down the road starting the introduction process for the billionth time. Frustrating yes; would we have not taken Ozzy knowing what we know now? Nope, of course not. In fact there is a kitten out there wailing now which we are yet to locate, we’ll keep trying to hunt it down, I can’t not try to do something, but if I do manage to find it, I think it might be a case of fostering, rather than adding another fuzzy fur ball to this already challenging family dynamic…

Cats ❤️

Ozzy

And then in February 2019 it happened again… We could hear the wailing, for a good couple of weeks, but had been unable to find anything. We hear it again & again, we check the front yard – nothing, the back yard – nothing. We had pretty much given up on being able to find anything, anyone, but lo & behold JJ can see a tiny head & a pair of ears in the back yard of the end house. Off we go, luckily by now the security in our area are well aware of our animal feeding & rescuing antics, so when we try to locate this tiny little kitty, the security guard comes with us & helps us to explain. We ask the man if it’s his kitten under the car & he angrily says no. We say ‘if you open the gate, we’ll get it’ he did, and this poor little guy just walked out into my hand & we walked him round the corner to our house & that was the night we adopted Ozzy. We think Ozzy was perhaps the runt of the litter, he was in pretty bad shape, filthy, smelly & covered in ring worm. A trip to the vets, a bath, a few decent meals later & our 3rd fur baby joins the rag tag gang of adoptees…

Finding Star..

So after Phú came Star. Quite by accident. We had been discussing the possibility of getting Phú a playmate. Plenty of cats in Vietnam that need homes, but we hadn’t got much further than that until one night in January, 3 months later JJ (training for the marathon) went out for a run. He had circled round by the Starlight bridge & this little cat had run out into his path then rolled around a bit waiting for some fuss. He did another circuit saying to himself that should the cat still be there then maybe he would do something about it & sure enough there she was again. Didn’t take much persuasion for him to pick her up and take her home. It would seem as though Star (named after the bridge) had almost certainly already had a litter & was in heat, she also turned out to be quite the escape artist, getting herself stuck on the carport after escaping from the roof, then disappearing again the next day. We were beside ourselves trying to find her & she was sat on the ground by the carport in the dark soaking wet, waiting for us to find her.

Phú Is 2!

So 2 years ago I was in the process of moving & had heard this wailing. I’d been out to investigate many times, but to no avail. I’d left out food, nothing… the wailing continued.

We moved to our new house (just a few roads down) go out for pizza & have to be dropped off at the end of the road as when it gets dark they close off some of the roads with bollards.. (probably because of all of the non existent crime) We are just walking the few steps to our house & we hear the wailing again. So we sit down patiently & this little bat eared monster comes wobbling out of the bushes. Starving & terrified. So this is where the Phú Mỹ Hưng cat collective (ie. our house) began, with our first child. Phú..