That One Time I Hung Out With Tyra Banks: My Baby Hairs are On Fleek

So this one Day I get an email saying that this TV show is looking for white fathers of bi-racial daughters. The premise of the  bit is that we oafish Dads may be ill equipped to do the hair of our daughters, especially if they don’t have the same hair types as our collective selves.

That email was well directed.

I had never heard of the show and for good reason- this call was for its very first taping. What I did know was the name of the celebrity headliner, because every boy of my generation knows the name Tyra Banks.IMG_6298To make a long story short, you did not miss our episode. It never aired. Which makes this post exclusive footage, but that isn’t really my point. I will eventually get to some sort of point. Eventually.

So I show up, bi-racial daughter in tow, and I meet a bunch of other guys who are there to play the role of expert hair-doing dads. I am the only oaf. Normal.IMG_6296

Once the cameras got rolling I realized it wasn’t just Tyra but a cast of characters hosting the show including this one woman I know as Mrs. John Legend.

This is the part where I get to my point. Sure I was on a television set with celebrities and producers and such, but I was more interested in this ivy league professor, and academic rock star friend of mine who has a borderline unhealthy obsession with John Legend. The obsession is understandable as John is after all the coolest, smoothest, and arguably smartest crooner alive today, and here I am hob-nobbing with Mr. Legend’s Sports Illustrated cover gracing wife.

I told Chrissy Teigen I was good friends with someone who may be willing to pay me an unreasonable amount of money to somehow, anyhow, make her husband “available.” She admitted there were many people with the same intentions.IMG_6276

My wife is by far the best, I am more Doug Heffernan than Cassanova, and I am not even close to Tony Soprano, so Chrissy and I settled for texting my professor friend a picture of the two of us together.

And of course I had time to do all this because Tyra was working on my little girl’s baby hairs. Then, when it came my turn, they cut to commercial and a crew of actual stylists came in to do what they were sure I could not… make a pony tail.IMG_6274

Perhaps the reason why we didn’t air was my little girl’s hesitation to perform while sitting on Tyra’s lap. Too young to be star struck, she was comfortable enough talking, but Lil Bit refused to look into the camera and say “My baby hairs are on fleek.” She acted all shy and stuff.

Driving home I asked her why she wouldn’t say it. “Did you get scared?”IMG_6301

“No Dad”, said the seven year old, “I don’t know what fleek means. I’m not going to say a word I don’t know on TV.”

I am apparently even more deficient in teaching my children vocabulary than I am in making pony tails.

So I Heard Its a Blizzard: That’s Nice

I remember Snowmegeddon. It took a week to dig my car out of a snowbank.CIMG9264The thing I hadn’t thought about the first time I went out to shovel snow while living in a row home, was that there is nowhere to move the shoveled snow too. Where are you supposed to put it?bowboardtreescopy

I am not anti-snow per-se, I have at times rather enjoyed the stuff. But only at times and in its place.IMG_0313

But today, and here, is not the place. Enjoy hunkering down inside your little caves folks, I have to go to work.IMG_8475

The Alley

In recapping where I had gone for the weekend I once told someone “Olvera Street.” Their response was something along the lines of, “That’s for tourists. You need to go to the Alley.” So I did.IMG_0050

We went there not looking for anything in particular and consequentially found everything. We mostly bought nothing and ate something. All of that is what you do at the alley.IMG_0044

This is one of the only places in LA I have been too that really felt like it was in a city. The rest of this town is all parking lots and strip malls that make everywhere seem suburban. Not the alley. It has Rockefeller Center type crowds with Canal Street style merchants.IMG_0053

Plastic shoes, $50 suits, quinceanera dresses for days, and highly questionable electronics were everywhere. I, and I have never presented myself as an expert, have never before, had the urge to discourage the general public from specific sartorial choices, as much as I did in the alley.IMG_0077I also realize I am not a casting director for formulaic B grade movies about the Cartel. I mean, why go to Barcelona when you can WEAR Barcelona right?

But then again, if you like it and want to wear it, I think you should absolutely wear it. Joking aside- I mean that.IMG_0068

I will however, without reservation, make food recommendations. Eat It All!IMG_0067 (2)

Fruits, and otherwise boring vegetables, are given new life when sliced and drowned in chili powder. I don’t suggest eating any of this while wearing white gloves.

I was not wearing white gloves.IMG_0120

Not pictured is a giant pinata shaped like a Petron bottle. I’m told you can also get one made in your own likeness but I’m not sure what one should appropriately put inside either of these party favors if the children are under age. I am admittedly an outsider here but I always thought that pinatas were specifically for, those who are underage.

I have a lot to learn.IMG_0231

I am happy to get my upcoming lessons.IMG_0088

Langer’s: just order #19

Los Angeles isn’t know for delis,but those in LA know about Langer’s.IMG_0135

As far as decor and location go it is just a regular diner, big menu, self seating. What sets Langer’s apart is thick cut pastrami and good bread. Never forget the bread. Norah Ephron called the #19 the best pastrami in the world.IMG_0121

The place has been around since 1947, been written up by everyone who writes about LA, and been on every food tour television show there is. It’s just Langer’s.IMG_0195

Norm Langer is still there hanging around chatting it up with everyone. It’s his place and he doesn’t mind mixing it up with the Hollywood types and the nobody’s alike. He mixed it up with us, and if you were wondering, we are the Hollywood types.IMG_0132

How the Good People Enforce Racism; we didn’t mean it.

I grew up in a HUD home. My parents were young and my father’s job paid little to nothing. He had turned the G.I. Bill into a college education and was offered a job as a high school teacher. They applied for a subsidy and whomever it was in charge at the time decided to give my folks a break and they became homeowners in part on the taxpayer’s dime. My family lived in this home for more than thirty years and once all six of us children were gone and my parents retired, they were able to sell that home at more than four times its original value. This sale funded their dream retirement home and has enabled them to live a life where they routinely serve others and give to those in their new community and family.

That was a great home.

houseinsandyWhen we look at today’s problems surrounding race and poverty it is easy to forget how we got here. It is even easier to misunderstand why we are still here now. Often times people like me, white middle class folks who are trying to be good people, disregard accusations of racism, whether leveled at us personally (which almost never happens) or more likely at American society in general. We reject these accusations because we just don’t see it. We often don’t see it because we don’t really know what we are looking at.

So let’s look at my family’s HUD home.

I grew up in a stable household in large part because someone did something good. Someone signed an application or approved a form that gave my parent’s an opportunity. Maybe they deserved it, I like to think they did, but they got a house they wouldn’t have been able to afford on their own. That is a great thing. I consider the fact that I didn’t grow up in a public housing project a good thing. Not that projects are inherently bad, but most projects are rougher and more volatile environments than the one I enjoyed during my formative years. There were other HUD homes in the area of course, but I have no idea which one’s they were; they didn’t have signs in the front yard. Everyone knows which developments are projects. I’ll bet that whoever owns that house now has no idea it was originally built with government money.

When homes like mine were being built it was against the law to sell them to Black people. That law was changed, much like most similar laws, and since then we have fooled ourselves to think society changed too. We haven’t.IMG_3086

What I mean is that there were good people back then who weren’t trying to be racist, just like there are people not trying to be racist now. I have no doubt when the individual who approved my parents’ home purchase did so; they were not intending it to be a racist act. That person was likely just trying to give my folks a chance. It was a good thing to give them a shot. I’m glad it happened. But then, and too often now, this same chance isn’t given to Black people. This is how modern racism works.

Racism doesn’t have to mean the proverbial “you” hates Black people. Often times people where I grew up never even thought about Black people. I am willing to believe that the HUD official in Salt Lake City gave no thought to anything even remotely race related while doing his job. In his (at the time it was most likely a he) world race laws had little to do with his daily life and it just so happened that HUD loans weren’t available to Black people. It didn’t have anything to do with him.

Today most things work exactly the same, just without the laws. We don’t need a law, or need to hate anyone, to give someone else a shot. Hating a Black person doesn’t have anything to do with helping out someone in need. Helping is always good.

But reality is that we most often have sympathy for, and help, those with whom we can most closely relate. We sympathize with the young couple fresh out of school. We see their potential and have some faith that all they need is a push, we often forgive the small discretions in the past having faith that those things are bygones.

And more often than not those we choose to help are the same race as the helper.

There are exceptions of course, especially with government programs. Lots of white social service workers helping lots of generationally poor Black folk. I am amazed at how many of those white folks resent the help they provide. Amazed. I have helped, and seen others efforts to help, and watched as those given a shot completely blow their chance. People lack gratitude. People are lazy. People make profoundly poor choices and squander what little resources and opportunity they have. All people do this.CIMG4966

What so often happens when help is rebuffed or executed poorly across racial lines is that the helper starts looking for where it all fell apart. Everything made sense in the mind of the helper in the beginning, but still it failed, and the helper is left to explore the things they don’t grasp. Most of us don’t understand race. I have seen quite a few white helpers come away from failed ventures with newly entrenched racist ideas. They didn’t intend to become racist, nor do they leave hating Black people, but race is the thing they don’t get and it becomes the fly in the philanthropist’s ointment.

This happens again, and again, and again; and it happens today, and people form opinions and policy accordingly. That is how it has always worked.

I grew up in a HUD home thanks to a policy written and implemented by people who look like me. Other G.I.’s raised their families, or at least tried, in projects and ghettos and the “hood” not always because of some overt hatred, but because they weren’t given the same break.

Things like this don’t change magically over time. We have to change them intentionally.IMG_8015


Republique:when nerds on PBS are cooler than you

I am not Stephon from Saturday Night Live. I do not know the cool place in town that has everything. In fact I’m so much the un-Stephon that I am now taking my advice on spots to frequent from PBS.

Turns out nerds on PBS give great advice.image2If you need some sort of cool factor third party verification in order to form opinions than take some solace in the fact that GQ listed Republique as one of the best places in LA to eat, and then they went on to say LA is one of the best food cities in America.

Looks like the nerds and the cool kids will be sitting at the same lunch tableimage4You order your food at the front counter then go have a seat in your choice of high ceiling, naturally lit dining rooms. For a Saturday morning brunch at 9am we waited in line for about 40 minutes. There was no wait for a place to sit down and once we were inside it felt busy but in no way crowded.image5We grabbed a creme brulee filled pastry to tide the kids over till the food showed up. Then, the lightest, thickest, French toast I’ve ever dealt with, a breakfast sandwich, and a waffle with every California stereotype stacked on top.image3

Sometimes stereotypes turn out fantastic… when it comes to food.image7Did I mention they make their own ginger ale? And hazelnut hot chocolate. And their own bread. And on and on and at the end of it all the point is that sometimes tv and glossy magazines give good advice, and then in this case, when it comes to Republique, they give the best advice.image1