Saying Goodbye to Los Angeles (For Now): Part 1

Recently, my friend Erich and I headed down to Los Angeles for a quick trip. It had recently been Erich’s birthday, so this was sort of his birthday trip. It was also my last hoorah in the city–at least for now–because I will soon be moving to Washington state and LA won’t be nearly as accessible as it is for me now. Living in the city is something neither Erich or I would ever want to do–but we both LOVE to visit. There is so much to do and see there. I just had to get back once more to get my fix before leaving California behind.

We were staying in Eagle Rock, just on the outskirts of Glendale. We’d stayed in the area every time we’d visit for its closeness to a diner we both enjoyed immensely, Cindy’s. We had stumbled on Cindy’s by chance on a long ago visit, and had been coming back ever since. Apparently we weren’t the only ones who felt that way about the restaurant. A couple of years after discovering Cindy’s, it was featured in Justin Timberlake’s CAN’T STOP THIS FEELING music video (Gasp! Was my butt seated where Justin Timberlake’s was? Ha!) and on another visit, it was closed for the filming of some other project. Wow!

Our hotel (just down the street) wasn’t ready yet. Could we come back in an hour? Sure–but where should we go in the mean time? Hmm. How about Cindy’s for lunch?

We scored a parking place (always a challenge in the past) and went in. Seeing the delightful, retro orange and green interior brought on a smile.

All Erich wanted was a side of coleslaw and a side of macaroni and cheese. I had a salad. Neither were spectacular. Oh well..

Back at the hotel, our room was ready. This was not our usual hotel. I had picked another because I wanted an elevator to help with my walking issues. There was a handicapped parking spot right near the office–but the elevator was in the far, opposite corner. But it turned out to be okay. We had what was probably the best room in the place. There was no one to the left of us. To the right (opposite our bathroom) was the stairwell. Below us was part of the hotel’s office. So, essentially, we had NO neighbors. Awesome!

Even though we’d had a long drive and it would have been easy to relax for a while, we only had a limited time in the City of Angeles (and the surrounding burgs). We had to get going. Besides, we were meeting a friend at the Tonga Hut in North Hollywood at 5 pm. We had time hit a few places in Burbank on the way…

My friend John had told me about a place he had recently visited called the Bearded Lady’s Mystic Museum. What!?! That sounded interesting. We had just enough time for a visit before we had to skedaddle over to the Tonga Hut. The Mystic Museum is on the corner of W. Magnolia Blvd and Ontario Street in Burbank. Kitty-corner from it is another interesting store my friend John recommended to me, Blast From The Past.

Blast From The Past turned out to be a shop catering to fans of horror and sci-fi movies and TV shows. It had all sorts of toys, books, games, figures, etc. There were also some movie posters–but nothing I couldn’t live without. Erich bought a few birthday cards there, but that was it.

As we were leaving, I saw a sign pointing to a door at the side of the building. It said it was the Hollywood Book & Poster Company. Huh? I know Hollywood Book & Poster. Their store is on Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood. Was this some satellite location?

The place was tiny. We took a gander and I looked through their posters. There were some nice things there, reasonably priced. I should have gave it a more thorough search, but I didn’t want to deal with keeping a poster safe for the rest of the trip (especially a rolled one).

Finally it was time to head across the street to the Mystic Museum. It looked so interesting outside.

The Bearded Lady Mystic Museum was actually several things–not just a museum. The place was divided up into three main sections. The first area was like a horror boutique. It reminded me of some of the voodoo shops I had experienced in New Orleans.

There was a Ouija board planchette-like photo booth on one wall. Sure, I jumped in it.

The second area held macabre and bizarre antique oddities.

It was here we found an employee and were able to ask about tickets to the Mystic Museum. We were told it was closed and being outfitted for a new display showcasing the EVIL DEAD film and TV series. Waaagh!

However, the third area (dubbed “Horror Camp”) was my favorite. It was filled with fun horror movie merchandise and displays! Zowie! How cool!

There was another little photo opportunity I couldn’t refuse. They had a mock up of a canoe with the creepy kid version of Jason Voorhees from the original FRIDAY THE 13TH that popped up behind you. Of course, I needed a picture.

After that, it was tiki time…actually the first stop on an evening tiki time tour! And off we went to the Tonga Hut.

The Tonga Hut is the LA area’s oldest and longest running tiki bar. Opened in 1958, it is a jewel in the Los Angeles tiki landscape. However, due to COVID, the Hut was closed to the public. Instead, a temporary bar had been erected in the rear parking lot.

While I was disappointed the Tonga Hut was not open–especially for Erich, who had never been before–I was intrigued by the make-shift version that had sprung up in response to the pandemic. For such a temporary space, I thought they did a swell job. (For more on the Tonga Hut and other LA tiki places’ attempts to deal with COVID–and for a lot more photos, visit the post HERE.)

I’m not gonna lie. As nice as the transformation of the parking lot to a tropical oasis was, it was still hot sitting there–despite the cocktails. Before long, we were joined by my friend Kathleen. Kathleen and I have been writing to each other for 15 years. She was a good friend of my aunt Fernie’s. When Fernie died, I sort of inherited Kathleen as a friend. It was wonderful to finally (FINALLY!) meet her.

Kathleen and her husband Rick are long-time residents of North Hollywood. Their son, Joe, is a tiki-phile as well. I would have loved to have chatted with him. He was supposed to have joined us, but got stuck at work. But Kathleen, who enjoyed a Mai Tai, I believe, (while I slurped down a Voodoo Juice. Mmm!) was delightful. I was so happy to have finally made her acquaintance in the real world–and at a tiki bar, none the less. Ha!

As we headed out, Kathleen and I ducked into a little souvenir photo op the bar had set up to commemorate our afternoon there.

Our next destination was Kahuna Tiki. Kahuna Tiki is not on many tiki fans’ radar—which is unfortunate. Not only is Kahuna Tiki a tiki bar…it’s also a sushi place! Tiki sushi? Yeah, baby!

What also makes Kahuna Tiki unique is that almost all of it is outdoors. Literally, it is like one big giant patio with many different and unique seating areas. (I discussed it in more detail in the LA COVID tiki post, but I also mention it HERE.) A second location had recently opened. Instead of checking that one out, I opted to show Erich this location. I figured the al fresco dining would be a nifty novelty, as the new location is supposed to be mostly indoors.

For those who poo poo Kahuna Tiki being a tiki bar, I present exhibits A & B:

Our server was Taya and she was marvelous. I had a Bananarama to drink. I forget what Erich had. Maybe a Pineapple Sour? The sushi was also excellent. (And, of course, I bought the namesake souvenir Zombie glass. I’m funny that way…)

From Kahuna Tiki, we went around the corner and down the block a ways to Idle Hour. No, Idle Hour is not a tiki bar…but it is pretty amazing. I first stumbled on Idle Hour several years ago on another trip to LA. It is an amazing relic from early Los Angeles and a delightful example of vernacular architecture/programmatic architecture. The place looks like giant kegs of rum.

Inside, it feels like you are inside giant barrels as well. (My lone picture is blurry—but this link to the previous visit has great photos.)

After my first visit, Kathleen had mentioned to me that in the back of the building, on the patio, stood the Bulldog Cafe. WHAT!?! How had I missed that. The Bulldog Cafe is another great example of vernacular architecture (in which a building looks like what it is). In this instance, the Bulldog Cafe looks like a bulldog. I had first heard about it years ago when reading the book WEIRD CALIFORNIA (And, hold the phone! There’s a WEIRD HOLLYWOOD I’ll have to track down and get for myself after the move — to plan for my eventual return trips!) I did a little research on the Bulldog. While it is not the original Bulldog Cafe (which was built in 1928 and was demolished sometime in the 1960s), this smaller-scaled replica was built for the 1991 movie THE ROCKETEER, and was moved to the Peterson Museum, before finding a permanent home at Idle Hour. I had to see it. We were on our way to another tiki bar just a block away–did we really need another drink or any more to eat? No!

So, after we walked in, I just moseyed on out to the patio, saw the amazing pipe-smoking Bulldog Cafe, snapped some shots (HOORAY!)–and off we left. Ha!

After a quick jaunt down the street, we arrived at our third and final tiki stop for the day, Tiki No.

It was a warm Thursday night. When I had been here previously (on a weekend), there was hardly anyone there. Imagine my surprise when, in this day of COVID, we walked in and saw the crowd. Zowie! Hello? Did no one realize there was a pandemic (with killer variants) going on?

The bar is beautiful and our drinks were good. The vibe, though… Not what we wanted or needed. It was too young/college/top 40 and very little feeling of being on an island getaway. Oh well.

We had one drink each and then it was time to call it a day. We’d had a long drive, but despite that, we’d still managed to make the most of the day and crammed a lot in. Tomorrow would be just as jam-packed.

To be continued…

Click HERE for Part 2.

4 thoughts on “Saying Goodbye to Los Angeles (For Now): Part 1

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