Strange Comforts, Stranger Weather

the hell mouth cometh
A hell mouth opened under Los Angeles this week. You've probably heard that the official Los Angeles thermometer at USC registered 113 degrees F on Monday before it broke. Who knows how hot it actually got. And it was bone dry. Tuesday was cooler by a few degrees, but humidity showed up to the hell mouth party.

I drove from the Westside to Hollywood Tuesday evening and watched with horror as my car thermometer climbed from 88 to 95. But I knew I had a gubernatorial candidate debate to watch (nerd) and half a bottle of white wine (wino) chilling in the fridge and that kept me going. But as I walked into my apartment building, the strained positivity melted completely: power outage. My building is 100 years old and creepy on a good day. It's the last known residence of the Black Dahlia. Haunted Hollywood Tours drive by and gawk at it with some frequency. They would've been in for a treat on Tuesday, because with no power, my apartment building is the creepiest place I've ever been. The staircases and hallways were pitch black and it wasn't just quiet, it was sonically dead.

After ten minutes of laying on the floor sweating, I knew I had to go someplace cooler. I mentioned in the last post that I'm not good with heat and I wasn't kidding. I have a hard time staying conscious when the mercury hits 90. I don't know what your experience with heatstroke is, but lemme tell you, it's a trip. The voices around you turn into the whopwhopwhop of Charlie Brown adults, your vision tunnels, your body becomes the heaviest thing in all the world and the next thing you know, you're getting a free bottle of water in the medic tent next to the main stage at Coachella while Radiohead plays and you're wondering why you can't see (you lost your glasses in the crowd). Years later, even ten seconds of a Radiohead song will make you feel faint. For example.

So I got myself off the floor and headed to The House of Pies. For the last few years, Los Feliz's House of Pies--along with the Huntington and the Fairfax Farmer's Market--has been one of my go-to Happy Places. The appeal of the Huntington and Farmer's Market are obvious. The Huntington is gorgeous. It takes me twenty minutes to get there and yet when I'm there, I couldn't feel farther away from the slings and arrows of daily life. I can't possible squeeze what I love about the Fairfax Farmer's Market into a single sentence, so we'll go there in a later blog post. How The House of Pies managed to finagle its way onto this shortlist, I don't really know. It's not really that good. It's not that attractive. I only like 1.5 of the pies (peanut butter could use some chocolate), but the air conditioning is formidable and that can make a hell mouth day more bearable. I don't know why that place brings me comfort. But it does. And after a few hours at House of Pies, I felt ready to return to my apartment, where the electricity was still off and the heat was still building.

When I woke up on Wednesday, the power was back on and I greatly enjoyed sitting under my ceiling fan with my belated glass of cold white wine that evening. I sat and sipped and watched the sky turn neon pink and crack with thunder, spark with lighting. Then there was rain.

It's really been a very strange week. And not one conducive to cooking or even thinking about cooking. Other that the House of Pies, I've had one other strange source of comfort. I went into Surfas on Tuesday to see if they had vanilla bean paste (they did) and I left with 24 oz of black licorice in a variety of forms.

One of my first food memories is of me sitting in the back of a car with my older cousins while we ate licorice pastilles out of a plastic bag that was inside a shoe. I have no idea why it was in shoe. And I have no idea why we were sitting in the trunk of a car parked in their driveway. They did have a home, where food came in non-shoe containers. But a memory is a memory. I liked being with my big cousins and I liked when they shared with me, so I have a lifelong love of black licorice pastilles. When I saw those colorful little guys peaking out between the larger candies in the black licorice bridge mix, I grabbed the container. It was Pavlovian.

So thank you House of Pies, thank you black licorice. With your help, I am emerging from the hell mouth with a terrible headache, but I am conscious and I'm armed with vanilla bean paste, so things are bound to get better. Anyone care to share the unlikely place or food stuff that brings you comfort?

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