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Happy goats in downtown Los Angeles.

It’s been almost five months since my boyfriend and I drove cross-country from Virginia to California, and I love this place. Here’s what I’ve been up to.

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Avalon, Catalina Island.

Catalina Island. On Labor Day, just two days after my 27th birthday, my boyfriend and I joined his half-brother and his wife for a day in Avalon on beautiful Catalina Island, about 30 miles west of Newport Beach. The ferry ride takes more than an hour, and my boyfriend and I took advantage of an on-board bar serving bloody marys. The history of the island is worth reading in full, but in short, chewing gum mogul William Wrigley, Jr. bought out all of the island’s major shareholders in the early 20th century and turned it into the tourist destination and conservancy that it still is today. Fewer than 4,000 Californians live in 15 percent of the island’s land mass. The village of Avalon is just beautiful. We toured the hills by golf cart, wandered through the botanical gardens, and went on a little submarine tour of the harbor, then finished our day with a late lunch at a pirate/Mardi Gras themed restaurant (fish and chips and a bloody for this matey). Everything about the experience was wonderful.

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Sculpture at LACMA.

LACMA. I took advantage of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s free admission on the second Tuesday of each month, back in July. I loved seeing so much work by Jeff Koons and Andy Warhol, as well as a creative way to showcase pieces from their permanent collection rather than by period or style — an exhibit of art depicting food. The campus itself is half the fun of going, with fantastic sculptures and the La Brea Tar Pits next door.

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Rothkos at MOCA.

MOCA and Downtown Art Walk. When my car was hit-and-run in Venice (ugh) and I had to use public transportation to get around, I decided to take the bus to downtown Los Angeles for the Art Walk. I started at MOCA, where admission was free after 5. I loved walking into a room of nothing but Rothkos and taking in the familiar smell of 20th century art. (It definitely has a smell!) I enjoyed their collection and special exhibit, but it is not a big museum, and the experience really made me miss my MoMA membership. Visiting the galleries participating in the Art Walk also didn’t take me that long, as the galleries were pretty small, and I didn’t find any opportunities for socializing or lingering (like greeters, or complimentary wine). But it was a worthwhile excursion, if for nothing other than to see a herd of goats in an empty lot! They were brought in to graze, taking care of unruly grass the natural way.

Laguna Beach Festival of Arts. I didn’t happen to go the week of the Pageant of the Masters (which I would have loved), but I did happen to go on a beautiful Saturday with almost no coastal traffic. Many of the artists produced the kind of paintings you would hang in a beachy condo or real estate office, but I saw some impressive glass work and photography, and one artist with a particularly fun sense of humor. The drive was just as enjoyable in my convertible — ocean breezes, warm sun, and even a two mile stretch in Laguna where I shared the road only with luxury cars and a gardening company van.

The Fowler. I wanted to go to UCLA’s art museum to see their exhibit on street art, and my boyfriend and I ended up really enjoying exhibits of Korean funerary figures and “intersections” of international pieces from their permanent collection. After we toured the museum, we walked around the campus, and I rolled down a grassy hill for the first time in probably 20 years. I was itchy for several days, but it was worth it!

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Juggling bocce balls at a friendly winery.

Malibu Family Wines. Actually, I’ve been three times already. I stumbled across this winery after driving up the Pacific Coast Highway into Malibu and turning inland on a tiny, curvy road with very steep drop-offs to my side. A bit stressed after taking so many hairpin turns around 50 foot drops, I stopped when I saw a lot of cars, wondering if it was a cafe (and hoping it was a winery). I love the friendly staff, live music, and bocce. Oh, and the wine…

The Magic Castle. My dad had a business trip in Anaheim the week before my birthday, so he and my mom used it as an excuse to fly out and celebrate with me. On a late August Friday night, we miraculously got on the very-exclusive guest list at the last minute. My boyfriend has been several times and does sleight of hand (reluctantly), and he brought me my first time this spring, so I definitely wanted him there with us. My dad, who also does a bit of sleight of hand (eagerly), went for the first time some ten years ago and has a great story about the experience, the details of which I’m afraid I just can’t share. My mom proved to be the perfect guest to the Magic Castle — she really hasn’t had much exposure to magic, so everything was truly a surprise to her. That night, she and I both had the pleasure of assisting magicians, and we loved having all of our requests played by Irma. One day, when I really make it, I would love to be a member. It is definitely on my life to-do list. (I better start learning tricks.)

LA Street Food Fest at the Rose Bowl. Apparently, the first plastic-fork-stab at this in February was a bit of a disaster. The July attempt was definitely less of one, but with 5,000 hungry ticket holders, 60 vendors serving bite-sized samples, 2 beer tents, and three peak hours to be there, I guess it was inevitable that I would leave a little hungry and sober. (It’s just a shame I had to pay $50 to do that.) But The Deadly Syndrome, a friend’s band, is great, and I got to do a cartwheel in the middle of the Rose Bowl, and, well, now I don’t feel bad about not seeking out food trucks. I’d still kill for a gyro cart on my corner, though.

Sunset Junction. I’m something of a Ghostland Observatory fan (!), so when I learned I would have the chance to go to my FIFTH show in five years and three states at this Silver Lake street festival, I freaked out and bought tickets right away — as though it would get me to the front of the stage any faster. My boyfriend and I arrived in the early afternoon and hit the Ludo truck for fried chicken balls, then camped out at 4100 Bar for most of the evening. I’m pretty sure I drank all of the white wine they had stocked for the entire event.

Seeing Ghostland was particularly special this time. I became a fan seeing them at ACL in 2005 almost exactly five years ago. I saw them again in 2006, but lasers were not yet part of the Ghostland experience. (And they are definitely a part of the Ghostland experience.) At a mud-covered All Points West Music Festival in New York last year, I left front row at their show to see another band halfway through — worst concert mistake ever, topping a certain poor choice at Lollapalooza, involving some Canadian teenagers and a “natural” product. And both times involved boring, pretentious MGMT (frick you!). Then at Ghostland’s show at Terminal 5 in New York, my friend and I got sidetracked with the party and ended up with a really bad view. But Sunset Junction — second row, heart beating to the bass, lasers flickering overhead, dancing my hiney into my bf, singing every song — was perfect.

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The Hollywood Bowl.

The Hollywood Bowl. Everyone was out of town one weekend in July, so I took myself on a date to see The Swell Season, She & Him, and The Bird and the Bee at the Hollywood Bowl one Sunday evening. I bought a ticket at the very back of the amphitheater, but it didn’t diminish the experience of the music or the venue. I brought cheese and crackers and a bottle of Chardonnay, and I ended up sitting next to the nicest couple. All of the performers sang their hearts out, but none more than Glen Hansard. Good God. It was an amazing night.

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Seeing ghosts at the Cinespia screening of “Night of the Living Dead.”

Cinespia. It’s a quintessential LA experience, and I love it. Hundreds of people pack blankets, picnic dinners, and wine coolers and congregate on the lawn of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery to watch movies in the dark. My boyfriend and I double-dated with a ridiculously fun couple on my birthday weekend for “Out of the Past,” a 1947 crime mystery with all the melodrama you could ever want. It was so much fun that we triple-dated for the season closer, “Night of the Living Dead.” Most of the fun was the picnic itself — I got to enjoy the best sandwiches, sausages, and Sauvignons.

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Looking out over Six Flags.

Six Flags Magic Mountain. My boyfriend and I have a somewhat funny experience of riding only three rollercoasters and rides at King’s Dominion on a hot, overcrowded July Saturday two years ago. Our Six Flags experience more than made up for it, as we rode all of the 12 rollercoasters that were open, 3 rides, and 2 haunted houses, and we never waited more than a half hour for anything. We rode our favorite coasters twice, Goliath and Tatsu, and some rides were so desolate that we could stay in our seats for a second turn. (It also took two turns for me to know I never want to ride X2 again.) The experience was special because we went on 10-10-10, which happened to be exactly four months after I moved to Los Angeles. And it was free. Sort of. I only had to drink about 600 cans of Coke Zero.

Stand-up comedy and improv. I’ve been to at least four stand-up shows and three improv shows featuring amazing new talent. Kat Radley and Weird On Top rock.

Restaurants. I kept track of where I ate in New York, because I was treating like an extended business trip. I actually plan to stay in Los Angeles, but here’s the list.

Sri Siam
Breadbar pop-up
Kitchen
Malo
Animal
Thai House
Tawanna Thai
Pink’s
Granville
Aroma’s
Philippe’s
Spanish Kitchen
Neptune’s Net
The Mint
Rustic Spoon
Miya
Griddle Cafe
Mozza
Dougboy
Two Boots
Gino’s
Miyako
Central Park Pizza
Cat and Fiddle
Fox and Hounds
Lucy’s 51
Porto’s
The Edison
Ketchup
Katsuya Studio City
Church and State
Bottega Louie

And here’s the beverage list.
The Standard
Thirsty Crow
Bar Lubitsch
Firefly
Lucy’s 51
The Abbey
Capitol City
The Parlour Room
The Parlor
The Edison
Bardot
Kress
Boulevard
Cat and Fiddle
Beauty Bar
Boardner’s
4100 Bar
El Cid
Three of Clubs
Trader Vic’s
Bar 210
Air Conditioned Supper Club
Shutters on the Beach

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