Community Theater for the Community


I don’t get out to the theater much; but, when I do, of course I hope it will be a treat. I’ll tell you what; you really couldn’t do better than to grab your last chance this weekend to take in the wistful-sweet “Sábado Mornings” at the Studio/Stage theater on Western Avenue in Hollywood. I heard about the play from a special invitation from director Melvin Ishmael Johnson and House Manager Earlean Anthony back in April when the show was in previews.

Melvin is a tireless creative powerhouse. He hosts the Quamran Report, which aired for over two hundred segments at Skid Row Studios in downtown Los Angeles. Skid Row is a community radio station that features stories affecting our diverse communities and especially in downtown. It encourages community participation in producing news, politics and culture. Their motto is “Where Anyone Can Do Radio.” Tune in now to check out a discussion on the state of community theater on the last segment of the Quamran Report at Skid Row. It features one of the actors from “Sábado Mornings.” Meanwhile, I’ll keep everyone posted on what’s happening at Skid Row as well as where the Quamran Report is headed next.

Melvin is also a playwright, a community activist and the founder of Veterans Community Theater Workshop. I’d been wanting to see Melvin’s work for a few years now. On Sunday, about an hour prior to curtain, I was working on my one woman show when I got a call from a writer/director friend reminding me about the performance. It was a lickity split decision. I said to myself, “Damn! The time is now!” Out the door I went.

The theater is a small, intimate affair – perfect for the poignant story of Eddie and Rosa played beautifully by Jonaton Wyne and Judith E. Ex LAPD cop Eddie is dealing with his demons when he meets Mexican-American immigrant Rosa, the shy but strong waitress who has some secrets of her own. I really don’t want to say too much about the show because it unfolds so beautifully and anyway I’m not a theater critic. Let’s just say, SEE IT!

There’s plenty of fun to be had both before and after the play with the friendly folks running the show. Prior to the taking our seats, we had a nice glass of red wine…


… a nice touch, not to mention the delicious tamales on offer at the end of the show.


Mama’s is a not for profit collective where you can sample tamales of various styles from several different countries. Until you know the difference between a Mexican tamale and a Salvadorean tamale, well, you really haven’t lived!


There were one tamale and two tamale plates, with rice and beans. The one tamale plate was just six bucks and plenty for me – mighty tasty too, as was the stream of jokes from an actor named Isaac who was in attendance.

If you’re lucky, Isaac will be there again, passing out jokes in abundance. But you won’t need any luck to catch the memorable performances of Judith and Jonaton in “Sábado Mornings” and to chat with the creative duo Melvin Johnson and Earlean Anthony. Enjoy!


Studio/Stage Theater

520 N. Western Ave.

between Clinton St. and Maplewood Ave.

For more information: 213-908-5032

Tickets are $24 General Admission; $15 for Seniors/Students/Military

Friday, May 13 – 8 pm

Saturday, May 14, 8 pm

Sunday , May 15, 5 pm





by Jennifer Caldwell

Frenchie from Doggy and the City

Let’s face it. Doggy peeps can get plenty stressed when it comes to the well being of our furry/hairy friends. One challenge every working person faces is making sure our friends can relieve themselves when nature calls without making a mess in our homes. The day I became less of an unemployed actor and more of a day job-ee, I found myself in quite a pickle. Although my little Mo was never going to pee on the floor, I hated to think of him in a painful position for any amount of time.


Friends offered to help – from near and far; some paid, some unpaid; with some I bartered. Each one worked out for a while but, in the end, I couldn’t rely on that method to be sure that my little friend wouldn’t be hurting to do his business. Dog walkers and doggy day care can run into hundreds of dollars a month; and with dog walkers, you’re basically giving a stranger access to your home. What’s a privacy prone broke girl to do?


This aptly named service is a lifesaver for several reasons:

  • $50 a month gets me a strip of self absorbent grass of approximately 5 sq. ft. delivered to my front door every other week. For bigger canines, $60 will get you a strip of about 10 sq. ft.
  • $100 a month for small / $120 for large gets you weekly delivery
  • I can change the strip in a jiffy, but a full service option is also available. That means, a service rep will change your strip for you.

This service changed my life! Little Mojito is very well trained and would never think of going in the house; so, it did take a while. At first, he refused to go inside – no way no how. But after patient training, he got the message that it was okay to go on his inside grass.


When I was choosing my service, I did find another one that delivers hydroponic grass. I considered this option but in the end, I was sold on Doggy. The soil that comes with their strips is naturally absorbent. I followed the instructions on where to place the box that the strip sits in and I’ve never had any problems with bad smells. 


Since, I got this service, the quality of life for me and Mojito is vastly improved. He still prefers to go outside and I still take him; but, we both know that when Mom’s away, it’s okay to go in the box.

Well folks, that’s enough potty talk for today. If you’re inclined, give Doggy and the City a call. Dave or Matt will set you up in no time. Here’s what you need to know:


Indoor dog potty and dog grass delivery service





My friend Natascha keeps insisting there are good deals at that premium natural and organic supermarket monopoly – Whole Foods. There may well be calls for my arrest if I say this, but I’m going to say it anyway – I’m not a big fan.

Call me crazy but I think it’s a bit much the way Libertarian CEO John Mackey and his team of marketeers attempt to make me feel like I’m saving the world by simply shopping there, while they’re really engaging in same old hostile acquisitions and union busting tactics as say, Wal-Mart, for example.

I find it irritating. I’ve even had self-described progressives try to make me feel guilty for shopping at Ralphs. It’s laughable really when you think of the black hat tactics Mackey engaged in to get his hands on Wild Oats, among many others. Even the Bush administration put up resistance to that merger!

But the biggest reason I seldom darken the door of that venerable retail chain is because I find their shelves to be lacking in deals. I used to get a few things here, but since the inception of the biggest economic downturn in my lifetime and possibly in history, forget it.  I’ve been far more likely to be found at the 99 (Per)Cent Store, where, in fact, they often offer great deals on organic items.

Still, Natascha knows a good deal when she sees one. The thing that finally got my attention?  She got a jar’s worth of oregano for 33 cents. That’s right, folks – 33 cents. When she mentioned this figure, I knew I would have to psyche myself up to brave the mobs of hipsters and the impossible parking lot and head on over to check out this incredible deal.

I have to admit, I was pretty impressed.

Whole Foods has a sizeable bulk section these days – noticeably larger than it was before the downturn. In this section, you can purchase all manner of dry goods. They’ve got every kind of nut, grain or bean you can think of. They’ve got dried fruits, seeds and various other snacks too. Some of it is really delectable stuff like maple coated pecans and almonds – yogurt covered papaya.

The best deal I saw on these items was on organic chickpeas, a.k.a. garbanzo beans, for $1.99 a pound.

The incredible deal is on herbs and spices for cooking. Standing in this section, I almost feel like I’m at Oleson’s Mercantile on Little House on the Prairie. The jars are all lined up so neat and pretty.

Here, I can get enough cayenne pepper to fill a typical 1.5 oz. jar for only $1.41. Can’t beat that as far as I know. I guess Whole Foods is conforming to these hard times after all – at least when it comes to spicing things up!

As a post script, please note that I’ve called around Los Angeles and found only the stores listed below as offering this stunning deal on herbs and spices in bulk. They’ve pulled the bulk spices in Torrance, A team member at the West Hollywood location is trying to get them. My advice? Call ahead. Seems like this is an experiment any store could ditch at any time. Drop a line and let me know if you find another store that offers it!


Whole Foods Market
Herbs and Spices in the Bulk Foods Section

(Website with Store Locator) 


Photo credit: Taken from the Mexican Revolution Exhibit running now through February 2013 at the Los Angeles Central Library

Our public library is really such a darn good deal, that I couldn’t stop thinking about it. So, I decided to make a series of videos called Gem of the City: The Los Angeles Public Library. Because of its beauty and its vast collection of activities and material, I wanted to feature the Central Library especially. I made up my mind I was going to find out everything there was to know about the library from an expert. So, I arranged an appointment with a librarian with the help of the LAPL’s public relations specialist, Brenda Breaux.

Boy, it was hotter than Hades yesterday when my cameraman and I ventured on downtown to our destination. My air conditioning is out in my car and I have to tell you, when I stepped across that threshold into the library, I was relieved! I’d say another perk for hanging out at the library during these sweltering days is the air conditioning!

When we got there, we were delighted to find that we actually had an appointment with the acting director of the Central Library, Ms. Giovanna Mannino. She knows just about everything there is to know about the library; and, she filled us in on all of it during our stay.

While we were there, we saw three exhibits the library has on display right now. The first was “Treasures of Los Angeles,” which is ongoing in the Annenberg Gallery and contains part of a larger Hollywood exhibit that is on display at the Frances Howard Goldwyn Hollywood Regional Branch. Next we took a peek at “A Nation Emerges: The Mexican Revolution Revealed,” and “As the City Grew: Historical Maps of Los Angeles.”

All in all, it was a fun and educational afternoon. You’ll find out all about it by watching the videos! It was also free. We did have to pay for the parking: $9 for a little over two hours. If you really want to spend some time at the Central Library, I would recommend taking the train. The Metro Blue Line and Metro Red Line both have stops near the library. You can walk just a few blocks. It’s fun, especially if you ever lived in New York City. You can pretend you are back there for a minute.

I hope readers enjoy this series on our public library and continue to support the library and all of the wonderful and vitally needed resources it provides in these hard times.


Central Library  630 W. 5th Street, 90071 (map)

Phone: 213-228-7000Hours: Mon. 10-5:30, Tue. 10-8, Wed. 10-5:30, Thu. 10-8, Fri. 10-5:30, Sat. 10-5:30, Sun. Closed

Validated Parking Rates

$1.00 for 1st hour (or portion thereof) $1.00
$4.00 for 2nd hour (or portion thereof) $5.00
$4.00 for 3rd hour (or portion thereof) $9.00
$4.15 including tax per 10 minutes thereafter $37.60 Maximum including tax
Cars entering after 3:00 p.m. (until Library Closing) $1.00 Flat rate
Saturday (10 a.m. – 6 p.m.) $1.00 Flat rate


Last Saturday night at Noche Cubana, I was a dancin’ fool. My YouTube lessons really paid off. I even started a Conga Line!  It took a few go-rounds; but, in the end, my dance partner and I succeeded in whipping everybody into a dance frenzy. We got ‘em up on the floor where most of them stayed for the remainder of the night.

After all that excitement, Natascha and I decided to meet up again the next morning to reminisce over some serious coffee and a good breakfast. With the salsa beats still ringing in my ears, I headed on down to meet her at Black Dog Coffee, where I knew we’d get just what we needed.

First on the agenda – the coffee. Back in 2002, the first thing then boyfriend and I noticed about this little gem on Wilshire Boulevard was the sign on their window: Home of the Caffe Cubano. This is their signature coffee. On our first visit, we ordered the largest ones we could get at $4 apiece. They were fantastic. All coffee drinks are delicious – made from whole bean fair trade Groundworks coffee

As then boyfriend and I continued to frequent the café, we naturally began to explore the menu. Over the years, as we evolved, Black Dog’s menu did as well. The results have always been tasty. One of the newest items is breakfast soup that’s served all day. It consists of their homemade black bean soup, topped with two poached eggs, cheese, diced tomato and onion and garnished with avocado and sour cream.  I like to dispense with the sour cream myself. Sour cream or no, the whole kit and caboodle comes in at $5.25.

There are a whole lot of great items on the menu here, and everything is fresh and wholesome. If I was pressed to choose my favorite, it would probably be what they call their signature sandwich, the roast turkey pesto. $6.50 is perhaps not the least expensive sandwich; but, for the sheer quality you’re getting with this baby, it is incredible.

First and most important, the meat is real turkey breast, not that weird lunchmeat-type processed material. The combo of the fresh pesto sauce and cranberries is outstanding; and, the bread? – It’s a quality seeded baguette that is really delicious. The size is cost effective too. For someone who’s watching calories, you can easily make two meals out of it.

For breakfast, I favor either the breakfast soup or their Mexican scrambled eggs, once again without sour cream, for $4.75.This dish is eggs or egg whites, tortilla strips, cheese, diced tomatoes, a little red onion, and their original salsa, with sour cream and avocado garnish. A meal for under $5 is always a plus.

The other item that’s really outstanding is the homemade soups that Black Dog dishes up every day. Every day is a different group of soups and they are all outstanding. Clam Chowder with Bacon, Barley Mushroom, Corn Cactus, Chicken Noodle – from the exotic to the familiar, from healthy to er, a bit less, they’ve got something for every palate. The soups are reasonably priced, coming in at $3.75/$4.50, depending on size.

Finally, you might guess from the name that Black Dog is pooch-friendly. You and your dog can sit outside at the sidewalk tables, no problemo. You can enjoy a leisurely meal prepared and served by the friendly staff while you read the paper or people-watch on Wilshire Boulevard. There’s always fresh water outside for your canine friend; and, inside, a big bowl of free doggie treats awaits. Nice to know your buddy can also get a little treat while you enjoy the tasty grub.


Black Dog Coffee   5657 Wilshire Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90036  (map)

Phone: 323-933-1976

Hours: Mon-Fri 7a.m. – 6 p.m.    Sat-Sun 8 a.m. – 4 p.m

Metered parking and several 2 hour unmetered spots on nearby side streets such as Masselin.


These days, there are two reasons why it’s so difficult to buy clothes. First, when money is tight, a new dress or pair of pants ends up pretty far down on the priority list. Even though a person really could use a new outfit, other priorities take center stage and next thing you know, there’s none left for that look you want for your next audition, party, or event.

Second, you know how it is when you’ weigh a little more than you want to, so you don’t want to buy the bigger size than you’re used to because you know you’re gonna lose that extra; but, in the meantime, what do you do? Maybe you can’t even wear the stuff that’s already in your closet!

Well, all that describes the spot I was in when I discovered Karen’s Closet.

Everything in the store is $5.00, except for two things: accessories, which are $1.00, and shoes, which are $10.00. Got that! When I walked in, I wondered what the catch was.

I was greeted by the beautiful and friendly Shantal, and I fired all my questions at her. Why is everything so cheap? Are they irregulars? Shantal explained that the owners, who are plural, not female and not named Karen, are in the wholesale business downtown.

That’s how they can bring these great deals to their store at Pico and Mansfield. The inventory is overstock and could be anything from Arden B to Express to Lane Bryant to Charlotte Russe. You just never know what goodies are going to show up on the racks. A fresh batch of women’s apparel hits the store twice a week – Thursdays and Fridays.

Karen’s Closet gives no refunds and there are no exchanges. This naturally leads to the next question: Are there dressing rooms? Even though it’s only five bucks, I need for it to count. Shantal said, “No. There are no dressing rooms; but, you can try the clothes on.” Apparently, it was A-OK to find a spot in the store and go on ahead and try stuff on!  Whoa!

I looked around and saw that there were several ittle nooks and crannies…

There weren’t many people around…

I decided to go for it.

Lord knows, I’ve ended up changing in some crazy places, being in the entertainment biz, even though it’s supposed to be against union rules.

The thing for me was that I actually wanted to buy a dress, so this was going to be interesting. I tried the first one – so far so good. I was getting into my second option, when a couple came in. I backed up into the little alcove I was next to and struggled to get into some decent shape before they decided to head my way. The operation turned out to be a little dodgy, but I did manage to conceal the important bits without much attention.

The woman was busy singing passionately to the music that was wafting through the store and trying various articles over her own clothing to notice much. The mam was fixed on the racks of clothes as if on a mission to find something for his partner.

In light of all this, I would highly advise wearing clothes that you could try things on over when you shop here – maybe leggings and a camisole or something like that.

In the end, I came away with the perfect little day to night dress that could be made up or down for the unbelievable price of $5 – not irregular, nothing wrong with it – just a consolation prize for the scourge of overproduction.

Please note there are absolutely no refunds or exchanges. Plastic is accepted and there is no pesky minimum required to use it.

I have a feeling Karen’s Closet is going to be one of my top go-to places for fashion I can afford.


Karen’s Closet   5001 W. Pico Blvd. Los Angeles, 90019  (map)

Phone: 323-930-1702

Hours: 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. every day


When I was a little kid, my school used to conduct bomb drills. Our teacher would line us up along the wall of the corridor where we were taught to do our best to protect our heads by crouching down with our heads between our knees and placing our interlaced fingers across the back of our heads. This was all in case the Russians decided to bomb us to smithereens for no reason except for that they were jealous of our freedom.

I guess the school administration was only acting in step with a national program for “preparedness,” the creator of which, I imagine, was unaware of the policy of Peaceful Co-Existence the Soviet Union adhered to at the time.

In the small town where I went to school, this practice took place for several years and well into the 1970’s.

Another exercise our class did was to line up in orderly fashion and walk single file to the public library next door. In my view, this was a far more pleasant experience. Of course, I always hoped I would get to walk over to the library next to the boy I liked, but once I got there, I didn’t really care. There were all those books.

On top of that, it always felt so cozy and comfortable in the library where everybody is supposed to act nice. They never conducted their terrifying bomb drills in the library.

Ever since that time, I have loved to be in libraries. As a result, I’ve also loved to read. Now an adult, living in the great city of Los Angeles, I’ve learned  that, although it is battle-weary from more and more budget cuts, the public library system still offers one of the best deals around.

I’ve since also learned that books aren’t the only thing you can use for free at the public library. You can also borrow CDs, DVDs, and books on tape. If you go to the downtown Central Library, you can look at microfilms of headlines and articles from any date you can think of, taken from newspapers around the world.

The various branches have comfy seating and free wi-fi too. How much better can it get as far as writing or researching?! You can poke around on the web all you want, and go over and find all manner of reference materials right there on site. The Los Angeles Times articles are all digitally archived and accessible at the various branches online.

Each branch has got all kinds of informative and fun events and workshops going on too. The Central Library has several exhibits going on right now, including one on the Treasures of Los Angeles and one on the Mexican Revolution. I’ll be reporting with video on some of these events very soon!

Recently, a friend of mine needed a whole lot of study materials to get ready for state and federal licensure exams. He’s recently unemployed and could hardly afford to buy all those books. He was getting ready to head over to the thrift stores in the hopes that they would be there. Not a bad idea, especially because you get to own the books; but the thrift stores are hit and miss if you need something specific. He ended up getting everything he needed right at the public library.

That’s a deal that can’t be beat in these hard times.


There are libraries in every neighborhood in Los Angeles. Hours vary. There is usually some free parking AND free wi-fi!

Web: (link)



Guess what? Everybody’s eating at CJ’s. And their menu is nearly as diverse as their clientele. On the front, it reads: CJ’s Café. From the South to South of the Border. For breakfast, you can get your basic bacon and eggs, omelettes or egg sandwiches. The sandwiches are a great deal. They range from just over $4 to just over $6; they are really big; and they come with fries, fruit or cottage cheese.

They’ve got an awesome waffle and wings deal for $8.50; and, they’re dishin’ up soul food to beat the band: Red Snapper and Eggs or Catfish and Eggs, each at a little over $11; or Corned Beef Hash and Eggs at a little over $8.

I spoke with Jesse Cisneros, part of CJ’s namesake, for a little minute this afternoon.

Jesse’s Mom’s name is Jessica. She opened the place in 1988; and named it after herself and her son, Jesse – only she flipped the initials. She didn’t want anyone to get it mixed up with JC Penney.

Jesse tells me that, back in ’88, the neighbors wanted some soul food on the menu; but, Jessica didn’t know how to make it. Determined to offer what the people wanted, she asked them to show her how it’s done. So, that’s just what they did. The soul food offerings at CJ’s came from the recipes of the grandmothers and grandfathers of folks who still come to CJ’s to enjoy that good home cooking.

The Mexican portion of the menu is nothing to sneeze at either. If you’re feeling spry, you can opt for Chorizo and Eggs, Platanos Con Crema y Frijoles, or the good ole stand-by that everybody knows – Huevos Rancheros. For those who don’t know, chorizo is a spicy type of sausage. Platanos Con Crema y Frijoles is Plantains with cream and beans. I love that stuff!

The burritos are enormous and delicious. You can get them smothered with chili if you like; and, yes, menudo is available!

Lunch is a very affordable affair, with most of the sandwiches, burritos, burgers, soups and salads coming in at right around $6 or $7. The soul food entrees range in price from $10 to $12. These plates include Catfish, Pork Chops, Short Ribs or Oxtails, and come with a choice of two sides like black eyed peas, candied yams, and collard greens, among others.

Did I mention the staff? Wow. I feel like I’m visiting my small hometown when I come here. Everyone is so welcoming. Service is prompt and friendly. It seems like they have some kind of team policy, because you will often get more than one server taking your order, bringing your grub, refilling your coffee – but it is never overbearing.

This place is one of my true faves. I always bring friends and family and so far, everyone has been charmed. Nothing fancy. Just solid affordable good home cooking in a comfortable spot.  And, the thing I love the most about CJ’s is the same thing I love the most about this city of Los Angeles – the diverse nationalities that come together in one special place.


CJ’s does not serve dinner.

CJ’s Café  on Pico  5501 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles 90016

Hours: Mon-Sat  6:30 – 6:00; Sun 7 – 5

Phone: 323-936-3216

Limited parking behind the restaurant; Plenty of free and metered street parking

CJ’s Café Baldwin Hills  3655 S. La Brea, Los Angeles 90016

Hours: Mon-Sat  6:30 – 6:00; Sun 7 – 6

Phone: 323-292-9221

The restaurant has it’s own free parking.

Web: (link)


My Mom has really taken to keeping up with Deals and Discounts, even though she doesn’t live in Los Angeles, and she’s been after me for some time to say something about Mao’s Kitchen. She says it’s her favorite Los Angeles restaurant, and definitely a great deal. That’s saying something too, because I’ve been living here for a while now; so, she’s been to quite a few.

I think she is a little partial to the place because she knows something about the way women lived in China before 1949 and, she was inspired to learn about it because of her visit to Mao’s!

As it says on their menu, Mao used to love to say, “Wei renmen fuwu!”  “Serve the people!” That’s what’s going on at Mao’s Kitchen. The food is fresh; the produce is never taken from a can; dishes are made to order and priced for the proletariat – no MSG.

Mao’s is full of cultural accoutrements, from the décor at the two locations, right down to the visual arts and music on their website. I love to click on the site and listen to the little guy on the accordion accompany the chorus of children chanting militantly.

It’s a real education to dine in at Mao’s. The first thing you notice is the artwork on the walls. They are sporting genuine Chinese pop posters. These posters, created over the decades, reflect the many social, cultural and political changes China has gone through since 1949. Chinese opera is also projected on an overhead screen.

While you soak up all this revolutionary culture, you can order plates with names like Gang of Four fried shrimp – $6; Peace not War won-ton soup – $8 and Long March camp-fry – $7.  If you’re really down on your capitalist luck, you can surely afford a light lunch of a humungous and scrumptious egg-roll and a tasty salad for $1 each.

They’ve got the best ginger ale around – homemade right there in the restaurant. They don’t serve alcohol; but you can bring your own bottle and there is nary a corking fee! If you haven’t thought to bring a bottle, there’s a little liquor store within the next couple of blocks west on Melrose.

Mao’s now has lunch combinations and they’re on offer all afternoon – from 11:30am to 5pm.  This is great. Don’t you just hate it when you don’t get to lunch til 2:00 or 3:00 p.m.; you look at your watch; and, you just missed the lunch special? For take-away & delivery, lunch combinations include your choice of entree plus steamed rice, salad & spring-roll –   $7.50 ($8.50 for seafood & smoked tofu entrees).

The Venice Beach location is a block from the beach. As we all know, that’s a double edged sword. Nice for some beach time but parking is catch-as-catch-can. Free parking is available right beside the restaurant at the Melrose locale.



7313 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles 90046
Hours: 11 a.m. to 12:00 a.m.    Delivery: 323-932-9681

1512 Pacific Ave., Venice, 90291
Hours: 11 a.m. to 12:00 a.m.    Delivery: 310-581-8305