Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Soujouk, Mouhamara.... and a Cherry

I realized on Friday that there are some things I really love about Los Angeles.

Bob & I had driven down for an evening event, and, after doing some research earlier in the week, I suggested that we have dinner beforehand at Marouch, a Lebanese-Armenian restaurant in "East Hollywood," also known as Little Armenia.

The restaurant was nice enough for a hole in the wall nestled in a strip mall that resembles the one you see above (which is actually across the street), but the food was great. I had been anticipating ordering frogs' legs in garlic and olive oil, since the last (and only) time I had them was over eleven years ago at a Lebanese place in Ghana. However, we settled on "Meza for two," plus an side order of "Mouhamara," which is described as "crushed walnuts mixed with hot red pepper paste and olive oil." One of the highlights of the meza were the Armenian sausages, "soujouk" (or "sugok," as spelled by Marouch), as seen in the example below:

Of course, anyone who knows me knows that I loves me some ethnic cuisine. It helped me realize that I love L.A. for the same reason that I love suburban New Jersey, or the outskirts of San Jose, or certain parts of San Francisco: there's something unaffected about all the ethnic businesses and neighborhoods. I realize they don't exist as urban Disneylands just for gentrified folks to get their glutton on. The "seedier" ethnic neighborhoods are sort of the "anti-Los Angeles." People are really in the business of living and working without a lot of the bullshit pretense that you see on Melrose or Ocean Ave.

And then it was on to (sorta) the bullshit pretense neighborhood: the Ahmanson Theater, to see Doubt with Cherry Jones. We got there early, and it was nice to walk around the theater complex that includes the Mark Taper Forum and the LA Opera. I also got to walk down to Gehry's Disney Concert Hall again, which really is one of the great works of modern architecture. Too bad the same cannot exactly be said for the recent Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels across the way.

I enjoyed Doubt, but somehow not as much as I thought I might. Cherry Jones was fabulous; I'm a fan, having seen her on stage once before, in Imaginary Friends with Swoosie Kurtz, a couple of years ago in New York.

The play also raised some really interesting questions, and everything wasn't tidily summed up in the end (of course, I dislike tidy summaries). However, it also felt like there were false notes in the whole production, such as the scene between Jones's Sister Aloysius and the mother of one of the schoolboys (wonderfully acted by Adriane Lenox). Maybe I need to become more comfortable with the whole "artifice" of dramaturgy; often much action and dialogue in plays seems incredibly contrived and artificial to me. I think I've read accounts of how ironic it is that modern audiences (of which I'm counting myself a member) find more of a crisper sense of "reality" and "authenticity" in film than in stage drama. I need to think more about that.


Huntington said...

I feel so abandoned...I may join you soon. Anyway, you first wrote about people living busy lives in a letter from Ghana, and your point remains as thought-provoking as ever. Maybe it's time to stop having a lifestyle and start having a life.

Shark-fu said...


I need to figure out how to shift you on my blogroll.