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Dating Yourself

Wednesday, Sep 23 1998

Magic Wand Carwash. When I was about 6, going to the car wash was right up there with extra-large cardboard boxes and my hamster, Milton. My mom would strap my brother and me into the front seat of our VW Squareback, sending us on a journey through spastic layers of soapy water and chamois octopods as the Squareback floated along the conveyor. This was before Nintendo and personal-injury suits. Nowadays, I get my kicks at the Magic Wand Carwash, a do-it-yourself auto experience. For five quarters, you get five minutes of high-pressure soapy water to hose down your vehicle. After a race with the water clock (a horn sounds when there is one minute left), you give a final rub-down — rags are available, or carry your own towel to conquer those annoying divots in the hubcaps. For $1, you can also buy time with the industrial vacuum cleaner, or treat your car to a luscious orange-blossom interior fragrance. On a hot day, it’s always fun to experiment with hosing down your passengers, or even a neighboring stall. 3115 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 399-0351. (Jaime Lowe)


Billiard Inn. In recent years, the old-fashioned pool hall has become something of a dying breed, the ambiance that used to make Minnesota Fats stain his drawers replaced by chichi upscale "billiards centers" designed to lure in the tanned and toothy J. Crew crowd. Yuck. Only those without cerebral cortexes can shoot pool while listening to Celine Dion. So if you find your brain is still somewhat intact and you’re itching for a game, I suggest the Billiard Inn. Owner Santo Rimicci remodeled the place about one and a half years ago, but he did so without gutting the place of its rarest asset: atmosphere. Yes, the place now has carpeting and new walls, seven TVs showing any and all manner of sporting events, and a sound system that blasts the jukebox all over the joint (and clean, refurbished restrooms — finally!). But it’s still your basic no-bullshit pool hall. Among the 11 tables are five new Gold Crown Tournament models for you shark types. And there’s usually someone at the bar willing to indulge in a little friendly competition if you’re up for it. There’s a daily happy hour, tons of food and 20 kinds of beer (including Bass Ale on tap). The Billiard Inn doesn’t discriminate, so even you nonsmoking types are welcome. 12249 Venice Blvd., Mar Vista; (310) 391-9310. (Chris Checkman)


Frying Fish. If you’re forced to dine alone and seek conversation, there are two things you can do: You can join the counter crowd at Norm’s and swap persiflage with the help, confident that the only way you could get sick there would be if you swallowed the fork, or you can head for a sushi bar and order uni. "’Scuse me," someone is bound to say, looking down at your plate at the clods of what might be baby barf on rice, "What’s that you’re eating?" You give them your knowing, masterful smile. "Oh, that’s uni. Sea urchin. Deadly on the outside, you know, but delicious within. Wanna bite?" Your questioner pales, turns away; "Maybe some other time." Uni is for the brave, all right; its texture is off-putting, and nothing edible should be that color, but no subtler, more changeable, more memorable national flavor exists anywhere on land or sea. At the Frying Fish in Little Tokyo, where the sushi circulates through the diners on a conveyor belt, the uni is fresh, sweet, tart and fishy, and the crowd tends to be talkative. Good vibes. 120 Japanese Village Plaza, Little Tokyo; (213) 680-0567. (Alan Rich)


Boomerang Beach. Go west, young man. Seek wide-open pastures. I’ve been hogging the best boomerang spot in L.A. for a decade. It’s time to let others in on it. You see, L.A.’s nice and big, but there are too many people who get in the way of a good toss. Well, I found a way around that. First, pick one of those cool, cloudy days. Next, get up early. (This is easy for "my people" — jobs get us up at 5 or 6 a.m.; invariably we are coupled with an 11 a.m. weekend riser — but I digress.) Then go to my spot: Santa Monica Beach, north of the pier, the very fat piece of flat beach that’s north of the parking lot. The breeze comes in from the northwest/west-northwest at that time of the morning. Once you’ve figured out exactly which direction the wind is coming, stand facing it. Give it all you’ve got and toss the boomerang off 45 degrees to your right. Whip it, making a giant circle. Watch it come back until it floats over your head like a leaf and drops into your hand. Nirvana. See ya soon. (Joe Hill)

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