By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
BEST DECADE’S WORTH OF THERAPY IN ONE EXCRUCIATING (THOUGH EFFECTIVE) STINT
You can’t throw an I Ching these days without bouncing a coin off the back of a coach of some kind — life coach, business coach, wellness coach. Enter Russell Feingold: transformational coach extraordinaire. What separates Feingold from other therapists, counselors and coaches is his delicately balanced combination of heart-centered energy and shamanic insight. He sees your blind spots, your shadows and your shit clear as day, and he has no qualms about calling you out on ’em — hard and fast. Feingold doesn’t dilly-dally with a once-a-week ramble about your story for years and years. He demands commitment and shows up for his clients just as he expects them to show up for themselves. The work is devastating, gut-wrenching, life-changing, paradigm-shifting — and absolutely transformative. As loving and nurturing as Feingold is balls-out unrelenting, he is the reflection that confronts you with your deepest, darkest, ickiest, ouchiest, ugliest self. And he holds your hand as you walk through the muck of your own twisted humanity, out to the other side, to the core of a bigger, brighter more authentic you. (619) 991-5683, heartwisdom.com.
BEST MECHANIC WHO APPRECIATES THE BEAUTY OF A SIMPLE DIY FIX
A call to superstar mechanic Walter Wong (of Right Solution Inc.) often ends, not with you driving over to his shop but with a variation of the prognosis “Go to Pep Boys.” or “Go to the hardware store.” or maybe “Go into your kitchen.” Advice like administering low doses of Pepto-pink power-steering fluid, as directed, bought me a whole year on a slowly disintegrating 1987 Saab 900 whose odometer had frozen at just more than 206,000 miles. But when the hood-release cable snapped off in my hand, I begrudgingly went to Walter for what I feared to be the beginning of the end. He met me outside his shop for the quick diagnostic drives that are the norm for each visit: We bounced down the alleys near his Venice Boulevard shop, he listening intently to the car’s low growl while reciting the next few chapters in my Saab’s life story. I waited while he changed the oil, and when I returned to the car, he was grinning. Leaning into the driver’s seat, he demonstrated the functionality of a locking vice-grip wrench he’d attached to the cable so I could pull it open. A man who works miracle-grade repairs on temperamental Swedish automobiles really loves the beauty of a simple DIY fix. No charge for the wrench. 8664 Venice Blvd., L.A. (310) 666-2406.
BEST CITY SHOPPING DISTRICT TO FIND A BARGAIN
The rag trade has always been one of the first employment rungs immigrants step onto to gain a piece of the American dream, and L.A.’s Santee Alley is where you find both the products of their labor and the marketing smarts of other immigrants who have become shopowners and managers. Our local garment district is also a place to score cheap deals on everything from sports-team T-shirts to leather jackets. There is a rough pattern to the alley’s mad layout, with stalls selling watches on the Olympic Boulevard boundary, and sportswear, toy guns, car accessories and more politically themed T-shirts located in the newer addition at 12th Street. Like L.A. itself, the alley’s boundaries are increasingly amorphous, and adjacent stores reach out toward somewhat separate shopping districts specializing in shoes and fabrics. Santee Alley also provides a panorama of city life crammed into a few blocks, as Spanish-speaking child-preachers and handicapped panhandlers vie for your attention over the ubiquitous shouts of “$5!” — as the ever-present aroma of bacon-wrapped sausage vendors wafts over everything. Between Santee St. & Maple Ave., and Olympic Blvd. & 12th St., dwntwn. Open 365 days a year.
BEST POSEUR-FREE ART-SUPPLY STORE
Not the biggest but competitively priced and way cool, and located in the warehouse/arts district just west of the Los Angeles River, SCI-Arc Art Supply offerings reflect the needs of students at the nearby Southern California Institute of Architecture: the drawing-pen collection is definitive; and the model-making materials include bass wood and hardwoods; as well as plastic, metal and wood structural shapes. You’ve got your foam core, museum board, chipboard and pro-quality Copic markers, drawing pads, hipster-essential Moleskine notebooks, and specialty books from the SCI-Art Press. It’s not so fancy-schmancy that a clever shopper couldn’t pull together an imaginative present or basket of interesting items for anyone older than 5. Staff are occasionally harried, but there’s nary a poseur in the place, which is a blessing in a district packed with self-proclaimed artists. Notices of showings, gallery openings and events are posted near the front entry. Easy street parking in front, too. And the very civil Groundworks coffee is next door. 811 Traction Ave., Unit 1A, dwntwn. (213) 687-0854.
BEST CHOCKFULL-OF-SHOPPING BLOCK
Los Angeles may be the only large city in the world in which a few shops strung together feels like serendipity. And the block on West Third just east of the Beverly Centeris serendipitous, at least in terms of eclecticism and possibility. Anchoring the block are two old-timers: Freehand Gallery and New Stone Age. Freehand stocks a ton of great handmade ceramics and glassware, woodwork and jewelry, made by locals and not-so-locals. If you’re looking for a unique gift, this is one of the smartest stops in L.A. — and you’d be supporting artists and artisans. Next door is one of the city’s best emporiums: Entering New Stone Age is like going straight to your retail therapist, if interesting googaws, jewelry, housewares and just damn intriguing stuff is your thing. Aero & Co., one door east, is the Freehand/New Stone Age of L.A. clothing designers, showing Maxine Dillon, Purlieu, Elevate & Collide, Violently Attractive and Blood Is the New Black, among others, as well as Brooklyn’s Octopi and Margarita Saplala. Shoes (Muzina) and jewelry (Moss Mills, Sid Vintage), too. After all this nice organic material, you need a dose of synthetics: The next shop’s name, Plastica, says it all, but think colorful floor mats, baskets, pots, wallets and — straight outta Helsinki — Marimekko. Finally, check out Mellows, the new youthy Japanese boutique a few doors down, which mixes cool hats and clothing with vintage shoes. Of course, there are other great shops on West Third, including the exquisitely relaxed Noodle Stories — or is it relaxedly exquisite? — a couple of blocks east, which features higher-end women’s lines such as Comme des Garçons, Junya Watanabe, Reinhard Plank, Viktor & Rolf, Y’s by Yohji Yamamoto and a lot of designers a naif like me has never heard of (in a good way). Most importantly, there is Joan’s on Third, to which you must repair for a preshopping Americano and pancakes or a postshopping ficelle or grilled vegetables and goat cheese sandwich. Top it off with an exquisite little chocolate thing, and relax. Freehand Gallery, 8413 W. Third St., L.A. (323) 655-2607, freehand.com; New Stone Age, 8407 W. Third St., L.A. (323) 658-6282, newstoneagela.com; AERO & Co., 8403 W. Third St., L.A. (323)653-4651, myspace.com/aeroandco; Mellows, 8363 W. Third St., L.A. (323)655-3377; Noodle Stories, 8323 W. Third St., L.A. (323)651-1782; Joan’s on Third, 8350 ½ W. Third St., L.A. (323) 655-2285, joansonthird.com.