Year of the dragon

Jan. 29 marked my first year in Los Angeles. (Kenley arrived in December, then flew back to Columbia, S.C., six weeks later to pick up our pets and me. We then drove across the country to get here).

To celebrate my “Los Anniversary,” I planned a busy weekend, exploring our still-new city.

We went to see an Oscar-nominated movie at Landmark Theatres on Pico. Not quite sure what took us so long to get to this theater since it’s less than five miles from our apartment. It was pretty crowded on a Friday night, but the option to reserve your seat when you buy the ticket made it worth it, as did the gourmet snacks. And to sweeten the deal, Coolhaus just started serving its ice cream sammies at Landmark!

Landmark Theatres — which has properties in 21 markets, including Atlanta and D.C. — is owned by Mark Cuban, who also owns the Dallas Mavericks. He recently said he’d be willing to sell the theaters if the price is right, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Kenley and I saw “The Descendents,” which wasn’t as dark as I expected. George Clooney delivers a very understated performance as a husband who must learn to be a father after his wife goes into a coma. But my Oscar vote would go to Brad Pitt in “Moneyball.”

After the movie, we went to The Arsenal down the street on Pico for a late dinner and drinks. The Arsenal has really good food for a bar. I ordered an appetizer of grilled veggies, which where perfectly seasoned, and Kenley ordered the poutine fries. The Arsenal also has a selection of burgers and pizzas and a fried Oreo for dessert. The bar has been around for more than 50 years and was renovated in 2010. You can read about the renovation here in LA Weekly. The bar gets full after 10-ish, when a DJ starts spinning and a singles-heavy, dancing crowd takes over the more laid-back happy hour drinkers and diners.

Turns out the celebration of the Chinese New Year corresponds with both our wedding anniversary (Jan. 23, 2010) and the one-year anniversary of our arrival in L.A. (Jan. 29, 2011). So we headed downtown for the Golden Dragon Parade in Chinatown to celebrate. After we found a place to park, we stopped by the LA Chinatown Bakery & Deli, where we selected some sweet dim sum buns for breakfast. We found a space along the street curb to sit and enjoy the food and the sights.

2012 marks the year of the water dragon in Chinese culture. Dragon are a symbol of luck, and water symbolizes “movement,” so the year is expected to bring fortune and change. But the water dragon can also be unpredictable. Read more predictions for the new year here.

The parade was much like most community parades, with marching bands, beauty queens and local politicians. But the stars of the parade were the cultural and school groups that wound their way down the streets, dancing and carrying dragon costumes over their heads.

The parade also featured some reminders we were in Tinseltown, including one of the Batmobile models, the General Lee and the character from the upcoming “Lorax” movie.

The parade lasted for several hours, so we wandered through the crowded streets to Central Square, where we grabbed lunch at the Crispy Waffle & Frite food truck, one of the many trucks parked there. I know, I know … we should have eaten Chinese instead of fried Belgian waffles and potatoes, but we’ll go back when it’s less crowded. There are walking tours through Chinatown on the first Saturday of each month, which sounds interesting.

That night, we went to the Good Luck Bar in the hip Los Feliz neighborhood on the east side of town to celebrate a friend’s birthday. The layout of Good Luck Bar reminds us a little of Art Bar, one of our favorite establishments in Columbia, S.C., only this bar had a tiki theme. The place is dark with flocked wallpaper and lanterns. There’s a round bar with more seating in the back if you get there early enough to grab one. Signature cocktails are served in cups shaped like men’s faces or in “coconuts,” and the drinks have names like “All wong.” What’s not to like? Befitting a true dive bar, there’s no website, but you can read about it in the LA Weekly.

On Monday, Kenley and I went downtown again to the Staples Center, for our second Clippers basketball game since we moved to Los Angeles. But to score seats this year (now that the Clippers are a legitimately good team), I had to be at my computer at 10 a.m. the day the single-game tickets went on sale — and we didn’t get them at a steep discount either.

The Clippers added Chris Paul, arguably the best point guard in the league, to their lineup this season in a controversial trade. Read the story on Adding Paul to the roster with an already-explosive Blake Griffin has energized the team, and from the moment we walked into the Staples Center, you could feel that the atmosphere was much more electric than it had been a year ago.

Little did we know that fortune was on our side that night, as we bore witness to what will probably go down as the dunk of the year.

We nearly missed the whole thing, as we were waiting to walk back to our seats shortly after halftime had ended. But we peered over the rails just in time to see Blake Griffin leap over Oklahoma City enforcer Kendrick Perkins and slam the ball home. Hard.

Read the story on and see the dunk here.

The spectacular play led Miami Heat star LeBron James (likely the league’s MVP this year) to tweet that it was the “dunk of the year,” setting off trash-talk from Perkins and others.

The Clippers are 20-11 at the All-Star break and at the top of the Western Conference’s Pacific Division, making L.A. a two-team basketball town. Sorry, Lakers fans. You have to share now.


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