Monday, January 28, 2013

COMIN’ ROUND MOHAWK BEND



TO LIVE AND EAT IN LA

Temecula, CA – The very latest blessing to come out of Occupy LA, an event many who never came to the city hall encampment have dismissed, is a reconnection to the cousin who now lives in the area known as Culver City, a five square mile area of about 39K folks that is mostly surrounded by Los Angeles on the east. Having a book out is something to shout about, especially to kin-folk, so I was all about saying ‘hello’ and what have you been up to since I last saw you as a kid? Turns out, a lot.


As anyone who reads Memoirs finds out, my life is anything but typical, however not all of that aspect is due to outside influences. I’ve spoken before of my alabaster-skinned, wavy-haired Jewish grandmother but her husband was special also.
Growing up in a house where your grandparents look like a ‘mixed’ couple is something that you don’t notice as odd, but later when I became aware of the visual racial differences and the reality of the day, I had to ask Granny a question.

“How come you didn’t marry a man who looked more like you, Granny?”

Her eyes relaxed and she shifted out of her matriarchal ‘in-charge’ personality and answered, surprising me by what she said since the two of them weren’t like the TV couple on the old b&w TV show, Mama. Like Mama, my grandmother never worked a day outside her home.

“He was always neat and clean when he walked by (my mother’s) house. His clothes were pressed and he offered to take me and my sister for ice cream sundaes. Some of the other men who walked past the yard would offer us liquor if we went out with them, but your grandfather wasn’t like that. He was nice.”

He was also 27 and she was 16 as I later found out, giving him a wink and saying ‘you old dog’. However, my grandmother’s mom died at a young age so it is possible that my grandmother had just lost her mom or was living with her stepfather at the time when Granddaddy strolled by the stoop.

My grandfather was self-taught and spoke/wrote perfect English. He also checked my middle school grammar homework papers before I turned them in and once bested the teacher when she marked an answer wrong that was actually correct. He impressed others as well. While working at The Seelbach, Louisville’s first grand hotel which opened its doors on May 1, 1905, a man approached my grandfather when he left work one evening. He said that he wanted to hire my grandfather away from The Seelbach and have him go to Indianapolis to hire blacks in that city who would be willing to move to Louisville. The man was going to open a hotel to rival The Seelbach. My grandfather agreed and the man gave Granddaddy one thousand dollars to get his waiter crew together. In that moment, my grandfather became Captain Dan (Daniel being his last name), of the Brown Hotel. This was the reason for the Captain Dan weed slinging biz cards [see, yup, Memoirs].

The Brown Hotel is an historic 16-story hotel in downtown Louisville, Kentucky, U.S., located on the corner of Fourth and Broadway that Granddaddy helped open. It contains 293 rooms and over 24,000 ft² of meeting space. Granddaddy was in charge of all the waiters who worked at the Brown Hotel. It also contains special amenities, such as a fitness center and 3 restaurants. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The hotel was designed by Preston J. Bradshaw and opened in 1923, only 10 months after construction began. The hotel cost $4 million, and was funded and owned by James Graham Brown, a local entrepreneur. The hotel quickly became a central part of the growing downtown Louisville economy. Actor Victor Mature was an elevator operator at the hotel before becoming famous.

The year 1923 also saw the birth of my mother, Capt Dan’s last child of the four my grandmother bore him. The new hotel status added something else to my grandfather’s mantle of trustworthiness, credit! As I grew up I remember us having the first B&W Philco TV on the block. We had gotten the first refrigerator while everyone else was still making due with an icebox and visits from the iceman daily. Though quite possibly the first black/Negro/colored man in the segregated town to be able to walk into Bensinger’s, order new furniture and get it delivered like it was Living Spaces with just his signature, the two U of L Negro PhDs who recently published their look back at black Louisville history seem to have left my grandfather out, from what I saw of the report, and only included the ‘toms’ who made the white newspaper. A note to both as to whether either of them ever attended the 1960 Martin Luther King Chestnut YMCA event went unanswered. How typical of the ‘self-important’ over-educated element in the black community. Not having seen my cousin since before my witch wife Trinkette came along, again see Memoirs, I wondered about her hood cred.

We agreed to meet at a place I had seen on my way to a meeting in Hollywood which stuck out to me. Of course up in LA there are many things that pop out at you as being different or trendy. This time it was the name of the spot, Mohawk Bend. A friend of my cousin who lives in Echo Park had recommended it and when she said, ‘let’s make it that place’, it seemed a good idea to me.

If you have ever been along Sunset Blvd you know most of the storefront shops are small; some are hardly bigger than a phone booth. Mohawk Bend had been a vaudeville theatre then lay dormant until someone bought the property with hopes of turning it into a music venue. Those hopes were dashed when the neighbors complained about the increased and nonexistent parking that would cause problems with a live music club. Again it was sold and the new place, now a restaurant, was created.
Walking past the area with a front ticket booth would be you find a hollowed-out lounge area with couches forming an inside shaded sidewalk patio before going through the ‘lobby’ doors and past a hostess. Inside the lobby which is now a bar/food bar (AM Bar) were small square tables and one long lunch table. Through the back glass doors led to the theatre area which is now a fully elegant sit down restaurant with a high ceiling and new white mortar brick walls. This area opens around 2PM. The layout and motif speak more of Beverly Hills or Hollywood than Echo Park or even Silverlake, the number 1 hipster spot in the country. I felt this was a good sign.
I looked at my cousin walk in as I sat in the lobby area at a small table nursing a Helles Lager. When we left to sit in the back area to have lunch, I smiled as she told of spending the summer hanging out with friends at Venice Beach, food adventures in Peru, owning a downtown loft which she rented out, and having just produced a video for Yahoo a day ago. Single and dating as well as seven years living in LA after being in New York to start said to me that some of my Granddaddy’s blood also flows through her veins as Stephanie is not a typical Daniel, except in picking up the tab with the usual Daniel Family class. Mohawk Bend is located at 2141 W. Sunset Blvd, 90026, and I recommend it if you want a very low key out of the way classy eatery that’s stylish and hip.

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