Celebrating 61 Years of Neon, Bowling, Booze & (now) Booza in Anaheim’s Little Arabia

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We were cruising across the vast flat lands of Orange County, the GPS app set to avoid toll roads and freeways, as the setting sun tinted every surface with that magical liquid gilding that can’t be painted or bottled, but is best captured in passenger window cellphone snaps.

Our destination: Le Mirage, a French bakery in Anaheim’s Little Arabia district, which we learned from Gustavo Arellano’s 2018 article also does an off-menu trade in booza, an ancient, taffy-like Syrian ice cream and pistachio confection textured with orchid root and tree resin.

We arrived at the mini-mall at dusk, just as the intersection of Brookhurst and Lincoln lit up with dancing incandescents and the warm buzz of neon. For just across the road, delightfully, was a perfect time capsule of mid-century suburbia: Linbrook Bowl, a bowling alley, coffee shop, bar and gaming center, open 24/7 (except on Christmas Eve) since 1958.

In fact, we learned upon stepping in, this weekend is the 61st Anniversary of the family-owned establishment, and guests are encouraged to doll up in 1950s attire to enjoy such Customer Appreciation specials as $2 beers and $1.50 hot dogs from 11:30am-3:30pm.

We resisted the urge to settle in on a bar stool and trade tall tales with the regulars, even though our new friends in the bar urged us to stay and toast the loss of other Southland bowling centers and Linbrook’s remarkable survival.

We explained our culinary mission across the road. “Ice cream, by Granny’s Do-Nuts? No way!” It all seemed most unlikely there beneath the mica-flecked sunken ceiling of The Kopa Room, and mention of an article in The New Yorker did nothing to convince them. Besides, one insisted, it couldn’t possibly be as good as Thrifty drug store ice cream. Well, we’d be the ones to go find out about that.

And after promising to return some day with the answer, we trundled back across six lanes of traffic, crossing from the old Orange County to the new in the length of a green walk signal.

A little small talk at the register was followed by some mysterious banging sounds in the back of the bakery, and the booza bowl was delivered, pale greenish petals studded with nuts and glistening with a splash of syrup.

And what a strange and lovely treat it proved to be! We’ve never had fresher tasting pistachios, or anything cold with such a texture. It wasn’t too sweet, and didn’t melt to a liquid like churned ice cream does, but was quite creamy and refreshing.  The ladies waiting for their cake started laughing, because Richard just kept saying “Wow… wow” and smiling at everyone.

To Anaheim’s Syrian community, booza is the taste of the diaspora, its sweetness tinged with sorrow and loss. While the flavors didn’t conjure up such feelings for we two native Angelenos, it did remind us of our dear grandma Cutie the foodie, and make us wonder if she would have recalled this treat from her early girlhood in Cairo.

A detour to visit Le Mirage is highly recommended, along with spending a little time talking with the friendly folks to be found on both sides of the street. It’s evenings like this one that make us grateful to live in Southern California, where so many different worlds and delicious flavors exist side by side, even if they don’t always mix. But when you’re ready to explore something new to you, all you have to do is look both ways and cross with care.

As grandma Cutie always said, quoting a beer billboard of her youth: “Lucky when you live in California.” And we are!

 

Metropolitan Water District landmarking vote reveals recent gutting of Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission

PETITION: Mayor Eric Garcetti, Fill the Vacant Seat on the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission.

On Thursday afternoon, September 15, 2016 an SRO crowd gathered in room 1010 of Los Angeles City Hall for the final hearing in the historic-cultural monument consideration process for William L. Pereira’s 1963 Metropolitan Water District campus at 1111 West Sunset Boulevard.

Presentations were made by Pam O’Connor and nominator Yuval Bar-Zemer (in favor) and Bill Delvac and Jenna Snow representing the property owner (opposed). Members of the public spoke about the property: two dozen in favor of preserving it (among them, the architect’s daughter Monica Pereira), two opposed. Bar-Zemer also presented the Commissioners with a pro-landmarking petition containing more than 600 names.

The Commissioners acknowledged that it had been a long day—we heard that security had already been called during the contentious Miracle Mile HPOZ agenda item, and they also were called during this item—and that they believed that determination on the MWD property was problematic due to alterations, some done by the prior church tenant in the 1990s, others done just a few months ago by the property owner apparently (though the Commissioners did not say this) in an attempt to render the property less suitable for landmarking.

When the vote came, it split 2-2, Commission president Richard Barron and Commissioner Jeremy Irvine somewhat reluctantly opposed to landmarking, Commission vice president Gail Kennard and Commissioner Barry Milofsky in favor.

chc-agenda-header-with-5-commissioners-shown-september-15-2016We had noticed through the whole afternoon that Commissioner Elissa Scrafano wasn’t at the dais. But it wasn’t until the vote was tabulated that her absence was explained, to the great dismay of the many citizens who had taken half their day to attend what they believed would be a fair hearing, with an informed Commission vote determining the fate of the endangered mid-century campus.

Although her name appears on the agenda for the hearing, in fact Elissa Scrafano is no longer a member of the Cultural Heritage Commission!

In July, Mayor Garcetti appointed Ms. Scrafano to the Cultural Affairs Commission to fill the vacancy created by Mari Edelman, who resigned. This appointment leaves both Commissions unbalanced and unable to break tie votes: the CAC now has 6 sitting commissioners, the CHC 4.

In the absence of Ms. Scrafano, there was nobody able to break the tie vote for landmarking the MWD, which means no action will be taken. With no new Commissioner nominated by the Mayor, and no CHC meeting scheduled in the 75 day window from when the property came before the Commission, this important William Pereira campus will almost certainly be demolished by the property owner.

But there is a chance, and we’re asking you to help: we are petitioning Mayor Garcetti and several city councilmembers with significant pending landmark nominations in their districts to act promptly to correct the voting imbalance on the Cultural Heritage Commission by appointing a fifth Commissioner. We are further asking that CHC president Richard Barron extend the period of consideration and/or call a special meeting once the Commission is balanced to hold a fair and final vote on the fate of the Metropolitan Water District campus.

If you share our belief that the Cultural Heritage Commission should be fully staffed for the protection of Los Angeles landmarks, please visit the petition link here, and add your name to send a message to the Mayor, City Council and the CHC.

Video of the September 15 hearing is below. Learn more about the Pereira in Peril campaign, see videos from past site visits and learn how to join us for upcoming tours here.