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Posted by on Jan 13, 2013 in Blog, Restaurant Reviews, Travel | 2 comments

Restaurant Review: Philippe the Original (Los Angeles)




Phillipe-the-Original is the kind of place I love to go.

Unpretentious and genuine — this is a bona fide Los Angeles institution located just north of downtown (right across the street from Union Station at 1001 N. Alameda St.).  It’s the kind of place you’d expect to find in two of America’s most authentic restaurant cities — New Orleans and Memphis.  With its unfinished cement floors, memorabilia hanging on the walls, and fresh, delicious, consistently outstanding food — it’s easy to see why this place has been around for more than half a century.

Indeed, one of the early indications that a restaurant has great food is examining its clientele.  Fact:  When you see people from all walks of life lined up and huddled together at wooden tables — bankers sitting next to construction workers, young hip-hop party goers scarfing down sandwiches along with retirees — you know the food is going to be good.

And it is.

Best known as the origin of the world-famous French Dip sandwich, there’s really only one reason to come here.  And that’s for (drum roll please)….the French Dip.  Few decisions are to be make.  In fact, the menu hangs on the wall.  The big dilemma is what kind of meat to order — beef, lamb, ham, or chicken.  Less than a half-dozen side options exist (potato salad, coleslaw, etc.), and each is homemade.  There’s also plenty of fresh desserts and beer/wine available.  But the real stars of this long-running attraction are the sandwiches.

Oh, and they cost $6.50 each.  That’s right.  Six-fifty.

What a bargain!

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Posted by on Jan 4, 2013 in Blog, Essays, Personal, Travel | 2 comments

Still Running — One Year Later


Nolan Dalla Adidas Running Shoes


Running is pain.

Each and every step is a bone-grinding reminder that I’m not young anymore.  I can’t quite do all the things I used to be able to do — at least not as fast, nor with as much ease.

But I try.

One year ago today,  began my daily running routine.  All 262 lumbering pounds of me shook the pavement with the full force of a jackhammer.  I remember the pain as if it happened this morning.  Perhaps that’s because today I felt many of those same pains once again.  Indeed, I have come full circle to the place I was once before.

One year ago I weighed two-hundred and sixty-two pounds.  Making it a full mile without stopping left me bent over, panting, and breathless.  Running a few miles, even with deliberate stops in between, made my joints ache.  After a few runs, my legs cramped up.  At time, the pain was so severe, I felt paralyzed.

But I ran that first day.  And the next.  And the next, too.  And with every step along the way, the one thereafter became just a little bit easier.  Within a week of my daily run, I was already beginning to feel dramatic changes.  Not only did I feel better physically, but mentally, as well.  I also had lots more energy.

My lifestyle revolution — where I committed myself to running every single day with no excuses — began in the Bell Gardens section of Los Angeles on January 4, 2012.

And now today, it’s one year later.  I have returned again to this place where it all started.

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Posted by on Dec 31, 2012 in Blog, Essays, Travel | 1 comment

The Empty Blue Chair

View from La Croisette


Preface:  This story was written a few months ago during my stay in Cannes, located on the French Riviera. It appears in print here for the first time.  This story recounts one of my most touching memories of 2012.


This is the story of an empty blue chair.

More precisely, it’s the story of a person who once occupied it — someone’s name I do not know.

It’s the story of a loyal companion who sat beside the blue chair, so faithfully  — at the same time and place, each and every day.

This is the story of love and loss, of life and death, and ultimately of rebirth and renewal.

This is a personal story, a search for that special someone who once occupied the blue chair — which is now empty.

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Posted by on Dec 29, 2012 in Blog, Rants and Raves, Travel | 2 comments

The Unfriendly Skies: Nolan Dalla’s Flying Enemies List


Airport Crowds


The only thing worse than flying, is flying during the holiday season.

Seriously, could air travel be any less glamorous?

When I was a kid, I remember people used to get dressed up when they traveled by air.  Fliers were polite.  No one ever seemed to be in a rush.  The seats were comfortable.  There was plenty of leg room.  The airlines served you a hot meal and it tasted good.  Alcoholic beverages were free.  You never paid additional charges and your luggage arrived on time.  When there was a flight delay, the airline apologized and even put you up in a first-class hotel, when necessary.

Now, boarding a plane is pretty much like getting on a Greyhound bus — only with wings.

Flying is constant battle.  You battle to find a decent fare.  You battle to get a good seat assignment.  You battle to get to the airport on time — at least two hours early.  You battle to run the gauntlet through TSA screening without being strip searched.  You battle to get into the right boarding group.  You battle for precious overhead bin space.  You battle for the armrest.  You battle for peace and quiet during the flight.  You battle to depart your row so as to exit the aircraft.  You battle to claim your luggage.  Then, once you’re out of the airport, you battle to get a taxi or a rental car.

Indeed, if flying has become a serious of battles, then I’m hereby declaring war!



1.  BIN HOGS — I realize the airlines now try to pork you for $30 per checked bag each way.  But carry on abuse has become intolerable.  Now, jackasses are hauling 50-pound suitcases down the aisles.  Then, they heave the bone crushers into a tiny overhead bin space intended to be a storage area for purses and coats.  I’m so sick of seeing these selfish pricks usurping every inch of storage space with bags the size of a Great Dane.  It’s time for airlines to start enforcing carry-on size rules.

2.  ARM REST THUGS — I paid the same $389 fare you did.  So, move your fucking body part off my half of the arm rest.  You’re not sitting at home in a Lazy Boy parked in front of the television.  You’re in public.  Try to act like a responsible adult.

3.  BORING CONVERSATIONALISTS — I don’t want to hear your life story.  I don’t want to hear your personal problems.  I don’t give a rat’s ass what happened to you last week in Cleveland.  I don’t care what your opinion is of the Redskins-Cowboys game.  You’re on a cheap Southwest Airline flight just like me, pal.  You’re not a guest on The David Letterman Show.  Zip it.

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Posted by on Dec 10, 2012 in Blog, Personal, Rants and Raves, Travel | 1 comment

Attack of the Pit Bulls

Mean-Looking Pitbull


Yesterday, I almost had my balls chewed off by a pit bull named “Chief.”

It’s true.

I was attacked by three pit bulls this past weekend.  Here’s the story of how a leisurely run through the mountains of northern San Diego County turned into a brief moment of terror.




Ever had one of those “HOLY SHIT!  WHAT DO I DO NOW?” moments?

I just had one.

Make that three.  As in three pit bulls.

It all happened Saturday morning.  A casual three-mile run concluded with an unexpected “bonus sprint” towards the end, when I was confronted by three gnarling, foaming-at-the-mouth, canine beasts.

First, the back story.  I’m currently staying at the Harrah’s Rincon Resort and Casino, which is located in the mountains just north of San Diego.  This is Indian land situated about halfway between Temecula and Escondido.  Unless you drive 20 miles due east off the I-15, you’d never know there’s this vast barren area with almost no modern development, except for a few casinos and local Indians who all seem to drive $60,000 cars and live in shacks.

The roads here pretty much consist of single-lane stretches of pavement winding through mountains along blind curves with no guard rails.  Everyone seems to drive 80 miles an hour along these roads.  I guess there’s no state highway patrol here given this is a “sovereign nation,” so it’s almost like vehicular anarchy.

Having run along these roads a few times as part of my daily workout, I’ve nearly been hit by traffic, oblivious to the fat white guy wallowing along the yellow stripe who’s stupid enough to jog a route where no path exists.  If running in Las Vegas is dangerous at times, and it certainly can be, then doing the same thing here on an Indian reservation is inviting a death wish.

So, on Saturday morning I went out in search of a detour.  A new path where I could run over the next week which was challenging, but safe.  I thought I’d found it, at least until the final stage of my run, which is where the story picks up.

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