Lacey

Access-Mundane-Lacey

Karl: Okay, what’s today, the 8th? It’s July 8th, 2011, and we’re here at Hudson on the corner of Santa Monica and Crescent Heights in West Hollywood, CA. I’m here with Lacey.

Lacey: God, iPhones do everything!

Karl: How old are you, Lacey?

Lacey: 31.

Karl: You’re currently married.

Lacey: To Jeff.

Karl: How long have you been married?

Lacey: It’ll be 6 years in October.

Karl: Describe him for me.

Lacey: Oh, I don’t know. Jeff is the life of the party. He’s one of the funniest, sweetest, chillest people I’ve ever met – who is also insanely hyper.

Karl: How did you meet?

Lacey: He dated my best friend in college. She and I moved out here together and he moved out here to be with her. He lived a couple blocks from where we lived in the Valley, but they broke up and she and I grew apart.  He and I didn’t know anybody else so we were hanging out with each other all the time. It turned into one of those things where we were friends for a couple of years, then we got closer and closer and I don’t know… The next thing I knew I was moving in with the guy. *laughs*

Karl: Where are you from originally?

Lacey: I’m from Texas – I grew up in Houston. He’s from Virginia. We met in Pittsburgh where we both went to college.

Karl: So what’s your occupation?

Lacey: I am a caterer, I guess. A chef. I cook. I started my own catering company 6 years ago around the time that I quit acting. I started as a personal chef, then I was catering friends’ movies, and doing craft services. It was going really well and I actually, sometimes, regret doing what I did because I stopped taking jobs in order to go to culinary school. I thought I needed more knowledge and the basics, but I just lost all that momentum in the few years that I was in culinary school. I had such a good thing going and then all of a sudden I got out of school and… No job! I kind of screwed the pooch on that one.

Karl: Well, did you learn things that you absolutely need to know?

Lacey: I know I did. It has just made the road a little longer and a little harder. I ended up working at the West Side Tavern right when it opened up, over on Westwood and Pico. I was a line cook which was cool. I had never worked in a restaurant on that end. As an actor, I had always worked in the front of the house bar-tending or waiting tables. They took a chance on me. I didn’t have any line cook experience and you gotta be fast. And as a chick you have to be so tough. It’s predominantly men and it was a huge kitchen. I would say there were 15 people working on the line at once and I was the only girl. All the other girls worked in the pastry part. I enjoyed it but it was so little pay, you work so hard, and it was so taxing.

Karl: Well, being a young actor is no picnic either. What was it about acting that pushed you into culinary school?

Lacey: It was actually my mom’s idea. I just got so fed up with not working, working odd jobs, and not making any money. I wanted a career. So my mom called me. She was so cute. She said, “I just read this article about this woman who is a personal chef. Have you ever heard of these? I think you could do that! You love entertaining, and you love cooking.” And I thought, “That actually is not a bad idea.”

Karl: So describe what it’s like to start a business in LA?

Lacey: It’s been really difficult. I thought I had this ‘in’ with people who work in production – my husband and I have friends in entertainment. I could do on-set catering because I A – was aware of how munch money there is in it, and B – have worked in the industry as an actor. I know what kind of crap they serve you on film sets. I was hoping I could change the face of that for people. It’s worked a little bit. My husband and other people have gotten me hired on sets.

Karl: Well, I would think that there is so much business here, but it’s probably also a very saturated market.

Lacey: It is and it isn’t. My bonus is that my husband works in reality TV. A lot of reality shows are low-budget and they don’t have set caterers that they work through. They tend to just send a Production Assistant out to grab lunch somewhere. So it was interesting to get into that market. I did a couple of pilots and shows here and there. Apparently a food truck is the way to go if you’re going to be catering on set.

Karl: Yeah, that’s really hot right now, isn’t it?

Lacey: Yes, and if it’s a series, or a show that’s been running for a long time on location, or if they’re moving around, they need somebody that can show up with a menu of things and can cook right there. I looked into it. It’s so expensive to get a food truck. You have to pay for the damn truck, have $1,000 a month to store it somewhere in a commissary, then you have to think of your food and your gas and all this stuff. I don’t know. Hopefully I’ll get there someday. Or I’ll just veer out of that and try to get into weddings or something.

Karl: What do you do on set without a truck, you set it all up, everyone eats, and then you come get your stuff?

Lacey: Yeah, exactly. It’s just hard right now because I’m a one-man-band. I’ll bring in friends here and there to help me, but if I’m catering a job, I’m working 18 hours a day. I’m by myself doing all the shopping, prepping, cooking, delivering… *feigns exhaustion* I really do enjoy it so I hope business will pick up soon.

Karl: So clearly your business is all-enveloping, but what do you like to do outside of work in your free time.

Lacey: That’s such a hard question.

Karl: I know. Nobody has free time anymore.

Lacey: I like running, yoga… I really enjoy writing.

Karl: What do you write?

Lacey: I used to be more creative with my writing. I used to write stories and plays, but that was when I was back in that acting world. I think I had a bigger imagination then because I was exercising it all the time. I have a food blog that I do – Lulu Bites. It’s about recipes, food, or whatever having to do with my business. There are days that I think of forgoing the cooking and becoming a food writer, ala Anthony Bourdain. *laughs* He and I are both assholes, why not? I used to chain smoke and do a lot of drugs, I could fit in there. I just started gardening. One day, if I have my own kitchen established somewhere, I hope to have my own garden where I grow all of my own produce.

Karl: In your back yard?

Lacey: Yes. Now it’s huge! It all has to be above the ground because we have an arch-enemy – a squirrel, whose name is Mr. Goggles. He hasn’t tried to mess with anything yet, but I know if I planted anything in the ground, he would be all over it. But now it’s all fenced in out of Mr. Goggles’ reach.

Karl: What do you and Jeff like to do together?

Lacey: It’s hard to say, he hasn’t been home – he’s been traveling so much this past year for work. But we’re big home-bodies. We sit at home and play video games together, or watch useless TV, or movies. We’re really big music fans. Live music is something we really enjoy doing together.

Karl: No kidding. Where do you guys go to hear live music?

Lacey: It’s unfortunate, we don’t get to go that often, or maybe we’re just a bit too picky. It used to be the Elray, the Avalon, the Roxy – that tiny little place. But now it’s like everyone only plays the House of Blues, and I hate the House of Blues. I like it because it’s within walking distance of our house, but we call it the House of Rules. They’re lame, there are so many cooler, unique venues like Music Box, or there was a place that just closed – Crash Mansion, downtown.

Karl: So you’re a college student in Pittsburgh, did you just say, “Okay, I’ve graduated, I’m off to LA!”

Lacey: My college, CMU, had leagues as it was called. They do one in New York and one in LA. It’s a showcase for agents, managers, and directors… anybody that would be interested in new talent. I had been acting since I was 10. I was going to go to New York; the stage was what I had done my whole life. Living in Pittsburgh, we weren’t far from New York. I had been there a ton of times. I loved being there. I loved visiting there. But when we went there for our presentation, I freaked out. But when I came out here, I did way better in my presentation. In New York, I think I got 4 calls. And there were people who got 100. But I did way better out here. Being from Houston, which is so spread out, I remember driving around here and this felt like home. It felt familiar to me.

When Jeff’s ex and I moved out here together, we rented a car and were driving all over looking at places we might want to live. We wanted a house because my sister was going to move out here too, and she refused to be in an apartment building. We only had a tiny little budget and I knew there was no way we were going to find what we wanted. But on the second day, we were driving down Curson in West Hollywood and I was looking around at the houses… the buildings… the architecture… the trees… and I said, “I want to live here! I want to live on this street! Where are we? Is this Hollywood? Is this West Hollywood? This is so cute!” When we moved, the first place we looked at was in that area – it was $1400 for two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a yard. I thought to myself, “This is way to weird.” The second we walked into that place, I said, “We have to take it! Gotta take it!”

Karl: How long have you been there?

Lacey: It will be 8 years in October. Come October, it will be the longest I’ve lived in any place, period – including the houses I grew up in. It’s very adult-feeling. *laughs*

Karl: So looking at those 8-years, can you think about how things were when you moved here, and tell me about some of the changes you’ve observed?

Lacey: Well we live in Little Russia. Our landlord upstairs is adorable, he’s straight off the breadline.

Karl: How do you get along with him?

Lacey: We love them. His wife was always very reserved but I consider him my second father. I was sick one time and Jeff was out of town, he came down and brought a thermometer saying, “Are you sick? Do I need to take your temperature? Do you have a fever? Do you need to go to the hospital? Here’s all these Russian remedies that my mother used to do to me.” When Jeff was out of town working for a long time, they made me borscht and brought it down. They’re so cute. Now, even she’s finally loosening up and saying hi.

When we first moved in, it was a lot of elderly people. We called them the “Nostrovia Contingency” because they all speak very loudly and passionately. They’re saying hello to each other and it’s like, “Hello!” *yelling* “How are you?!” Recently, I’m noticing a younger crowd in our area. I don’t know if the elderly are passing away, or moving away ’cause times got tougher.

Karl: Are the rents going up? It’s all rent controlled, right?

Lacey: Where we live, it’s rent controlled. Our place was $1400 when we moved in, now it’s almost $1650. Over 8 years, that’s not too bad. Our property is owned entirely by our landlord who bought it 30-some odd years ago. It was originally just our little duplex – we live on the bottom, our landlord lives on top. So there was this huge front yard. My landlord’s father-in-law build a little 2-bedroom house on the front yard. I think it’s 1.5 bath, washer and dryer, dishwasher, whatever… it’s bigger than our place. If Jeff and I were to have kids, we would love to move into that place. But he’s never going to move because he lives there by himself and pays $1200.

Karl: Yeah, that guy’s not going anywhere.

Lacey: He’s lived there 14 or 15 years now. He’s a really sweet guy, we’re good friends with him. But we’re always thinking, *smacks fist* “When can we muscle you out?” *laughs*

Karl: Maybe your landlord can make some calls and have him “taken care of.”

Lacey: So that’s one thing that has not changed, that guy’s always been there and always will be.

The Santa Monica strip used to be Russian pharmacy, Russian pharmacy, Russian books and videos, Russian market… They would all just be in a row together and everything’s written in Russian. There’s a couple of little markets right around the corner from my house that I’ve never even walked into because I’m so intimidated by them. I don’t want to say “fortunately those started disappearing,” because I’m sure for the people who shop there, they’re thrilled that it’s there, but I don’t need four Russian pharmacies next door to each other. So those places have been disappearing and we’re getting more places like this – the Hudson or Bar Lubitsch which is a Russian vodka bar. There are hipper things around which Jeff and I appreciate.

Waitress: Can I get you anything?

Karl: Um, let’s go with the calamari, the sliders, and the fries.

Lacey: Another Sauvignon Blanc.

Karl: So how do you feel about those changes? You sound pretty happy about them. You’d rather see the bars and restaurants come in than keeping the local Russian pharmacies and things?

Lacey: Yeah. It’s just nice to have stuff like that around here because there wasn’t for so long. Little bistros and clothing stores popping up on the street – I’m all about mom and pop stores but I’m not going to go into the little Russian boutique.

Karl: You don’t need any Russian medical supplies?

Lacey: *laughs* There’s one right down the street from us that sells clothes, dolls, china, and medical supplies. C’mon, what is going on in there? I swear a lot of those places are just fronts… And I’m not trying to mess with that at all! *speaks directly into microphone*

Karl: Have things changed for the better or for the worst?

Lacey: I personally think for the better.

Karl: Wonder if the old Russians think so. *smiles*

*food arrives*

Okay, you can tell me how these hold up. Don’t feel obligated to eat, but please dig in.

Lacey: *laughs* I’m definitely going to have a bite. I don’t eat meat, so I’m not going to rock the sliders.

Karl: Ugh, sorry. They’re chicken though if you do poultry.

Lacey: I don’t.

Karl: Nothing with a face?

Lacey: I eat seafood occasionally. I believe the technical term is a pescetarian. I’ll cook meat though. I cater to meat-eaters, but anything I make can also be made vegetarian.

Karl: Can you do the gluten-free?

Lacey: Of course. My step-dad has coeliac disease.

*bites into calamari*

I don’t know if you really want me to… I don’t think people want me to go out with them and critique things.

Karl: *chewing* Because you wreck it?

Lacey: I wreck it for myself too, it sucks. Although I should have two bites to be fair.

Karl: Well, as a regular eater, let me say… The calamari is good, I mean the outside fry. The inside is a little stiff maybe. It could be a little chewier.

Lacey: It’s way over-cooked. That’s exactly what I was going to say. The fry is nice, excellent flavoring, seasoned well, but damn. Yeah. And that’s the easiest thing to do with seafood – is overcook it because it’s so hard to tell when it’s done. I mean look at that plate, it’s perfectly golden, maybe even a little under-golden. Which makes me think that maybe they were marinating it, or maybe the fry temperature in the fryer is just way too hot. This is so hard to cook – calamari. Calamari made me cry three times. *laughs*

Karl: What would you like to see more of in West Hollywood?

Lacey: It doesn’t even seem realistic in my time, sadly, but public transportation! Why does it have to be so bad? *pleads to sky* I feel like we could be so much more advanced as our own little city.

Karl: Do you want to get to the other side of Weho, or are we talking downtown and all over?

Lacey: I would say all over. The subway goes downtown from Hollywood and Vine. I can walk to Hollywood and Vine in an hour, or 10 minutes on my bike, but it’s so frustrating to me. Even the cab-drivers have a tendency to ask where you’re going before you get in, and then they’ll drive away when they realize how close you’re going.

Karl: Yeah, I’ve gotten the, “It’s a $20 minimum” shout out. At least we live in an area where you can go walk to get a beer.

Lacey: It kills me.

Karl: Have you taken the bus? Do you like the bus?

Lacey: I have only ridden the bus in LA once. The traffic is so bad already and they have so many stops to make. We had a friend from England stay with us. He took the bus from our place to Santa Monica… It took him four hours.

Karl: *chokes on slider*

Lacey: That is why I don’t ride the bus.

Karl: How about less of?

Lacey: Less homeless. It’s a huge problem. When we first moved here I didn’t see much of it, and now I’m seeing more and more and more. There’s a part of me that wants to give change to every single homeless person I see, but now I can’t because I’m seeing 30 to 40 of them a week. One day around the holidays, I made up some sacked lunches and took them to all these people and they looked at me like I was an alien and I was about to strike them or something. They’re so used to being invisible. This past census was trying so hard to document how many homeless people are in LA. They did a free sock give-away to get them to come and be counted. Once that census ran though, they found 8.5 million homeless people in the Los Angeles area. I have no idea what the number is here in Weho but it’s a problem.

Otherwise, there really isn’t much I would change. Unless you want to install left turn signals that is. *laughs*

Karl: Wow! That’s a great one! No one has said that yet.

Lacey: In Pittsburgh, we have the “Pittsburgh Left” which means that as soon as that light turns green, you gun it through the intersection. But in LA, do not try and pull and Pittsburgh left. You will get hit. You wait until the light turns yellow, and then 2 or 3 cars get to go through. Jeff and I were just in Maryland and we were making “LA Lefts” and people were honking and screaming at us for turning through a red light. We’re just used to it.

Karl: What do you think of all these food trucks?

Lacey: I love it. I think it’s awesome. My friend and I went to Artwalk and I was blown away by the variety. And they have the same standards as restaurants. This is one of the things I love about California in general – the letter rating. I don’t even like to walk into a place with a B in the window even though I’ve worked in restaurants and I know how easily you can get a B. It can literally be like, “Um… the temperature of that fridge is 1-degree above what it’s supposed to be. Your knives were facing the wrong way in the container.” It can be anything. So when I see a food truck with an A, I’m like, Yeah! I love them.

Karl: Is it arguable that they take business away from the restaurants that are moving into your neighborhood?

Lacey: I would argue “no,” because they’re constantly traveling. They’re moving and their fans are following them on Facebook and Twitter. For example, I heard about the Grilled Cheese Truck forever, but I had never found it, never seen it. One night, we walked out of a bar and the Grilled Cheese Truck just happened to be there. It was so exciting! Because they’re mobile, they’re divvying it up. These trucks have to come up with things that are more unique and gimmicky because otherwise why wouldn’t you just go to a restaurant? Not everybody wants to eat their food out of a truck on the side of the road.

Karl: How was the Grilled Cheese Truck?

Lacey: Oh my God. *holds hand to chest* It’s so good. My friend and I split a macaroni and cheese grilled cheese sandwich. Talk about carbo-loading. It was so rich and so… Oh My God… Intense. Do people say the same thing about the sausage people parked outside of a bar? No. People love walking out of a bar and smelling bacon wrapped around a big sausage. I don’t even eat meat and it makes my mouth water. *laughs*

Karl: Are you guys happy here? Think you’re going anywhere?

Lacey: It’s home now.

Karl: ‘Till you kick that guy out of his house.

Lacey: There was a point a few years ago where we felt like we needed to get out. The idea of owning property here is outrageous.

Karl: It’s ridiculous. Although it is a great time to be a first-time home buyer right now.

Lacey: It is, That’s very true. But the older I get, the more logical I begin to think about these things. When I first moved here, there was this stigma in me that I didn’t want to be in my 40s, or having kids, and living in an apartment. And I don’t feel that way now, but there is just something to owning property. I mean, for fuck’s sake, for $1600+ a month I’m paying my landlord’s mortgage. I could be paying my own mortgage. It kills me. That and that alone would push us out of here.

Karl: Where do you see West Hollywood in 20 years?

Lacey: I’ve never thought about that.

Karl: You two will be here, so describe it for me.

Lacey: If you go between Fountain and Sunset, east of Fairfax, all those little houses there down towards La Brea…

Karl: It gets very white-picket fencey over there.

Lacey: Yes, I wish we could get rid of the 70s apartment complexes with those crazy names. Have you noticed they’ve named them all, as if they’re streets? There’s Sherry Romaine and Ray Willoughby, and they’re covered in sea shells! *laughs* It’s awful. I see more modern architecture coming in, but I hate that.

Karl: I think when housing picks up, all that stuff will start to renovate. I hope.

Lacey: Well even in this economy we’re seeing it, and I’ll still take it, but next to what used to be the TomKat – that gay porno theater that used to list the names of the movies on the marquis. There was Drill Bill and Rear Factor… And they would list the actors’ names like Chicken Likin’… Whenever my family came to visit, we could go look at what was playing at the TomKat. So next to that they tore down a bunch of stuff and put up condos with business on the ground floor, which I like seeing, it’s very East Coast. But it’s like Spiderman was the architect. The design on the outside of the building looks like giant web splooges. I thought, “Awwww, you had such a good thing going!”

Karl: Yeah, that’s going to date pretty quick, huh?

Lacey: It doesn’t look good now!

Karl: I hate that black and white thing on the corner of La Cienega and Melrose. That thing is such an eye sore.

Lacey: YES! *laughs* That’s what I’m talking about.

Karl: What is the attitude of our community now?

Lacey: Something I love about West Hollywood is that we’re not ‘hipster.’ There’s a little more crunchy granola feel I think. We’re not Venice, but there is a youthful vibe, which is nice. It’s more crunchy than towards Silverlake, where everyone’s wearing jeans tighter than their skin.

Karl: So in 20 years, will it still be that way?

Lacey: I hope that because of the Russian people, the young people, and the gay community, that it’s not family oriented. There are obviously families here, and I like the idea of raising a family here, but I don’t want it to be like the Valley where you’re going to go pop out some kids.

Karl: Well, I’ll tell you something, if the West Hollywood schools stay the way they are, you will never have to worry about that happening.

Lacey: I know, that’s so sad. My sister and her husband used to live in D.C., and I think the school systems there make us look awesome. My niece came home from school and said, “Mommy, can I axe you a question?” And they were like, “Okay, we’re outta here.” It’s sad that the best option is just to move. Granted, it’s easy for me to say that because I don’t have any kids yet.

Karl: Ever do Halloween here?

Lacey: Halloween was my favorite holiday. I used to start making my Halloween costumes the day after Halloween for the following year. We moved over here and we always heard about the Halloween Parade but we always had other plans. We typically travel to a live music festival. But one year we were just here and had nothing to do so we walked down to the parade. I was miserable. I am so claustrophobic, and there were half a million people. I’ve done big music festivals, I can deal with crowds, but not when I’m aware that I may have to buckle arms with yours and lift my legs if this turns into a mob. I started freaking out. My girlfriend just told me to look up at the open space so I walked through the entire parade staring up.

Karl: You’re petite too, so you’re staring at backs and stuff the whole time.

Lacey: Yeah, very enclosed. It wasn’t what I thought it would be. There was no beer and I kept asking, “Where are we going? We’re just walking around looking at food stands and costumes?” And there was nowhere to go to the bathroom. My friend and I had to pee on the ground in an alley because there was nowhere else to go. I thought it would be more fun. There wasn’t a lot of fun involved.

Karl: *laughs* It’s not that bad anymore. They have bars open and bathrooms and stuff now. I remember when it was like that, what a mess.

Lacey: Yeah, I’m over the West Hollywood Halloween Parade.

Karl: Do want to part ways with any story or last message to readers?

Lacey: *thinks* LA is a beast. My first year in LA was awful. I hated it here. I’ve recently become close friends with a girl who moved here a year ago from Seattle. She was just like me, didn’t know anybody, was completely shifting careers by coming here. I have watched her go through that experience of what it means to be in LA for the first year. It can really eat you alive. But if you can get past that first year… I don’t want to say, “If you can tame the beast,” but if you can learn to sort of dance with it and be a part of it, it can be a great fucking city to live in. But not if you’re trying to tell it what to do. You have to let LA speak to you so you learn how to breath and move with it.

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