I'm over the moon to introduce a new series to TSWIL- it's called The Street Where You Live. Yes, YOU. Now, once a week, we'll be meeting a remarkable woman from a different part of the world, walking down the street where they live. We'll get to know all the beautiful minutiae - the houses, coffee shops, local hoodlums and neighborhood tips guaranteed to make your heart sing.
In the next few weeks we'll travel to streets in places like London, Berlin, Paris and Mexico City, and enjoy a unique glimpse into a cast of inspirational and creative women's lives and loves.
So let's get started shall we? First up, I'm awfully proud to introduce Kira Hesser, actress, writer, comedienne, my sweet friend, who lives in Los Angeles, California. More specifically, as she points out, in the neighbourhood called Los Feliz: literally, The Happy.
On settling in hip LA neighbourhood, Los Feliz:
I live on a very quiet, residential street nestled in between Hollywood and Los Feliz village. Technically, I live in what's known as "Little Armenia", and 75% of the residents on my street are almost comically unfriendly Armenian octogenarians. There are only three businesses on my street, all clustered together at the Hollywood Boulevard end: a baklava bakery, and a hookah bar that for sure doubles as a mafia hangout (think Satriale's if my life were The Sopranos (and why isn't it?). A cool independent German clothing/jewelry boutique just opened up too, and I look forward to being able to afford something there in the next year or two.
On finding the perfect room mate-online. Spoiler alert, also her future husband
I live with my fiance, Tyler. He is an editor on the television series The Originals (sexy CW vampire show). We met on OKCupid (!) - we were each-others first dates on the site, and we are fully aware of how insane and fortuitous that is. Tyler is my easiest and sexiest roommate to date (sorry past roommates Megan, Jennifer, Tiffiny, Miranda, Meg, Ryan, Olivia, Alienor, Louise, Melanie, and Julien! 'Twas a delight to live with you all, too).
On loving her home:
I love my apartment so much. Tyler and I have created a beautiful little oasis in our home, which is pretty spacious by Los Angeles standards and positively palatial by New York standards. When we got engaged, we started looking at moving to a brand-new place to enter married life in, but we've found the cost of apartments to have gone up exponentially and prohibitively since we've been living here (I've lived in this apartment for nearly 5 years, Tyler for 3). So, we stayed, and redecorated. We invested in a real couch that we're quite proud of: a cheery red modernist structure whose fabric hides dog hair quite well. We have lovely old French windows, a ton of natural sunlight, a parking spot, a lovely green front yard for our dogs to pee in, and we're far enough away from the bars to never hear any street-noise and close-enough that we can walk to and from our favorite happy hour spots.
On having a "job" in LA:
Hahahhahah. Job. Singular! Can you even imagine? Not in LA, that's for sure. I barely know anyone that has one job here. Most everyone is cobbling together a living with several part-time jobs until they can make a living out of their passion. I moved to Los Angeles to act and to write and to be paid for both, but in the meantime, in the in-between-time of paid writing, acting, and voiceover gigs and hosting a PBS travel series Islands Without Cars (which unfortunately only shoots once a year, in the summertime). I also 1) assist a voice director 2) write trendy pieces for a style blog 3) cater-waiter for the glamorous private dinners and parties of the rich 1%.
On not being afraid to follow your dreams:
I grew up acting in Chicago as a child, and acted my way through grade school. I quit in high school but years later, when I was getting my MA in Modern Literature in London (where I met sweet Alex!!), I also began hosting the PBS travel series Islands Without Cars and realized that I missed being on-camera, and I missed acting. I had to decide whether or not to stay in London and acquire a visa and pursue a career in editing or publishing, or move to Los Angeles and re-pursue acting before I was too old for the career (NB: I was 26 when I moved here, so technically I was already too old for Hollywood).
On having a recording booth in her closet:
We have two bedrooms, no dishwasher, but mercifully, a washer & dryer that was Tyler's moving-in present to the apartment/us. We live underneath an elderly Armenian lady who is mostly, happily, silent other than her VERY loud phone ringing several times throughout the day. Though it's actually quite beautifully anachronistic to hear a real house phone ring! Except when I'm trying to record a voiceover audition in my closet that doubles as a recording booth, that is.
On dealing with terrible neighbors:
My upstairs neighbors are the worst thing about my street, and if we didn't have such an insanely affordable, beautiful, spacious, and rent-controlled apartment, we would leave because of them. They are senselessly terrified of our two 15-pound dogs and make a big theatrical show of it anytime we happen to be surrounding the apartment at the same time. The old lady above us doesn't speak any English but shook her crooked finger yelling "NO NO NO!!!!!!!!!" at my face once when I was leaving my apartment to walk our dogs and she happened to be nearby. On the other side upstairs is a middle-aged family of 3, and their too-old-for-this-behavior daughter screamed in terror at one of our dogs once which made him bark harmlessly which led to the father coming to our door and threatening to have our dogs "taken care of." See? Mafia. Guess I DO live in The Sopranos and it's actually not as cinematically romantic as I had hoped. Also this guy is NO Gandolfini, I'll tell you that much (read: not sexy).
Before Tyler moved in with me, I lived int his apartment with my best friend Miranda, and my other best friends lived in the other bottom unit, luck of all luck! We decided to have a joint Christmas party, and did the courteous thing by knocking on our upstairs neighbor's door to inform them that we would be having a party Saturday night.
The four of us crowded around their door. "Hi! We just wanted to let you know we're having a Christmas party this Saturday night. Shouldn't be too loud, but we just wanted to inform you. People should be gone by around 1."
The mean-looking father stared at us, his face unflinching. "No." he stated, simply. "No."
"We're...not asking you. We're telling you we're having a party. It's on a weekend."
"No. You girls are always making so much noise, with your music, and your...your....effing."
"WHAT?!" half of us exclaimed in disgust. Miranda threw her hands up and went back into the apartment at this point.
"Exactly what do you mean by that?" Megan asked.
"You know. Your...all your making LOVE." His 7-year old daughter sat at the top of the stairs, watching her father's loathesome appointment with The Complaint Department.
"AUGHHH!" I exclaimed, heading back into the house. Megan stayed to argue with him, and Miranda and I shook the gross out in our apartment, baffled, since all 4 of us were woefully single and had not had ANY recent sex for him to sonically endure and then complain about. We had the Christmas party and he has not spoken a word to me in the 4 years since (unless you count frequent murderous glares a type of conversation, which: I do!)
On LA misconceptions, and recommendations:
People think that you have to drive everywhere in Los Angeles, and while that is absolutely true, the distinct pleasure of living in my neighbourhood is that it's not always so. Los Feliz is incredibly walkable: I have some great bars within walking distance (El Chavo for swarthy $4 margaritas, Le Figaro for wine, Harvard & Stone for Old Fashioneds), in addition to a movie theatre, plenty of restaurants, and perhaps most importantly, House of Pies. Griffith Parks' hundreds of miles of gorgeous hiking trails are within a short jog. My second favorite apple fritter in the city is a block away. My favorite fish taco, sold by a red-nosed alcoholic Irishman (redundant, I know, I know) is a 10-minute walk away. Thai Town is 3 blocks away, which offers an unfettered number of options for superlative pad-see-ew's. And, if we're feeling saucy, Jumbo's Clown Room, a tiny strip club where all the strippers are "alternative" (tattooed, well-(un)-dressed), is also just a 7-minute walk away.
Any advice for anyone walking your block?
"The dog doodie you see isn't from our dogs, we always pick it up. Avoid that hookah bar at the end, but definitely do indulge in some of the baklava at the bakery next door to it, for it is extra-honeyed and divine. See that old man doing push-ups in his pajamas against his balcony up there? He's my best friend. He doesn't know it yet, but he is."
When you walk down your street, what do you feel in your heart?
90% of the time when I'm walking down my street, I'm walking my dogs. So, the main thing I usually feel in my heart is the desire for my dogs to doodie quickly. Other than that, I feel rather peaceful, safe, and warm. Also, I'm always hoping to run into the old Mexican man who is a school crossing guard and named his ancient dachshund, who accompanies him to school every day, "Little Thing."
On loving, simply loving, LA:
Los Angeles is a slow-unfurling treasure, and I love it more each year that I spend here. It's utterly vast and unknowable at first: you need to take it bit by bit. There are major sections of the city that I still get completely lost in when an audition takes me there. The valley is a 1950s strip wunderland that still baffles me, as does most of LA. I've done a solid job conquering Hollywood, West Hollywood, Los Feliz, Echo Park, Silverlake, Downtown, and Pasadena, but there's still so much left. LA isn't one city, it's 9, and as such there's no way I'll ever get bored of it.
On the perfect day in Los Feliz:
It begins with going for a morning run with Tyler and the dogs, through Los Feliz and up to our favorite hilltop, overlooking all of Los Angeles, which is incidentally where we got our engagement photos taken, too. It continues with an apple fritter at Sam's Donuts up the street. It's at the point where I walk in and the Vietnamese couple that runs it says "Apple fritter, right?" I am, in fact, a monster. The day continues with a movie at Arclight, tacos for lunch from Guisados in Echo Park (FACT: the best tacos any human has ever tasted in their lives. They are catering our rehearsal dinner picnic, that's how much we love them.), and a wander through Skylight Books. It would finish off with margaritas and nachos at El Chavo, which is the most wildly erratic dish I've ever continued to order, like some kind of Pavlovian dope. Sometimes they're the best nachos I've ever tasted and other times they're horrid and inedible. I told this to the bartender once, my eyes wide with curiosity about these fickle nachos, and he gave me the hottest tip around: "When you order them, ask for them to be made with love. We'll know what you mean, and we'll tell the kitchen. Then they'll be delicious every time." He was right: the tip has withstood the test of nacho time.
Thank you so much darling Kira!
I don't doubt that you're deeply in love with Ms Hesser at this point. But have no fear, you can get regular updates on her latest adorbs vintage frock, apple fritter, and recalcitrant Armenian encounter by following her on Instagram.