November 20, 2018

Welcome to the Hood — My Pico-Robertson

Earlier this year, publisher and activist David Suissa moved from his old neighborhood near the Beverly Center to a home in the Pico-Robertson area. His new column will explore the nooks and crannies of his new neighborhood.

I’ve been living in the Pico-Robertson area for a month now, and I must say I’m a little dizzy. I put my new Volvo SUV on “drive” and it goes straight to Nagila Pizza.

I’mon a first-name basis with a Hispanic-looking guy called Freddie, who I think works there because he’s always offering to clean my table, while I am trying to teach my kids to do the same. I assume that within a month, several of my kids’ teeth will be cracked from the 25-cent cement balls they sell at Nagila, which I hear turn into bubblegum if you have a jackhammer handy. Anyhow, there’s this great children’s dentist who lives in the neighborhood and whose name is — I’m not making this up — Dr. Hirt.

I hear he’s a member of Young Israel of Century City, which had a blockbuster summer because it’s known to have the best air conditioning system among all the shuls of the Pico strip. I was there on my first Shabbat for mincha, and yes, you could definitely hang meat in that sanctuary; the temperature was somewhere between crisp and icy cold — the perfect counterpoint to Rabbi Elazar Muskin’s sizzling sermon on the importance of not wasting precious time in our very short lives.

Besides the powerful air conditioning, I’ve been enjoying those little Shabbos bulletins that often lay like fallen leaves on empty chairs. On a recent Friday night at Aish (two blocks from my new house), one little item — inserted between Shalom Bayis Roundtable for Women and Sefarim Dedication Opportunity — caught my eye: “MISTAKEN HAT-ENTITY: There are many black hats hanging on the hat rack on Shabbos that look very similar to each other. Please make sure that the one you are taking is your own.”

This is Talmudic-quality housekeeping.

One thing I’ve noticed in the Hood is an unusual interest in dry cleaners. I’ve counted about six that are within a few blocks of my house. At night, one of them reminds me of the Flamingo Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas; it’s really well lit. I hear that the owner is Persian, and that the cleaner store opposite his is owned by his brother. I got this juicy tidbit at my new neighbors’, the Castiels (where I was invited for Shabbat dinner), and I can’t wait to check it out. Let’s face it, two Persian brothers duking it out over Martinizing and fluff and fold? If it’s true, that’s a whole column right there. I wonder whom the mother roots for?

Speaking of mothers, this is the neighborhood that invented the Perfectly Coiffed Frum Supermom. They’re easy to spot. They have good posture, they’re quite perky and they have complete control over their kids. If one of their kids crosses the line, they will use words like “unacceptable” and “not OK.” On their coffee tables, you will find books like “The Organized Student” or “Creating the Perfect Kosher Kitchen.” Incidentally, they were quite ecstatic that a Jew moved to the neighborhood (as opposed to a non-Jew). I think that’s why they keep bringing challah to my door.

Of all the stores I’ve visited so far, there’s a special place in my heart for Needles ‘n’ Tees (personalized gifts & clothing for men, women & children). This, my friends, is a hole in the wall. My initial encounter with the owner (who has been there 35 years) did not go well, as I used his store to carry on a cellphone conversation in French with my mother. Since he had no idea at the time that I would, within the half hour, empty most of his shelves of these really cool Jewish educational games that would help me impress the Perfectly Coiffed Supermoms and get super play dates for my kids, he asked me to leave his premises. We’re now on very good terms.

As I write this at 7 a.m. over an Americano at the local Starbucks, I realize how much I miss my old Urth Caffé on Melrose Avenue. What is it about the pull of neighborhoods? Can’t I just drive those extra five or 10 minutes to get to my old coffee joint? I suppose I could, but then again I wouldn’t be loyal to my new Hood.

David Suissa, an advertising executive, is the founder of OLAM magazine and He can be reached at