Last week I launched the beginning of my travel blog and YouTube channel, Vagrant Tourist. I will be migrating all travel-related posts there, and maintain this blog for everything else–updates on my film projects, editing projects, and writing projects (Yes, poetry, yes! Who’s psyched?). Unfortunately, I never really began to write here regularly, something I kind of regret. I mean, BENCARO.COM had everything. Sharing options, related posts, a whole damn color scheme. Why did I let it rot!? Why did I squander its love!?

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Why did I never write in BENCARO.COM?

I had so much trouble launching this blog the way I wanted it, and, while this might peg me as dense, I could not wrap my mind around what I would focus on, what categories to feature in the posts vs. what content to feature in other pages. Mind boggling. With the launch of Vagrant Tourist, I will be happily able to distinguish between putting on a cool, journalistic face over there, and getting a little more personal over here. It’s a great relief. Let’s talk about what will be here from now on, in terms of categories:

Film – Updates on screenwriting, directing and editing projects.

Food and Drink – All of the LAWeekly articles I wrote up will probably live under this category.

Poetry – Straight up.

Writing – Here’s where things get interesting. This will be a mix of creative writing, including fiction, non-fiction, journaling, and yes, poetry. I’ll throw poetry in there, too. Hope you’re okay with that.

Anything travel related will be at VT site.

So what’s Vagrant Tourist?

My idea behind Vagrant Tourist was to make a Vice-like brand (both blog and YouTube channel) for travel. Worldwide, Vice does some important and, you know, some not-so-important work. While I might not be investigating anything as, um, interesting as “How to Make Korean Poo Wine,” perhaps that’s okay. Both IFC and Onion launched Vice parodies recently. In a promo for Edge, Onion’s new show, a white guy in his late 20’s stands in a dilapidated middle eastern town and faces a woman in a hijab. With a concerned look and a serious, action-hero tone, he asks her, “When was the last time you got high?” I think it’s safe to say people are amused by Vice’s skater-attitude hang-ups.

That said, while the subject matter might be lampoonable, their documentary production is a classy affair. I love the run and gun shooting style and minimal music. There’s only the slightest touch of voiceover editorializing and producing. It’s barely there. Gone are news correspondents trained to speak like Harvard-graduated robots, or conversely throw on leather jackets to signify that they’re “adventure journalists.” Many Vice correspondents are models, musicians, or young journalists whose chief assets are their willingness to experiment. They don’t seem to interview their subjects, but rather talk to them.

This is the style of writing and video I want with Vagrant Tourist. There’ll be videos about my trip to Asia, but also about stateside hikes, walks, street art, whatever looks visually interesting. I’ve also got some great footage of Nguyen Tran, chef, owner and banana suit-wearing personality of the restaurant Starry Kitchen, to show me some of his favorite eating spots in the Valley. There’s all sorts of stuff in the pipe.

Hopefully, the site split will help me focus both sites, and give me some incentive to throw some new posts more both here and over at Vagrant Tourist.

If you haven’t yet, check out the new site, and subscribe to the YouTube channel!

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Erin I want you to know that
Don is tryin’ to get a hold of you
We all are I think, I think so

None of us seen you in three days now
behind the gas station where they throw out donuts or
the alley with the dogs where
we ain’t woken by cops you know
the place. And then

Angie thinks you might’ve gone off
with that dope dealer fuckhead
but you told me on Tuesday that wasn’t
part the plan, so

I’m just wondering where you sleeping.
Cause you know

you’re not too old yet, you’re not the rest ‘us, or
maybe you are cause what I heard is you
been through it too – Yeah, Bobby said
You swung the door out when you fled your house
so your daddy had to shut it himself.

And Derek you know the guy
who works at the store Derek says
you just went home, but he don’t know
why you left, you don’t want to be molested no more
and you’re never gonna go back just like
all us out here.

I’m just worried is all, so
if you get this, if you hear any of us, just know
Don is trying to get a hold of ya, Erin.

Just want to know where you are.

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I always tell friends
when I’m helping them move

Three things that cause people the most stress
are death, divorce, and moving

I think it helps.

And with that logic

If a friend of mine dies, I’ll make sure to tell myself
Hey man, don’t worry about it

People get stressed about this.

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...such as only two rolls of sushi.

Here’s a study that belongs in a Malcolm Gladwell book. Researchers found that when people were presented with chocolate, popcorn or hand cream (please don’t eat hand cream), they sampled less off red plates than off any other color. Wait a minute. Is this the “one, weird trick” that helps you cut down a bit of your belly every day? I reached out to Adam Alter, author of Drunk Tank Pink: And Other Unexpected Forces that Shape How We Think, Feel, and Behave, about why red could have this de-appetizing affect:

Since red is usually associated with “danger and prohibition” (Think parking signs – and then remember to move your car), this might have tipped off the samplers to curb their sampling.

Adam Alter, author of Drunk Tank Pink: And Other Unexpected Forces that Shape How We Think, Feel, and Behave, offered Squid Ink another possibility. “Certain colors are also generally more appetizing than others: reds and greens are more appealing, for example, than blues and purples, which are rarely found in natural foods.”

It’s possible that by making the plate more appetizing, the products appeared less so.

Should you chuck the good china? Read the full article for why that might be a bad idea.

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Hipcooks class

After realizing I was living next to the Best Thai grocery store in Los Angeles, I decided it was time to make use of it. Scouring the net, I found the Hipcooks “Thai Two On” cooking class (Their most popular class was “Thai One On,” but after cringing every time I read the name, I just couldn’t do it). Luckily class seemed geared toward culinary idiots like myself, so I grabbed my friend Rosey, we strapped on our aprons and wrong-turned our way downtown. (Rosey is definitely the name of the girl you want to put an apron on and take to a cooking class with you. If you don’t have a friend named Rosey, Suzy, Judy, or possibly Joyce will do).

What did I learn? I learned how to make my roommate uncomfortable by filling my pantry full of bottles of fish sauce, galangal spice, and a massive block of tamarind, all of which I have little plan but the best intentions for. So far, everything tastes great in eggs. (Except the tamarind, which I’ve been pulling apart and eating raw). But really, you should read the article on LA Weekly where you might learn a bit about the class rather than a bit about my avant-garde home eating habits. Really, I’m ahead of my time.

  A few classmates pretend they're okay with using their pinky fingers to taste things.
A couple of my classmates pretend they’re okay with using their pinky fingers to taste things.

Since spices are so prominent in Thai cooking, we spent a lot of time slaving over a massive mortar and pestles to grind up the raw ingredients, looking like an army of miniature apron-wearing Gandalfs. The food turned out delicious:

By far the best dish was the Chiang Mai sausage skewers, ground pork patties seared into compact, little sausage shapes. Another highlight was the Thai me up! rum cocktail, a bright, creamy concoction of mint, coconut milk, ginger beer and a secret weapon, vanilla bean paste, more raw and flavorful than vanilla extract.

Chiang Mai "sausage" skewers
Chiang Mai “sausage” skewers. Just look at that sear. Look at it.

Really, I was blown away by those little sausage guys. The sear provided a delightful crunch which lent itself to a fatty, complex flavor reminiscent of salty-sweet potato chips. Check out the full article for more details on the class, as well as a recipe for a rum drink so good you won’t even mind that it’s called “Thai Me Up! rum cocktail.”

 LA Weekly – “Hipcooks: Where to Make Friends, and Cook For Them (Recipe)”

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Pork chop with apple slaw and polenta. Pork chop with apple slaw and creamy polenta.

The Beverly Garland hotel is going under the knife, doing a 20 million dollar renovation and reemerging as “The Garland” this May. It’ll be newly redesigned, featuring retro and colorful decor and an all new restaurant by Chef Warren, previously of Westside Tavern. The hotel wants to get the menu right, though, so in the interim, they’ve set up Warren’s Blackboard, a modest but upscale restaurant that changes their menu twice a week through a patriotically democratic process. Choose your own adventure! I wrote about it for LA Weekly:

Warren’s Blackboard blackboard is updated a couple times a week based on customer’s wishes. With your bill, you’re handed a feedback card reminiscent of something you’d see at a family restaurant chain: “How would you rate our service? What dishes were your favorite? Is there anything you would change about your dining experience?” The difference from say, Red Robin, is that Warren’s Blackboard listens.

So far, because of the “winning” feedback, displayed like award ribbons on a bulletin board by the entrance, Warren’s Blackboard has implemented less salt, more fish entrees, more vegetable appetizers and another dessert. Other suggestions looked like flame wars from a Crossfit message board: One guest suggested “Make more vegan friendly” while another “Less vegan friendly. More steak!” Not a challenge at all.

The most popular dishes will likely be incorporated as the permanent Front Yard menu later this year, possibly with a price hike. If you’re interested in tasting the cooking, I’d go now.

Read more: Now Open: Warren’s Blackboard at the Beverly Garland

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