DEALS & DISCOUNTS--Are you looking for an easy way to visit downtown Los Angeles? I have a great suggestion for you. I stumbled across DOWNTOWN LA WALKING TOURS while looking for a unique activity for our out-of-town guest’s visit. Downtown LA Walking Tours offers eight guided tours to choose from most days of the week, and I booked the 1:30 pm, OLD AND NEW DOWNTOWN LA tour through the website: to get acquainted with a new perspective of DTLA. Neel Sodha, the owner of the tour company, responded within an hour to book a tour for the next day. 

Not only is Neel the owner, he was also our fearless tour guide as well, taking us on a wonderful adventure beginning at Angels Flight Railway on Hill Street. We walked through the Grand Central Market, across to the iconic Bradbury Building, passing the headquarters of CalTrans, LAPD, The Los Angeles Times, by the historic St. Vibiano’s Catholic Church, sites on Broadway, Spring and Main Streets, the theatre district, the Last Book Store, Clifton’s Cafeteria, the St. Vincent Court area ending at Pershing Square lasting about two hours. 

Neel dished out interesting facts about each site, teaching us about early California history, local politics, the growing pains and growth of various settlements and downtown districts, local industries, zoning and planning laws and restrictions, public transit, and what the city has evolved into today. On his iPad, he showed us old vs. new photos and videos of DTLA. 

Since Neel is continuously in contact with local business, he made some really great recommendations for hip LA eateries, pubs, and attractions like the glass slide in the US Bank building that opened just this week. He also knows a lot about downtown events like the monthly Art Walk and free movies at independent theatres. 

While working as a public CPA and real estate investment accountant, Neel Sodha, volunteered at Union Station information booth. In January 2015, he gave up his accounting career to fully dedicate himself to Downtown LA Walking Tours. He is thoroughly and enthusiastically dedicated to providing educational and entertaining tours. In fact, instead of calling himself a tour operator, he is a Los Angeles promoter, and he does that so well, putting his heart into his business and each tour given. 

Customers are made up of 50% locals who want to learn more about LA, 30% visitors from other parts of the US, and 20% international tourists. Many clients are repeat customers, were referred by word of mouth, or have read the company’s raving reviews online. 

By the end of the tour, we were great fans of Los Angeles. Neel’s fondness of Los Angeles is infectious leaving us anxious to sign up once again for a Downtown LA Walking Tour, maybe of the Holiday Lights – or Haunted Tales. It is hard to choose which one, but cannot wait to be back (and will take the Metro to get there.) 


Downtown LA Walking Tours

For more information and to book tours, please visit: 







Phone           (213) 399-3820 


Tours offered daily, please contact for updated information

9:30 am         Fashion and Flower District

11:00 am       LA’s Beginnings

1:00 pm         Arts District

1:30 pm         Old and New Los Angeles

4:00 pm         Downtown Architecture

4:00 pm         Hollywood in Downtown LA

6:30 pm         Haunted Tales

6:30 pm         Holiday Lights (a must in December) 



Adult               $15/ticket

Child              Free, 12 and under

Group             Please contact Neel  


YouTube videos - See for yourself:

Questions & Answers

Olivera Street          


(Sue Helmy has plenty of tricks up her sleeve. She is currently providing superb administrative services at a financial management firm in Century City. She is active in countless church and civic organizations and spends every minute she can spare dancing to the Zumba beat.)


DEALS & DISCOUNTS--The Hollywood Fringe is an annual festival of live theater that brings players from all over the world to small theaters throughout Hollywood. It’s mostly centered on theater row on Santa Monica Boulevard between La Brea and El Centro, but several other small theaters are also involved. It offers a chance to take in a live experience and to see something unique. After all these years in Los Angeles, and being an actress, for crying out loud – and I’d never been to the festival before last Sunday! 

I heard about “Sitting Bull’s Last Waltz” through an actor in the play named Alan Tafoya. I ran into him at Callenders Grill during their groovy jazz evening on Fridays and we got to talking. Turns out he’s an Apache from near my neck of the woods in northern New Mexico. He told me about the play and I went on down for opening night to find that it’s part of the Fringe. 

"I wish it to be remembered that I was the last man of my tribe to surrender my rifle”

--so said the defiant Chief Sitting Bull of the Hunkpapa Lakota.


Sitting Bull, also a holy man of his people, had many visions, including the defeat of General Custer and his bunch of marauders at the battle of Little Big Horn. Later, a meadowlark spoke to him in a vision of his own death at the hands of his own people. 

Sitting Bull had a really bad rep with the U.S. government. He was super worried for his people since they were often starving after having their food supply purposely eliminated or being kicked out of their homes or murdered outright. Custer may have lost back in 1890, but the descendants of the Europeans were coming out west by the hundreds of thousands and stealing land from the Lakota Sioux right and left. Someone came up with a nice word to call them – “settlers.” 

Sitting Bull was a real thorn in their side because he could tell a whopper of a story with a song. The Sioux people love that. People were inspired by him to continue to resist. Then came the Ghost Dance. The Indians have always been big on ceremonies and this one turned into a movement. The Ghost Dance was a ceremony that promised that the Indian people would get their way of life back so it was pretty popular as you might imagine. The idea that the Indians could get their way of life back was also very threatening to the occupiers since that would interfere with their own plans for their destiny being made manifest. 

The actors of “Sitting Bull’s Last Waltz” tell the story of the men and women from this piece of our country’s history with visible passion and remarkable talent. The story is narrated throughout by Little Sure Shot herself, an effective theatrical device, which makes for an interesting angle. What unfolds beautifully before us in the small theater is a story that is heartbreaking to be sure but it is also an inspiring example of resistance to oppression and of a love for a life that is whole and unbroken. 

The tone of this resistance is mostly told through the art of song. Described as a “post-punk musical,” the score brilliantly and viscerally depicts the passion of the conflicts; and the power of the relationships between the various characters and the land itself. 

This show is bound to go places. The writing is superb and the musical pieces are excellently written and performed. I’d love to see the soundtrack come out. I’ll keep City Watch readers informed of that eventuality. This is an important performance piece. Not only because it causes us to know who we are as a country but because its’ message of the struggle against wanton oppression boldly resonates today as we stand on the brink of the destruction of our planet. 

In the words of Black Elk on the massacre at Wounded Knee, which took place not too long after Sitting Bull was murdered: 

“I did not know then how much was ended….I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people’s dream died there. It was a beautiful dream.” 

We need to learn from that dream



Check out Information on “Sitting Bull’s Last Waltz”  


Check out Information on the Hollywood Fringe Festival 


(Jennifer Caldwell is a an actress and an active member of SAG-AFTRA, serving on several committees. She is a published author of short stories and news articles and is a featured contributor to CityWatch. Her column at is dishing up good deals, recipes and food for thought. Jennifer can be reached at  Facebook: - Twitter: @checkingthegate) 



Tags: Jennifer Caldwell, Deals and Discounts, Hollywood Fringe, Sitting Bull






DEALS & DISCOUNTS--Living in Los Angeles allows us to enjoy food from many different cultures, Persian food especially. So where do you go when you have a craving for delicious homemade stews or rice dishes? You could run down to a popular Persian restaurant, such as the Shamshiri Grill in Westwood or Javan on Santa Monica Boulevard, or you could go down Wilshire Blvd in Santa Monica to my favorite  international grocer, Tehran Market, and get your favorite dinner to-go. 

I have been a frequent and loyal shopper at Tehran Market for over 20 years.  The store is centrally located, an easy stop by for Middle Eastern specialty items like olives, pickles, feta cheese, pistachios, dried figs and cherries, spices, and daily delivered fresh baked goods such as pita and lavash breads. Their produce is super, also fresh. They have the best Persian cucumbers for half the cost as Trader Joes; large bundles of fresh herbs, parsley, mint, cilantro, basil, and dill costing only $.50 per bunch; and row upon row of Sadaf spices and dried herbs at $2 – $4 per package. Check out the freezer with tubs of ice cream coming in saffron, rosewater, pistachio and medjool date flavors. The thought alone makes my mouth water. 

About a month ago after shopping for my usual items, I was getting ready to check out noticing something new, pre-packaged meals in disposable plastic containers in the refrigerated counter. On a whim, I asked co-owner Soheil Salimit for a suggestion and took home khoresh ‘eh karafs, or celery stew. Being new to Persian stews, I was pleasantly surprised at the wonderful blends of herbs, beef, and celery in a lemony green sauce, yummy and so healthy. The container cost $6.99 and was enough for three servings. Soheil had just made it that morning. The next day I came back for more buying the lubia polo, rice with green beans and beef, and a few vegetarian dishes for my husband who loved the homemade hummus and sabzi khordan, rice made with green herbs and safron.  The following week I brought home fesenjon, pomegranate stew with chicken turning out to be the most delicious dish I have ever tasted. 

Here’s the deal – all dishes cost between $3.99 to $6.99. Most portions are large enough to feed a family of three or four, and delicious enough to keep you coming back.   For me, buying the packaged meals has turned out to be a wonderful and inexpensive way to get fresh homemade Persian food to home, even Queen Sheharazade would be proud. 

Even though Tehran Market has been at the same location in Santa Monica for the past 30 years, Soheil became co-owner only three years ago. His family is in the grocery/food business in Iran and has brought new energy to the store. At all times you will find the shelves well stocked, store impeccably clean, and plenty of parking on the street or in the parking lot off of 14th Street and Wilshire. Most importantly, you likely will meet Soheil as he is always there to welcome. 




Plain Rice

Polo with Spices (“polo” is rice that is mixed with something)

Polo with Dried Cherries

Lubia Polo (Persian green beans and chunks of beef mixed with rice)




Oliveh (chicken, potatoes, mayo, lemon, peas, pickles, eggs and olive oil) a lot like potato salad, and Sohail claims it is the best sellers!

Tahini and Hummus sauces –Fresh, homemade, low salt, and no preservatives.

Kashk Bademjon – an appetizer made with eggplant and yogurt and garlic.





Celery stew

Ghame stew with beef


Spaghetti with meatballs




Sohail is always changing it up, making things without meat for vegetarian fare.




Tehran Market

1417 Wilshire Blvd

Santa Monica, CA  90403



Monday through Saturday: 8 am – 9 pm

Sunday: 9 am – 8 pm


Sunday BBQ:

Sunday: 11 am – 1 pm


(Sue Helmy has plenty of tricks up her sleeve. She is currently providing superb administrative services at a financial management firm in Century City. She is active in countless church and civic organizations and spends every minute she can spare dancing to the Zumba beat.)

DEALS AND DISCOUNTS--This Saturday, Sue Helmy and I resolved to journey to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on a mission to discover what the fuss about Senator Bernie Sanders is all about. Joining us were a couple of activist friends of mine and Sue’s daughter’s best friend from college. We were especially excited to be attending with Beshoy – the college friend – because he looks like Jesus. Since Bernie looks like Santa Claus, we figured we couldn’t really do any better than hanging out with Jesus AND Santa Claus all at once. After all salvation from fire and brimstone and free gifts in December are both PRETTY GOOD DEALS. 

We opted to bus it on over to that iconic structure near USC. LA Metro bus fare has gone up since I last rode – now at $1.75 a trip, with transfers at 50 cents a pop. We had a great time riding with our fellow Angelinos down to the venue even though there was some confusion since we hadn’t taken much time to read the directions on the trip planner. HINT: PAY ATTENTION IF YOU DO THIS AT HOME! 

After about 45 minutes, we reached our destination in good spirits and proceeded to line up serpentine-style. It took us about two hours to get through. Meanwhile, we got buttons for two bucks each and some Bernie rolling papers for three. We made it through the perilous purview of the surly TSA and Secret Service types and into the plaza of the coliseum. There, we sat around on the grass and ate from food trucks and danced to the tunes of Ozomatli. Then we heard from Susan Sarandon and Dick Van Dyke before Bernie came out and introduced us to his family. 

The first thing Bernie did was pay tribute to the late great Muhammad Ali. He talked about Ali’s courage in risking it all to stand up to racism and warmongering. He then went on to outline his platform which, to my mind, sounds like the DEAL OF THE CENTURY! What we’re talkin’ here is what could be… 


What they like to call the “Great Depression” was the last time we had an economic crisis approximating the one we all just saw brought on around 2008 by the big boys on Wall Street. Times got so rough then, that the government, under FDR’s administration, was forced to pass out a damn good deal to the American public. Here are… 







Creation of agencies such as the Public Works Administration, the Civil Works Administration and others (the CWA alone put to work 4 million people in two months

Rebuild America Act,, investing $1 trillion over five years to modernize our infrastructure.  Creating more than thirteen million good-paying jobs

Passing of the Social Security Act. The initial version, the Economic Security Act, included national health care

Lifting the cap of $250,000 for Social Security and a free national health care system

Creation of the Federal Housing Administration and Home Owners Loan Corporation to regulate mortgages and housing conditions and preventing foreclosure

Expanding affordable housing, promoting home ownership, re-invigorating HARP to help prevent foreclosure, fighting homelessness and racial inequalities in housing quality

The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (Wagner Act) guaranteed the right of employees to collective bargaining

Fighting for the Employee Free Choice Act. This would allow a union to be certified as the official union to bargain with an employer if that union gets the signatures of a majority of workers. It would have done away with the present right of an employer to come back AFTER THAT and demand another separate ballot.. Third, the bill would increase penalties on employers who discriminate against workers for union involvement.

Enactment of Glass-Steagall, preventing commercial banking to be separate from investment banking, thereby

Enactment of a new version of Glass-Steagall. Sanders thinks too-big-to-fail banks are bigger and riskier than ever before. They are even bigger than 2008 with too much power and a threat to our democracy.



The rapid climate change that is affecting our planet today is increasingly presenting the threat of not only natural disasters, but also food scarcity and quality, water quality, air-borne pathogens and a host of ills which threaten the future of humanity. This thread did not exist to this degree in 1933.


On the one difference I’ve mentioned here – and it is not the only one, Sanders is unequivocal. I took this quote from his website where he outlines an entire plan on the matter, complete with video y todo: 

The debate is over. The vast majority of the scientific community has spoken. Climate change is real, it is caused by human activity, and it is already causing devastating harm here in the United States, and to people all around the globe. So what are we going to do about it? We will act boldly to move our energy system away from fossil fuels, toward energy efficiency and sustainable energy sources like wind, solar and geothermal because we have a moral responsibility to leave our kids a planet that is healthy and habitable.  - Senator Bernie Sanders

Sanders spoke at the rally about the original people of this land and about how much we can learn from their traditional values of respecting the environment and preserving it for future generations. He spoke about his real concern that there will be enough safe drinking water for all people in the coming period. 

All in all, we came away with a feeling of inspiration that whatever happens, there is a big movement underway to hammer out some real solutions to some long-held problems. We all agreed that would be the best deal ever. 


Check out all these programs at 


(Jennifer Caldwell is a an actress and an active member of SAG-AFTRA, serving on several committees. She is a published author of short stories and news articles and is a featured contributor to CityWatch. Her column at is dishing up good deals, recipes and food for thought. Jennifer can be reached at  Facebook: - Twitter: @checkingthegate) 


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