99 Days At The 99¢ Store, WEEK THIRTEEN: Seven Days Of Fun & Free Activities

I challenged myself to do at least one "Fun & Free" activity every day this week to bust my slump -– like a challenge within a challenge.
Publish date:
April 19, 2013
money, dollar stores

I’ve found myself progressively hermiting more and more as this experiment has gone on because my purchasing power has been castrated (not that I have much money to spend anyway), so I challenged myself to do at least one "Fun & Free" activity every day this week to bust my slump -– like a challenge within a challenge. Enjoy!


I decided to ease into my "Fun & Free" week by taking a late afternoon hike up to the Griffith Observatory with my little sweetsie, Georgia. The weather was awesome, though I cannot wait for longer days. Huffing up the side of a huge hill, anxieties dripping out through my pores, I remembered instantly why this activity should be a daily occurrence.


My girlfriend Danielle, her dog Polly, Georgia, and myself took another jaunt up to Griffith Observatory in the morning. It’s fun, free, and great for the ass, so why not? Our dogs are best buds, too, so it was fun for all.

I’d also made plans with Danielle to see the matinee of "Walking the Tightrope" at the 24th Street Theatre after our hike, but for some reason wouldn’t you know, we drove to the wrong location.

I’m going to blame this on the shitty iPhone Maps app, which took the correct downtown address of the theatre (INCLUDING zip code) from my calendar and routed us instead to a residential neighborhood in Santa Monica -– and neither of us were the wiser until it was too late because neither of us had ever been to this theatre before.

‘Twas an embarrassing snafu to explain to the Outreach Director. Lucky for me, she was not only understanding, but also able to squeeze me in for that night’s 7:30pm show.

The show isn’t actually free, but it is super-affordable. The most expensive ticket is $15 and a lot of the performances have half-price tickets on Goldstar. My ticket was comped by the aforementioned Outreach Director (one of the rare perks of my la vie bohème lifestyle) and any readers in L.A. can use the code “UMBRELLA” for $2 off. I highly recommend it. It’s a delightful and innovative children’s show that doesn’t feel like a children’s show at all. In fact, it’s the type of performance that reminds you why you wanted to be an artist in the first place.

Tightrope lasted just over an hour without intermission –- a lovely trend in theatre for us modern audiences with our pea-sized attention spans –- and afterward I hightailed it over to my friend Sofiya’s Surprise! comedy show. Surprise! was supposed to start at 8:30pm, but actually didn’t until probably 9 because I showed up at 9:15 and Sofiya was just getting everyone warmed up.

There was a suggested $5 donation, which I totally would have donated without hesitation under any other circumstance –- especially since I drank some of their delicious wine -– but I only had $2 in my wallet and I’m on this cheapskate thing, so I threw in what I had and tried not to feel so guilty.

The web series NORMAL that I do with my boyfriend, Jesse Case, has been screened at Surprise! before, but at this particular show Sofiya surprised even me by screening an episode of Swampoon, the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition parody we wrote and produced together last spring. It’s always fun being in the same room as an audience watching your stuff for the first time, but also a bit like being a fly on the wall of your own funeral -– especially when it comes to comedy, where the optimal response is audible.


Today a girlfriend threw an afternoon Arbonne party (READ: free snacks and Champagne). Mackenzie Kyle was the representative. Now if you’re gonna have someone sell you pyramid scheme products, you’re gonna want it to be a bubbly, effusive lady like Mackenzie. Guys, I’m the biggest skeptic -– I’m from Minnesota where the glass is always 100% full of reality –- and I did not mind the sales pitch one bit. Hell, I would have even bought some shit if it weren’t for this experiment. Not to mention, the spread was divine.


Georgia and Polly: reunited and it feels so goooood! Danielle and I took the dogs to the Silver Lake Dog Park for a chase and wrestle session. Any city dog will pant around excitedly to let you know that going to the dog park is the shit and any city dog owner (or weird loner pervert sans dog) will grin an ear-to-ear confirmation. It’s pretty hard NOT to smile at the D.P., no matter who you are.


Yes, I’ve been a resident of Los Angeles for five and a half years now, and no, I have not had a library card until today. I went to the Los Feliz branch, applied for and received my flashy new library card on the spot (OMG, talk about EZ credit!), and checked out a bunch of back issues of Glamour for freelance research purposes, a couple plays, and Naked Lunch.


I wanted check out The Standard’s Desert Nights because I like shiny things sometimes and it appeared to be well produced, but then I figured the freeness of it would be cancelled out by the likelihood of paying for parking and drinks, so I went to see Song Preservation Society and friends at Stories Books and Café instead. Plus, Echo Park makes for a much more relaxing evening than the Strip and that’s what I had the energy for.

The show started at 7:30pm, but I arrived at 8 to coincide with the free metered parking. The ‘and friends’ part of the bill must have played prior to my arrival because Song Preservation Society was just getting warmed up when I arrived. The alt-folk trio of gentlemen played for about an hour, occasionally getting really raucous – three acoustic guitars AT THE SAME TIME!

I was one of a hand full of audience members, but I really enjoyed myself -– and it was freaking cold, so that’s saying something. They do their fair share of residencies around town, so check their website for opportunities to check them out.


Jesse and I decided to make a date out of my Thursday activities, so I handed him a 99¢ Store bagel and Diet Dr. Pepper when he picked me up at 11:45am and we sped off to the Goethe-Institut in Koreatown for ‘The German Book Club reads Grimm’s Fairy Tales’ from 12-2pm.

Okay, now hold up. When you read ‘The German Book Club reads Grimm’s Fairy Tales’ just now, did that conjure up images of a nerdy cast of characters reading in ENGLISH to a group of adorable youngsters or did you think, “Hmm, that’s prolly in German. I don’t speak German, therefore, I prolly shouldn’t attend”? Because I definitely thought the former and my boyfriend definitely thought the latter and he was 100% more perceptive than me in this instance.

We did manage to keep it together long enough to make it through the introductions, the first two stories, but after an hour we were no longer able to feign minimal comprehension and graciously bowed out.

With extra time to kill, we bummed around the La Brea Tar Pits for a while and then Jesse treated me to lunch at The Counter. (Don’t hate. It wasn’t free, but it was really sweet.)

Then we went to LACMA and took advantage of their free admission for L.A. county residents Monday through Friday after 3pm with valid ID. Unfortunately, the Kubrick exhibit was not a part of the free admission offering, so we’ll have to come back after this challenge for that.


On the last day of my "Fun & Free" week, I hit up Creative Mornings, a monthly breakfast lecture series, with 826LA’s Executive Director Joel Arquillos speaking. This is my second time attending Creative Mornings and I’m still unsure how much I actually enjoy it. I’m not a huge fan of being packed into room like hipster sardines, but I do like donuts and hearing people talk about what inspires their creative process.

In the evening, I went for my first ever Pop Physique class. My girlfriend Stephanie Beatriz (also the Arbonne party hostess) was the instructor and the workout targeted muscle groups I didn’t even know existed. The first class is free, so if you have a Pop Physique near you, check it out.

And that was my week of "Fun & Free." It was a little exhausting, but it actually turned out to be a really fun and social week, which was exactly what I needed to get me through to the end of this experiment. Just one more week, baby!

P.S. I know a lot of these activities are Angelino-centric, so I’ve got one more recommendation that you can access anywhere with Internet. My boyfriend and a couple other comics recently started a spinoff to the Probably Science podcast called Probably History. It’s hilarious, free, and semi-educational -– I totally advocate giving it a listen.

Follow me every penny-pinching step of the way on Twitter @courtneykocak and Tumblr.