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In L.A., temptation is the enemy

Jul 10, 2012 - By Walter Cook

I live in Los Angeles's Westside district. Right outside my front door is a college bar where actor Cuba Gooding Jr. is a regular and who, incidentally, my roommate swears sabotaged the game he was running on a girl one night.

A couple blocks away is a gastropub where I (very likely) saw Seth Rogen while watching a basketball game.

In other words, it's pretty swanky here.

Thus the reason I've become way too comfortable paying $8 for a beer.

Luckily, my prime bar-hopping days -- spent in frigid Laramie more than a decade ago -- are behind me. These days, one or two pricey craft beers in one of my neighborhood pubs satisfies my lightweight drinker's palate.

And my wallet thanks me for it.

But in a neighborhood like this, bars aren't the only thing a frugal-minded guy like me needs to worry about. Temptations are legion.

For instance, in a three-block radius from my apartment there are not just a bunch of bars, but also three sushi restaurants, a vegan restaurant, a Vietnamese restaurant, two Indian restaurants, four Chinese restaurants, two Italian restaurants, three Mexican restaurants, two Mediterranean restaurants, two delis, a French baker, various regional and national fast-food joints, and several coffee shops.

People often say living in LA is expensive, but it's not the usual suspects -- perpetual $4-per-gallon gas, high rent, and taxes -- that get you. Rather, it's simply temptation.

The following may sound like an exaggeration, but it's not: On the Westside, every bar you go into is almost guaranteed to be full of attractive fit, smart, wealthy people (the beer is usually pretty good, too) and every restaurant has mind-blowing food (there's so much competition that bad restaurants get weeded out fast).

It's hard not to visit such place -- repeatedly.

Despite my foodie and beer snob inclinations, I'm a pretty disciplined guy. I can live on beans, pasta, rice and the occasional chicken breast, even when I can afford to do otherwise. I'll even drink a Busch or PBR if I'm in the mood for beer but not anxious to blow my non-existent child's college fund. So I don't always take advantage of my neighborhood's amenities.

But I do have my moments of weakness. For instance, the other day I ate some sushi, then hit up the late happy hour at a gastropub, then went to a burger stand, where I proceeded to down a double cheeseburger and large order of fries (which I dipped in mayonnaise, of course).

If I have many more days like that, it might not be just my wallet I need to worry about.

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Editor's note: Former Ranger reporter and Fremont County native Walter Cook is a business writer in Los Angeles.

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