Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Los Angeles


Yesterday, my first in the southland, was one of those Los Angeles days that made even a northern Californian forget he'd fallen below Monterey. The skies were clear and the weather was set to perfect and breezy and only the price of gas made me stop from thinking I might be one freeway interchange away from Heaven.

The last time I lived here was in 1994, the Year of OJ. The first year I lived here, 1992, there were the Rodney King Riots. In between, Northridge shook. So if a building wasn't smoldering or crumpled (to say nothing of the city's peace of mind) you got the idea it would be soon. Now though, my god, it's like the city went out and bought paint in bulk at Costco or some place. Every building is so shiny and bright, there are so many new stores and painted walkways, and Hollywood, dear Lord, with the El Capitan all done up and blinking and the Kodak Theater down the road -- last time I saw you, you were bending over to pick up a nickel, Hollywood, and now you're entertaining guests from the Mid-west, saying ignore the Adult novelty store down the road. How times have changed.

My biggest adjustment came at Whole Foods Market. I walked in and started grinning. I couldn't help it. So many melons! It was almost obscene, this naked display of flesh raised up from the earth and now displayed without even the decency of a curtain or warning sign. I wanted to find the manager and say, "Why all the melons? A mix-up? Because surely some country in Europe -- or Canada, our friends to the north -- is going without because of this. Here we have big ones and small ones, smooth ones and rough, water- and honeydew and sweet delicious and canatloupe. There must be 200 square feet of melons." And then it was the meat counter: Muscovy Duck next to ground turkey (white and dark meat), organic chicken (was it really $26 a bird?) and then sausage of every stripe and casing. Such abundance, and the people walking around in flip-flops and army fatigue shorts, in $40 undershirts that were under no piece of outwear, and designer glasses that probably held clear, non-prescription lenses -- all these people thinking nothing of it, just reaching for this artisan cheese and then that small batch pasta sauce, considering one microbrew and then another, before at last getting it all and saying charge it at the counter. One country loses its bread lines and still you find a way to develop the terrain called envy.

"Thank you, have a nice day." Smile smile, went the bagger, and then the presentation of my goods, all packed so neatly on my behalf, not a task left to me with a toss of the plastic bag. "Oh, you dropped something, sir!" I'm still not quite accustomed to such cheeriness. A lady stopped me on the street of Napa the other day to say the ice-cream in my hand had looked so good she'd had to go and get one herself. I looked at her as if she were a member of the militsia who'd stopped me to see my papers. A nervous laugh: that's the one thing that's in good order. Everything else will have to wait.

1 Comment:

Richard said...

Ahh, Hollywood. You should treat yourself to an evening at the House of Blues on Sunset, then walk over to the Sky Bar and have martini. Tell Tom Cruise I sent ya.