A Good Day

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For the last few months, my check engine light has been coming on in my car. It would last a few days or weeks and then disappear only to reappear days or weeks later. It’s no surprise how long I can put off something I don’t want to do. If you don’t believe me, ask my dentist. Anyway, yesterday, I mustered the courage to address the check engine light. I called my VW dealer in downtown LA and made an appointment. At 9:30, I dropped off my car. The shuttle was leaving as I bit into my first bite of the free chocolate cake donut that I’d been fantasizing about on my drive to the dealership, so I ran to the shuttle and asked for a ride into the heart of downtown. The guy in the front seat was being dropped off at Main and Temple and I said that was fine for me, too.

When the driver dropped us off at Main and Temple, I said my thanks and looked around. Okay, what will my downtown adventure be today, I thought. I pondered walking to Grand Park and then I looked up at City Hall and remembered that the Observation Deck on the 27th floor is open to the public Monday through Friday, 9am-5pm. So, I walked into City Hall, was checked through security and asked the police officer at information how to get to the observation deck. After taking an elevator to the 22nd floor and getting on another elevator to the 26th floor and walking up a flight of stairs, I was on the open balcony of the 27th floor of City Hall and I was completely by myself and I felt like the entire freaking city was mine. I walked around and took pictures. The entire time I was up there, I shared this amazing view, these amazing views, with only a handful of people. It was one of those “I am such a lucky guy” moments.

But wait, let me just back up a little. In the morning, when I was drinking my first cup of coffee, I looked to my left and these two dogs were laying next to me, looking like this:securedownload-7
Lucky Me.

Anyway, while I was on the deck, Eric told me I had to check out the rotunda in City Hall, so I went back to my friend at the information desk, who, by the way, reminded me in all the best ways of Edie Falco. I asked Edie where the rotunda was. “Take the elevator to the 3rd floor, you can’t miss it.” And I took more pictures walking around the 3rd floor. Business types floated past me as I shuttered away. They think I am a tourist, I thought. And you know, I am sort of a tourist, but Los Angeles is my home too. At 46, I’ve lived here longer than I’ve ever lived anywhere else. I love LA. Also, I hate LA. But LA is part of who I am and I am part of who she is. And experiencing City Hall in such an intimate way, made me proud.

But wait, there’s more. I popped into The Last Bookstore (453 S. Spring), one of my favorite used book sellers. The first time I went there, no one had told me about the labyrinth upstairs where all books are $1. I don’t want you to make the same mistake. I spent an hour there picking through shelves and boxes. I purchased four books and as I was leaving, I thought, wait, isn’t the Bradbury Building near here. Shameful side note: I’ve lived here 20 years and had never been inside the famed Bradbury Building, famous among other things for being a noted filming location (Blade Runner, The Artist, Chinatown, Disclosure). So, I walked over to 304 S. Broadway and made my own history by going in and taking some pictures. And by the way, my pictures do not do it justice.

As I was leaving, VW called to tell me my car was ready. (I never did quite understand why the engine light came on in the first place.) They asked if I wanted a shuttle and I paused and decided I would walk back. I walked down Broadway to Fifth, then walked through my favorite downtown hotel, the Millennium Biltmore. Then I walked to Bottega Louie and pondered buying a sandwich (I passed) then walked over to Figueroa and walked into the trippy Hotel Figueroa, then LA Live, then all the way down Figueroa to Washington, turned left and my tired legs were back at VW. When they brought me my car, it had been washed and vacuumed and then I went for my morning swim that had been postponed into an afternoon swim.

And while I was swimming, I thought about how great my day had been and that I wanted to go home to blog about it. But I also thought, while I was swimming that maybe it’s not a good idea to proclaim, “This is how awesome my day has been.” That maybe, that’s an invitation to the universe to send something horrible your way. And while I drove home, decided against writing a blog about how awesome my day was, (don’t tempt fate) I wondered why I was so neurotic, why couldn’t I just enjoy my day?

I did not blog later that day, instead Eric and I went back downtown to visit his friend Val and the three of us dined al fresco at a new restaurant (Zinc Cafe & Market, at 580 Mateo St.) and had a relaxing vegetarian meal. As the sunset on a perfect Los Angeles in July evening, we ate meatless tostadas, mushroom pizza and even ordered dessert. When our brownie a la mode came out with orange zest on it, I thought, I do NOT like fruit and chocolate. But I tasted it and it was really, really delicious. Maybe even better because of the orange zest. Who knows?

Anyway, last night, as I sat on the couch reading one of my new $1 books, I thought, THIS was a good day, maybe even a perfect day. And yes, perhaps I should have just kept it to myself, but I have decided to share it with you. Sometimes, you have to tempt fate.

A Perfect Party

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A few years back, my friend Fred threw a perfect party. It was a summer Sunday afternoon in Silver Lake. His friend (Bob?) had come down from San Francisco and made mint juleps for everyone. (Refreshing!) It was the first (and only) time I ever had Pioneer Chicken. (Delicious!) There were over 60 people scattered throughout his perfectly decorated 2 bedroom apartment, even spilling out into his backyard where the temperature hovered around 75 degrees Fahrenheit all day. Gays and straights mingled, the nicest and most interesting specimens of each. I remember an elderly jazz singer, sat imperiously on a chair in the living room, holding court as 20-something’s listened to her stories about Hollywood in the 50s and 60s. It was the kind of party where you intended to be there for 2 hours, but stayed for 6. Also, Fred had set aside boxes of CD’s that he didn’t want anymore and told people to take the ones they wanted. I took Judy at Carnegie Hall. I still listen to it from time to time. For months after that party, several times, we would be out and about and someone would tell him, “Fred, THAT was a great party!” And every time, Fred would just smile and say, “I know, wasn’t it?”

This February, as I passed by Carnegie Hall in the blustery snow, I thought about that CD and in turn that perfect summer day and then, about Fred. My memory isn’t what it used to be, but it was either one or two years later that Fred died. He had a massive heart attack at work, three weeks shy of his 50th birthday. He was planning a blowout celebration for the milestone at the Redwood Bar downtown. After he died, it was decided that the party should go on as yet another memorial to this man who’d left his mark on so many. There were hundreds of people there, someone made a video tribute that made us laugh and cry. It was not the event that Fred had planned, but it was another memorable night.

When someone dies, especially in situations where they die suddenly, those left behind tend to ponder the what ifs. What could he or we have done differently to keep him here still with us? If he were alive today he would be 56. He would have just turned 56. Of course, there is nothing that can bring him back in a physical reality, but I’d like to think that he is still with us, hovering over, cosmically making sure there is enough wine in our glasses, enough food on our plates. It’s a comforting idea, anyway.

A few years ago, I was in a restaurant in Chinatown that Fred loved, Hop Louie. In fact there was a dinner there after his funeral. On the wall of black and white head shots of celebrities was a signed color photo of Fred. I really don’t remember who else was on that wall, a couple newscasters, various athletes and someone from Magnum P.I., I think. Per usual, Fred was the one who stood out. If you’re reading this and knew him, you knew that Fred was the most famous non-famous person you knew. More than that, Fred was loved by all.

So, during this time of year when I want to spend every day at an afternoon soirée that spills into evening, with just the right drinks and snacks and company, I remember with great fondness that perfect party, that perfect day and a mostly perfect man, who always, always knew how to have a good time. His name was Fred.

Neon City

When I first met Eric, one of the things we bonded over was a love of Los Angeles history. He told me he was a tour guide for the Museum of Neon Art‘s bus tours. Soon thereafter, I went on one of the tours, called Neon Cruises, and I must say it’s a magical experience, riding through downtown, Chinatown, Hollywood and West Hollywood, looking at neon signs and learning about Los Angeles signage and architecture and neighborhoods while drinking a glass or two of wine from the perch of a double decker bus. Now, when Eric works as a tour guide, I often come along as the navigator and wine pourer. Tonight we worked the Neon Cruise and I’m posting some of the pictures that I Instagrammed. I must say, I don’t think I’ll be getting professional work as a photographer anytime soon. That being said, our Lovely Lady Los Angeles still shines brightly in every photo.