I Love L.A.

10649791_10152729980567755_6169964462608463712_nOn Saturday, I started feeling a little guilty about how much I’ve been writing about my recent visit to New York. I’d written two very NewYorkophilic (new word?) blog entries and was on my way to writing a third when I stopped myself and decided I needed to step away from the computer and you know, stop spreading the news…

I had the afternoon free, my morning swim done, a backyard barbecue to attend in the early evening. And I know this sounds nerdy, but I wanted to go on a little date with my other city love, my main squeeze, Los Angeles. So, I drove downtown to one of my favorite haunts, the Central Library. I parked my car in the garage, since parking is only $1 all day on Saturday and Sunday, during library hours. And lucky me, as I was stepping into the grand entrance, I saw a sign that said a free tour of the Maguire Gardens was starting in front of the gift shop at 12:30. I looked at my watch. 12:28. I scurried to the gift shop where I found a petite woman, a little older than myself, in comfortable shoes and a sensible straw hat. She was standing alone.

“Are you here for the tour?”

“Yes, I am.”

“It’s going to be a good one because you’re by yourself.” And we were off, and her words were prophetic. We toured the gardens for some 45 minutes while she shared the history of the library, pointed out key architectural and artistic features, including the friezes of Herodotus, Virgil, Socrates, Da Vinci and Copernicus, the Ceramic Fountain, Jud Fine’s Spine Sculptural Installation, the Grotto Fountain, the World Peace Bell, and much more. And because I was an eager student of one, she took me inside and gave me a little history about the Rotunda, the card catalog elevator, and the Therman Statom chandeliers, too.

While we were walking around, I asked her how I might find some old pictures of my neighborhood, Larchmont Village and specifically, the street I live on. “Oh my goodness, I used to live on that street.”

“Which building?” I asked.

And she gave me my own address. “That’s my building!” She told me that she had lived there 11 years in the 70s and 80s. She remembered Mae West living just down the street. I told her that I’d lived there since 1998 and she said, “Wow, you’ve been there a long time too!”

And our bond deepened, she asked where I was from and I proudly told her I was from Kansas. She told me that she had been raised in Pennsylvania. As she told me more about the Central Library’s history, I must confess, I was probably equally interested in her personal history. I mean, she didn’t paint a mural or build a fountain or import Italian tiles or anything, but I sensed that her story was part of the fabric woven into the story of the Central Library, too. Here it was, Saturday afternoon, and this kind woman was giving the tour of the century to an attentive party of one.

Later, she took me to the section of the library where I hoped to find old pictures of Los Angeles and specifically my neighborhood. She introduced me to a gentleman (“He’s supposedly retired, but this place couldn’t function without him.”) who kindly set me up on a computer and instructed me how to find photos with specific search words. My friend the tour guide told me I was in good hands and disappeared not unlike a fairy godmother.

And I spent another hour or so, sleuthing the library’s databases, finding old pictures of the El Royale and the Ravenswood, and Wilshire Country Club. I hoped to stumble across a picture of my old building, but alas, I did not unearth one on my first effort. I kept sending pictures to myself and pictures to Eric, who was at work. He’d text me, “Love the photos!”

And reluctantly, I had to leave, I had that barbecue to attend and I had to go home and walk the dogs first. I paid my $1 at the kiosk and drove down a quiet Wilshire Boulevard, past MacArthur Park and the Talmadge and the HMS Bounty, on my way home.

I walked my dogs and put on a white linen shirt that flattered my summer tan and I went to sit in a leafy backyard with old, dear friends where we ate grilled meats and drank my friend Traci’s signature cocktail.

Really, not a bad way to spend a Saturday. It was a quintessentially Los Angeles day. And you know what, you might be reading this and thinking, that’s not MY ideal Los Angeles day! Well, that’s one of the magical things about the City of Angels, it really is whatever you want it to be. It doesn’t take it personally when you complain about traffic or come back from vacation tittering about how amazing New York or Cabo or Portland is. It’s always changing, evolving, but also, always distinctively it’s own. It welcomes all, our crowded freeways remind you of that. It’s everything and nothing like the city you dreamed about when you grew up watching The Brady Bunch and Beverly Hillbillies and Knots Landing. And I love it, I do.

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.