Dear LA, A Love Letter

by Ralph Weinstein, May 4, 2011

Courtesy mistermundo via Flickr

John Fante referred to you as a “sad flower in the sand.” I can’t be so poetic. I’m going to sum you up as the traffic-choked cloverleaf of the 10 and the 405. You, L.A., are an asylum cloven by the freeway grid. Your drivers are the inpatients. They fall into two categories, those in a hurry, and those in the way of the hurryers. The latter, let’s call them the impeders, habitually drive slowly in the fast lane. They fuck up the system designed to get drivers to their destinations in the sprawling steaming L.A. basin with reasonable alacrity. Was this not a putative democracy, your writer would have mounted a .50 caliber machine gun as the hood ornament of his rented Chrysler 300. Your writer has a love/hate thing going with Santa Monica. Your writer loves the liquor store at the northeast corner of 10th and Wilshire. Said liquor store goes back to the time when your writer needed a Bering cigar very badly after dinner with friends, and if that dinner went down anywhere west of the 405, said liquor store would be the place to go after­wards. Recently, your writer was there to purchase a fifth of Stolichnaya to stash in the refrigerator in his hotel room at Loew’s. He had to urinate urgently after the pur­chase and so asked the clerk in said liquor store if he could use the restroom there. No, the clerk said, no pub­lic facility here, but Santa Monica Sea Food Market across the street will be glad to have you avail yourself of their facility as they allow with all walk-ins. The clerk was actually not that articulate, but let’s cut him some slack. It was great to pee and your writer was amazed at the breadth of fresh sea fare available there, even Hawaiian poke that looked as good as what your writer remembers in the market near Kaunakakai on old Molo­kai, yet unsullied by corporate tourism, whereof Melveen Leed croons “where the ahi and the ono and the aku swim around my island by the shore.”

Your writer stayed at Loew’s Santa Monica hotel located on the bluff above the bay, above old Muscle Beach, and above the pier that is such an enshrined thing in his memories; fishing with AJR on the barge that was anchored within the breakwater in those days, or board­ing a half day boat for a trip further out on the bay that would invariably end up with dripping gunny sacks bulging with mackerel, barracuda, calico bass, maybe a halibut if it was an especially lucky day, and easily more “rock cod” than one can imagine, maybe six beautiful two pound specimens at a time from the whole magnifi­cent phyla of Pacific bottom fish on a gang hook rig. Of course there was also a prolific fish commonly referred to in those days as a tom cod, a member of the croaker family I believe, that was reviled because it stank and was said to have worms. Your writer always caught tom cod. Your writer played under the pier, around the pil­ings awash in tidal surge, because it was possible then to grab a juvenile leopard shark and observe it for a while before releasing it, your writer remembers fondly, to its fate. There is much about old Santa Monica that pulls, not the least are memories of “The Lobster,” the square whitewashed adobe at the head of the pier run by an Italian gentleman, I like to think of him as a Sicilian fisherman who immigrated to America in, say, 1920, and who then wondered what devil’s prodding led him to this fate? I don’t remember him as ever in a good mood, he had a scowl when you were ordering from his no-non­sense waitress, and god help your ass if you got smart with her, or tried to order anything like a substitution, like how about more fried potatoes and more Cole slaw instead of bread sticks? You learned quickly, didn’t attempt such foolishness. Now the old adobe Lobster is a 3-story modern steel glass edifice, packed to the gunnels every night, the bar is standing room only, the dinners are a hundred bucks a plate, and they’re not bad but are they anywhere near the perfection the old man used to serve up as fresh rockcod & chips? Not even close.

Where do we go from here? Do we go to Malibu? We don’t go to Malibu because it would be too painful were Ralph to discuss Malibu with you because the pier there (do we have a tale of two piers?) is the venue where he once took a summer evening stroll with a lovely Catholic lass. Julie her name, Julie, seventeen then (Ralph was an immature eighteen) and there above the moonlit surf the lovely couple walked, he about as smitten with her as a hormone fueled pubescent can be, and she about as diminutive and gentle and as, Jesus I hate to use this word but it fits, as angelic as the real thing, what with her honey-colored hair that she’d brush from her eyes those beautiful brown eyes that bespoke her gentleness, and there’s freaked Ralph holding her hand and telling her he would do anything for her, even become a Catholic lad for her were that her desire. She smiled, she said yes, come with me to mass next Sunday. Ralph attended mass with her that next Sunday. Ralph endured the anti-pagan rite ungladly but dutifully. Boethius would have understood. Enough of this. Fifty years have passed but the evening Julie told Jewish thee that she couldn’t say a final goodbye to Catholic Bill, the boyfriend who preceded thee. You of the dry mouth and the broken heart have never gotten over it. Who knows, she could have been the real Mrs. Weinstein, Ralph’s best friend for life, the true best friend with a bonus, wonderful girl parts too. Forever dearest Julie, Ralph wishes you well tonight that you’re reasonably happy as the journey goes on, that Bill has proven himself to be a real dreamboat undamaged by the obsessive/compulsive demon that has plagued him who was once your Ralph from the time when he first hit terra firma here on this doomed planet we’ve known and loved.

When I think of you, Lala, I think of specific places, like 622 North Spaulding, my grandfather’s pink two story faux Mediterranean duplex with two double car garages in back. Not bad for a building built in the Thir­ties. The garage doors may still be pocked by the BB’s from my Red Ryder Daisy BB gun, the one my father gifted me with after braving a little minor surgery, the removal of a suspicious growth from the inside of my left thigh that turned out to be nothing, but I blew out the stitches on a horseback ride the next day, why my par­ents signed off on that stupidity remains a mystery. This was and still is a very Jewish neighborhood in the Fairfax district. A best friend neighbor in those callow days was the son of a canter. Fairfax High School a few blocks west was where my mother and father met, where my mother’s young sister, my Auntie Bea was yet a stu­dent when I lived downstairs at 622 North Spaulding with my mother and father. Grandfather and grand­mother and pubescent Auntie Bea lived upstairs, Auntie Bea my mother’s sister who I was to love dearly until that godamned liver cancer killed her when she was barely 60, the same kind that would kill my mother when she was too young to die too, she 72 then but spiritually much younger because my mother loved people and they knew it from moment one upon first meeting her. Father sits on a front step there at 622 North Spaulding, in a black and white photograph I have upon my bed head­board, he lighting up an unfiltered Lucky Strike, with me perhaps five maybe six sitting beside him, my expression thoughtful about what I don’t remember but that’s not important to know, all that’s important is the moment caught on film, there I was sitting with the mad, creative, dogged, never-give-up-while-you-can-still-breathe gen­ius who would attempt to shape me. He always told me that he knew he wasn’t smarter than the other guys, but he knew he could outwork the pricks. He didn’t use that last word, but you get the idea. He didn’t suffer fools, and even less so, he didn’t suffer dishonesty in any of its myriad guises, if you were simply withholding relevant information, you were done, off the stage forever. Trust is a funny thing, I think he told me, it’s either huge or it’s not extant.

The Lakers played the Utah Jazz one night at the Sta­ples Center. Your writer endured the experience with best friend Bob Mendel who loves basketball. We paid $25 bucks to park. Your writer would rather watch Masai warriors hunting lion with a spear and a shield on the Serengeti Plain. This at least would be a valid cultural spectacle. Laker basketball on the other hand is a com­mercial spectacle so overborne by the most rapacious aspects of predatory capitalism that the spectator, if gifted with even median intelligence, realizes the athletic elegance of the game is woefully subordinate to getting his ass up to a cash register to purchase the shit produced by the corporate demons who fund the game, and thus in this writer’s eye, who demean it. Runners and streamers and video screens pitch their shit relentlessly from the roof of Staples Center to the shiny wooden floor, and the noise, the so-called music that pervades every moment is, there’s no other term for it, brain-damaging, so pain­ful that your writer was praying for the spectacle to end from the opening whistle, but no chance for that unless some crazed Jazz fan managed to sneak an Uzi in through the impressive security at the front door. Jack Nicholson was there of course, he in his sunglasses and sad caricature indicative of an aging talented man who has been in the public media eye way too long. My courtside seat and Bob’s were courtesy of Donald Silva, “Wealth Management” expert at The Bank of the West, Weinstein’s financial Godhead. Don is descended from sensible hardworking people from the Azores Islands who probably didn’t give a shit about municipal bonds. He is gifted with intelligence and acumen in his chosen specialty. Weinstein trusts him which is saying a lot because generally speaking Weinstein trusts nothing in this life from sunrise to sunset, and the nights are suspect too. You get to see the Laker Girls a lot too, their sexual athleticism on full display that would result in untoward violence upon them were not well armed Staples Center security people omnipresent and ubiquitous and ready to rumble on a millisecond’s notice. Seated to the left of Weinstein and Mendel were two characters from the life of Weinstein’s brother, the dubious owner of a chain of barbecue restaurants and his creepy friend who told Weinstein he had one of the Laker Girls, the hot redhead all night long for $1500 and that he had a choice in the morning between another blow job or bacon and eggs. He also told your writer that Kobe’s losing it, that he hasn’t got the legs anymore, this despite the obvious spectacle of Kobe kicking ass in customary fashion on the court and that the Jazz is twenty points down in the second period and hasn’t a prayer. You know what?, you told him, you’re a fool for taking any of this seriously, you’re a dupe rooting for a corporation that knows you’re a dupe and wants you to continue being a dupe so they can pay these guys millions of dollars who should be elsewhere hunting lion with a spear and a shield and who would probably thereby be a hell of a lot happier.

Back to 622 North Spaulding. The guy who would eventually become Uncle Hy starts showing up in his black 1947 Ford coupe, he horny for Auntie Bea. How her parents my Grandma Sarah and Grandpa Louie dealt with horny Uncle Hy at the time, he then Hyman Gural­nick, is lost in time. But that’s not relevant to our story because my Auntie Bea and Hyman Guralnick with his slick dark hair and something of a smirk often bedeviling his round handsome face got married and became my Auntie Bea and Uncle Hy forever. Earlier, when the man who would eventually become my father showed up at the front door of 622 North Spaulding to pick up my mother for a date, Grandma Sarah asked him where he lived. Just down the street, he answered her. My Grandma Sarah, who I would come to love dearly, said “Why don’t you live farther away?” My Grandma Sarah cooked chicken soup with the succulent fatty feet of the chicken in it. The Chinese do chicken feet too, braised in a sweet sauce of some kind, they’re always on the dim sum cart, but Grandma’s chicken feet put them to shame, and her gribinis (bits of chicken skin fried crisp and brown with onions in chicken fat) were magnificent though they sent Grandpa Louie to an early grave. “Oy,” my Grandma Sarah wept and moaned at that wrenching time, “I told Louie to go less with the salt!” Oh Grandma, how I miss the cool white skin of your arms around me, and the way you smelled, an honest scent like wet chalk, like a concrete sidewalk washed clean by summer rain. Your matzo fry, your gefilte fish, and oh yes, your chicken soup with the chicken feet in it, and your beef barley soup with big bones loaded with mar­row and cartilage, nothing is going to get that good ever again, unless Weinstein’s sister gets on the ball. 622 North Spaulding. Walk out the front door and step beyond the pilasters and gaze north at the Hollywood Hills. These were my mountains as a child, dark and mysterious and far away. When it snowed up there when your writer was, how old?, six?, Daddy drove us up there to throw snowballs, to see what snow was like. Weather has fascinated your writer ever since. He knew even then there were forces beyond human control.

622 North Spaulding. One afternoon your writer’s mother signed off on Weinstein walking to the Fairfax Theatre with his friends for a movie, Disney’s “Fanta­sia.” It was perhaps a quarter mile walk down Spaulding, then west to Fairfax, then south on Fairfax to the corner of Beverly Boulevard to the Fairfax theatre that’s still there in some unpleasant incarnation of the present like a house of porn painted pink. Today no parent in his or her sane mind would allow six or seven year olds to embark on such a walk. But that was then, today is today. During the show Weinstein literally shit in his pants, he unable to sum up the courage to make it alone to the restroom in the theatre lobby. He remembers negotiating the lobby after the show with an usher walking behind him with a carpet sweeper, dutiful usher clad in his Philip Morris usher uniform sweeping up the little round turds that were tumbling down Weinstein’s pants as he and his friends negotiated the lobby after the show. He and his friends walked up Fairfax toward home after the show and paused at Canter’s Bakery to garner something sweet to eat baked fresh still warm there, maybe homemade donuts, cupcakes, the specific here is lost to memory. Weinstein remembers one of the white-smocked bakery ladies regarding him and sniffing the air as he and his friends entered the store and she then who exclaimed something with horror like, “My God!” When Weinstein reached home and his mother greeted him, she immedi­ately said, get those clothes off and get into the bathtub. When she saw Weinstein’s shit-caked legs, she said, “Oh God.” Women invoke God during all those times that try the souls of all of us ball brothers who inhabit this doomed planet. Good for them, good for the ladies, good for the short list of women who’ve loved us uncondition­ally. Good for us all who struggle with this gift of life from birth to internment in this good earth.

L.A., you know how it is sometimes when you regard a memory on shaky ground, when you’re not sure whether it’s reality from your past or scenes from a dream, or perhaps from a series of them that Doctor Freud would find very, very interesting were he still with us to examine your writer here. How old was I when I befriended a heroin addict? I think young twenty-some­thing, newly separated from wife #1, drifting around the Valley. I met him emerging from a denim store on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City, he wearing a denim shirt I admired. Turns out he was a schmata salesman. We got to talking about the market for designer denim men’s shirts. Next thing I know we’re at a party in an apartment somewhere in West Hollywood. The place is lit in that blue light that suggests truly unpleasant people and heavy drug use. Young girls are everywhere, their eyes glazed, their attention if that’s what it can be called is upon young men who appear to be Jim Morrison wan­nabe’s and headed in that same direction. Next scene is me and another friend and the heroin addict driving to an apartment in Venice where the heroin addict, who has a powerful thirst and is slaking it by chugalugging cold cans of ice tea squinched between his legs as he speeds down the fast lane of the Ventura Freeway, has told us we’re going there to buy two Sony color TV’s for fifty bucks apiece, where we give him a hundred, and he walks upstairs and enters an apartment door and that’s the last we ever see of him. We wait of course, until the wee hours, and then we simply drive home. We aren’t stupid enough to approach that apartment door and knock on it and not expect very troubling events to ensue in that Venice neighborhood the cops think of, if they can think, as the title of a Mann novel, “A Death In Venice,” maybe theirs because Venice then, maybe still is, was inhabited by some very well armed addled drug, sex and rock and roll enthusiasts who were not fond of law enforcement personnel. Next scene is weeks later, your writer visits the parents of the heroin addict at their apartment in the Fairfax district to inquire of where­abouts of their heroin addict son and our hundred bucks that didn’t result in the ownership of two Sony color TV’s. His mother and father are sad, his sister there didn’t look too thrilled with life then either. He’s back in jail, they told us, he’s very sick, they said. We’re sorry, they said. We of course were too. And that’s the end of this story that might not be true, that might not have ever happened.

Dear L.A., some of your places break my heart. Your old city hall, that magnificent obelisk erected in 1928 that once punctuated your skyline is now overborne and hidden by the glass towers of the banks and the insurance companies and the media barons and the swamis of sili­con who have destroyed our privacy forever. Your old city hall where AJR took me as a kid up the elevator to your colonnaded belfry for a view of you the city where he and I were born and tendentiously bred, no longer possible now in the post-911 world when a century and a half of egregious American foreign policy is bringing the chickens home to roost, those birds well described by Benjamin Disraeli when he observed, and your writer can only paraphrase, that those staking their existence on their purpose are your most implacable enemy. They or their children will live to burn you on a pyre of bones, theirs and yours. But this is getting carried away. Dear Little Tokyo LA, your writer here was once married to a beautiful blond girl who was fifteen when your writer here, he then 21, first met her. She exists in towering memory because she was much smarter than me, and proved it by introducing your writer to sushi way back in the 60s long before the sheep people began to brave ethnic culinary adventuring beyond The Chart House. Her name was Victoria. The sushi bar was at Horikawa’s on the tastefully appointed under­floor of an office tower at the corner of First and San Pedro entry of which required downward steps to negotiate, not usually a problem before several sakés but definitely a post-sushi issue even at that callow moment. Seated next to mer at this, his virgin sushi experi­ence, is an elderly dignified Japanese gentleman who is garnering with his chopsticks morsels from what is clearly the head of a tuna that has been sliced longitudi­nally, allowing the exposed halves to be grilled in expert fashion that bespeaks a Japanese Era that pre-dates the Battle of Sekigahara aftermath of which Musashi Miya­moto arises from that bloody field to become the greatest swordsman in Japanese history. Your writer observes elderly dignified Japanese gentleman garnering morsels from the grilled head of the tuna, the brain, the inner lips, the tender meat in the various cranial cavities of the fish, and yes, the eye, and he savoring it all with a kind of appreciative dignity, and then he began to speak with me on the subject. I remember him saying this is a very spe­cial treat, this maguro served in this manner. The mem­ory is as clear as a wish, my wish that some day before I am implored to enter the gates of the master, that I enter the portal of a Japanese restaurant somewhere in you, Little Tokyo Lala and encounter the possibility of the whole head of a fresh tuna sliced longitudinally and grilled as masterfully as what I remember sitting astride the elderly dignified Japanese gentleman that evening so long ago, two wives ago, so many years ago that reality and the dreams of it have merged. Good night, sweet prince, may the sweet angels guide you sweetly to your resting place with a nod that assures you they hate to see you go.

Another of your places, Lala, that wounds is a book­store that is only in memory, no longer there on a seedy side street just south of Hollywood Boulevard between Highland and Vine, an old small windowed storefront bookstore run by an elderly gent who was obviously a pal of Bukowski’s because he stocked many first editions of his work, many signed, and Fante’s, and many other eclectic treasures like T.S. Eliot’s “Murder In The Cathedral” that will not be found in the Borders’ data­base, and this wounds because when the last neighbor­hood bookstore run by a local word lover goes away, life here on this planet headed quickly to oblivion anyway in the year zero, will have been greatly reduced in value. “With all thy getting, get understanding.” Proverbs 4:7. We sentient few in your bosom, Lala, we understand who you are now, you sad whore (get this, Fante, with your “sad flower in the sand” poetic shit), you venal perfumed bitch who has reclined supine first and fore­most always for the money, you who have bent over only for dead presidents, you think we don’t know there isn’t a whiff of diff between the Republicans and the Democ­rats?, that the brainwashers employed by the government and the compliant butt nuzzling media haven’t done their work well?, that we’ve been implanted with belief these war-loving freaks who run the show are on the side of democracy and human rights and loving our fellow man in the Christian sense only of course? Well, of course. But here’s worse news. Guess who the war-loving freaks you elected really work for? This is a multiple choice question. (A) Fox News, (B) Oprah Winfrey, (C) Charlie Sheen, (D) Your Orwellian internet provider (E) The interlocutory directorates of the global money-changers of whom God warned us long ago. Answer: It doesn’t matter, the fix is in to the scrapple. Oh well, let’s get on to happy thoughts and Facebook and Skyping the grand­children. Hi Nurse Ratched, it’s me, Ralph, how are things in Glockamora? Oh, Ralphie put the cat in the microwave? On High? Oy gavult, oh god, just like Grandma Sarah would have said it.

622 North Spaulding. Abraham Lincoln sits a few blocks west, his austere likeness replicating his famous one in his grand memorial that anchors the Washington Mall; this equally impressive one is the big centerpiece on the marble floor of the iconic rotunda of Fairfax High School, from where Mommy and Daddy and Auntie graduated, where your writer as a young lad of six and seven played baseball and jerked around like six and seven year olds are wont to do, and who would occa­sionally enter the rotunda and gaze at our great president from various heights and angles in the spectral golden light of the rotunda so artfully balconied for that purpose. What did we think at the time of him there so obviously and impressively honored, his expression even six and seven year olds could see clearly graven by suf­fering alone in a gale? Your writer must admit amnesia here. But it’s clear your writer knew nothing when he was six and seven, he was just trying to make sense of things, and truth be known, or at least honesty in its knee-jerk form, the only kind that’s worth a shit, calls for admis­sion your writer knows very little now at 69, but the col­lision of memory that orbits 622 North Spaulding circa 1950 is almost too much to bear in a single setting. But let us be brave. Eucalyptus trees, redolent with cam­phor like Vick’s Vapo-Rub Mommy rubbed on our chest when we were thick with a cold, these trees so arch in olfactory memory, so ubiquitous on your bosom Lala, you’d think they’re native. But no, they’re indigenous to “put-another-shrimp-on-the-barbie land,” native to Aus­trayalia, Austrawlia, that great continent-sized country famous for its wombats and wallabies and intolerance of its aboriginal forebears of whom Bruce Chatwin writes eloquently in “The Songlines.” Additional reading sug­gestion here requires mention of Robert Hughes’ “The Fatal Shore” wherein luminously intelligent Robert gives us the true goods re white man’s Australian history, the shipping out of England’s worst convicts from its over­crowded slams, and so at least the picture is mixed. A fair dinkum shake of the mitt to you, Bob, for a job well done on a brilliant book that made me prioritize going to Australia somewhere on my bucket list squeezed between catfish noodling and rodeo sex.

It’s 1948. Your writer is six. He is walking down Spaulding just north of Melrose, heading home from Laurel School on Hayworth Avenue with two friends, Lee Hammerman, the aforementioned canter’s son, and Joel Gora who will become student body president of Fairfax High School and who taught at Brooklyn Col­lege. Joel’s house is the last house on the right just before Spaulding reaches Melrose. It’s a classic small L.A. bungalow with an inviting well lived-on front porch and a wooden single car garage with wonderful utilitarian double doors like a barn’s, availed with a concrete track driveway with grass and a few yellow flowers growing between the tracks, a dwelling that’s still there, a dwelling that exemplifies architectural residential sanity or more accurately, probity of scale. This thought protrudes because your writer loathes contemporary ego mansions wherein an owner and his family live in four rooms yet there are twenty rooms sixteen of which are never entered. But let’s leave this disturbance in your writer’s mind for the moment and get on with the story of six year olds walking several blocks home from primary school on a West Hollywood Fairfax nabe sidewalk in 1948. A dark sedan pulls up. Memory dictates that the driver and his passenger are wearing false beards, they don’t look “right” in your writer’s eyes at the time, nor in Lee’s and Joel’s either, because when one of the pervs says, “Hey kids, get in, they’re giving away free candy and popcorn at the Pantages Theatre,” the three of us start running as fast as we can fucking run down to Joel’s, where we crash breathlessly through the front screen door. Memory says both Ma and Pa Gora were home and when they saw and heard our fright they called the cops who came quick and asked us a few questions and then split. How many times did we hear our parents implore us, “Don’t fucking talk to strangers”? However many times they instructed us on that point, it sufficed. We got the message very clearly that day walking down Spaulding just north of Melrose with our empty black lunch pails and our little heads not that empty but with a lot of stuffing still to come.

It’s 1949. Your writer is seven. AJR has some excit­ing news for the family seated in the arch- entranced living room at 622 North Spaulding. He’s merging his small advertising agency with Uncle George and Aunt Selma’s much bigger advertising agency that was becoming ever more flush thanks to the fat advertising budgets of the tract housing developers, some of Uncle George’s best buds, who in those days were busily and successfully D-9’ing down the farms and the orchards and the ancient oaks and re-planting the San Fernando Valley with vast tracts of sensible homes in front of which eager buyers were standing in line to choose Model A or Model B or Model C at the sales office in the garage of a pre-constructed (and “tastefully” fur­nished) model home. AJR chooses Model A and we move into the faux ranch house beauty in 1951, in North Hollywood, 12802 Collins Street, three bedrooms on a fine cul-se-sac, for fourteen thousand dollars. The devel­opers were slipping checks and insertion orders under the agency’s front door at an alarming rate sometimes in the middle of the night to insure newspaper deadlines were met. There were rumors of one of the developers com­mitting suicide, the putatively happily married obscenely wealthy family man shooting himself in the right temple and draping his brains on the mailbox at the foot of his winding hundred yard driveway in the Hollywood Hills. Yes, the money was pouring in. New ostentatious Cadil­lac land yachts every year, the Thunderbird was coming, and so was the black XKE Jaguar AJR would take deliv­ery of in London. We add a swimming pool and a master bedroom suite with master bath to Model A at 12802 Collins Street. Your writer has turgid memories of this period. The money was spigotting in, great dinners with gourmand Uncle George on La Cienega’s restaurant row where the agency was headquartered in a modern two-story building amidst the great eateries like Stears-For-Steaks and Ollie Hammond’s where you could get gour­met ham and eggs at three am, now gone of course, your writer loving, to Uncle’s special delight, frog legs and shad roe and rare steaks swaddled in garlic gravy, but it’s clear there is a growing ground swell of discontent around the house. AJR one summer afternoon comes very close to throttling Rhoda, a right next door neighbor woman, over what exact issue I can’t recall, but it was an exciting moment freighted with AJR’s spirit at the time and it was of a discontent that would have involved Shakespeare were he around at the time to witness what was happening then on the Big Stage in North Holly­wood on Collins Street, life of course. Memory is obscure here but allow your writer to delve into what he considers were the two big suppurating issues of the moment: The issues are (1) AJR feeling he’s a terrible phony because he’s caving, taking the money by playing the fawning yes-man game instead of standing firm and selling his proven labored-tirelessly-over creative ideas re marketing, advertising and promotion (he was a devotee of Vance Packard and Ernest Dichter) to these developers who are making so much money no matter how dim-bulb their own ideas are they don’t know or care because it doesn’t matter, they’re working, the hun­dred-home tracts are selling out in less than a week and the money’s coming in a river. He loathes them but he’s swallowing his professional pride and taking their money, and he loathes Aunt Selma and Uncle George for bending over for these guys, and also central (2) he is in a very big snit about the “commie bastards” who include Aunt Selma (who he refers to as “Chicken Face”) and cigar-chomping Uncle George who he additionally regards as a bullshitting blusterer, and a cell of high-ups at the agency who just think Russia under Stalin under­scores freedom and equality and justice for all even though this whole cabal of successful agency people are making a fortune under the banner of American capital­ism-in-extremis. In addition to these slings and arrows bedeviling AJR at this moment, he being suffused with that unique form of neurotic self-hatred known as being Jewish, AJR’s mother, your writer’s Grandma Bea, is living with us now at 12802 Collins Street. Suffice it to say AJR harbored at the time dreadnought scale anger for Grandma Bea having to do with Grandma’s dating habits after AJR’s father died when he was quite young, reputedly of a latent mastoid infection caused by piercing his eardrum with a knife to avoid inscription into the Czar’s army. AJR always said Grandma Bea stashed him in a closet while she entertained men and he said in so many words that he could never forgive her for it so you can imagine the tension in the house at 12802 Collins Street at the time.

I’m going to level with you, Lala, Ralph is finding it way too painful to go on with more of you at the moment. He is instead going back to Loew’s with his eldest son John (35 going on 12 much of the time which makes him a joy to be around) and best friend John Francis (69 going on 70 but wearing it well due to high moral character and a see food eating disorder like mine) to rent rental (is another adjective needed?) bicycles from the guy who runs the concession on the bikeway below the hotel, the bikeway that runs from well north of the pier all the way down to Palos Verdes if you’ve got the mojo for it, but we don’t and we don’t care we don’t and that’s one of the benefits of 69 going on 70. We glide by the ubiquitous t-shirt shops with banal messages imprinted on their chests like “Skateboarding Is Not A Crime” and “Who Are YOU To Say I’m Weird?” and all the freaks and misanthropes and all the normal people disguised like that, and decide to cut the ride short and stop at the been-there-forever corndog and lemonade stand right below the head of the pier. Heavy on the mustard, bruddah, heavy on the mustard.

Warmest Regards For Now.

One Response to Dear LA, A Love Letter

  1. photonX Reply

    May 6, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    Let’s just cut to the chase – WTF?

    Or, stated another way: the perils of unlimited digital storage.

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