Monday, June 23, 2014

Things to do in Los Angeles

[An incomplete list.]

Arrive from elsewhere. Meet key associates at LAX. Go to Luna Park for two-for-one appetizers and pizza. Crab cakes and mango salsa, great. Meatballs arrabbiata, great. Seared ahi tuna, great. Gnocchi, extra great. Affirm the recently acquired belief that ordering many appetizers is a good way to go to a restaurant. Wonder if the woman walking across the room is Claire Danes. Realize that she’s staff. Go to the Culver City Symphony. Admire the conductor Frank Fetta’s taste: Barber, Copland, Haydn, Ravel. Agree that the chamber-orchestra audience is virtually the same as in Illinois, but with lighter-weight clothing. Have a drink.

Have some bread with Kerrygold Butter at breakfast. Yes, it’s delicious. Go to Farmers Market. Admire the design of the trashcans: a metal bar across the opening keeps trays out of the trash. Eat lunch at Moishe’s: meh. Go to the Watts Towers. Take the tour. Learn that the property forms a triangle — a ship, headed east, back to Simon Rodia’s Italy. Learn from the tour that Charles Mingus grew up nearby. Talk with a man who has been working at the Towers since the age of fourteen. Learn from him the expression “bird class” — an easy class, one you can fly through, something he disdains. Realize that photographs won’t capture the startling beauty of the Towers, which rise out of all proportion on a narrow dead-end street of one-story houses. Take photographs anyway. Go to Amoeba Music. Feel badly out of practice at navigating the inventory of a genuine record store. Try anyway. Find several CDs. Research Vietnamese restaurants. Settle on Absolutely Phobulous. Bad pun. Excellent bánh mì. Good pho. (For bad puns, there’s also 9021PHO.) Discuss the washing of round plates and square plates. Round is better: you can begin anywhere. Square: too many choices! Go to Milk. There is no line. Watch the final episode of Game of Thrones. Have no idea what’s going on. (Others do.) But recognize various mythic elements in the narrative. (As others do too.) Watch The Next Food Network Star. Figure out that it’s a culinary version of professional wrestling. Toast Rob Zseleczky.

Go to the Social Security office with a tradition-minded newlywed who’s taking her husband’s name. Settle in for a long wait — on the sidewalk, in the sun. Feel the time breeze by while talking with with the two wonderful women right behind us, Angela and Cynthia. We are now a party of five. Listen with slight alarm as two of the five sing the theme song from H. R. Pufnstuf. Drive to Boyle Heights — which is not East LA. Go to Guisados. Eat incredible fish tacos. Eat more fish tacos. Look at serious Stetsons at El Norteño de Savy. Discover an unsuspected father-daughter taste for mindless wallpapery piano music — but only as wallpaper. Go to a Walgreens for a cold drink. Look at the sushi bar. Yes, the drugstore has a sushi bar. It’s Los Angeles. Go to The Last Bookstore. Cool, sure, but not if you’re looking for a particular book. Pass the Chateau Marmont, where stars go to do whatever. Go to Book Soup. Here is a serious bookstore, with particular books. Go to Mystery Pier Books and gape. An eighteenth-century Othello. Bleak House in serial form. Nicholas Nickleby in serial form. Prince Albert’s Golden Precepts, inscribed by Queen Victoria to the Countess Blücher. The Great Gatsby with James Cagney’s bookplate. Two shelves of Faulkner first editions. A first-edition Catcher in the Rye. Thank you, Louis Jason, for showing some self-confessed non-customers such treasures. Buy a straw hat for $5: “100% PAPER.” It works. Go to Nate ’n Al’s. Fine food. No sign of Larry King. Walk — skeptically — past the Beverly Hills stores. Do not pose for photographs with the stores. Walk down the staircase from Clueless. As if! Watch Her. Realize that commercials misrepresent the film, which is dark and sad and nearly the case.

Visit an elementary school. Think about inequality of resources: in a better nation, what one school has, all schools would have. Walk to Wilshire Boulevard. Eat lunch from the food truck Báhn in the USA, the successor to Cali Báhn Mì and just as good. Go to LACMA. Spend time in the exhibition Expressionism in Germany and France: From Van Gogh to Kandinsky. Record unfamiliar names to look up: Lyonel Feininger, Harry Kessler, Aristide Maillol, Jean Metzinger, Christian Rohlfs, Richard Seewald, Paul Signac. Go to the exhibition Calder and Abstraction: From Avant-Garde to Iconic. Wonder if our friend Seymour Barab knew Calder: they have a similar playful wit. Lean about Abbot Kinney, mastermind of Venice. Drive to West Hollywood. Think about the miserable life a homophobe would have in Los Angeles. Think again about inequality of resources: in a better nation, what one school has, all schools would have. Go to Fresh Corn Grill. Go to Yogurt Stop, frozen yogurt with a lewd logo and the catchphrase “Pump It Yourself.” Watch The Little Couple. Watch TINY. Fail to realize the awkwardness of that sequence. Watch the “Flo” episode of Girls. Feel greater respect for Lena Dunham, ungrudgingly. Watch local news, hilariously dumb and an hour long. Wonder whether the anchor is imitating Ron Burgundy or comes by that manner naturally.

Study graffiti. Go to the Huntington Library. Get lost in the Tea Room trying to get back to the outdoor tables. Think about Messrs. Frick and Huntington: the latter seems to have had better taste. Guess that he was also the better person. Gape at the greatest hits. Among them: a Shelley notebook, a Twain manuscript. And Chaucer, Shakespeare, and a Gutenberg Bible, of course. And a Nicholas Nickleby, just like the one at Mystery Pier. Think about the idea of the book, especially in pre-print form, an object to treasure, non-ephemeral. Look at many paintings. Walk through many gardens. Smell dozens of herbs. Develop an urge to use aftershave. Go to Genghis Cohen. Determine its connection to Seinfeld. Agree that the food is, yes, New York-style Szechuan. Agree that the mustard is very hot. Watch 20 Feet from Stardom: such voices! “Rape, murder. It’s just a shot away.” That’s Merry Clayton. Merry Clayton.

Go to the Getty Museum. Remark (again) that the setting would be perfect for a James Bond escapade: thrilling views, vertigo-inducing staircases, squint-inducing white walls and pavement. Look at the work of Yvonne Rainer. Dig the notebooks. Be less impressed by the dances. Acknowledge that one’s openness to whatever might be called avant-garde has diminished over time. Ponder illuminated manuscripts, profoundly moving in their patient effort. Be amazed by Ethiopian texts with African evangelists, written in Geez. Look at the work of James Ensor. Distrust the museum cards. Decide that he must have suffered a crack-up. Sniff at eighteenth-century furniture, but covet a desk with secret compartments. Realize that museum stores are an excellent source of titles to get from the library: a history of paper, a history of science, a biography of Henry Darger. Browse a book of Vivian Maier self-portraits: she’s there in mirrors and as shadows. Break sunglasses. Go to CVS. Go to K-Mart. Buy new sunglasses, same as the old sunglasses. Go to Grub for comfort food: potato-chip chicken, Greek salad, BBQ pork, tuna melt. Endless blueberry lemonade. Endless iced tea. Go to Yogurtland. Notice that beggars in Los Angeles often sit by drugstores and supermarkets. Watch Clueless. Get jokes for the first time. Everything in Los Angeles is twenty minutes away, given Cher’s limited sense of the city’s limits. Notice the staircase in Beverly Hills. Notice the freeway. It’s all come true.

Wake up early. Sigh. Go to Pann’s for a last breakfast. Notice a signed picture of Jack LaLanne on the wall. What was he doing here? Perhaps enjoying Uncle Bud’s Mississippi Cheese Eggs. Think of Blind Willie McTell’s “Travelin’ Blues”:

Then I begin to hear him tell me
’bout those cheese and eggs, how he want ’em fixed.
I heard him say, “Scrambled down.
Scrambled down. Scramble ’em down.”
Make a note to look up Uncle Bud. Go back to LAX.

Thank you, Rachel and Seth, for a wonderful week in your sunlit city.


June 24: One I forgot: At Book Soup, admire art by Karlin Collette.

A related post
Things to do in Los Angeles, 2012

comments: 12

Elaine Fine said...

You should have gotten either the chicken kebob or the lamb (as Rachel and I did and swapped) at Moishe's. Thank you for this travelogue (I spent the whole week living from moment to moment, and didn't even carry a writing instrument and something to write on).

What was that sweet rice drink we got between Guisados and the Stetson store called? And remember that all the jewelry in the Beverly Hills windows had been removed (we were there after business hours). The "singular" items of clothing in the windows where still there, though.

Michael Leddy said...

About Moishe’s: you’re right. This restaurant is the only one I’ve seen in which gyros was not cut to order from a spit.

La repuesta a tu pregunta es horchata. I remember the missing jewelry. And I’m looking forward to the hooded alligator jacket for my birthday. In blue, please.

I did jot a few things on the go, but most of this post is a matter of reconstruction on the plane. I was trying to record and remember as we went about the city.

Michael Leddy said...

Yikes: I forgot about drinking horchata!

Michael Leddy said...

Oops: respuesta.

Rachel said...

LA is a big city, but feels much more manageable with you both here. Miss you.

Rachel said...

Also, you forgot about listening to Avril Lavigne's entire discography!

Michael Leddy said...

Avril is the cruellest. I miss you too, Rachel.

Elaine said...

I'm worn out just reading about this!
Would be jealous, but allergic to crab...
Hope the alligator jacket matches your eyes.

Michael Leddy said...

I may need to reconsider the jacket. Here are photographs from 2009 of (more or less) what we saw. So last-year!

Mark G! said...

Have you been to Echo Park's Time Travel Mart? It's fun and I think you may appreciate that it is part of 826. "826 National is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping students, ages 6–18, with expository and creative writing at eight locations across the USA."

Michael Leddy said...

Yes, it’s in the 2012 things-to-do post. I’ve been there twice, and yes, it’s great fun. My daughter did a stint with 826.

Michael Leddy said...

Oh — and thanks for the tip!