Workaday Hollywood, and The Slog

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November 12, 2019, Indio-

Among my circle of family and friends, a half dozen or so live in and work around Hollywood, with a view towards making it in the film industry.  I have a sense that each of them will make their mark; some being steady and modest successes and others rising to considerable fame.  This is a harsh environment, both in terms of the level of competition and in the amount of stress that striving to entertain others produces.  Then, there is all that comes with living in Los Angeles- Knowing how to adapt to high volumes of  vehicular traffic and living among a lot of people with intense schedules and lifestyles.  The same could be said of New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta or Seattle; in fact, of any large city.   Los Angeles, though, has The Allure; a generally mild climate and a goodly number of laid-back people, scattered among the intense crowd.

Penny and I visited Hollywood, in the Spring of 1986, heading straight for the Walk of Fame, after having spent a day in Disneyland and the following evening at Knotts Berry Farm.  This was our only trip to LA.  All other California visits focused on San Diego, Santa Cruz and, once, Santa Barbara.  Since she’s been gone, I’ve been in the LA area a few times, but today was my first visit back to Hollywood.  This time, the Walk of Fame was not on the agenda.  My purpose was a visit with one of the above-mentioned aspirants in my circle, who is one of my son’s best friends, and the venue was a small eatery on Hollywood Boulevard:  Division 3.

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As you can see, Hollywood, as it exists for many people who live there, is rather densely built, with parking at a high premium.  All manner of people are out and about.  I initially parked about a half-mile away, near a Catholic school, well off the main drag.  When I.P. arrived, we walked up to my parking spot and he told me of better, closer spaces.  So, Elantra ended up about two blocks south of Hollywood and Bronson.

Back at Division 3, we enjoyed about 2 1/2 hours of conversation, catching up on all that transpired since Aram had last visited Phoenix, about four years ago.  As it happened, that was the length of time that the harried restaurant chef needed to fill our order.  Hollywood establishments frequently get slammed with large, spur-of-the-moment orders, especially at lunch time.  The fare was worth it, as neither of us happened to be in much of a rush.  One touching moment was a homeless man, seemingly a bit confused, asking me where Michael J. Fox was.  I told him Mr. Fox was off working for Parkinson’s research, which made him feel better.  IP and I got in our Hollywood, 2019 photos. (That’s my camera case, on my right hip, BTW.)

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The meet-up ended all too soon, and I was off on the last part of this LA adventure: The Slog.  Hollywood-to-Rossmore-to-Wilshire-to-Crenshaw-to- I-10 was pretty much a breeze.  LA to Palm Desert was far less so.  It was 3:15, when I merged onto my moving home, for the next four hours.  What is comforting about The Slog is that, as in Chicago and New York, people have worked it out. Public Enemy # One would be anyone who causes an accident; things are hard enough as it is.  We were family in anonymity,  keeping watch for those who were moving slower or faster than the majority.  No one, in my scrum, was injured or inconvenienced, and by 7:15, I was in Palm Desert,  stopping to visit Bill Tracey’s crew at the third branch of Bill’s Pizza.  It is a large, spacious and very welcoming edifice, off Highway 111.

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The Slog is hardly something in which I will be partaking, frequently.  It is an ungainly use of  energy, time and space, necessary, for the foreseeable future-but crying out for alternatives.  Surface roads help out some; yet mass transit and more regional urban villages need to be a greater part of the mix.

I am stopped for the night, at Western Sands Motel, in this easternmost edge of LA’s Metro Extension.  Tomorrow, I head back to Home Base and preparations for what may turn into an early winter-snow is part of the forecast, next week and the week after.

The Wilshire Finger Points East

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November 12, 2019, Santa Monica- 

There are any number of iconic streets across the country, and in the Los Angeles area, in particular.  U.S. Route 66 ends (or begins) here, a scant few blocks from where I stood just moments ago.  Several of the streets around this quadrant are enshrined in my childhood memory, albeit from TV ( Sunset Boulevard and Strip remain in the Long-Term Bank, thanks to Edd “Kookie” Byrnes, who was the king of smooth).  Route 66 itself was the province of George Maharis (“Buzz Murdock”, Kookie’s heir apparent).

It is Wilshire Boulevard, though, which has the most cachet- It starts here, overlooking the beach and hosts some of LA’s great museums. Wilshire leads the visitor to UCLA’s turnoff, to Hollywood and, eventually, to Koreatown.

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At its western terminus, St. Monica herself is the traffic icon, standing between Wilshire and the long drop down a steep cliff.

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I chose to walk, from the far end of Third Avenue’s Promenade, to this overlook.

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So, the true glory of Santa Monica, these days, lies in how the city is making itself pedestrian-friendly.  Third Street Promenade, like other urban pioneering efforts, is a well-planned and relaxing venue for people, of all walks of life, to re-center themselves. My first order of business, after checking out of Rest Haven, was to find breakfast.  That matter was resolved by Santa Monica’s branch of LA’s Le Pain Quotidien.  Mini-pancakes and cafe au lait sufficed, as there will be a lunch meet-up with a family friend later on, in Hollywood. LPQ is my kind of spot, though, with a long communal table that goes against the “keep away from my turf” ethic that is so prevalent in many American establishments.  Strangers here are truly “friends you haven’t met.”

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These are just a few of what LPQ offers.

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The long row does have its share of kitsch, in the form of dinosauria.  At least, it’s imaginative kitsch.

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Bella, another signature cafe, would have been my breakfast choice, had not LPQ stared me in the face, when I first left the parking garage.

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Walking towards the beach overlook, I was captivated by a small boy, who was re-arranging these chess pieces, under his mother’s watchful eyes.  I sat a few rows away and pondered his “strategy”.  For a four-year-old, the little guy was doing quite well.

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Such is life, in one of Los Angeles’ most eclectic satellite communities.  Now, it is time for me to head to yet another of those:  Hollywood.

Canalside Ruminations

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November 11, 2019, Venice, CA-

As I set out to walk alongside the canals of this down-to-earth beach community, I noted that its namesake, in Italy, is at serious risk of sinking into its swampland underpinnings.  California’s Venice has its own concerns:  Earthquakes and a large homeless population being two very different such points of focus.   This is a part of Los Angeles where it is not unusual for people to set up impromptu “shops” along South Venice Boulevard, across from the north entrance to the Canal Walking Path.  There are many who sleep where they can, around the village.

The canals themselves are lined by eclectic houses, which seem to have many students and artists, in residence.  The quirkiness of the district is as much of a draw as the serenity that radiates from an early morning, canalside.

I chose to walk mainly along Grand Canal, which is the western boundary of the District.  My route took in the bridges of Carroll, Linnie, Howland and Sherman Canals, at their juncture with Dell Street.

Here is a long view of Grand Canal.

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I turned left at Carroll Canal, looking to cross the bridge in the foreground.

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From the Dell Street Bridge, here is a view towards the Eastern Canal.

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A couple of Little Egrets were on hand.  Here is one, grooming herself, along the Grand Canal.

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There is plenty of kitsch here, as well, including a Pink Flamingo paddle boat.

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Linnie Canal is the next feeder to Grand Canal, going north to south.

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As is seen in a previous paragraph, Halloween has a lingering presence, in the Canal District.

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Howland Canal came next, on my southward jaunt.

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These peace-infusing homes are at the junction of Grand Canal and Howland.

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This Gingko Tree nearly overwhelms the towpath.

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An upside-down dinghy strikes a pensive mood.

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Various messages appear, along Grand Canal, between Howland and Sherman.

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Canalside gardens also tend to be polychromatic.

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Here is a view of Grand Canal, as it bends towards Sherman.

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As I crossed Sherman Canal Bridge, and was walking northward again, I caught this Little Egret on its way to “safer” perches.

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This mural, outside the Canal District, depicts some whimsical creatures out of Dr. Seuss’s lesser known tales.

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With a peaceful counterpoint to the noise and energy of Venice Beach, I felt ready to take a look at Santa Monica’s vibrant Third Street Promenade.

 

A Day of Small Parades

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November 11, 2019, Santa Monica-

For the first time in several years, I was not in Prescott for Veteran’s Day.  The three-day weekend coincided with key events that I have already described and with a long-standing visit to Orange County and Los Angeles.  I honour my fellow veterans and my own service, almost on a daily basis, in thought, word and deed.  Coming by other communities’ parades, if it came to that, would not be such a bad thing.

As it happened, a few veterans were at Gramma’s Country Kitchen, when I took a seat at the counter.  We quietly enjoyed our breakfasts, the regulars gathered in their group and I headed off, towards Hemet, Menifee and Lake Elsinore.  Traffic in the Riverside County suburbs was rather light, for a day of considerable commercial activity.

I chose the winding Ortega Highway as my route to the coast.  There were clusters of commuters, for whom I pulled over, as my first order of business was checking the water level of the reservoir for which the city of Lake Elsinore is named.  It looked to me that the lake is hurting, a bit, which is surprising, given the high water levels of reservoirs north of Los Angeles.

The views from the bluffs east of town were nonetheless impressive, though.

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There is a face, of sorts, chiseled into the limestone bluff, in the middle.

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Winding along Highway 74, as the Ortega is otherwise known, I came upon El Cariso, a wide spot in the road, which hosts the California Wildland Firefighters’ Memorial. It was initiated to honour the six firefighters killed in the Decker Fire, in 1959.  There is a trail from the memorial plaque to the actual site where the men died.   As I was due to meet a friend at Crystal Cove State Park, the trail was put off for another time.

Here are some scenes from the Memorial site.

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These scenes show the general area where the tragedy took place.

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My next stop, a bit north of Laguna Beach, was Crystal Cove, a state park which features beach cabins, in various states of disrepair-especially on the north side of the park.  My friend, J, who lives about an hour away, has visited the site several times.  I’ve been with her on four such visits, and am always interested in the progress, or lack thereof, in the renovation.

It appears, this time, that the work is being done in earnest.

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There were scattered birds looking for their meals, as the tide was out.  This little one appears to be a kind of sandpiper.

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Some children had compiled a cross between a cairn and a rock castle.  The stone on the front left reminded me, a bit, of Spirit Tower, in northeast Wyoming.

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With that, our table ringer vibrated and we went to lunch at Beachcomber’s.  The problems of the world, or at least our individual corners of it, were resolved over a fresh repast. I even was given a second bowl of tomato soup, whether by mistake or because I was wearing an American Legion t-shirt, is open to interpretation.  The meals were great, in any case, and I made dinner out of what was left, this evening.

On the way north  along the coast, from Crystal Cove, I stopped in Lomita, where I had stayed at a reasonable motel in the past.  I found it had become a residential motel, whose owner would not accommodate anyone staying one night, and that  it was a cash only operation.

I continued on, past the South Bay beach towns and Long Beach, opting to stay in Santa Monica, at Rest Haven Motel, as Venice and Santa Monica are on my itinerary for tomorrow.  Rest Haven’s  staff are very kind and accommodating. This day has been a full one, but also very affirming.

NEXT:  Canalside Reflections

A Pre-Trip Trifecta

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November 10, 2019-

The past three days have featured a  wondrous series of memorable events, here in Home Base.  The first of these will long stay with me:  The wedding of one of my best friends’  youngest daughter.  I have already paid homage to this wonderful young lady, who will continue to show the world just how much can be accomplished by knowing that one is able to achieve, and that one has the unconditional support of one parent, who is, in turn, greatly loved by family and friends.  L has been very dear to my own heart, for several years now, and will remain so.

Saturday evening, I headed over to a planning meeting of Slow Food Prescott, that was to be preceded by a vegetarian potluck.  It turned out, I was told the wrong time of the event’s beginning, so as I entered, the planning was in mid-session and there was enough food for one other late-comer and me.  We got the gist of the planning, and enjoyed a pleasing meal.

Today, before setting out for a few days in southern California, I attended a memorial service for a restaurateur who had established, and built up, three restaurants here in Prescott, as well as two pizzerias in the Palm Springs area.  His widow, child and successors in business were all in attendance.  Many had delightful stories, and though I never met him in life, I feel like I know his goodness, based on my satisfying experiences in his restaurants here in Prescott. The name “Bill’s” in front of an eatery’s name has come to signify quality. I promised to stop by at least one of his namesake pizzerias, on my way back from the coast.

Thus, a busy and very crucial sets of events set the tone for my mini-break in “SoCal”.

NEXT:  A Veteran’s Day with No Parade

She Ever Walks Tall

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November 8, 2019-

Coming into the world,

with the Twenty-First Century,

the glowing infant was a source of joy

that her mother had not been expecting.

A family was virtually raised,

almost single-handedly,

by the most indomitable

of women.

Now, came another,

again, with no one,

except her mother,

on whom to depend.

The job was done,

and done well.

The child grew,

knowing nothing but love,

and support,

from her mother,

and a loosely-connected

network.

of aunts, one or two uncles

and man friends,

who happened along,

now and then.

The girl had  purpose, though,

and kept her eyes on those goals.

Her keen mind and loving heart,

found their way to the base

of a solid network,

and strong mentors.

That heart also captivated

a well-grounded young man.

Today, they will wed.

I am honoured to be

among those who will

witness this wondrous

beginning.

She walks tall today,

as always.

Likability is Contagious

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November 7, 2019-

When I was a child, I was not “picked” for a team until last, most of the time, because of my relative lack of  coordination.  I was, however, not an unpopular person, mainly because everyone was welcome in my yard, and in my sandbox.  The disputes I had with some neighbourhood kids were never permanent.  I was taught that I was not the center of the Universe.

Jordan Peterson entitles his fifth rule for life “Don’t Let Your Kids Behave in A Way That Makes You Dislike Them”.  He notes that many parents vehemently deny that they could ever dislike their children.  I was not one of those.  When our son did something that was distasteful or reprehensible, I thought to myself that it would be remiss of me, as a father, to gloss over it.  So, I corrected him and established the lesson, that what his mother and I found unlikable, other people would also be inclined to take umbrage.

In seeing what he did that was unlikable, I also had to face myself, and look to see if I was also behaving the same way.  Penny was good at making me take account for my flaws, and vice versa.  We helped one another shed a fair amount of baggage, and after her passing, I had to shed a lot more-sometimes with the unwanted help of online critics but most often with my one-on-one self-critiques.

Today, he is largely a self-starter, and has weathered quite a few storms-many of which were not of his own making.  He has many friends and has found a wonderful woman, with whom to build a life.  None of this would have happened, had he been saddled with laissez-faire parents and absent extended family.  Penny’s parents were present, every step of the way, and my siblings took their avuncular duties seriously.

Dr. Peterson has thus encapsulated the need of the human being for constructive criticism, as well as praise, when it is warranted; that we innately have a need for boundaries to be set, as a way to know that we are in a safe environment.  There is no finer gift that a parent can bestow upon a child.

The Spiral

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November 2, 2019-

The day wound around, on a gradual upswing.  There being no Farmers’ Market today, I found my way to a special event:  Highland Nature Center’s Holiday Bazaar.  There, I found a booth where two young boys were selling some interesting, and well-made craft items, whilst being cheerfully coached by their father.  I bought a lavender cold pack, which is good for 30-40 uses.  Another booth had knit caps, for women and girls, so I bought one for a friend’s 3-year -old daughter.  Finally, some graphic artists had a booth, where I found a lovely “Welcome to Our Home” placard, as an advance gift for a couple who’ll be married next weekend.

With that, it was off to the preparation for our public observance of al-Bab’s Bicentenary.  A goodly crew of us set up an exquisite setting, at Prescott’s Senior Center, and all told, we had 65 people who attended all, or part, of the festivities.  It was a quality program, and I was glad to help several people feel at home, from a skittish woman who could barely relax, to a visitor, who was a friend of the hymn singer, and was happy to visit with the singer and his wife, if only for a short time.  The spiral continued upward.

We were done with clean-up by 5 p.m., but where is my cell phone?  I retraced my steps, found no phone, let the janitor of the hall know to look out for it, and left to take care of a couple, more urgent errands.  The errands done, a friend tipped me off that the event hall was still open, for an evening event.  So, back to the Center I went, and with the night janitor leading the way, I went to the back stage area, where I’d eaten a snack, out of sight of my satiated friends, towards the end of the set-up.

It was the night janitor who spotted my phone, neatly camouflaged, as it was monochromatic with the stereo speaker on which I’d set it, during said snack.  The day thus ended with yet another upward spiral.

 

The Hallowed Eve

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October 31, 2019-

The last day of October has been many things, over the years.  It is the birthday of one of my best friends, in boyhood.  Haven’t seen him for many years, but he’s still alive and well, and almost a month my senior.

It is also the day when people on a fixed income start raiding their investments and usually bring the stock market  down, just a tad.  The holiday spending period thus begins.

For many, though, it’s a day of putting on costumes, of various levels of sophistication, from the white sheet with eye, nose and mouth slots cut out to the ten-foot T-Rex robo-suit.  In recent years, I would sit outside my apartment, at a  card table, with glowing jack o’lantern and bags of candy.  Four or five people would stop and get a handful of treats.  Most candy, though, ended up either being shared or being tossed.

Tonight, I left the place dark and went over to American Legion Post 6, where an organized party was in play, in a warm building with a modest buffet for those helping to give out treats.  About 120 people, of various ages and costumes, showed up and were delighted to have treats in their bags and a cup of hot chocolate, or coffee for the adults.  Two brought their costumed dogs, but alas, biscuits were not among our treats.  About fifteen people who were invited in, declined, saying that they were afraid it was a government trap.  Such are the times in which we live.

Nevertheless, there is much more to be said for helping out at a safe, organized Trick or Treat than sitting alone in the cold, looking as if I was begging for people to come by the table.

The Greatest Gift

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October 30, 2019-

As I mentioned yesterday, these two days mark the consecutive birth anniversaries of Baha’u’llah and His Forerunner/Herald, al-Bab.  I have recounted the story of Baha’u’llah in previous posts, over the years.

In this post, I wish to note why His life and those of other Divine Messengers, are important to people of all faiths, or of no faith.   Rather than see these Great Beings as merely Founders of competing religions, it is beneficial to view Them as guides to the continuous process of the unfolding of human spirituality-as it pertains to both the life of the individual and the life of society.

We have progressed, in fits and starts, from the relationship of the individual to the Divine (the Revelations of Adam, Abraham and Noah); through the spirituality of the human family and clans (Krishna and Zoroaster); the spiritual focus of tribes (Moses and countless Teachers of Indigenous Peoples, across the world); detachment from fortune and misfortune, alike (Gautama Siddhartha); unconditional love, across boundaries (Jesus the Christ) and spiritual guidance of nations (Muhammad).  The Twin Messengers, al-Bab and Baha’u’llah, have extended the knowledge available to us, that the common people of the Earth may both determine their own spiritual destiny and organize the spiritual unification of the entire planet.

Baha’u’llah’s Revelation, far from being yet another means to sectarian division, is a road map away from  human-caused cataclysm and strife.  This is the underpinning of my belief that all people possess the means to seek and find Truth, both independently and in groups.