Monday, November 18, 2002

L.A. da C-quil

I never thought I'd ever be where I found myself being, eating my second meal in a row at Dinah's Chicken in Culver City, CA when I swore I saw Kami Cotler, the actress who played Elizabeth on TheWaltons stroll in with her daughter and husband. A plain looking red head with freckles in a city of millions might be a dime a dozen but believe you me I saw enough episodes of The Waltons to know one when I saw one. But no one in the restaurant reacted least of all the group I was seated with.

I let it go without speaking to a soul because I'm but a simple man so I don't like to clutter my mind with complicated thoughts like how a group of people might react to my observations. That is why when I think of Los Angeles I think of a great big spa. One of the first times I was in the big city was the January of my senior year of college. To say that I was in a bit of a funk is about as accurate as saying that J-Lo has had just a few long term commitment issues. I desperately needed some time away from things to recuperate, rejuvenate, and regurgitate.

And in the years since whenever I have flown out to see my sister it seems there is something going on in my life that I just need to get away from. The sun and surf and substantial size of L.A. usually provides the proper tonic if only temporarily. I'm nothing if not the pop culture I've digested over the years and if pop culture is your bag L.A. is certainly the place to be. The woman I saw may or may not have been Elizabeth Walton but I can tell you the chances of seeing such a celebrity in the Twin Cities are pretty small (although I recently did help former Twin Roy Smalley absentee vote live and in person).

When the Cheapo contingent was visiting Amoeba Music in Hollywood, there was an in store performance featuring the moody vocals of some young blonde singer with pale puffy calves. At times the volume was tad annoying (the singer even mentioned that the band had been expected to play an acoustic show but decided to switch game plans and plug in) so it was nice that the store was giving away free ear plugs. People on the coasts think the universe revolves around them and everything in between might as well be invisible. And maybe they are right. I doubt you could find any music store giving away free ear plugs in Davenport Iowa.

There is something about Los Angeles that just oozes mellow. That senior year trip I took all those years ago in retrospect reminded me of the Roseville tornado of '81 where all the homes around my parents were leveled but my parents' house just sustained roof damage. I think that can accurately be dubbed the "sensible center." When all around is full of pain and destruction I guess someone somewhere can always find that refuge that provides a modicum of shelter.

We flew in during a storm. The ride was bumpy and I was a tad apprehensive (William Shatner Twilight Zone apprehensive) that even as we were clearly descending the ground was nowhere to be seen. If I learned one thing from past experience I know the city of angels is well lit and not being able to see any of those lights made me say a quick silent prayer to my maker whoever that might be.

On yet another trip to L.A. I remember sitting on the balcony of my friend, the car detailer Eric Patterson, with my soulmate (note to self, repeat as often as necessary: she's not Sandra Bullock) and we sat silently listening more than watching some kids below us play a pickup game of basketball. The lack of communication was finally more than she could seemingly stand and in betweens drags on a cigarette she coolly said to me, "You can talk at me if you want." Somehow the statement was the most offensive thing I had ever heard. Bucking the mellow atmospheric vibe I vented about how I didn't want to talk "at" anyone but rather much preferred talking "with" someone particularly her. After all this time that wannabe conversation rings above the rest and unlike most I wish I could relive that one and tell her things I should have. If nothing else this most recent trip reminded me of that.

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