Ah, Los Angeles 4

Los Angeles, like any large city, is a place of extremes. Stephanie  noticed that we are so in awe of the beauty, variety and intensity of  the trees and plants here that we don’t notice the squalor from which  they spring.

There are four different castes here: the rich who are unbelievably  rich, the poor who are astonishingly poor, the middle class who are  trying desperately to become the former and not the latter and the  homeless.

The homeless have their own categories: recent evictees, mental,  addicts of one thing or another, the poor who have given up hope and veterans of  every war, combat or police action whose government has turned its back on.

You take a meeting at Langers, an old and venerated deli catty-corner  from MacArthur Park.  As a side note, according to local legend, the  phrase in Jimmy Webb’s song of the same name that Richard Harris made  famous, “someone left the cake out in the rain…” refers to the  beautiful Victorians surrounding the park allowed to fall into  complete disrepair. MacArthur Park is one of those places guide books  suggest you avoid.

You park two blocks away and pray and bow and sprinkle salt around  your car in hopes that it will still be there when you return. The  streets around the park are reminiscent of midtown-Manhattan during  lunch hour. You are the proverbial salmon. The difference is that  everyone around you is Hispanic. the newsstands carry only Spanish  periodicals. the music, clothes and language are all Hispanic. You’re  surrounded by Filipinos, Argentinians, Hondurans, Guatemalans,  Salvadorans and, of course, Mexicans. They don’t like each other very  much but they share their language and their poverty. Their fear and desperation is palpable as they rush off to church where they’re told  to be fruitful and multiply and you can almost hear Sonny and Cher  sing, “and the beat goes on.”

You make it into the deli. The place is jammed with, it seems, as many  people as you just passed on the street. You meet your person and put  your name in assuming that there will be a 3 hour wait. In ten  minutes, you’re seated. Langers has the best pastrami sandwich in the  world. You go there for its pastrami sandwich. The waitress, who looks  like she’s worked there for the last 27 years, asks for your order and  you say, “the world’s best pastrami sandwich, please.” She looks at  you blankly and asks what number on the menu it is. You point out that  it’s number 19 and off she goes.

You can’t imagine why a meeting was set in this place until you  realize that the food was great, the acoustics somehow allowed you to  converse easily and the bill for two came to $13.

You leave and wade back through the quicksand of humanity.  You pass a fruit stand and even though you’re stuffed, you’re tempted because they cut fruit right in front of you: pineapple, mango, guava, melons and whatever else they might have,  throw it in a quart plastic container, splash a really spicy chili sauce and lime juice on it and sell it for $5. It’s really quite good.

Blessedly, your car is still in one piece although there are evil doers  loitering nearby. You drive away praising pastrami between burps.

Los Angeles has decided that the ordinance against illegal billboards isn’t working. For those from Denver, imagine thirty Colfax Aves and another thirty Colorado Blvds chock full of billboards and multiply the number of billboards per street by a silly number and you get the idea. If the phone, pedestrians, traffic, horns, poor and the beautiful people aren’t enough to distract you, the electronic billboards will. Their changing images get your attention. The gas pumps have television sets on top running non-stop ads. Something moving and garish is always around you.

You go to a writers’ meeting and hear that no show that can’t be understood while passing a bus billboard or an electronic one will get an serious look. You sink a little inside when you realize you can’t summarize your script into ten words or less.

You listen to the radio and there’s a sig alert here and a sig alert there. You don’t have any idea what a sig alert is but it doesn’t sound good. But the traffic report just keeps on. Every day there’s a roll over accident somewhere that has snagged traffic for hours. How could there be so many roll overs? Your mind swims in highway numbers. “The 405 and 10 exchange is showing significant delays, A rollover has stopped southbound 605 at  the 91.” Every day you hear new highway numbers and references to neighborhoods you didn’t even know existed. The encyclopedic knowledge the traffic reporters must have sways you.

Everywhere you look, people are just trying to get somewhere, anywhere but the middle of the 101 east, which is running north south through Hollywood, approaching the 110 exchange.

You get off the highway and drive a complex and odd route home, your little enclave of reason in a world gone mad.

Love and Light always


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