I Love LA — Mostly

I think we can all agree that watermelon — slushied in a blender, then served with a sprig of mint and a splash of gin — is the best icy alms we can offer ourselves on sultry summer nights.

I think we can all agree that the songs we know by heart are the best songs, the only poems we can ever really recite.

I think we can all agree that “O-o-h Child,” by the Five Stairsteps, is the best song to hear blasting from a passing car, though Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” is a close second.

I admire songwriters so much. They are the modern poets. And though I enjoy actual poets (try Kim Addonizio or Stephen Dunn), the only poems I can fully recite are by Paul Simon, Carole King and Jimmy Webb.

I hope we can all agree on that.

I think we can all agree, as Peggy Noonan recently noted, that we don’t want to see office life completely end in America. “There is something demoralizing about all the empty offices, something post-greatness about them. All the almost-empty buildings in all the downtowns — it feels too much like a metaphor for decline,” Noonan wrote in the Wall Street Journal, a daily paean to office life.

Yet, I think we can all agree that we don’t miss commuting, or the toll it takes on our relationships, or our arteries, or our summers.

I think we can all agree that LA can be a hard place to love sometimes, easy on the eyes, but difficult to really get to know, so showboaty and brittle and dense that you can’t really get your arms around it.

Plus, every place closes too early.

I also think that if you appreciate variety, you’ll probably love LA, a tapestry of cultures, tastes and nutty opinions – at heart, a giant kitchen offering a hundred ways to make curry.

I think we can all agree that the economy is scary as hell right now, and we don’t really understand how the Fed juking interest rates and making homes less affordable battles inflation.

Yet, I think we can all agree that gas prices are finally skidding and the stock market is showing a pulse.

I think we can all agree that, each week, there is one really bad oh-my-gawd development in the news.

Chronic bad news aside, I hope we can all agree that a deft and stubborn American ethos will prevail, as it did in the 1930s, and again in the 1970s, which were much rockier than we might remember.

Meanwhile, wherefore, O summer’s day? (Emily Dickinson) Wherefore, O gin? (me)

There’s a wistfulness to early August, puzzlement over how fast summers roar by. This has been a good summer, amid the muckity bad news that seems to run on some sort of film loop.

Often, you’re left wondering: What’s sicker: Our planet or its people?

Look, I see evidence of God everywhere I look, especially in Pacific Palisades, though that new 6th Street Bridge is running a close second.

The Palisades is known for its bluffs and storybook downtown and the turbulent passions of its populace.

I mean, you can tell from the way Palisadians hold hands when they walk the dog that they’re a vibrant breed of people, hearty of stock and brimming with fresh ideals.

Rick Caruso lives here, as does my buddy Verge, as did Kobe Bryant and a rash of other celebrities, driven out of Beverly Hills by the general trashiness of the place. Never did care much for Beverly Hills.

The Palisades is the only town in Southern California that you can imagine turning up in a Nicholas Sparks novel. I don’t mean that as criticism. I was telling Suzanne that I want to build a lighthouse near her place on the bluffs, to keep confused sailors off the rocks and away from the better restaurants.

Brick by brick, I’ll build this landmark till my hands are coarse and strong. Since it’s in LA, the lighthouse will appear to be wearing some sort of silver bridal train, ala Disney Hall and SoFi. It’ll look as if it just blew in off the sea.

The beacon’s mirrors will be French, as the best ones usually are. Its ribbons of light will be visible from deep space, and will welcome aliens, as LA is prone to do.

So, yeah, nothing special this lighthouse. Just a small gesture really. A trinket.

A lyric in the summer wind.

Lucy brought Smartacus and me the best bruschetta the other day. So simple:  Tomatoes, basil, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. So if you have a surplus of tomatoes, you might give it a try. Meanwhile, think I’ll have a bruschetta-tinged bloody Mary and think about football season. For past columns, books and gin glasses, please go to ChrisErskineLA.com. Cheers!

10 thoughts on “I Love LA — Mostly

  1. Watermelon, oldies on the radio and your posts have indeed made this a good summer, despite so much depressing news and strife. It reminds me that whatever we choose to focus on grows stronger. I choose pictures of Catty Cakes, your recipes and family tales. Thanks.

  2. Strange how some places grow on you although it may not have been your place of origin. Chicagoland still remains deeply attached to my heart but my mantra is “I live in Texas but home is Utah”. I love listening to you reflect on LA life. So different from what we hear in this part of the country…I gotta visit you one of these days and get introduced to that “real” LA…

  3. Summer ended too rapidly with school starting on the 9th. I feel like I have 4 more weeks to go until Labor Day passes.

  4. Rick Caruso lives in Brentwood. His village is in the palisades. My husband grew up there when it was a sweet community with the Hot Dog Show a diner on Sunset Blvd. We live in Brentwood now a small LA suburban community filled neighbors walking to the farmers market on Sunday. Who wave at us while walking the dogs and we’re sitting on our deck having dinner. Most of them know our dog’s name and a few know ours! We don’t live in the mansion style houses Brentwood became known for when the trial of the century happened. We live in a sweet 1940s slightly updated house that was my husband’s grandmothers. We are blessed. “So far away, doesn’t anybody stay in one place anymore? “

  5. Just like this Summer, I didn’t think the pictures could get any better, until this tome and it’s visuals spritzed onto August’s long level playing field like a splash of crystal gin on a purple stretch of Summer night. If anyone riffs better in the blatant heat of an LA. August moment it might be Stan Getz swooning over those creamy moonlit Corcovado nights, high in the Hollywood hills and on the atmosphere of their sensual rhythms; or some such. But no one else I know can wake up in the dark and Pac the Palisades with such lovely views of the ocean’s L.A. coastal gaze in the glazy heat of the imagined days sure to come. Aahhhh, the music of Summer. The lyrics just get hazier and hazier, grazing the sonorous heat with the fine comb of a cool creative muse adrift in a warm Summer sea. Put the cool jazz on, and sway, sway, sway August away, baybee…

  6. One of my recent most favorite poems by the former Poet Laureate or US and of NY


    The name of the author is the first to go
    followed obediently by the title, the plot,
    the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
    which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
    never even heard of,

    as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
    decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
    to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

    Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
    and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
    and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

    something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
    the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

    Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
    it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
    not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

    It has floated away down a dark mythological river
    whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
    well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
    who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

    No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
    to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
    No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
    out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

    Billy Collins

    PS I don’t really care for watermelon so I do the rest of the ingredients straight up in a glass (one of yours…)

    1. Just stunning; but forgetting an intensely experienced memorable summer, with its lush music of smells, tastes, sights, sounds, sensory euphoria?…So slowly, reluctantly, maybe eventually. But the faint night breeze off the ocean lifting you ever so slightly, brushing your skin with a lover’s touch, turning that little mist of sweat to ice ? The delicious chill and brief shivered thrill of it.? This Summer, who could bear it ?

  7. I also don’t mind hearing, “Love Grows (Where my Rosemary goes”) by Edison Lighthouse blaring from a passing car.

  8. I, too, grew up in the Palisades with the Hot Dog Show and movies at the Bay. I think Rick Caruso kind of trashed the place with his posh mall. No more 31 flavors, sporting goods or deli. And don’t neglect poet Randy Newman, a Palisades boy whose anthem to our city you quote in your banner.

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