LA’s Blanket of Lights

All these years I’ve been writing about children and other malcontents without much success, when I should’ve been writing about dogs, judging by reaction over a recent column about Dog Park Gary. Could’ve carved out a career as America’s favorite dog columnist, sponsored by Purina and various flea and tick sprays. I coulda had a life.

Right now, yet another dog is sitting on my feet as I write this. Pair of silk slippers, this golden retriever pup. Probably should’ve named her Slippers. The best pair of slippers is a pair that snores, sleeping on your feet, wiggling as you write senseless columns about children and other malcontents.

For the record, the pup’s name is actually Penny Laine, a dog that belongs to my daughter and for the next seven weeks, to me and Smartacus. When I agreed to watch her, I didn’t know about the special baths she needs every other day. Or the pill and a half she needs each night. Suppositories? Whatever. I volunteered for this, after all. I’ve always been the kind of person who volunteers for things, then complains about it.

Hey, I’ll watch the dog. You can’t kennel the poor girl for seven weeks.

So, Slippers is ours as the lovely and patient older daughter vacations in New York City, as fine a place as you will find east of the Hudson, kind of a dirty-gummy concrete tomb, yet kinda not. Probably best known for its crime and corrupt public officials, I mean, really some of the worst people on Earth. Yet, New York City offers far more than that.

“Have the pizza,” I told my little granddaughter before she left.

I’m a little worried. Many LA kids go to New York and never return. No doubt, they are attracted by the crime, grime and corruption … the pizza, the choking sports teams, the rude vibe. Some of the finest people I know are from New York, my son-in-law Finn, in fact. Some of the worst too. In that way, it’s very much like LA., a magnet for madmen.

I was working with Suzanne the other night. Her diction is superb, and she speaks in the lilting tones of a fairy princess, in sonnets and sighs. So that was our first project. I was trying to get her to slur her words, like I do, to sputter and spit, so that we’d seem more of a couple.

As we worked, we looked out on the blanket of lights, admiring the view from the rooftop of her little  castle, and I asked: Hey, have you ever gazed out across LA at night, across the canyons, the valleys, that quilt of stars that makes up the Basin, and thought:

How many people are making love right now? How many are leaning in for a first kiss? How many dads are reading to their children? How many teens are texting, tweeting, writing sly and tooty notes to a friend in need?

In the million-or-so homes, apartments and yurts across LA, how many people are taking a bath? How many are flushing? How many are finishing up another cringy screenplay about dragons and spaceships?

Have you ever looked out at that tranquil sea of lights and wondered: How many moms out there, within eyesight, are just now going into labor? How many kittens are being born? How many boyfriends are walking in on someone else?

How many game show hosts are tinting their hair? How many ingenues are wiggling out of their bikinis? How many ER docs are saving lives? How many chefs are blending scallops into butter? How many bank robbers are planning the morning’s hit?

How many possums, skunks, talent agents are out there right now?

They call this the City of Angels. I think they were being ironic.

But man, what a storybook, full of wonderful people, a few rude ones and the best noodle joints, hiking trails, Minions, mimics and horn players. There’s that bar just outside Sony where the Munchkins used to drink, that joint on Ocean where Marilyn used to wait for JFK … the stretch of Wilshire where Billy Joel crafted “Piano Man” (the Executive Room, now gone).

It’s nine o’clock on a Saturday
The regular crowd shuffles in
There’s an old man sittin’ next to me
Makin’ love to his tonic and gin

Like all the other great cities, LA is rich in all the things that make a midnight interesting.

I like, especially, the little moments: the grace notes, the noodle joints, the shadows, the slippers.

Sleeping on my feet this minute…

The Gin & Tonic Society of Greater Los Angeles is now accepting RSVPs for a Sept. 3 bash in the hills above the Rose Bowl. The BYOB event begins at 5 pm. Space is limited. To reserve a spot, please send an email to If you signed up in time, you’ll receive details and the location early next week. Thanks in advance for your interest. Meanwhile, for books and the coolest gin glasses ever, please visit Cheers!

11 thoughts on “LA’s Blanket of Lights

  1. 1. I have two Goldens and can attest they make great slippers. They also steal slippers and chew on them. Now I know it’s because they want to be my only slippers. Who knew?

    2. I really need a shirt that says “The kind of person who volunteers for things, then complains about it.”

    I live north of LA and mostly try to avoid going there, except for Dodger games, but I can appreciate the pondering of the city lights.

  2. What a life you have Chris: happy you have found love and are living your best days; always inspiring you are to us all

      1. Oh, sorry. I meant the stars in the sky. With all the light pollution I thought they were not visible. As to ‘notable people’? After 19 years at a downtown Palm Springs restaurant, I saw hundreds. That’s right. Hundreds. No ‘red carpet’ needed. Many thanks.

  3. As this iconic Summer burns ever deeper into its memorable muse of lyricism, so do these L.A. tone poems become ever more vibrant, resonant, even a bit resinous, with an untethered woozy zest for the ironic juice and sere rhythms of the late August life here.
    In keeping with the pulsing beat of this Summer’s time…


    I was a man without a plan
    My muse the ether, in twilight
    Restlessly I roamed and ran
    Up early, barely slept at night
    Buried myself in the sand
    Of busyness—kaleidoscope
    That noise rotates on every hand
    A maze of matter without hope
    Or even wish that stars would shine
    Who looks up when things are low?
    The chaos of the days are thine
    When you don’t know where to go;

    Then, in ho-hum that words must sign
    In breezed a bright distraction
    Silver sliver of divine
    Complexity of satisfaction;
    How to weather such a sprite
    Explore the intricacies therein
    Mystery consumed the night
    When there’s no plan you just begin;

    But now that wonders are worked out
    And work is, after all, just play
    With various motives strewn about
    I tend to work both night and day;
    I know so little of the way
    But love the beauty of its span
    Spread out below me: all L.A.
    Spread out with me: sweet Suzanne
    Why would I ever need a plan?…

    And now, with Autumn up ahead, could work ever be the same?
    Defined by this delicious dame… With so much of work unsaid
    And the rest at best unread? September near; the muse has fled
    The golden russet of its bed the light you see now in your head
    So you write some more, instead, to find out where the muse has led
    The steam of Fall just what it seems, without a plan, adrift in dreams…

  4. Love this!! Love Piano Man, did not know the info on where he wrote that, love that you are with Penny Laine, I do wonder what is going on in each home as I view the twinkling lights from my yard, I love your writing!! Thank you as this site makes my day brighter!!

  5. So, just what sort of job does Catty Cakes have where she can grab her entourage and just swan across the country for seven weeks?

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