Old Goop

Who Says Paybacks are a Bitch?

L.A.'s Rain of Terror

The Greatest Country on God's Green Earth

Hello I Must be Going

Discovering the Great Indoors


Who Says Paybacks are a Bitch?

My Living Room (03/14/2000) - I should have known it would happen. After I spent last week's column complaining about the rain, this past Saturday was one of those extraordinary Los Angeles days that makes those of us who moved here forget they ever lived someplace else.

It wasn't just the bluest blue sky you'll ever see or the way the sun shining down on the Hollywood Hills making them seem like a crown on the city instead of some place in the distance where none but the luckiest are allowed to live.

It wasn't just that spot driving up Santa Monica Blvd. in Beverly Hills where you could not only see all the way downtown but could also see the San Gabriel mountains way beyond the skyscrapers.

It wasn't just the people out on the street everywhere you looked. People lined up to get their cars washed. Lined up to get their propane tanks filled. Lined up on La Brea waiting to buy a chili dog at Pinks. Lined up on Sunset waiting for a table, a mocha decaf and the chance to watch others wait in line for the same.

Everywhere you looked, people blissfully lined up. Blissful not just because it was the weekend. Blissful not just because it was not raining. Blissful not just because the sun was out. And the sky was blue. And the smog had lifted. They were blissful because somehow something had changed and no matter who you were or where you were going, at least for this one day, the angels of this city were at your beck and call.

Yes, it was one of those great L.A. days in March. One of those days that promises everything when you first look outside and more often than not delivers nothing simply because you find yourself too intoxicated with the day itself to accomplish much of anything.

People complain about the laid-back nature of Los Angeles but this is normally a town for people who get things done. It may not be obvious to the outsider and what is getting done will likely be of very little consequence but most of the people moving around this city on any given day are making things happen. This city belongs to the people who make the biggest things happen.

Yet on days like Saturday, all the Ovitzes and the Aflecks, all the would be Ovitzes and Aflecks, all the smooth talkers who are always getting things done and always seem to know just how to get them done are completely clueless and forced to look to me and those like me for a clue as to how they should be living their lives.

I don't know how it happens but once or twice a year something changes here and the rest of us get our day in the sun. Maybe it's something in the wind. Maybe it's the way the ground shifts. Or our Spanish ancestors looking down who grow bold and push aside the Hollywood moguls for a moment. I don't know but I know it happens and for a day or two this town belongs to those of us who get nothing done and know exactly how to not get it done.

On days like Saturday, accomplishments are inconsequential. What matters is one's ability to take a deep breath, look around, see one's surroundings, take it all in and let it take you where it wants to.

When my wife and I left our house in the morning, the plan was simple and straightforward: haircuts, shopping for a jacket, shoes, and a present for my niece, lunch at the Apple Pan capped off with a slice of belated birthday pie for me, and an early trip to Toluca Lake where I was performing so that I could audition for a short movie.


The first change came while I was parking the car and my wife was settling in for her haircut. She told Charlie that next time, she was getting her hair dyed. They were still celebrating this big decision when I got there. Forget the shopping. How could I pick out shoes when I had to contemplate the delightful notion of a blonde Sylvia?

Of course, I didn't tell Sylvia the shoes were off the menu. I can make decisions on my own, too. As we drove away, satisfied that we were gorgeous, she was under the mistaken impression that I was heading to the Big 'n Tall store. I wasn't. I was headed for the beach. The day was beautiful and so were we. It all made sense. That is until, I passed Westwood and she asked where we were going.

    "You'll see.", I said, but the truth is I was no longer sure.

Suddenly, I found myself making a left onto Sepulveda. I cut across to Pico and turned into the parking lot of Barbecues Galore. Hey, if I'm going to have a blonde wife, I needed some marinade. Sure I needed the clothes and the shoes right now and we already had about a dozen different marinades but that is the kind of day it was.

After thirty or forty wondrous minutes wandering among the wood chips and meat thermometers, we piled all of our purchases into the back seat of the car and headed off to our next adventure. Sixty-one dollars worth of barbecue crap. What a wonderful world.

I made a right turn back onto Sepulveda and then another right so I could cut through the residential neighborhood on my way to the Apple Pan. We rolled down the windows to get the full aromatic effect of the budding flora. Then I made a right turn onto Westwood.

In case, you're one of those people who gets things done (as if you could be one of those people and a reader of this column), consider this an important lesson. Sometimes it is necessary to drive around in circles -- well, actually squares. You can't always know when, so it may make sense to do it all the time.

Maybe it was the fact that I turned off a residential street or maybe it was just a new store, but I noticed the French bookstore on Westwood for the first time. I speak a little (un peu) French. A little little (un petit peu). Of course, I had to go to the bookstore. After 15 seconds of deliberations with Sylvia, it was decided we'd go after the Apple Pan.

Suddenly the car was filled with the smell of barbecue. I have no idea where it came from -- it could have been the back seat -- but there it was and it was calling us both. Another fifteen seconds of deliberations. This was no time to be heading home and firing up the grill. It was also no time for the Apple Pan. It was time to go someplace we'd never been but had driven by at least a hundred times. A right turn on Pico and we were on our way to Culver City.

The Outdoor Cafe is a great place. They cook the food on a huge grill outside. You go inside the small store and order. Then you carry your food upstairs to the roof/patio where you can enjoy both the food and the view. On one side is a busy intersection. On the other, a car wash and as I indicated above, it was hopping. Sounds charming but if there's a lovelier place to dine al fresco, I haven't found it.

The day went on like this but I've already written too many words. I was late for the audition and early for the show. The audition people had that end of a long day listening to lousy actors giddiness going on. The casting assistant and I convinced Sylvia to audition. It wasn't that hard. I guess soon to be blondes are braver than brunettes.

We went next door to kill some time before the show. I ordered some green tea. Sylvia finally had to admit that there's nothing to anything that I do.

One of the other performers on the show got locked out of her car. I managed to get inside in less than a minute. It was my day. I had a great set. One day, I'll be a star. When I am, I won't be dumping my wife to marry a blonde actress. I'll already be married to one. That's the kind of day Saturday was. Promises. Changed plans. More promises.

Who cares what happens next weekend? You have to love Los Angeles today.

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