A few weeks ago, I went to a National Book Award winner reading to hear the remarkable Joan Didion discuss and read from The Year of Magical Thinking.* Of Los Angeles, she said, "It takes about two years to get L.A. Once you do, you realize there's nothing left to get."
My first trip to L.A. was when I worked at the travel magazine. I arrived in the late p.m. and went to meet my friends in the band Jump, Little Children at the studio where they were recording their album "Vertigo." We shared some cherry pie and coffee at the Jerry's Deli in Studio City, then talked late into the night in a dingy hotel room. Early the next morning, I strained to catch a glimpse of the Hollywood sign on my way to board the Coast Starlight train to Portland. What a magnificent, extended (30+ hours) way to discover the left coast.
This past weekend I was in L.A. to visit my bosom buddy Alesa, a recent NYC transplant and actress. I'm still heartbroken that she left New York, but from the moment she stepped off the plane, she got L.A. the way I "get" New York. She lives in a 1920s style Spanish bungalow that oozes Tales of the City/"Melrose Place." I could easily get used to the green and the warmth of LaLa Land, but I would miss the Gotham grit that rears its putrid head in even the la-di-da-ist of downtown neighborhoods. I like the stink.
On Friday night, I ordered a standout sashimi salad with ginger vinaigrette at Sushi Roku. It's such a light, fresh, summery dish, and I would eat it every day if I could find it on more NYC menus. Last time I was in L.A., to visit my friend Nicky, we went to Roku's sister restaurant, Katana, which is known for its robata (aka yummy food grilled over an open flame). The former's fish was very fresh and the sushi bar service was speedy, which was fabu considering we had to drive to The O.C. and get Miss Actress some beauty rest after dinner. (She had an early a.m. call.)
Being an only child, I am nothing if not thrilled by having free time to kill, so Saturday morning, after I stumbled out into the suburban wilderness around our hotel, I hit crosswalk upon crosswalk button and walked to the nearby Trader Joe's. I have been putting off going to the spankin' new New York store due to diatribes about long lines and rumors of them being out of the Thai Lime and Chili peanuts. Of course I'll go eventually, when the "hype" dies down.
Now about those peanuts that are saucily calling to me as I write: They are a spicy, zesty, earthy, primal heaven in a bag. They tempt me like few others (those others being truffle oil; truffle salt; truffle shavings; and truffle pasta with truffle oil, salt, and shavings). TJ's string cheese is pretty tasty too.
Back in L.A., Alesa and I shared a bottle of sauvignon blanc (blanc is my warm weather red) and a plate of "saint" cheeses at Mr. Marcel in the Farmer's Market and then shared some giggles at "American Dreamz" in The Grove, which I remarked is like the Disneyland of shopping...clean and somewhat generic, although satisfying and dreamyz.
On Sunday, we chased down fresh goat cheese and beef tamales with iced coffee and buckwheat pancakes "smothered and covered" with butter and syrup at one of Santa Monica's farmer's markets, strutted our stuff on Venice Beach, and zigzagged our way down Melrose. My last taste of L.A. was also a first taste: an In-N-Out burger with fries and a suck-it-to-the-last-drop strawberry shake.
Next week: Slices of Boston and Chelsea
*How is it possible that the tiny, beautiful, 72-year-old Ms. Didion wrote her best, most gritty, honest, and heartbreaking work just last year? It gives me pause...and hope.
I'd be largely remiss to not discuss the *STARS* in this post. Hugh Grant is actually one of my top five celeb crushes, and Alesa and I saw Jon Voight at the Friday evening taping of "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (ew, yuck, and ick, but it was still fun) and spotted Peter Stormare (he of the "Fargo" and "Prison Break" fame) as we hiked up Runyon Canyon Sunday morning.
Photo by: Alesa B. Gantz