Sunday, January 27, 2008

They Say You Can't Go Home Again

And I'm beginning to see what "they" mean.

My latest mini-vacation in L.A. was quite lovely. I caught up with friends I hadn't seen in years; I discovered fun haunts where I drank delicious cocktails; and the weather cooperated enough to allow me to take my daily runs down Los Feliz Boulevard. I'll regale you with details of all the goodness soon, but in this post I want to share a slightly different anecdote.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned to my high school friend Kristie that I was planning to visit Los Angeles again. She then suggested we get together for dinner and drinks in Pasadena or Glendale. Well, Glendale is absolutely out of the question; so I didn't even give that idea the least bit of consideration. But Pasadena. Our hometown.

While truly a lovely city and a wonderful place to grow up (I mean, just take a look at that City Hall), at the end of the day, Pasadena is, and always will be, a suburb. I'd raise my kids there, if I had any, but the sassy city denizen I have become was resistant to spending a Saturday evening in Pasadena. Especially when far more interesting neighborhoods sit just on the other side of the 5 Freeway. However, for various reasons, it became easier to meet Kristie there. So I decided to brave the 'burbs for a night and keep an open mind. After all, maybe it wouldn't be as bad as I feared.

Well, as it turns out, it wasn't as bad as I feared. It was worse.

My sister Fabulous Patti and I met Kristie at Twin Palms, a restaurant that either is currently or at one time was co-owned by Kevin Costner. Kevin Costner can't act to save his life, but I assume that doesn't hamper his ability to own a business. Anyway, the food was fine, I suppose, and the tented space provided a decent enough atmosphere.

Then at 9:00, the band began to play. And they opened with "Margaritaville."

I probably don't need to tell you that it was all downhill from there. Like a car wreck you can't help but stare at, I actually got up to watch in disbelief as these perfectly competent, grey-haired musicians jammed their way through "Sweet Caroline" and "Brick House." Oh, yes they did. A few of the selections were actually good, if overplayed, songs (case in point: Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl"), but their by-the-book, white bread renditions stripped the tunes of any spirit or character. However, not everyone felt as I did. As Kristie, FP and I were making our escape, we noticed that quite the crowd had gotten up to dance.

Within 20 minutes the restaurant had morphed into a cross between a bad wedding reception and an adult prom. It was as fascinating as it was horrifying.

Once free from that assault on decent music taste, we found ourselves at a nearby bar called the 35-er. I actually chose the 35-er because it had a promising dive quality to it, but I quickly learned that there is a difference between a city dive bar and one in the town that hosts the Rose Parade. We were done before finishing one cocktail each.

Why tell this tale? Well, during the thousands of conversations I have had with people both in the Bay Area and New England who feel the need to tell me what an awful place they believe Los Angeles to be, I have occasionally, if I'm feeling diplomatic, said that I loved growing up in the L.A. area, but I have no idea what it is like to live there as an adult. And I realize that over the years, I have become no more familiar with adult life in L.A. because my visits would repeatedly take me back to the suburban hamlet of my formative years. Nostalgic to be sure, but as you just read, also kind of lame.

However, all of that changed last spring. I think I have become so enamored with Los Angeles over the past seven or eight months because now that my home base has shifted my Pasadena to Los Feliz and Hollywood, I am getting a taste of adult life down there. At least the kind of adult life I would lead. And it's pretty darn fun. Certainly, if you have moral or emotional aversions to automobiles, the film and television industries or the lack of weather changes, you can continue to look down your nose at Los Angeles. But I intend to continue taking frequent holidays in the Southland.

I just need to stay out of the suburbs. And away from any band playing Jimmy Buffett.

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