We Like It Like This
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We Like It Like This • Posted: Sep 21, 2019 10:04:33Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

Last year about this time, just after Labor Day, summer’s last hurrah in the US, I visited my son in Los Angeles. I hadn’t actually visited Los Angeles like that since I’d visited my father there, many many years ago, when I was in my early 20s. A very strange and thought provoking experience that was.

The apartment house my father lived in back then was still there, and in good shape. And, of course, you could still clearly see the HOLLYWOOD sign up on the side of the mountain not far from where he lived. The jazz club down at the end of the block, on Sunset, was still there too, but no longer a jazz club. I remember taking walks past it late in the evenings and stopping to listen to the strains of music being played, by studio musicians, I was told, who hung out there most evenings to play something “different”, something closer to their hearts. I remember one strain from a trumpeter that captured my imagination back then, longing, searching, weary. Would I ever in my life know such weariness?

My son and I drove down Sunset Boulevard. The cars were different, but the road and its buildings seemed much the same. The air was much cleaner than I remember. Back then, fumes from brown and yellow buses bit harshly at the back of my throat.

We stopped at a bookstore on Sunset, with a little coffee shop and a sunlit patio out back. Nice. I like bookstores. There wasn’t anything like that there back when I first visited. Back then, people seemed less interactive with each other, more lost in their own thoughts.

Next to the bookstore was a pet store, with a very young dog for sale in the window. A young lady was bending down to put her nose next to the puppy’s through the glass. “How much is that doggy in the window?”, I couldn’t help thinking. Long long time since I thought about or heard that song.

After looking through the books, we had coffee out on that patio. I watched two young women seated at another table, smiling and joking with each other with great affection, not as partners in crime, but as lovers, seriously flirting with each other. That was different, too. Back when I visited, you might have seen two gay guys flirting with each other, but not two women. I had my camera with me, but there was no chance to deftly capture the teasing sparkle of endearment in their eyes. I wish I had had the chance, though.

My son and I spent some time at Echo Park, too. Echo Park isn’t actually very far from where my father lived, but I’d never visited it. I’d only heard about it in songs from the late 1960s, like Flower Girl. Apparently, the park had become quite a dump since back then, home to the homeless and drugged out druggies, with piles of trash everywhere. Only recently had the park been rehabilitated. And, they did a nice job. Water in the lake was clean and frequented by swans. There was now a high spouting fountain out in the center, with little paddle boats shaped like much bigger swans that you could rent to push-peddle through the fountain mist. There must have been ten or twelve out on the water that day, with both young and older couples in each. Again, nice.

My son took me to someplace I’d never been before, too, Venice Beach, backdrop to many a Hollywood film and fiction. The images above were made there. I can’t help thinking as I look at those images and remember my experience of the place, that these are contented people, relaxed, confident, in control of who they are and what they are doing. And, as I looked around that day, I wasn’t seeing only upper class white people. I was seeing Asians, Hispanics, people from India and the Middle East, and from Africa. And mostly, I was seeing young people, educated young people, people with reasonably good jobs that provided them with reasonably adequate resources. They didn’t look rich. They didn’t look poor. Rather, they looked unstressed and unconcerned. They looked pleased with their lives.

I think back now to that visit with my father. It wasn’t a good time in his life. He’d come out there on his own, estranged from his wife, my mother, and disenchanted with his career as a consulting engineer. He’d wanted something more from his life, something he’d dreamed about when he’d first come to Hollywood as a young soldier back near the end of WWII, when he’d danced with Rita Hayworth at the Brown Derby. His life had been a lot more grind and disappointment than memorable contentment since then. And, I think he’d come back to Hollywood near the end of his life, not to relive or recapture some of what he’d missed, but to just remember and to wander again through the Hollywood set that had inspired those dreams of his from long ago.

Not all of us will enjoy through the greater portion of our lives, the contentment I saw with my son in the faces of those young folks that day, both on the beach, walking and talking in Echo Park, outside that pet store, and on that bookstore patio. In fact, I venture to say that most of those young people will, sooner or later, find their own contentment seriously disrupted. Unforeseen change and unforeseen disappointment is almost inevitable. We all experience it. The only difference is in how fast we regain sure footing. Education and tolerance are the key ingredients, I think. Tolerance appreciates reality as it comes. Education fuels imagination. May you never lose touch with either.

Before my father’s life ended, he did reestablish a kind of relationship with his wife, dabbled successfully in a new career, and contributed significantly, and I think with personally satisfying results, to the lives of people he cared about, mine for instance. In the end, the music of his life was never as dispirited and weary as the strains voiced by that trumpeter I’d heard so very long ago. And, may yours never be, either.

Saturday, September 1st, 2018
Venice Beach