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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A NEW YORK SATURDAY AFTERNOON RIGHT HERE IN LOS ANGELES

I've never lived in New York City but I've visited enough to know its vibe. The city holds an endless supply of potential events. It's a fountain that never stops bubbling. For adventure all one need do is step onto the sidewalk and start walking. And the shear abundance of, well, everything, means that whatever you desire, whatever whim floats into your mind, you’re never more than a few steps from turning it into a reality. The limits of your experience depend only on those of your imagination. At least that's the mythology of New York. That's the allure. While it's true that nothing comes easy in the New York, it's also true that everything is possible. It's all there, in all the storefronts and all the cafes and all the bookstores and brownstones and bricks and in the very mortar that holds those bricks together. The city breathes in great heaves and with each exhale asks the people who wonder if they'll find what they're looking for, "Why not?" People may get sick of New York but they never get bored.

Los Angeles is not such a city. Whereas New York challenges the people to go out into the street and make their dreams happen, Los Angeles tells us to relax, take a deep breath and look within for happiness and fulfillment. We put all our energy into surrounding ourselves with the things that make us comfortable while blocking out the noise of the outside world. We do this in our cars and in our homes. We isolate ourselves in an attempt to create our own little spot of sense, a dot of happiness on which we close our eyes, cross our arms and squat.

But sometimes the opposing sensibilities of the two metropolises unexpectedly bleed into one another and we find ourselves enjoying the hyper accessibility of New York with the slow paced slack of Los Angeles.

Last Saturday was just such a day.

It started out with an early morning run through the neighborhood. The music in my earphones kept me from hearing the hello’s and good morning’s of my neighbors but I waved and said hello back. More Los Angeles insular behavior. I followed up that physical activity with several hours of concentrated inactivity involving a couch, an ottoman, a remote, coffee, eggs and toast.

Then Cindy and I picked up friend Chris and headed out to Cafe Tartine, a French spot at the corner of Beverly and Martel, reputed to serve a mean open-face salmon sandwich. Looking out the cafe’s oversized street level window at the cars and people, it all seemed remarkably clean. It had rained earlier in the day but did they sweep the streets between now and then? Occasional hipsters strolled in and out and the sun peeked out from behind the gray cloud cover, unusual for January. Approaching the precious, we each sat with our own press pots in front of us while we tried to make our salads and proscuitto and melted cheese last as long as possible, but this meal, like all others before it, eventually came to an end.

Off to the Forum Gallery up Beverly a few blocks west of Fairfax to see ten or so paintings by Davis Cone, realistic paintings of Art Deco movie theatres mostly in New York state but from elsewhere as well. We marveled at the detail, the precision, and the artist's powerful command over light. Someone offered, "The realism is so shocking it kinda takes away from the composition of the painting. It almost becomes a distraction. The artist and not the art becomes the star of the exhibit.”

We proceeded farther up Beverly to Blueprint, a mid-priced furniture store that has a fairly large showroom filled with cool-looking if suspiciously crafted furnishings. Searching for the perfect day bed, Chris considered a few upstairs and filed them away in his memory bank under "Maybe."

Across the street, the Kings Road Cafe supplied us with espresso, lattes, biscotti and a peanut butter cookie. We stood on the street and consumed our consumables as late afternoon was rapidly giving way to dusk.

One more stop while in the neighborhood - to visit friend Julia at the modern furniture store where she works. Nothing suspect about her wares, the furniture here is nice, nice and nice. And so is Julia. After speculating on how certain items in the store might fit into a fantasy world in which Cindy and I are millionaires, we said goodbye to Julia and wandered back into the night and the car.

Reflecting on the afternoon later, it occurred to me that it was a New York kind of a day right here in Los Angeles. Everything seemed within reach - good food, good art, good friends, all connected by the pavement and asphalt. The day felt like it could go on forever, carelessly leading us from one random stop to the next. It was a soothing, reassuring feeling like the city itself had swaddled us in its concrete and palm trees, telling us everything was going to be alright. Standing on Beverly Boulevard dunking our dolce in coffee while the sunset beamed its orange cast across the cars and buildings, we were at peace and we knew it.

Cities are at their best when they speak to us, whether to shame us or to comfort us.



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