One of those nights when there are more important things to do than sleep.
You should really watch this video. It’s beautiful. A friend put it on Facebook with the comment, “Haters gonna hate, but this is my town.”
I realized that I’ve written about quite a few of these lights before. The Santa Monica ferris wheel, the airplanes over LAX. Once, on another blog — in what feels like a different lifetime — I wrote about the lights of downtown:
There are these certain curves that I love on all of the Los Angeles freeways. There’s one on the 5 — one on the 10 — one on the 101. They’re the curves where you’re driving, driving, and then all of a sudden you sweep around a corner and there’s downtown Los Angeles: Skyscrapers frozen in electric exclamation points, a sparkling geometry on a pink-neon sky.
What was that line from The Perks of Being a Wallflower? — “Lights on buildings and everything that makes you wonder.”
Hello, blogland. How’ve you been?
December 24, 2010, somewhere around 10:30 p.m. I’m shrugging off my jacket at an Episcopalian church in Koreatown. I’m also breathing a private sigh of relief that for the next two hours, all I have to do is sit here quietly.
This church — I hate to admit it — is perfection. It’s a miniature Gothic cathedral, the pipe organ gleaming, the altar nearly invisible under rows of tightly packed poinsettias. There’s a Christmas wreath at the top of every arch along the nave. Beyond the church gates, the neighborhood is seedy and neon-streaked, but inside is an oasis of candlelight.
It’s unusual that my Catholic family has ventured out its chosen denomination (and, nearly as striking, out of the Valley) for Christmas Eve mass. But here we are. Despite the change in venue, it smells exactly like this night has always smelled for as long as I can remember, a combination of incense and wax and evergreen.
I protested about coming here. A lot. There is a different church where we’ve been attending midnight mass for the past I-don’t-know-how-many years, and I was insisting that it was the only place we could possibly go. Now, I am a lapsed Catholic if ever there was one, and most days of the year I am taken to that church only under duress. But at 10:30 on Christmas Eve, it’s where I want to be. Never mind that the priest sounds like Boris Karloff. Or that the lecters all have strange ideas about where you should pause for effect when reading aloud. Or that the hired musicians are united only in their shared disdain for a common tempo. Or that — for reasons never explained — the crèche is always illuminated by a black light, the baby Jesus bathed in a sickly purple glow. The consistent weirdness is part and parcel to why it’s so comforting.
I was feeling particularly in need of some traditional balm this year, since December 2010 has been one of the worst months in recent memory. I have been in state of panic, varying only in intensity, since the day before Thanksgiving — and I say this as someone who is typically so even-keel that I am occasionally checked for a heartbeat. I’ve been bellowing at Christmas songs on the radio (Really, how many times can you play Baby, It’s Cold Outside in a single day??) and forgetting to buy gifts. I have let my work life interfere with my every-other-kind-of-life, and have ended up in a physical and emotional knot, making a variety of poor decisions as 2010 comes crashing to a close.
So I was sulky before we even got in the car. But the drive started to work on me. It’s difficult to be out of sorts when it’s Christmas Eve in Hollywood, everything cold and clear, the 101 like a candy-striped ribbon of red and white. We passed the Capitol Records tower, topped with its hollow Christmas tree; the CNN tower; the new W Hotel; the Knickerbocker (its letters finally restored; for a couple of years, at least, it has proclaimed itself to be the K ICKER OCKER). At the Western Ave. exit, Griffith Observatory glowed like a captive star in the Hollywood Hills. La Descarga’s front curb was clustered with taco trucks and an ominous bouncer or two, making me wonder who on earth was out at La Descarga tonight. My sister, perpetually hungry, made a plaintive but entertaining case for stopping at one of the 24-hour pho places. Then it was chilly enough that I felt festive, glad of my boots and my sweaterdress, while we dashed across Wilshire — having parked sketchily on a broken meter, a true Los Angeles yuletide experience.
And now here’s this beautiful little church, straight out of a movie, doing its best to win me over. The Episcopalians, it turns out, believe in delivering the gospel from the middle of the congregation, which strikes me as a nice touch. So the reverend or father or whatever he’s called here stands halfway down the aisle to read us that old, old story — Caesar Augustus, Galilee and Judea and Bethlehem, swaddling clothes, angels and shepherds and the whole lot. The sermon that follows is striking and energetic. The choir is exactly what a choir should be, and they want everyone to sing along. By the time we’ve gotten to This, this is Christ the King, I’m sold, caroling enthusiastically and losing my thin attempts at the high notes in my sister’s strong soprano.
It ends with the most lovely rendition of Silent Night I’ve heard in a long time. They turn off anything electric, leaving us in semi-darkness, and everyone in the church lights a candle, one from another down every pew. Then we sing, softly, all the way to the quiet effulgence of Christ the Savior is born! Christ the Savior is born! And just as the last strains are fading away, a baby at the back of the church begins to cry, as if on cue. Laughter runs through the crowd. Then everyone is hushed again, candlelit, as we file out into the night.
January 2, 2011, somewhere around dinnertime: It’s not until I’m performing the annual transcription of my New Year’s resolutions that I start to draw the parallels. (An inveterate journal-keeper, I am one of those people who doesn’t feel a resolution has really been made until I write it down somewhere.) I have a whole list of things I’d like to do differently in 2011, but I have hesitated over most of the really worthwhile items. I wonder about plausibility, gravitate back towards what’s comfortable. Maybe I just have a more limited imagination than I had always supposed, but this year in particular, the exercise makes me realize that I have a hard time seeing things as they could be rather than as they are.
It’s surprisingly difficult, isn’t it? To visualize a Christmas Eve you haven’t experienced 25 times before, or a life you don’t already lead. But sometimes a change is startling in its perfection. My real resolution, I think, is to remember that.
Happy 2011, everyone. May you do things differently this year.
There’s getting out of bed, and then there’s waking up. I tend to do them in that order, though I’m told that the reverse is a wiser course of action. This weekend, the result was that I did a lot of waking up in places where it’s assumed you’re already conscious upon arrival.
Friday, I woke up over a weak chai latte on South Beverly Drive. It’s an interesting exercise to spend the morning writing about Watts while you sit a few dozen yards from Rodeo. In my haze, I ended up passively eavesdropping on a long procession of poor little rich girls, sipping Ice Blendeds in their Tory Burch flats. All of them gabbing to each other about nothing in particular — which is confusing when you’re still sleep-fogged enough that you’re trying to remember how English works. I was trying to pin down the particular element in their demeanor that makes them so distinctive, but in all the chatter, I just kept hearing that line from Gatsby: Her voice is full of money….the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it.
Saturday, I woke up already in my sneakers, halfway up Runyon Canyon. It’s not a bad place to come to. If you go early enough, the whole LA basin will be a cup filled with fine white mist, sunrise pouring over the top in a riot of gold and violet, like the most elegant snow cone you’ve ever seen.
Later that day, I also woke up halfway through a football game at the Coliseum. Tough place to fall asleep, but if you manage it, 68,000 people roaring at a referee is one hell of an alarm clock.
So this morning, I went rogue and actually woke up while in bed. There’s a church right down my alley that plays veritable concertos from its belltower on Sunday mornings. I laid there and listened for a while. When sitting up felt like a possibility, I exerted myself so far as to plump my pillow against the wall and reach for Thackeray. He and I spent a comfortable hour visiting with the residents of Vanity Fair — which actually, in many ways, bears an uncanny resemblance to South Beverly Drive on a bright fall day in 2010.
Tomorrow morning, it is entirely probable that I’ll wake up at my desk with my nose almost touching the surface of my coffee. Monday, do your worst.
Wait. Wait. You guys, I said I didn’t have any news, but that was before I saw THIS.
Tell me this isn’t the best headline and lede you’ve read all week:
“Musical stunt shuts southbound lanes of 101 Freeway south of Sunset Blvd.
Three members of the O.C. band Imperial Stars stopped their truck across lanes of the freeway about 10 a.m. Tuesday, plugged in and performed their song ‘Traffic Jam 101.’ The band members have been arrested.”
The raw video (second video down, on the left) is completely priceless. I beg that you watch it.
I am SO SAD I wasn’t on the 101 this morning.
This a picture of my living room wall:
It is, as you can see, yellow. The roommate and I painted it that color, without adult supervision, and I’m pleased to report that the carpet is still its proper beige. I am disproportionately proud of this.
(I’ve been telling people that we chose a “creamy yellow,” which is technically true, but the more direct description is “halfway between a packet of Splenda and a Post-It.”)
Anyway, the point is that this is what I stared at all weekend, so if anything else is going on in LA you’re going to have to tell me about it this time.
Okay, okay, I know I’m creeping back in here with my tail between my legs, but this time I have a really good excuse for the month of blog silence. I swear. See, first I had to go to Hawaii. (Which is a story all by itself, but let me just tell you, that is not the place to rent a car. Also I am spoiled for LA beaches forever.) And then when I came back I had to spend several weeks frantically apartment-hunting and furniture-purchasing. And now I am in the midst of a crosstown move, and this is what my kitchen looks like:
So you see life has been rather busier than normal.
I promise to be better once I am ensconced in the new apartment. I’m excited about having a fresh neighborhood to explore. But in the meantime, while I am wrangling boxes and attempting not to mummify myself with the packing tape, here are some happenings around town to tide you over:
- Tuesday was the hottest day ever in Los Angeles. As in, the hottest day since they started keeping track in 1877. (It figures. After a summer of scarf-wearing and coastal fog, I decide to move away from the beach, and then all of a sudden the place practically combusts.)
- Wednesday, only marginally cooler, was bursting with warm thunderstorms — a phenomenon that happens around here exactly never. Check out this fantastic photo of the weather.
- This made me bitter. New York has somehow laid claim to all of the brilliant, fascinating women, and we’re left with — God help us — Paris Hilton. Then again, New York Magazine created the list. Leaves me wondering what a roundup of the top 20 west coast socialites would look like.
- Speaking of socialites (again, if the term can be applied), La Lohan is on the cover of this month’s Vanity Fair. Her photo shoot was done on the Sovereign — which, per VF, was built in 1961 for Judy Garland — off the coast of Marina del Rey. Sometimes it strikes me funny when I see pictures of stars doing things like this around town, because my reality is so divorced from theirs that I might as well live in a different city. Marina del Rey is where I go jogging in faded Soffe shorts.
- Last weekend brought us the first-ever Beverly Hills Tea Party rally. As Lopez says, “You have to admit there’s something delicious about the sound of the words ‘Beverly Hills Tea Party.'”
And with that I am back to the packing tape, but I will check in when next I have a functional internet connection. Happy weekend!
Today’s tidbit is this pitch-perfect and totally unauthorized commercial for the store where I spend an embarrassing percentage of my weekly income.
If you live in a city where there is no Trader Joe’s — I am given to understand that these exist, though I cannot fathom how the twentysomethings in such cities manage to feed themselves — well, all I can say is come to LA. I will show you a treasure trove of reasonably-priced consumables, full of things like sea-salt brownies and pluots and walnut-studded gouda and sparkling gewurtztraminer. And then I have a futon where you can sleep off the food coma.
The bit about the soy milk makes me laugh, in particular, because it reminds of the time I was hit on in a Trader Joe’s by a scrofulous hippie type who was old enough to be my dad. He kept insisting that he had seen me before at someplace called Yoga World. I told him flatly, “Yoga bores the shit out of me,” in hopes this would get him to go away. It didn’t. When I reluctantly abandoned my perusal of the dried noodles to begin the necessary escape, he skipped after me to suggest that we “get together for a soy milk sometime.” Soy milk? If I look like the kind of girl with whom you would get a soy milk, then it’s possible I have been shopping at Trader Joe’s for too long. But for the time being I’m chalking it up to Hippie Man’s own proclivities, not mine, because the TJ’s chocolate-orange sticks are really not something I can give up just yet.