Christmas in La La Land
It’s the day before Christmas and all through the Santa Monica apartment, there are creatures a stirring, especially “Les Parisiennes” — my daughter and myself.
Christmas in Los Angeles somehow doesn’t seem like Christmas. Christmas cards always picture Christmas as snowy with big Christmas trees in front of frosted windows next to a glowing fireplace. Kids outside are on sleds going down imaginary hills and the world seems at peace.
Nope, that’s not Christmas in L.A. Here the weather is too mild, the palm trees too out of character and there are too many people other than Christians who simply don’t celebrate and don’t care. There are fewer wreaths on the doors, only a smattering of houses adorned in lights and as many Chanukah menorahs as trees.
We rented a white Mustang convertible and put the top down as we headed north on Lincoln Boulevard to Santa Monica, past the palm trees and the sun setting over the Pacific. Nope, it didn’t feel like Christmas except for the modified pop tune Christmas carols on the radio.
We flew from New York on Friday passing the Grand Canyon along the way. The stark and powerful landscape as seen from the air was a surprise to me, never having seen it from any perspective. It was then I realized how little I knew of my own native land — how Paris and France and Europe had become so much more familiar than the cities and States of those United in which I was born and had lived 42 years.
Los Angeles had been home for seven good years. Every day we woke up to the sunshine, the endless blue skies with its smoky brown layer of smog hanging low. We wore the same clothing every season and never could remember what event in our lives happened when, recalling the same temperatures, the same outfits, the same sunny dispositions. Only the few moments when it rains do Angelenos complain — usually about their cracked windshield wipers or lost tennis games.
That was before we came to know the cool, cloudy skies of Paris and the many shades of Gray Paree. The windshield wipers gave way to pocket umbrellas and the sunglasses stayed dormant in our dresser drawers. No two places could be more dissimilar. Los Angeles is the land of opulence. Paris is the land of financial equality.
As we were exiting the Air France Airbus 380 Double-Decker with not one seat out of 853 available, I heard a New York man’s voice explain to his young son, that if he grew up and made a lot of money, he could afford to have flown in the big comfortable seats of first class. A French father would never have taught such a lesson. Instead, he might have suggested his young son aspire to have the life of the flight attendant who travels the world, has a secure job complete with benefits. Like the Grand Canyon, I realized the depth of the difference of our cultures.
The culture shock is always acute, each time I cross the Atlantic to rediscover the U.S. of A. There is always a confusion between appreciation and disgust. There are so many things about the two cultures I both admire and abhor. If we could only marry and blend them into the perfect utopia.
From the moment we landed, we headed straight to our old haunts for great food while reconnecting with old friends. Top of the list to eat was Chinese Chicken Salad at Chin Chin, Kai Koow Noodles at Thai Dishes, great sushi on Sawtelle Boulevard at Hide Sushi and real Caesar Salad, which, believe it or not, a Frenchman makes at Café Midi on La Brea Avenue. At Porta Via on North Canon in Beverly Hills we had a sumptuous meal amid well-heeled Beverly Hills patrons who were ‘well-tended’ and surgically perfect. It was like being inside the film “L.A. Story” with Steve Martin. Remember it? Remember in the restaurant when at the end of the meal everyone orders something different?:
Tom: I’ll have a decaf coffee.
Trudi: I’ll have a decaf espresso.
Morris Frost: I’ll have a double decaf cappuccino.
Ted: Give me decaffeinated coffee ice cream.
Harris: I’ll have a half double decaffeinated half-caf, with a twist of lemon.
Trudi: I’ll have a twist of lemon.
Tom: I’ll have a twist of lemon.
Morris Frost: I’ll have a twist of lemon.
Cynthia: I’ll have a twist of lemon.
That happened to us…of course. It always does. And we chuckled.
Over the course of the last few days we visited many of our favorite photo galleries before they shut their doors for the holiday week: Gallery Luisotti, Kopeikin Gallery, Fahey Klein Gallery and a special exhibition of Steven Arnold’s work, “Cabinet of Curiosities,” at the One Archives Gallery of whose work I dearly collected mostly before his untimely death in 1994 (to AIDS) and a few pieces since.
As anyone who lives in the area knows, the bane of existence in Los Angeles is the traffic and the time it takes to travel from one part of the city to the other. It’s a serious mistake for the city to have overlooked public transportation and now they are paying the price. Fortunately, the holiday season seems to have shooed most residents away as the traffic is lighter than normal and with the top down on the Mustang, it’s pretty heavenly!
Tonight in proper traditional Jewish fashion, we are taking in a movie and Chinese food while much of the rest of the world drinks hot toddies next to their decorated Christmas trees laden with gifts to be opened in the morning.
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
(at the Getty Museum, LA)
P.S. Mark you calendar for two upcoming events in Paris:
January 8th when Harriet Welty Rochefort, author, speaker and freelance journalist speaks about “Putting some French Joie de Vivre into your life” at Parler Paris Aprés Midi from 3 to 5 p.m. at La Pierre du Marais. Visit Parler Paris Aprés Midi for more information.
January 9th when Timothy J. Smith leads a reading and discussion of his latest book, “Cooper’s Promise” at the American Library 7 p.m., 10, rue du General Camou, 7th. For more information, visit The American Library in Paris