A long time ago when I used to use Nix Check Cashing and drive a 1971 Ford Galaxy Custom (aka the FBIMobile), I recall drving north on Crenshaw Blvd. As I pulled up to the stoplight at Slauson at the foot of the hill they are now calling View Heights 90043, I peered over to the left. In the left turn lane, heading up that hill was a young woman in a brand spanking new Volvo. It had to be a Sunday because her hair was flawless, and she had two young children in the back seat who were immaculately dressed. It was one of those moments that shook my single life mentality to the core. I stared for what seemed like an eternity. I want that. I want that. I want that.
I got that, sorta.
This weekend, the wife went to get her do did off in Pasadena, so I had the kids all Saturday. We knocked around the house all morning, playing some videogames, watching some TV, then it was off to my buddy in PV. We hung out in the park just behind his house with his two tiny young daughters and enormous old dogs. They're like a cross between Weimeraner and Great Dane, the dogs, not the daughters. The kids had a ball with some pirated bottle of silly string and absolutely destroyed dog chew balls and we talked about nothing for a fun change. I don't know where I put the digital camera but somewhere on the chip are pictures of the most precious and precocious 17 month old I've ever met. Soon it was time for the SC game.
We caught the first half on the HiDef and swilled Snapples while USC snapped the heads of the Bruins. At halftime it was time to jet. We piled into The Transporter and flew down the coast to Rosa in Hermosa for shrimp tacos. As we munched, UCLA continued to get crunched. The dudes catty corner from our table were wearing the new broad style of sunglasses that mask the side of the face, and were polite enough to chill on the profanity. But there was no denying that UCLA was getting the shit beat out of them.
Next we headed out to Santa Monica. My son sitting in the front seat twiddled the GPS and my daughters snacked on Nerds in the back. Somewhere heading West on the 10 and rolling off at the Lincoln exit, I suddenly thought that people were watching me in the same way I was watching that woman. It happens to me more often when I roll up to school and drop off the kiddies. When it first lauched, I got the full tilt Turbo Beetle. People used to ask me how it handled and did it have a lot of room, when I would fill up for gas. At the gates of Arroyo Vista Elementary School, little kids would punch each other in the shoulders when I drove up. It's an LA thing. You know the effect you have socially on other people when you're driving the slammin ride. Soon I found myself in a neighborhood where I haven't had an opportunity to drive a sweet hooptie since... ever.
Sometimes it's difficult for me to make sense of progress. There are about 3 new luxury hotels at the Santa Monica Pier that simply didn't exist back in the day. The big building used to be the West Coast HQ for Narconon or Alanon or some such drug rehab palace. Now they've got doormen and valets scrambling around the joint. I pulled past into a lot which rather complex parking instructions and no attendant. Instead there was this computer thing. I ignored it, parked the hooptie and the kids sped off to the jungle gyms in the sand. When I finally caught up to them they were climbing ropes. I don't seem to call the ropes or the nice spongy mats for tumbling when I was a kid. Harumph. Back in my teenaged youth, I used to come right down to that little spot of grass in front of the main lifeguard station and do tumbling runs for the locals and tourists. Today I completely forgot how to lock my feet on the rope and only got up about six feet.
We headed over to the pier where there is a rather impressive construction project afoot. With a checkerboard stack of shipping containers, a museum is being architected. Meanwhile, although the tide is low, the pier was in full glory.We went out to the edge as the sun had just left its orange glow in a strip along the horizon and Venus shimmered. The kids screwed up enough courage to ride The Dragon and screamed through the whole pendulous zero gravity experience. After a few raucous games of air hockey, we were ready to hit the road again.
This time we headed to my old neighborhood. Progress again. It looks as if it has turned the corner and people are investing in the houses. The guy that lives in my old house is an actor on The Sheild and he's adding a second storey. Old Mrs Stanley can't get over how fat I've become. The kids couldn't stop giggling. But now it was time to eat. After a trip to Denny's (kids eat free on Satuday, but you still pay for the drinks) and some classical music, they were knocked out and in a deeper sleep than the UCLA Bruins. The weather had turned cold and windy but we were warm and cozy in The Transporter. I sped down the coast highway watching the bonfires at Dockweiler slowly roll by. It had been a full day, and I felt like a great dad.
It's days like Saturday that I hope continue to live in memory. I am thankful for the ease with which it was accomplished and the opportunity for simple pleasures. I thank God for the blessing of children and the complex ugly beauty that is LA County. Our town.