Sunday, January 05, 2020

California Dreaming

LA skyline

We returned from Los Angeles at 3am Monday after our first flight was delayed for an hour. Then our replacement flight through Oakland sat on the tarmac for two hours. It was a nightmare.

The old LA Times Building.

Fortunately, the eight days we spent in LA were full of adventures, good food and the love and appreciation of family. I told our son and his wife that it might have been the best Christmas ever. And that’s saying a lot. It was so special because we enjoy the same things and can still do all of them together. How wide the window is for doing “all of them together” is an open question and speaks to the importance of sharing more experiences while we can. I have a long list of options.

The Reel Inn on PCH, Santa Monica

In those eight days we drove all over the Los Angeles area to visit museums, art exhibits, theatres, the Santa Monica Mountains, Malibu and, most important, interesting restaurants. Garrett and Michelle like to eat as much as I do. And they like a variety of cuisines as was demonstrated by our eating itinerary. We drove to Malibu for seafood at the Reel Inn, Little Tokyo for Japanese, to Ramen on York in gentrifying Highland Park for more Japanese, dinner under an umbrella in torrential rain at the romantic Inn of the Seventh Ray in Topanga Canyon, a nine egg omelet at the Country Deli in Chatsworth (I exaggerate to make the point that it was huge), the best fish tacos ever at SeƱor Sol in Reseda, Prime Rib for lunch at the circa 1946 Smokehouse across from the Warner lot in Burbank and BBQ at Zeke’s in Montrose complete the ensemble. The pulled pork was especially worthy and that’s my test of any barbecue joint.

Angelenos will drive thirty minutes for a good taco. Or, apparently, for anything else that sounds good at the time. Man, we put on the miles.

Chris Shary, Lori Herbst, Michelle Stone and Garrett Immel at Alt-Art Opening in downtown LA.

A portrait in the show

Our whirlwind tour of Greater Los Angeles began shortly after we arrived Saturday evening. We sat down to a spread of pollo al carbon from El Pollo Loco, a California quick service chain with a branch a few blocks away and exactly the food I hoped for before heading downtown. Then we headed to an art opening with a punk rock theme. To us the center of the show was the work of Lori Herbst and Chris Shary, artist friends of Garrett and Michelle’s from Stockton. Chris is the preeminent punk rock cover and tee shirt artist whose full-time gig is teaching high school Theatre. Lori is a prolific artist who sews photo realistic portraits reflecting pop culture and contemporary themes on textiles and vinyl. Her work is shown the Greg Moon Gallery here in Taos. Greg, a good friend, would have loved the show.

The Aero Theatre on Montana in Santa Monica

Two nights before Christmas might have been the highlight of the visit. Garrett and Michelle took us to the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica for a screening of Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life, the holiday classic starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. Be still my heart. I saw Reed at mall in Phoenix when I was about fourteen. I’ve been in love with the woman ever since. But I digress. The Aero is operated by the non-profit American Cinematheque which also operates the famed Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, so it was bursting with cinemaphiles who knew all the lines and chanted “Capra, Go Capra” at the film’s tear streaked end. The popcorn gets two thumbs up, too.

The Walt Disney Concert Hall, LA Downtown.

The next day after scrumptious noodles in Little Tokyo, we repaired to The Broad Museum by way of the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Disney Hall may be the most photographed edifice in the United States and, if it isn’t, it’s our own San Francisco de Asis church in Ranchos de Taos. Frank Gehry’s metal clad masterpiece, I use the term advisedly, doesn’t have a bad angle. Not everybody reveres the glistening thing but I do because every angle offers an abstraction worth memorializing.

Elvis by Warhol. The Broad Museum.

As to The Broad, Eli Broad’s monument to his wealth, not so much. The building I loved. It’s a magnificent space to display modern art. And its roster of modernism's giants is among the best. The stars on display this visit included Chuck Close, Jeff Koons, Ed Ruscha, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol and many more. So, if your mission is to see a bunch of modern art icons in one swoop, go to The Broad. For the most part the work didn’t reach me on an emotional level and Warhol was pulling our chain.

The Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena.

Degas' Ballerina

The Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, another man's homage to himself, did resonate. It’s collection of European masterworks is spectacular and its collection of the Dutch Masters alone is worth a trip to the City of Roses, my favorite town in all of the Golden State. Visit the Norton Simon to see works by Rembrandt, Goya, Picasso, Degas, Raphael, Renoir, Modigliani, Kandinsky and the list goes on and on. And while you’re in manicured Pasadena drive east to see the magnificent Huntington Museum and Gardens. A day in Pasadena is a day well spent.

No visit with Garrett and Michelle whether here or there is complete without a hike and so we drove north through the Santa Monica Mountains to the Paramount Movie Ranch in Agoura. Truth be told this was more of an amble through the oaks and grassy swells of what was a movie locale replete with western sets and faux downtowns that were destroyed by the Woolsey Fire in 2018. All that's left is the train station and the regenerating landscape.

Valley Oak, Paramount Movie Ranch.

Standing out among the good times was the growing realization of how much Garrett and I are alike. For a while now we’ve joked about our similarities and, speaking as a proud dad, it pleases me greatly. For starters we’re both Virgos. Not that I hold stock in Astrology. I most assuredly do not. I turned 26 three days after he was born on September 8, 1967 in Tucson. Maybe that’s why the town has a such warm spot in my heart. That and a misspent semester at the UofA where my memories are of serenading the women’s dorm and making booze runs to Nogales.

We are both musicians or, more correctly, he’s a real one and I acted like one for a half dozen years including the blurry fall of 1959. We resemble each other some though that’s less evident as I’ve withered to a skinny 5’9 ½”. We both like the open road and follow it whenever we can. He loves to eat and, fortunately, inherited the discipline gene and works out almost daily. He takes Sunday off. My day off is Monday. Sharing that trait came full circle when Michelle gave me a Christmas gift hint. “Take him to buy running shoes” she suggested. And to make the synchronicity complete we went to the Fleet Feet store in Burbank where, after trying three brands of shoes, he chose the Nike Pegasus, the shoe I’ve worn since it came out 36 years ago.

My life is complete.


Chris said...

What a wonderful read; sounds like you had a very special time, thanks for sharing it.

Steve Immel said...

Thanks Chris. I was special, indeed. Happy New Year to you. Steve

Blacks Crossing said...

Fred just uttered from the loom "I had a thing for Donna Reed myself." Anyway, you began 2020 with one heck of a blog, and probably one of your best. Clearly, Garrett and Los Angeles inspire you to the nth degree and it was such a pleasure reading about your epicurean and art adventures that I was transported. The first two skyline shots are quite incredible, and the two with human incursion into the photographs (Elvis' Warhol and the Alt Art portrait) are very interesting. The text is sublime. May additional road adventures in the Sprinter come to pass in 2020.