Sunday, April 12, 2009

Back from LA

Easter, and we're back from L.A.

Andy and I just got back from L.A. on the red eye, came home, slept a few hours, and now it’s evening East Coast time on a bright cool day with jonquils and forsythia below and blue sky, bare branches above with just the faint tease of a few green leaves coming on. So it’s good to be home.

And what a five days! Fun, Sarah’s family and– and engagement! Joel did it the old fashioned way, even designing a ring for her himself, and she was ecstatic, both of them as happy as they can be. Andy and I are deeply happy also, but not surprised (how could we be?). Their romantic old-fashionedness is so different from Andy and me living together 12 years and then sort of sidling into the whole thing. This took place at her birthday dinner, on one knee, the whole shebang! No wedding date set..

Sarah feeding Joel a loquat

The night we arrived, Sarah’s parents Phil and Jan took us with their exhuberant generosity to dine at Spago, which was super! The famous Wolfgang Puck restaurant, with great creative food (salmon pizza scattered with little red jewels of roe!) and a sort of post modern art nouveau decor that I liked a lot. The next day, it was the Weinberg ranch, which is absolutely the most wonderful place, created for family, and the happiest home of all the children– swimming, bunnies ponies a great pack of Labrador retrievers who love people and lie on the porch welcoming visitors. Mr. And Mrs. Weinberg were so open and welcoming to have us at their family Seder, and we met Sarah’s uncles and aunts on that side, plus many many cousins, and little first cousins once removed so that you had the feeling of the generations, and then, if you added in the actual Seder, which emphasizes discussion rather than ritual, you get a sense of a family that consciously and lovingly situates itself in history and love as well as in the beauty of Southern California.

Various family members led discussions at different points, and Sarah had invited me and Andy to come up with readings relating the struggle for freedom to those beyond the Jews, appropriate since I am rather by definition beyond the Jews, and I found a favorite passage from the Autobiography of Frederick Douglass where he learns the power of education, plus a passage in Leaves of Grass where Walt Whitman imagines being a conductor on the Underground Railroad.

The second day we spent walking around and meeting ponies and bunnies and swans (on their nest, and the male swan put on a pretty terrific display of expanding feathers and hissing when one of the chocolate lab puppies approached). We swam, we ate lunch and dinner, we got to know the family members a little more.

Friday, Sarah worked long distance and Joel drove us to L.A. for the Getty museum and a little tourist stuff– Hollywood, which is wonderfully commercialized, and it seems just right. We had dinner back in Westlake Village, near our hotel (the really lovely Westlake Village Inn) and a powerful discussion with Joel about his thoughts for the future, his Judaism, my recent readings of the Cecil Roth and Abram Leon Sachar histories of the Jews.

Saturday we had Sarah for our sightseeing, too, and went back to Los Angeles and met my nephew (graduate student in piano at USC) Alex Kato-Willis and his girlfriend (USC undergraduate in vocal music) Kiry for lunch.

Kiry, Sarah, Joel, Alex, MSW, Andy at Cafe 29 near USC

This was a lot of fun, photos of Joel and Sarah and Alex and Kiry and me and Andy, sitting on the porch of a cafĂ© with South Central nonsense happening outside– some USC cops arresting an old drunk on a bicycle. About 5 cop cars to do this! We really enjoyed talking with them, then walking around USC a little, and then driving the Venice Beach, which is, as Andy said, like the Lower East Side thirty years ago with a beach– surfers, jewelry vendors, neat street theater types– a gold painted black man with a fake dog who holds still like a statue. A stilt walker dressed like a tree god, and the really quite wonderful Calypso Tumblers who were part break dance and part circus tumblers and part gymnasts– a couple of whiteboys did the gymnastics style floor work. A big troop, begging money, occasionally shouting out that drugs are bad. Something quite special about live acts like that-- guys flying through the air over cement with just their own muscles and skill. And, as Joel pointed out, all the people hoping they'd crack open their heads!

And then– the pleasures of LAX, and a crowded plane home next to a Lady with a Lapdog in a box. Mostly.

Interesting piece to think about by one of this spring's speakers at Ethical Culture, Dean Sluyter.

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