AARP has been hounding me insultingly for the last seven years. Lured by the promise of cheap car rentals and other discounts I finally succumb and join. The other event of my week is the completion of a 15 mile stroll from Silver Lake to what is referred to as “the beach” but is actually Fred Segel in Santa Monica, or more precisely the Umami Burger contained therein. A bunch of women in the 50-70 age bracket set out at daybreak. A number peel off in Hollywood but four of us trudge on towards the coast. I have completed this walk twice in the past but this is my first attempt in over two years. I make it to the finish line, motivated by the promise of grease, beer and protein. This attempt however feels more strenuous than it was before but it is an exhilarating accomplishment. And the tuna wasabi burger and Allegash ale at Umami are unspeakably delicious rewards.
Joe College and girlfriend come in for a day. Both are trying to arrange summer internships. The boy is doing what he is supposed to be doing but I still flaunt my quantitatively greater life experience and boss him around. He is correct to discount me. The young are supposed to ignore the old and learn by making their own mistakes but that doesn’t shut me up. The quality of my life now would be better but for some youthful folly but I try not to take it personally when the boy ignores and/or forgets the edicts I spew with consummate authority.
Anyone near to me knows better than to compare me to my mother. I do this more and more myself however and this inspires now a bit more self-acceptance than it does loathing. The boy is growing tense now that there is less than a year and a half of college and my constant cheerleading and instigation of brainstorming sessions just makes him even more apprehensive about the future. There is very little I can do now to better illuminate his path or quell his angst. I buy him little trinkets and pack up food for him to take back to school. I felt burdened and controlled by my own mother’s ceaseless offerings. As I accept however my own psychic ineffectuality, I long to have some impact on the boy. So I send him off heaped with cookies and discounted bulk socks.
Joe College’s sojourn to Los Angeles is ostensibly in search of an internship but, being my boy, he also optimizes the eating potential and scores two dinners and a breakfast. I am thinking about a bribe that will motivate him to get his ailing car to the mechanic as early in the day as possible. I ponder that he might like a newish neighborhood joint, S-qirl which has gotten a lot of buzz. While
I ponder whether or not he will find the place pretentious, Himself is parsing a Westways Magazine and mentions this same restaurant at the very moment I am thinking about it. S-qirl apparently specializes in burned toast. Joe College and Girlfriend make it to the mechanic’s in time for a late breakfast and we are pleased that S-qirl also offers toast that isn’t burned and an impressive selection of homemade jams. Just because the place is straight out of Portlandia and has a weirdish menu I’m prepared to hate it. But, all of our food is good and the service is genial.
My children are food-centric like their mother and it will often take hours for the three of us to agree on a restaurant. Himself is less obsessed with eating. Due to cheapness and laziness and the fact that I have learned to cook around his enormous list of gustatory taboos, it is very hard to sell Himself on dining out. His pat response to “Do you want to go out to eat?” is “If you want to…” I infer the dangling ellipse means “but I DON’T want to.” The only surefire way to get Himself out of his chair and into a restaurant is with the promise of pizza. Our usual default is an Argentinian place in Glendale that makes a pie with about a pound of sautéed onions and not much else. His other favorite place is the ancient Casa Bianca in Eagle Rock. Because they don’t take reservations there is often a line around the block for the popular place. “Waiting in line” is in Himself’s trifecta of terrors, along with “parking” and “traffic.” Casa Bianca is only feasible close to the opening hour of 5:00. The kids need to leave early and get back to school so, for once, a very early dinner at Casa Bianca is feasible. I will add that I am scheduled for oral surgery the next day. I will be on a liquid diet for three weeks so my pre op preparation includes ice cream, pizza and Thai food.
The surgery is complete now. I am recuperating at home with true crime shows and Weight Watchers smoothies. I will have to watch Judge Judy with a hot compress and sugar-free pudding instead of my ritual popcorn. Theoretically, this shouldn’t be a big deal but it messes with my brain chemistry and I feel sorry for myself with nothing much to look forward to.
It is Spring Break for Joe College and he and Girlfriend are riding up to the Bay Area with a fellow student. I am anxious due to the bad weather. The boy is 21. I began traveling by myself at the age of 17. I made countless trips, usually in an altered state of consciousness as I recall, to Northern California. I also made a number of visits to Mexico by myself, travelling by bus and train and visiting villages where there was a single phone operator off the town square and the wait was often several hours if they could get a call through at all. As I check the traffic conditions on the Grapevine obsessively I wonder how it must have been for my mother, who lived by herself, knowing that her teenage daughter was traveling alone in remote places and incommunicado for weeks on end. I must have been very cavalier about this at the time but now guiltily acknowledge how rough that must have been on her.
Joe College calls. I am so used to the kids communicating by text that when they actually call I panic. They are driving on the 5 and need to know where to go eat. He is pleased with my suggestions. The 5 is a huge challenge. Harris Ranch is stinky, expensive and mediocre but there is a decent Salvadoran place and an ok Indian in Buttonwillow. Joe College already knows that while cute, the place with the lunchboxes and the big apricot completely sucks. The boy thinks I’m a lightweight on film and music. He’ll listen to Uncle Richard on matters cinematic. Himself and Uncle Bob have musical credibility. My input on these subjects, and certainly life planning is inconsequential but I own the child’s stomach.
Spuds phones as well but at my behest so I don’t have a coronary episode when the phone rings. He is happy and will be home for spring break in three weeks, bringing a friend who’s never been to Los Angeles. This last stretch since Christmas break is the longest I have ever gone without seeing the boy and I am counting the minutes until he arrives. We talk about what sights his friend will enjoy and about the possibility of a few days in Joshua Tree. Spuds primary concern though is, “We have to figure out where to eat.” I don’t tell him that a couple of the places I have in mind offer an AARP discount.