Voice (13)

“It’s 10:00 AM on Sunset Boulevard. I can hear the neighborhood waking up, a phlegmatic reveille played on collapsing metal bars and security shutters, with a gathering army of grandmothers pulling wheezy basket carts to the supermarket for their Sunday shopping trips and their old husbands shuffling behind them and spitting on the sidewalks. . . . This much is familiar to me . . . the physical reference points from my youth appear skewed or rearranged. The vacant lots I played hide-and-see-in; the ninety-nine cent stories where my mother and I shopped for wispy matching sundresses that if we were lucky lasted three or four washes . . . . these places are gone, replaced with unfamiliar stores and people I don’t recognize, walking through the ghosts of memories I alone can see. Bizarre “gentrified” color schemes — pastel salmons and electric tangerines — coat the outlines of buildings whose shapes are recognizable but whose occupants and appearances are not. I caress the fresh coats of paint and stucco on these building, looking for the cracks and bullet holes I ran my finger along on my way to school, but smooth, patched surfaces betray none of these former imperfections.”

(image via simonandschuster.com)

— Brando Skyhorse from the The Madonnas of Echo Park

LA in L.A.

ONE OF the things I have always appreciated about living in Los Angeles is that it allows people to travel “back home:” you just have to know where to find your pocket of it.

Yesterday, for some reason, after a lot of hoop-jumping errands, I wanted a bit of New Orleans — my mother’s home. So I traveled to the New Orleans Fish Market where she used to go when she was feeling a little bit that way too, I’m sure.

Couldn’t decide between a po’boy or gumbo.

I looked at the fish and picked out a bag of Camellia-brand red beans then, finally I placed my order. I found a seat and then time-traveled back across the decades. My mother buying shrimp and crab for jambalaya or gumbo or an etouffee. Eye-balling everything. The mental exactitude of my mother; the patience of the fish monger. “Crab boil? More file?” — They’d do the entire back-and-forth in shorthand.

As my order was being prepared, we got to talking: I asked the gentleman behind the counter if they carried cream cheese.

“Aw, darlin’. We don’t any more. Used to but by the time it would get to us from New Orleans it’d be spoiled.” A pause, and then a smile: “You know, not too many people here still ask about Creole Cream Cheese, darlin'”

(Yes, they call you ‘darlin’ too.)

This is what I ended up with:

I’ll be back. Best bowl of “home” I’ve had in years.

Another hidden beauty of L.A.