I’m not much on absolute favorites. I’m much more a “Top 5” or “Top 10” kind of guy — the sort who always qualifies his appreciation of things, inserting “one of” into anything I’m glowing and crowing about.

  • “That is one of my favorite Frank Lloyd Wright residences.”
  • “My 19th birthday? One of the best I’ve ever had.”
  • “Without question, Dude Where’s My Car stands as one of the most awesome motion pictures in the history of motion pictures.”

If I do feel particularly daring, I might drop the “one of” for a “probably” or “perhaps.” Bold, right?

But then there’s John Steinbeck and I wipe the wish-wash away.

John Steinbeck is my favorite writer. Absolutely. No “perhaps” or “one of” about it. And I just now learned that he lived in Los Angeles for a spell. Montrose, to be exact. for a few months between 1932-33. And the tiny house he rented still stands behind an apartment building built in the ’60s on Hermosa Avenue.

If you know me at all, you know I go crazy over shit like that, because it’s easy for me to mythologize my heroes as far-removed like gods up on Olympus. I’ve practically made a shrine out of the bungalow Mr. and Mrs. Jackie Robinson lived in near Western and Jefferson in his monumental year of 1947. Hell, I’ve known for a couple years that F. Scott Fitzgerald died a loooong way from West Egg in a West Hollywood apartment on Hayworth Avenue a half-block south of Sunset Boulevard, and whenever I recall that nugget I still shake my head in amazement. F. Scott Fitzfuckinggerald!

The coincidence is that I learned both things via my friend Rodger Jacobs. The irony is that he laid Steinbeck’s LA connection on me after I commented on his blog about “London House,” a unique Hollywood residence south of Melrose Avenue just off Van Ness which legend has it Jack London lived in during a 1906 visit here. Trouble is the legend’s a total fiction. The house, built by the author’s sculptor friend Finn Frolich, wasn’t constructed until the 1920s, augmented with a bas relief by Frolich of the writer mounted near the entry. London might have lived there in spirit and memory, but spirit and memory only.  He died in 1916.

In response to my comment, Rodger (not coincidentally who’s written the preface to a new book out titled Jack London: San Francisco Stories, which you can buy on Amazon and should) wrote back to me that he once lived a few blocks from where Steinbeck lived in Crescenta Valley.

After I stopped saying “No way!” and “Dood!” to my computer screen, I got out my e-shovel and started digging around the internest, first finding out from a column in the Crescenta Valley Weekly that the home was somewhere on Hermosa Avenue between Sunset Drive and Rosemont in Montrose and ultimately finding out the address from none other than Steinbeck himself, via Google Books and its e-version of Steinbeck: A Life in Letters. Appearing on page 66 is a note written to publisher Robert Ballou, one of several from:

A visit will certainly be in order after this seriously most awesome discovery. No “one of” or “perhaps” about it.

UPDATE (5:39 a.m.): Oh my goodness — a personal connection! Correspondence included in Steinbeck: A Life in Letters shows that for a time in 1930 he lived at 2741 El Roble Drive in Eagle Rock, which was on my route back when I worked for Sparkletts. In fact, if memory serves from checking out the Google Street view image of the house, the occupant at the time was a customer of mine!

As one of them perportedully perfeshunal editor types, I’m at risk of being on the receiving end of a wiiiiide variety of press releases — most of them unrelated to my publication.

Some of them are not only unrelated but flat-out kooky. Case in point, this one just landed in my inbox and I’m helpless to keep it to myself:

Subject: News Conf/L.A. Press Club/Oct 8/Chocolate Strawberries 4 U

(Los Angeles)  Center of The Golden One will hold a major news conference at the LA Press Club in Los Angeles on October 8,2010 at 11:00am.

At this special news conference on October 8, Kendra Gamble, great-great-granddaughter of one of the founders of Procter & Gamble will unveil”The Announcement,” which will lead up to an online and print media event on 10-10-10.

The event called “The Announcement” will feature a presentation by Ms. Gamble and Rachael Wilder, Press Secretary for Center of The Golden One.

“The Announcement” is potentially the most significant event in modern history and may ultimately affect the lives of millions of people throughout the world.  In preparing to make “The Announcement,” Ms. Gamble has already been heard by over a million people in her print and radio interview.

“There are many names for God.  There are many paths to God.  But there is only one God,” said Ms. Gamble, “For history’s sake and the sake of peopleeverywhere, come hear ‘The Announcement.'”

Refreshments will be served.

Where to begin LOLing:

  • The “Chocolate Strawberries 4 U” in the subject line
  • Center of the Golden One
  • Great-great granddaughter to a Procter & Gamble founder
  • The “LA Press Club in Los Angeles” redundancy
  • 10-10-10 tie-in
  • The total lack of imaginative flair in simply calling such a to-be-monumental event “The Announcement” instead of perhaps “The Really Big Announcement” or “The Miss This And Be Damned Announcement”
  • Bonus points for repeating “The Announcment” four times
  • Ms. Gamble heard by more than (say it emphatically, Austin Powers-style) ONE MIIIIIILLION people
  • Ms.Gamble’s urgent plea to the world for the sake of the world to come to the announcement of The Announcement… nevermind that it’s a “news conference,” which by design doesn’t require the whole world to be present
  • Ending with “Refreshments will be served.”

I’m almost tempted to go to this.

This ad has been popping up on various websites I visit. If you’re not familiar with “Rich Dad” Robert Kiyosaki he’s a rags-to-riches self-empowerment guru who’s built an empire through books, seminars and such, preaching about how knowledge is the key to success — and there’s nothing wrong with that truth.

Trouble is I wish whoever was in charge of this particular ad had the knowledge to recognize that the unsuccessful juxtaposition of a blithely smiling Kiyosaki sitting next to his proud doomsaying boasts about devastating economic events past and to come (pitched, of course, to draw people to his “free”workshops, so he can profit off them as they learn his “secrets” for how to “profit” off such tragedies) conjures up a vision of him not as someone inspiring trust, but rather as something of shill grinning his way through the gates of hell who can see suckers much more clearly than he can see the future.

Not sure what at all’s going on with the sudden and surprise change from my blog’s long-standing theme to this default version that I discovered this morning when I opened up my browser.

It’s through nothing I did and other than contact my webhost I’m at a loss as to how to fix it.

So here’s hoping Dreamhost can figure it out before I go crazy from the bland derivativeness and do something to break it further.

UPDATE (2:32 p.m.): Well, my original theme is back. Yay. Somehow, unbeknownst to myself nor my webhosters it got deactivated so after much fretting, I clicked the “activate” link and everything seems back to how it once was. I hope.

My good man Jason DeFillippo, Metblogs cofounder and most decidedly one who does not mince words harshly took me to task after I tweeted who won “Survivor” following the finale’s conclusion a couple Sundays ago:

“Posting spoilers is like fucking someone’s kitten. You just don’t do it.”

And he was right to do so.

In my defense, I did the deed after the result was aired on the west coast, but still. It was an important reminder that beyond timezone differences we’re in an age of DVRs and delayed viewing. And it’s simply good and considerate practice to keep the beans unspilled. For how long? I don’t know that answer. I don’t care about that answer.

Fast forward to last night and I’m watching “American Idol.” Early on in the typically interminable finale, shortly after the Bee Gees sang “How Deep Is Your Love” with a couple of this season’s Top-10 finishers, I tweeted how seeing the surviving Brothers Gibb perform, made me smile. Sincerely so.

Not long thereafter came a response from a bike-minded enthusiast I follow whose Twitter name is cyclingnirvana:

“Yes, me too! But the power grab from Janet Jackson made me sick.”

Wondering what he was talking about, I tweeted back:

“Hmmmmm, I think I missed that… Or it hasn’t happened yet?”

And he came back with:

Sorry, it happens late in the show.

Ah, so now the two of us realize two things. I know he’s in a timezone east of me (turns out  way ahead of me in Florida), and he knows I’m in one behind him somewhere. I fleetingly toy with the idea of requesting that he keep any news of the winner to himself but give him the benefit of the doubt that he wouldn’t do such a silly thing.

Not more than a few minutes later while I’m transfixed by Christina Aguilera’s performance, he does:

“Really would have liked to see Crystal Bowersox win. She has an awesome voice and style. But I’m sure she’ll do well.”

I toyed with several harsh replies, such as a replay of Jason’s aforementioned reality check and  “Really would have liked to see you STFU,” but instead because I’m sure he’s a decent fellow who was just tweeting what happening around him I just admonished him with an entirely expletive- and animalporn-free:

“Dood. Way to spoil it for those of us who aren’t in your timezone.”

Which the guy completely ignored. Nirvana? More like some nerve.

UPDATE (11:52 a.m.): Strike that part about him ignoring me. I got a direct message from him this morning apologizing.

Friday was a sad day that just got progressively sadder. In reverse order of discovery, one of our three treefrogs died, the imminent demise of LA Metblogs was announced, and I lost a Twitter friend. It’s the last one that’s affected me the most.

Her Twitter name was @glittergran. Her real world name was Sonia and she was a retired fashion editor somewhere in England, and that’s about all I knew about her (which is a helluva lot more than I know about most of the tweeters I follow or am followed by). I’m not even sure how we found each other out there in the ether, but I fell in love with her because of her marvelous personality, which came shining through in 140 characters or less. In turn she enjoyed my tweets and my blog and always found time to encourage others Twitter followers to give me a looksee.

A few weeks earlier this month she suffered a stroke, but was released from the hospital and seemed to be recovering. Then came the news yesterday that she had passed Monday, provided by an assistant of hers who’d taken over her Twitter account.

It surprised me how much her death affected me — even moreso when I found that her final tweet had been to me.

It was sent at the end of a brief exchange (trivial even — but on Twitter aren’t they all?) that began when I sent out a brief harumph of a critique about the disappointing “The Lovely Bones.” In the tweet I said the best thing about the film was its somewhat out-of-nowhere use of The Hollies “Long Cool Woman.” She tweeted back that I made her feel old because she owned the original vinyl album that song is on. I tweeted back “Sweetheart, damn the years. If you’re old then I’m a martian,” followed up by another tweet: “PS. I have my own share of those LPs,” accompanied by a picture (at right) that I snapped of our shell-full of vinyl.

In the busy week that followed I didn’t really notice an absence of Sonia’s presence on twitter. I figured she had doctors’ visits and was doing more important things like resting and getting better. Then came the message to me Friday morning:

Hi I am glittergran’s PA. I know she tweeted to a cyclist in LA so I guess it must be you. In case you don’t know she sadly passed away on Monday. Her funeral is tomorrow at 11am – just in case you want to share a thought at that time. I know she was fond of your blog and tweets.

I was stunned, but handled the shock and the emotion until I was looking at her past tweets and found the last one she sent after I had tweeted that picture to her of my record collection:

Thanks WB. I was having a bad day, but that made me smile.X.

Then I lost it. Jeez, I just got choked up again. Whoo…

Rest in peace, Sonia. My Twitterverse has lost a lot of its sparkle, but I know Heaven’s that much brighter with you there.

Dear Verlyn Klinkenborg,

I just read your May 8 column about your ongoing failquest to find the “real” Los Angeles on today, and if I wasn’t so enamored with your entirely awesome name, I’d have sworn at you three times already, because normally when I read something like what follows, I just want to cuss like a sailor:

Something escapes me about Los Angeles. Wherever I go, I always imagine I’m finally going to grasp its essence. I try to feel its harmonics in my bones.

I watch the edges of the freeway to see if there is a clue in the debris the traffic sweeps to the sides. I wonder if there would be room for all these cars if they decided to find parking spots at once.

The iconic glimpses don’t help me in my quest — not the sudden view of the Hollywood sign I get from the Hollywood Freeway, not the view of downtown almost floating in the sunset from Pasadena. Every now and then, I turn a corner and think that something essential is about to be revealed. The feeling intensifies all the way up Venice Boulevard into Culver City, and then I’m on National taking one of those curious hidden freeway entrances and suddenly the feeling vanishes.

I’m new to you so I have no knowledge of how long you’ve been in Los Angeles and writing about it. Maybe you’re fresh and fully assimilated into the prevalent car culture. Or maybe you’ve been out here awhile and this is just more of what you’ve been writing. Gawd, I hope not. But either way, as someone who’s a native as well as a perpetual tourist in my own town, I’m the first one to admit your job ain’t easy. I’ve spent a good portion of my life trying to feel the city’s harmonics in my bones and it don’t come simple. Having said that I can only wonder if you’re kidding or if you indeed really think you’ll find what you’re looking for strapped in behind the wheel of a vehicle, seemingly addicted to our freeways and one of the more soulless stretches of Venice Boulevard. As such, if you’re at all legitimately interested in ending your deadend game of seek and hide with this wonderful city, I’m going to tender you the following heartfelt advice.

  1. Get off the 101 or the 10 or the 134 or the 405 — and stay off!
  2. Get out of your goddam car — and stay out!
  3. Get somewhere. On foot, on a bike, on a bus or a train — but for gawd sakes as much as you might want to don’t go to City Walk, or LA Live or the Grove. Go to a Dodger game. Go to Boyle Heights. Go to Union Station. The LA River. Go to Leimert Park. MacArthur Park. Go to the Watts. West Adams. San Fernando Mission. Venice.

Of course if you sincerely think that eye-spying shoulder trash and stalking onramps is the way to go about grasping at any of this city’s essence then my advice will be lost on you. And if so, tell you what: get out. Because it’s never going to happen. You’re just going to pound out more banal columns bemoaning Los Angeles as always being beyond the reach of your vestigial intellect.

So either get your boots on the ground and get busy or do yourself and L.A. a favor and order yourself up a window seat back to NYC. and as the jetbird swings back over land after its LAX take off over the ocean, look down. You’ll have just as good a chance of harmonizing with our lost city from that removed and encapsulated a vantage point as you would from a car stuck in traffic on the 110. And when that fails to happen you should have no trouble picking out the 10 and the 101 and the 405 and the 134 from the grid below and remembering all the good times you had on them.

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