Look Homeward, Angeleno

I sit here deeply pondering, surrounded by the many years of my life, trying to decide what I could spare or miss. Over there is a small orange box of clippings, Boston Herald, 1944, my first halting steps. I’d be embarrassed to read them now, but they are there. Next is a fat binder of New York Times pieces, 1961–63, not bad. Then, the bulky scrapbooks from the New York Herald Tribune. The day that great paper folded, in its latter-day avatar as the World Journal Tribune, I drove down to Barclay Street and grabbed all the music archives I could carry, and here they still are. On a shelf, in Stor-All boxes, are my pages from New York, New West, the Herald Examiner, the Daily News . . . On my desk sits the iMac with my 15 years at the L.A. Weekly so far, which take up the space, electronically, of the following dot.

There sits my life, and everything else that I would miss in this world is the direct result of what’s in those boxes, those files. From them I have earned the right to shake hands with Esa-Pekka Salonen and hug Frank Gehry, to lunch with Ernest Fleischmann and bask in Zubin Mehta’s scorn. I have earned the right to sample the mysteries of the tasting menu at Matsuhisa and been guided by Jonathan Gold, in person, to discover the indescribable delicacy of steamed live shrimp at Full House. On my own I have mastered a couple of passable pâtés, and a jalapeño corn bread that gets me invited to illustrious homes.

It’s a life nourished, replenished and reinforced from younger, vital sources. Ryan, on his way to journalistic brilliance, saw to it that I got to James Brown’s concert at the Bowl and the Mingus Epitaph at Disney; I guided him through Monteverdi at the Opera. Raymond’s sound engineering, in a garage I used to think was mine, produces recorded rock of a depth and variety beyond any cliché I might have entertained about that genre. Barbara, who turns her shaggy dogs into sweaters, flew here from her farm in Indiana to drive me around after spinal surgery. Sixty or more people show up here on New Year’s Day, eat and drink well, and stay to talk into the night. I love them all, and love that it happens.

The room where I do most of my pondering is a second-story add-on that I put in about 12 years ago. There are windows on all four sides, and a balcony facing west. The stairway is lined with CD shelves, but not all the discs have been unwrapped. I love silence. A friend told me that the room is like a tree house, and that’s exactly right; it’s also the right size of the ­manageable remainder of my life at 83. Almost every afternoon, around 4:30, a flock of wild parrots goes streaming, and screaming, past my south-facing window: a streak of brilliant green flecked with bright red. That’s the most identifiably Californian thing about my life here that I would miss. The rest is identifiably my own. One of these days I might decide I could do without all or part of it, but not for some time.


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