Thursday, December 14, 2006

LA on My Mind

I had a business meeting in Southern California. There was supposed to be a social event Friday night which was cancelled due to household illness so everything got turned around. As a result, I left Sacramento mid-morning and drove to LA with less urgency. I usually prefer 99 to I-5 because there is more going on. Little did I know that the new bond money is already at work rebuilding the non-freeway portion south of Merced. It was about 5:00 when I reached Valencia when I would have preferred an earlier, or later, entry to LA traffic. With KJAZZ on the radio I was ready for the traffic and my next choice was the route to my hotel in Torrance. I picked the Hollywood and Harbor Freeway route through downtown LA over the San Diego and it was a good choice. The traffic never stopped although it slowed at times and it was good to see LA again and relive the commute that had been my daily experience for twenty-some years. There didn’t seem to be any new buildings other that construction of something near Staples Center but what I found amazing was that the names at the top of the buildings were difference in many cases from those I remembered just 5 years ago. Rush hour on the Harbor Freeway is not a good time for sightseeing so I was not able to make a complete survey. I guess that putting your name on a building is a more tasteful kind of advertising that buying a billboard. There were new buildings crowding the freeway at USC which seemed to be some sort of concert hall complex from the decorations on the slab facing me. After USC, the traffic gradually lightened and I got to my hotel by 7:00.

Saturday morning I was free so I slept until I wanted to get up. I returned to the Harbor Freeway and continued the path of my old commute to the house where I lived until two years ago in Palos Verdes. We sold it when we moved to Sacramento and the buyer had done some needed improvements before selling it nine months later. Part of his improvements includeed a complete clearing of 40 year-old trees which had sheltered the studio we built for my wife from the street. Now the new owner has curtains on the French doors which open onto a grass lawn and the street. It’s no longer our house – in more ways than the legal sense – but it is still a lodestone for me every time I get back to the area.

The drive through San Pedro to Palos Verdes Drive South was much the same but The Donald’s golf course had caused some improvements on the Drive. There are now several parks along the road which overlook the golf course and the ocean. The slide area is still sliding but from the condition Saturday, the last road renovation must have been recent. I noticed a new sign for the ocean side neighborhood just past Abalone Cove. I never knew it had a name in all my years in Palos Verdes. If I had to tell anyone how to find it , I would tell them to look for the Fire Station. Now there is a sign proudly proclaiming the Neighborhood of Abalone Cove. Who knew?

Next I passed the apartment complex where my wife and son lived for the six months between selling our old house and moving to our new one in Sacramento. It looked the same. I did not have much emotional attachment to the apartment but I did love the ocean and Catalina view from our third floor balcony. When we lived there, goats grazed on the open field between the complex and the Marineland site and the exteriors for the Movie, Fun with Dick and Jane were being filmed at a false front residential street over the fence. I had heard that construction was finally started on a resort hotel on the old Marineland site but I saw nothing different.

On to Golden Cove where the ocean view Starbucks has been joined by a Subway. The Starbucks represents an upgrade from 25 years ago but the Subway is a step down from the old Golden Cove Deli. The Starbucks was there before we moved but its neighbors were still under construction. Not an improvement from my perspective.

Then on to Lunada Bay, my old neighborhood and the place my kids call home. When we moved in, I was living my dream. When I first came to California, I stayed with an Army buddy in Gardena and he first showed me Palos Verdes and I began to dream about someday living there. It took me eight years and a detour to Manhattan Beach but we purchased a home three blocks from the cliffs (no view). Number one son was nine months old and number two came along 6 years later. They have never lived anywhere else while they were growing up.

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