Archive for November, 2011


November 28, 2011


Here’s what we know:

The first Thanksgiving was celebrated by Pilgrims and Indians in Plymouth. They feasted on the traditional turkey, except it was more of a side (the mains being fish and stale popcorn) and the actual first Thanksgiving was in St. Augustine, Florida, not Massachusetts, unless you count the one celebrated in Leiden before the Pilgrims even got on the Mayflower.

At first, Thanksgiving was observed on different days by different states. Lincoln took it national in 1863 and since then it’s always been the last Thursday of November, except since 1941 when FDR made it the fourth Thursday of November, which is usually (but not always) the same thing.

All you need for Thanksgiving is roast turkey, unless you’re Mexican, in which case it could be a mole, or vegetarian, in which case no bird. It’s nice to start the meal by saying grace, unless you’re Jewish, Muslim, atheist or ________. Honestly, the only Thanksgiving non-negotiable is being American, and being with family. Unless you’re a friend, or foreign, in which case come on over anyway.

Because really, all you need for Thanksgiving is thanks. And we all have something to be grateful for, all of us.



November 19, 2011

LA had its heyday when America did. You can see it in the Eisenhower-era freeways, the bungalow-style apartments, the uselessly glamorous office buildings.

I love this about LA: Feeling connected to the days when cars were good and Russians were bad. When movies had newsreels, television aired live, and newspapers were actually made out of paper: My neighborhood still has newspaper boxes on most corners.

The first time I moved to LA, years ago, my father told me the LA Times was decent. Not the New York Times. But better than most local papers these days. My dad was a professional news junkie. In the morning, while he was getting ready for work, he’d tune his shortwave radio to the BBC and carry it around the house. He read three newspapers a day, not all of them in English.

So when I see the newspaper boxes, I think of him. I can hear him putting the quarter in the slot. I can almost smell it. He’d take a paper, put it under his arm, come back to my apartment — which would surely be familiar to him: the 50s kitchen, the wooden floors, the picture window.

Surely, he would recognize it.


November 13, 2011

My new apartment is in Santa Monica. The neighborhood is also new to me. It’s bounded on one side by the Pacific Ocean and on the other by the Brentwood Country Club. I can walk to three different Whole Foods Markets. In other words: ridiculously posh.

I’m not sure how I feel about it. I mean, in London I lived in the yuppiest loft imaginable, but it overlooked the ghetto, which took some of the guilt out of it. Before that I lived in Venice, one of the few LA neighborhoods that’s really mixed: my gated townhouse was a few doors down from a building where entire families of non-white people lived.

Looking around my new local Starbucks, the most color I see is a couple of brunettes. This neighborhood is very quiet. It’s nice. Like most heavily Caucasian areas, it suffers a from chronic deficit of cool. (Cupcake stores and Pilates studios may be trendy, but that’s not the same thing.)

Again: I’m not sure how I feel about it. When night falls, I get into bed and there are no helicopters circling, no drunks arguing, no car alarms. It’s very quiet. It’s nice.


November 12, 2011

My friend Steve emailed me to say, “Really? Your office hired a bus with stripper poles to take you to a work outing?”

Steve is from Chicago, where apparently such a thing would not happen. That was kind of my point.

For those of you who have never been inside a real LA party bus, and are quietly curious about it, I am providing these photos.


The first thing that strikes you is all the crazy lights: along the ceiling, under the floor, inside the stripper poles. The colors shift continually, from red to blue to green. There is also a mini laser light show that casts sharp slashes across people’s faces. The total effect is mesmerizing. And, when you’re careening up the ramp onto the 405, somewhat nauseating.


Maybe my favorite feature was the Saturday Night Fever floor. I’d assumed those floors died when disco died. Turns out, they’re alive and more or less well, just like John Travolta.



November 9, 2011

When you move to Los Angeles, everyone who doesn’t live here wants to know why.

Why live someplace that’s all boob jobs and short shorts, bad traffic and worse smog? Where the people are either smarmy Hollywood types pretending to like each other, or else daffy hippies who reject chemotherapy in favor of colonics. And LA doesn’t make any intellectual or cultural contributions to the world, unless you count Call of Duty 3.

I wanted to refute these stereotypes, one by one. I wanted to explain how LA is so misunderstood.

Then Friday my work organized a field trip for the creative department. The idea was to soak up some high culture on a visit to the famous Eames House. So we all tromped out to the parking lot and climbed onto a giant… gold… party bus. Equipped with drink holders, flat screen TV, laser lights, disco floor, and stripper poles. Stripper poles! Right in the middle of the aisle, precious close to the seats.*

We did eventually make it to the Eames House. And it was cultural. But I have to say — and maybe this is the thing about LA — it’s the bus I can’t get out of my head.



* The seats were vinyl. The easier to hose off.