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HomePublicationBurbankChris Erskine: Hooray for L.A. — or Most of It Anyway

Chris Erskine: Hooray for L.A. — or Most of It Anyway

Right now, L.A. smells like children — like a birthday bash of toddlers, the collective goo of Skittles and Hawaiian Punch still on their teeth and chins.
Pow! What a perfume — in the bushes, within the trees. It’s actually all the blooming jasmine, I suppose. Or maybe some new Nancy Silverton dessert.
In any case, take a bow, Los Angeles. Truth is, you’re kind of wonderful right now. If you weren’t so shallow and full of yourself, I might take you ballroom dancing … my Gothic Cinderella.
Spent an evening at Musso and Frank last week and marveled over the floor show of waiters darting this way and that, in their splendid red monkey vests. Musso’s is the gift God gave L.A. to make up for the traffic, the brusqueness, the hype, all the gummy sidewalks.
I’m always amazed at: 1) How crazy-packed Musso’s always is, and 2) How attentive the hosts are to arriving customers, regulars and strangers alike — far more than they need to be.
Unnecessary kindness is pretty rare these days. And Musso’s makes a Roman holiday of it.
Another place I like, with a kind and classy staff, is the ancient Aster Hotel, near the Pantages, in otherwise seedy Hollywood, which to me has never looked worse.
“The capital of the human race happens to be Hollywood,” to put a fresh twist on old Henry James.
Note to L.A. Mayor Karen Bass: Please appoint some heavy hitter to fluff the pillows of this dreary destination, where all the tourists inevitably flock, then turn away, gagging a little at what they witness.
Really, it’s the worse PR a city could ever have: Hollywood, all boarded up … sort of sinister … a land of Cimmerian darkness. Fix Hollywood the way they re-made Berlin after the bombings.
Or don’t. Honestly, I have no idea what L.A. mayors ever do.
Till then, guess we’ll all just do the best we can. Dining out is super expensive these days, so you really have to pick your spots. You can easily spend $200 at a midlevel taco joint. For that, you can get your nose fixed. Or go to a Dodgers game. I mean, just one of you, in the nosebleed seats.
But still …
I just laugh at the Dodgers these days. They are like the spoiled punk in your frat who pretends to be nice but mocks everyone when he’s buzzed. Check out the way they strong-armed that poor woman who caught the Ohtani home run ball. Trust me, that’s a peek behind the scenes of a very arrogant organization.
Note, also, that they were paying Ohtani $700 million while footing the bill for his interpreter. Isn’t that an expense the ballplayer should cover? Instead, know who pays that interpreter? You do, with your $20 beer (about a buck a burp).
“To alcohol,” Homer Simpson once toasted, “the cause of — and solution to — all of life’s problems.”
Gulp! Cheers!
Meanwhile, at a Jiffy Lube the other day, they sheared off a lug bolt while removing a tire, then refused to fix it.
To alcohol!
As Emerson reminded us, “Men are what their mothers made them,” though they are often so much less than that. I don’t really blame the mothers at all.
As you’ll recall, Ralph Nader used to burn badly behaving businesses to the ground, metaphorically at least. But there are no Ralph Naders anymore, or consumer advocates in the papers or on local TV.
There are just goofs like me — or the wild hammer of social media — to warn you away from arrogant places that fleece us.
That’s some of the frustration we’ll all carry into the next election — our rocky relationship with shysters and unscrupulous greed … at the supermarket, at the old ballyard. Me, I’ll lean into kindness and decency, no matter how bad it sometimes smells.
See, I have a very Copernican view of the universe — all that science and stuff. But I also believe in the magic and wonder of the human spirit, which is sort of godly and infinite.
Sure, Van Gogh died young, as did John Lennon and Robin Williams. In return, they represent eternal magic. Risen.
So, hang in there.
In the case of Jiffy Lube, I can’t tell karma from coincidence, or a moo cow from a butterfly. But I know decency is often its own reward.
And that bad guys seldom prevail, though they can really excel for a while — far longer than they ever should. Bad bosses. Bad customer service. Bad world leaders.
In the end, justice prevails.
And it smells so great.

Tourists can’t resist Hollywood Boulevard. But the rest of us usually do.

Hope to see you at the L.A. Times Festival of Books this weekend at USC. The free event runs Saturday and Sunday. At 2 p.m. Saturday, I’ll be signing copies of the new Vin Scully book, “Perfect Eloquence,” at the Pages bookstore tent (booth 3050), as well as the Steve Searles’ remarkable bestseller “What the Bears Know.”

First published in the April 18 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.


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