notes from a fairweather town

For as long as I have been driving 101 to or from Los Angeles I’ve been tempted to stop here:

Initially, my desire kindled when I saw the magical words “Hearst Castle” for the same exit as the Madonna Inn.  But upon passing that hot pink sign visions of Greek Revival and Gothic dining rooms and mosaic-bottomed indoor pools all but vanished from my thoughts.

I finally ventured in for an early lunch with my mom on our way down south.  It was exactly what I’d expected, only better.  The sugar shaker on the enormous copper table is filled with pink sugar.  The cakes for sale at the counter by the door are the fulfillment of dreams I had, age two: huge mounds of sugar and flour, encrusted with thick shavings of pink.  What this pink consists of I can’t say–I didn’t try any cake.  This is less a cake to eat than a cake to marvel at, for its sheer architectural stability.  It is not beautifully but improbably molded–huMONGO!

The Copper Café has a quality similar to the Winchester Mystery House or reading Joan Didion’s writing on California–it reminds you of a much earlier time while constantly reminding you of the present.  For example, the circular bar is all copper and wood and studded leather as out of a rich mining town of the 19th century and our waitress, Fay, was dressed in a sky-blue dirndl but the bar offered white zinfandel and Fay was Asian-American.

California will do that to you–you’ll be driving through fields and hills and come upon the ocean and soon be plunged back into desert.  In the desert, you’ll find a town that has somehow persisted.  Los Alamos is an old one-horse town with its buildings intact, now transitioned into art galleries and coffee shops.  The best of it, though, is the stuff that looks as old and dusty as it feels.

And then we came upon it.  June gloom–it’s amazing how two years away can make me forget the daily details of living in LA, like the fog and the cold that settles upon the city in, of all months, June.

The 99¢ Store is typically LA and also very beautiful.  Comforting, like a grocery store.

The La Brea Tar Pits are the perfect setting for a reunion with an old friend, despite the smell.

When driving with Helen to the Venice Whole Foods, we passed this lovely motel.  Lovely in its simple design and colors, but for no other reason.  When I snapped these shots, that Mark Boone Jr. lookalike below went into the office, as pictured.  When I was back in the car, a sinister, bespectacled Eugene Levy lookalike told me I had to leave and I cravenly obeyed.  I wonder what they were doing in there…

When Sandra and I visited the Autry museum, we came upon a school group.  The docent asked the children to join him on a wagon ride through the room but first they would have to pack their comestibles.  He started with flour.  “And what else do we need?  What do you add to flour to make cake?” he ventured.


“it was never clear how far or near the gates to my citadel lay”

Los Angeles, 6-11 June 2010

One Comment

  1. ben

    Very nice. Makes me want to visit LA

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