Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Down These Impatient Streets, Pastrami Awaits.

When Raymond Chandler wrote his insightful and exploratory essay on the mystery novel, "The Simple Art of Murder," he spoke of the journey a private detective must take.  "Down these mean streets," he wrote, a man must go who is neither mean nor afraid."

Although most of his novels were set in or around Los Angeles, Chandler did not mean the streets of Los Angeles are any meaner than the streets of any other metastasizing metropolis.  Since so much of your life has been spent in Los Angeles, you can think of some streets that are in fact mean, but since so many of the streets in Los Angeles have tangible places in your memory, and since the rate of vehicular traffic on all of them has increased over the years, you're more tempted to think of the streets of Los Angeles as impatient.

For some months, you've been developing a hunger for the streets of Los Angeles, the kind of hunger best described as nostalgia.  Some of that hunger was sated yesterday as you sat in the street-facing patio of a coffee shop below the confluence of Sunset Boulevard and Horn Street, about a block below Larrabee Street.  

While waiting for your coffee, which was prepared from an intriguing series of glass tubes and containers reminiscent of the laboratory one would expect to see in a mad scientist movie, you were taking in these impatient Los Angeles streets and feeling back home.  Cars challenged cars whose speeds in the traffic flow seemed too slow.  Windows were rolled down or opened electronically so that arms could be extended, exposing the extended middle finger of the universal fuck-you gesture.  Voices were raised in impatient protest, answered by voices every bit as volatile in discourse once attributed to New Yorkers.

Since many New Yorkers have come to Los Angeles, seeking the results so many persons come to Los Angeles in the first place, there is in you the temptation to attribute the confrontational nature to the migrant New Yorker, but in all fairness, you have memories from your childhood in which Angelenos vented their impatience on other Angelenos.  

Los Angeles is a place where people come to search for their dreams, true enough, but in doing so, they come to be impatient, to take any chance to vent frustration at the need for so much time to get from point A, say mid-Wilshire, around the sixty-two-hundred block, where you used to have an office, to Little Santa Monica Boulevard in Beverly Hills.

Your coffee arrives, delivered by an earnest young man who appears to be bi-racial, and who appears to be waiting for something before he backs away.  In a brief moment, you discover his purpose, which was for you to take a sip of coffee, then comment on its worth.  "We take our coffee seriously here," he informs you.  The coffee sends to your palate the sense of a roasting oven, broadcasting notes of the outer skin of a slow-cooked roast, followed by the pungency you've come to associate with the darker French and Italian coffee infusions.

The young man is satisfied with this, but has one more gambit.  "I can offer you a gluten-free and sugarless biscuit or a tangy, crust-less key lime pie."

At this point, you are tempted to order the crust without the key-lime filling, but this is Los Angeles, which you have come to with a mixture of purpose and nostalgia.  This makes you realize you are not likely ever to come to Los Angeles without some purpose in mind, the previous times to participate in book signings and reading rituals, or to attend a baseball game.  Only on the rarest occasion, as you did a few years back, do you find yourself "passing through Los Angeles," eager to be somewhere else, but even then thinking of a worthwhile purpose (which in this case happened to be a Los Angeles pastrami sandwich.

You can get a pastrami sandwich at one or two places in Santa Barbara.  If the need for pastrami overcomes you, there is Norton's, which may well secure their pastrami from Los Angeles, but, like the placebo pill effect, even if the pastrami from Norton's comes from Los Angeles, it has lost its panache.  

There are a few other restaurants with pastrami on their menu, but you would no more think to order pastrami there than you would think, say, to order tacos at a Chinese restaurant.You know of a few places to secure pastrami in New York and on occasion have ordered considerable rumps of their pastrami along with loaves of corn rye bread and Gulden's delicatessen mustard.  

And for the pure joy of Los Angeles pastrami, there is Langer's on Alvarado or Art's on Ventura.  The message is clear:  If you are impatient for Los Angeles pastrami, go to Los Angeles.  If you are impatient for Los Angeles pastrami while in Santa Barbara, think instead about the osso buck at Via Maestra 42 or the rigatoni a Bolognese at Gianfranco in Carpinteria.  Possibly a steak sandwich at Sly's will help, but the message for sublimation is clear.

Another quality speaking to the impatience in Los Angeles is the awareness that individuals here are almost always inhabited by an inner agenda which has something to do with the entertainment industry or the theater. On your way to the lavatory, you saw two individuals at different tables working on screenplays, a format you well recognize because of the times when you lived in Los Angeles when you were writing if not screenplays, then dramas for television.

The afternoon and evening of the impatient streets in Los Angeles was fulfilling and even though the trip took a nine-hour chunk out of your day, you were glad you went.  But on the way northward, to Santa Barbara, you began thinking of the effect the moon would have, shining on the water at Loon Point, slightly beyond the Rincon.  

There was sure to be a gibbous moon out, and the more you thought of it, lighting up that patch of beach and inlet, you found yourself growing impatient to reach it.

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