Sprouts

Today’s super market review, from an email written on the first rush of the morning’s caffeine and before the seizure meds kicked in:

Also, Sprouts. You ought to check one out sometime. Sort of a cross between Gelson’s and Trader Joes, sort of, and maybe of Whole Foods without all that asshole Wholefoodsiness and obnoxious prices. Our favorite is the one up on Foothill in La Cañada, but that’s probably because the 2 Freeway is kind of like a ride at Disneyland, you go up and up and there’s all these great views and it’s still kinda new and magically freewayish and you get on the 210 for a minute which is LA’s most exotic freeway skirting the mountains as it does (no mountain range in the world rises as dramatically as the San Berdoos, from just above sea level to over ten thousand feet in an instant, rising almost like The Monolith Monsters, forced skyward by the fearsome pushing and scraping of two continental plates trying to pass by each other like two big men in a small hallway) and La Cañada has pine trees and is cooler temperaturistically than us (and drier) and almost looks not real it’s so new and clean. It’s the altitude, just enough to put it in a whole other ecosystem. Different flowers, different trees, different birdsongs. Plus the people are nice and there’s an unusually high babe content for a fucking grocery store.

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Trader Joes

That free coffee at the Silver Lake Trader Joes. The one hipster complains it’s too hot. The other hipster says it’s too strong. I said it’s too wet. Both look at me, then at each other, then back at me. It’s funnier if you’re stoned, I said. Oh wow, the one said. The other nodded, sagely. Truth.

Whole Foods

When Gelson’s had their grand re-opening (they had been a Mayfair) in Silver Lake a decade or so ago, they had all kinds of free stuff…I remember we stopped in on our way out to eat and wound up eating so many free samples we just went back home to digest. Yesterday the Whole Foods (née Ralphs née Hughes née Market Basket) had their parking lot fair to announce their brand new Silver Lake store and they one upped Gelson’s with food trucks. Yup, food trucks. Why provide free eats when suckers will flock to your event and buy their own? OK, they were giving away potato chips, different colored potato chips even, and you could spin the wheel to see if you could win a whole bag of different colored potato chips. My wife said there was a very long line to spin that wheel. They used to have soup lines in this country. Now it’s spin the wheel.

Crisco

(2012)

Back when Silver Lake was leather heaven all the corner markets had lots and lots of Crisco on the shelves. I never thought about that until I saw a totally leathered out guy my size at the liquor store getting  ready for a party.  Snacks, beer, booze, cigars, breakfast cereal (coco puffs, I remember that 30 years later), milk, juice, donuts and every can of Crisco on the shelf. Like eight cans worth. The poor kid working the counter looked absolutely horrified. The leather dude was loving it.

There are none of those guys left in the neighborhood. I bet 90% of them died. They sang I Will Survive and then died. Their bars are straight, their houses full of hipsters and irony. Chaps aren’t just for gay boys anymore. The plague came through and destroyed that whole civilization. It laid waste the land, leaving Silver Lake barren with breeders. It’s raining babies now. But those were the days, the survivors sing. Those were the days. What a party. A man was a man and Crisco wasn’t just for frying chicken.

All out of vanilla Haagen-Dazs

(2010)

Was out  late last nite. Saw some great bands in a little Mexican dive in Lincoln Heights. I love the East Side. Silver Lake used to be East Side. Maybe not the tops of the Swish Alps, but in the lowlands, along the boulevards, and almost everything south of Sunset. It was Latino and gay and leather and punk rock and bohemian with traces of hippies and hints of jazz even, left over from the Soap Plant daze. Alas, Silver Lake is so Westside now. I remember years ago watching a blonde–one of those ultra blondes–walking down a nearby street with tits like grapefruit. Perfect orbs. You could teach geometry with those things. I stared a minute and thought Good Lord, what has become of my neighborhood? It wasn’t much later at the Mayfair (now Gelson’s) that a gorgeous power blonde–she had to be an attorney, just had to be–stormed up to the manager on perfect legs and screamed You’re all out of vanilla Haagen-Dazs! She was livid. Gave him hell, the poor bastard. He apologized. She said something wealthy and angry. My wife, watching, burst out loud laughing.

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Free money

After a late Friday night we stopped into a 7-11 just before 2 am where an attractive and personable lady wearing pink pajamas with feet on them and a hood with mouse ears bought a 40 oz Old English. I am secure in my skin and my onesie she said. She posed for picture, smiling, and went out into the night to get fucked up.

Today at Trader Joes a man reached into his pocket and withdrew it in an explosion of twenty dollar bills. Scores of them. Some fell in a wad–maybe thirty or forty of them–the rest fluttered through the air like an exaltation of larks. I’d never seen so many twenties, never seen anything like it. I said so. As the man crouched and frantically tried to scoop them up his checker looked over at me and asked what was it. Twenties, I said, soundlessly, to not embarrass the guy. Twenty dollar bills. She read my lips. A hundred of them, I continued, spreading my hands. All over the floor. Her eyes went wide.

Free money, she thought. Free money, I thought. Free money, everybody thought. The man scooped up the last loose twenty and shoved them all back into his pocket. Our eyes followed him out of the store. Free money.

I got home and cracked open a beer. I am secure in my skin and my onesie, I said.

Rock’n’roll Ralphs

(2013)

We go to the Rock’n’roll Ralphs for the thrill.

We have our own Ralphs here in Silver Lake, but it’s all normal now. Silver Lake is all normal now, Silver Lake used to be Silverlake and edgy and new and leathery gay but that’s long gone, gone with the punks and the freaks and the vatos. It’s all rich people and hipsters with kids and beautiful single women. Ours is a nice Ralphs. There’s a couple Ralphs across the river in Glendale…there’s an Armenian Ralphs and an upscale Ralphs and between them an eerie underground Ralphs that always make me think of Beneath then Planet of the Apes. You enter the parking lot above ground and way in the corner there’s a winding driveway that leads you into the Stygian darkness below. Inside, though, it’s just a regular Ralphs.

But Rock’n’roll Ralphs is special. We always park on the roof and take the elevator down. That’s fun. Our Ralphs doesn’t have an elevator. And our Ralphs doesn’t have all these people either, these Hollywood types, who can’t even roll a shopping cart down a grocery aisle without looking like they’re trying to hustle something. There’s a lot of rock’n’roll types, hardened roadie looking guys with too much thinning hair and baskets full of beer and TV dinners. There’s Hollywood lifers, people who have obviously lived in Hollyweird their whole lives and have that sort of otherworldly jadedness that comes from too many nights and not enough days. There’s wackos that talk to themselves or each other and you think they might smell funny but they don’t really. There’s gorgeous starlets buying healthy little things and a bottle of white wine. There’s children with dad for the weekend picking things mom never lets them have. And there are celebrities who slip in under dressed and un-made up and try to pass as just another extra. Which works with me, as I can’t tell a celebrity from a ham sandwich.

This was Oscar nite, too, and just a couple blocks down the street from Rock’n’roll Ralphs the street was full of ham sandwiches. They come in big limousines and wave at the crowds and a zillion cameras flash. The women shimmer and the men don’t shave. I don’t know who almost any of them are, but the crowd does, and they ooh and ahh and scream and yell and hold on tightly to their autograph books. They take pictures from afar with their cell phones and post them on their Facebook pages. They cram together on the sidewalk, stomping all over stars of people who probably once walked that red carpet. Billy Barty’s there, and Valerie Bertinelli and Bing Crosby and Dane Clark whose face you’d recognize even if you can’t place the name. The Doors are there, and the Carpenters, and Zsa Zsa and Jean Harlow and Godzilla. This scene was made for Godzilla. This scene was made for Nathaniel West. He set the final act of the Day of the Locust right here, in front of Grauman’s, where the mob got ugly and out of hand and deadly. Not now. The fans are well behaved. No one gets drunk. No one gets tased. The stars wave, and the people wave back.

I did see a genuine Day of the Locust out there once. In this very place. We had just turned left off Orange onto Hollywood Blvd and into a phalanx of slow moving squad cars, lights flashing and utterly silent. They followed the saddest little Toyota you ever saw, running on fumes and four flat tires. The car rolled to a stop right there in front of the Chinese theater. It was the middle of summer and there were a zillion tourists and they couldn’t believe their luck. The line of cops couldn’t hold them back and they poured into the street like ants. The lady got out of the car exhausted and broken and laid down on the pavement as ordered. The cops rushed in and cuffed her before the crowd could get to her. They stuffed her into the back of a patrol car and took off. The remaining cops tried vainly to clear the street. Last thing I saw was Granny posing in front of the dead car. We headed east down Hollywood Boulevard, away from the crowds of tourists, till only locals walked the sidewalks and winos begged for change.

But that was then. The now was inside this Rock’n’roll Ralphs. I wheeled the cart up and down the aisles people-watching as my wife shopped. There were none of the glamorous starlets…they were all at Somebody’s watching the Oscars and dreaming and sniping. In fact there weren’t many movie looking people at all…this was the rock’n’roll side of Rock’n’roll Ralphs. These people didn’t go to Grammy parties, they worked them. They might look like hell here, rumpled and unshaven, but give then twenty minutes and they’re the sharpest bar tender you ever saw, smiling and cracking wise, shaking, not stirring, raking in big tips. I know this because there on the frozen food aisle two scruffy dudes were perusing the pizzas while their even scruffier buddy stared at his iPhone. Hey check this out, he said, they want me to tend bar at Seth McFarlane’s Oscar party. His friends hmmphed a cool, you like pepperoni or cheese? I knew right then that Seth McFarlane’s Oscar party was a big deal. No one would hmmmph a cool at something insignificant, not at Rock’n’roll Ralphs. Their mumbled cools said volumes. It meant movie stars, big tips, maybe even getting laid. Or an audition. Or both. It didn’t mean a score necessarily, but it did mean the possibility of a score, which is what the Hollywood hustle is all about. The score, the gig, a step up. It meant his buddies would be at home eating pizza and watching the Oscars while he was getting hit on by you’ll never believe who. It was a Hollywood moment, an Oscar moment, right there in the frozen food aisle at the Rock’n’roll Ralphs. This doesn’t happen at the Silver Lake Ralphs. It doesn’t happen at the underground Ralphs. It certainly doesn’t happen at a Von’s.

Not that I had a clue who Seth McFarlane was. No idea. A ham sandwich maybe. Somebody who scored. Someone who wasn’t tooling around a Ralphs on Oscar night like it was Disneyland. Today I find out he was the man. He hosted the damn thing. Some people liked him. Some hated him. Whatever. I imagine it was a hell of a party, crawling with ham sandwiches. And George Clooney. And Meryl Streep. No ham sandwich she.

(Our neighborhood Ralphs is now gone.)