- weekend sustenance -

The meatiest portions of the weekend for me were the barbecue and the photo safaris, with a spontaneous beach trip thrown in for dessert.  


The barbecue was tasty and typical and that's just what I look for in a neighborhood barbecue.  You don't want any pesky conflict over who cheats at croquet (it's one of the brothers-in-law) or controversy over who makes a better burger (it's not me) to get in the way of digestion.  Relaxation is the goal, companionship spread wider than usual around a fire after dark, where the conversation can go from scary stories to Quija boards to school dances.  That the same thing happened a hundred years ago is reassuring.  A dozen grown-ups sitting around a fire out back while the kids play at the next house, coffee and sweets, stars, a crescent moon, this is what you look for in a nocturnal suburban experience.

Here at summer's end I realize we had fewer of the gatherings this year, a symptom, I suppose, of the kids getting older and having busier and more far-flung schedules, and our own aging is somewhere in the mix as well, but the get-togethers were satisfying nonetheless.


The first trip out with the camera was to wander around the Country Days festival up in Moorpark and it was just the sort of thing one expects from something with a name like that in a small agricultural town in California.  Lots of bad diets, cowboy hats, scooters, silly string, kids with green spray in their hair.  Politicians' campaign booths, dance studio exhibitions, scooters, Mexicans keeping to themselves, beauty queens.  Ferris wheel, corn dogs, moonbounce thingies, pony rides, scooters.  Bible bangers, ice cream, cops, trash.

I sure like to get lost in the observer zone when people are showing off their stuff, whether it's crafts or sno-cones or pulchritude.  This is what people do.  The historical societies love their territories.  The chiropractors set up their plastic model spines and drool over the bad postures going by.  The salesmen sell because it's where the food comes from.  The young women vamp and blossom because -- well, maybe I can't honestly answer that one, I might just be on the presumptuous side -- but I can tell you that the young males chase the young females because, heck, it's where the eggs are.  It's all a buzz.  


The second trip out was to the Westlake Car Show, a typical gathering of shiny cars of various vintage where folks who like that sort of thing get just the sort of thing they like.  I went because currently I'm powerless against the urge to take color slide film to colorful places.  You see no images from that event because I do not have (ahem) a digital camera, and E-6 processing cannot be done in my house yet, so it's off to a photo lab for those.


The trip to the beach was just plain whimsy.  Viv was out at her new singing class, and as Amy and I returned from a trip to the mall (to purchase a long-coveted Scooby-Doo rolling suitcase), we saw the empty house and the shank of the afternoon splayed out in front of us, and for some reason out of my mouth came, "Hey, ya wanna go to the beach?"

I took neither camera nor expectations, just a happy calm about showing my daughter this really cool park she's never seen with lots of grassy knolls and a playground with a big cement pirate ship that's right on the beach!  So we went.  We had fun.  She can't wait to show her mom.


A major event occurred Friday night that, while not the meatiest of experiences for me, was definitely so for Amy.  She had a sleepover.  Just one girl, Laurel, who used to be in her class but has since moved to another school, came to spend the night and the next day with her.  Major giggles ensued.  And some late-night Coca-Cola smuggling, clandestine face-painting (luckily the colored markers they picked up happened to be washable), and more post-midnight giggle-snorts.   We witnessed a gross overuse of the word "butt," they drew boogers on Tarzan on the computer, and a breakfast of leftover pizza and Squirt had them lively enough to be in the pool before 9:00am.

They had a blast.


As I write this, I'm watching Australia's last Olympic blast on my electric television machine.  They're about to extinguish the flame.  I like the flame.  I remember when here in Los Angeles, in 1984, we had the Olympic flame come through.  

I had my hand on that torch, for a few moments, as it made its way through the streets of Hollywood one Friday night.  I was a staff writer on a tv show at the time, and we filmed it on Friday nights.  On this particular night, the director had stationed some lookouts at various locations along the route as the torch runners snaked their way toward the spot in front of the studio on Melrose where one of the exchanges in the relay was to take place.

He kept looking at his watch in between takes, and was on the phone each time the cameras and everyone else would be moving on to the next set-up.  Halfway through the show, at just the right moment, he said "Cut," turned to the audience, and invited them to join the cast and crew in a civilized stampede out to the front gate.

We could see the tiny gold fire coming as we all surged into the roadway.  I remember the reaction -- first some soft wows, then some clapping, and then an awesome silence as the torch just appeared to float into the middle of this mass of people strangely hushed in the moment.  It seemed as if hundreds of people were involved in the exchange, hands reaching up to touch the torch, hold it, feel its heat.  Then it was just above my head, my hand around it with a dozen other hands and other hands on mine, reaching.  We pressed against each other, quietly spellbound.  

And then it moved on.  And so did we, subdued, inspired, and feeling somehow privileged, back to the soundstage to make our little teleplay.

I felt two enormous ships of mass culture pass each other that night.  One held the engine of American advertising, where celebrity is fired up and forced into the flickering blue tubes of first-world living rooms.  The other, a huge vessel of sports consumerism, a body of global advertising dressed in native garb of foreign lands, but one that somehow has managed to remind us that we're all in this boat together.

Stories and heroes are what we want.  Sometimes we have to make them up, but sometimes, every few years, we find real ones and turn them into adventures about ourselves writ large on the backs of athletes.  We sing praises to the strongest and fastest and remember times in our own lives when we've been very good at something, maybe even the best, or tried to be.  Torch songs, is what they are.


  today's music:

"How Fast How Far" -- Anita Baker -- BARCELONA GOLD


today's wisdom:

"Obscurity and competence - that is the life that is best worth living."

- Mark Twain