Eve Pearlman: Half the banana
So we headed down south for the holiday weekend, stopping in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and then on to Los Angeles. I’m one of those people who nurtured an anti-Los Angeles prejudice – one built, as prejudices are, largely on ignorance. I’d only been to LA once before – and then for fewer than 24 hours in the mid-90s.
The 90s! Kids didn’t have cell phones – heck, most adults didn’t even have cell phones. And no one had little GPS devices in their cars. Texting was many years into the future.
I like to remind my children that I’m a daughter of the ’80s – by way of explaining, for example, why skinny jeans and little flats do not feel new, but old. Decades – as with cities – are often mythologized. Myth and reality jumble.
I suppose what I liked best about our journey, besides a pleasing drive down Sunset Boulevard, a visit to the stunning Getty, and a shared size-large breakfast burrito at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market, was the frequently-mythologized Venice Beach. “This,” said my husband, gesturing to the expanse of sand, the palm trees, the wide open pedestrian and bike paths, “is what I think a beach should look like.” My younger child slipped off his shoes and walked along the path in the warm, white sand.
I think that I expected that everyone in LA would be young and beautiful. Made-up, done-up, styled. And though some people had clearly put more effort into the design of their outfits and the arrangement of their hair and make up than you might see up north, I felt quite at ease. It is good to be a visitor, away from the realities of home.
At Venice Beach, though, you know what? On the bike path along the beach, mostly no one wears a helmet. Not even children with training wheels on their bikes! In my survey of several dozen riders, I only saw two helmets – one on a toddler in a rear bike seat and another on a man all decked out for a long ride.
Up here, in Alameda, neglecting to don a helmet is seriously frowned upon. Amazing how such items of culture vary by place, no? We didn’t wear helmets much in the ’70s, either. They arrived later, like not smoking in restaurants and child-focused parenting and the cultural centrality of self-esteem.
After Thanksgiving dinner, we stayed up late discussing parenting with a cousin’s in-laws. The grandmother questioned why parents of our generation allow children to sleep with them. My husband said, “At core I think it’s because we’re animals and snuggling feels good.” Her response, accompanied by a smoothing of her pink sweater and a retucking of its lower edges into her slacks was, “I am not an animal!”
It never occurred to me that people in this day and age, this time and place, might not acknowledge our connection to the earth’s other living beings, sharing as we do 95 percent of our DNA with chimps and, as I read the other day, 50 percent with bananas.
There might be some peace in being half banana, because back on the island, the political wheels grind on. We fret about the new Measure A (just renamed B to avoid confusion), about using WW funds for the Boys & Girls Club, and about Lesson 9 (by lawsuit, a small portion of population want their homophobia validated). Meanwhile, California-wise, we’re shuttering services, most recently the recycling centers that kept waste off the street and employed many souls. And why were the rest stops on Route 5 closed – another result of state budget cutbacks? Haphazardly, chaotically, life continues to unfold.
Maybe on the grounds of the Getty, with its tended gardens and precisely-laid paths, we can forget that we live, essentially, in chaos, continuing on each day by luck or fortune or, some might argue, foresight. On we go, Alameda, barreling straight toward 2010. And to what? A kinder, gentler, Alameda? I don’t think so. But we all, more or less, in our own way, do the best we can in our own particular reality, our own time and place.
Contact Eve Pearlman at firstname.lastname@example.org.