Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Last Week of Summer

one of the sculptures hanging in an atrium at the Los Angeles County Central Library

I've checked in on the blog this week, here and there, but really what I've spent the most time doing is spending the last precious days of summer with my three children. We've had the requisite doctors' and dentists' appointments (and this being LA saw Conrad Hilton, Paris' brother at the dentist office and soon after, behind a posse of paparazzi, one of those Kardashian girls at a nail salon), haircuts and back to school shopping, but we've also managed to squeeze in some of the things off our SUMMER LIST.

Today, Sophie felt fine. It might be the first day in months that she felt fine and since I'm superstitious, I'm only writing this once with immense gratitude.

We decided to head downtown to explore a new neighborhood and ride Angel's Flight. Angel's Flight is dubbed "the shortest railroad in the world" and has been open and running in downtown Los Angeles since 1901, except for the brief time recently when there was a terrible crash and an elderly man was killed. It recently re-opened and still costs only $.25 a ride. 

First, we went to California Plaza and admired the fountains and buildings that rose up all around us in the blue sky. 

We bought tickets and got on Angel's Flight.

It's very steep and it's difficult, at least for me, NOT to think about the car gone crazy that crashed years ago. Oliver continually reminded me of it but in a hopeful way (Mom, do you think it would crash? It would be kind of cool, right?) 

I ignored him and then forced the two boys to sit and let me take their picture.

Sophie really looks, here, better than she has for MONTHS. I am so relieved.

Then we pushed Sophie in her wheelchair all the way down Bunker Hill which is immensely steep -- San Francisco-like steep. We visited the magnificent Central Los Angeles Library and spent more than an hour there.

I know that I've mentioned it before, but really, I'm a closet librarian. There might be nothing on earth more pure for me than my love of books. And libraries. Well, maybe not pure but certainly orgasmic. Are they the same thing? The elevators at the downtown library are lined with old card catalog, Dewey Decimal cards. I had to explain this archaic system to the boys.

When we stepped off the elevator and made our way to the Children's Literature section, I insisted that Henry take this picture (and I had to explain that in these drawers lay all the wonders of the universe to me, when I was a child).

Really, libraries make me feel like I've died and gone to some sort of heaven. The sight of the books stacked, the smell of the stacks, the quiet, the anticipation of things found and worlds explored. I can still remember what it felt like to crouch in the aisle, a book in my hand and read the flyleaf, the crackly, crinkly clear cover protector whispering under my fingers.

We left the library and realized that we had to push Sophie in her wheelchair back UP Bunker Hill. Holy crapola. Just yesterday, as I was driving around in my car I felt this sort of free-floating anxiety that I hadn't exercised, really, in months.

I could barely, just barely, make it up the hill, but the boys took over the pushing.

They're amazing. My angels, really.

When we got back to the top, we ate chicken schnitzel from a truck (all the rage in Los Angeles these days). The schnitzel was pounded very thin and served with lemon slices, just like they do in Austria. The guys who cooked in the truck were Israeli, of course. I told them that my husband was a Swiss German chef, and they got nervous. But it was delicious -- amazing what can come out of a truck.  I let the boys have a huge bottle of Fanta each as they'd been so helpful and uncomplaining all day.

When we finished, we piled into the car with stacks of library books and headed on home. We passed through quite a bit of urban grit, down and out neighborhoods and crowds of immigrants and businesses catering to Koreans and Latinos. Oliver asked whether these were bad neighborhoods, and I told him that they weren't bad but that they were a bit rough. I thought of those who dislike our city, their lamentations of crime and poverty and dirt, of immigrants laboring at jobs that "real" Americans won't do. I thought of my own little Oliver whose sensibilities are, sometimes, like that as well. He feels threatened and dislikes difference, and I see that as part of his personality and something that I can, at best, only temper.  The thing is that my personality is quite different. I thrill to what is urban, to the grit and the clamor and the teeming  life. It's alive to me and immensely exciting. I see the poverty, the despair -- yes, I do see it, but there's something within me that also sees life. I thought of how much there is to be done in this world, to alleviate suffering, to work for those who are vulnerable. I ramble, now, after such a stimulating day --


  1. can you hear my joy!
    I do so love you sweet Elizabeth.
    this this
    gave me life today.

  2. What a nice day with the children! I love days like that. When we had days in L.A., I enjoyed them very much. So different from our little La Jolla "burg" and San Diego as well. It teemed with interesting life. I enjoyed the library with you. You expressed a lot of my sentiments about those venerable institutions. I miss the card catalogs!!!!! I am a library trustee and have been one for over ten years. We are just beginning the building of a new library here. It has been a long time coming but the public is dedicated to the project. Ground breaking is scheduled for next May.

    So glad that Sophie is feeling better. All of the children seem to be having a good time. I know the hill of which you speak and I'd rather go up it than down--vertigo!


  3. Oh, beautiful day!
    And yes, we are sisters. At least when it comes to books. You described how I feel about them and libraries perfectly. Heaven WILL be a library.

  4. Happy, happy post. (I understand so very perfectly about the superstition thing.)

    And LIBRARIES! Oh, the joy. My daughter barely remembers those lovely wood card directories from her youth. They are, sadly, gone from most of our local libraries. I wonder where they went?

  5. You went to Angel's Flight without us! We definitely have to check it out. And schnitzel from a cart sounds excellent.

  6. What a rich day. I love the photos of you and your children, enjoying moments of love and spontaneity, and good (better) health. Thank you for sharing your enjoyment with us!
    I, too, get excited in a visceral way about books (and fabric/craft/art supplies)! I actually get a little winded when in the presence of such riches.
    Love to you.

  7. Love everything about this post, the happiness, the photos, that Sophie is and looks better, and this, "Well, maybe not pure but certainly orgasmic. Are they the same thing?" Yes. Same.

  8. Love the photos and so glad you had such a full and fun day.

    I am with you on the library. Always a refuge.

  9. first...
    sophie! yes. she seems apart of it all...present, rested, and beautiful as every.

    boys next...angels, both!

    "I thrill to what is urban, to the grit and the clamor and the teeming life. It's alive to me and immensely exciting."

    this salutation and your overwhelming love of libraries ties us in passion. (our hearts are however already permanently linked!)

    sharing your happiness,

  10. Lovely! And I'm so very glad that Sophie's feeling better.

    P.S. I'm a closet librarian too!

  11. Hooray for a beautiful day of urban exploring with your three awesome kids! I can feel the relaxation, the RELIEF, in your writing that Sophie was feeling well, and I can't tell you how happy I am for you and for her. xxo

  12. The scary and weird and rough that others loathe about the city are what i have realized i love... stopping at a panaderia east of our neighborhood is the best! Turns out those rough and unsavory people are super nice kind and happy to have us in their tiendas. The city still drives one crazy.... but is it really healthy to imagine living somewhere where everything was safe/homogenous?? I think not. One disclaimer... it would be nice to have a Trader Joe's with adequate parking.

  13. what a beautiful day for you and your children. I think going out and about, seeing things and discussing things with our growing children is a wonderful experience.

  14. This is such an interesting post for one who has never been to LA and I really enjoyed the photos. The library photos are wonderful...i had just posted about my long time love affair with libraries.

  15. Glad you had a good day with your children and that Sophie in particular had a good day.

    Somewhere in the back of my mind I remember learning about the Dewey system, but have forgotten the details. Must be the old age.

    I live in what is now a largely Latino neighborhood, and I have to say that I always look forward to the day the tamale lady comes down the street with her little crock pot.



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