The Trouble with Larry

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Larry was clinging to the fence for support when we found him this afternoon, knees buckled, dog trembling at his feet. He professed bewilderment why he couldn’t stand, as though his own legs had been swapped out when he wasn’t looking and replaced with celery stalks.

Neither of us had seen him around the neighborhood before.

“I just need to get to Sepulveda. I can walk.”

But he couldn’t. I hoisted him to his feet twice, and he was unable to manage a step.  Purplish and gnarled toes poked from a pair of hospital-issue orthopedic slippers.  I asked him where he was headed to on Sepulveda.

He didn’t have a plan. A rolling suitcase and a tremulous whippet constituted his world entire.

A woman crossed the street and told us Larry had been staying at a sober living house at the end of the block. Today was his last day.  Larry, as you might already have guessed, was not sober. Yet one sensed his frailties were larger than could be resolved by a stay in a drunk tank.

On the way to the “sober house” the woman told us the neighbors had been discussing whether the facility was in legal compliance with residential zoning.  They were not happy to have it on their block.

A guy named Gary opened the door before we even knocked.

“Theres a guy collapsed on the corner…”

“Yeah, Larry.”

Gary offered to call the paramedics. The four of us walked back to the Dickensian tableau at the corner and I asked if Larry was being evicted for drinking. No, he was being evicted for non-payment of rent.

A fire department ambulance rolled up ten minutes later. They were weary of Larry at the sight of him. Not that they weren’t entirely professional about it, but you could see they had scraped one derelict too many off the sidewalk already on this tour and were in no mood for another.

There was just one problem: Larry didn’t want to go anywhere.  There was nothing wrong with him, you see.  He didn’t want to be billed. He didn’t want to lose his dog.   He was fine, and just needed to get to Sepulveda and didn’t know why everyone was making such a fuss, “why we were all doing this to him”.

“I’m going to ask you three questions Larry, if you can answer them, we’ll leave you alone.”

Larry didn’t know his own birthdate. He all also couldn’t stand.   They hoisted him on to the stretcher.  The dog climbed up into his lap and the firemen tucked them together into the bus.

Mrs. UpintheValley went into a minor panic about the dog. Would it be impounded when they got to the hospital? The firemen didn’t know.

Later she tracked them down at Valley Presbyterian. A kindly nurse explained Larry and the dog were fine, “Don’t worry. He’s here all the time.”

As a taxpayer, I was not happy to hear this.  As a Christian, I am conflicted. Many people seem to know a lot about Larry while wanting nothing to do with him.  After today, that would include Mr. and Mrs. U.  There’s a brigade of Larrys wandering the Valley now. Middle-aged, not elderly.  Bereft of family.  Unemployable, but not crazy.  Intoxicated, but not completely cracked out. My first inclination is to take a harsh stand against the shiftless and the parasitical. That might work when someone is 25. But these guys? I don’t know.

Perhaps the answer is a return of the alms house.   A place, neither hospital nor jail,  where the spiritually broken can tend to the garden of their own souls.  What the French called Hotel-Dieu. God’s Hotel.

Here Comes Tracy Flick

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Cheap shot!   I couldn’t resist.   I actually like Marco a lot.  It’s hard not to. After Trump, and Bush, and the two geriatrics on the Democratic side, he can’t help but look a little Tracy-ish. Not that I’m implying anything!

If memory serves, Tracy wins the election and Matthew Broderick ends up a broken man, living in a basement apartment.  Make of it what you will.

No more politics for the rest of the week.

Che Guevara of Brentwood

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This guy pushed me to the shoulder today on my way to work. If you center the transaxle of a Humvee equidistant from each curb, then floor it for a full block, two and half tons of banana yellow tempered steel will leave the Little People with limited option not to give way.  It’s called owning the road.  A concept Che would understand.

Taste and Tastelessness

Vulgar is as vulgar does

When 2500 square feet isn’t enough

Sherwood Forest is a hidden enclave of elegant one-story ranch houses on sprawling lots with deep setbacks. Four bedroom, three bath, 1950’s Connecticut.  The kind of house Mr. Sheldrake took the 6:15 train home to in Billy Wilder’s The Apartment.  If you had the money to buy one, tear it down, and replace it with something twice as big, would you build this? Would you go full New Yerevan Brutalist? Would you pave over the front yard and add the tallest fence in the neighborhood?

The Sheldrake

The Sheldrake

Gie her a Haggis, sayeth Alastair

Bethanking the chieftains o' the puddin' race

Bethanking the chieftains o’ the puddin’ race

Yesterday was my day off and glorious weather indeed and Trixie and I circumnavigated Van Nuys by foot and paw until we ended up at MacLeod sharing a pint with Andrew as the sun went down. I was heading out the door when Alastair approached:

Would I care to judge the Haggis bake-off at the Burns Supper in a few hours time?

Why, Haggis! The wild game of Scotland?  Of course I would.  I pictured something porcine and cuddly, gamboling about in the Highland grasses toward the hunter’s snare, one leg shorter than the other, to accommodate the slopes.  Fatty, yet savory.

Oh, wait.

I could say it is a testimony to my affection for MacLeod Ale and for Alastair that I returned to the tavern. But the truth is the sheer grossness of sheeps pluck, cooked in an animal stomach lining, (or as they say in the British Isles, pudding) held a primal, forbidden appeal. The gastronomical equivalent of jumping off a railroad trestle at night into an icy river. It was a call to manhood. If men in skirts can do it, who am I to be a pussy?

So, girding my intestinal tract with a bit o’ Nutty Broon, I screwed my courage to the sticking place, and awaited the bagpipes under the blue and white bars of Scotland.  Alastair piped his way to the table, at which point the evening belonged to the Bard of Ayrshire:

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the puddin’-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak yer place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o’ a grace
As lang’s my airm.

And onward for eight glorious stanzas.  Then, with no verse remaining to spare us our duty, we, the judges, approached the four Haggi.

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Haggis is….hard to describe. People will misdirect you with claims of ‘spicy oatmeal’.  They’re lying.  It’s a time machine, to a world centuries past when white men hunted with spears.   To eat sheep organs is to squat by a campfire in the rain and smell the funk of sizzling gristle slowly overtaking the funk of one’s unwashed asscrack, and think:  Aye, tis a blessing not to starve. Better this than the turnips again. To hell with Edward the Longshanks!  You can try to repurpose it for modern tastes as a tamale or a soufflé but in the end there is no way to disguise the primitive nature of the transaction. You are an animal, by necessity eating the entrails of a lesser animal. You are halfway on the evolutionary journey from the thatch hut to the airplane and it’s an open question whether you will survive to tell your grandchildren the tale.

The Haggi at MacLeod proved creative, prolific and in the end…surprisingly tasty.  A little peaty Scotch helps.  All the tickling of the primal impulses: the pipes, the grog, the slaughtered sheep, put me in an amorous frame of mind.

Arriving home, I addressed my bonnie lassie, Mrs. U, who ducked under the covers and was blunt:

“Kiss me not, with ye haggis mouth.”

“But mah lassie, I bring ye the drunken murmurings of Rabbie Burns upon me very lips”

“Kiss me NOT.”

“The very lips which proclaimed ye fair luv evrlastin”

“Hagg-isssss…”

And like a snake, she coiled out of reach.

It was worth it.

Maria, Light and Dark

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I have no arms, therefore I have no opposable thumbs, therefore I am incapable of hooking them into my bottoms and peeling them suggestively off my hips. I am a daughter incapable of sin.  I burn a novena candle for the temptations of this fallen world.

I, on the other hand...

I, on the other hand, will take your $20 now

The Caprice of Fate

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Did you ever think Iggy Pop was going to outlive Glenn Frey?

In 1976 Glenn was living in a castle atop Laurel Canyon. He was fronting what would prove to be, in the fullness of time,  a billion-dollar business empire. Back in the era when people actually bought records, they bought Eagles records by the warehouse-full. In subsequent years, the entire Eagles back catalogue would be re-issued on compact disc at inflated prices and not suffer for lack of buyers.  Somewhere in the world, every minute of the day, a radio station was playing Hotel California and sending royalty checks to Glenn. In an era marked by decadence and debauchery, he stood out as a figure of relative sobriety and strong work ethic.

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In 1976 Iggy Pop was living on the street in Hollywood, “what with the heroin and the drinking and the general carousing’, as he delicately put it. Before David Bowie graciously brought him to Berlin and resuscitated his career, he was right down there with Johnny Thunders from the New York Dolls selling hand drawings on the sidewalk for smack money.   No one thought he would live to see the Reagan administration, let alone live to swing his wrinkled c**k around on stage in defiance of Father Time and public decency.  This is to say nothing of his sexual proclivities.

If these veins could talk

If these veins could talk

Glenn Frey managed the Eagles brand with the business instincts of Bill Gates.  It will take three generations of his heirs to blow through all the money he banked. In the end, none of it prevented him from clocking out at age 67 with ulcerative colitis.  Iggy, who lived his life with the impulse control of a 14-year-old, is going to sleep tonight with a Russian Barbie under his arm.

If you want to amuse God, make plans.