Thursday, October 26, 2006


When I was a kid there was a chain barbeque place on Pico by the country club, the one my entire family belonged to; cousins, grandparents, friends from the temple. Everyone except my mother’s parents, who felt that the place was too snobby, too Beverly Hills. They lived a few miles away, in Brentwood, which was closer to the beach; more laid back, less fancy. But it was more than that, it was my Napoleon-sized grandfather Harold and his whisky and his leg brace, his limp and his fuckem’, his laugh and his loneliness. I know there was loneliness.

But there was also Loves, the barbeque place, whose radio script sang, “When you’re at Loves, the whole world is in love.” And for some reason that line lodged inside of me for all these years, like even if I didn’t understand it back then I was meant to remember it…“The whole world is in love.”

I don’t think I ever got to go to Loves, with it’s thick slabs of beef and pork, it’s rich red, spicy sauce, it’s million dollar napkins and bibs. Maybe it was the bibs that turned us off, but more probably it was that we didn’t have the money to eat out except only sometimes on a Sunday night after my brother’s baseball games, when we’d meet other baseball family’s at Original Johns, a pizza parlor in Brentwood with sawdust on the floor and a TV stationed high in a corner.

It was probably a relief for my mother not to cook for the 6 of us that night and it was certainly a relief for us kids to go out because it was such a diversion from the routine of home and our green and yellow lazy susan that spun mom’s dinner round and round the dinner table, offering us an array of heavy, over cooked foods; stewed tomatoes and mashed potatoes, turkey, lasagna and a whole lot more. It was a break from my mother’s exhaustion and her anger, my father’s failure and our failure, clearly, to make them happy.

But at Original Johns we could spread out more; have less of each other and more pizza. And my parents could drink beer, which everyone knows increases your love, at least for a little while, and you end up saying yes to things you might say no to, like, ”yes , here’s four quarters for the pinball,” and “yes, you can get another soda,” and “yes, you and your friends can play outside of the restaurant until we finish eating.”

And yes, isn’t it wonderful to be a child outside on a spring night in Brentwood under the twinkling sky, before we ruin the Santa Monica Bay, before we’ve clogged the roads with our traffic and garbage and exhaust and before we know dingily about real love and the failure to love too.

1969, under the stars, I’m a tomboy with hiking boots and jeans, and my sadness has only begun to creep in; I’m beginning to understand what kind of love a pizza and a beer can buy. Their sweet plans of love gone awry, my parent’s hearts are failing, this whole town in failing and the family too; my brother will divorce and marry again, a sister will become bi-polar, another will marry the wrong man, and me, a student of failure, courageous and broken-hearted, will spend the next 35 years pushing boulders into the path of love.

When you’re at Loves, the whole world is in love, though there are only so many scripts, some I suspect I haven’t even read yet.


Kathleen said...

one of the reasons i am a teacher is to live vicariously throught the minds of my children.
to go back when things were easier on the mind.
and also to watch their understanding unfold.

powerful writing, as always.

nice to read you again! you have been missed...

ecm said...

Beautiful! I love the jump in time at the end from childhood to the future. The place was really called Loves? Sometimes life is better than fiction.