from Sandy Needham

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

LA Dispatch

Newton and I were very excited to get to Los Angeles and see Elise and Jake, as well as Elise’s new home there. Having lived 29 years in New York, we found plenty of contrasts in LA, the most striking of which was the big, sunny, airy sky and the big, sunny, airy apartment! Because I had barely seen a glimpse of LA since riding on an upside-down bucket between my parents in the front seat of our old Pontiac in ’53, I felt every bit the tourist. As luck would have it, Elise was missing a roommate until our last night (her friend in NY who holds the lease was frantically trying to solve this), so our family stayed in Elise’s apartment together and felt like LA residents, as well.


Jake had already arrived from Las Vegas, so we filled Elise’s parking allotment:


First things first: Trader Joes. ‘Nuff said. EXCEPT, it turns out I DO have to say more…because…I can: have you ever had their chocolate-covered pomegranate seeds?...or their dark chocolate peanut butter cups? Goat cheese with pesto and red pepper spread? There’s so much more to say, but I’ll move on.

Hollywood BlvdWe headed for Hollywood Boulevard and, at last, I saw Grauman’s Chinese Theater and the sidewalks filled with inlaid stars of famous stars. Looking down constantly does not lend itself well to maneuvering on crowded sidewalks, but I did thrill to the film and television memories passing before my eyes. Even though you can’t tell it, we are in front of the Hollywood sign here.






Next on our priority list was to get started on the Mexican food! There are many choices near Elise, so sometimes we simply chose the restaurant with the $1 taco special that day. Once we discovered the Tex Mex place with barbeque rib tacos, we never cared what day it was again. Here’s the four-straw margarita special:

4 straws

A hike in Runyon Canyon (named for the writer, Damon Runyon), entered just off Mulholland Drive (of David Lynch fame), was the ideal way to experience that big blue sky, views of nature, beautiful homes and the LA skyline, and to begin to appreciate the extent to which perfect-looking people show up around LA. In this case, they had perfect-looking dogs with them. Elise and I especially liked watching Jake and Newton run backwards up part of the return trail, oblivious to the stares from Central Casting. A skywriter was making the most of that huge blue palette:


Runyon Canyonhiking

A day at Venice Beach confirmed that New York is utterly sane compared to LA. They were selling bikini tops made of coconuts, sea shells, and athletic cups! Here is where we handily got both Botox and marijuana:


An incredible athlete wowed the crowd with this feat:

Venice Beach

Elise has been back several times since that day; it is her funky kind of place!

I was pretty cold, especially at night, having believed that the 91° weather Elise mentioned the month prior upon arriving there would still be in effect. I took almost nothing warm, so was delighted to notice a large Goodwill store right around the corner from the apartment. Not only did they have beautiful long-sleeve shirts, sweaters and blazers at Goodwill prices, but everything was in perfect condition and the store was very well-run. I returned for shoes, dresses, belts, and a great ‘50’s table for Elise. Now the rest of my LA shopping experience consisted of an entire afternoon going through the endless, stuffed racks of the Men’s Department at Macy’s to replenish Newton’s wardrobe after some years…and a couple of hours with Jake – the one with the money – at Nordstrom’s at the chic Grove for two pairs of jeans and some shirts for many times the dollars. Just sayin’.

The four of us had time together at Elise’s for Bananagrams, Chinese Checkers, Hearts, shenanigans, even all-night conversation. We had seen the wonderful animated film, “Rio,” at Grauman’s, then just had to watch “Toy Story 3” on Elise’s flat screen, noting that some of the current animated films are far better than the usual fare. We also had a lovely Italian Father’s Day dinner in Santa Monica, temporarily breaking the Mexican streak. e & n

A constant parade of terrific-looking, friendly young women came through the apartment to consider renting the second bedroom. “Awesome” seems to be the most oft-used word at the moment! Most of them would have been decent roommates, but the final decision was Maritza, a lovely UCLA film graduate who works at the Armand Hammer Museum.

And speaking of friendly, I enjoyed joking with the kids that Southern California was partly settled by Okies who arrived during the Dust Bowl. This also explained the way people went out of their way to cross streets only at the crosswalks and only with the ‘walk’ signal (regardless of no traffic), and the early dining, with restaurants closing at 9:00pm.





We had the surreal experience of meeting up with our part-time Cotovelo Beach/Pium neighbors, Cleveland, of San Diego (left), and Larry, of LA (right), in Santa Monica. Larry has already come back to Brazil; Cleveland, who generously treated all of us to cocktails and dinner, is expected back in October. Both hope to find a way to stay as permanent residents.

pium-santa monica

My niece, April, had us over for grilled salmon at her home in Woodland Hills, though the real treat at her place is her whole unbelievably adorable family. Ryan is 7, a natural athlete, sweet, smart; did I say handsome?                                                                                              Here is Marty creating his grill magic:


Addie is 5-1/2, personable in a completely disarming way, and quite fond of Jake! We took them a favorite book from Elise and Jake’s childhood, Hailstones and Halibut Bones, a fabulous book about colors, which Addie ended up reading expertly to us!

Jake & AddieHailstones

After our 11 days together in LA, Jake returned to Las Vegas (with the queen-size blow-up mattress) and Newton headed to a trade show in San Diego. Elise and I joined him the next evening, blowing in from LA with the top down. Downtown San Diego is really well-planned, and despite some parking challenges, we loved walking around there. Both evenings had fancy trade show parties, one on the top floor terrace of a skyscraper, overlooking Petco Park while a Padres game was in session.

Petco field

The next day Elise and I visited the famous San Diego zoo. It is really something special, even with many of the animals out of sight in their little caves or bushes. Watching the panda chewing on his bamboo was a highlight.

panda 2flamingoes

Our last night was back in LA, Newton now on the sofa and me in Elise’s room while Maritza got settled in the second bedroom. Elise was busy with all sorts of jobs she had dug up, many utilizing her professional graphic design and videography skills. She has recently been a regular at the Jonas Group offices, both shooting and editing video footage of the artists they manage, and this makes her very happy!

Time to get back to the rainy season in Natal.




  1. Gotta say that southern California is unique and as different from northern California as it is from Washington or Oregon. I hear there is another referendum trying to separate themselves from the northern half. Moreover, San Diego is nothing like LA. I'm not sure where the difference begins since the two are just about continuous cities. I have to say San Diego is my favorite: less crazies, not as hot, less traffic, much smaller, fewer perfect people with perfect dogs, and a great place for trade shows.

  2. Love this entry!! One of my favorites :) probably because of all the AWESOME photos!!! :)


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