Tuesday, April 7, 2015


Every once in a while, I get a glimpse of what life would be if  I stopped fighting everybody and everything.

Yesterday was just such a day.

I won't go too deeply into my borderline OCD dread of "errands," except to say that, having been out of town, I had a bunch of them. I went over in my mind many times what order to do them in, what would happen if I had to wait, or couldn't park, or had to go to the bathroom, or got hungry, or the people were mean.

I had a loose list and truth to tell, none of them were emergencies. None of them were life-and-death, though I tend to experience everything that way.

Anyway, I started out with a visit to Sunset Nursery where I needed to buy a small bag of potting soil and four plastic pots, two big, two small (I already had four terra cotta with saucers) in which to plant the cuttings (purple bamboo orchid, various agaves and succulents) I'd nabbed (with permission) from the last place I stayed.

I deposited twenty cents in the meter and the visit went smoothly. Thank you. One down.

Next, I proceeded to the 99-Cent-Store Only on Sunset and Micheltorena. This is in my old 'hood adn though there are dollar stores all over the place in L.A. for some stubborn nostalgic reason I feel I can only get my nonfat half and half, stevia packets, toothpaste, dental floss, anti-itch cream, Post-Its and Banquet chicken pot pies here. I used to walk to this particular store, over the hills from my house, two or three times a week and so it has hearth-like connections for me. Anyway, all went well here, too. The crazy person before me in line was well-behaved and the cashier (they're unsung saints, all) was as always forbearing and kind.

From there I went to the Metro gym in Atwater Village. I love this place. Clean locker rooms, nobody bothers you. I crammed in my little ear phones, put on Pandora (Iris DeMent, Lucinda Williams) and did the exact same thing I do every time I'm there which is 20 minutes on the elliptical and then a slapdash rounds of the resistance weight machines. Like museums, concerts, and church (all of which I prefer to do alone), I enjoy being among people as long as I don't have to talk to them.

From there I motored the short distance to one of my favorite places on earth, the Pathfinders Club in Atwater Village, where I spent an hour and a half with my fellow alkie/addicts tapping into sanity and love.

Meanwhile, my "new" (now two years old) Fiat had a little glitch that had been driving me crazy for months; namely, the little faux leather skirt around the stick shift (I now know this is called a "boot"), had come undone from its little notches and try as I might, I couldn't get the thing to fit right. Consequently, there was an unsightly gap around the top portion of it: annoying but not annoying enough for me to have taken an hour to set it right. I had called Chrysler Glendale Jeep from the gym and they said Come on over, we'll replace it in a jiffy, no need to make an appointment.

So over I went and the very competent and gracious Javier informed me the thing was broken, which was why I hadn't been able to "make it work," located the part, said they would have to replace the whole knob etc, and that what with the warranty I would not have to pay a thing! The only thing he would "take" was my time, he said: half an hour. So I sat with the other waiting customers in a little shaded area to the side of the parking lot and read the L.A. Times. Actually, I sat in the sun where I always gravitate.

True to Javier's word, in half an hour I was driving off with a brand new "boot" and gear knob and the Lord knows what else. That felt good! Thank you!

Thus fortified, I turned my thoughts to my hair. I have always always dreaded having my hair cut (which had needed doing for weeks) and I know now always will. I'm not sure why: some combination of shame, not knowing what I want or how to describe it, and fear of spending money and time. Plus probably mainly having to talk to the person who's cutting my hair.

Anyway, I suddenly remembered that my friend Emily had told me about a guy Sammy who had a chair down from the clubhouse on Glendale Boulevard and cut a lot of old ladies' hair and was kind of hang-loose. Emily's hair looked great. So I wheeled in at the black awning she'd described and walked in. An Asian lady was doing nails in the front. She gave me the once-over and said, "Sammy?"


"Sammy!" she called, and a Japanese guy with lavendar Lucite glasses instantly appeared from the back room and offered to cut my hair for twenty bucks.

"Like grocery store here" he chuckled as he snipped away. "Come back, get mani-pedi [from the woman in front], twenty bucks also. She very good. Like swap meet right here!"

Then he refused to take a tip and instead gave me a flyer for a twenty-buck hour-long foot massage joint that had just opened up the street.

My hair looked exactly the way it always does, whether the haircut costs five bucks or a hundred. Thank you!

What next!?

I forgot to say that some horribly misguided person somewhere along the line I'd just discovered had keyed my car! Yep, a big long scratch, extending from the back rear part whatever that's called through the right passenger door. Mean! I'm very careful about not blocking people's driveways and the car is barely three feet wide so never hogs parking spaces like some other vehicles I can think of, so it had to be either someone who hates me or a random act of cruelty.

Anyway, I'd called the insurance company and they said report it and get an estimate so at this point in my day (now about 4 p.m.) I thought Well I will stop right down at this body shop on Hyperion! So I did. And Alex informed me it would cost six hundred and fifty dollars to fix.

I said "Is there any kind of wax or anything I could put on, just to make it look a little better?" He said, "No, but you can get some touch-up paint from the manufacturer and I could put it on very carefully." "Will it look like a patch-up job?" "Kind of, but if you stand far away you won't notice much." "How much would that cost?" "I'd do it for free. You bring the paint in, I'll do it for free."

Well even if not a perfect solution, that, too, was pretty darn nice, In fact, I could hardly believe the guy wouldn't charge me. I would look into it. (After googling, and speaking to the dealer, it transpires this is apparently not a great idea, but still). Thank you!

I also forgot to say that while speaking to the insurance agent, we discovered I only drive 6000 miles a year and was being charged for 12,000 and also there's an alumni discount if I could provide proof that I'd graduated from college, making for a total annual savings of over a hundred bucks. Thank you, Mercury (even if there's a $250 deductible for vandalism and I already pay over 1200 a year for insurance!).

One thing I love to do is cut little blurbs out of the paper about mom-and-pop noodle joints, with which L.A. abounds. I am a huge noodle nut. For years, I'd heard of this place called Sapp Coffee Shop on Hollywood Boulevard. I happen to be staying at the magnificent Hollywood Grove home of my friends Julia and Aaron while they're out of town for several weeks, which means that I was within walking distance of Sapp's (even though I was driving).

So being ravenous at this juncture, and also jonesing for my afternoon caffeine fix, I at long last entered the doors of the cheery yellow lunchroom of Sapp. I ordered the famous jade noodles and a Thai iced coffee which together made just about the greatest meal I've had in quite some time. Basil, lime, chilis, sugar, fish sauce, a couple of bites of crab, pork, the pale green slightly chewy noodles, sweet strong iced coffee with plenty of crushed ice.

How can you say there is no God?!

One last errand: a very sad, very momentous state of affairs: the App Store was down on my iphone5. I'd googled and tried every fix. I'd turned the phone off, at one point for hours, and turned it back on. I'd checked and re-checked the settings. There was only one thing left to do: visit the T-Mobile store, in this particular instance on Western and Hollywood. (Knowing parking would be horrendous; I walked from Sapp, peering into the faces of tourists, homeless people, street hucksters and regular folk, also no doubt on the hunt for noodles, wandering through Thai Town).

Once I was inside the store, Virginia informed me that the only thing to do was back up the phone on itunes, remove all data and content (contacts, photos, apps), reset to factory settings and then restore from the backup.

What was interesting here was that instead of sighing and fuming and twitching and rolling my eyes and thinking Oh my God, we WASTE our lives, technology RULES us, this will take ANOTHER FIVE HOURS OF MY PRECIOUS TIME AND WHAT IF I LOSE EVERYTHING?, I thought: What an amazing item a smartphone is. It allows us to call each other, text each other, look up almost unbelievable amounts of information. It speaks driving and walking directions to us, scans our boarding pass at the airport, takes photos, records videos. It's amazing the thing works at all, never mind as well as it does. Of COURSE it's going to have issues now and again.

And look at this dear kind young girl who is telling me that if I bring in my laptop she will do the whole thing for me and it won't take more than twenty minutes. How nice is that?

Thank you!

In fact, when I got home, I googled and figured out how to back up and restore myself and called Virginia for verification and now my App Store not only works again, but I have got WAZE!

Which should come in handy as I make my way back to the root canal guy in Beverly Hills this afternoon at 2:30, then back to the Keck Center at County USC in rush hour traffic to meet with some other people at the bedside of our dear friend Horace who's been gravely ill since Feb. 24th but is now, to our complete delight and relief, showing signs of recovery. And at 5, we are going to exchange some more love and sanity, all of us.

Thank you!

That was just the day. I could write a whole other long thing on the night, which included playing (however badly) several Bach two- and three-part inventions on the Steinway, but enough said.

It was a day when I realized how many people we depend upon in the course of any given twenty-four hours, how generally helpful they are, how there is almost always a solution of some kind, at least to the mechanical challenges of life.

And may there always ALWAYS be noodles.



  1. My favorite kind of day… without the keying of the car of course. which blows. l love you heath.

  2. Normally, when I see a post this long, I am overwhelmed by the immenseness. But I had to read to the end to find out what mades for a perfect day. How splendid for you to have so many errands go so smoothly. thank you for sharing!

  3. I really enjoyed this post. Put a smile on my face.

  4. Next time could you please include a picture of the noodles so us small-town folk who don't get such delights could have a moment of vicarious bliss? :-)

    Glad you had such a lovely day.

  5. I loved this! It's length only magnifies the fact that every, single moment of our lives holds inestimable value. Demi des me of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Or the simple and beautiful offering of Elizabeth Barrett Browning.....

    Earth's crammed with heaven.
    And every common bush afire with God.
    And only those who see take off their shoes.
    The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.


    1. "Demi des" should have been "remind". Gotta love autocorrect!


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