Breakfast in Santa Monica

I am driving on Wilshire, west to Santa Monica, listening to KCRW.

There’s a soft mist around the tall conservative apartment buildings as I drop into the Westwood corridor.

I’m told that middle class Iranians who fled the ayatollahs live here.

I wonder who told me that.

We keep getting into hold-ups. Right now there is a big SUV called an Escalade beside me and in front of me is a two-funnelled sand-coloured tractor unit with no trailer.

Inscribed on the back of the cab is:

In Memory of Mario (Bubba) Garcia

I am visiting Jim for breakfast. Jim’s father came to the US from Britain in the 1930’s when his thrillers became successful and married a succession of women before settling for actress Leanna Lang, 15 years his junior, who was Jim’s mother.

Jim was born in the 1940s so he’s now approaching 70. He lives in an old apartment building on a street called Euclid in Santa Monica just south of Wilshire Boulevard. He’s been there for years.

Jim loves words, and is very, very clever, with a gift for languages. He also plays the piano, and is quite an accomplished jazz musician. I think at one time he was also quite a successful advertising copywriter.

He also has a gift for pastiche and raillery, and he makes fun of the mishaps and gaffes of the candidates running for the Republican nomination. “In twenty years time we won’t be run by idiots any more,” he says. He is big on the theory of a pundit called Ruy Teixeria that there is an emerging progressive majority combining “millenials” — born after 1978 — and minorities – Latino and African American – most of whom would vote Democrat.

Jim is still a jobbing writer. It’s been hard for him lately. I’ve seen a series called “20 Things You Didn’t Know About…” on the internet under his name. This series is a promotion for a well-known science channel.

He wants me to have a whiskey with him but it’s still morning.

We head to a nearby diner for breakfast.

Like me, Jim has been watching the trial of Dr Conrad Murray, accused of causing the death of singer Michael Jackson by his negligence. Jim has found out that one of Murray’s mistresses, Nicole Alvarez, lives only a few blocks away.

After breakfast I head up to Will Rogers Park and take the backbone trail up into the heights above the city. I love the hot tang of the sagebrush and chaparral.

My memory of that day is of standing high up in the Santa Monica mountains, looking down a dark-green ribbed valley into the silver Pacific, glittering, opalescent in the afternoon sun.

Another day was overcast as I hiked up through a damp coastal mist — to emerge into a hot, dry afternoon smelling of sagebrush, just like any other. There, below me, to the west, everything was shrouded in white. Only one crest with a single palm tree was visible.

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