California Readin’ on Such a Winter’s Day

When this post goes to press, I will be capping off a week-long vacation in Los Angeles by taking my three-year-old to a certain well-known southern Californian theme park/kingdom that I swore that I’d never go to, until I found myself using visiting Cinderella as my primary negotiating tactic for ending tantrums at the grocery store, using the potty, leaving the playground, etc.

I mention this not to make you jealous about my vacation in the sun, nor to fess up about my questionable parenting techniques, but rather as a messenger from the other side of the ice, snow, and freezing rain that have dominated our region for the last four months.

Spring is coming! And after a long winter, you may have forgotten how wonderful that annual thaw can be. A few things I did this week that reminded me of life after winter were:

  • walked outside without a coat, hat, gloves, etc.
  • walked outside without shoes.
  • drove without being on the lookout for black ice.
  • drank coffee at a table on a sidewalk.
  • smelled flowers.

And who knows? Inside of a month, you may be able to do these things too.

In the meantime, the end of winter is close enough that you can go ahead and get excited by checking out a book, movie, or CD that takes you to a warmer place. Some of my favorite California reads (or views, or listens) are listed below.

You can pick from many classic detective novels set in LA, but The Long Goodbye is, for me, the most titillating representation of the wild old boom town that Los Angeles once was. Let the sex, booze and murder warm you up while you wait for Spring.

Of course, if Chandler’s seedy LA is too tame for you, why not pick up a volume of poems by Charles Bukowski? His disciplined poetry, such as what you’ll find in the posthumously published Sifting Through the Madness for the Word, the Line, the Way, offers a nice contrast to his famously debauched lifestyle in which the poorer places in LA play a central role. He supposedly spent his young days reading and writing at downtown LA’s beautiful Central Library.

You could start reading Los Brothers Hernandez’s Love and Rockets books, say, in October and still be watching these intricate tales unfold all over LA come spring. The Locas: The Maggie and Hopey Stories volume is a good place to start, but you can really dip in anywhere; there’s enough here to last through the longest winter.

I moved to California for a few years in my early twenties and I must admit that even though I lived in Northern California, a part of me expected my west coast lifestyle to in some ways resemble that of The Dude from the Coen Brothers cult classic The Big Lebowski. And while I ended up spending a lot of time going to work and very little time bowling, I did recognize in many Californians a dedication to leisure, pleasure, and enjoyment of the beautiful gifts nature has bestowed upon them. The Dude could never abide in Western PA…

The Beach Boys are perhaps a too-obvious choice, and while Surfin’ Safari and Fun Fun Fun are definitely great tracks to play to take a mental beach vacation, the recently released Smile Sessions, unfinished recordings from Brian Wilson’s famously ambitious attempt to make the great American album, is to me by far the most interesting listen in their catalog. It’s a beautiful, scary look into Brian’s troubled mind and a wonderfully complex example of pop music, which is of one of LA’s greatest exports to the world.

-Dan, who will do his best to bring some sunshine back with him upon his return to PA on Tuesday.

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One response to “California Readin’ on Such a Winter’s Day

  1. Pingback: Of Snowstorms and Sugarcane | Eleventh Stack

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