The Hacienda Hotel next to LAX is cheesy, good, LA cheesy, 4o's or 50's American Cheese that tries to convince you you're in a more glamorous place than you are, visiting a more glamorous and exotic time, say, the quaint Mexico of TV yore, Zorro and the Cisco Kid Mexico--courtyards and fountains and murals (and there should be sequins on hats), its own dive bar to acclimatize you to time travel with Margaritas or Bud Light. Tourists, mostly from Europe, add to the confusion, German, French, Russian spoken here. Spanish, too, but mostly by the maids and janitors. It's tall and jets whiz into and out of LAX just to the north. To the south, the tall spires of El Segundo's refineries rise holy in this late era of gas and oil blinking red warnings to airplanes in the night. The air is warm and I'm tired, but I have a dinner date with friends, so head down Sepulveda to Palos Verdes with my little bag of dried Georgia porcini to contribute to the meal.
Palos Verdes is eucalyptus and peacocks and 60's California ranch homes and horseback trails on the hills overlooking the sea and the city. Elena Karina Byrne, my dear friend and fellow poet and the reason I get to go back to LA every year, shows me her house and its lovely view, and we begin cooking very quickly. She's planned to use my porcini in a recipe that calls for heavy cream and balsamic vinegar, a combination I'm ready to be surprised by. It's good to catch up, to be back in California. Peter and their daughter are at soccer nationals, so will arrive later. In fact, the big news around the house is their daughter's full scholarship to Oregon to play soccer. She's still a junior. She's that good. Every few minutes Elena and I have to go check the view, sundown over the city, lights coming on, the mountains in the distance, Santa Monica bay just visible to the north. And we catch up about mutual friends and friends she made out here when she visited. It's warm and we dine and the porcini sauce over the chicken is fantastic and holds up nicely to red wine. It's nice to be there with my friend in her lovely home, warm, almost ethereal. Elena shows me some new poems and they spark in the mind, bare wires against sheet metal beautiful, and we read until Pete and C. arrive from soccer.
It's good to see Pete, too, and we catch up, too. He's on tour with Naked Eyes this summer on a big east coast swing with ABC and Belinda Carlisle and Flock of Seagulls and, I think, the Human League. It's fun to hear him reminisce about seeing Hendrix and Traffic and Syd's Pink Floyd and Clapton's various incarnations when they were just coming out. He plays me some of his new music, the 80's synth-pop influences still prominent, but in a deeper timbre, more mature. The demos sound excellent and ready to go, though he points out how much more work they need in the studio. Then I head back down to the Hacienda, past the peacocks and eucalyptus trees, warm in the belly, warm in the head, tired from all the travel .