Radio Flying down Fairfax

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We move down the street with loud rattles and bangs, the wheels of the Radio Flyer click and catch on protruding curbs whose steps and cracks reveal the roots of decades worth of Oak and Magnolia trees trying to push through. They have succeeded all over town. I commend them with sprained ankles and walk on.

It has become our daily ritual, this walk. The children in the wagon and me pulling them down the sidewalk, down our street toward Fairfax, my old stomping ground and also our new one.
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When I first moved to Los Angeles I lived five blocks away from where we do now in a house with many boys and many goldfish they forgot to feed while I was away. They would die (killed) and I would buy (more) and they would die (killed) and I would buy (more) until one day I just threw the tank in the garbage and moved on. We used to visit The Kibitz Room at Canter's every Tuesday night. For years, we did, even after we all moved into new apartments with different roommates. We'd drink ourselves silly, make out with our feet in curb gutters, pass joints, lean back with our heads in each other's disposed gum and Parliament butts, go back inside and dance to G&R and Pat Benetar and pretend it wasn't 1999. I was eighteen then and there were no such thing as scanning for fake IDs. Vodka tonics until last call, then we'd grab a slice at Damianos and walk home.
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The neighborhood looks very different now. And not just because my vision has changed. "Vintage" has replaced "thrift" and the Hasidic-owned marketplaces now rent space to skate shops and salons, shoe stores with cellophane wrapped limited-edition Nikes and stores to buy bunk beds for dogs. It's a clash of every Angeleno, Fairfax is. The bleached out blondes with their pink collared pugs dodge boys who bend and sway down the sidewalk on their boards. A man in a wheelchair stops us as we make our way towards Canters and asks if we'd like to hear him play us a song on his recorder. We do. So we listen as the old man with holes in his shoes makes a face and turns away. When he finishes he pulls out his train whistle, blows it, and then he's gone. A man in a Maserati turns his hazard lights on, parked in the red behind a napping cabbie blasting Beethoven. Men in hard hats take breaks from filling pot holes to drink cold water out of small Styrofoam cups.
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Across the street there's a book store called "Family" that doesn't sell children's books. There's a Silent Movie theatre that hosts some of the town's finest events and a theatre attached to Fairfax high where I used to watch poetry slams with the boy who dyed my previously natural blonde hair black. A thousand years ago we had a moment. I have no idea where he is now but it doesn't matter, my hair has long since grown out. It's brown, now. Somewhere between the way I used to be and the way I used to wish I was.

There are no children running down Fairfax on this particular day but there are Hasidic men with bags of apples over their shoulders. There are grafitti'd store fronts and a gutter full of soggy script pages and lottery tickets (some would say the same thing.) There are boys on skateboards in men's bodies. There are overpriced glitter shoes in store windows claiming vintage status and young girls at the bus stop with their Samuel French bags. There are the palm trees that dance and sway like pole dancing mullets, cats with one eye and beautiful tails.
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In June, my friend Angela came out to Los Angeles for an art opening. It was my birthday the day she was here so I blew off work and we spent the afternoon together. She walked from her hotel to my house, bought me lunch and a beer float at the new diner that opened up next door to where Largo used to be before it moved. The diner all of our friends suggested we try. We watched the World Cup and talked about all the things that changed and the things that never would.

"So weird that you live here, again," she said. "It doesn't feel like ten years ago."

"Eleven years."

"Fuck, really?"

Later that night I walked to Angela's show, ran into people I used to know but forgot their names, said we'd never met before, finished my wine in a cup, kissed Angela goodbye and walked home. Past the darkened palm trees and the blinking cross-walk and the signs. Apartments, houses, my car parked in the driveway. Eleven years.
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I've wrestled in the past with the life we chose for our family. Mainly, I think, because I was insecure about who I used to be and what the hell we were still doing here. In Los Angeles. Gambling on the same bet everyone else in this town has double-down. I'm not anymore. I love this, all of this, every last inch of this and here and how. Here is a land where everyone's invited, where everyone can, mixing and clashing and forming a line at the same bakery. Where our little red wagon is always welcome, even when it doesn't exactly belong.
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There is life, here. Filthy, fascinating, glorious, all of it. Memorable and forgettable with old friends and new diners and bookstores that sell drawings of sexual positions on the walls. There is pizza by the slice and a bar to see stand-up and a man who carries a train whistle for the kids. There are girls who can't walk in their new shoes and dogs available for adoption and Simon Rex who just tripped over us on his way out of the hat store. God, I used to love him. I used to love this street. This world. I still do. Even if it spins backwards and around a different pair of stars. There is joy, here. There is joy and begging and puking and laughing and little old men hunched over with yarmulkes pinned to their very last strands of hair.
And at the end of road, there are cookies. Kosher cookies made by hand in the back of a bakery that's open at all hours. The kids choose which ones they want and the man behind the counter folds a pink box around them and we trade box for bills before pushing through the heavy glass door. And then we turn a corner and cross over into a different world, except it's the same, really. Fairfax separates past from future like all boulevards do. Like all street signs and crosswalks and sidewalk cracks torn apart by time and the roots of persistent trees.

When we reach the lawn of our front yard the kids pour out of the Flyer and onto their backs, sweaters oversized and slouching off their shoulders. It's too hard to pull the wagon through the grass. Its wheels catch.
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Someday I'll tell them my stories, show them my old house with the bars on the windows and the bars where I came of age. I'll point out the skate shops and the pizza place and the diner on our walks down the Avenue. I'll play them songs that were written about this place, this street they spent their childhoods rambling down, picking cookies from behind glass, fingerprinted with stories, then wiped away with Windex.

"I was a child here, too," I'll say. "Kind of in a way I was."

For now, though, we're home. We spend a moment on our backs in the front yard discussing the leaves. They're falling, we think. As much as leaves fall off the trees around here. And then it's suddenly cold so we get up and pull our empty wagon up the driveway and through the wooden gate. "We're home now," I say aloud. And it's more than just the house I'm talking about.

One day they'll know what I mean. For now, there's a box full of butter cookies, many of them exploded, their sprinkles and crumbs everywhere. Just as they should be after a long and bumpy ride.



Bert | 2:58 AM

Beautifully written.
The sense of different cultures is overwhelming. So many things that are selfexplanatory for you are riddles to a Dutchman. But the overall impression is still coming through.

Anonymous | 5:14 AM

I just wanted to let you know that this post is perfect. Posts like these are why I keep coming back.

Ashley | 5:20 AM

man i loved Simon Rex too especially when he was on those few episodes of felicity.

Pretzel Thief | 5:47 AM


Long-time reader, first-time commenter. That was beautiful! You have a way of evoking a certain nostalgic warmth...

In other words? Ya ROCK. ;-)

The other day I remembered one of my fave songs from 1999, and I wondered if you know it (you most likely do): Beth Hart's "LA Song" ...?

@ Ashley: Ditto. Heh heh.

jive turkey | 6:23 AM

Great post. I love the last line.

(Still trying to figure out what a beer float must have tasted like. Ech.)

krista | 8:44 AM

you just wrote the way i feel when i hear 'city of angels' by the distillers.
and the random bumping into of people i would have lost my mind over ten years ago. it always provides just the right amount of reality, yes?
i love this city.

Whitney | 8:49 AM

Beautiful, Rebecca. I love everything about this.

Glenda | 8:52 AM

Beautiful post! It's always so nice to reflect back and realize how far you've come. When the kids are older and you can show and tell them your life story. This post reminded me of growing up in NYC and moving to CA when I was 20. Love reading your blog!

Amanda | 8:57 AM

I read this just as I was trying to compose a love letter of sorts about my city. You inspire lady!

I loved this post to bits and pieces.

barbara | 9:31 AM

This was a pleasure to read. I'm sure it was a pleasure to write too. It shows. Much love to you.

Anonymous | 9:31 AM

So beautiful. As someone new to LA, I had many preconceived notions about living here. Although I've only been here a short while, my impression is already changing, and you describe the beauty of the things that first seem gritty so well.

Shauna (Fido and Wino) | 9:44 AM

What a great read. Here's to wanting where you're at.

Fierce jacket by the way...

Polly | 9:58 AM

it's so interesting how we float through each other's ether. a couple years before you and your crew me and mine drank beer at the kibitz, smoked in the street, kissed in cars at the canters parking lot. i've spent hours at greenway, though not for slams, but speaking other people's poetry. i'd sit on the stage when no one was there and try to get some of my essence out. because there was too much inside. i dripped sweat at the Y where i met my love. he'd been going there since he was a boy - so his life trail was there, too. maybe that's why he seems so familiar. and then there's the street - i call it Royal Street though that's not it's name. we are the merry wives of Windsor, you before me. your essence is still there, three doors down. i can feel it when i walk by. like two constellations in the night sky - sometimes we're seen together, but mostly we're featured in separate seasons. and therein lies so much beauty...

Aurora | 10:20 AM

Beautiful, of course. You signify to me what a young mother is, grappling with the past because you became a grown up before putting it all to rest. So many times it's like im reading thoughts out of my head only way better worded - Bravo.

Unknown | 11:28 AM

I clicked on this post because of the gorgeous, gorgeous picture (and because it's by you, of course) but yeah. Wow. The way you share your story is infinitely more beautiful than any snapshot could capture.

Andygirl | 11:35 AM

that's my old neighborhood too. I used to live just off Fairfax and Beverly. maybe 8 years ago. I loved it. the parking sucked, but I loved it. sometimes get a little homesick for it.

jnet liangster | 11:57 AM

your words inspire me.

Anonymous | 12:01 PM

Don't ever stop writing.

Alexia | 12:03 PM

Please dont.

Alexia | 12:04 PM

not ever ever ever.

L.A. Stylist Mom | 12:12 PM

It is so achingly clear to me why we are friends. x

clueless but hopeful mama | 12:27 PM

Just had to comment, and add my voice to the chorus: this is beautiful and evocative and perfect.

And, boy howdy, how it makes me miss LA!

PopMommy Pam | 12:32 PM

Beautiful. And so cool to read on a Friday afternoon while I'm waiting for my kids to awake from their naps. I feel like I entered your world for a moment. Thanks for sharing.

Norm | 2:21 PM

Ah, this is lovely.

But unfortunately I've got Weird Al's "I'm gonna schlep down to, Fairfax Avenue ..." stuck in my mind. Stuck, I tell you.

Diurla | 3:46 PM

Long time reader and first time commenter also :)
I absolutely love everything you write. You have such a beautiful way with words.

Can't wait till the next post!

Unknown | 4:09 PM

Simply beautiful. Isn't it great to live in a city with such diversity? And one where you have such personal history. That's why I love living where I do, too.

avb | 4:33 PM

I feel it, hear it, live it, through your words. So beautiful. Exactly how I feel about an entirely different city. Hope to one day share the same experiences with children of my own. xo

Anonymous | 6:01 PM

Oh God I miss LA. I miss that joy. Thank You Rebecca! Achingly.

agirlandaboy | 7:11 PM

You never disappoint, Bec. I love the way you see the world.

NannerBananner | 7:23 PM

I love your outfit!!!! And this piece!

Shannon | 8:41 PM

Most days I am content that we left. But this made me ache a little.

Unknown | 11:26 PM

My family of four moved a year ago to the LA suburbs (Claremont...*yawn*) from Brooklyn (Park Slope, but still), and before that, Oakland (Rockridge, but still). I miss the grit of our former lives, and worry that the boys won't get it if we end up staying here for awhile. Maybe I just need to spend more time a mere 30 minutes away on Fairfax. I just know it's hard to balance the ease and comfort (and, oh yeah, the excellent schools) of life in exile with what we're missing.

Pamplemoussi | 5:57 AM

Rebecca I cannot for the life of me find your "follow" button! WHERE IS IT!!!

This post is brilliant! And just quietly between you and me - Simon Rex is most welcome to trip over me anytime he wants ;)

Anonymous | 6:53 AM

When you write about how you feel, and the real stuff, your writing is noticeably more fluid and it is really that one fact that makes me lose interest in the forced posts. I know you have to pay the bills so I will stick around for a few more years listening to you reminding me what I was like and where I was ten years ago. Thanks


Thank you, all.

I love City of Angels by: The Distillers. Reminds me of my late friend, Mason. He was in love with that band. And Beth Hart? OMG. Blast from the past. I used to LOVE that song. Wow.

Ray | 8:37 PM

Rebecca, you are an amazing writer. I wish I lived in your world. But since I can't, thank you so much, for taking me with you. <3

Eva | 9:10 PM

Awesome. Great post.
I'm friends with the owner of Family and have been trying to convince him that a store called Family should have children's stuff. Sammy? You listening? Also, the cookies you mentioned were not butter, since the kosher bakeries specialize in pareve (non dairy) cookies, which is why they crumble so quickly.

Anonymous | 6:06 AM

Oh my. If you'd never before written a word, and never write another after this, you can, with all authority, call yourself a writer. While numerous posts of yours have made me swoon, this one carried me away.

Bravo. (Picture a standing ovation as I say that...)


seekingclarav | 8:11 AM

And ohmygod, Canters has the best potato knishes ever.

This post made me miss living in LA. That hasn't happened in years. It really is a beautiful melting pot and I see nothing wrong in raising children there. It's cultural exposure that some people never get to experience and that, to me, is kinda sad.

Anonymous | 8:08 AM

It's amazing how time passes so quickly and how things change. My parents drive us through their old neighborhoods and they are amazed how different everything is. Everything. I'm starting to see my world change too. Oy vay.
Beautiful post.

Meg | 10:55 AM

Oh right! THAT's why I'd consider moving to LA. Every so often I let myself be convinced that all of Southern California is the suburbs, when I know better. the Fairfax would actually make living that close to family seem... managable. After 12 years spent various degrees of far away.

Elaina | 10:49 PM

Thank you for this post. Your words made me feel really wonderful. I just returned from an eleven day stay in LA. I loved every moment of it, even when others said I shouldn't have. I feel like it is the next location in this adventure I call my life, but I keep waiting for something to present itself to me. Not sure why I am divulging this information to you, but just felt compelled to do so. Beautifully written.


I'm glad you did, Elaina. Los Angeles is a wonderful place to live. Everyone loves to say otherwise but that's only because they think they have to. Come on out here, girl. Water's fine. xo


And Meg, YES! Come live next door!

spicylikeginger | 10:34 PM

Who takes the photos of you guys?

pearmama | 10:53 PM

My husband does graffiti. He is old friends with the dude (Retna) who painted the hieroglyphics/graff on the wall in your last pic. Love your post!