Tag Archive for: Los Angeles

Finding the “real” United States

By AB Plum

During a recent cruise from Barcelona to Miami I asked the young Indian cook preparing my egg-white omelet, “Have you visited the US?”

“No, madam. It is my dream. But someday I will go. Where do you think I should start?”

Obviously, this isn’t a one-minute conversation (about the time for my omelet to cook). But we discussed the question at length over his next fourteen preparations of my breakfast.

“New York,” he said next morning, flipping the concoction in his skillet—a skill I’ve never mastered and told him so to let him know I’m not an expert in either flipping omelets or mapping out cross-country trips. “I think,” he continued, “Manhattan and Hollywood-Los Angeles must go to the top of the list, don’t you agree?”

Someone behind me interrupted, “I’d like to order an omelet now because I don’t want to miss the lecture on Columbus’s discovery of America.”

So, my new friend and I tabled the question until the following day when I picked up our conversation. “Since you’re from New Delhi, I’d suggest places other than cities. Do you know about the Grand Canyon? Or Yosemite National Park? The Black Hills aren’t that far from Yellowstone or the Tetons …”

A hungry passenger elbowed in next to me and announced, “I’d like two eggs over easy.”

When I commented to other passengers about this on-going conversation, they all had definite ideas of places to go and places to experience. None recommended NYC or LA.

By the end of the cruise, I still lacked a solid plan but suggested beginning in Washington, DC. From there, I recommended the Black Hills, adding he should see the Crazy Horse Monument before proceeding to Yellowstone and/or the Tetons.

Next, I advised, head south and west to Salt Lake City, veering off to The Grand Canyon. Afterwards, fly to San Francisco to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. With any time, money, or energy left, I suggested flying to Seattle—maybe managing to hook up with a cruise ship destined for Alaska.

My new friend thanked me for my ideas, but I think he still felt the allure of NYC.

Yes, I recognize my itinerary leaves out huge swaths of our country, its history, and culture. I happen to love West Virginia and New Orleans. I know many would insist Mount Vernon and Monticello are a must for anyone visiting Washington. My preferences, Lincoln’s Tomb and Birthplace, probably do require too much travel off the beaten path. For me, they evoke more poignant memories than Washington’s and Jefferson’s plantations. I hope I conveyed the “real” United States is more than the East and West Coasts.

What do you think? Where would you send a foreign visitor with 21 days to see the USA? 

******When AB isn’t lolling on trans-oceanic cruises, she lives and writes just off the fast lane in Silicon Valley. Her American Journey began in Southern Missouri, after which she lived in Bolivia, Kansas, North Carolina, Florida, and Argentina. Book 3 in The MisFit Series, The In-Between Years is now available from Amazon.  Look for Book 4, The Reckless Year on November 17—just in time for Thanksgiving.

A Different Time

When I read my fellow Stiletto gang’s posts I am often reminded of the big generational gap between us. The majority are near the age of my children and at least one is closer to the age of my grandchildren.

I grew up in a different time period. Though I didn’t grow up in a small town–Los Angeles is where I lived the first eighteen years of my life–things were certainly different than they are now. Oh, the same dangers were out there–murderers, thieves, child molesters–but I don’t think our parents thought about those people.

When we went off to play, we really didn’t have to say exactly where that would be. The only rule in my house was I had to be home by 5 because that was supper time. And yes, we always ate dinner together–my dad, mom, and sister and ever so often a guest or two. When it was just our family we ate at a small table at the end of the kitchen. For more classy dinners, we ate in our dining room–but that wasn’t often.

I wandered all over the neighborhood–especially during the summer–to find someone to play with. I did not call my mom and tell her where I was nor did she expect it. Sometimes I rode my bike and found a nice front yard with a big weeping willow tree and settled myself in to read or write or draw. Why the homeowner didn’t come out and ask me what I was doing, I have no idea.

When my cousin and I were ten years old we begged to go downtown by ourselves. To do this we had to ride the bus and transfer to a streetcar. If I remember correctly, this didn’t cost much more than a dime, even with the transfer. Yes, our moms let us. However, the first time we learned later that, they followed us on the very next bus and street car. We’d been given orders that we could only shop on one block on Broadway, between 5th and 6th Streets. That was okay, there was the Broadway Dept. Store on one corner and somewhere in between a great five-and-dime. For $1.00 we could buy all sorts of treasures. We followed the rule, and after that traveled downtown without the shadows.

When I was 10 I babysat in other people’s homes. My first job was with five little ones. (3 family’s offsprings together.) I heated bottles, rocked babies–but I never once thought to change a diaper. Once I took care of a girl the same age as me who was developmentally disabled. I had to wrestler her to get her into her p.j.s and into bed. I was paid 50 cents for three hours of very hard work. I never went back.

My friends and I would hike in the hills behind my house. (At that time it was an undeveloped area–no houses and hobos had encampments in gullies.) There was a water reservoir at the very top of the hill. Today that area is now the Glendale Freeway. When I was in high school, I’d cut through the hills to take a shorter way to school rather than riding the bus and streetcar which seemed to take forever. It still was a long walk and I sometimes did it by myself.

As a young teen, my friends and I rode the bus, the streetcar and another streetcar to get to the beach during the summer. Sometimes we accepted rides home with boys we met at the beach. (Not sure if our parents were aware we did this.)

My girlfriends and I often took the bus and streetcar to go to downtown L.A. to the movies and special programs put on by the department stores–in fact we got to see Frank Sinatra before he was so famous at the May Co.

Frankly, our mothers had to work so hard I don’t think they had time to worry about us. My mom did have one of the first automatic washing machines but she still had to hang clothes up outside to dry and iron everything. I remember she even had a mangle to iron all the sheets and pillowcases. She even ironed my dad’s shirts on it.

Anything we baked (yes, my sis and I did a lot of baking) had to be made from scratch. There was no such thing as mixes. No microwaves, no prepared food.

I even remember the first Ralph’s grocery store–at first it was in a big tent. What I don’t remember is where we shopped for food before that.

We went to Sunday School and church and to youth group on Sunday night. Sometimes I walked home from there by myself–and it was at least two miles. Sometimes we spent the rest of Sunday at my grandparents in South Pasadena or we’d travel over the hill to visit my Aunt and Uncle and my four boy cousins.

Mother loved sales, so we went to sales downtown and to smaller stores nearby. It wasn’t a good experience, the women acted horrible snatching things from one another. I don’t like sales to this day.

When I was a teen we spent our summer vacations at Bass Lake. My dad let me drive our outboard motor boat wherever I wanted, long before I ever knew how to drive a car. We made friends fast and always had a group to hang out with and we went all over that lake.

I could go on, but I think that’s enough to make my point. I definitely grew up in a different time.


Earlier Times

On a list I’m on, people were reminiscing about their childhoods and how kids could use their imaginations more because they played outside–no one organized them. Things have truly changed and I think it’s too bad–and the main reason is because it’s too dangerous.

Back in my younger days, I have a feeling there were just as many bad people around, we just didn’t hear about them so much.

I had lots of freedom. Mom really didn’t seem to care where I went as long as I was home by 5 for dinner. Also, if we heard my dad whistle, and he could whistle really loud, we better hustle on home. I did not grow up in the country, our home was in Los Angeles. We had hills behind our house where the Glendale Freeway is today. We usually didn’t hike in the hills unless we had a grown-up with us because hobos lived in the hills. And yes, they really did, we often saw their encampments though never them.

We did a lot of roller skating down the sidewalks, we lived on a hilly street and usually stopped by crashing into someone’s garage door. We also rode our bikes everywhere. I often rode off alone in the summer with my writing gear in my basket and a book to read, and parked myself several blocks away under a lovely willow tree on someone’s front lawn. (No, I didn’t know the people.) I would write and read and enjoy myself and no one ever told me to move along.

I can just imagine the people of the house saying, “There’s that strange little girl again.”

Though I spent a lot of time with my friends doing all sorts of things like digging tunnels in the vacant lot (to escape from the enemy–I grew up during WWII) and cococting poisons, putting on plays with the neighborhood kids, I also wandered around a lot by myself. Sometimes I even managed to get lost.

When my cousin and I were 10 our mothers let us go downtown (downtown L.A.) on the streetcar by ourselves. (What we didn’t know is they followed us on the very next street car.) We had strict orders to stay in the block between 5th and 6th and to only go in those stores. Because we did as we were told, we were allowed to go downtown by ourselves whenever we wanted after that. Back in those days you could buy a lot at the dime store with one dollar.

Visits to the library were a weekly event. Mom had to drive us there. I always got 10 books and read them all before the week was up.

When I was a bit older mom subscribed to a book club and she told me I couldn’t read the books–but I did after she finished them. (I’m sure she knew.)

My growing up years were filled with freedom and I truly know how blessed I was.

Marilyn a.k.a. F. M. Meredith