Sunday, August 10, 2003
It was California, the state of my birth; it was Los Angeles, my hometown. California had been a dream-state for me in my Seventies adolesence. The shock of my first return to Los Angeles in the fall of 1968, coupled with the estrangement from my father during the following decade, made my stay there in 1983 somewhat bitter and anticlimactic. I came home to Fort Lauderdale late that year, never to return. I did get to meet my father, witness the birth of my nephew, and meet by brother for the first time in a decade and a half, but California in 1983 meant a dead-end job and nowhere to go.
So I left, with no ambitions for the place and none for myself in that city. I left somewhat pissed off. My life since then hadn't been a roaring success, but I had built a career with a major company, met a wonderful woman who would become my wife and the mother to the only daughter I know.
I hadn't really "been" to California in twenty years. I was, at long last, fully a Floridian, and would probably remain one for the remainder of my years.
Before I made my first entry on this blog a week and a half ago, I had flown out to Los Angeles to see my mother, my sister, and her husband. I also had to hunt down a good friend of mine, Juan Domingo Peron (not his real name, of course) and his wife, Evita. This entry is a bit about that trip, a bit about what I saw there, and much about the politics of the place that was beginning to boil in the last week in July.
The trip itself was half adventure, half duty call. I had assisted the move of my relatives out to Los Angeles from their home in Coral Springs, Florida. It had been almost a year since then, and I was obligated to return to the state of my birth to visit my mother. She had had her back surgery delayed until I came out, and I wanted to see her before her operation. And so I went, courtesy of American Airlines, on the 19th of July, 2003.
I had a good stay, had some fun with my sister and her husband. He was kind enough to show me one of his favorite watering holes, the Scotland Yard just off Topanga Canyon on Victory. The waitress there made a wicked ale/scotch combination (I think that's what it was, anyway). We had an eminently forgettable stop at a local titty bar; at which I forgot the old admonition that a fool and his money are soon parted. My brother in law covered for me, as I was walking around woefully unprepared with traveler's cheques in a cash environment.
I offered to pay him back, but as he is a stand up guy, he refused. Family obligations, one would suppose. He has built an enormously successful finished carpentry business in the space of a year. Indeed, he is well on his way to earning what the legendary Hollywood agent, Irving "Swifty" Lazar, called his "fuck you" money (a man's first million when earned in Hollywood).
As he is a connossieur of fine cigars, I made a point to purchase him a couple of mild Maduros in dark leaf wrappers before I left.
However, while California might have its downsides, it does have one great upside, the Sagebrush Cantina. Located in Calabasas, this place does a land-office business on Sunday afternoons, invaded as it is by a combination of bikers and porn starlets. It's one hell of a place to be on a Sunday afternoon, and the beer flows. There I met one of my brother's friends, John F. Kennedy (again, not his real name), who was a happily married husband by day and allowed his eye to wander by night. It was at the Sagebrush that I relearned the old lesson: Los Angeles has more tits and ass in one place than in any other town on Earth. I might add that some of the guys there really know how to have a good time.
Even the women in their forties look good.
One of the highlights of my trip was a morning adventure into the alternate universe of the Hollywood Left, located as it is in the Topanga Canyon area. The first morning of my stay, the family went to Pat's Topanga Canyon Grill deep in the canyon's hill country. Pat is a refugee from Florida who grew up in Daytona Beach. He told me that his mother was going to name him Daytona. Ten years ago, he invested what he had, and then some, in Pat's Grill. Eight hundred thousand dollars later, Pat's remains a wildly popular, farmhouse-like restaurant nestled on a hillside next to the Boulevard.
As the family waited for a table, I spotted a tall woman enter the porch area of the Grill from the driveway. She appeared to be in her mid to late forties, wore a t-shirt, jeans and sandals, and had a full head of long, layered black hair. I knew at once that I had spotted my first Hollywood Leftist. Her t-shirt was a bit more imaginative than the usual slogans that pass for reasoning among the Sturmabteilungen of the Socialist International ("Bush Lied! They Died!" and other charming triumphs of the Socratic Method). Indeed, I should have given her a prize right then and there. This woman was obviously a member of the creative community, as her shirt displayed her understanding of irony. From her point of view, anyway....
Homeland Security: Fighting Terrorism Since 1492
It occured to me that nothing seemed more typical of Hollywood than a considerably well-off Topanga Canyon liberal wearing one of the Indians' now-famous "Homeland Security" t-shirts (this thing will probably become one of the better sellers since the "Fighting Whities" t-shirts of a couple of years ago.).
During the week, I took some free time to negotiate my way through the Los Angeles freeway system in my brother-in-law's Beetle. It handles well, and I fell in love with it while my brother was still living in Coral Springs. It was the perfect get around car for L.A., and I understood why it was so popular in Los Angeles when it first came out about six years ago.
I was off to Japan Town, Hollywood, and Northridge to hunt down some of the finer Japanese animation retailers in the country. As a collector of Japanese animation, I like to peek in on local retailers to see what they have. Japan Town has Anime Jungle, underground in a hotel mall near the Japan Town Chamber of Commerce Shopping Center and Tourist Trap. They've got a lot of the good stuff, DVD's, wall scrolls, and cels. A good place: I recommend it to any collector.
I went down to Hollywood to look for the Holy Grail, Animate. Animate is a Japanese chain store that decided to open up an American franchise. However, Animate decided to open up on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood. High rent, and somewhat hard for the L.A. anime community to get to easily. It closed before I got there, only to be replaced by a fetish store. Finally, I made it to Anime North in Northridge, on Reseda Blvd. They had a pretty good sampling of material, and I was seperated from some of my money one more time.
An old friend of mine told me once that the collectibles business always reminded him of what the Bobcat once said about Presidential elections: it's like going to a sex shop and picking out the least painful dildo.
I contacted Juan Domingo Peron through his father, Juan Sr.. Eventually, he called me on my mother's cel phone and set up a meet. I told him that it would be best if I drove to his home in the foothills above Glendale. Peron's community was a small town of tract homes in the mountains. I drove through the twilight of rush hour on the Ronald Reagan Expressway, anticipating a meet with Peron, who I hadn't seen in twenty years.
Peron and I had gone to the University of Chicago together, along with our mutual friend, Roger Staubach (not his real name) of Plano, Texas. I had renewed my friendship with Juan back in 1983, and then lost touch with him several years after I had returned to Florida. It was good to see him again at long last. This was a friendship that had been forged in college, and that I did not want to lose. The great thing about the University of Chicago is that the friendships formed there tend to last for a lifetime.
Juan Domingo Peron is a reenactor with an infantry unit that fought in the Indian Wars. He is also a Second Amendment activist, like me, and a firearms enthusiast. Not like me: I only have a 12 guage Stevens-Savage pump-action shotgun. I don't even have any ammunition in the house. On the other hand, Juan has all sorts of toys for boys.
Aside from his day job with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Peron sidelines as a an assistant to his wife Evita's costuming company. Their outfit provides extras for Hollywood production companies. Peron has a collection of almost all of the simulations games published by James F. Dunnigan's old Strategy and Tactics magazine, where a lot of today's combat leaders got their start. S&T, as it was affectionately referred to by the gaming community, folded in the 1980's, part of the price of quartering your offices in Midtown Manhattan during the real estate boom of that decade. Dunnigan went on to become a think tank diva and a lobbyist. Juan Peron went on to collect all Jim Dunnigan's games.
Peron has a closet full of Jim Dunnigan's games, old Avalon Hill Games, games by TSR of Drang Nach Osten fame (said to have been the most difficult Eastern Front simulation ever created: think of Operation Barbarossa fought on a huge map half the size of a living room with pieces that represent individual battalions). It was a collection that, in my estimation, was worth at least two to three thousand dollars, if not more, if sold individually on E-Bay.
Peron handed me a Heineken and gave me a tour of his house. It is really well laid out. It's a small California tract home of the kind that went up during the salad days of California's defense industry. Battleship grey on the outside, the house looked as if it was built in the late forties or early fifties. A German scientist employed by Operation PAPERCLIP could have lived there incognito. Indeed, I wouldn't have been surprised to have seen one of Werhner von Braun's kameraden from the V-2 days buried next to the standalone garage. Evita decorated the sitting room and the dining are quite tastefully in late Victorian furnature. It was as if Juan and Evita had wanted to recreate the setting of a late 19th Century home in metropolitan Denver or Carson City. They are both devoted to the Old West and its history, and are two people who remain convinced that living history tells the story better than any book. Their devotion to the craft of reenacting is a pleasure to witness, speaking as an historian.
Anything you've ever been told about the Indian Wars by a Guilty White Liberal is probably either wrong or based on bad historical research, especially the 1876 Pacification Campaign against the Sioux Nation. And don't get Peron started on the Seventh Cavalry at the Little Bighorn. That appears to be one of his pet peeves, along with a distaste for Hollywood's treatment of the American West, and the Indian Wars, in recent cinema. "Homeland Security", indeed!
Juan Domingo Peron collects firearms. Lots of them. Locked up nice and snug in a large safe. I'd rather not go into the specifics of his collection. Suffice it to say, he has rifles of various kinds that I would give my right testicle just to spend a day at the range with. In addition, he is a proud owner of our old friend, the Colt Model 1911 .45 Caliber Automatic Pistol, a model that I aim to possess within the next couple of years (I am told by a local gunsmith friend of mine that Kimber Firearms makes a superior M-1911; you can tell the difference on the range). Naturally he, like most other conservatives, detests the gun laws that the regime in Sacramento has foisted upon the state to corral the Soccer Mom vote. Juan will eventually be forced to move out of state. Evita speaks well of Nevada and Northern Arizona, both in the Red Zone where one can carry firearms for personal protection.
I took my leave of Juan and Evita, not certain when I would see them again. That didn't stop me from offering to host them down here in South Florida.
There was background noise in California at the end of last month. You'd pick up the Los Angeles Daily News or the city's regime organ, the Los Angeles Times, you'd find stories about the recall of Governor Gray Davis on pages one or two. By the end of that week, the recall had been made official by the Secretary of State, and one of the most fascinating electoral experiences in the history of the Union was on. I left California not knowing whether or not the voter revolt against the regime would be beaten back by the California Democratic Party's propaganda apparatus and its network of ethnic, union, and government worker supporters.
Of course, the early line concerned Arnold. At the end of that last week, as I left on the 26th, most political professionals were convinced that Maria Shriver, Arnold's wife, would prevail on the Austrian Oak to avoid the hazards of a campaign against Governor Davis' administration and the Governor's Mr. Congeniality, Bob Mulholland. I thought that Arnold would run, as well. I understood that his movies had faced declining grosses ever since Terminator 2, arguably his most successful cinematic outing. My thinking was that he had two choices:
1. Enter politics and, if successful, become the second most influential Republican in the United States after George W. Bush.
2. Continue to build his real-estate and financial empire, while also expanding his production investments in Hollywood.
My thinking was that option number "2" offered Arnold only limited ego strokes and a very limited chance to leave his mark as his movie career was in its twilight. I was thinking he would "go" as I left California, but became dismayed as I heard that he was considering backing out and supporting Richard Riordan, the former mayor of Los Angeles.
Little did I know that my dismay had as a mirror a growing confidence among California Democrats that they had scared Arnold off the campaign trail. With all the dirt they had on Arnold, people like Davis, Mulholland and Gary South (Davis' campaign manager from the 2002 Campaign against the hapless Bill Simon, Jr.) had to conclude that they had this thing in the bag. They had scared off Arnold, and had kept Senator Diane Feinstein on the sidelines.
What no one knew was that everyone was falling for one of the great head fakes of American political history.
Next: radio bits, Arnold, and the One Party State.....