Here we are back in L.A. In Beverly Hills, to be specific. The weather is glorious. Maybe a bit too hot but the air conditioning takes care of that. Both wifey and I have had some respiratory thing. It has laid her low and it makes me a bit tired. I bring her take out Mexican food and frozen yogurt from little places in gay West Hollywood. That’s how she stays alive.
I have been working on my bills and taxes. Boring, maddening work. How anyone who spends as much as I do has avoided bankruptcy is a miracle.
Today, I worked like a myrmidon on a speech for some super-smart engineers, then went to a little café on Sunset Plaza all by my little self to have some calf’s liver. It was heavenly, although contemplating the idea of eating a calf’s liver right now makes me feel sick to my stomach. How did I do it? Crazy.
As I sat out on the sidewalk and watched people go by, people of all races, speaking many different languages, looking menacing in many different ways, I felt a super-powerful wave of missing Sandpoint. I have been back from Idaho for one week now and I am ready to go back for good.
I would love to be able to summarize it in a wink the way Aram Bakshian or Wlady or Bob or John Coyne could, but I will try my own poor liver-eating best:
I have been going to Sandpoint since 1992 on a regular basis. In all of that time I have only had one person honk her horn at me and she had a Coeur d’Alene license plate. I have literally been too absent-minded to go through a green light in Sandpoint and yet the people behind me did not beep. In Beverly Hills or West Hollywood, if I even slow down at a stop sign, the people behind me beep and give me the finger
When I walk along the street in Sandpoint, every person, young, old, man, woman, boy, girl, smiles and says, “Hey, Ben.” We’re all family. In Los Angeles when I walk down the street, giant drunken hipsters will mow me down if I don’t get out of their way. Don’t get me wrong. Rockers are fine with me, but they do not have that homey Sandpoint touch, at least not to me.
In Sandpoint, if I am just standing in line at Walmart, a customer behind me will ask me if I need help getting to my car. It’s often a toothless older man. In L.A. no one except employees offers to help at the ultra-expensive grocery stores near me. In Sandpoint, the streets and sidewalks are spotless. In Beverly Hills, on my block, as on every block, there are alleys behind the houses. There is probably not a house on this block that would sell for less than five million (I paid a lot less than that for mine long ago). But the alleys are often strewn with trash.
In Sandpoint, young boys and girls smile at me and say, “Movie star!” In Beverly Hills, little knots of boys and girls walk by mumbling in some foreign language I cannot make out.
In Sandpoint, the teenagers are really good at skateboarding and do it without helmets. In Beverly Hills, the kids wear helmets, cannot stay on, and have Hispanic maids following along.
At my favorite restaurants in Sandpoint, there are no fancy cars parked outside. In Beverly Hills, a Cadillac is like a donkey cart.
The views from our home in Sandpoint out over the lake are breathtaking, overwhelming, uplifting. My view here is of my pool, which is wonderful but it’s not a spectacular glacial mountain-fringed lake. I cannot see the weather coming in or out and anyway there is no weather here.
Don’t get me wrong. I love L.A. I really, truly love it. And I love D.C., my hometown, like crazy. I have a nice place in Rancho Mirage and I love that, too. The views over the golf course are phenomenal. But I don’t feel as close to God in any of those places as I do in Idaho.
My friend Jane put her finger on it beautifully many years ago when she visited Tommy and me there. “This is the America we pledge allegiance to when we pledge allegiance,” she said.
The lake, the wetlands, the forests, the osprey, the stupefyingly tall clouds, the storms moving across the water, the milkshakes from the Dairy Depot, the steaks at Ivano’s Del Lago served by women studying to be veterinarians, the Cobalt hitting fifty as we head to Bottle Bay with my wife looking ecstatic and Tim Farmin in charge — these are what I miss. And again, every single person calling me by my first name. And the prime rib at Trinity and my Fibercon at the Super Drug.
I love L.A. I love the 12-step meetings. I love my doctors. But the people in the parking lot at the Pavilions would just as soon kill me as look at me if my car is in their way. People wait patiently in Idaho. No one smiles at me in L.A. It’s a different world.
I miss Sandpoint terribly.
Oh, and another thing. Each year, thousands of unarmed black youths — not a dozen, thousands — are killed by gun wielding other black youths across America, organized into gangs. No one demonstrates about it. CNN does not do any news shows about it. It’s just part of modern American life. Eric Holder could not care less. If there’s no way to blame The Man, why get involved?
There are no gangs in Sandpoint. There are osprey, but no gangs.
I am happy to be back here with my Julie, but I miss Sandpoint.