To celebrate my daughter Jessica’s 21st birthday recently&emdash;and to ensure I’d never have enough money to send her to graduate school, pay for her wedding or get my shirts back from Swansons Cleaners&emdash;the two of us flew down to Los Angeles for a week. We stayed at The Beverly Hills Hotel and rented the unnecessarily sporty Ford Mustang Shelby, which made more noise than the Batmobile but cornered better. We dined in the hotel’s Polo Lounge, in a booth next to Nicole Kidman‘s. Jessie spotted the Oscar-winning actress, who revealed when she rose to leave&emdash;and seemed to keep rising&emdash;that, contrary to her claims of being 5 feet 10 inches, she’s at least 6 feet 7 inches in flats. (To be fair, my having slid under the table to confirm she was wearing flats might have enhanced this illusion.) That is totally Nicole Kidman, my daughter said. Totally is, as you know, the adverb you dream of your adult child using&emdash;especially if she’s a UC Berkeley honors graduate with a major in English. (Question: What if it only had been partially Nicole Kidman? Answer: We wouldn’t have been at dinner; we’d have been watching a Quentin Tarantino movie.)
Pier Review&emdash;Earlier that day, we strolled along the Santa Monica Pier and came upon James Woods filming a segment of his TV series, Shark. For 45 minutes, a crew of 30 and some bystanders watched Woods and his co-stars fling open the doors of a Cadillac Escalade and begin to jump out. But only begin. In all, we watched them film about six action-packed seconds. The crew had probably already shot what was about to happen once Woods and company leapt out of the car. Or they were going to do so once they broke for lunch. Or perhaps they’d come back the next day to do it. Then again, it’s possible that the cast’s stunt doubles were concurrently shooting the subsequent scene on another part of the pier. In summary, don’t be surprised when your favorite show doesn’t air at the same time or on the same night two weeks in a row. People in L.A. simply don’t understand the space/time continuum.
Excess Hollywood&emdash;To give our trip a veneer of culture, we spent some time in Westwood at the Hammer Museum poring over the Armand Hammer art collection, which is terrific as long as you don’t go expecting to encounter sculptures made of baking soda. The best thing about this museum, however&emdash;so long, cultural veneer!&emdash;is that it’s around the corner from Jerry’s Famous Deli, where celebrities are known to consume their recommended daily allowance of pastrami. We saw no familiar faces this time, but on an earlier visit, we ran into playwright Neil Simon and his wife, Elaine Joyce. (She played one of the late Robert Urich‘s better-looking pals on the 1970s TV series Vegas.) A few weeks later, we read that Simon underwent a kidney transplant. Which is not a reflection on the pastrami at Jerry’s Famous Deli.
Ignoble Positioning System&emdash;Finally, having been both, I feel qualified to reveal the principal difference between a Sacramentan and a Southern Californian. If you ask each of them for directions, the Sacramentan will tell you how to get where you’re going and how many miles away it is. The Southern Californian will claim to have no idea of where your destination is (even if it’s a block from where you’re both standing). But if he or she does know, you’ll be told not how far away you are, but how many minutes. And that’s always 20 minutes, depending&emdash;on traffic, the weather and whether you’ve rented the Batmobile.