Right after his daily bread, the human unit needs to feel superior to his coevals. Or some subgroup thereof. Those who lose this feeling are surely clinically depressed – such humility is pathological. Don’t look for it from saints – when God is your personal confidante, your edge is 24 carat. You can no more expect saints to be humble than you can expect the taste of a banana from a rutabaga.
The age old tale of the human unit from the sticks who comes to the big city falls, of course, under this generalization. Although from Balzac to Franzen it is presented as a progress in civilization, the provincial from the provinces inevitably provincializes his city, or part of it, and proceeds to shoot spitball as the yokels from where he was at, or, in general, who are not counted among the elite of his quartier.
This is one of the reasons I love the NYT Styles section. It is hard wired to look down at the plebes, and it is written, surely, by former country mice, who have now wiggled into what they consider the cool set – aka heaven – and kick others who are striving towards that summit. Myself, like any other human unit, I’m all impressed. Plus of course I share certain of the prejudices.
This Sunday’s Styles section was particularly gratifying. As is often the case, many articles are devoted to looking down upon Los Angeles. When, in the old days – before we moved here in August – I read about L.A., I was basically ignorant of the geography, except of course for the four million hours of tv and film that I’d eyeballed, all set in LA. Now that I’ve gotten here, I’ve decided my schtick will be anti-LA. I’ll compare it invidiously to Paris. I’m confident the Styles staff would approve. Thus I could revel in the snobbism on display in the story, “A Café where Los Angeles Goes to Wake Up.” The name of the sorry bistro is the Griddle Café, and it is lost somewhere on Sunset Strip. Apparently it is one of those breakfast joints thatevery American town boasts – joints with the bottomless cup coffee and the diabetes inducing pancakes, joints that smell of bacon. I’ve gone to these kind of places my whole life, which definitely shows a masochistic streak, as the experience is always the same. Once I’ve over-replenished myself, my inner teenage anorexic howls in my bowels the rest of the day.
Anyway, there are some great shots in the article. The pancakes of the Griddle are described in sickening detail, down to a truly disgusting gumbo called Mounds of Pleasure, “a stack of chocolate and coconut flapjacks buried in whipped cream, [which] should come with a straw.” Yum! Next to licking the garbage disposal, I can think of nothing that I would less like to put in my mouth. But the best shot is a quote from an expatriated New Yorker which, I think, will be my, my poetic summing up of LA:
“Another magazine editor, Janice Min of the Hollywood Reporter, offered this analysis, having moved to Los Angeles from Neew York three years ago: “There is no discovery in LA because you’re always in a car heading for a specific destination. And because of that, people become very attached to the same few places, whether the food is edible or not, and it is usually not.”
Bada boom! I salute you, Janice Min! And I don’t envy your day at the office today after that crack…