This and That

by Bernard Brandt

La metro

Well, I’ve woken up, managed to make a strawberry croissant and a killer cup of coffee (roasted a week ago, ground a few second before using, perfectly brewed, and with a 1/4 tsp vanilla extract, two tsp white sugar, and some Trader Joe’s thick cream). Delicious.

I’m playing hooky from my studies today, and will be leaving my house soon, because it’s now nearly 9 a.m., and it’s 76° F. already. By noon, it will have reached 91°. My little cottage by the beach has many good qualities among it. Air conditioning, alas, is not one of them.

So, when I’m done with this little screed, which should be by the next hour or so, I shall be taking the air conditioned bus down to the air conditioned light rail train, which will in turn take me to the air-conditioned Barnes & Noble, which I will be infesting until about 5 pm, by which time the temp will have declined to an acceptable 82°.

And, in the mean time, I will be writing about this and that: idle thoughts worth examining further.

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For the past six months or so, I have pretty much abandoned my car, which is parked up safely at a friend’s house, and have been using public transit instead. While I have found it to be a bit slower than using my car, I’ve also found that it is a lot less straining and traumatic than driving in L.A. traffic. In point of fact, I’ve often found that in getting to certain places (say, most of downtown L.A., for example), it’s much faster to take the bus. It’s also a lot cheaper: parking can get up to $20 after about three hours of parking.

It’s also a damn sight cheaper than the total costs of insurance, car maintenance, parking, and gas, which I estimate to be at least $2,000.00 per year. I can get a senior Metro pass for one dollar and a little effort, and the monthly fee to go anywhere on L.A. Metro buses is $20.00 per month. $121.00 is a damn sight cheaper than $2,000.00. And the costs of a car are going to go up a lot faster than the Metro fees. So…

So, I am taking steps to get rid of my car. As a newbie senior citizen, I can look forward to my insurance rates increasing exponentially, regardless of my driving ability. The insurers call it actuarial reality. I call it blatant and legal age discrimination. We will agree to disagree. I just won’t pay them for our dis-agreement, and their dis-service.

But the reality is that L.A., after having abandoned their former beautiful public transit system in the 1940s, has taken steps to restore it. In the last few years, the several L.A. Metro lines have created a network of light rail and subway lines which make it possible to get just about anywhere in the L.A. metropolitan area in two hours or less. And the map above shows what future developments in L.A. will be like.

I intend on making full use of these developments.

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Item #2: through the kindness of my friend, choir director, poet, spiritual master, and all around general good guy, Gabriel Meyer, I have been introduced to a lovely little organization called the Ruskin Art Club. It, in turn, has introduced me to the beautiful library system at the local university, USC. In particular, their Special Collections section at Doheny Library is a gorgeous place where there are thousands of old books, including a lot of literary and historical stuff which has, alas, gone otherwise out of print.

Oh, that, and I’m reminded of the excellent Hoose Philosophical Library, a lovely little venue built after the style of the old University libraries of Oxbridge and the rest of old Europe, and excellently stocked with a good deal of philosophical and theological works, including but not limited to Migne’s Patrologia Latine et Graece. I’m sure that between the two libraries, I should have enough light reading to occupy me for a decade or four.

Best of all, I’m told that as a member of the Ruskin Art Club, I might be able to obtain their corporate library privileges with USC, which would include lending privileges, and access to their computerized library resources, including JSTOR. Paying a $40.00 per year senior membership to the RAC sounds a lot cheaper than paying about $250.00 per year for the same privileges on an individual basis.

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Item #3: also courtesy of the Ruskin Art Club, I went last Saturday morning to a lovely little bookbinding shop, to be treated to a demonstration of both the shop and the book arts which were present there. I’ll be talking about that in more detail at a later time, but I must say that it re-awoke in me a dream that I had in my youth: to learn the skills of paper-making, printing, calligraphy, and bookbinding, and to make my own limited edition printed manuscripts. I think I can actually do this. I want to do this. I’m going, finally, to do this. Huzzah!

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Item #4: I’ve also decided to up my game as regards cooking. I’ve got my Escoffier. I’ve got copies of the old and new editions of the Larousse Gastronomique. I’ve got my old copies of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by St. Julia Child. And I’m going to be getting copies of Jacques Pepin’s La Technique and La Methode.

And no, I don’t want to be a chef. If anything, both the horror stories of Anthony Bourdain on that subject, and the stories that my nephew, John Brandt, has told about the grueling work that chefery involves, have confirmed this lazy and cowardly soul to refrain from the delusions of adequacy that I could ever be a chef d’hôtel.

But I still think that I could become an accomplished home cook, instead of just a very good one. And I think that I could, after learning the necessary skills, provide the means by which a staff of chefs could become the cornerstone of a nice little bed and breakfast that could compare with, or even outdo, The French Laundry.

As Andy DuFresne in the Shawshank Redemption, said: “Either get busy living, or get busy dying.”

I’ve finally decided to try the former. The latter, I have found, really sucks.

Well, it’s starting to get hot here, so I’m out the door. Before I go, though, I’d like to leave you with this lovely artwork, that I happened to see on display at the bookbinder/book artist’s shop last Saturday. Enjoy.

space cadet