22 July 2011

Groundhog Day ... L.A. Style

Tobolowsky and Murray nail Ned Ryerson the Insurance agent cold.  Bing!!!
To help reduce this rather large man gut I seem to be wearing these days, I've taken to the trails in and around the Santa Monica Mountains.  There are some steep trails, but mostly I stick to about two miles on the streets and a mile in the rather flat trails.  So far, after three months or so, I'm on a daily routine.  (I hope to be running or swimming again just as soon as I feel I'm in shape enough to put that stress on my lower back.  I know, I know -- old men and their troubles.)

When one goes out on one's hike/walk (or, if you'd rather go Victorian on me, one's constitutional), you routinely  run into the same morning crowd or afternoon folks as they make their way with their dogs on their leads and doggie bags in their hands.  Everyone does the usual head nod or "hello's" and "how are ya's," except for a few folks with other things on their minds, or iPods blasting with earbuds firmly in place.

There are two that I run into regularly, who are just the most interesting of people.  The first is a septuagenarian (or thereabouts), who for an early 70-something is in terrific shape.  Here's the thing: each time (2x a week) I run into this gentleman, he's being trailed (and I mean literally) by his doppelganger son about 3 or 4 feet back.  And his son is none too happy about this Sisyphean task he must undertake each day just before dusk, escorting dear old dad.  The expression on son's face is painfully priceless.

Here's me:  "Good evening.  How are you?"

Here's them:  (older gentleman)  Smiles and nods. (son, a few feet back, like pulling teeth) "Hello," he says.

Both of them are wearing, and always wear, matching baseball caps of some entertainment company.  The first time I met them on my way (the wayfarer in me knows its good juju to greet warmly those I meet on the way), I asked them about the caps.  The father, of whom I suspect speaks only/mostly Farsi, keeps smiling and walking and the son is left to turn and walk backwards still trailing dad, looking at me (still rather glumly) and raise his shoulders in that universal sign of "I have no idea what company this is, and why the hell are you bothering us."  You've seen that shrug before, am I right, Dear Reader?  And so now I am tempted to cross the road each time I see these two, the smiling/stern father/son perambulators, but I resist and so remain "smiling John" on my way to losing 25 pounds with my own nod and my own earbuds firmly in place with Steely Dan on Pandora giving my New Balance a lift.

The next character to appear in our fair story hails from Germany originally (actually, as she says, "Western Pomerania near the Baltic Sea").  She's just shy of 80, and is a remarkable looking woman, stern, with skin that tans easily, blonde hair, and daily walking routine of three times up and down the main street that leads into our little community.  Her name is Krista, and she for the past three months has not once recognized me.  As a result of the many conversations we've shared I know her address (she's told me twice), that she has a nephew who lives near us, a brother who lives in Riverside and a sweet sister who passed away about ten years ago.  Krista has lived in our neighborhood for 30 years.  Worked for Bank of America for the same stretch and is now some five years retired -- she's got the gold ring to show for her troubles that she has shown me 10 times at least.  Her sister came over to the states as a maid to work in her late teens when World War II was enveloping all of Europe.

The family had a wonderful farm (very successful), and they had just lost their mother.  The German government began taking over large farms, and her dad had heard of many resistant farmers being shot for taking offense to the state taking over their businesses.  After her sister landed in Malibu (where she would live almost 60 years), she sent for Krista who made it in her early teens.  Think of it.  Leaving it all behind to a land you know nothing about, no one except your teenage sister to care for you, to start all from scratch.  Her dad died not soon after, and they were immediately joined by their brother who barely made it out of Germany because he was of fighting age, but was given permission because of their family situation.  Nice of those Nazi bastards to let Jan join his sibs in Malibu.

And, there it is, my own very personal Groundhog Day.  Two or three days a week.  Jg. and Krista having a chat.  Me already knowing many (many) interesting details about her life, and she telling me about her career and not marrying and her house and her affection for Pomerania, still said in thick Teutonic accent, which I find to be just odd after a half-century of SoCal valley speak all around her.  Like I said, strong woman she.   Btw, I don't for one second believe that she has dementia or Alzheimer's of any form.  I just think that at a certain age, new folks don't register as they might have before.  I take zero offense by how little of an impression I've made on dear Krista, but am now tempted to cross the street each time I see her coming my way.   Just joshing ... had you there for a second.  But, I do feel like Bill Murray a bit in that classic movie when I run into her.  It's Nietzsche's "eternal recurrence" writ ever so small in SoCal.

I actually love the film Groundhog Day, especially the scene near the very end when Murray's character realizes that life isn't about him, and he makes lemonade out of lemons and he realizes that every second and moment and day in our life is a present and gift and opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, and to impact those around us.  And, darn it if each of us doesn't have that chance also.  Every morning, I say "thank you" to God for our chance also, Dear Reader.

You know, there's a cute little scene in Jerry Maguire where Jerry's mentor "Dicky Fox" tells Jerry how each day he wakes up, how he claps his hands and is grateful for a new day!  Remember that scene?  Well, that (non-professional) actor is Jared Jusim, a leading attorney at Sony Pictures that I've consulted with off and on over the last ten years or so.  Jared is a class act; a real old school cat who did that picture with Cameron Crowe and has some interesting things to share about his experience in front of the camera on that shoot.  Anyway, throw a rock in L.A. and you will hit a reference to some movie or actor or tv show.  We're ridiculous like that.

See you all tomorrow morning at 6:00 am when Groundhog Day repeats itself (remember the clock slowly tumbling over from 5:59), and we can all hail a collective clap and hit the ground running with Krista, Jg., "Dicky Fox," and "Ned Ryerson."



James said...

I like that you're not completely self involved and fail to see the interesting flow of life around you.

In New York Paris Tomorrow said...

Your stories are folk tales to be gathered into essays and shoved into a proposal/marketing plan/etc and sent off to agents forthwith.

I love your stories and if only you had the dull but useful, another wee Groundhog's Day moment I think, sign up HERE and this will get to you by email or bloglovin' etc.

On twitter with you so that you can be accessed too. It's wonderful and manageable and I love a good read selfishly, yes.

Is it a gift to not remember?

Ruben Rivera said...

I so relate to your story because I was raised in LA, am an avid walker, and can readily picture every place and every person in your tale. For I have surely run into "them" myself. I like your writing style too.

Keep on truckin'

christian soldier said...

was surprised when I moved here 30 years ago-that my neighbors actually looked away rather than say hello --
How rude- I thought-
then I started to do the same--

I have had a change -back- and- now smile and nod whether I get a return "hello" or not...

Jg. for FatScribe said...

james -- yes, life is more interesting outside of my little purview.

ms. NY Paris Tomorrow -- always with the nice compliment, you. thx. did add the email subscribe link over thataway. appreciate the suggestion.

ruben -- get such a kick out of your blogs (and that of your better half as well). thought i recognized a familiar voice in your prose as well ... must be an l.a. thang.

ms. carol -- keep smilin' and keep 'em guessing, girl. ;)

Sandy K. said...

I do look forward to my visits with you...an adult story which sucks me in. I am one of the few who have not seen Groundhog Day, but am strongly leaning toward renting it for our weekly movie night. However...I am familiar with this story and totally love that it's possible to live in the moment, even when it repeats itself:). Thanks for the chuckle!

Ruben Rivera said...

Just came by for a visit because I remembered how you said you were getting into walking and you inspired me to be more consistent with my walking, which I love, but don't always have the time for. And if you don't have time to walk, then some radical reorientation of one's life is in order. So off to walk I go.

Take care,

Caleb S. Garcia said...

Great read JG. When you hear all these stories, it's like you've lived a thousand lives. Peace out, boy scout.

christian soldier said...

let us know when the word FAT is to be removed from Fat Scribe (-:

Barbara said...

All I could think of when I read about father and son was: we're going to be such a trial to our children. :) Well, all's fair.

My exercising now is indoors at a gym, which is filled with amazing characters and costumes. You make light contact, talk and wonder if, outside the gym, you'd ever be friends. They seem to put aside age differences when everyone is suffering with the workouts. Sisters under the skin, as it were.

Karena said...

JG , so sorry to be remiss in visiting. I would love to be walking in the beautiful area surrounding you!

Of course it 100+ with the humidity here. Isn't it so interesting though to meet and discover new people!


Art by Karena

Jg. for FatScribe said...

sandy k. -- always look forward to your visits as well. and, thx for chuckling!

ruben -- i hear that. accountability, no matter how attenuated, is a good thing.

caleb -- always with a compliment, and yup, i feel like i've lived a thousand lives!

ms. carol -- fat is my middle name

barb -- i like that about the gym rat life. the community is nice. when i swim i appreciate that to be sure.

karena -- never have to worry about that with Jg. even those episodic visits are appreciated. with all of our busy lives, its a wonder the blogosphere is able to post so many millions of words daily! ;)

Dumbwit Tellher said...

Such a marvelous tale of your weekly walks (good 4-U!). You can put a fun spin, or a learning experience on any encounter and I appreciate and admire that in you. Krista made me think of this extremely nice woman I met @ Target one day. As my daughter Emily passed her, this woman looked @ me to tell me how beautiful she thought she was. We ended up talking about her late husband and she began to cry. They had raised 6 children together. Her stories reminded me of your Krista; strong, brave and amazing women. Walking was the one thing that saved me after my divorce and I too was listening (still do) to Steely Dan!! Sorry I've been so tardy at being a faithful reader. Sending you all my best wishes for a great wkend.

Deb x

Shelley said...

I was sure I'd left a comment here, but obviously not. Mainly it was about your being an inveterate people-watcher. It's one of my favourite hobbies, learned from my Mom, who never met a stranger.

On a different note, any chance you might ask James to change his comment box to have a 'pop up' function? I'm very frustrated at not being able to leave him comments!

christian soldier said...

re-read your '09 post - thank you for the reminder : - )


Emm said...

I love this post! I have seen the same Portuguese man every afternoon when I leave work for four years. We always pull our earphones out, chat about the weather or the weekend and sometimes he sends me interesting emails. He did get slightly offended once that I don't send interesting emails back, so now I make sure I at least reply warmly to his emails!!

I think you should learn the basic Farsi greetings and surprise the man and son one morning. People love it when people make an effort to learn their language!