I have an exciting handout from the San Francisco Fair announcing a Herb Caen Write-Alike Contest "as a tribute to Caen's 50 years as a San Francisco columnist."
It says "the column must be approximately 980 words in length; items must be believable but need not be true, although libelous assertions against real people will not be allowed."
First prize is a weekend houseboat trip for 10 on the Sacramento River and a gold ribbon; second place is a night for two in the Herb Caen Suite at the San Francisco Hilton and a silver ribbon, and third place is a pair of tickets to "Beach Blanket Babylon" and a bronze ribbon.
I can't enter the annual Hemingway write-alike contest because I'm one of the judges; but there's evidently nothing to bar me from this one, so here goes.
L.A. BY THE SEA: Try the Pasadena Freeway, outgoing, at six o'clock in the morning . . . No smog . . . The sky is still pink from the dawn. (The sun rises in the east) . . . Early birds going to work downtown are southbound. The freeway belongs to you. You drive through a chain of tiny parks with eucalyptus and sycamore trees. And when you get there, you're in Pasadena . . . !
SPEAKING OF BRIDGES: The most beautiful bridge on the West Coast is the Vincent Thomas Bridge across the main channel of Los Angeles Harbor between San Pedro and enchanting Terminal Island . . . Especially pretty when the fog creeps in, making a gossamer tracery of the great green suspension span. San Franciscans say their Bay Bridge is more beautiful. Sheer narcissism . . .
THE DODGERS ARE slapstick this season . . . but they're gaining on the Frisco Giants, who have to play in that notorious cave of the winds, the worst ballpark in America, Candlestick Park. But Dodger Stadium is still a pleasant place to spend an evening, resting your orbs on the green turf and the red base paths and warning track with the sun setting (in the west); and the players are so graceful, except when they bump into each other trying to field a pop fly or fall on their faces going for a ground ball. No cuisine is tastier than a hot dog with relish and mustard at the ball park. The other night we sat in front of an Eva Gabor look-alike . . .
IF YOU LIKE YUCATAN CUISINE try Balo's Place, at 5672 York Blvd., Eagle Rock. Chris Jimenez is the chef; his wife, Nina, waits tables. Specialties are pollo pibil , spiced chicken wrapped in banana leaf; conchinita pibil , spiced pork over tortillas with thin black beans, puchero , cubes of pork floating in a rich black bean stew. Decor is wood slat chairs, blue Formica tables, jukebox, hanging plants, floral prints. House wine is Carlo Rossi. Michael Jackson came in with his pals while we were there. Jackson works in a body shop on Eagle Rock Boulevard.
CITY LITTER. Hate to mention this, since L.A. has always been known as the cleanest city in the world. No more. Litter is everywhere. The Pasadena Freeway, once the most sylvan and beautiful of freeways, and the first in the West, is often strung with what looks like toilet paper. People use it as a dump. It is commonplace to see discarded mattresses thrown along the parkway. This is not only ugly but dangerous to the people who have to clean it up . . . Downtown Broadway looks as if all our trash trucks emptied themselves there. The southwest corner of 7th and Alvarado, across from MacWestlake Park, is the trashiest corner in town. This can't be the work of well-bred L.A. natives. Must be yahoos from S.F.
TOURISTS who spend their time at Disneyland and Universal City are overlooking some of our greatest local attractions. Why don't they take the baths at Bimini? Why don't they ride the red cars up the incline to Mt. Lowe? Why don't they ride Angels Flight up Bunker Hill--the world's shortest train ride, only a nickel? Why don't they visit the bathhouse at Redondo Beach and swim in the world's largest indoor saltwater pool? Why don't they dance to Benny Goodman at the Palomar? Why don't they catch Fanchon and Marco at the Paramount? Why don't they eat with the stars at the Brown Derby on Vine?
HERE'S A TIP for old-timers who spent WWII in the South Pacific and miss the rain on the roof. Try Bob Brooks' Seven Seas at 6904 Hollywood Blvd. There's a corrugated iron roof over the bar, and every 15 minutes it rains on the roof. Very nostalgic. (The last time I was there I think I saw Betty Grable.)
TOURISTS DO SEE STARS: Leslie Schupp of Patagonia, Ariz., writes that his mother was on the Ventura Freeway, on her way home to Canoga Park after driving a load of Down's syndrome children to the zoo, when a familiar-looking man in a small black car drew alongside and pointed to her tire. It was rapidly going flat. He followed while she got off the freeway and stopped at a pumpkin stand to call. No phone. Nearest one was a mile away. The man drove her to the phone and waited 20 minutes until help came. Finally she said, "You are Dennis Weaver, aren't you?" and he said, "Well, yes ma'am, I am." As Schupp says, "It could only happen in L.A."
Oh, well, I'm not sure I know nine people who'd want to spend a weekend with me on a houseboat anyway.
But I would have liked to have that gold ribbon.