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The Short Goodbye : Don't Look Now, But There Goes Another Los Angeles Landmark

June 11, 1995|Wanda Coleman

Reinforcing the image of Los Angeles as domain of impermanence, Chasen's follows Perino's and the Brown Derby onto the list of disappearing landmarks. Nothing here stands still for long or, once adjusted to, remains as it was. Ever again, our terrain, actual and psychological, proves whimsical by nature, obsolete by design. L.A. demands ongoing renewal, mobility, flexibility and the stressful dance we do to stay with it:

The merlot is flat and has a tinny aftertaste. When Huz and I ask what happened, the waiter says the proprietor has opted for a cheaper house brand. We continue to frequent the Franklin Strip bistro, but now, when we're in the mood for wine, it's strictly Zinfandel. Our local trattoria chain has the habit of dropping our favorite appetizers when making "seasonal changes." I still hanker for that pancetta and pesto salad, while Huz eulogizes the fig and prosciutto starter. And I haven't been back to our fav Hancock Park Thai hang since it dropped its killer drunken chicken.

Gone's our little 3rd Street mom-and-pop yakisoba shop. The Vine Street Bar & Grill, always good for an impromptu jazz fix, is defunct, as is the Columbia B&G. Now X'ed, Bullock's Wilshire was the only department store left in the city that looked and smelled like downtown during Christmas when I was knee-high. Strolling the lush grounds at the Ambassador once provided an occasional after-dinner respite. The kids always enjoyed winding in and out of hotel shops, buying foreign magazines, touristy kitsch or sweets for dessert. After arguments, Huz and I sometimes kissed and made up over drinks, cozied up in the red plush bar. Being romantic was easy over veal marsala at that family-owned Italian place on 6th near Berendo, a disco these days. Neighborhood stores no longer carry the carob milk Huz loves to drink by the half-gallon.

Barely surviving the '92 riot, one of the only two Southland outlets that carries ribbons for my electronic thingamabob, once only five minutes away, has relocated to The Valley. Driving up to purchase some new sounds, we discover our music hot spot has been torched, as was our Santa Monica family barbecue habitat. After appearing and disappearing, then reopening again, my stompin'-ground rib-and-sweet-tater stop at Manchester and Broadway is boarded over like the Russian auto repair shop that was just around the corner whenever the struggle buggy refused to start.

Getting my best over-the-counter sinus/flu drug now requires a special call to the supermarket manager, who then contacts the distributor. Huz complains they've discontinued his preferred cat litter. After a traumatic afternoon's drive through Glendale, having followed it from site to site for a decade, I discover my tall girl's shop vanished. Not to mention whatever befell that glossy little Armenian store where I bought stuffed grape leaves for Huz.

Reliable David no longer manages the counter at the Sunset car-rental place. "Joe on Thursdays" went back to Mexico when the Larchmont fish shop changed hands. Chatterton's Los Feliz Village book hang is a ghostly ruin since Coki died. We haven't had a decent mechanic since Long Tall Charles retired from Hollywood service-station duty. And over on the Vermont Strip, since the chef's wife went back to Thailand, we live without the best fried won-ton and cripsy catfish under this smoggy corner of heaven.

So on and so forth we cope, buffeted by chronic transcience and social shifts, grateful to be among the lucky who are mildly inconvenienced by natural and man-made upheavals. Taking a breath to speculate, we agree L.A. might be better with a touch of the rigidity that comes with long-established institutions and communities anchored in common history. But on the flip side, where the only tradition is no tradition, life is everything but dull.

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