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BREATHING ROOM

Sitting on top of the world, by way of L.A.

May 01, 2003|Barbara King

There are benches, and then there is The Bench.

Anyone who has hiked the vertical paths of Hollywood's Runyon Canyon has seen it, and probably spent time on it. You can't not notice it, and you can't not love it. Because you've come a long way to get to it, perched there at the summit of your heart-thumping climb, and because you can't believe what lies all around you: 360 degrees of L.A., stretching as far as the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island on a clean-air day. For a minute or two, you're lord and master of all you survey.

But climb onto The Bench, and all manner of arrogance or acquisitiveness or ambition gets kicked away by the first swing of your legs. The seat, angled gently skyward, is raised 3 or 4 feet and thus cannot be sat upon unless you're practiced at the high jump. So you step onto a wide rock and hoist yourself onto this amiable green roost with its cartoon proportions, and the next thing you know, you're Lily Tomlin as Edith Ann, feet dangling and swinging away. You can't help it. Nobody can.

And then you look around as the sun falls in strips of pale rose and burnished orange over the whole magnificent scene, and you watch the leash-free dogs, nature's gods of frolic, come and go, and you remember once again why you ever came to this town in the first place.

-- Barbara King

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