The running has gotten good. Really good. Since moving somewhere new, I find the thrill of discovering new landmarks intoxicating. I have nothing to do on a Monday night and decide to stretch my distance a little to around 7 miles, around 1/4 of a marathon. I bring no iPod, I just intend to listen to the thumping of my feet on pavement and the sound of traffic coming and going like waves.
From my home to Robertson and heading south passed empty stores selling kitchens and hardware. There’s a medical building that’s gone dark. Robert Burns Liquor glows like a friendly beacon on my right. I’d love to be somewhere with a firepit or a barbeque going and a glass of whiskey on a few ragged chunks of ice enjoying the time of summer when the air and you skin are the exact same temperature. For now, it’s the awkward cold of a desert night in March when California is continually deciding if she wants spring or winter.
I get a thumbs up from a motorists at Wilshire and Robertson as I fly through the long intersection. I am the only person in Beverly Hills who goes running it would seem. I rarely see anyone else on this lonely run through an amazingly affluent area. I hop across the green, wooden bench on the west side of the street. Every time I do it I wonder if it will break. I have lots of obsessive-compulsive tests on my runs. I always have. There was a fence I used to hurtle every afternoon when I ran in high school. This bench seems to get all the love now.
Toppings is on the right, sort of a Pinkberry (Lameberry) meets Yogurtland, but of the mom and pop variety. The woman in there is nice and enthusiastic and perpetually smiling. I think she’s great. I like that she is combating the economy with good service and a smile, an upbeat attitude and a solid product.
The BP gas station is on the southeast corner of Robertson and Olympic. It signals my jaunt west towards Century City. It’s never boring to look at. Makes you think how cool the world could be if the point was to make things aesthetically interesting as opposed to as cheaply as possible. I guess if everything was cool, things that sucked would become cool by default.
Today though my legs feel good and I decide to head east to La Cienega and then south towards Pico. This is pretty much where I went wrong or right. I always enjoy the feeling of local transportation on Pico between Robertson and Roxbury. It’s like being in Haifa in Israel. Such a strange feeling to be Jewish and not feel Jewish. I have never been very religious. I tend to accept everyone for what they are and not ask questions. It’s a beautiful world. Still, I’ve always been aware and proud of what I am, only to run down Pico at this time of night is to know no matter what you think you are, you aren’t that.
I get strange stares. I have no yamulcha and I am decked out in all black Nike running gear. I pretty much look like Spiderman in the all black getup. Pretty bad ass. I am sweating, my eyes are blue and watering, my beard reddish in color. These people think I am some sort of Irish long distance runner. I want to say, I am with you guys, we’re cool, we’re good. Only we’re not. To them, I might as well be from Mars.
Being a terrible Jew, I do not realize it is Purim. For all my gentile friends, Purim is basically a cool party where we all dress up and celebrate that we took out this dude Haman, who was like public enemy number one. He duped the king, tried to get with the queen, and he got impaled for it. People hate this dude. You write the letter H on your shoes on Purim and stomp around all day. You boo him and shake graggers (kind of like a noisemaker) when people say his name. You eat Hamentaschen, which are cookies so-named for him. You’d know them if you have been to Canter’s or any local deli. They are triangles with fruit in the middle. Good shit. They are shaped after Haman’s hat.
Purim is in full force the further east I get. There are wild and unruly firework explosions in the streets. My heart skips a beat each time one goes off. I start running faster, though not on purpose. It’s hard not to. I feel like Forrest Gump in the Vietnam scene. Or maybe Rudy in the training scene where he’s in the tunnel. I like that scene.
I admire the Chinese restaurants and Kosher Glatt markets. There is a whole segment of life down here that I like to look in on. Kids are dressed up like it is Halloween. Well, or Purim. Old people eat in restaurants, tired of the noise and the riff raff. I keep running. Miles are beginning to stack up.
I head up Roxbury and pass my cousin’s house on the off chance he is outside walking his dog. He isn’t. I think about dropping in for a surprise, but it will stop me. There’s still miles in my legs. I cut up through Roxbury park through a group preparing for what appears to be a league of very-out-of-shape adult basketball players. They scoff at me as I zip past into the quiet dark of the park.
I ignore all posted signs and climb a fence onto the lawn bowling court. The grass is like berber carpet. I feel like I am on the Bermuda blue of Dodger Stadium with the lights out. No time to savor the simple human pleasure of well trimmed grass under worn out running shoes. I head for Century City. There is a man being arrested, or at least severely freaked out by the cops on Olympic near the park. The red and blue lights are bright, but I am a moth. I am drawn to them.
I cross the street at a crosswalk when the “walk” symbol appears, but an old man in a beat up Mercedes decides to make a left hand turn. He looks right in my eyes as he is heading right for me, but surprisingly does nothing to slow down or swerve. I hit the nitrous in my sinews and barely get out of the way, turning with eyes red and a growl in my voice, screaming obscenities and calling him all kinds of things. He flips a bitch and now I think he is a hitman. My short term plan is to hide behind a thick tree on the side of the road which could stop his car’s forward progress.
He drives by without incident. I feel stupid for everything I did or thought about for the last two minutes.
The access road to the women’s softball field at Beverly Hills High School is open. I always take the opportunity to run up the hill as it is a good exercise of rapid-ascent running and the reward is being on a beautiful field under the lights. It’s amazing up here. The oil derrick wrapped in flower-print vinyl stares down at you along with the impressive skyline of Century City. I cannot imagine playing on this field. I miss baseball sometimes when it’s like this. There are few places as exciting as being under the lights with the ball in your hand and all the eyes on you. It’s intoxicating, even for people less egomaniacal than I am.
I hustle down the access road and up the steep hill to Century Park East. I am the only person here. I am in an empty city. The feeling of being the only living person in a forest of skyscrapers is one of my favorites. It reminds me of living downtown before the Edison and LA Live and 7 Grand and Golden Gopher and the Doheny. It was me, the Pantry and the skyline and the bums. I had all my best ideas there. I survived an illness there on those streets. I love the buildings. I could run ten more miles if they kept coming. A brief debate over whether or not to head to the Wilshire corridor for more buildings, but I decide against it. Beverly Hills seems to be glowing.
The Peninsula is quite and there’s no line at Sprinkles. The economy here is affected as well. My knees are bloody from the other night when I flipped hard on Little Santa Monica and ended up shredding some skin. I had to pull a sliver of glass out of my hand as well, which to say the least, sucked.
Faster I push it past the awesome gas station on Crescent and past L’Hermitage and past the Four Seasons. Soon, I can see home after a few turns and detours. Deep breaths and the steam off my head are my only reward.