April 24, 2024 The Best Source of News, Culture, Lifestyle for Culver City, Mar Vista, Del Rey, Palms and West Los Angeles

Imperfect Recollections

Fresh blood stained his white butcher’s jacket. Few of the patrons seemed concerned. They knew he was a dying breed, actually one who knew which part of the cow provided which part of the differentiated packets of sirloin, Porterhouse, brisket, fillet, flank, and ribs. The machine he used for cutting through bone sounded like a dentist’s apparatus. His meat case looked ‘crowded†; yet nowhere did he offer stuffed and/or marinated beef…. no kabobs, no crown roasts or any gourmet cut of meat. Or, as I remember.

The market with which he shared space had many date sensitive stamps on its can goods: a fair indication that those doing the cooking were not purchasing many or any staples.
Business was slow; the rent was high, the lease was soon to expire. They shut down.

Sheik black furniture at a newly launching boutique bank, Bel Air Savings & Loan, was brought in practically overnight. Look-a-like tellers persisted in trying to promote specials for our investment dollars. I was looking for convenience with a reasonable return. Its menu of revolving “introductory†products soon became irksome.

Across the way, Ms. Franz, a Baskin-Robbins legend, was scooping up mounds of mint chip, chocolate chip and Jamocia Almond Fudge in her popular carpool stop. She knew all the kids’ names and favorite flavors; she gave many of our children their first jobs.
Within a short time, her bustling store became one of a chain of upscale gourmet eateries where patrons share tables and courtesies with “strangers†.

Ease dropping reveals the topics of conversation seem more global than local—immigration and border issues, economic concerns, upcoming mid-term elections. The buzz is eons from an exchange of pediatricians’ names, dates for T-ball sign ups, Mount Saint Mary’s babysitting list, a Junior League event, Friends of the Library project, or the upcoming park programs at Barrington or the more sequestered Crestwood Hills.

And how many of us recall lining up at either the now defunct Texaco and/or the remaining Standard gas station during the proclaimed petrol shortage. The scene was generally good theater for a few screaming, ugly rants. Of other “doubles†were the two pharmacies-one with a chic gift selection and the other a branded chain logo and the latter succumbed to a Foot Locker that got its walking papers soon after.

Nestled in the arch of the strip like mall was the cozy Book Nook. Its titles were age appropriate and children and their parents lingered and looked. Soon this haven became vacant and patrons likely discovered Doug Dutton’s literary paradise on San Vicente. But not forever. The open space 50’s courtyard style building was not maximizing its return on the investment. An interim tenant will occupy the space until all the permits and designs are green-lighted. Or so I was told.

The classic lady of architectural distinction housed the retired film and movie industry’s aging stars under its roof until pressure came to bear and the site was the new home for the private Archer School for Girls. Happily uniformed and thriving. A good thing.

In retrospect, it seems that the longest surviving Village entities are: Star Toys, Peppone, Brent-Air Pharmacy, Maria’s and perhaps a runner up in San Gennero. Lenny Lieberman’s specialized, educational and basic inventory has sustained him. He’s now selling to the grandchildren of some of his loyal customers.

Perhaps the pharmacy is today’s counter part to a general store. Alternatives, competitive prices, knowledgeable staff, and stellar service win its first place ribbon. Otherwise the comfy deli with all the scents of corned beef and pickles proved a steady lure. The current deli redefines the essence of this otherwise traditional NY Woody Allen style deli. Its patina needs more time to cure the sparkle.

Those elements that flavor our community and impart its cache are in flux somewhere between the service oriented – cleaners, banks, insurance, beauty, markets, to the retail based boutiques, restaurants, and specialty shops and galleries. Frontrunner’s established a following early on among the growing number of recreational, 10K and marathon participants and later introduced fashion lounge wear to corner another demographic.

Optimistically we seem to be resurrecting our roots and returning somewhat to our neighborhood’s fold and a redefined sense of community. Witness the buzz at the Sunday farmer’s market – a gathering of families, singles, retirees exchanging chitchat, recipes, and stories over ample samplings of varieties of fruits, veggies, breads and spreads, oils, and prepared foods.

The art walk introduced a few child-centered projects to groups of excited children. Several young ones, brushes in hand, painted a donated car. A few booths up, fascinated parents and their families were adding the flavorings to their personally blended toothpaste. Novel at this year’s fest were “letter pictures†whose images e.g. a tire or wheel rim for the letter “o†were combined to spell out one’s message of choice—a few suggestions: joy, daydream, passion, Los Angeles……What fun!

Back to reminiscences: we’d bring our 35mm roles into Dick, Joanne and Antonio where we’d share our travels, celebrations and milestones with the loyal congregants at “Vicente Central†or gather at Regular Jon’s for another birthday bash–if we put our ears to the ground perhaps we will feel a rising pulse infusing our signature Brentwood lifestyle with renewed vitality and promise.

How are we redefining our community, our neighborhood? Do good fences make good neighbors or shall we renew a “from the stoop society†, a front porch to perch and rediscover those Mr. Rogers faithfully addresses as the people in our neighborhood. Or will our divide become that of neatly manicured “privacy hedges†in a secluded version of an estranged Eleanor Rigby?

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