I have been catching up with all my LA friends bit by bit. I have returned after nearly a year abroad and its a strange “return culture shock” to walk past a coffee shop that the entire neighborhood frequented which is now destroyed. It is just an empty lot now, somewhat under construction.
I have seen women treating their sons to mani-pedis at the local nail salon. I have seen an elderly man and woman chatting amicably at a Starbucks in Beverly Hills in nothing but their slippers, pajamas, and bathrobes. Entering a public bus can be either alienating with all the ethnic minorities (or majorities now, depending on who’s reading) staring you down, as you, the only white person, struggle, clumsily to find a seat. The Hollywood 180/181 bus to Pasadena has better air conditioning and entering it is akin to entering a bar or piwnica in Krakow. Everybody’s chatting with each other and the only thing missing is an offering of beer, vodka, and good music. There are seats and the air conditioning is sublime.
Missing the low prices of produce in Krakow where I can buy 3 pints of raspberries for just a little more than a dollar, I mentally note all the family-owned Armenian, Korean, and Russian delis, shops, hawking fresh “fruk.ty i owoszi” that I read on one of the Russian shops off of Santa Monica and Fairfax. Traktir is still there, with their herring my father likes.
Yesterday I was at Skylight books, which has been there forever and was browsing the latest releases. I was drawn to this book called How to Get into the Twin Palms by Karolina Waclawiak . I read bits of the piece and was drawn because its about a Polish-American woman trying to find her place among the sizable Ukrainian-Russian community in LA and I always known there were not many Poles here. She described realistic settings, mentioning the two known Polish restaurants in town: Warszawa in Santa Monica and Polka in Eagle Rock. The difference between these two restaurants would be akin to comparing Krakow and Warsaw to Zakopane and the Tatry. Warszawa is more urban, refined, and upscale whereas Polka is more heimischy, and feels like your grandmother’s kitchen, decorated with Polish tchotchkes and other trinkets from Middle Europe.
I recommend the book to my Polish and Russian friends and those who live/are from Krakow. And to anyone looking for an entertaining summer read about LA.
Today must be “Be An Idiot Day” in Krakow because I’ve encountered locals [men] displaying less than savory behavior. Example 1: There were a throng of Orthodox Jews walking down the street on Miodowa and a couple of Polish youths speculating where “they” [i.e the Jews] hid “their money” and how they control the worlds’ banks etc. I approached them and said well where do you think they hide them, under their hats? And there’s a reason Jews are reputably smart: they don’t sit around making idiotic comments. Second Example: A dozen or so young men grunting loudly and drunkenly on the roof of Galeria Kazimierz. On lighter note, we met a lovely rural Finnish couple who looked like they walked out of a Winslow Homer painting. Man had a cowboy hat and the lady had a farm-style dress and bright purple dress, asking why the “New” (since 1800) Jewish cemetery was locked as she wanted to explore it. She said she didn’t know any Jews, but asked me if I had people buried there. I said no but probably somewhere else in the country. She went on to say that her father had recently died at age 90, and had proudly fought the Russians in WW2.