beverly hills

A Walk With The Mayor

My Boulder-based friends Anne Shutan and Scott MacInnis were in Bev Hills over the weekend visiting mama Jan and step-papa David – and celebrating David’s 75th. Because they live in Colorado, they do things like mountain biking and I suppose other mountainy things. So rising early on Monday morning for A Walk With The Mayor didn’t faze them one bit.

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Lili Bosse

I had never done a walk with any mayor. When Annie invited me along, I thought it couldn’t hurt to start my mayoral meanderings in Beverly Hills. I secretly hoped they would do the walk in limos. Alas no…

The mayor of Beverly Hills is Lili Bosse. And that is pronounced exactly as you hope it would be. Bossy. Isn’t that perfect? The late, great Herb Caen of the San Francisco Chronicle used to feature Namephreaks in his daily column – people who are particularly or delightfully or ironically well-monikered for their careers (and/or crimes). Were we fortunate enough to live in a world that still counted Herb Caen among its columnists, I would already have submitted Mayor Bosse for his consideration.

Beverly_Hills_City_HallThe WWTM started, as one does, at city hall. Beverly Hills City Hall is a gorgeous Spanish Revival exclamation point of a tower, topped with a cupola and lots of gold leaf, that anchors a civic center complex of administrative offices, the BHPD, library and a new performing arts center. Here’s a fun fact I just unearthed over at Wikipedia:

For the Beverly Hills centennial in 2014, a 15,000-slice cake in the shape of the Beverly Hills City Hall was designed by chef Donald Wressell of the Guittard Chocolate Company and decorated by Rosselle and Marina Sousa. It cost US$200,000 to make.

So, you can see why it wasn’t entirely ridiculous for me to hope for a walk-by-limo.

BH.Walk.4ofusAs I approached the entrance plaza, I saw a crowd of people in identical bright orange t-shirts and hats. Hmmm. I didn’t get that memo. I went smart-casual with dark plaid shorts and a raw silk black Hawaiian shirt. I soon found Annie & Scott and was relieved to see that they were not in orange. They were in pink. I felt like a truffle in a big bowl of sorbet. Annie’s friend Valerie was also in black, but only because she is a serious filmmaker who had only stopped by to say hello. There was a hashtag printed on the orange-wear: #BHHEALTHYCITY and I found myself chatting with one of the citrus-hued enthusiasts. The Healthy City initiative is Mayor Bosse’s push to get her constituents in shape! Think Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! program – but with better shopping.

From what I witnessed on Monday morning, Mayor Bosse is everything you’d want your (crime-free, flush-with-cash) city’s mayor to be: 1/2 cheerleader, 1/2 civic booster, 1/2 high-fiver, 1/2 drill sergeant, 1/2 life coach. Yes, that is five halves, and you’d understand the equation if you met her. The name of the event is a little misleading, though, as it’s a bit more energetic than a mere walk. I would suggest calling it Power Walk With Da Mayor. And on an unseasonably hot morning such as yesterday… Death March With That Woman! would be truth-in-advertising.

WWTM.LittleSamoIt was blazing hot, even at 8:30am – with the added insult of unusual humidity due to the infernal monsoonal moisture churning up from Mexico. Remember what I was wearing? A black silk shirt. The only thing better than black at trapping body heat is… silk. I was screwed. Oh, and I left my water bottle in the car. Strike 3! If I had another kidney stone by the end of this walk, it would be my own damn fault.

After a brief aerobic warm-up (what?) and some very nice remarks where the Mayor introduced some local heroes (including my friend Anne Shutan the artist, and a little girl named Abby Spencer who is trying to raise $1 million for cancer via her Facebook page: Abby’s Million Dollar Dream), we were off! Fortunately someone was handing out notices about I-don’t-know-what-meeting printed on laminated, heavy card stock which came in handy as a fan. We marched down Little Santa Monica Blvd with a bike-cop escort stopping traffic at the intersections. When you Walk With The Mayor, you jaywalk with impunity! Though it would have been nice to have a little respite every few blocks… and I could feel the pure hatred radiating out from the stoppered commuters in waves of rage. That was kind of fun.

The roundtrip City Hall > Bev Hills High > City Hall is about 3 miles. When we got to BHHS, there was a table full of bottled water. At first, I thought it was a mirage. A few people grumbled about the environmental catastrophe of plastic bottles. I was too busy chugging down the life-restoring fluid to care WWTM.080414.BHHSabout ecological disaster at that point. Then, 200 people tried to get under the shade of an old magnolia tree while the Mayor introduced the BH Board of Ed. I had almost rehydrated by the time we were herded onto the wide steps of the high school for a ‘class picture’. (Did I mention that my dear friend Anne was Athlete of the Year in 1976 at BH High? She is overly talented, that one.) Scott and I hung in the back row, like street urchins, possibly making snarky comments about this person or that. It was hot. We were tired. He still wasn’t convinced that pink shorts were in keeping with his sense of masculinity. We took a selfie with the ‘twin towers’ of Century Plaza rising behind the school.

And then – though I didn’t hear the starting gun – we were back sur la route! Through the lovely, leafy residential streets south of Wilshire, and then up Beverly Drive through the heart of the retail zone that the world knows as “Rodeo Drive”. I found myself a new walk buddy, Tish (from the realm of Annie’s childhood) who turned out to be my prized human “beach rock” for the day, and is now my newest FB pal.

When we crossed Wilshire into America’s Most Posh retail nirvana, the weather suddenly changed. The temperature WWTM.Scott+Stevedropped about 20 degrees, which was fabulous but confusing. Then I understood: every shop along Beverly had its air-conditioning cranked up to meat-locker freezing, with their doors wide open to the sidewalk. People started peeling off from the parade to get lost in the extravagantly cool spaces. Annie, Scott and I found ourselves in a cavernous Pottery Barn. It felt like the lobby of one of those ice hotels in Finland. I admired the pillows and candles and leather arm chairs while my core temperature dipped back into double digits.

And then I bid adieu to my friends so they could do lunch and I could swim. It was a fun departure from my usual Monday morning routine, which rarely involves elected officials or hyperthermia. Thank you, Lili Bosse for a grand tour! I think I’ll be joining you again in October when Annie & Scott are back in town and you’re leading a walk to the Beverly Hilton where Annie’s sculpture Heart of Palm is on display as part of Beverly Hills’ centennial public art program. Until then, stay cool.

The End (so far)

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Happy Birthday Beverly Hills

Beverly Hills turned 100 years old in January. And yes, she’s had some work done. The fabled city is celebrating its centennial with a year-long public art installation. “Arts of Palm” is curated by Kate Stern (of The Frostig Collection at Bergamot Station).

One of the pieces chosen for this artistic salute to BH is a spetacular wood beam sculpture by my friend and colleague, Anne Shutan – a native of Beverly Hills who now lives near Boulder, Colorado. Annie’s “Heart of Palm” is one of the few works selected for indoor display – fortuitously situated at the entrance to Circa 55 at the Beverly Hilton – and convenient to Trader Vic’s poolside lounge. Click on the photo below for a link to Anne’s site.

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With temps soaring near the century mark this week, that was not a terrible place to catch up with Annie, her husband Scott and Kate Stern on Monday afternoon. In fact, that pool terrace is perfect for just about anything, anytime. I promised the artist I would stop by regularly to sip a mai tai check on her sculpture. If you’re in the neighborhood, you should too.

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^ Poolside at the Beverly Hilton

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^ Shadow Palm @ The Beverly Hilton
4:00pm Monday 12 May 2014

The End (so far)

[047] The World at 1 mph

Steve Martin’s 1991 film “L.A. Story” takes the piss out of Los Angeles and the curious ways of its inhabitants. There is a scene where the people in a typical neighborhood get in their cars and drive 25 feet to their mailboxes at the end of their driveways. We know this is a spoof because it is choreographed and set to music. Otherwise, there is a sad degree of truth to it. I have a friend who lived six blocks from his office in Santa Monica. He drove to work every day. Why? There is no why. If you’re going somewhere in LA, you drive. The phrase “walking distance” would elicit blank stares.

I swim every day in a pool that is about 1 mile from home. I drive there. They validate parking. I drive home. I’ve decided to throw in a little walking to augment the swimming regimen, and today was a beautiful day to stretch the legs. You know it’s been a warm, dry winter in Southern California, and spring started springing here weeks ago. My walk took me down some side streets that would be out-of-the-way in a car but are shortcuts on foot. And I noticed flowers blooming everywhere. So I started snapping away. Not always in focus, but what the hell. It’s better than shoveling snow, eh?

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After my swim, I decided to take a more leisurely, circuitous route home – and went on a real meander. I’ve lived in some great walking cities: New York, Boston, Washington DC, San Francisco. After more than three years living in West Hollywood, I finally went on an extended stroll through my neighborhood. And I discovered some of the things I miss when I drive past them at 40 mph. Here’s what my world looks like at 1 mph. Enjoy!

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Day 047. Slow-walking my neighborhood. #100happydays