A marvelous steak frites place has opened in West Hollywood (Le Relais De L'Entrecote), and it's woefully under-inhabited, for two reasons: 1) You can't make a reservation (unheard of in Los Angeles), and 2) There is no valet parking (a real pearls snatcher in SoCal). But the food is delicious. Very simple: steak, cooked to your specification, and sliced thinly, and covered with a delicious mustardy sauce, hot, salty french fries (chips) and a very good green salad with walnuts. That's it. We sat outside last night, on the pavement, on Melrose, and it was balmy. Couples meandered by, chic men, heavily made-up girls in heels, and sipped old-fashioned bulb glasses of Medoc.
And we talked about our parents' generation. For people my age, from Europe, these are people who grew up in the war. It didn't matter who you were, if you grew up in the war, you knew hardship and you embraced frugality. Most of them have not lost this trait, and it's actually rather endearing (and that's not meant to sound condescending). My mother suffers endless abuse from us for her habit of keeping forever - there's nothing wrong with old mince pies (you just heat them up in the Aga), or moldy cheese (cut off those bits) or jam with a green film growing on its surface (penicilin, makes you stronger!). She keeps wrapping paper, silver foil, even butter wrappers to use to oil cake pans. We who became adults in the 80s eschewed frugality, didn't eat meals of leftovers, thought that you could enjoy a treat any day of the week, not just on Saturday nights. Things have changed now, though. Suddenly the idea of paring down, of living simply, of saving up, of delaying satisfaction, all those things are rather appealing.
"But that generation is quite judgmental," said my friend. "I felt as if my parents treated me as if I were an idiot most of the time." We nodded in agreement. Perhaps it is the frugality that leads to higher expectations of our children. "But with my children" he continued "whatever they do, even if they mess up royally, I support them, praise them." This same lack of judgment is the reason my father, for example, enjoyed the company of his dogs over that of his human friends. And probably why my children are happy. "Do what makes you happy" I've said, over and over again to both of them. "Follow your heart." My friend Bill, who went to Oxford with us, a proper New England WASP, complete with pink LL Bean button-downs, patchwork shorts, a lobster grosgrain belt, was encouraged by his parents to go into the family business: law. Generations of men in his family had gone into the legal profession in Boston, summered on the Cape, or in Maine, and married a woman who wore a Lanz nightgown. But what Bill like to do was play jazz piano. And he played jazz piano beautifully, like a man possessed. Any piano, anywhere, he'd sit down and play. In the college chapel with the Byrne Jones windows. In the JCR. Inside dress shops. At Maxwell's, the hamburger restaurant we used to frequent. Years later, when the Maharishi and I were married and Bill was working as lawyer in New York City, he took us to see Mose Allison, the Jazz great, in a small, dark, smokey club in Soho, and as we sipped our mandatory vodka tonics, Bill's eyes closed in bliss as he became one with the music. He was in his happy place.