December 22, 2005 -- La Canada Valley Sun


By Anita Susan Brenner

Like many, I read an ancient text, bit-by-bit, week-by-week. I always start with good intentions and am invariably side tracked. This time, I put down the text and decided to go shopping.

I had been invited to a private "holiday boutique" in Chinatown. On Chung King Road.

The easiest way to get to Chung King Road is to drive to Pasadena. Take the Metro Gold Line to the Chinatown Station. Descend the stairs and walk due west about six blocks.

I was late, so I drove the whole way and parked behind a gas station.

Chung King Road is a pedestrian street in downtown Los Angeles, a few blocks west of Hill. Unlike the more commercial Chinatown to the east, Chung King Road is mixture of avant-garde and kitsch. There are storefronts, gift and souvenir shops, restaurants and mahjong parlors. Recent additions include several art galleries and studios. Above the walkway, for its entire length, there are red lanterns. High above the storefronts are private apartments, their entrances hidden.

I walked past Mr. Fong's store, opened a small door and went up the concrete stairs. The stairway opened onto an airy apartment.

When I arrived, the party, I mean the holiday boutique, was in full swing. There was wine. There were young people. There were chips and dip.

I took a cup of cider and made the rounds. This was much better than the malls, more fun than the gym and obviously more au courant than the Book of Genesis. It felt cool to be in the same room with this crowd.

Several young artists and designers had card tables with their wares. At the first table, a musician named Miles gave me a free CD by a group called "Ill Again." At the next table, I purchased a black "Robot Sushi" T-shirt for Rachel. I also found colorful handmade note cards that said "Tofu gives me gas." The cards came packed with assorted stickers, including "Happy Birthday, "Thank you," "Congratulations" and "Get Well Soon."

After I shopped, I noticed a few other people my age. They sat in the corner. The highlight was an 8-week-old baby boy. I noticed the following:

This baby was stunning.

This baby was beautiful.

This baby was intelligent.

Baby clothes are a lot cooler nowadays than when my kids were little.

Watching the baby made me feel both young and old at the same time. The baby reminded me of the text I had been struggling with. I had been reading the story of Tamar, the twice-widowed daughter-in-law, who risked execution as a harlot to trick old Judah into impregnating her. The modernist in me always rebels at the story. I always wonder why, back in the day, why couldn't widows get a career? Or go to law school?

I looked down at the gorgeous little baby. Suddenly, it made sense. Babies are wonderful. Babies are perfect. Maybe Tamar just wanted to have a baby?

Or two.

After the boutique, I met up with Len. We went to the movies, with friends. We got a bite to eat. Later, Rachel drove down from college, bringing life back into our home.

And a little laundry, but not too much.

copyright December 31, 2005 Anita Brenner, Los Angeles Times La Canada Valley Sun