You’ve heard about those strike-torn factories at which they won’t let U. S. Mail trucks through the gates? Well, with us it’s just the other way Uncle Sam’s emissaries simply refuse to come our way. So that is the reason for this mid-summer thrust in your direction.
Considerable of interest has happened since our letter of Christmas time though to us and to our friends as well. As for ourselves, there was a Ninth Wedding Anniversary on May 1. So we hied into Los Angeles to dine with the movie stars at the Brown Derby (so their advertising stated, at any rate), and then took in the stage-play, Tovarich, starring Eugenie Leontovich. If you ever miss a chance to see Tovarich (which is Russian for Comrades) you will be deliberately mistreating yourself. It was our first play in a long time and it gave us the fever. So on Helen’s birthday last week we saw Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontaine in “Idiot’s Delight” satire on the international munitions business. It was satire, comedy, and drama all in one. The play ended with the whole set about to be blasted and wrecked by the first bombing in the next war. The theater where these plays are given is just thirty-five miles from us and we hope to make it often. “Dead End”, a story of the East River district in New York City, is next and we are trying to think whose birthday we can celebrate so as to encompass that too.
But we may simplify the problem this way. As our chances for a vacation trip this summer are exceedingly slender, we shall probably compromise by going to Los Angeles and really doing some of the things there that we have always desired to do. Folks come clear from Ioway and all other parts of the world to see L.A. so maybe that’s a cue for us. We’ve already started on this plan, in fact, only we commenced by tasting the city as well as seeing it. One night we ate at the Dragon’s Den, an underground Chinese chop suey place with entrance off from an alley. Another time we found a real Japanese restaurant and followed a man up three floors, removed our shoes, and then squatted on floor-mats in front of the six-inch high table. A trim Japanese maid who couldn’t speak a word of English prepared our Sukiyaki right on the table before us cooked the soybean cakes, the bamboo sprouts, leeks, potato noodles, and thirty or more paper-thin steaks on a little brazier set upon the table. There were three of us that night, and we ate every thing she prepared.
But the meal at the “Bit o’ Sweden” stumped us-me at least. A smorgasbord in the center of the dining room there groaned under sixty different platters of food (I counted them). We helped ourselves. It was the old old story of eyes exceeding appetites. Well, I wasn’t really to blame, because after I had loaded my plate with helpings from most of the sixty platters, someone piped up: “Of course you know these are just the appetizers. The real meal comes later.” Why didn’t they warn me sooner?
To finish the subject of our wedding anniversary, Helen gave me a large oil painting by Ila McAfee Turner of Taos. It is “Spiral Nebula”, a modern treatment of three spirited, chimerical horses, one of the finest things she has painted, to our notion. And Miss Coursen, who spent the winter in Arizona, sent to Barbara from there a clever Hopi doll, Indian made.
Barbara is having to share her doll collection now with Helen, who wants to get a doll from every Indian tribe of the Southwest.
California, in common with the rest of the world, heard England”s Big Show over the radio, except that here the affair started at one o’clock in the morning. I listened to the Coronation for eleven hours straight, and don’t mind saying that I’m proud to be as nearly an Englishman as any good American can claim to be. Helen put on a Coronation Dinner at her Woman’s Club and had an English doll-maker here create a whole “Royal Family” of dolls. The costumes were correct down to the last detail; she even had on the king’s little finger the diamond ring his father had given to him on his twenty-first birthday and which has never since been removed. This week’s sideshow event between Edward and Wally will probably be the last headline spectacle for England for a while. But hats off to her most democratic great country in the world.
After the Big Wedding at Monts, the headlines will probably spotlight on the Big Fight in Chicago. Which calls to mind that we saw Joe Lewis fight an exhibition here in Ontario this spring. Ontario is becoming considerably sports-minded. This is the new training camp for the Los Angeles ball club and we had spring games here between them and the Chicago Cubs, White Sox, and Pittsburgh Pirates.
Our neighboring town of Chino, six miles south, is becoming a movie center and one national magazine claims it now ranks next to Hollywood as a favorite film locale. We are anxiously waiting to see “High, Wide, and Handsome”, with Irene Dunne, which we saw made at Chino a month or so ago. It’s a story of the early oil days in Pennsylvania. An oil well on a hilltop suddenly came in and sprayed all the players from head to toe. And it was real oil too fourth grade crude, we were told. For the close-ups of this scene, a man stood on a ladder beside the camera and sprayed the black goo over the actors as they waved and talked. And such shots would be taken time and again, day after day, to insure perfection. Some of the actresses were so angry they could have caught fire even without benefit of the oil; they said the greasy stuff would never come out of their hair.
In the way of recent reading Helen has “Gone With the Wind” and I am planning to go too, as soon as I can lay hands again on one of those million copies to which that book has run so far. That many books, I figured the other night, would make a stack forty miles high. So it must be elevating reading. Gladys Noble, librarian at Santa Barbara, recommended Malvina Hoffman’s “Heads and Tales”, because it contained a chapter on Taos. We got it yesterday and it seems so interesting that the Taos part may be just an hors d’ouvre to the whole business. We’ve read Leo Shippey’s latest book, too. ” The Girl Who Wanted Experience” and there’s a novel with two eyes, Insight and Interest. Shippey is a Los Angeles writer whose market is now worldwide. We heard him lecture the other day. Prof. Walter’s 1937 Essay Annual was given a fine boost in the last Phi Beta Kappa magazine and we are going to get a copy of this perennially fine collection the next time we go to L.A.
No letter written from California this particular year can come to an ending without some mention of the weather. Otherwise you would accuse us of concealing material and damaging evidence. Yes, the weather has been terrible rain, cold, and smudge. But it couldn’t have been half so bad as the eastern papers said it was so at least be charitable.
In saying adieu, I must direct your attention to that bit of wisdom spoken by Shenstone (whoever he was) who remarked: “The best time to frame an answer to letters of a friend is the moment you receive them; then the warmth of friendship and the intelligence received most forcibly co-operate.” Get the hint?