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When I think of the old truism, “so close and yet so far,” the city of Los Angeles immediately springs to mind.  As the crow flies it isn’t far at all from where we live (roughly 60 miles to the West), but as the traffic crawls, well, you never know just how long the drive might take.  And if you’re like me and the thought of hurtling down one of umpteen lanes of highway doesn’t thrill you (or creeping as the case may be), then you think twice about hopping in a car– even to such a great city as L.A.

That said, there are plenty of great reasons to get there; the art, the music, the theater (my cousin!), the food, the music, the vibe.  You name it. On Saturday I did have such a reason to get to L.A., and the rare treat of having a girls’ night out with a good friend.  The triple treat in store for us was a unique combination of setting+literature+theater.  Oh yes, and radio.

Setting: the J. Paul Getty Museum

Literature: short stories by various authors around the theme of “Home”

Theater: distinguished actor-types to read these stories aloud on stage

Radio: for National Public Radio’s show “Selected Shorts”

We arrived at the Getty at just about the most beautiful time of day, as the sun was getting low in the western sky.  A white tram took us for a scenic ride from the parking garage to the top of the hill where the museum sits.

The crowd dispersed out of the train, some to the galleries, and some to the auditorium.  I stopped to take a few pictures, wowed by the gorgeous design of the building, and my first time seeing it in person.

Getty steps

From the museum there is a terrific panoramic view of downtown L.A., if the sky is clear enough.  It looks good from here!

like a grassy balcony

the green side of L.A.

I had to get the obligatory souvenir shot, so asked a woman standing by to take a picture for the record:

We're at the Getty!!

A long time NPR junkie, I jumped at the chance to be part of a live audience for “Selected Shorts,” a program I used to catch occasionally on Chicago’s NPR station.  Usually Selected Shorts is broadcast from NYC’S Symphony Center, but a couple of times a year they travel, recording shows elsewhere.  I am also a fan of the short story, but am never as well-read as I would like.  The other real enticement for this radio program is the actors who read the stories–each one memorable and striking in their own way.

For this May 1st reading “If the Walls Could Talk,” we got to hear a wonderful range of actors:  the legendary and stately Leonard Nimoy read “Porte-Cochère,” by Peter Taylor, the magical Fionnula Flanagan read “Household,” by Yasunari Kawabata, the gravelly Ed Asner read “Plumbing,” by John Updike, and the engaging Jacqueline Kim read “Not Quite Home Alone,” by Krista McGruder.  I enjoyed the experience of listening to each story, read with such individual expression on its own, but also as a part of the whole.  It struck me that reading aloud to each other is something adults should do more often.

the auditorium at the top of the stairs

The other really fun aspect of getting to be part of this studio audience was to see the man behind the voice of the program’s artistic director, Isaiah Sheffer, a radio personality I’d pictured in my head for years but never seen.  He has one of those warm, full voices that belongs on radio, and was just a delight to get to see in person.  During the intermission he led the audience in a participatory sing-along quiz, in which he sang the first line of a song (from the Great American Songbook) and the audience had to sing the line that came after it.  I was surprised how many I didn’t know, but here’s one I did.  Can you sing the next line?

“As I walked out in the streets of Laredo, as I walked out in Laredo one day…”

We finished off our evening out with a cruise past the night-life of the crowded clubs, restaurants and bars in West Hollywood, but chose a diner for a bite and a drink before our longer drive home.

the future reflects on the past

Maybe one of these days there will be a more efficient way to get to L.A.  Until then, braving the traffic may be the choice we make, because when it’s worth it, it is really worth it!