This spring, I took my teenage daughter to Los Angeles for a doughnut. Actually, I took her to Rodeo Drive for some shopping. She longed to be part of the place she knew entirely from TV as a street where pretty girls with names like Brittany and Blake like to shop in between dates with handsome vampires. Not exactly a spiritual calling. But who am I to judge? I have traveled to Florence without visiting the Uffizi, too busy navigating my rental car along the autostrada in search of the nearby designer outlet to fit in the Birth of Venus or even a detour to see the David.
With apologies to Botticelli and Michelangelo, it is Dolce & Gabbana that makes my heart race. My favorite piece: the gray double-breasted suit I bought 25 years ago when my best friend came to visit me soon after I moved to Manhattan.
I didn’t take her to the Guggenheim, or the Met, or even a show on Broadway. Instead, we rode two subway lines and a train for the better part of an hour on our annual pilgrimage to that sacred shrine of aspirational materialism: Loehmann’s. Earlier this year, after 93 years in business, the over-expanded chain closed its doors for good. But back in the day, every woman of the couture cloth knew that its Back Room was where transformational experiences could be had for 70 percent off. And nothing compared to the Back Room in the Bronx, where my friend and I gasped at the sight of a sequin-embellished cactus stitched like a bright yellow and orange na-na-na-na-na into the old-school conservatism of Dolce & Gabbana’s impeccably cut pinstripe suit.
Luckily, there were two.
My friend sold hers years ago. Not me. To this day, I wander into my closet just to admire it and make sure the paillettes are in place.
So: Rodeo Drive it was. My daughter and I walked past Gucci and Hermès and into Louis Vuitton, where she bent down to look longingly at a colorful clutch wallet in a glass case. “That’s so pretty,” she said. I bent down to look, too. “It’s eight hundred and ninety dollars,” I whispered. A security man in a black suit stared at us. We walked back outside. She blinked in the sunshine, looking up and down the avenue lined with Maseratis and Bentleys but not a single supernatural creature.
Not even Miley Cyrus.
“It’s not what I expected,” she said. I caught my breath, on the verge of delivering a Life Lesson.
The truth is, my daughter and I drive each other crazy. That’s why I make sure we get time together, just us two, far from the craziness of our own zip code: homework, soccer practice, sleepovers, the toothpaste tube she never caps, the cell phone she never puts down, the nagging, which I am told I never stop.
We need to get away from the hard edges of our love. Which is why, despite my fear of flying, I booked our trip to Los Angeles and found myself on a plane, clutching the armrest as it began jolting up and down in the unstable air over the Rockies. The captain turned on the seatbelt sign and told everyone to brace
for turbulence. My breath quickened, my eyes squeezed shut. I felt terrified and foolish and alone in the world. And then, suddenly, a soft, warm hand was gently prying loose my cold, white fingers. I opened my eyes, and there was my daughter, leaning in close.
She pressed my hand to her lips. “Are you OK?” she asked.
And something inside me shifted.
This is the point of a pilgrimage. Not the suit with the yellow cactus (though I will love it forever). Not the Louis Vuitton wallet. It is that trite truism that, alas, must be learned over and over again: It’s not the destination, stupid—it’s the journey. Rearranging your view allows you to rearrange your heart, your mind, your old, hurtful habits. I did not buy her the wallet—but nor did I narrow my eyes and harden my voice to lecture her about the value of money.
Instead, I took her for a doughnut. She doesn’t particularly love doughnuts. But far from the Bentleys in Beverly Hills, on a nondescript street near the airport in Inglewood, Randy’s is a temple that has drawn pilgrims the world over for more than 60 years. We parked in the lot, a few blocks from the 405 freeway, and she looked at me—puzzled, on the verge of perturbed.
“I thought you said I eat too much sugar,” she said.
“Forget what I said. Do you see that doughnut?” I asked, pointing to the 33-foot pastry perched on top of the tiny, squat bakery. “It once rolled down the road in an earthquake.” Her eyes grew wide.
“Really?” she asked.
“Better than ‘really,’” I said. “In a movie.”
Yes, Randy’s was more than sacred; it was famous. Its gigantic donut had been featured on screens big and small, from Californication and Arrested Development to Ironman 2 and Earth Girls Are Easy—clearly written by someone who never had a teenage daughter.
“I’d like a raised glazed,” she said. I handed over a buck.
She took a bite. I smiled. This was something between us now: a sweetness; a story; a place. Even if we never return, we’ll be back again.