Sunday, April 26, 2020

Burrito Manor


We lived in Van Nuys and then in North Hollywood and when I was 10, my brother, who had his license, would take the Falcon and we'd cruise the streets of L.A. while our mother was out. We'd seek out Burrito Manor in the hills above Reseda (2786 La Castana Drive, one of several Burrito Manors), the house where the Flying Burrito Bros. convened 50 years ago. We'd sit out on the street with the windows down, playing The Gilded Palace of Sin on an 8-track, and we’d watch the cars come and go, an endless parade of girls and rock stars.

The overall goal was to grab a handful of LPs at Wallichs Music City and stake our claim to one of the listening booths. There was no more "happening" place for a ten-year-old than Music City at midnight. On the way, it wasn't unusual for us to stalk the Laurel Canyon set – and now, you can too! Zappa and Joni and Jim are long gone, but you can still meander around the canyon and ponder what was.

South on the Boulevard passed the Studio Theater – Planet of the Apes. Right on Laurel and up past Mulholland. Another mile on the right a big blue sign, Lookout Mountain. Up around a bend, 8217 Lookout Mountain Road, the home of Joni Mitchell and, at time, James Taylor or Graham Nash. It was here that Joni wrote the material for Clouds and Ladies of the Canyon, and, after a day of shopping and pal-ing around, Nash wrote "Our House," essentially just pondering the cats and the cheap vase they'd bought in a junk shop. I romanticize it, of course, but can you imagine the weekend get together with David Crosby or Sweet Baby James and Judy Collins?

At 2401, back on Laurel Canyon, you'll find Frank Zappa’s house not far away, formerly the home of silent film star Tom Mix and often referred to as The Cabin. Zappa lived here during the days of the Mothers, and Captain Beefheart crashed here with nowhere else to go when he began work on Trout Mask Replica. Frank gave him full reign to create this masterpiece of the avant-garde. Frank, as absurd and off the wall as he was, was not a druggie or even a casual pothead, and so he moved his family to a more secluded location the following year, 7885 Woodrow Wilson Drive.

Heading down toward the Laurel Canyon Mart, past the Houdini estate, we'd stop and get a Bubble-Up and some Granny Goose BBQ potato chips. It was there on the path that I saw Peter Tork. At ten, you cannot imagine the thrill. It was there that, long before anyone knew who she was, Cass Eliot lived in the basement.

Just up from the Mart was the house on Love Street, the nickname given by Jim Morrison to the horribly named Rothdell Trail (8201). It was here that he lived with Pamela Courson. Prior to this, Jim, John Densmore and Robbie Krieger lived just down the street from Joni at 8826 Lookout Mtn.

On the way back from Wallichs we'd seek out John Mayall's house, but where? We never found it. I didn't know who he was and I'd say, "Come on. Mama Cass's," and to appease me, my brother put a new 8-track in the player, The Mamas and the Papas' If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears. When we turned up Laurel, my brother said, that's where The Garden of Allah was." It was gone; razed in 1959, but he remembered. A posh golden era star-studded hotel with a Moroccan theme, it would inspire Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi" and the line "They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."

It wasn't 27 Rue de Fleurus. That was the home of Gertrude Stein in Paris. Graham Nash called her the Gertrude Stein of Laurel Canyon." Cass lived up above the Mart and you could see her house from there. But the old Falcon was running low on gas and it was 1:00am. "Mom's gonna be mad." The mart was closed but he pulled up front. There were lights on in the house on the hill. It was Natalie Wood's house once; now it was everyone's home away from home. Cass said, "My house is a very free house. It's not a crash pad and people don't come without calling. But on an afternoon, especially on weekends, I always get a lot of delicatessen food in because I know David [Crosby] is going to come over for a swim and things are going to happen."

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