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111 Game Time the school i visit the next morning couldn’t contrast more markedly from Griffin Avenue, or from Topeka for that matter. It’s the day of my alumni basketball game, but, as my morning is free, I drive my nephew with my sister-in-law to his elite private school in the Bel-Air hills, accented with dusky patches of chaparral, where he attends third grade. We park amid a sea of gleaming, high-end SUVs, which dwarf the narrow street. The first thing I notice as we walk onto the grounds is the view, or, rather, the blanket of white where the view downward toward the Pacific Ocean ought to be. It’s a typically foggy morning up in the canyon. ”Yesterday,” my nephew boasts, “we could see all the way to Catalina Island.” The school grounds are, predictably, immaculate. A meticulously edged and trimmed carpet of lawn—a tender variety I associate with golf courses—lay just outside the doors to the classrooms. The weight of my stride leaves an imprint. The interior walls of my nephew’s classroom are festooned with constructive, multicolored projects. The young, pretty teacher’s aide receives me warmly, even solicitously. She’s someone, it appears, who is used to frequent spirited interaction with parents and other family members. She received her B.A. from Berkeley, she tells me after I inquire, and works now toward her M.A. at a local state university . It’s one of the great things about Daniel’s school, she informs me. They provide funding for their teachers and teacher’s aides to pursue advanced degrees in education. “You have to stay for the salutation,” she suggests. “It’s pretty inspiring.” Not knowing the young woman, I can’t quite tell to what extent, or even whether, she speaks facetiously. Playing 112 • My Los Angeles in Black and (Almost) White it safe, I tell her that I do plan on staying, that I’ve heard all about it, which is true. In the meantime, Leila decides to show me the original two-story schoolhouse adjacent to Daniel’s classroom, which now holds the administrative offices. It looks not unlike a ski lodge, what with its vaulted dark wooden ceilings and its large fireplace at the far wall of the ground floor. “It’s not a particularly Jewish school,” Leila declares, as if to explain the large oil painting that has captured my attention, a blond-haired child astride an enormous painted horse. “That’s the founder’s son,” she elaborates . I’m not surprised to see on display this somewhat crude painting of the founder’s blond-haired child astride his horse, or to hear about the demographics of the place. The campus—from its rugged immediate environs to its few buildings—has an upscale, ranchy feel I associate with monied gentility, sort of Gene Autry meets Ralph Lauren (née Lifschitz). We head outside to hear the morning salutation. All the fair-skinned children stand just outside their classrooms on the immaculate green, facing the flagpost and the foggy backdrop down the canyon. I try to take my nephew’s photograph during the pledge of allegiance, but he’ll have none of it; he holds his palm toward the camera, smiling with the delight that petulance tends to bring to a nine year-old. After the pledge, the students segue directly into “The Salutation of the Dawn,” a prayer, of sorts, written by the Classical Sanskrit poet, Kalidasa: Listen to the Exhortation of the Dawn! Look to this Day! For it is life, the very life of life. In its brief course lie all the verities And realities of your existence: The glory of action, The bliss of growth, The splendor of beauty, For yesterday is just a dream, And tomorrow is only a vision; But today well lived, makes Every yesterday a dream of happiness Game Time • 113 And every tomorrow a vision of hope. Look well, therefore, to this Day! Such is the Salutation of the Dawn. There’s something oddly bracing, even fatalistic, about the salutation, this philosophical outlook that amounts to buck-up-and-make-the-most-ofthe -day-within-your-grasp. These are children, after all, mostly blessed with golden pasts, presents, and futures. Luckily for them, they’ve been given every material advantage over the children from Griffin Avenue, and from Topeka as well. In addition to exorbitant matriculation fees, the school also conducts a yearly, semivoluntary...


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