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  • When my husband, Jeff, gets together with his brother Steve there is always an episode of long and helpless laughter.
    They laugh until they weep.
    Usually for no apparent reason, the time is right and their shoulders shake and they are gone.

    Last summer we were in Los Angeles for our nieces wedding. It was a big event, and we spent a week there to have time to visit before the choreographed activities.

    I had been to LA once before, at a time when I was still resisting the forces of the Universe. I did not go with the flow. Steve took us to Hadley’s in the desert, and said they were known for their date shakes,
    “You have to try the date shake”, Steve said.
    I did not try the date shake.
    I have had a few years to think about my behavior.

    This time I was determined to try and do all of the things Steve recommended.
    He and Jeff had stopped arguing with each other when their Mother was sick and became close after she died.
    All the petty little things, like who would watch a Bergman film or worse, like it, that used to set off aggravated debates no longer mattered. Within four months, she went from a happy, recently retired, woman to dead.
    It was sobering.

    With the wedding looming tensions over seating arrangements opened up old wounds. Their father’s second wife could not be seated with their Uncle and the brother of the groom had come out as an openly gay man just in time for a family reunion.

    We took a couple of days to site-see. We drove to Malibu to the Getty museum and then walked on the high bluff.
    The coast out there just ends. The country comes to an abrupt halt with no coves or bays or cluster of Islands to soften the news.
    The Continent is over and beyond that open water.

    That night we went out for dinner, at a huge sushi restaurant near Studio City and then drove towards a place to get the best chocolate gelato.
    Jan, Steve’s wife, was pointing out sites as he drove.

    “That is where Robert Blake was caught, running with a gun after he shot his wife.” she said, as we neared the main drag and our destination.
    This was a good, lurid, LA detail. An actor stepped off the screen.
    “Robert Blake and his parakeet that he talked to,” said Steve.
    “Remember Uncle Sam?” Jeff said to Steve, “Remember his parakeet?”
    “It used to bite our fingers,” Steve remembered.
    “It was named Peechuka.”
    “Peechuka.” Jeff began to chuckle.
    “Peechucka.” Steve began to laugh.
    “Peechucka.” They were both laughing hard now.
    Steve drove the car into a small parking lot behind a store, turned off the engine and they laughed until tears had to be wiped away.
    Jan and I smiled at each other.
    Then we went and had some of the arguably best chocolate gelato, ever.

    On the plane trip home there was a point where the desert and canyons of the West ended and the landscape below became greener and then solid green.
    We were almost home.
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