Sunday, August 24, 2003

Boring LA

Looking for Los Angeles

Even though I was at a conference “in L.A.” all this week, it wasn’t until Friday night that I really ended up in L.A. But even then I wasn’t in Los Angeles; I was in Hollywood.

Friday night Jennifer Pelose (whom I worked with in Boston) gwSarah (whom I met by chance at the conference) and I all ended up down on Hollywood Boulevard.. We walked around Mann’s Chinese Theater, El Capitan Theater, and discovered quite by accident that the mall we wandered into was actually attached to the Kodak Theater where the Oscars are held now. It was really odd; there were giant plaster elephants on top of the mall whose main court was an open air semi-circle. I understood it though; the builders were using the same type of plan used in Stratford-on-Avon, but all the symbology was very Hollywood, giant props and odd faux-Egyptian motifs. Underneath the giant props in this awesome design space, a pretty bad theme-park style show was conducted in center court. Dry ice smoke wafted out while giant screens cast clips from famous Hollywood moments. Beneath the screens, Rocky-Horror style, a few costumed performers went through the motions of unintentionally mocking the very industry the building raised up to honor.

Jennifer took pictures of us with famous footprints and pink cement stars. The stars are set into the sidewalk all the way down Hollywood boulevard. If my picture with Ray Harryhausen’s sidewalk star doesn’t come out, I’ll be really bummed. The footprints in cement are in front of the Chinese theater. The footprints and handprints really surprised me. They have a big impact on you when you see them. It’s irresistible to put your feet where Jimmy Stewart’s were, and impossible not to feel affected when you do so. I found myself fascinated by C3PO’s small steps, amazed at how many women sunk stiletto heels in, making their actual foot size impossible to gauge. Shirley Temple’s tiny marks made me feel bad, realizing how small a child she must have been, wondering if she was ever frightened by the crush of people here, and all the popping lights.

The best part of Hollywood boulevard for me was simply that it was crowded and full of odd people. I spent most of the week in Beverly Hills, at a famous old hotel that was quite nice but far too distant from anywhere I wanted to be. Tuesday night gwSarah and I walked in after a day of conferencing on digital archives to find the very real red carpet rolled out, because a benefit for St. Jude’s was being held under our noses. We found out later television stars had been in attendance, but we were too wiped out to even care. We spent the evening with Jessica, a computer program designer, eating dinner beside a swimming pool where Esther Williams once swam in all her glory. We ate at the hotel because our other dinner option would have been a restaurant on Rodeo Drive, and after only two nights of Rodeo, we were all done with it. None of us went into this field for the money, and so we were sort of stranded in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the wealthiest nation in the world. Beverly Hills is not L.A.

Wednesday night I went to Melrose to shop, and gave up after much searching. The clothes were the best I’d ever seen in my life, but while they were no where near Rodeo Drive prices, they were still far beyond my reach. Not to mention that none of them would fit anyway, because I’m 6 goddamn feet tall. I don’t know why I occasionally forget that. Melrose is exceedingly long and there are few buildings more than 2 stories tall. I did get a charge out of seeing the West Coast design building, which looks as if it were built out of blue and green legos.

I ended up at a really good comic bookstore there, ‘The Golden Apple’. I was impressed. But I didn’t feel like I was really in L.A. The night was warm and there were plastic chairs outside of the comic book store, so I sat while I waited for a cab back to the hotel. I had to wait for a cab, because when I waved at taxi drivers to hail them, they either waved back or simply made a telephone gesture with their hands. Since I was in a fairly hip retail district, there were a few people out on the warm night. But for the most part the wide white sidewalks were vacant, or home to people who only walked a few yards to their shiny expensive cars. Nice cars are evidently very important in LA. Perhaps that’s why the cab I called never showed, but eventually I did manage to flag down one of the cab drivers, who I can only assume hadn’t been in LA long enough to know that taxi hailing is simply not done on Melrose.

I never saw a public housing project while I was “in LA”. I was actually in Beverly Hills, and while this was very nice in some ways, in other ways it was everything I dislike in the world: it was difficult to navigate, everything was ridiculously spaced out, and all of it was horribly expensive. I was outside of the city, not in it. I was in Century City. Avoid Century City.

But the best part of the trip was my night at the Getty museum. Which you can read about here later this week. It was one of those nights I’ll never forget. But really, I’m too tired out to write about it just now.

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