I was awake by 5:45, but laid there until 6:30 when the phone rang for my high-tech automated wakeup call. A computer voice read me the breakfast menu, and I hung up on it. I scribbled a list of notes about the previous day so I wouldn’t forget anything, then looked at my travel guide. Daniel had given me a list of the must-see items in LA, and I decided to focus on those, since he had my main interests covered: Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, shopping, overlooks, good food, Santa Monica. I tore a map out of the book in the hotel and was on the road by 8am. I had the whole monster freeway to myself. I drove up to Mulholland Drive and headed west. It was another winding mountain road, but it had good views of the city. I found the overlook and finally got my first view of the Hollywood sign. Unfortunately, the picture didn’t turn out because of the smog, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. Facing the other direction, I looked down on the Hollywood Bowl, Hollywood, and downtown LA in the distance.
I drove down the hill and parked near Hollywood Boulevard. At 9am, there was already a huge line outside El Capitan waiting to see The Pirates of the Caribbean, and pirates crawling all over the place, swashbuckling and such. There was a film crew on the street filming something that looked especially unimportant. I gave a guy the pen I took from the hotel that morning so he could get autographs from a bunch of people I wondered if I should recognize.
I bought postcards and went across the street to Starbucks to write them. I had the feeling I should wait a bit before walking around, because everything just seemed to be waking up at that hour.
I called Heather and watched a guy pressure-washing the walk of fame. She swore that people bought their own stars, that they weren’t awarded. Then I walked down to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre to see the handprints. It was hard taking pictures with tourists standing all over them, but I managed. Not being a huge fan of mainstream movies and TV, I was mostly unimpressed, so I took pictures of the ones I thought were funniest.
The strange thing was, I’m not that into Hollywood at all, and yet, I was loving it there. The whole scene was so surreal, I had the impression that LA was not a real place, but made up for my amusement.
While I was on Hollywood Boulevard, I talked to the Incredible Hulk. I watched a second film crew setting up down the block from the first, and I suspected maybe they were in competition as far as trying to look professional without having a clue about what they were doing (which looked to be filming tourists outside tacky souvenir shops). Especially for Heather, I had my picture taken with Fat Elvis. I gave him a dollar, he asked me where I was from and method-acted like he cared. I made sure to use his name in every sentence: “Can I get a picture, Elvis?” “I’m from Minneapolis, Elvis!” “Thanks, Elvis!” I walked back to my car, giggling.
I drove down the Sunset Strip, having a million Big Lebowski moments. I laughed every single time I saw an In-N-Out Burger or Ralph’s. I drove into Beverly Hills, and pulled off on a side street so I could write postcards and mail them right away. I imagined that I was parked in from of some second-rate actor’s house (I think Kirk Cameron was the star of choice), and that he was going to come running out in his underwear to yell at me. I considered buying a star map, not because I cared about stars’ houses, but because I liked the idea of supporting an industry that makes them uncomfortable in their exclusive homes.
After some creatively-executed u-turns, I found my way to Rodeo Drive. It was 11am, and the shops were just opening. I parked and wandered. As far as the shopping, I was unimpressed – it was either stuff we had at home (Pottery Barn, Williams-Sonoma), or stuff I’d seen on Madison Avenue, or Michigan Avenue in Chicago. Yet it was somehow even snootier, even though 95% of the people shopping there were tourists who just walked around gawking. It was in the mid-80s, but so humid it felt much hotter. I was getting hungry, so I headed back to the car. As I got there, I noticed activity around the corner and went to investigate: it was the Beverly Hills Farmers’ Market! I drooled over the fresh produce, then stopped and bought a sweet corn tamale with tomatillo sauce. You know I hate to exaggerate, but it was the best thing I’d eaten in my entire life. I sat on the curb in the shade and ate, while listening to a reggae band and watching the rich old ladies stuffing zucchini into their purses. Behind me, there was a kids’ fair going on. I wanted to go pet the ponies, look at the goats, and talk to the firemen, but I decided against it, since I didn’t have a kid with me as an excuse, and I hear that borrowing one without permission is a felony in California.
The car, having sat in the sun for less than an hour, was already a million degrees inside. I sat with the doors open and the A/C cranked, and stared at the map while I waited for the car to cool down. As I looked up, I saw Lisa Kudrow walking down the other side of the street, carrying a parasol and market bag. She looked put out.
I drove down Wilshire Boulevard towards La Brea Avenue. It’s called the Miracle Mile, so I was on the lookout for anything miraculous. I saw two McDonald’s, an IHOP, and a Sizzler. Then I saw the miracle: it was double-coupon days at Ralphs! Of course!
I drove past art museums (almost as good as going in), and the La Brea Tar Pits, which have metal statues of prehistoric mammals. I thought, “This is something Heather would appreciate.” I myself was in search of shopping. I swung past the Warner Brothers Studio and parked near Melrose. I had noticed a few spots along the way where there were parking lots full of what looked like piles of clothing and furniture, with people swarming all over them. I wanted to check them out, but was scared of getting trampled in the mad rush for a discount. I walked down Melrose and got my shopping on. Exercising remarkable self-control and frugality, I only bought myself one tshirt. Everyone I encountered had such an attitude, and I saw at least 10 Britneys. I looked at a lot of menus, and saw nothing good. I stopped at Starbucks (because caffeine is a temporary substitute for food), and asked Starbucks boy if he knew of any vegetarian restaurants in the area. He didn’t, but offered up the Starbucks veggie sandwich. I politely declined.
On the way back to the car, I encountered a hipster couple with their three decidedly non-hipster kids. The hipsters were probably in their mid-twenties, definitely younger than me. As I passed, hipster-boy was whining, “But can’t we just find a sitter? Me and you need to go out tonight!” I said a silent prayer of thanks for the fact that I don’t have kids. It’s a prayer I say probably ten times a day, but it bears repeating.
I drove over to ‘restaurant row’, which I decided should more accurately be named ‘steakhouse row’. I was disappointed. But then I noticed a sign for a place right near the Trashy Lingerie store: Real Food Daily. I didn’t know what it was, but the name was promising enough to get me inside and seated at a table without even looking at the menu. When I did get the menu, I opened it to discover it was vegan, and I was the luckiest girl in the world. I ordered a soymilk latte and a club sandwich (breaded seitan, tempeh bacon), with a caesar salad. I was in heaven, as long as I ignored all the film-industry people around me. I sat for a long time and caught up on my travel journal. I used their bathroom twice. They loved me there, I knew it. They had to. While I was eating, I did the California thing and talked on my cellphone. Heather pricelined me a hotel room in San Diego. She rules.
I drove back up Wilshire Boulevard, and experienced the miracle of double coupons once again. This time, I headed into downtown LA. It was nothing special. I was excited driving through Chinatown, more excited in Little Tokyo, and beside myself with amusement in Koreatown. I don’t know, I just really liked the signs on all the shops. I realized I was managing to have a really relaxing time in LA, despite running around all day. So I did the next logical thing: I went to IKEA. Yeah.
There’s something comforting about IKEA. I went to the store in Carson, and was there for a total for 20 minutes. I bought a pillow for Heather ($6.95, on sale!) and two sets of potholders ($2.99 each). Having satisfied my IKEA jones, I got back on the 405 and exited just north of my hotel, in order to take a picture of a 3-story donut. I drove west to Highway 1, which at that point was officially the PCH. I went north to Venice Beach. Traffic at the beach was insane, so I propped the road atlas against the steering wheel as we crept along, and tried to plan the rest of my trip. When the road angled away from the beach, I turned left so I could stick to the oceanfront. It was ten degrees cooler there, so I turned off the air conditioning and opened all the windows, feeling like a Don Henley song. I got to Santa Monica and parked strategically between the pier and the 3rd Street Promenade, a big pedestrian mall with shops and restaurants. The stores were OK – I stopped into a few – but mostly they were just Gap and Urban Outfitters. The cool thing was the promenade itself. All down the middle of the street, they had these large fountains with dinosaur topiaries. There were also a hundred street performers (the favorite being Mini-Elvis), and a thousand people begging for cash.
Once again, I was in search of decent non-meat dining, and meeting with yet another challenge. A server at a Greek restaurant offered me a salad, but I was really looking for protein. I was tired of protein bars, and even more tired of worrying about my protein intake. I walked in circles for a while, then finally found a restaurant/deli with the magic word on the menu: gardenburger.
After dinner, I walked down to the Santa Monica pier. Everyone said it was best to see it at night. It was 8:15 and still light, so I went and sat on the beach and called home as I watched the sun set over the mountains. Once the sun went down, I put my shoes back on and climbed up to the boardwalk.
The pier wasn’t terribly busy, which was nice. It had typical beach stuff: fried food, tacky souvenirs, your name on a grain of rice. I walked down to the end of the pier to take pictures of the shore. There were several musicans and other performers, and a large restaurant. Also, a bunch of old ladies fishing. Strange. I started to feel a little lonely, what with all the couples down there being in love.
I walked back to the car, still feeling a little melancholy. Heather didn’t help the matter by sending dirty messages while I shopped for postcards. I stopped at Wild Oats Market for car food, then went back to my hotel, packed up my stuff, and went to bed.
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random notes from my travel journal:
i’ve been called ‘sweetie’ or ‘sweetheart’ three times already this morning, and it’s only 9am.
i hate the girls at the table next to me.
1: i think i’ll have a salad and a side of brown rice.
2: brown rice??
1: yeah. the thing is, i usually eat cheese for lunch.
2: they have cheese here! get cheese!
1: no, it’s VEGAN. it’s FAKE cheese.
today @ the b.h. farmer’s market, i saw the most perfectly-formed pair of man-breasts ever. they were firm and perky. i was jealous.
there are entertainment-industry women at the table on the other side of me. rage.
i think i was born to drive in la. at least on the weekends.
my hotel is right by the herbalife building. that rules, and i’m not sure why. also, la (especially hollywood) = scientology.
i really hate this humid dampness. i feel smelly.
i was buying heather a trilobite just as she was messaging me that she was watching jurassic park. the store was called ‘jurassic’. weird.
i wonder how many of other people’s photos and home movies i’m ending up in?
i have a 4″ leg tan – from the bottom of my capris to the tops of my running shoes. goofy, to match the rest.
– left hand, bruise.
– palm of left hand, bruise.
– right hand, big scrapes on knuckles and wrist. ugly and painful.
– both knees, bruised from pressing against the dashboard.
– right shoulder, big bruise. don’t know why.
– left shoulder, bruise from carrying this bag. dammit.
ok. time to walk and notice my aloneness and english-speakingness.
natural foods stores are cute flirty boy magnets wherever you go, except possibly arcata, california.
there’s some super-formal event in the hotel lobby tonight. i love looking like a slob.
i’m feeling like home would really be nice right now. i’m dying to tell stories and look at pictures.
p.s. i think i could live in california. not down south, though. the heat hurts.
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