Monday, May 20th
One of the really nice aspects of this trip has been continual flow of excellent advice and support we’ve gotten from our friends. Everything from where to go, what to see, where to eat, where to stay, what roads to travel and which to avoid, etc. My friend Sally even overnighted us a lumbar support a day or so before we left to make driving more comfortable. So when we landed in Hollywood, the first thing I did was call my friend Ted who lived out here for 20 odd years before recently moving back East. He hooked us up with a great hotel and some touristy stuff we could access quickly from there if we wanted a dose of local.
So this morning we wandered up and down Hollywood Boulevard, checking out the stars on the walk of fame and trying to ignore or politely deflect the overtures of the pitch men peddling celebrity tours. A gauntlet of solicitation. We stopped at Aoemeba Music on Sunset Boulevard which has the biggest and broadest selection of records, CDs, DVDs and collectibles I have ever seen in one place. Then we had lunch next door at at a new pizza place called Stella’s where the food was outstanding and where the staff treated us like royalty. Really great lunch place which we found completely by accident.
Eventually we made it back to our car, shoe-horned ourselves inside and took off in search of the Hollywood sign. We wandered around the Hollywood hills for awhile until we finally found a decent vantage point for photographs. That mission accomplished, we said goodbye to L.A. and headed North on 101 and out of town.
That’s the short version. Here’s the editorial. Los Angeles has a weird vibe. There’s something visceral and nakedly ruthless about it. And that is almost certainly fueled by an entertainment industry which is famous for its relentless pursuit and exploitation of talent. But it also seems to attract a certain element – folks who are prepared, or think they are prepared, to compete for the brass ring at almost any cost. Everybody is hustling. Everybody is trying to be beautiful. And everybody seems to be judging everyone else and taking stock of how they rate in comparison. If you look like Emma, or Nic or Bill, you get noticed on the street and are evaluated and catalogued as competition. If you look like me, you get a wince or a sneer (if you get acknowledged at all) as if the presence of the unfit were a blemish on the landscape.
There’s a surprising lack of pretense in this. It’s actually strangely honest and matter-of-fact. And brutal. People come to L.A. to make it in the nasty, gloves-off, win-at-any-cost world of show business. There’s no room here or patience for weakness. You’re either beautiful, talented, connected, powerful…or you’re not. And if you’re not, you’re either invisible or in the way. Especially on the sidewalk.
In a town that obsessed with success, it is perhaps inevitable that its failures are so oversized. And I don’t mean the discretionary definition of failure. I mean absolute failure. Like the filthy, barefoot young man with no hands, clad only in pajama bottoms, clutching two half full bottles of wine to his chest with his forearms while trotting down the street and talking quietly to himself. Or the tiny, emaciated schizophrenic in a dirty sun dress darting up and down the sidewalk in untied sneakers, railing at imaginary government enemies. Or the old, weathered, crippled woman curled in a filthy pile of rags on the corner of the busiest traffic intersection in Hollywood. That kind of failure.
When I texted Ted this morning for tourism advice, I added that I wished he were with us to show us around. His half-joking response: “Already spent my time in hell”. Indeed. But lunch was amazing.
Random notes from today: We made it up the coast as far a San Simeon where we’ve stopped for the night. Nice motel near the ocean with waves crashing in the distance and a cool breeze in the window. Thank you again, Tripadvisor. Turns out Nic doesn’t have to be back at work until Wednesday afternoon, so tomorrow we’ll drive the coastal route along Rte 1 to Carmel and then see where we might want to stop another night rather than sprint all the way to Sonoma. We made a brief stop at Santa Barbara today where we took a stroll out on the pier. A beautiful spot on a flawless beach with gorgeous green hills as an Eastern backdrop. I did a stint in the back seat of our rental car and..not as bad as I thought it would be. Hollywood made me homesick. Go Bruins.