Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles’

Ah, Los Angeles 7

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

A friend calls. She asks if you would be willing to drive a 15 passenger van filled with Hollywood hopefuls for three days. You say yes because her boss, Gary Shusett is the most amazingly connected man in town. His school, Sherwood Oaks Experimental College, boasts directors, actors, producers and writers–all of them well known–as friends and alumni. He helped Sylvester Stallone write the 1st Rocky. This is someone you want on your side. He has set up a meeting with all the big studio heads, independent production company heads and management company heads spread out over three 10 hour days.

You pick up the van at “$6.99 a day” rentals. That should tell you all you need to know but it’s early and you get to meet with all these bigwigs for free so you over look the obvious. The van is some kind of Dodge with 122,000 miles on it and should have been scrapped before it was made. Your friend’s last words as you drive away are, “Don’t hit anything.” Is that kind of like, “don’t think of a pink elephant?”

You pull out into traffic and start reciting a rosary from memory because you’re convinced your days, perhaps your minutes are numbered.  This vehicle would work well on the open sea but city streets, not so much. There seems to be no way to keep the thing from swaying. You grip the wheel hard and decide to show it who’s boss.  It shrugs you off with contempt. When you touch the wheel, when you don’t touch the wheel, there is a squeaking that, at first, you think is involuntary cries coming from you and, later, your passengers.  You discover it’s from the steering wheel itself.

You go to the preassigned gathering place and meet your captives.  Two are Oscar winning Dutch film makers, two Russian film makers with quite a resume of awards, an Australian who has two of their Oscars, the guy who won the “On the Lot” contest, two women from Philadelphia who are nevertheless interesting, one guy from Chicago who has clearly been doing this for a while, one young man from Tanzania whose parents are Russian and Tanzanian, one woman from Kansas who is a Nicholl finalist–the Nicholl is about as prestigious as it gets–a woman who worked for Warner Bros for twenty years and quit to help her husband start his writing career, an Armenian who is very serious about something but you never quite understand what it is and a few, sundry Angelenos. You pack them all into the van with the authority of a pusher in the Japanese subway.

Your flock is full of hope and expectation. You welcome them onto the S.S. Minnow with the admonition that if it seems like your lost or out of control, you are. Someone asks about the Hollywood sign and you tell them if they see it to let you know because you’re going the wrong way.  Someone else asks about the Santa Monica pier and you tell them that they will see it only if the brakes give out. Someone wants to know if you intend to hit the bus on the right side and you say, “What bus?” Once you’ve stop them from screaming, the trip begins. First stop, Sony Studios housed in the old MGM lot.

You start on Hollywood Blvd. The economy might be bad for us but the rest of the world is jamming into America because the dollar is so weak. The tourism industry in Hollywood has never been better. Drivers of tourist vans, mostly open-topped things all nod and wave in camaraderie. As you drive, you start to make up landmarks. “This is where Ashton Kutcher met Demi Moore.” Only the Angelenos know you have no idea what you’re talking about and give you sly, I’ve-got-a-secret looks as they disembark. You point out good and bad restaurants and interesting things to do while in the city. Most are real; some are fabrications.

You drop off your load and then seek free street parking, no easy task, because Sherwood refuses to pay for parking. You walk eleven blocks back to the studio gate telling yourself that you get for free that which is costing your writing brethren an arm and a leg. At the security check point, they look at you like you might be a terrorist but give you a pass anyway because, if you blow something up, it might get them off work early.

You enter the meeting with the first exec late which doesn’t please the executive. You can feel a demerit coming. The meeting is in a spacious, beautiful conference room. Food and drink is supplied. Studio execs have almost no contact with small time writers. If a writer, who isn’t A list, is part of a film that Sony or Warner or Paramount does, it’s because a production company with a deal with one of those studios made a deal with the writer and the rewrite the Studio ordered didn’t work out. Studio execs live in a world where they can pick hit after hit but if their next thing flops, they’re out. Therefore, they make sure that they’ve covered as many bases as they can. They hire A list stars, A list directors and, even if the script is gold, they hire an A list writer to rewrite it which is one reason so many big release movies are so pathetic.

The execs are trying to be nice but, since they never meet with anyone not already a success, they don’t know what to say. Basically, the message is, “give up.” It’s an odd message since original movies are the blood of Hollywood and since every one of these guys came from nowhere but it’s the official message.

The day hits your flock hard. You’ve already developed callouses so you knew what was coming. The women from Russia want answers. The Dutch filmmakers want answers. The Australian wants answers. The Armenian wants something. They’re so distraught, they ignore the impending doom of the ride home. On the way back to Hollywood, you tell them that the purpose of the meetings was to show them the corporate side better known by writers as the lair of the evil lords. You assure them that, initially, they won’t have to deal with the studios. They’ll deal with the friendly, pat-you-on-the-back independent production companies. You don’t tell them that those companies then have to beg the studios for distribution and additional capital which brings you back to square one.

The  next day you meet at the Hollywood coffee shop. You park a mile away and step around the tattoo covered, roller blading, gender bending, desperate human beings who want something, anything but Los Angeles is the land of “No” and you’ve learned to let the word roll off your lips.  At the shop, you see the reverse of the morning before.  A sullen, sunken, sleepless flock who wonder why they spent the money on the trip and the meetings.  So you start in with your stand up routine and before you know it, you’ve got an audience.  They buy you a cup of coffee and are filled with a sense of us versus the world.

You pull up next to one of the execs you met the previous day. Traffic. You’re next to him for a while. He’s driving a Bentley convertible sports car. He’s carrying on a heated conversation on his blue tooth. He tells the person, in no uncertain terms, that it’s the end of his professional life then tells him to hold and instead of answering with call waiting, he speaks into the blue tooth he has in his other ear while covering the first one. Soon, his tirade goes back and forth ear to ear, hand to hand, between the blue tooths–or is it blue teeth.  You think that maybe he’s not grasped the spirit of the hands free cell phone law. You want to wave hello but you guess this might be a bad time.

You drive to the next meeting in Santa Monica. You point out that the pier is only a mile away for anyone wanting to throw themselves off and drop off your charges. Park a sufficient distance to make you wish a cab would come by but you’re in Los Angeles not New York. Sweating profusely, you arrive at the offices of David Milch and others who are speaking with the group today. Some of the biggest production companies in the world have agreed to serve as guides to we the lost.

This is user friendly. These guys also tell you to give up but they’re so nice about it you feel good. When asked, everyone of them came from nowhere but they can’t come up with a solid piece of advice for anyone looking for a break.  A funny television producer tells you in a whisper that, “Hollywood is like a huge doorless edifice. You walk around and around. You see someone ahead enter. You race up but if there is a door, there’s no evidence of it.” He says with a finger to the side of his nose. “Two years.” He can tell by your blank face that you don’t know what he’s talking about. “Walk around the building for two years. You’ll fall in.” You wouldn’t take him seriously but he had his finger by his nose which you’re pretty sure means something.

You eat lunch next to a guy who’s produced about every big action film you’ve ever heard of.  His latest is Righteous Kill which he sells off enough rights to before a single frame of film is shot so that he makes a profit. The man is completely addicted to cupcakes–something of a rage out here. You do your stand up about food. The man laughs a lot. Takes your card. You know you’ll never hear from him again but it raises your spirits.

You drive back. Everyone is buoyant. Everyone wants a cupcake so you take them to Sprinkles in Beverly Hills. They deal with the 1/2 hour line running out the building. You tell them to go red velvet or chai tea. You park in the residential part of Rodeo Drive and wait for a call from one of them. The police start to cruise around you. You tell the police what you’re doing and why and once you say  Sprinkles, they talk about the red velvet and leave you alone. Your troop considers you to be some kind of god because you knew where this place was and the chai tea cupcake is to die for.

At night, you park on your street. On the one hand, you’re terrified that something will happen to the beast under your care. On the other, you’re afraid your neighbors will associate you with the beast. Your friend gives you twenty dollars for gas every time she sees you. The thing is a bottomless pit. It laughs at twenties.

Day three at the coffee shop is much livelier. They don’t need you to buck them up. They’re ready to take on Hollywood face to face.  Today is the easiest driving day–you’re going to Beverly Hills–which is a blessing because the van is stalling every so often and then acting like it doesn’t have a battery and the squeak has become a steady moan.

You get them to the appointment. Literary managers and agents. A fun group who tell you to go away and never darken their doors again which is odd because every single one of their clients and they themselves came from no where just like you. You park far enough away that you miss the first 45 minutes and must leave 45 minutes early to get the beast. Your favorite is this guy who brings an entourage with him. He represents the cream of the cream. He tells you he never looks at unknown writers and then proceeds to tell about his latest find, some guy working in a garage in a suburb of Cleveland who texted him something funny. “The guy will be huge,” he states.

You pick up the Minnow. It doesn’t want to start and fluid is dripping out of the radiator. You get it started and get back to the restaurant where everyone is. The drip is now a flow. You call the rental place. The man who doesn’t speak English tells you something about “drive carefully”. It’s rush hour in the middle of the Sunset Strip, a place renown for traffic jams. You load everyone in and coax the beast into traffic. You use the map in your head to skirt around the traffic as much as you can. You drop the people off but have no time to say goodbye because the flow is now a flood. They all have fake positive expressions plastered on their faces. Except the Armenian guy who, it turned out, only wanted to get away from the van. He’s positively ecstatic. You get the beast back on the road and coast down hill to the rental place. Carefully, to show them you understood, you drive it into their lot, get down and kiss the ground because you made it and wait for your friend so that you can be relieved of responsibility.

All’s well from the Land of No. And, no, I don’t know where Ashton met Demi.

Ah, Los Angeles 6

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Earthquakes and other experiences, oh my

Other experiences:

You drive to Beverly Hills. There are several things that tell you you’re in Beverly Hills. First of all, almost all billboards are gone. Secondly, signage is in English. third of all, gas prices. You hit La Cienega and Beverly and the Mobil station welcomes you with it’s $5.19 for regular sign. Considering you just spent $4.49 in Silver Lake for regular, you feel pretty good about yourself. Odd to say that you feel good about paying $4.49 per gallon but it’s a sad fact. You wonder if this is the new separator. Instead of being from the wrong side of the tracks you’re from the cheap gas neighborhood. It seems fitting and proper that people driving Hummers and Ferraris should pay the most. People from the cheap gas neighborhood seem to all drive small foreign cars.

You go to Hollywood Forever Cemetery to watch a film projected against the side of the mausoleum. Hollywood Forever is where Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks and Jayne Mansfield are buried. About seven hundred others join you. the night is Southern California perfect. To borrow a line from the horrible movie “Drag Net”, there are tens of stars out. Maybe eleven. You walk by ornate tombstones that quickly become Armenian, then pass James and Mary Schuyler’s monument before you enter a little park without, one assumes, graves, pitch your picnic blanket, eat and drink your fill and watch a classic movie. Macabre you might think but really delightful.

You go to the Hollywood Bowl. You’re invited to join friends at a box which is a boxed in place for four that can be converted to and from a picnic table with little effort. You bring the food and bring out your best Denver culinary effort only to find that four men sitting next to you did you one better. Well, maybe exponentially better. The food, the presentation and the conversation from their table is amazing. You try to hide what you’re eating and apologize to your hosts who shake it off by you can see them eyeing the other tables food enviously.

the music starts. You disassemble your picnic in mere moments, thankful that no more comparison will be made, turn your chairs around and take in the splendor of the bowl. You watch Pacifika, a latin american blend trio who are wonderful, then Sharon Jones a soul singer who keeps paces with James Brown when she wants to, and Feist. Her music is good but live she is great. The drive out of the Bowl is reminiscent of leaving Red Rocks after a concert only there’s 8000 more people to deal with.

By the time you get this, two things. Gas has gone down to a reasonable $4.19 per gallon and you will have heard that there was a medium (5.4 or 5.8 depending on seismic reading source) earthquake here.

Fascinating experience. You are standing. Your eyes, your inner ear and little muscles and nerves in your legs tell you that you are standing erect then your eyes, your inner ear and your little muscles and nerves tell you they aren’t sure any more. By the time your brain catches up, you’re body is moving as fast as it can. This earthquake lasted for 40 seconds. It’s amazing how long that seems while you’re trying to negotiate a house that’s moving faster than you can.

The latest wisdom is that you get outside. Easier said than done. If you can’t get outside, get in a space between heavy furniture and a wall so that the falling ceiling will not crush you under the bed. No one told the animals that. Your animals think under the bed makes sense.

You run outside and once you stop reacting and pay attention to the present, you look around and notice that neighbors are holding coffee cups, frying pans or, the Southern California pros, valuables. You look in your hand and wonder why you’re holding a tooth brush. It takes a moment to remember that you were brushing your teeth and you’ve dribbled toothpaste all over your shirt.

cautiously you reenter the building and call your animals. The cat assumes you did this to her on purpose and won’t talk to you again for days. The dog is under the bed and won’t come out without a fair amount of coaxing. Once out, he finds that more than a few centimeters from your ankles is too far. You’re in greater danger of tripping over him than being hurt as a result of an after shock. Telephone service goes out not because of downed lines but because everybody is calling everybody. You turn on your gas stove, after a thorough sniff test, and water taps to make sure that things are working as well as they should settle in.

You calm your dog which goes a long way to calm yourself. Speak reassuringly to your cat who hisses at you which reassures you as well and try to go on with your day. There is a sense of gaiety in the air. “we lived through another one” one guesses but nevertheless, it’s a very alive feeling.

You try to return to your routine but that just doesn’t make a lot of sense at the moment and you walk around a bit to reassure those sensitive nerves in your eyes, ears and legs that you’re just fine. They trust you just about as much as the cat but you do it anyway.

Ah Los Angeles. On a more personal note. We have lost our old cat who was 17. The cat referred to is a new kitten rescued by Stephanie a week ago. The black honda we had is no more. It was totaled by Audrey who, thank goodness, walked away unscathed. We’ve offered up a car and a cat to the god’s of Los Angeles and really feel like that’s enough.

Stef was in her first Hollywood premier at the beautiful Directors’ Guild Theater. She starred as the mother in “Trophy” an award winning HBO short by a young writer/director. It was well done on all levels. Stephanie was great

Ah, Los Angeles 5

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

Licenses and Registrations and the DMV, oh my.

You know you’re pushing your luck. Residents tell you that the cops watch for people from out of state, especially Nevada since it’s much cheaper to register cars there and a lot of Californians have decided that cheaper is better. But,  if caught, the fine makes you think the state and its cities are trying to cover budget deficits with traffic fines.

You know that sooner or later you have to bite the bullet and reregister your car and identify yourself as a Californian. Odd compliment of feelings accompanies that thought.

Your neighbors and friends say that you do everything via the mail but then they realize you can’t do it that way because you’re not renewing, you are relocating. They look away to hide their look of compassion or, in some cases, gloat, and turn back to you with a positive gleam in their eyes.

You are advised to make an appointment with the dmv. An appointment? Oh yes, they say, it’s much quicker. Get smogged first. Smogging is getting your exhaust checked first. They seem to think here that only California, Colorado and New York have such a requirement. That sounds a little far fetched but then so do most things.

You go to the smog check only station which means they don’t do any repairs and are less likely to steer you wrong. You strike up a conversation with the attendant who is Armenian and tells you a brief and horrid history of the Armenian people and that there are a million Armenians in Los Angeles. That too seems a little far fetched but… Your car passes without a problem. Easy.

People advise you to go to Glendale because it’s one of the few locations that can handle the car and driver’s license at the same time. There used to be one in Hollywood but the powers that be decided that no one drives in Hollywood therefore the dmv there was unneeded which seems to fly in the face of reality but….

You go on line and make your appointment. Easy! You read the requirements. Easy! Glendale is a perfectly acceptable and accessible suburb. It takes 15 minutes to drive to the dmv there. Easy! You stand in the appointment line, appropriately set off by a red carpet and reach the state’s representative in moments, easy, who takes a look at your documents and points out that you are not even close to what you need.

You drive home. Not so easy. Dig through all of your stuff for things you can’t imagine them needing. Take a couple of weeks to recover and then make another appointment.

Drive back to Glendale. Easier because you know where you’re going. No one’s even on the red carpet. Breeze. Your documents pass muster. Fabulous. She says, “you must do the car first.” So one of you starts the driver’s license process and the other parks in the “Verification” Line. A woman who looks like a recent star of a soap opera walks around your car. You would be attracted to her except for the feeling of repulsion emanating from her very core. She hands you a slip that says you have the car you claim to have and storms off to repulse the next customer. Iffy.

You go back to the red carpet line and they smile and send you to a seat where you wait for your number to be called. “Wait a minute”, you say, “I have an appointment.” “Yes, you d”o, they say. “Watch for your number”, they say. Concerned. You watch and listen and the seats around you are like musical chairs with people sitting and popping up to disappear into the land of hope and legality. Your number doesn’t come. Jaw tightened ever so slightly.

Your number is called and you hurry to station 24. There are actually 27 stations with 27 people manning them and the number of people they process every hour is staggering.  At 24 sits a woman who has the same icy gaze as the soap opera star. Your stomach sinks a little. It turns out that she is about as nice a person as you have ever met. She smiles nicely and you chat amicably while she enters the info about your car. “Your plates?” she asks “What? My plates?” “Yes. I can’t give you new plates until you give me the old ones.” Oh. A little cranky.

she finishes the paper work and gives you everything, driver’s license paperwork included with a warning about dire consequences if you fail to return within a very short time with your old plates and waves goodbye. You walk three blocks to your car and remove plates that have spent a long time on the car and put on the California plates which look odd and improbable. Impatient. You return to her desk without waiting and hand her the plates and she smiles at you like you were best friends. You find your mate who has spent this whole time getting her driver’s license. She’s waiting in line for a test. “We have to take a test”, she says. A test? You search your memory about tests for out of state relos and can’t find anything but admit the faultiness of your memory. The line for the test doesn’t make appointments. So, you have your picture taken and swear you will return for the test in the very near future. One and a half hours and the car is legal and you are in limbo. There must be a word for this feeling.

You pop in after a weekend of rest. You’ve looked at the on line tutorial and are positive there’s nothing on the test that could trouble you. You wait in line to take the test. They give you the test. The questions in the tutorial were written by a person with a command of the English language and a logical mind. You recognize none of the thirty questions. Most of them seem to have been translated poorly from some dead language. e.g. You can leave child in a closed up car while you shop if you: a- leave another child over 12 in the same car; b-leave the keys in the ignition; c-want to burn in hell. Being someone who thinks that leaving children in a closed up car is too good a fate for them, you pick c which is the right answer. Many questions about turning wheels this way and that when parking and then the favorite: A blind person with a seeing eye dog comes to a corner. You must: a-run through the intersection as quick as possible-it’s what we all do but it’s clearly not right; b-honk to let the person know you are there-depends on how mellow your horn is; c-come close to the person so that he or she can hear your engine (what if you have a Prius that doesn’t make any sound once stopped?) and d-Get out of your car, help the person across the intersection, return to your car, pull out your gun to keep the angry drivers behind you at bay and proceed. D seems reasonable but C is the answer.

You hand in your test and wait in the results line–the longest wait of the whole ordeal. The tension in this line is amazing. People ask each other in an amazing array of accents how they answered this or that. Finally, your name is called and you passed. The administrator, whose English is worse than your dog’s, explains the two you missed. Thus informed, you still have no idea what the right answers are. The sense of relief is explosive until you are asked to look over the information just typed into the computer and you find out they have your birth date wrong and, no matter what you say, you have to start all over.

Ah, Glendale.

Ah, Los Angeles 4

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

Los Angeles, like any large city, is a place of extremes. Stephanie  noticed that we are so in awe of the beauty, variety and intensity of  the trees and plants here that we don’t notice the squalor from which  they spring.

There are four different castes here: the rich who are unbelievably  rich, the poor who are astonishingly poor, the middle class who are  trying desperately to become the former and not the latter and the  homeless.

The homeless have their own categories: recent evictees, mental,  addicts of one thing or another, the poor who have given up hope and veterans of  every war, combat or police action whose government has turned its back on.

You take a meeting at Langers, an old and venerated deli catty-corner  from MacArthur Park.  As a side note, according to local legend, the  phrase in Jimmy Webb’s song of the same name that Richard Harris made  famous, “someone left the cake out in the rain…” refers to the  beautiful Victorians surrounding the park allowed to fall into  complete disrepair. MacArthur Park is one of those places guide books  suggest you avoid.

You park two blocks away and pray and bow and sprinkle salt around  your car in hopes that it will still be there when you return. The  streets around the park are reminiscent of midtown-Manhattan during  lunch hour. You are the proverbial salmon. The difference is that  everyone around you is Hispanic. the newsstands carry only Spanish  periodicals. the music, clothes and language are all Hispanic. You’re  surrounded by Filipinos, Argentinians, Hondurans, Guatemalans,  Salvadorans and, of course, Mexicans. They don’t like each other very  much but they share their language and their poverty. Their fear and desperation is palpable as they rush off to church where they’re told  to be fruitful and multiply and you can almost hear Sonny and Cher  sing, “and the beat goes on.”

You make it into the deli. The place is jammed with, it seems, as many  people as you just passed on the street. You meet your person and put  your name in assuming that there will be a 3 hour wait. In ten  minutes, you’re seated. Langers has the best pastrami sandwich in the  world. You go there for its pastrami sandwich. The waitress, who looks  like she’s worked there for the last 27 years, asks for your order and  you say, “the world’s best pastrami sandwich, please.” She looks at  you blankly and asks what number on the menu it is. You point out that  it’s number 19 and off she goes.

You can’t imagine why a meeting was set in this place until you  realize that the food was great, the acoustics somehow allowed you to  converse easily and the bill for two came to $13.

You leave and wade back through the quicksand of humanity.  You pass a fruit stand and even though you’re stuffed, you’re tempted because they cut fruit right in front of you: pineapple, mango, guava, melons and whatever else they might have,  throw it in a quart plastic container, splash a really spicy chili sauce and lime juice on it and sell it for $5. It’s really quite good.

Blessedly, your car is still in one piece although there are evil doers  loitering nearby. You drive away praising pastrami between burps.

Los Angeles has decided that the ordinance against illegal billboards isn’t working. For those from Denver, imagine thirty Colfax Aves and another thirty Colorado Blvds chock full of billboards and multiply the number of billboards per street by a silly number and you get the idea. If the phone, pedestrians, traffic, horns, poor and the beautiful people aren’t enough to distract you, the electronic billboards will. Their changing images get your attention. The gas pumps have television sets on top running non-stop ads. Something moving and garish is always around you.

You go to a writers’ meeting and hear that no show that can’t be understood while passing a bus billboard or an electronic one will get an serious look. You sink a little inside when you realize you can’t summarize your script into ten words or less.

You listen to the radio and there’s a sig alert here and a sig alert there. You don’t have any idea what a sig alert is but it doesn’t sound good. But the traffic report just keeps on. Every day there’s a roll over accident somewhere that has snagged traffic for hours. How could there be so many roll overs? Your mind swims in highway numbers. “The 405 and 10 exchange is showing significant delays, A rollover has stopped southbound 605 at  the 91.” Every day you hear new highway numbers and references to neighborhoods you didn’t even know existed. The encyclopedic knowledge the traffic reporters must have sways you.

Everywhere you look, people are just trying to get somewhere, anywhere but the middle of the 101 east, which is running north south through Hollywood, approaching the 110 exchange.

You get off the highway and drive a complex and odd route home, your little enclave of reason in a world gone mad.

Love and Light always

Ah, Los Angeles 3

Saturday, April 5th, 2008

Los Angeles is the home of beautiful people. As you travel west from where we are, really from West Hollywood on to the beaches, you realize that you’re in a zone of beauty both real and manufactured. Actors waiting for the big break. When you see them working in stores and restaurants, you ask yourself, if they can’t make it, who can?

You go to a restaurant. An Italian Restaurant. You use valet parking because you won’t find a place on your own anywhere near enough to not require hiking boots. The hostess, a beauty, seats you with a friendly, dazzling smile. Your waiter comes out. This guy is amazing. From his perfectly coiffed hair to his perfectly capped teeth to his perfectly tanned and toned body to his Gucci shoes, the man is jaw dropping gorgeous.

His voice is husky and mellifluous. It makes you want to ask him questions just to hear it again like, “what’s spaghetti?” and “If it doesn’t break too many health code violations would you mind taking off your cloths? I’ve just got to see this.” The waitress at the next table must be his twin because she is a goddess if there ever was one. You want to ask her the same question.

The bussers and food runners are obviously character actors: interesting faces and quirky voices and you want to ask them questions like, “would you send the waiter and waitress back out, please?” The bill comes and you’re so filled with the splendor of the human form that you give the waiter a $50 tip on top of a $50 check.

You retrieve your car from valet which costs $7.50 and give the guy a $20 tip because he’s beautiful too. You drive away with a silly grin on your face which fades as you realize you’ve just spent $127.50 on two plates of spaghetti.

You go to the movie ecstatic that you made it on time. You find a parking place, another reason to rejoice. In the theater you buy your tickets and are assigned seats. Don’t be late because they close the doors and don’t let you in once the show starts. You buy popcorn with real butter and Belgian chocolates. Every employee you ask will have a cogent and pithy review of what you’re about to watch. You understand where all the graduates of those expensive film schools got to. You are escorted to your seats. The lights dim, the show starts. You don’t have to admonish people about their cell phones. People take film seriously here. The audience is attentive and appreciative.

In the middle of the movie you wonder, “People get paid to make this tripe?” At the end of the show, people applaud. if they don’t, it’s a stinker. They stay to watch the credits and applaud, even in bad movies, for the person or department they think did a good job. When catering or gaffers get applause, you know the family of those people are in the audience.

As you file out, you listen to the insightful and well reasoned comments on the film and you think that there is intelligent life on this planet after all.

You stop for a smoothie served to you by a person who looks like Halle Berry. You figure if it did that for her… All in all, you leave feeling good about humanity and that lasts until you exit the parking lot and discover that every conceivable route home is blocked by traffic.

Love and light always

Ah, Los Angeles 2

Friday, March 28th, 2008

Every retail corner in our neighborhood, which is most of the corners, has two things: a donut shop and a thai massage parlor. the donut shops are combos e.g. donut/ice cream, donut/liquor and my favorite, donut/taxprep. I’ve noticed as you travel into the more wealthy sections of town, the donut shops are fewer and further between but they exist. Thai massage disappears completely.

Thai massage is the greatest discovery of our new life. For $40 you can have a lovely young Thai woman use her knees, elbows and fists to make you scream out kam kuon kop which means either thank you or please, for the love of God, stop. I now associate lovely young Thai women with severe pain and, of course, fried bananas. The thing is, when you leave the dungeon, er, massage table, every pain you had in your body or thought you might have sometime in the future is gone and it stays gone for a couple of weeks. It’s completely addictive. Stephanie and I must stop each other from walking to our favorite parlor every night.

This neighborhood has a couple of other things that seem unique to it: very hip coffee shops and good restaurants that have no signs or anything you might notice while driving by.

The coffee shops are filled with young musicians, actors, writers, directors what have you. You can tell the writers. They look dour and all have imacs. I aspire to have an imac one day. The dour look, I’ve got.

You have to be told by a local about the restaurants. You would assume their laundromats or abandoned store fronts driving or walking by but inside, they hold the secret to gastronomic bliss. The best Vietnamese place has about six tables which are always filled with the above mentioned types and the food is outrageous. It is pho which is pronounced every conceivable way and you eat it cafeteria style sitting with the next steven spielberg or michelle pfeiffer or michael stipe. We can walk to it; we’ve eaten there several times and have no idea what it’s called.

My favortie Thai restaurant in on Hollywood Blvd and it’s called PalmsThai. Think of a large school cafeteria in a wealthy community with the stage on one end. Think of Las Vegas and Elvis impersonators. Now combine the two. The owner is an elderly Thai Elvis impersonator. The food is fabulous and cheap. The elk and lobster curries are remarkable. the owner starts the night’s festivities out with Jail House Rock or something then as the night drifts toward the wee hours, hollywood indie groups start playing. He comes up during breaks.

Next: now what?

Love and light always,

Ah, Los Angeles 1

Sunday, March 9th, 2008

Much better writers than I have dealt with traffic here. Its presence is always felt. When you think about leaving the house, you have to decide the best possible route which depends on, among other things, the time of day and the day of the week. Although that’s true of most cities, we all have our favorite routes that we learn over time. Here, you throw the favorites out and deal with the reality of the day. You must check with a traffic service?the LA Times provides a good one?that gives up to the moment exit by exit info on the highways and accident reports for the surface streets.

You’ve done your homework. When you leave the house, you bunch appointments together because your day will be taken up by getting where ever you are going and back. Going to a movie or grocery shopping is an exercise in patience and persistence. You pray to whatever saints you think might be looking down on you and take off.
In a city that has come to define log jams, it is interesting that being late for an industry meeting is not acceptable period. The rule of thumb is that you should, within LA County, give yourself 1 hour to get where you?re going. It could be five miles away but give yourself an hour. Highways, surface streets, it?s always a guessing game. You can never tell when an accident or landslide will slow everything down to a crawl. No matter where you?re going, there are thousands of other people going to that neighborhood. So sit back, turn on your blue tooth and call all the people you?ve been putting off calling. Take something to read?in case you actually get there in ten minutes?and something to eat and drink in case it really gets bad.

The thing I didn?t remember at all was the power of the pedestrians. Contrary to Missing Persons? ?Walking in LA?, people do walk in LA by the thousands. What?s interesting is that these people, most of whom just got out of their vehicles, stroll across the streets as if they have no reason to get anywhere. They stop, have conversations, reminisce, change directions and basically make drivers go insane. Trying to turn left or right is an exciting contest between on coming traffic, lights and pedestrians. Whatever you do, don?t find yourself caught by a light in the middle of a crosswalk or a serious ticket awaits. As near as I can tell, no other traffic rules exist.

As I said before, we live on a hill. This neighborhood has hills so steep that the roads and sidewalks end and stairways begin. People actually live somewhere between the lower part and the upper. They carry their groceries, their trash and their children up and down flights and flights of cement stairs every day.

For instance, we live on Lower Angelus. Our house is a lovely, small cottage from the early twenties. Probably a house for film workers because this neighborhood was where the very early studios worked. For anyone who?s familiar with early comedies?i.e., Laurel and Hardy?the stairs were used extensively as gags. The stars of the day lived on Upper Angelus and the stigma of living on Lower Angelus still exists.

The entertainment industry permeates every aspect of life. Everyone here is basically a star-in-waiting or hoping to do business with a star. We bought a new couch and the owner of the shop made an effort to introduce himself and be nice to us because we might make it someday and we could recommend Denzel Washington to his shop.

Next, donuts and Thai massage.

Love and light always