• scissors
    May 21st, 2010adminHollywood, Los Angeles, Surreal Travel

    Beverly Hills from the Bus

    Beverly Hills from the Bus

    Here’s the thing about LA: It’s deceptively normal! If you spend enough time in Los Angeles, and you see a monstrosity of a rhinoplasty center across from a children’s playground, and then you see a Scientology center, secretly (but still ostentatiously) housed in some Hollywood mansion, it becomes (somehow!) normal. Really, I don’t know how it happens. But it does. Personally, I grew desensitized after a few days. Probably because I had no other choice. And I used to live in LA, so I’ve accepted the insanity. But if you want to experience LA — and really “experience” the town — you have to drop the spectator’s awe. And just accept that, yeah, there’s a rhinoplasty center across from a children’s playground.

    And I love LA, which is not a cool thing to say in San Francisco. But, okay, here’s an example: I met my friend, Gia, on Santa Monica Boulevard in the West LA district. We shared $4.95 glasses of cabernet at a crappy late-night diner. This place is, basically, a dump. Most of the employees are surly and bored, the food is tasteless and the decor is 1970s (in a bad way). But I had a great time! I can’t quite explain the appeal — but I knew it wouldn’t happen that way in San Francisco. Or, here’s another example: I went to see a screening of Wizard of Oz at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery …and the movie was projected onto Rudolph Valentino’s mausoleum — a truly palatial way to be buried …one would think he was Genghis Khan. But, no, he was just an obscenely lucky Italian boy who played a sheikh, cavorted with Hollywood ladies and was maybe gay.

    LA is so strange! Yeah, I know, LA is a massive, diverse thing. The sprawl alone makes it impossible to categorize. But there’s something so darkly absurd, yet appealing, about the peculiarities of LA culture.

    Not to mention, many of the town’s perceived priorities (if we can draw any conclusions from architecture and urban planning) are completely bonkers. From Valentino’s mausoleum to the overwhelming car culture, to the drive-in ATMs and Starbucks, it doesn’t seem entirely “real” …or, in my case, fully livable. There’s this psychedelic sub-reality of what’s really important. And it’s interesting, in part, because you wonder if everybody else is “in on it.” Are they also keenly aware of the weirdness? Or do they no longer care? Or do they actually take it seriously?

    I remember one time, in Istanbul, somebody asked me, “Where are you from?” I said, “California.” Then the man inquired, “Where? Los Angeles?” I began explaining that I’m a San Franciscan who studied in LA during my college years. But he didn’t care about San Francisco. He just interrupted me, “Ah, Los Angeles! I would love to go there!” And I just imagined his completely inaccurate image of the city, which he probably treasured. Maybe it was a combination of his priorities/proclivities — hot women, beaches, whatever. But, anyway, that’s what I love about LA …the fact that some Turkish guy, serving coffee, was so entranced by a land inhabited by drive-in ATMs and late-night diners selling $4.95 glasses of wine.