[Note: Bobby? Ever punctual, dear! *checks calendar* Only, like, 8 months late on this one! You’re improving!]
So, when all was said and done, after we’d Foofed the Mondo Condo and I’d sent out a dozen more PhD applications, where did I get into school? Where did we have to move next?
Back to LA.
I don’t like Los Angeles. I didn’t like it before, and I don’t like it now. It’s shallow, boring, uncultured, ugly, lacking in substance, catering to Middle American under the guise of being hip and edgy, and frustrating as fuck on most occasions. New York has better restaurants and museums and stores. Chicago has better pizza and architecture. New Orleans has better nightlife. Key West has better ocean views. Savannah has better atmosphere, Boston has better parks and seafood, San Francisco has better public transportation, Princeton has better university special collections, Philadelphia has better antiques, Seattle has better scenery, Portland has better bookstores-
And just about every freakin’ city in the United States has better traffic.
I can’t stand most of the big things that Los Angeles has going for it in the first place. Warm weather and beaches…? I eschew sunbathing, prefer my beaches moon-drenched and deserted, and think anything over 70* is too hot. Movies and show-biz…? *groan* Y’all already know how I feel about movies. Plus, this place is packed with people in The Bizness the same way that a large number of the community in Seattle work for Boeing, and it quickly ceases to be anything special or remarkable; we have friends who work for Sony, Disney, Warner Bros., and Nickelodeon, friends who animate famous cartoons, friends who record stuff and do remixes, friends who work at and book bands at any number of famous clubs here, friends who’ve worked with the famous to the legendary to the C-list folks. Heck, one friend’s freakin’ DOG has an agent and portfolio and headshots and has been in movies and commercials and stuff! Our street where The Mansion was located was always being used for movies, and some TV series was filmed at the home of the producer who lived on the corner (which was a pain when you needed to drive to work, and those stupid unmarked white trucks were parked all over the place and a makeup trailer was set up blocking the view of the intersection) and when we lived downtown, weekends always brought the filming of car-chase scenes or music videos or helicopter-chase scenes or TV shows or commercials or, on one memorable morning, a whole heard of aliens with machine guns were wandering around (and how was all that for a whole passel of Totally Shallow and Superficial LA Name-Droppiness? *lofty head-toss* and *fake laugh*).
It’s not nearly as glamorous as the folks at In Touch magazine would want you to believe. Most of “ Los Angeles” is an illusion, anyway. I mean, the city actually had to build some kind of a tourist destination – i.e. another big mall – at Hollywood and Highland in order to convince out-of-towners that Hollywood was [still] an actual, visitable place instead of an abstract thing, a state of mind. What a crock. Especially, LA thinks it’s a city, but it’s really just ten million connected suburbs. And I hate the whole gawd durned suburban-sprawled car-chase megalopolis, and just about everything in it. People here are fitness-mad, Botoxing, highlighted, hiphuggers-hanging-halfway-off-their-asses, fake nail’d, lollypop-head girl’d/washboard ab’d boy’d, baked-in-the-same-mold kind of superficial. And it’s stupid.
So yeah. Los Angeles sucks. It takes at least an hour to get anywhere by car, and public transportation blows. Smog and haze hang over the whole city like layers of dirty, gray-brown gauze. Anything even remotely old and/or historical is torn town or remodeled in the name of improvement until it’s barely recognizable, be it a building or Third Street Promenade or a trophy wife. Yogurt has more culture than LA, and yes, that’s even with the Getty!
But we’re stuck here for a little while, happily found a darling house in West Hollywood (where we can actually walk to restaurants and markets!), and are settling in again. And so, when the time came to hire movers and pick out paint and gear up for yet another cross-country shift, The Husband-Type Man and I got to pondering. What about Los Angeles, besides non-LA-specific-related stuff like proximity to family and friends and having a back yard, was… good? And so I came up with a list of stuff about LA that is …actually pretty groovy!
Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles. I’ve banged on extensively about Roscoe’s before, but it’s so special that it deserves mention here. There is often many a time when either I or The Husband-Type Man, no matter where we are – New York, Milwaukee, Washington D.C., Italy – will sigh wistfully, “You know what’d be REALLY good right now? Roscoe’s!” O Nancy My Nancy and her Semi-Cute Husband come to LA under the guise of visiting us, but I know it’s because they really just want to go to Roscoe’s. Sugarbear has stopped making In & Out Burger his requisite First Stop whenever he flies in, and has begun insisting on Roscoe’s. As our friend Tim once immortally said, “Roscoe’s has the best waffles. I don’t know what it is… they must put crack in them or something.”
The David House. This discovery was a true act of serendipity many years ago when we still lived in The Mansion. I’d gone to the Trader Joe’s on La Brea, and then had decided to cut down 3 rd St. to go fetch THTM at work when I caught a glimpse of- No! It can’t be! It can’t be a front yard with A DOZEN IDENTICAL DAVID STATUES, can it?! Oh yes, it can! I picked THTM up, and promptly drove back, proudly declaring “Look what I found!” And every time someone came up to visit us, they got a pilgrimage to The David House as a special treat. I began to wonder if maybe the occupants might start to recognize my car, and, sigh with dismay, “Oh, God, it’s her again” while I idled out in front of their “Youngwood Court” gates with a carload of new visitors. And then… then we discovered that the occupants DECORATE FOR CHIRSTMAS! So yes, The David House has become an annual holiday pilgrimage as well.
Flower Market. I’m a total flower pig, and home never feels like home without at least one small bunch of something, somewhere. Fresh flowers (except carnations, which suck) make me happy. Mass amounts of good fresh flowers for cheap make me even happier! So when I read about the Los Angeles Flower Market years ago, I decided to check it out before one of our parties. And, for around $20, I came out with my arms laden with bunches and bunches of delphiniums, Queen Anne’s lace, peonies, tulips and daisies. Score! So yeah, it’s worth the drive, the early hour, and the parking in order to wander around dozens and dozens of little stands and bargain and mix-and-match, enjoying all the good, damp smells and downtown LA before the heat and insanity of the afternoon.
Central Library. One of my favorite study and research spots. It’s a truly beautiful building, with historic murals, sculptures and statues along with all the books and journals I’m after. And usually I can find a quiet nook somewhere away from the children’s field trips and the skeezy guys looking at porn if I get there early enough. There’s also a fab restaurant (surprisingly un-LA, I might add, food-quality-wise) right outside, Café Pinot, which is a great place to take a break, get some fresh air, and enjoy a really tasty lunch while reading the ten million photocopies I’ve just made….
Wacko. One of the greatest Stuff Stores in the world! It’s mostly books – odd books and/or high-end books about tattoo fetishes and Moroccan architecture and Edward Gorey illustrated kiddie books – but with a whole bunch of toys and toiletries and subversive arts-and-crafts and cards and t-shirts and things. And THEN there’s the La Luz de Jesus Gallery! Needless, me and THTM do a LOT of our holiday/giftie shopping here!
Mondo Video A Go-Go. They used to be on Vermont St., but moved to darkest Melrose a few years back, and guys…? Mondo Video stocks some weird-ass shit. Amputee porn. The Brady Variety Hour. 80s cartoons. 50s commercials. Andy Warhol flicks. Christian propaganda. Old hygiene films. Spice Girls concerts. I’ve gotten racist WWII propaganda cartoons to show my students. THTM’s bought copies of Mexican variety shows to give as gifts. And we’ve had many a party around special things like “The USS VD: Ship of Shame” and episodes of H.R. Puffinstuff.
Rose Bowl Flea Market. And believe me, I’ve been to my share of flea markets! But this one is the biggest and best thus far. A few times a year, THTM and I will get up super-early, go get giant cups of hot cocoa, and wander around this place, discovering everything from hundred-year-old photo albums of total strangers to kewl old chilluns’ books, colored depression glass to architectural salvage. And while logically I KNOW I don’t need any more vintage linens, I’ll never truly believe it! ‘Specially not when I can get that embroidered tablecloth from the 1930s for only $25!
Live music and shows. Yeah, if you want to see a show of any kind, chances are, in LA, you’ll have a dozen good ones to chose from this week. Everyone plays Los Angeles. Even if a band doesn’t hit any other cities in the States, chances are they’ll hit LA. You can catch up-and-coming bands in little venues before they get overplayed, or sometimes be surprised by someone sitting in with another group’s local performance. Television personalities will do short runs at the comedy clubs and famous DJs will pop by a club to spin for a night. Musicians from different groups will get together and noodle around just for fun, or a band will play a couple small shows to test out new material before hitting the road. You never know when you might catch so-and-so from such-and-such late night talk show at a club in Venice, or a famous actress doing a stage show, or a hottt pop star takin’ it off with the local burlesque troupe. It’s not all high-quality, though; sadly, bands and musicians and comedians and actors are a cent a hundred-dozen here, and most of ‘em ain’t very good… but even that can be fun or funny. Like when you catch the person who thinks that her penchant for obnoxious vocal runs at the karaoke club means she’s ready to let loose at some Santa Monica Blvd. venue, or the homely aspiring actor who thinks he’s hot shit and is ready to put moves on all the sexy ladies. Ah, LA.
Arclight. So yeah, I only go to, like, MAYBE two flicks a year, but when I do, this is the place to go. We hit Arclight for the midnight Lord of the Rings premieres, and have seen some kick-ass revivals (like Mommie Dearest! “Christopher, Christina, DAMMIT!”) and showings with panelist discussions (like the time THTM whisked me away from a stressful stack of late-semester papers to see the anniversary showing of A Christmas Story, which not only rocked for poor, homely-cute Peter Billingsley hangin’ out to chat, but also because seeing it on the big screen forever changed the way we understood the movie). The sound at Arclight is awesome, and the seats are comfy… not to mention they have good popcorn with real butter, and a fun, if overpriced, gift store. Also important, they have awesome bathrooms!
Charles Phoenix. This is a weird sort of self-referential thing to love about Los Angeles, because Charles Phoenix, via his retro slideshows, presents Los Angeles in all its tacky, earnest and oft-problematic glory. Ironic, subversive and just plain adorable, his slideshows are both sweet and biting. He’s got obscure slides of the early days of Disneyland, of weird drive-up restaurants all over the greater LA area, of neighborhoods like Bunker Hill that sadly just no longer exist. And as an added bonus, he often does his shows at the Egyptian, which is gorgeous.
Fatburger. In Southern California, you are supposed to make the burger pilgrimage to In & Out. Not I. That’s fine. But you know what’s better? FATBURGER! Better burgers. Better fries (the fat fries, not the thin ones!). Better shakes. Why go to the “ten billion million trillion served!” Golden Arches to Hell when you could go to Fatburger? Mmmm, and extra relish, please….
Concert serieseses at the Hollywood Bowl. What a beautiful setting for a concert. And it’s one of the few places left where you’re still allowed to bring in food and wine. Haul along a picnic basket (we’ve had fun packing themed picnics, everything from typical breads-and-cheeses to English High Tea or Italian Deli, to PB&J and carrot sticks) and a bottle of vino, and settle in to listen blissfully. Classical music here is always awesome, and there are also events like sing-along versions of films or music from Bugs Bunny cartoons too… but actually, one of the most frabjous experiences I’ve had here was seeing R.E.M., because they performed my favorite song of theirs, “Electrolite,” cradled by the arm of Mulholland Drive above. Magic!
Kevin & Bean/KROQ. I admit it. I listen to – nay, I LOVE – a morning radio show. Kevin & Bean aren’t the usual kind of “morning zoo” idiocy… they’re their own special kind of idiocy. And it’s gotten to the point where they’re almost like the second-cousins who you enjoy baiting at the annual family reunions or something just to hear what shit they’ll come up with next. Kevin is abrasive, unreasonable, inarticulate and not particularly brilliant. Bean is weird, toolie, and almost-subversive-but-really-more-retarded. Kevin babbles incoherently about the politics behind no football in LA or the FCC. Bean professes his love for “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” Norway and toast. And Lisa May (*ding!*) and Ralph and Money the Sports Guy and various other folks're there to play along. (I'm still sad that the FCC pulled the plug on Ralph's weekly feature, "Sex University," but I still cherish my moment of glory when I sent Ralph an email on slash and he made it the next day's Sex U., and completely grossed out both Kevin AND Bean when he read that me and Parlance -- a.k.a. "Bean's girlfriend, The Flavah" -- had been jokingly making up K&B Slash Scenarios. *high five* Par!) Yeah, they do some of the stuff that’s the hallmark of morning radio: fake phone calls and interviews, the occasional parody song, the obnoxious drops and annoying promo gigs… but all of that is done with a high level of self-deprecating irony missing in the Rick Deeses and Ryan Seacrests and Jamie-and-Dannys. And in between that stuff, they interview A-list musicians and celebrities, and play (mostly) great, ground-breaking music that sets the standard for the rest of the country.
And, so, while I won’t go so far as Andy Warhol did, I’m sure I’ll be able to tough it out here for a while!
I love Los Angeles. I love Hollywood. They're beautiful. Everybody's plastic, but I love plastic. I want to be plastic.