Fast times in L.A.
Okay so I’ve been back from my two month long stint in Los Angeles for a few days now, it’s high time I try to write about my experience and try to contextualize the event. I tried to start off keeping a daily journal that I complied a few times into my “Cain-off-Kung-Fu, World Tour Diary”. That didn’t go as well as I quickly fell off and fell into days of traipsing all around L.A. in search of stars and famous landmarks. Then my money woes began and it was a few weeks of frightfully searching for work before giving up and settling in to a quite routine of trying to squeak by and still have a good time. Thankfully my dear friend Emily over at Gynomite (who I have known since my days as a, wee lass in North Carolina) introduced me to her cast of friends over at Meltdown Comics and we hit it off pretty well. I was able to join in a few fun activities and hang out at an amazing comic shop most of the time. I don’t drive so getting from place to place became the biggest ordeal. There was some downtime, which was to be expected. A lot of time spent roaming the city streets alone, which gave way to some introspection and reflection that hadn’t happened in quite some time. Then came the final week when a personal hero was met and life was reassessed, but that’s a whole other blog yet to be written.
All in all I liked L.A., I hated its public transportation system and general city planning is shit, but all in all it was an interesting town. Just like any other place I have ever lived, from New York, to St. Louis, to here in S.F.; it starts off so shiny and new and full of amazing wonder, then slowly fades to fact of life day to day monotony. Although I don’t think I could ever live there or ever get used to seeing people I had previously only seen on television or my computer screen up close and in person. I also don’t think I could live there without seriously learning Spanish and possibly Korean. The weather (much like the traffic) is everything you have ever heard. Two months and it didn’t rain once, the sun shown ever day down on beautiful palm trees and unbelievable attractive women in skimpy clothes. There were defiantly moments that felt like a David Lee Roth cover of a Beach Boys song! The sheer expansiveness of the city was daunting at times. It felt like L.A. was just a blanket name they gave to five cities which met at the center.
The center being the massive, yet empty downtown, which I would wander through occasionally trying to soak in the atmosphere of L.A. Being a pedestrian in Los Angeles is akin to being homeless. It is not a city used to anyone but the very poor or the very naive walking around. I am a street level kind of guy (with a heart full of napalm no less), but the streets of L.A. extend forever. One street will stretch out for over twenty miles and contain a happening joint or two only at the furthest ends. So I became a frequent bus rider, something I rarely have to do in here in San Fran. I’m used to just popping out my door and walking to the nearest whatever I need or want to do. Even the bus rides though were epic two hour events that made getting anywhere exciting an enormous undertaking that drained the batteries on my cell phone/music player. To take this in perspective it takes a mere five hours in a car and seven hours on a bus to get from L.A. to SF; but to travel from where I was staying on 23rd St off Vermont, to Sunset where the Meltdown was took me two hours one way! Unbelievable to me, I have managed to exist on this planet for 33 years and some change, a vagabond by choice, yet I have never had more difficulty navigating an urban area as I did in the City of Angels.
Yet despite my gripes on transportation I was able to visit some infamous spots and pay homage to my dark pop gods. I saw the Griffith Observatory where James Dean gave voice to a generation of rebellion and disobedience. I stood in front of the Viper Room and saw the spot where River Phoenix ended his time on this Earth. Went to Long Beach and saw the birthplace of the Dogfather, then went to Santa Monica and soaked up the rays where many terrible idea was hatched amidst the throngs of tourist families. I saw even more tourist at the site of so many epic film montages, down on Venice. I never made it too close to the famous Hollywood sign, but I walked the famous strip several times and even rose up out of the limited subway system to face a massive riot taking place. I took in as much as I could and attempted (although halfheartedly towards the end) to photograph as much as possible I played it a little too cool when confronted with some celebrities and porn stars, and failed to document some stupendous meetings, but all in all I made it worthwhile. My beloved mate disagrees and feels I did not fully take advantage of certain situations, but I am not one to try and press myself upon people who are much like me just trying to survive. I didn’t meet any powerful studio execs or influential power brokers (to my knowledge) so I felt no real need to try and sell myself.
When I go places I like to become one with the inhabitants, and move and work as any other person, I don’t like to become a typical tourist and hop on topless busses through the neighborhoods of stars. I like to walk around and get the guttural feeling, the pulse, of any given place. No matter how long I am there I consider myself a modern urban anthropologist with no degree or real job. I want to understand what it is really like to live somewhere. And with two months I felt I achieved that quite well in Los Angeles. I did a few touristy things and hit a few touristy spots, perhaps more than I would have cared to actually. But riding on the bus and hanging out in neighborhoods otherwise left for true residents, I felt I got the real L.A. It wasn’t all glossy; in fact it wasn’t glossy at all. I felt the real beast, the real city. It wasn’t all pleasant and picturesque. There were times when I was on the bus and some homeless guy would defecate in a seat, or I would see auto accidents that turned into bitter street fights. I saw the quite side at night when the streets were empty and all the lights were out. I experienced the desolation and ruggedness of downtown at 3 in the morning. I could have used more weed or at least more booze at that point.