Random musings on the oddities of life
Whoever named the City of Los Angeles should be sued for misrepresentation – it should be called the Spread of Los Angeles or, better still, the Agglomeration of Los Angeles. Coming from a tiny place called London, I naively assumed that I’d be able to walk around and visit the sites here. It was only when I googled the directions from WeHo to Santa Monica (which incidentally was only an inch or so on the map) and was told it would take me 3 and 3/4 hours – oh, and by the way, some roads may be missing sidewalks – did I realise that I might have miscalculated slightly.
Still, I was in West Hollywood. Surely, Hollywood itself couldn’t be too far away? I googled and was told it was about 2 miles. The roads are straight and it looked like several coffee shops dotted the route. What could go wrong?
I decided to follow Sunset Boulevard. It sounds so glam, doesn’t it? But it is in fact 22 miles long and quite a lot can go wrong along 22 miles.
I started out on some lovely, leafy suburban cross streets before hitting Sst Bd itself. In WeHo, it’s a funky stretch of road, lined by no-fat, no-gluten cafes, where toned and tanned people (mostly men for some reason) dash in and out bearing paper cups of this and that, and looking terribly healthy. But after a while, I noticed that there really weren’t many other people around, apart from the odd motorist who, parking up beside a shop, would then run in to buy whatever they were there to buy.
The shops grew further and further apart and soon the only other people on the street were pushing shopping carts, festooned with plastic bags. Some of them really didn’t smell too good, although they all kept themselves to themselves as I walked by, trying to look like I knew where the hell I was going – which I didn’t. We’re not without homeless people in the UK. Every time I cross London Bridge, I pass people begging, but they don’t have all their belongings with them. There was something profoundly moving about seeing a person with their whole world loaded into a shopping trolley, minding their own business, as though it were the most natural thing in the world.
Eventually, I arrived at Hollywood High School, where a huge mural of film stars and entertainers is splashed across the school’s auditorium. I had managed to completely miss the cross-street that would take me up to Hollywood Boulevard, but it looked like I was finally in the ball-park. And sure enough, after another five minutes, I got my first glimpse of Hollywood proper – Ripley’s Believe Or Not! Odditorium, which pretty much sums up the whole of Hollywood Boulevard.
Don’t get me wrong – I love the whole Walk of Fame, Chinese Theater, El Capitan strip. It’s glitzy and exotic and somewhere I feel I already know well because it too has starred in films and TV shows. But as I walked over the red stars in the pavement, I found myself mumbling, “Who’s that?” quite a few times. Perhaps there’s is a star pecking order with the best spots reserved for the biggest stars and I’d see some familiar names further on.
Indeed, I soon came across the imprints of Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor, both of whom must have brought Barbie dolls with them because no human has feet the size of their footprints. I am however pleased to relate that Nick Cage has gratifyingly large hands and feet …
Snapping the footprints took a little time because, as well as the throngs of tourists gasping over the famous names, throngs of celebrity doubles vied for position on the pavement, waiting to charge a few dollars for a photo to show Auntie Mabel in Darlington. Some stunning wannabe actresses were dolled up as Marilyn Monroe, complete with pleated white dress just waiting for a subway train. Others were rather more bedraggled personages, such as the Incredible Hulk with pink foam sticking out of his biceps. My favourite however was Darth Vader, standing forlornly by himself, the Billy-No-Mates of sci-fi.
At last, I found a place to sit and write my postcards at a table beside a couple having a lively conversation about the social state of LA. The woman was explaining that because the residents of Beverley Hills don’t like the place cluttered up with homeless people, the police department has to periodically shunt them all to the border with West Hollywood. Once there, they get moved on to further over towards Hollywood around La Brea which perhaps explains why I saw so many people with shopping trolleys on my walk. Again, I found myself feeling conflicted by the deep divide between the haves and the have-nots as I sat in a shopping mall featuring elephants rampant.
It was time to make my way back to WeHo so I waved farewell to the mecca of Hollywood tack, pleased to have seen it, but learning that this is just another small piece in the jigsaw that is Los Angeles, CA.