Sunday, May 17, 2009

tape from california 1: one fine half-day in los angeles

Sorry I can't stop and talk now
I'm in kind of a hurry but anyhow
But I'll send you a tape from California
-Phil Ochs, Tape From California, 1968

Greetings from the west coast! I've dreamed of driving along the Pacific for years and now I'm here. There. That's enough of an intro...besides, I don't want to spend all my time out here behind a computer.


The adventure began in Detroit with my first taste of an American airport since 9/11. Security checks went smoothly, though there were two guards trying to explain aloud what passengers were supposed to do when they reached the conveyor belt. The mingling of their voices sounded something like this...

The flight itself was uneventful, other than teaching me that I should have bought a neck pillow. The sky was clear most of the way, leaving to spectacular views of the land below, even I was unable to pinpoint exactly where we were once we crossed the Mississippi. I landed on time at LAX and hopped immediately on a shuttle to the car rental agency. The driver was a little loopy, muttering random phrases that didn't make much sense, but she was grooving along when "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" came over the radio.

Not Quite Compact
The rental agency was crowded and understaffed. I barely understood what my clerk was saying, as they talked at about 115 mph and seemed intent on pitching me 7,321 upgrades and insurance policies. I replied "no" in a clipped tone to all of their inquiries, though I wonder if this means I may have missed something I should have bought.

I wound up with a boat, aka Mercury Grand Marquis. As a lot of places here mark out spaces specifically for compacts, parking is going to be fun. I'm gradually adjusting to the beast, with its white leather interior, fall-to-the-centre-of-the-earth-deep trunk and precise a/c system (adjusting the exact temperature is a novelty for me).

Family Not in the HOV Lane

After settling into my hotel for a few minutes, I headed north to begin exploring the area. I quickly ran into the infamous LA traffic on the San Diego Freeway, but this didn't bother me as it allowed time to snap photos (such as this minivan sticker and HOV fine sign). Being stuck on the freeway felt strangely relaxing-drivers seemed a little more aware of their surroundings than those on Toronto's freeways and I was able to soak in the surroundings.

Lined With Palms (1)

Hopping off at Washington Blvd, I headed through the west end of Culver City towards Venice. The palm trees lining the road grabbed my attention...

Leaving Tsunami Hazard Zone did this reassuring sign.

Double Double Meal (1)

Needing a quick bite to eat, I stopped at an In-N-Out Burger, a chain with strong customer loyalty. I went with a Double-Double combo meal (burger, fries, drink), which covered a good chunk of the menu. It was just a fast food burger, but tastier than the giant chains. The fries looked unexciting but tasted like they had been cut from a potato. The drive thru was a madhouse, with traffic snaking around the adjoining big box parking lot (though they had a human being taking the orders around the middle of the lineup).

Getty Tram

Next stop was the Getty Center. The view heading up the hill on the tram was spectacular, with the combination of hills, fog and traffic on the San Diego Freeway. The cool, misty weather at the top was calming, a relaxing way to ease into the evening.

The Vexed Man

A very constipated bust. Being inside didn't relax him (relaxed me though).

Looking Down at Cacti Garden (1)

Central Garden, Getty Center (2)

Central Garden, Getty Center (3)

The pavilions are surrounded by a series of gardens, which added to the serenity.

I wound down the night with a quick trek east on Mulholland Drive, but it was too foggy to enjoy unless there had been a 1940s femme fatale with me. I picked a random route to head back south, which plunked me in the middle of Beverly Hills. Offhand, the shopping strip on Rodeo Drive didn't look much different than an upscale outdoor "lifestyle" centre...maybe it was fatigue creeping in, but I had to blink a couple of times to reassure myself I wasn't somewhere like, say, the new Don Mills Centre (the names on the stores could have told me that).

The night ended in the hotel's outdoor whirlpool. Sitting in the pool, under a palm tree, on a comfortable evening, it seemed that all was well with the universe. No stresses, few worries. Viva vacation!

Full set of pictures. All in this post taken around Los Angeles on May 16, 2009 - JB

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