Thursday, November 16, 2006

My Fabulous Los Angeles Vacation, Part Two

This is part two, in which our protagonist hopes to live a Mulholland Drive fantasy. Plus the first of several exclusive, never-before-seen pictures! Click here to read part one.

In the Air, Part 2

Sitting in the terminal waiting for the next flight I slowly become aware of the cel phones. I have never seen so many of them in one place, everybody has them, and most of them are attached to ostentatious headsets. I'm a dishevelled mish-mash sitting in a room full of businessmen and one surfer dude, and even he has a cel phone. He says "later babe" into his phone and clicks it shut.

To pass the time I am determined to memorize the conversation that two men next to me are having, but it's so inane that I can't be bothered.

The people ON the plane, however, turn out to be so firiendly that I want to hug them, except for the extremely loud woman who spends the three hours getting drunker and spouting Oprah-inspired wisdom to whoever will listen. She calls the stewardesses her "girls" and claims that her husband, "like all Mexicans," treats women poorly. She takes credit for encouraging her younger sister to "educate herself" making her own lunch before she goes to school. Her philosophical highpoint -- said in the most lofty and explosive tone -- is this:

"WHY SHOULD I BE QUIET?!? Don't I deserve to get sloshed on a plane for once in my life? DON'T roll your eyes at me, girl. We're not alive for long. I heard this once, that we're only on earth for a little while, so we better make the most of it!"

Trooper said it more eloquently.

I am sitting beside a sweet old couple. When the drunk girl gets particularly loud the old man makes sock-puppet gestures with his hand. He also has a remarkable habit of explaining the stock market to his wife while she's sleeping, though most of us paid attention when he claimed to have seen "four huge, metal cylinders" in the middle of the desert.

This couple is a shocking "Mulholland Drive" parallel for me, except that I don't think they'll crawl giggling under my doorjam this evening. I can't resist trying out some dialog on them as we're departing, telling them to "watch for me on the television" and then saying "that'll be the day." They don't take the cue. The old man just asks how many months of snow we get in Canada each year.

Like many of the people I've met so far, I'll never run into these folks again. Ever.

A Tour of LA

After a morning that was essentially one long string of uncertainties and anxieties, the last thing I thought I needed on arrival was a whirlwind tour of Los Angeles. But somehow my host -- Ron Stringer -- knew the best cure of an enormous sense of displacement and fatigue: sight-seeing with a guy who really knows the place.

It was easy to make a list of "LA cliches" and check them off as they appeared. The first surfer dude had already been spotted, and you can't take a step outside LAX without seeing an enormous fern or a palm tree, and amazingly these palm trees come in several different varieties. Some of them are stunted, or maybe they're just young. Some have soft, kitteny fur on them. Apparently they are also the area's rat habitat, which I think LA should be prouder of.

(People here are of different opinions about the truth of this "rats in the palm trees" thing, but I see quite a few metal girdles around trees that go near apartment windows, so I'm pretty sure it's true).

For the first time in my life I see the Pacific Ocean; it winks at me over a hill in Venice. We take a trip through Bel Air, or rather "around" Bel Air because car's like Ron's "make the security guards very nervous." We see a jogger and a ridiculously rich private girl's school, "the sort of place you can bring your dog to class with you," apparently.

Strangely enough, Ron agrees to reinforce my obsession by taking me over a stretch of Mulholland Drive, and I get a chance to see LA from the ubiquitous mountains. We drive around treacherous, eroded hairpin turns, marvelling that we're actually looking DOWN on the tops of skycrapers. I don't want to spoil the first 8 seconds of "Mulholland Drive" for you, but Ron points out that the thought of a person wearing high-heels climbing down the mountain is totally ridiculous. Seeing the mountainsides I have to agree.

Yes, the driving is bad, extremely aggressive, though apparently the freeway shooting fad is over. I notice that nobody EVER jaywalks, in fear for their lives, and that strangers on Sunset Boulevard have few qualms about talking to you as you're passing by. I also notice an absence of variety stores, though there are plenty of gas stations.

My hotel for the first two days is "The Grafton," a place far more comfortable than my apartment. It even comes with a "Grafton frog," a sort of gel-filled rubber duckie, and the furnishings are gorgeous.

The view from my hotel room.

Diet Coke, phonebook, bible, Grafton frog, and Floyd the Radio Lion.

The decorations and furnishings have a sort of funky tastefulness to them that has given me a new appreciation for lime green, and the rooms and halls are loaded with black and white tributes to classic movie stars, mostly Marilyn Monroe but with a smattering of Ella Fitzgerald, Humphry Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Frank Sinatra, and James Dean. I cannot escape James Dean. His ghost, entwined with his crash site, is as much a part of my trip as anxiety and bottled water. Too bad I don't like him.

While unpacking I discover that one of my bags has been searched, the box with my cosmetics broken into, and my false eyelashes missing. Right now they're probably lying on runway 15 in Chicago, or being worn by one of the many floor-sweeping zombies I always see in America.

I go to sleep just before 10am and I sleep like a Grafton frog on a log.

Day two in Los Angeles coming soon!

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