I loved you, Los Angeles

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Sometimes I talk about my attempt to be with Los Angeles, but I don't think I've ever written about it in depth.

See, I used to be a full-on celebrity gossip blogger. I made it my job (without being paid a cent) to keep up with the goings-on of the likes of Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, Lindsay Lohan, the cast of Laguna Beach ... so and so forth. For several years, these people's nonsense consumed me and I even made friends and was presented with great opportunities through my blog. I became intimate with the city of Los Angeles through these celebrities I wrote about from afar; I knew that Joseph's was the place to be on Monday nights (or was it Tuesday? It's been 7 years!), Ivar's, LAX, Mood, Area were all popular. I knew the rundown of the shops on Robertson Boulevard. Of course, in the case of Hollywood High School, things change. Fast. Nightclubs got stale quickly and hotspots shifted every few months.

So after some time of writing about these people from afar, it became clear that I needed to be where there were, and not stuck in a dorm room in Massachusetts or even in a magazine office in New York City. No, I needed to be in the City of Angels itself.

So four days after graduating from college, without a job or a car, I set out to claim Los Angeles for myself.

I don't think I really need to state that I wasn't very successful ... especially not without a car. One job interview I went on took over 2 hours to get to ... by bus. Granted, I got a spectacular tour of Santa Monica, Westwood Village and North Hollywood. But everyone was growing up or locked up -- Nicole Richie must have had at least one child by then, Paris Hilton was locked up at Lynwood jail and Lindsay Lohan was in rehab that summer. After 3 relatively peaceful (and not crazy and wild, as I had hoped) weeks in the city of my dreams, I dejectedly bought an airplane ticket home, vowing to return.

I haven't returned since, but not because I haven't wanted to. At first, it made sense financially to move back to New York City. Then I got a full-time job. Then that transitioned into another full-time job. Then the economy collapsed and California fell into ruins. I'm still waiting for things to improve, but I realize that I may be waiting for a very long time. In the meantime, I have gotten older and my interests have changed. I've given up on keeping up with the latest and greatest celebrities and whether they have or haven't gotten married, or what the best nights are for which club. (I should've known things were going south when I opted to head to Cinespace -- hipster, and not starlet, central -- on a Monday night. I did, however, see DJ Steve Aoki, Shane West and the Cobra Snake's Mark Hunter himself, so all was not lost. No sign of the then-infamous Cory Kennedy, I'm afraid.)

Santa Monica Pier
source: coastal.ca.gov

Whenever I watch those sparkly reality shows set in Los Angeles, I still grow a little sad, as if I'm watching an ex-boyfriend succeed from afar. It's a mixed bag of emotions ... pride, joy, sadness and a little bit of bitterness.

Here were some of my haunts back in the day, when I loved Los Angeles (no idea if these places still exist):

Cafe 50s
838 Lincoln Boulevard, Venice

This was my go-to place for meals when I was living out there. I was fortunate (or unfortunate, depending on how you look at it) enough to be living out in Venice -- a block from the beach -- when I was out in Los Angeles for a few weeks. My friend Caroline and I loved this place, the shakes particularly. During my last meal there, I had the Elvis shake -- a milkshake consisting of Elvis' last meal. Very apropos.

Bob's Big Boy
4211 West Riverside Drive, Burbank

This was the first restaurant I went to the first time I set foot in Los Angeles, before I realized it was where I needed to be. I had heard about it through all the Disney stars who lived in the Toluca Lake apartment buildings for child stars. I recall having one of the best burgers I've ever tasted here, and my very first banana milkshake ... which was gigantic, cheap and simply delicious.

Third Street Promenade
Santa Monica

The Third Street Promenade reminded me so much of Lincoln Road Mall in Miami, except better. Better because it was bigger, and better because it was in freakin' Los Angeles. I recall many days spent in this area, from Saturday morning breakfasts at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf staring out the windows and laughing at the yoga-matted women barging in for their caffeine fix to leisurely browsing the shops. I fell in love with Santa Monica the first time I saw it, and my dream is still to live in Santa Monica if I ever move back. I'd be a West Side girl, if I were an L.A. girl at all. I've still never been to the Santa Monica Pier, but I will someday.

Abbot Kinney, Venice
source: LAist.com
Abbot Kinney

I mean it when I say I'd be a West Side girl. My friend Caroline was staying at a film industry veteran's house in Santa Monica, and the woman suggested we check out Abbot Kinney for good eats. She was not wrong. We didn't spend as much time here as I would've liked, but I recall random mornings and mid-afternoons down this way, after having walked from Rose Avenue in search of a library or an internet cafe. Life was easy breezy and just wonderful in southern California.

Martha's 22nd Street Grill
25 22nd Street, Hermosa Beach

The first time I visited Los Angeles, I stayed in Hermosa Beach. This was inconvenient for sightseeing, but oh-so-convenient for late morning meals. Martha's was incredible. I must've gone three times in a span of five days, but I can't remember anything I ate. I just know that it was delicious.

Melrose Avenue
Typical, I know, but I spent a lot of time here too. Not shopping, but killing time. While I was stranded without a car in Los Angeles, my pal Caroline had an internship to see to. And I was trying my best to find a job, which entailed a lot of walking around and doing nothing during the day. On one day, I walked from Beverly Hills all the way to downtown Hollywood -- not an incredible feat for a New Yorker, but apparently somewhat insane. I realized this the further I walked along, seeing the sidewalks bare and the sun beating cruelly down on me. I browsed the shops along Melrose and recognized the Italian restaurant the Carter boys were seen leaving, the shops Seventeen magazine had featured Selma Blair shopping in back in the late 90s ... I dropped by Fred Segal for fun. I think it was Kirstie Alley who slowed her car in front of Fred Segal for me to cross the street. And the first thing I did when I reached Hollywood and Highland was pop into The Gap and buy myself a new outfit.

Venice Beach
Seeing as I lived practically ON Venice Beach for those weeks and didn't want to be cooped up in my rental room all day, I spent a lot of time walking up and down Ocean Front Walk. I grew fond of Small World Books, which was recently featured in the Los Angeles Times. I grew weary of rollerbladers and erratic bike riders. I missed Lindsay Lohan on a bike by mere minutes, on a rare outing from rehab that summer.

220 Rose Avenue, Venice

We spent days spying on this place before finally setting foot in it. It was so mysterious to us, open only in the mornings through early afternoons. Was it an art space, a cafe, a warehouse? We couldn't tell. But when the doors were open to us one sunny Saturday morning, we were enlightened. The brunch we had that Saturday was the epitome of California living to me ... a leisurely meal of a fruit tart with iced tea, outside in the garden, surrounded by toddlers running amok and happy and healthy looking families. I adored this place and would make a point to go back.

I'm ecstatic to see that most, if not all, of these places remain open. Perhaps Los Angeles (the Los Angeles I came to know) hasn't taken as great a hit from the economy as I'd imagined. With any luck, someday our paths will cross again and I will be reunited with my one-time (long time) love.

source: TripAdvisor.com

People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles. This is the first thing I hear when I come back to the city. Blair picks me up from LAX and mutters this under her breath as her car drives up the onramp. She says, "People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles." Though that sentence shouldn't bother me, it stays in my mind for an uncomfortably long time. Nothing else seems to matter. Not the fact that I'm eighteen and it's December and the ride on the plane had been rough and the couple from Santa Barbara, who were sitting across from me in first class, had gotten pretty drunk. Not the mud that had splattered the legs of my jeans, which felt kind of cold and loose, earlier that day at an airport in New Hampshire. Not the stain on the arm of the wrinkled, damp shirt I wear, a shirt which had looked fresh and clean this morning. Not the tear on the neck of my gray argyle vest, which seems vaguely more eastern than before, especially next to Blair's clean tight jeans and her pale-blue T-shirt. All of this seems irrelevant next to that one sentence. It seems easier to hear that people are afraid to merge rather than "I'm pretty sure Muriel is anorexic" or the singer on the radio crying out about magnetic waves. Nothing else seems to matter to me but those ten words. Not the warm winds, which seem to propel the car down the empty asphalt freeway, or the faded smell of marijuana which still faintly permeates Blair's car. All it comes down to is that I'm a boy coming home for a month and meeting someone whom I haven't seen for four months and people are afraid to merge.

- "Less Than Zero," Bret Easton Ellis

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