Long weekend in LA in 2008

As predicted, this blog has somewhat died a death. Its cousin, The Resting Writer , is where I actually write stuff.

So here’s an old account of my weekend in Los Angeles in Summer 2008. I was on a business trip that lasted about ten days, so I had a weekend in the middle. It already seems like an account from the history books: looking at an actual paper map to figure out where to go…

On Friday, I went driving around Hollywood and Beverly hills by mistake, constantly missing my turning back to the Marriott Downtown. It was quite a nice drive, and in many ways the highlight of my weekend. I had picked up my car that evening, and as the car I had reserved (a Toyota Corolla or similar) was not available, I was given an absolutely enormous truck of a car – a Ford Explorer. It was easy to drive, with fantastic air conditioning and a good stereo. Driving around in a large car on the enormous streets with the radio on very loud, listening to the sort of crap I like listening to (well, mainly Elvis), felt as if I had somehow achieved something in life, renting my own car and heading off down 3rd Street in the vague hope that the map I had printed out from Google would tell me something useful, which it on the whole didn’t. I drove off on a shopping trip to the Beverly Centre, bought Olga some jeans and drove around for about an hour trying to find my way back. Eventually, after driving up and down Melrose, Vine and Sunset several times, I found Rossmore Street and made my way back to 3rd Street.

On Saturday I went wine-tasting with Sybille, my project manager, and a friend of hers from a previous job. We spent the day around the Solvang area tasting largely hideous wines. There were some nice ones, but I only really bought some to keep my hosts convinced that I was enjoying my trip. I don’t like spending hours and hours doing wine tasting in a car. We had to drive between tastings and drive 2 hours back to LA, and I was very nervous about having other people drive the hire car, as I hadn’t put them on as additional drivers. I was even more nervous when I discovered that our designated driver Julie has the kind of road rage you read about in newspaper accounts of people getting beaten up by the side of the road.

We stopped for lunch at a fairly mediocre restaurant with an insane owner, who I suspect was drunk. At any rate he seemed quite happy to tell us his waitresses were “hot”. He then beckoned one of them over and said “hey Luisa, ain’t you got the hottest ass on a waitress in California”. Luisa gave him a very fake smile, which fell as soon as he wasn’t looking. My guess was that Luisa was going to find herself and her ass some more meaningful employment elsewhere. I had a pastrami sandwich, which wasn’t particularly nice. The owner explained at great length that he used red wine in his vinaigrette, not red wine vinegar. I found that quite irritating, as the vinegar is the whole bloody point of the dressing.

After trying a few more disgusting wine at the Wild Hearts Winery, we then drove back into town.  I spent the night in Culver City, which for some reason insists on writing “City of Culver City” on all its signs. Initially, I found this rather quaint, and then I just found it stupid. It’s not a city anyway; it’s a suburb of Los Angeles.  I stayed in the Culver Hotel. It’s one of those places that is obsessed with its past, and is quite eerie as a result. The Culver Hotel passed its heyday sometime in 1935. Although they have a room called The Clark Gable room, complete with old furniture, large photos of him and Gone with the Wind film posters, they don’t actually make the effort to tell you when he might have stayed in the hotel. Outside, there is a rather sad-looking display case that talks about how the Munchkins from Wizard of Oz stayed there, because the MGM studios were down the road. The MGM studios are now the Sony studios, a faceless office block surrounded on both sides by shops with totally implausible art deco style signs and names. The past seems to be the thing Americans are least good at, but are constantly and hopelessly trying to retain. America looks good new, and crap old.

I went to bed without any more food, and reflected that the best part of the day had been the drive-through Mcdonalds I had stopped off for on the way to Sybille’s at 8 am. The sausage and egg Mcmuffin was – very surprisingly – smaller than in Europe, but absolutely divine. I then bought several bottles of Evian, hopped back into my incredibly fuel-inefficient air-conditioned car, and failed to feel guilty about a total lack of environmentally friendly choices.

Today, I got up as early as possible to escape Culver City, drove around for a while until I bought a proper map and tried to decide what to do. The original plan had been to go to VeniceBeach, as everyone seemed to think it was a really interesting place. I walked past Muscle Beach, which is in fact a rather tired collection of weights machines at the side of the footpath (sorry, boardwalk). The place seemed to be populated by tramps, so I left my $12 parking space and drove on to Marina del Rey and Santa Monica.

In the end I walked up and down Santa Monica beach for several hours listening to my ipod, and getting sad about Leonard Cohen lyrics, So Long Marianne in particular. The beach volleyball players were having such a great time. I then drove off to the airport, and am now in the hideous temporary business class lounge at LAX, which is filling up quite rapidly. There appears to have been a major accident on the approach road to LAX, the police were turning everyone back and I had to look up a new route in my rather useful map.

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