Thursday, July 29, 2010

it's funny...

thought i would take a break from writing about the downside of where i live, just for a moment. because the truth is that if i really hated los angeles, i would not be here. so i hope that you are not getting that impression. i don't hate los angeles. i am just not in sync with it so much anymore. but what better time to write a bit about what i love about this city, especially because these are the things that i would hope to also find in the city that i eventually move to.

it's funny...when i think about it. the reason that i came to this city has very little to do with why i am still here. i lived my young adult life in san diego, which at the time felt very cosmopolitan, but in retrospect was really just like making cookies in an easybake oven--so not the real deal. san diego bills itself as "america's finest city", and that would be just great, if it were a real city. but it's not. it is, instead, a support structure for the beach and the navy, and not much more. it is shockingly beautiful, but it is also without meaning, if that can be said without malice. if anything, san diego's problem is that it refuses to be what it is--a coastal navy town. it is trying to be san francisco, and even los angeles knows better than to try to be san francisco.

i read a while back that they had built a bunch of high rise condos in downtown san diego that were not selling--so much so in fact that in one building there was only one male resident, who, knowing that he was alone in the building, took to taking out his trash in the nude. he gained notoriety as the "naked trash guy", or something of that order. the reason for the vacancies was that the units were not appealing to the people who might be looking to buy: young san diegans with children. in other words, they were building for well off hipster singles, another city's populace (san francisco?). that is how it has always been in san diego. trying to be something that it is not.

nevertheless, i loved living there during my 20's, before all the high rises. i lived in north park, hillcrest, and mission heights. i worked as a bartender in the largest gay nightclub in town, and at one point in time could have been considered a "local personality", since my work as a performer and show producer was getting some press. i felt like a grown up, even if i wasn't. i had my own apartments and jobs and cars and all that, but what i didn't have was a sense of myself off the stage or out from behind a bar. outside of those contexts i was, in essence, like all those new empty high rises downtown--an impressive shell with nothing inside. i know that i could not live in san diego again. well, i could, but i won't. it is not home anymore. it is still pretty, but it is not much more. i have, uh, outgrown it.

the decision to move up to los angeles was based on the idea that this is where i needed to be if i were to become a success in the entertainment industry. i was interested in playing in the big leagues, and i wanted to be a star. unlike san diego, los angeles is, for arguments sake, a real city. it is one of the handful of real cities in the world, along with new york, san francisco, chicago, hong kong, paris, london, berlin, sydney, buenos aires, and rome. that is pretty much the list, folks. there are other cities, of course, but great cities are more or less limited to this list. so what makes a great city great? specifically, what makes los angeles great?

most obviously, the same thing that makes los angeles great is the very thing that will eventually drive me out of the city--the entertainment industry. this is where movies are made, well, here and toronto, but you know what i mean. i went to a movie couple weeks ago at the mann chinese theater, and while i was waiting for my buddy to get there, i marveled at the sheer number of people taking in the famed hand and foot prints that cover the front courtyard of this landmark movie palace. people from all over the world. hollywood has been impacting culture in the world for nearly 100 years, and that impact continues to grow stronger. for decades now the most creative people in the country have come to los angeles to create, and that can be seen as a good thing. there are still people who come here to create. (of course, creativity brings along its own certain insanity, of which i have written about in other posts.) inside the chinese theater, the walls are red and gold, and chinese sculptures adorn the ceiling and lobby. it is glamorous and massive, and when the dolby sound announces itself, the seats literally rock. and this is not the only theater that has this impact. there are some amazing movie theaters in los angeles, some old, and some new. if you are going to see a movie the way it is supposed to be seen, this theater is the kind of theater in which to do it. you might even have kim novak showing up for a special hitchcock tribute, as is happening this month at the egyptian theater. kim fucking novak!.

but as well as los angeles is known for its theater interiors, it is equally highly regarded for its exteriors. there are the miles and miles of beaches--every kind of beach you could ask for. my personal favorite is venice beach--the venice beach that was known for creating "muscle beach", and home of the golds gym where arnold and franco used to build their bodies.

venice beach was created to be an homage to venice, italy, and thus the canals. i have often dreamed of living in one of the bungalows along the canals, hearing the ducks quack and checking the mooring on my rowboat. there used to be a vagabond artist community that lived among the canals. not so much anymore--mostly upscale boomers, industry types, and gays now, but amidst the costly refurbishing you can still see an occasional vintage bungalow, peeling paint and slanted porch and all. and you just know that the owner, if they still live there, could tell you stories of the old days of hippies and surf life and really really good pot.

there is santa monica pier, and the classic roller coaster in the middle of it, and the summer music concerts where all the really fun people listen on the beach below for free(instead of on the pier itself), drinking wine from trader joes and gradually, as the evening progresses, becoming more friendly with the folks around their blanket, if you know what i mean. there are the rings and bars south of the pier where you can see beautifully athletic men and women swing like monkeys from ring to ring, or martial artists practice their craft with each other, or gymnasts young and old perform flips and handstands.

fifteen walking minutes from my apartment there is the hollywood forever cemetery, home of the famously deceased--including rudolph valentino--where, for ten bucks on summer saturday nights, you can take a picnic dinner and dine among the tombs as a classic film shows on the mausoleum wall. next week they are showing all about eve.

a little further north, on cahuenga before hollywood blvd., there is the spotlight bar, which has been serving 'em up for forty years, and which continues to hold sway despite the reimagining of the cahuenga corridor. gerry, the bartender, makes sure you know his name right off the bat, and he finds out yours too, and he will introduce you to whoever is on either side of you before getting your beer, so that you really have no excuse to not talk to anyone. most of the patrons here are gay, and absolutely nuts to boot, but it sure never leads to a dull night. every person in there is a story, and when i go there, i feel like i have one to tell as well.

there is runyon canyon, the site of old screen star tom mix's former estate. i have taken free yoga there on the lawn with about 40 other hollywood folk, while on the outskirts of the lawn i hear people and dogs moving up and down the trails, sometimes mixing well, other times not so much so. there is something to be said for being able to hold tree pose on a sloped lawn while three feet away a gopher pokes its head out of a hole in the ground. now that is a yoga practice!

yeah, it's funny alright. in many ways, i barely even know this city. there are more restaurants within a 1 mile radius of my apartment that i have NOT eaten at than i have eaten at. los angeles is a city that is new every day, just because it is so damn big. here, you can also be new every day, just because you can get so damn lost. here, you can forget your past or make up a new one, you can imagine an unimaginable future or lose your future completely, you can love just yourself and never lose your heart, or you can have your heart broken loving another and become rich as a result. here, you can experience magic in a low budget 99 seat theater, or experience boredom watching a $100 million movie. here, you can have your bedroom windows open to the breeze in the middle of january, and get the best produce in the world all year round. here, you can pay for someone to brew you a cup of coffee, paint your toes, rub your shoulders, clean your house, walk your dog, return your calls, buy your clothes, groceries, or drugs, here you can pay for love or sex or something in between. here, you can create a website for yourself that is just about you and nobody will laugh. here, you can have breakfast at the beach, lunch in the mountains, and dinner in the desert, all in the same day. here, you can find a $200 pair of jeans for $15 at a second hand shop. here, you can ride a bicycle all year round.

and yet, with all of this, i don't love it anymore. but...i don't hate it.

it's funny...


  1. Thanks for the tour! Venice beach is a fav of my sister's. Whenever she is 'out there' it's a must.
    I haven't been that far south in California (stopped in San Francisco). Now I will have to....thanks to your description of the place.
    Your're a good writer.

  2. thanks, jim! i love to write, and glad that it made you feel you need to visit further south! it was fun writing this post. let me know if you ever come for a visit!

  3. I just noticed that you are an atheist. Me too. I do not believe in any of the many gods out there......just doesn't make any sense to me.
    When we die, I feel the energy of which we are composed/comprised returns to the universe from where it came in the first place. It gets mixed back up with all the energy out there and back it will come to form a bug, a tree or another mammal.This all makes scientific sense to me. Whew! It took me years to come to this point....finally have shed all that god/guilt/shame foolishness.
    Yes, if we are ever out there, it would be good to meet you over a cuppa.

  4. they say that the atheists are only 2% of the population, so glad to have you onboard, jim. but i am even more scientific than you are. energy is matter, and vice versa, and our bodies are both. when we die, they transform into other elements, but our consciousness is finito (what religious folk call the "soul"). consciousness is not just our brain, but rather the relationship between our brain, body, and environment, and when we die, that relationship ends. our consciousness ends. we end. there is NO evidence to suggest otherwise, only wishful thinking! as an atheist, the idea that i will one day END causes me to value life to the nth degree, cause when i lose it, it is gone! a good book on consciousness and this idea is "out of our heads", by alva noe. and yes, a cuppa is warranted!

  5. For sure our consciousness dies! We will no longer be here. Yes, it all ends. I think I realized all this at a very early age.....too young to really understand it all. But I always valued my life as well as every other life on this planet. Too much so sometimes that ti used to and on occasion still does, fuck things up for me. It has taken forever to learn to 'chill' about it all.
    However, I believe the body is so separate from the energy in that body and vice versa.
    Such 'heavy' conversation for a humid August afternoon here in Nova Scotia. Have a great one.