Taking a break from my travels to spend a few days in Los Angeles, CA
19.03.2016 - 21.03.2016
After a couple hours of sleep, I woke up early to send off my friend Tian who was on her way to adventure upstate on the infamous Highway 1. Luckily for me, I finally had no plans for the day and celebrated by going back to bed. When I finally reawakened (later than I have in weeks) I was able to catch up with my friend Aaron again after about 3 years apart. Too long! Of course, I needed to make the most of staying in a place with real amenities and we spent our first day reunited in his apartment's laundry room so I could wash every piece of fabric I owned.
Rested, showered, and in clean clothes for the first time in ages, I was ready to take on Hollywood.
Aaron wouldn't let me choose the places we went to be tourists (which bothered me at first because I had big plans) but I quickly switched moods from angst to excitement when we moved from one incredible place to the next, places that I had no idea even existed in the LA area. First was Amoeba Music, the world's largest independent record store. The place was almost the size of a planet itself! Not only did they have music from every artist in existence, the top floor was filled to the brim with movies. I was in heaven.
After that, we went on a long drive down to the University of Southern California (USC) campus to check out their huge rose garden. I didn't get any pictures (and the roses weren't quite in full bloom anyway) but I was happy to note it was still packed with students and tourists alike, strolling through the gorgeous gardens. After that, we explored the campus for awhile (but since it was USC's spring break, everything was pretty shut down).
Then I finally got to see what I was most excited for: the ocean.
We parked at the Venice beachfront and pushed our way through crowds of artists and skateboarders alike to reach the water. We made it just in time to watch the beginning of what would be one of my favorite sunsets the whole trip. I was surprised how cold it was since I was told my whole life that LA was the warm and sunny paradise, but I hardly noticed my goosebumps as I become swept up in watching a golden sun plummet into the ocean, turning the sky from firey orange to a delicate purple. Despite the crowds, the beach was reverent, silent, peaceful. There was something truly magical about that moment, when hundreds of people from all backgrounds can stop what we're doing, stop our conversations, and watch in awe as an everyday miracle happens before our eyes.
It was freezing after the sun went down, but we still had one more stop to make before we headed back to Hollywood. I had never been to an In n' Out, and I was excited to experience the internet's favorite fast food restaurant. Vegetarian for 14 years, I asked the cashier if there was a vegetarian option and he enthusaistically told me "of course, one veggie burger coming up!" I expected a veggie burger patty...but when I picked up my food, I realized the "vegetarian option" was nothing more than a tomato slice and piece of lettuce on a bun (with their special sauce!) At least the fries were good.
Today, Aaron decided to stay in and catch up on life and chores (he's a hero Americorps volunteer who works way too many hours as a teacher in one of the most impoverished parts of LA). While he stayed at home, I decided I was recharged enough to take on the city on my own and set off on foot to explore Hollywood Boulevard.
The whole way there, the roads were lined with palm trees.
But after I arrived on the strip, I quickly became disappointed in how flashy, fake, and crowded it was for miles in each direction. The crowd's pace was permanently set to a slow crawl and stopped often because some tourist needed to take a selfie...or two...or three. This was the city where films are made, where I expected I'd live one day, but I struggled for most of the morning to find something redeeming about the place.
My favorite part of the day was when I came across a man selling screenplays off the street, and picked up a copy of Pulp Fiction as a reward for surviving my walk through the star-covered streets. I took my new screenplay into a cafe and read it over lunch, real Hollywood filmmaker style.
I spent the rest of the day wandering searching for the best LA could offer in its most famous district, but came up mostly empty handed. After making some long-deterred calls to my family and friends, I headed back to Aaron's apartment to rant and remove LA from my list of potential places to live.
But luckily, after it got darker, he took me on an adventure climbing up one of the city's huge hills. It seemed like a waste of time until we pulled over and crossed the street and looked down at the entire city lit up and spread below us. I only had a cellphone to photograph the moment and it couldn't do the view justice. Once again, I ended the night in awe of a beautiful city that I had despised just hours earlier. LA might be alright after all.
After a couple days in one place, I was getting restless and decided today would be my last day in Los Angeles. I took advantage of the apartment by washing all my dishes, and then used my friend to help me unpack and repack the heavy tupperware containers in my car. Then we set out to catch a matinee (10 Cloverfield Lane, some scifi/thriller) at the coolest theater I'd ever seen called Vintage Cinemas. It was Egyptian-themed for whatever reason, but the atmosphere here was tangible; just walking in, you knew something incredible was about to unfold.
After the movie, we spent some time in the theater area checking out ridiculously hipster shops and vintage boutiques. Every cafe's sign advertised something "low cal" and avocado themed. We passed several juice cafes on the short walk. This was LA at its most stereotypical.
At around 4, I left to go rescue my friend Tian who had dropped off her rental car and needed a ride to the airport. After an hour of standstill traffic (EVEN ON A SUNDAY?) I made it there in time to take her to dinner and to grab some last minute items for her travels. Then it was another hour or so of traffic to LAX, a wild ride dodging taxis and busses through the airport drop-off area where we were lucky to make it out alive. We said our goodbyes, difficult after we'd been through so much together over the last couple weeks. I was beyond grateful she was able to join me for the first half of my adventure and sad to see her go.
Of course it was another long drive through traffic back to Aaron's apartment, but this time I didn't mind. The city was alive; glowing light from the tops of the highest skyscrapers to the streets below where people danced between bars and restaurants, swept up in their own worlds. Sitting in traffic, I was able to take it all in. It was breathtaking. I knew I wouldn't be able to live in a place like this, but I knew I'd miss it.