Monday, March 21, 2011

Bright Lights, Big Honkin' City

Last week was our spring break, so this Kansas transplant into Arizona and the family took a big leap and hit the bustling metropolis of Los Angeles for the first time.  It was an excellent trip, we all had fun, and I thought I would just share my own various and somewhat random observations about the expedition to a city with a bigger population than many counties I've lived in.
As we traveled down the freeway through California, the vast amounts of unused land on each side of the road struck me.  In Kansas, we plow, plant or pasture (usually rotating all three) every square foot of land.  I realize that most of the Cali countryside is too barren or too rough to be good for any of those three P's, but nevertheless, the difference stood out to me.  Once we got into the city, we did several of the standard tourist activities, including a trip to the Sunset Strip.  On the Walk of Fame, I must admit, it was less impressive than it should have been.  In part due to the knowledge from the past that there is no qualification to get a star, other than shelling out the cash to put it down and maintain it, and in part due to the realization that this haphazard approach really shows when the individual stars of teams like Laurel and Hardy or Abbott and Costello are nowhere near each other.  There is now a picture of me by Alice Cooper's star, and the kids wanted one of me by KISS's star sticking out my tongue (passed on that one though) but it ain't quite up to the hype.
Maintaining the musical theme, we did go to the Hard Rock Cafe.  While my hamburger was an excellent slab of meat, it wasn't anywhere near worth the $10, and I doubt that the $15 burgers were either.  My advice, just walk through, ooh and aahh at the really cool rock memorabilla (Jim Morrison's pants, Ray Charles' braille lyric sheets, guitars from Eddie Van Halen and Bo Diddly) and hit one of the smaller deli's on the strip.  Again segueing seamlessly, one of those small delis that we ate at was really cool for two reasons.  The Hollywood reason was that some scenes from Million Dollar Baby were shot in it (so now I have to get it watched to see if we sat in the same seats) and my reason is that it, and many of the other shops and restaurants on the strip aren't just big name cash cows (like Hard Rock) but little independent businesses, the kind that built America and that the franchises are shoving out of the way.  Well worth the money to support them on your next trip.
We also loaded up on one of the "see the homes of the stars" tours.  While it was cool to see the Fresh Prince of Bel Air house up on the hill, the people who are or were living in the houses wasn't nearly as impressive as the real beauty of many of the homes up there.  Even the houses who's residents weren't special enough to warrant mention by our very entertaining tour guide were absolutely gorgeous. (Debating going off on a tangent about how some of these folks who like to ask us to donate money could fund entire countries with the costs of these houses, but I think I'll save that for another day.  I know lots of stars are very generous with their fortunes, but most of them aren't putting much of a dent in their discretionary spending with their charity work) Vaguely related to that offshoot, I didn't think about it, but my wife raised the point that for all the complaints about the California economy, Hollywood and the beaches we visited seemed to be staying pretty active.  There were people on the sidewalks, in the shops, in the restaurants, on the beaches. (ok not a lot on the beaches, but there was quite a crowd considering the serious cold front and rain rolling in along with the threat of big waves and other stuff rolling in from the Japan earthquake)  One of the kids wanted to go bowling, and the first alley we found charged $65 for a lane for an hour, plus shoes, and it was booked solid until 11:00 that night.  The second one was much more reasonably priced, but we still faced an hour's wait to get one of it's 40 lanes on a Saturday night. 
Speaking of beaches, we did hit a couple, of course.  As mentioned, it was a bit chilly with the weather coming in (I swear I felt ice in those waves) but it was still cool for this long land-locked land lubber to watch the sun sink into the water and see the kids digging for seashells.  It was not cool having to guard our paltry food supply from sea gulls on the beach, but that's the dangers of being outside I guess.  Practical tip of the trip, finding a hotel on the Pacific Coast Highway seems to be a prime way of having pretty easy access to most of L.A., as well as making it pretty easy to find one's way back to the hotel at the end of the day. 
I think that covers the big points.  Expect more revelations from the big city, especially once summer hits.  It's barely a day's drive to get out there from here, so we might even run out for the occasional event.  Close enough to visit and enjoy the city life no and again, far enough away we don't have to worry about the stuff that tends to come with that city life. 

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