Monday, December 29, 2008

Give It To Me Like A Brit

The Beverly Center, a mall so pretentious, it's got a British voiceover to check you out of parking. It's strange, this voiceover; undeniably there is a tranquility in hearing that accent - this voice directs me to two payment stations located to my left and right upon entry of the garage from the mall escalators (despite the sign at left of the 4, above), and calmly Thanks me for payment. I feel like I stepped into The Fifth Element. What with the throb of neon lights and British diction. All I'm missing is the Gaultier and red hair; the bad traffic and streetside refuse I have.

Happy Holidays

West Hollywood, Target: I suppose it's the holidays - no time for pickup:

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Color Me Pink, With Car Fumes

L.A. ranks up there as one of the dirtiest cities in the nation. Therefore, I assume that car exhaust and industrial fumes are responsible for the following - because doesn't toxic pollution paint the sky?

Pretty, don't you think?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The World Is My Trashcan

After two years, I've yet to make up my mind about sunny Southern California. Do I like the fact that driving five miles takes me forty-five minutes and that parking means a 20 minute ride around the block? Does anyone else miss the seasons? Meh. It has been a cloudy week, creating the cool winter I remember should exist about this time of year, and certainly it's welcome. A walk on the beach however, it is not...

..and this is Santa Monica...

But the landscape under a cloudy sky feels immense.

Certainly, my walk to work the next morning was redeemable.

The jury however, is still out.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Early Rising

For most of my life, the Holiday's have been a tempestuous season I'd rather not dive into, but rather tiptoe around in hopes I get out with family ties intact. Two families since fifth grade meant schedules, two dinners, four parents, twice as many presents (to buy, not necessarily receive) and no rest; amounting to what was more of an anxiety ridden nightmare than a relish of Christmas spirit and wintry excess. Although it has been my misfortune to have had some stressful holidays, it is my fortune that I have. I know what I'm missing.

Muck Tree Christmas in The City: Photo by Piano Coctail

This year, November 1st came with a Holiday invitation, and I succumbed to an early Christmas fantasy. Thus ensued my Christmas catalog version of home - over every doorway, a garland laced with Christmas lights, red berries and dangling silver plastic icicles, a touch of fake snow settled on pine cones nailed to my exterior door. There is glitter everywhere and I've dropped only two bulbs. The Thanksgiving dinner menu is written up and I've already scoured the internet looking for the right place setting. Let's spread the cheer. Despite my Christmas spirit, I suspect my neighbors are less inclined to participate in my celebration, their sneering glares at my early rising is something I understand.

At The Grove, a retail mecca meant to exact a European city center, the Christmas tree is being erected. It is "THE" Christmas tree because it is, for the last eight years, the only Christmas tree to be celebrated in style in Los Angeles; an annual event that attracts hundreds of Angelenos and results in miles of traffic bound cars on Fairfax Avenue and 3rd Street.

Trucked in every year and erected in record time, the tree is lit in incandescent fashion. Camera crews and carol singers gather around the monster, made all the more special with the appearance of wispy faux snowflakes pumped above the crowd, a cold midwest fantasy in our hot landscape. The tree is more than 100 feet tall, and takes a crane and small crew to set it in place. Branches are added to give it body and a large wrapped box will appear around the bottom 15 feet for presentation and safety's sake. Thousands of ornaments in every color will be added, and as Santa's House is built, the expectation of Christmas wishes fulfilled grows.

Trust: Photo by Sanjin Jaganjac

You can see it in the line of children that stretches around the block on December first; all ready to sit on Santa's lap and take that endearing photo they will inevitably despise as teenagers. Retailers are baiting their customers and the holiday music is soon to follow. We'll take in so much Christmas cheer, we'll be sick of it at our own Christmas parties and happy to rid ourselves of the lit greenery by New Year's.

I used to feel sick at this onslaught. Just a retailers game of numbers, which it undeniably is a retailer sales game - pushing employees to their hourly limits with last minute sales for shoppers who procrastinated. Angry crowds and loud crying children in malls. Too much traffic and too many people pushing shoulder to shoulder with large packages in tow. No less in Los Angeles, the city of road rage. However, it still manages to be a magical two months (one if you don't start your holidays with the retailers.) Despite what family you have or urban sprawl to navigate, there is something about pushing each other into awkward situations in which you have to participate. Those evenings in which we try to forget why we annoy each other so much, that we really do care if each of our relatives and friends live or die creates a moment of fulfillment. We are loved, we are appreciated and we took the time to say that with presents or just our presence. I missed that valuable lesson growing up, in my naivete, I just wanted the scenery.

So here I am, a semi-adult, saddened by the inconveniences the Holidays present but satisfied that this time I've got it all (or most of it) figured out - the family, the scenery and the spiked eggnog. The upcoming movie starring Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn, Four Christmases, is a great reminder of the time honored tradition of avoiding family during this coming season, but maybe I can forget all that and remember, for just a few moments in Los Angeles, fake snowflakes falling lightly, it's the happiest season of all.

Photo by Matt Charnock

Monday, October 27, 2008

Slice of Life

What would you do, if, let's say, you met your favorite actor? Would you scream, cry, have no words, faint, politely shake his hand and extend your gratitude? Such is the philosophical question (if only a superficial one) one might ask while in Hollywood, where this sort of fantasy can be served up in reality, at your local grocery store, or getting coffee off Sunset. Such was the case on Saturday morning, when my sister and I walked into our local Ralph's grocery store, and as we glanced to the right, we spied a very familiar profile. Here in the flesh, was our very own Michael C. Hall, our beloved serial killer - Dexter Morgan.

Let me tell you about Dexter Morgan. Before I watched the first episode of the (potentially grotesque) series, I was highly skeptical that a network could produce a worthwhile show surrounding a serial killer who killed other serial killers, while managing to maintain a complex cast sifting through situations you'd actually care about. This storyline could have surmounted to a largely egregious lifetime movie, on schedule next to shows featuring screaming women and vast amounts of blood. But writers of Dexter have done no wrong, and continue to keep the plot line enticing with just one question they want to ask: "Are you prepared to like a serial killer?" I can say, that yes, I am. I like him, I really, really do.

So, did I scream? Fortunately for him, I did not, and although I had a camera in my bag, I decided my best course of action would be mustering enough courage to say hello. On this early Saturday morning, he was wearing a baseball cap, and I imagine it was partly to avoid recognition and also, because he probably hadn't taken a shower that morning and therefore was less inclined to take a photo with hyperventilating fans. So, as he finished paying for his coffee, my sister and I stood to the side, and as he walked towards us, I piped up, "Michael." The expression on his face was more Do I know you than Oh, Shit I've been recognized and he obliged us with a handshake as I said, "Hi, we're really big fans of the show." With a humble and quiet "Thank You", Mr. Hall walked away in that familiar stride I've seen every episode on Dexter. With our parting, I walked into a nearby aisle, and silently freaked out behind the chips, celebrating in high-fives and OMG's with my sister, who couldn't believe our luck.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Victoria's Secrets Offers More Than Underwear (If You're Lucky You Get An Angel)

While walking around the office today, I realized that my underwear were not working for me. It was riding and rubbing in all the wrong places, in addition to creating panty lines I hadn't seen after getting dressed this morning; and those are never good (I don't need four butt-cheeks, just the two). Lucky for me, there is a conveniently located Victoria's Secret nearby. So, at 11am this morning, I took a quick break to resolve my situation, jetting over to Vicki's in search of some comfortable underthing.

Upon entering the store, my eyes fixated on every kiosk with panties in sight, I did not notice the commotion going on inside. Then, I turned away from the drawers I had been rifling through and looked up, and before me sat the most famous Angel of them all - Heidi Klum - surrounded by a (surprisingly) small crowd of tween girls getting their photos taken with the model. Paparazzi stood by.

Turns out, Ms. Klum was there to pimp her new makeup line, and proceeded to apply makeup throughout the day on girls such as the one below (not me). I got these frisky snapshots with the help of a friend's iphone.....

Luckily, I found my saving grace and left the store with little fanfare. Woo-hoo!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

One-liners Have Gotten Us Everywhere!

Daily Intel, I salute you! You've not only provided an inordinate stream of somewhat exhaustive news minutiae rolled out into thoughtful and provoking entertainment, but today, you've provided the best sentence of the day: "who has to ask where the hummus is? It's Whole Foods! It's everywhere." Bravo.

I'm not even being sarcastic here. I really do think this is funny, which you either agree with, or unfortunately shows questionable taste in humor. However, as a Whole Foods shopper, I know all too well that the above quote fairly represents a synecdote of what it means to be hummus in a store devoted to healthy eating, and hummus is the tops - right after okra and tofu.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Men in Women's

The man in front of me is wearing striped pajama pants. Although this is a fairly nondescript thing to do on a Sunday morning at 10:30 at Starbucks, these particular pants have a Liz Claiborne tag attached to the outside, and at this moment, for all I know, Liz Claiborne only makes women's clothing.

Viewpoint - Photo by Kesinee Tongtuntrai

To find this sort of eccentricity whenever I drive my crusty car into this licentious landscape of Hollywood is appealing - it's like walking into some sort of strange dream. However, Starbucks might qualify as a bohemian universe unto itself, offering comforting drinks to myriad weary travelers in need - in whatever they're wearing.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Tao of Chuck Klosterman

Chuck Klosterman has perspective to burn. I would bet a large sum of money on his being correct (or at least pursuasive) ninety-five percent of the time, whether or not I personally disagree with his thoughts, particularly as they relate to the age old question "What does it all mean?" Ostensibly, he makes a good point on the subject, on many subjects, and one in particularly is, what's with Publishings' state of affairs? We rank 18 out of 24 nations in terms of the relative effectiveness of our educational system, and routinely have low reading rates of adults across the nation. But that's not all, Culture as a whole generally sucks, countries hate us for the shit we spew out. So, it seems significant to read a passage from Chuck Klosterman's IV, a collection of essays from his days spent writing for Esquire and Spin magazine, who said this:

Photo by Carrie Marshall

"Why, I wondered, do people so often feel let down by popular culture? Why do serious film fans feel disgusted when another stock Tom Hanks movie earns $200 million? Why do record store employees get angry when a band like Comets on Fire comes to town and only twenty-two people pay to see them? Why do highly literate people get depressed when they look at The New York Times Best Sellers list?"
So much of what we see around us, we disagree with. Yet, pop icons, among many facets of society, continue to exist and excel through public support and cultural infrastructure. Chuck continues his thought with this - a juxtaposition of one's own thoughts versus public opinion, or rather - what sells the fastest and in the largest quantities:

"There's always this peculiar disconnect between how people exist in the world and how they think the world is supposed to exist; it's almost as if Americans can't accept an important truth about being alive. And this is the truth to which I refer: culture can't be wrong. That doesn't mean it's always "right," nor does it mean you always have to agree with it. But culture is never wrong. People can be wrong, and movements can be wrong. But culture - as a whole - cannot be wrong. Culture is just there. "

Michael Moore is the best example of Klosterman's statement. I mean, if culture as a whole loves Paris Hilton and continues to promote her for reasons I cannot comprehend, then who I am to contend with popular opinion? I have no stake in her celebrity. If she sells, then market her. In this day and age, with the markets crashing and people desperate for ideas that sell, in a market devoid of originality, then Chuck is right, Culture is not wrong, it's our realistic gossip-gulfing self. The disappointment sets in because our realistic makeup doesn't match our idealism. But....

Photo by Mustafa Calaki

If disagreement with mainstream culture simply means that your ideas aren't preferred, then consider the opposite, by Stephen King, who says, "There is a kind of unspoken (hence undefended and unexamined) belief in publishing circles that the most commercially successful stories and novels are fast-paced....the underlying thought is that people have so many things to do today, and are so easily distracted from the printed word, that you'll lose them unless you become a kind of short-order cook, serving up sizzling burgers, fries, and eggs over easy just as fast as you can. Like so many unexamined beliefs in the publishing business, this idea is largely bullshit...which is why, when books like Umberto Eco's The Name of The Rose or Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain suddenly break out of the pack and climb the best-seller lists, publishers and editors are astonished. I suspect that most of them ascribe these books' unexpected success to unpredictable and deplorable lapses into good taste on the part of the reading public."

I think, we all liked McDonalds hamburgers, and look where that got us. Fast food and bigger belts - can you consider these ostensibly unintended consequences the "not wrong" taste of Culture? Or is Chuck Klosterman's assertion that culture's not wrong or right just really saying that culture is the result of freedom of choice, and where we're at is the result of freedom, not taste, because from what I can tell - we don't have any.

Photo by Mauricio Quiroga - Miami's Memorial Statue

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Daily Intel

Daily Intel, the New York Magazine blog, dissected the Wall Street Crisis today from the perspective of its dependent reporters. Amidst vociferate end-of-the-world declarations for Wall Street and countless speculations on our formidable future across all markets, including jobs, journalists now enlist themselves as newfangled martyrs.
Photo by Corey Tester

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Why There's Traffic In Silverlake

At this point, I'm not even trying to find this information. Two and a Half sitcom writers left in L.A. is a nondescript story about the state of affairs in the business of Hollywood concerning it's now mostly out of work writers. In reality, maybe it's bigger than that, as my Producer neighbor is now in the bread line. It's the economy, it's Wall Street, it's the mortgage crisis, or it's because the amateurs are taking over.

The Thumbs Up for Leslie Hall

Many outlets, such as YouTube and Napster, are channels that can circumvent institutional and expensive (i.e. to apply for industry jobs, you'll need a short film as a CV, costing upwards of $20,000) obstacles standing in the way of unrecognized brilliant and marketable ideas, like a big F-U to a system that doesn't easily let anyone but Ivy Leaguers get in; a way to communicate with masses of people who would support and demand more of what you put in front of them by way of cold hard cash through media deals and artist partnerships. As in, Leslie Hall and her Gem Sweater riffs.

I can't wait to see where this gets us.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

For Whom The Bell Tolls

Funeral Bell: Photo by Steven Stokan

As mentioned yesterday, journalism is now one big communal discussion; and there's no standard bar to measure the quality of information suffusing itself through amateur or journalistic outlets nationwide and abroad (even my own writings here). It's led to a lackdaisical attitude and general indifference towards the quality of writing and stories, and now we're addicted to sensational news and getting it at breakneck speed. It's all taken for granted.

Here we are: quotes from The New York Observer, "The story burns more intensely and then it burns out more quickly,” said Jonathan Alter, the Newsweek writer, musing about the life cycle of pieces. “And there’s so much information and so much political coverage that it’s easy for good stories to be lost entirely in that register.”

“Very few of these stories have a long finish,” said Michael Duffy, the nation editor for Time. “The gong dissipates quickly.”

“My instinct is that there is such cacophony of commentary that it does sometimes drown out ideas from good and deeply reported journalism,” said Marcus Brauchli, the executive editor of The Washington Post.

“In the Internet age, the cycle is constant and people don’t really have time to reflect all day on a single story in the newspaper,” he added. “And it’s more difficult to set the agenda for very long.”

Our 'Hobbesian State'...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Coffin Nails/Food For The Silverfish

Yesterday ended with the glorious culmination of a prolonged search for a rarefied treasure. In my formative years, I was a carnivorous reader (and can still largely claim that title), spending magnanimous amounts of time in my elementary school's tiny library. In this library, I discovered a passion for fairy tale's and corresponding literature, such as a poem devoted to the woe's of a greedy child and the lengths her sister goes to save her. Comprised of goblins, golden hair, fruit and a moral in there somewhere - the scene would enact itself out in my head. Then I graduated and didn't really think about this story or other tales I had read. Years later, in college, these stories reappeared in my conscience and I had to have them back. I scoured the internet, I went back to my elementary school (thrown out - or something - that crochety old librarian!) , but the books I had loved were gone. I wasn't finished. I was armed with just the plot line.

Photo by Javier Cruzado

Yesterday, I laid out the plot of one title, called Shadow Castle to a co-worker (ok, I knew two of the titles, this one and The Woodcutter's Daughter). It sounded to her like Plato's Allegory of The Cave, and she urged me to Wiki it. Instead, I got online and thought - I'll look on Amazon - just real quick.

I love Amazon, it offers many opportunities with its money saving options and grouping of booksellers from across the U.S. We go a long way back, and I've never had a bad experience, only impatience while waiting for items to arrive in the mail. So, there we were, face to face - me and my favored website, hoping it wouldn't fail me now. There it was, Shadow Castle by Marian Cockrell and Olive Bailey (back in print), and others such as George Macdonald's likened tales to Tolkein, but I still didn't have my poem filled with Goblins. I went back online and typed in elements of the plot via Google. Through some obscure discussion group, I found it - Christina Rossetti's Goblin's Market. How come I couldn't find this all before?
Dead Hour: Photo by Jason Larkin

To read this poem now, I'd never have guessed I read it first as a small 3rd grader. It is not the definition of facile. I assume the tales' proclivity towards strange and creepy made its mark, as I tend to read things of chthonic nature to this day, albeit less demons and more dark. Only, my lengthy search reveals one thing - it is my tactile satisfaction of a book that enhances its enjoyment (i.e. crumpled pages of a well-read tome). It is poignant then, that the future of rarefied books and their availability (juxtaposed against cyber-want-it-now-mentality-craving culture) is coming to a crippling end. Publishing had another nail hammered into it's coffin yesterday, and I'm concerned. Who cares enough to maintain books integrity? Must they all shuffle into public libraries and private collections in lieu of Amazon's Kindle and iphone's online newspapers? Like the way of Lehman's and AGI, with reclining newspaper and magazine distribution rates, low reading statistics and the ease of our digital age, we're all in for a nosedive.

Looking Back: Photo by Garry Rafaele

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Watching TV Is Not An Exercise

I worry about my brain.

Yesterday I wanted to pour coffee on my salad even before I sat down to eat it (maybe lumping that in with brain malfunction is a little presumptuous since I was eating tofu and spinach, and really who wouldn't want it to taste like something, anything else than what it actually is?). Nevertheless, I was having visions of doing this act while reading/eating in Barnes & Noble across from my office. Am I forgetting my vitamins?

Photo by John Baird

I don't have cable TV. I have TV, I just don't have the multi-channel surf wonderment that is 150 channels of digital information at its best, with the exception of all gaming options of Tomb Raider (only you, Lara). Anyway, thanks to my empty pockets, I won't pony up the funds to pay for the 145 channels I will never watch, even with the option that I will get to watch Showtime's Dexter Season 3 (I love you Michael C. Hall!) with a $80 dollar upgrade (I don't love you that much). So, with just 28 channels of network TV, 20 of which are in Spanish, I'm left with two choices, KCET's channel 15, or Fox's channel 11. Fox loses because The Simpsons are not on, and therefore, at 8:30pm at night, I'm left with KCET's public programming. Lucky me, it's about brain fitness and rightly called The Brain Fitness Program hosted by a former famous actor, whose name I can't recall. Where are those vitamins?

Photo by M.S. White

Dr. Jason Karlawish has a lot to say, so I'm listening intently, but as all programming goes, they cut to commercial and I realize they're hocking a Brain Fitness Video (Like Brain Age? Um, no. I imagine Richard Simmons - Fitness for Your 50's). I was watching based on the promise of educational content; free unencumbered access to it (where's my tivo?). I'm out. I think I'll stick to chess, I hear that can be good for your brain too.

Is The Price Right? Goats Concur

How economic and green is it to transport 100 goats into the midst of Los Angeles denizens? Minus the transportation costs and exhaust, it's resulted in a savings of $4,500 (human hires cost $7,500, goats go for $3,000 all in) for The Community Redevelopment Agency, inaguarated in 1948 to clean up the town so to speak - at least when it concerns housing.

In their owns words, "The Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA/LA) of the City of Los Angeles is a public agency established to attract private investment into economically depressed communities, eliminate slums, abandoned or unsafe properties, and blight throughout Los Angeles," - Thus the Corona Bearded Goats acting as clean-up crew to a weedy and steep hillside, known as Angels Knoll, in smoggy downtown Los Angeles. Assuming it's been good to the terrain (imagine the fertilizer!) in aesthetics and savings, it might not be the last time we see this atypical sight.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Chuck Klosterman Made A Funny Joke

Photo by Chloe Scheffe

Chuck Klosterman uses words like abject, schism and ungulate. I sulkily admit I had to look up their meanings. Reading a half hour of Chuck Klosterman's disquisitional essays in A Decade Of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas is mind-blowing on this level. I assume a well-thumbed thesaurus is always with him; but I have no proof beyond his particular, intellectual and varied, speech staccato peppering all his work. I'm in awe, but not in love.

I'm alone in my lovelessness - there are those who are head over heels: two friends of mine are crushing on Chuck because, as Lauren Salazar from Daily Intel put it, he's got a 'nerdy hotness' about him that makes you sympathize with his wistful fictional characters (he says that "No one ever has sex in his books because he identifies more with people being rejected") and quirky personal real-life stories. Just select a piece from Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, a running commentary on pop culture and its icons - an extension of his comprehensive work - and you'll find a man colored by hilarious juvenile tales and a keen awareness of how to translate what happens around him into a contextualized concept.

When asked if he had a critical aesthetic, which sounds to me like a question about his particular brand of presentation, he says, "I don't know that I have an aesthetic, really. If I do, it would be that I think there are people who want to think critically about the art that engages their life, and I think you can do that with any kind of art. There's this belief that some things can be taken seriously in an intellectual way, while some things are only entertainment or only a commodity. Or there's some kind of critical consensus that some things are "good," and some things are garbage, throwaway culture. And I think the difference between them, in a lot of ways, is actually much less than people think. Especially when you get down to how they affect the audience. So when I write, I don't think it necessarily matters what I'm writing about. I think it matters the way I think about it. The chord changes, and the lyrics on a record have value, but their real value is how they shape the way people look at their own lives."

Although Chuck states that no one can really write an objective piece because it's based on the author's "subjective objectivity," he nevertheless strikes a chord with partakers of pop culture; I think that chord is a collective sense of cynism. In his own words, "I think there's an element of cynicism in my writing, but I'm an optimistic cynic."

Photo by Ellen Choi

Monday, July 21, 2008

Fly Away

On Saturday night I was irritated by a fly. I have no idea how it got into my apartment, and I'm wondering if I have a hole in a window screen somewhere. I unsuccessfully tried to kill it with a roll of paper towels - for half an hour. The fly made dinner making more complicated, as it kept hovering over my chicken bits and veggies, coming within millimeters of my about-to-be-devoured meal. Then I lost the fly's location and decided I had hit it enough to knock it unconscious and send it flailing into some dusty corner.

I woke up on Sunday around 9am. Intent on meeting a friend at the Pasadena Descanso gardens, I hurriedly got dressed, cooked up a breakfast of eggs and bacon, and heated yesterday's coffee in the microwave. I got dressed, ate breakfast and finished my coffee with the exception of one gulp remaining. I grabbed my keys, my purse, put on my shoes and reached for my cup. With the last sip, a clump of what I thought was coffee grinds hit my lips. I stopped and looked into my cup to investigate the confusing dark mass. Guess that fly got the best of me - it had been steeping its flavor in my cup o' joe. Looking back at me, there it was - dead, on the cusp of my cup.

How many diseases do you think I just inherited?

Monday, July 7, 2008

Reporting: From The Streets

Ingenuity is often the result of dire straights.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

How Pretty It Is

Boom! Pfizzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz! Whiz! are the sounds of streamers exploding around me in the dark. I sit with 10 others in a diminutive theater as a man playing an organ, as if in an old western, slowly descends into the floor of the stage in front of us. The music, the soundtrack to a full length feature drama, swells and lights flicker in the displays on either side of the stage, highlighting the faces of plaster cast replicas of characters from Narnia. The organ player drops completely out of sight, and the heavy velvet curtain is quickly pulled upward as previously obscured stage props, in the form of a thick forest overgrown with moss, appear.

The stage ignites and theatrics ensue with the appearance of a man in knightly costume who mysteriously appears, leaps onto a stone wall and draws his sword. He rushes around the scene, he is alone and in search of something. Suddenly, the denouement erupts in a dramatic fury of his arm as he brings his drawn sword upward and points at a floating stone that says 'NARNIA.' The lights dim and the feature presentation begins.

This is the opening scene for the movie The Chronicles Of Narnia: Prince Caspian at El Capitan Theatre. The place is a merry go round of Disney infused aspiration. Props displayed everywhere, walls covered with fake brick walls, synthetic moss leaking out of cracks, large signs with chalk-written directions pointing the way, and a low ceiling to consummate the cozy atmosphere; all with the intent to take you to an imaginary place once you've stepped inside. I can see why El Capitan draws the under 10 crowd. At first, I thought my hubby and I had bought tickets for a play, instead of the feature length film.

El Capitan is across from Grauman's Chinese Theater, a perfect pit stop for entertaining tiny adults and their older counterparts in need of a rest. The theater only showcases one feature at a time, with accessories to match and smiling staff to point the way to your velvet covered seat. Their particular presentation effectuates a riveting cinematic adventure by providing its viewer with a sensory experience and hopefully, a story to tell your friends.

When I leave at 2 o'clock in the morning with the other theater patrons, I am greeted with a waving white-gloved hand and a cheerful 'goodbye.' Steadfast to the end, the staff acts out an exquisite bravura conclusion to the nights performance.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Dead Birds & Cold Feet

One breezy Sunday afternoon, my hubby and I made the time sucking drive to Malibu in hopes that we might secure a nice spot for a sunset walk on a relatively secluded beach. With little fanfare, we find El Matador State Beach and drift into the hidden dirt parking lot, pay the $4 dollar fee for our time there, and practically slide down some scarily steep wooden steps down to the sand. The wind was gusty and very cool, matching the temperature of the water and it's viscious waves slapping themselves against immense craggy bedrock and splashing inside small caves located at the base of the cliff and the end of the shore. The people here were lounging quietly, and I manage to bump into a woman carrying multiple composition notebooks (must be a writer). First we head South and come upon a wedding taking place. They are crowding together to take photos, and the groom picks up his bride in his arms to save her from the fray. Adjacent to the merry group, what looks like a magazine photo shoot is in session (tall model, photographer, lighting assistants, etc.) and beach goers are pleasantly watching the scene. we walked on, our feet sinking into cold sand with each step.

The shore is not very long, its width superficial, as in high tide there seems to be no beach to walk on. El Matador is very rocky, making it more fun to dodge the rushing water and giant seaweed balls, but resulting in stretched toes and sore heels. I almost feel as if I'm visiting a shivery stony beach in San Francisco. I need a thicker jacket.

Within a matter of minutes, the beach ends and we turn to meander towards the Northern Shore. It is far less rocky and broader than its counterpart. More domesticated, it is covered with private homes, their children and parents out playing ball or attempting to surf in the waves. After passing a saddening lifeless bird, and what looks like clear gobs of what must be jellyfish, we decide to head out.

Once more we turn, and the view is breathtaking. The waves have splashed up enough spray to illuminate the large rocks on the southern end of the beach in an illusion of mist, the low sun spreading its rays in sparkles across the water and casting a filmy glow. The cliff stands firm in the background, it's moss and tentacled flora reaching down to the cream colored silt. Imagine the setting of an Irish folktale.

Finally, I arrive at my first exclamation - such a magnificent panorama cannot be accurately pictured by yours truly. You'll see I'm no picture pro, but the outline of the reality still shines through. As far as secluded beaches go, we've yet to test this beach on a hot sunny day when crowds are at their worst, but it looks like this beach may be more a local spot than tourist traveled. Clandestine beaches are hard to come by, but El Matador appears to fit the bill. With this in mind, the next sunny day that requires a bathing suit will take place at this discrete destination.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Stranger To Me, Stranger To Them

Once every two weeks or so, my sister and I turn to each other and automatically know that what we need at the moment is a gigantic burger surrounded by mannequins dressed as cowboys and cowgirls alongside a 'smoking' campfire and a bull ride to match. Thus is the state of our local watering hole and tourist trap, Saddle Ranch. The best spot at this place is outside, as the inside is dark, crowded and for some reason, always smells like apple pie. Nothing wrong with that, but the real draw is the people watching. Sunset Boulevard is just a few feet away once you're on the deck of the restaurant. You can catch an eye-full of the camera-toting mid-western troupes, crowding in atop a double-decker, or pitifully shitty bus, gleefully driving by as they gaze with thoughtless looks at their surroundings. They stare at us and we stare right back, give our heads a tilt, and laugh. We are all on the same page at the moment, we are all tasting the superficial sights and sounds of Hollywood. These conspicuous traveling groups triapse around Hollywood in sneakers and hawaiian tees, visiting every man-made contrivance known as a landmark, including Saddle Ranch (Sex and The City anyone - look it up). Tourists are hilarious.

You can watch tourist group think all over Hollywood. Driving past the Chinese Theatre is a good start, especially during a premiere! Mostly pudgy, sneaker clad tourists push themselves together and crowd the streets, trying to get a peek at any celebrity they can. On days where there are not premieres, an emaciated Spider-man poses outside the theatre, next to a very chubby Marilyn Monroe, a demon on stilts, cinderella, Chucky and a frozen golden man. Sometimes Spongebob and Homer Simpson join in alongside a a tree on stilts as he tries to blend in with the flora so he can bend down to scare passerbys. I imagine these charactes make a pretty penny from all the photos (you're supposed to tip!) they work for each day.

In all my years traveling across the U.S. and living in two of the top tourist destinations, I never once remember actually making a point to go on the duck tour (Miami - look it up) or ride on a bus destined for celebrities homes and the Hollywood sign while sitting next to sweaty strangers as we bump along the Sunset Strip. I always prefer the less traveled route and local coffee shops. So why the bus? I will never understand the draw, except on the most basic level of knowing that these patrons are foreigners and simply need something convenient. I imagine that one of these days, I'll decide to test out and visit the tourist traps; Everyone should see a bit of the characteristic traits of their 'hometown'. Till then, I raise my beer to those who add to Hollywood's extraordinary atmosphere and chose to brave the masses and rub elbows with all those fellow tourists before me!