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!