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!

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