28°C to 4°C [80°F to 40°F] in 24 hours!
So now I’m back home. Back in Ireland, back to the damp and the cold, back in corduroy trousers and thick flannel shirt and a heavy sweater. Los Angeles is almost like a dream I had. Except for the long, long flights in tiny Economy Class seats (Americans call it Coach, which is closer to the truth). That was nothing like a dream, not even a nightmare, just cramped and boring. There was one bright, amusing stewardess from North Yorkshire who made it better than terrible, but she was up against it. We agreed the breakfast the Americans loaded on in L.A. was disgusting, an almost stale bun, a thin spread of jam (for breakfast?!), and a packet of something they called Craisins, dried cranberries, about as appetising as sand. I must write to BA. That breakfast let them down big time, as the Yanks say.
The view from my hotel window
So my trip to L.A. wasn’t a dream, at least, not in the strict sense of the word. Maybe as metaphor. A dream I will dream of repeating until that happy day comes along when I get back there. People are generally in a good, friendly, helpful mood, the kind of mood only sunny weather can guarantee. No big crowds on the sidewalks, even the Freeways weren’t too jammed up, and outside of Downtown the side roads were mostly empty or nearly so.
Downtown the streets are wide, like a city in Africa where the streets were designed by the colonial powers to be wide enough to turn a cart drawn by a team of eight bullocks. In L.A. I guess they were designed to allow a long, wide, chrome finned Cadillac or a Lincoln or an Oldsmobile or somesuch to make a U-Turn in one simple manoeuvre. I didn’t see any big finned Caddys, I didn’t see any big old American automobiles at all. Nowadays it’s all squat European-style cars, good on economy, petrol consumption, minimum friction, aerodynamic design. Just no romance, no nostalgia, no fulfilling of my personal American dream. So it wasn’t a dream.
The skies were all but continuous sparkling, unbroken blue, with the sun high overhead at midday, but the heat mitigated by the soft breezes coming off the Pacific Ocean and the tunnelling of air between the high-rise blocks of Downtown. One morning dawn revealed some cloud cover, and one night the breeze strengthened to a wind, but that was all. Mostly it was warm enough for shirtsleeves but cool enough for a jacket if the occasion demanded it. There were such occasions in the Science Of Fiction Festival I came to attend and I’ll be writing about that event in an article for www.cgsociety.org in a couple of weeks or so.
The great thing about travelling for work is you have places to go, people to meet, not just wandering around the sights or sitting in your hotel. My hotel was the Doubletree by Hilton, and a lovely place to sit around, but I only ate there occasionally and spent a little time in the mornings writing the daily blog you may have seen here. Otherwise I was out. When I am in a new city I like to walk as much as possible, and ride on public transport. In a taxi or a car all you see is out of the windscreen, and the only people you meet are the drivers.
On the buses I rode (the M720 Rapid route, that runs from near to my hotel, a stop on the corner of 5th and Main all the way down to Santa Monica) I saw a cross section of the citizens of L.A. I spoke with a Romanian lady who gave me her number should I need to rent an apartment from her and her husband,
and a lovely woman who talked to me after we got off the bus and told me about the artists quarter nearby, and a couple of quick witted young students. Everyone welcomed me, as did the people I met in the lifts of the hotel and on the campus at USC, the scene of the Festival. I also took a Metro train, back from Hollywood and Vine (a corner every Rock ‘n Roller surely must visit) after roaming up and down Hollywood Boulevard, to see Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, and the stars on the pavement. Two pleasant cops told me where to go to get the Metro. The cops had the closest to the American cars we remember, but really they were just Fords or something, nothing truly glamorous, not even in Hollywood.
I did a little sightseeing, the Museum Of Contemporary Art and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (MOCA and LAMCA).
Andy Warhol – Shadows (3 of 89)
Claes Oldenburg – Table
Jim Shaw – Massed Police With Rifles (Graphite on Paper)
Sculpture outside MOCA
This was on the advice of my friend Chris, whom I met on a TV series project in Pinewood ten years ago. You know a good friend when ten years don’t make a blind bit of difference, you just start chatting and you don’t stop until the next appointment pulls you away. Chris met me at LAMCA and we drank a couple of beers before going across the road to eat at the truck canteens parked on the side of Wilshire Boulevard, excellent tacos, with enough of a breeze to make it hard to hold onto your paper napkin. I will go and stay a few days with my good friend Chris next time I’m over there, get the feel of an L.A. home.
After lunch I dropped into LAMCA, but my time was short, partly because I had an appointment later, partly because I’d already been through MOCA and there’s just so much time I can spend in a museum before my mind shuts down.
Then it was my last evening. As a birthday treat, another friend, Scott, took me to dinner in Malibu. He said he wanted to give me the L.A. experience and he did that alright.
It began with a roaring, fast ride down the Santa Monica Freeway in his open-topped two-seater Mercedes, the wind in our hair, whipping past the stream of traffic heading for the coast, then cruising along the Pacific Highway with its houses perilously close to the ocean, eventually to arrive at a restaurant called Duke’s, named for its founder, a famed Hawaiian, so Scott told me, winner of Olympic medals and a master of everything from swimming to surfing and anything else you can do on the sea, an elegant looking gentleman whose name I cannot find. Duke something presumably.
Scott insisted on our drinking Maitais, which we carried to our table beside a window where the ocean was almost banging on the glass. The food was spectacular, all fresh ingredients for the starter and main courses. I had delicious battered prawns to begin with, and tuna steak seared just the cooked side of raw, with the necessary accompaniments, salad and so on. Delicious. Then Scott suggested I try the house special for pudding – a giant slice of an unimaginable cake, eight inches tall at least and a slice maybe five inches wide at the outside. It was solid ice-cream flavoured with little specks of fruit and covered in a thick coating of chocolate with spray-on cream arranged like a judicial wig at the back. I chomped away at it for about ten minutes and it still didn’t look as if I had even started on it.
So now I’m home. I love my home. It is a beautiful place to live. But I know I’m going to miss L.A.