Prowling in Hollywood


Santa Monica Blvd. and San Vicente

Yesterday morning I decided that I would take the Amtrak train in to the city again, to walk around, sketch and maybe shoot some photos. I’d also planned on riding the Metro rail and checking out a number of stations. Each station was designed by different artists, and I wanted to take a self-guided tour.

Well, the train from Irvine to Union Station was *packed*–I was definitely surprised, as the last time we took it, there was still plenty of room to sit. Folks were lining the passageways, some sitting down in the aisles for the journey. Most of them were Hispanic. Were they all going to the Olvera Street market, I wondered? Once I got to Union Station, I hopped onto the North Hollywood Metro line, intending to ride it to Highland and then backward down the line, checking out each station as I went. The train stopped and I was swept in by the crowd, pushing their way into the train. I was lucky to find a seat. At each stop MORE people crammed themselves into the trains. (How? I can’t even begin to understand; something like seeing how many people can cram into a Volkswagen Beetle). These people were obviously not the well-mannered, habitual subway users. Even during rush hour in Montreal, there is a certain etiquette, a certain courtesy, extended to your fellow-commuter… a communal conscience. These folks had NO inkling that such a thing existed, the way they were pushing their way in. A touch of claustrophobia hit, but by the time we arrived at the Highland station, the crowd had thinned out enough so that I could actually make my way to the doors and got out without any drama. There went that plan…


March 25th, 2006 Anti-Immigration Law Protest
(click on image to get to http://www.actionla.org)

Come to find out, there was a massive protest in downtown L.A. yesterday, regarding an Anti-Immigrant Law. So it was me and a million of my closest friends. Well, that explains it.

Instead, I ambled along Hollywood Boulevard for a bit, stopping at the Starbucks for a coffee and a vanilla cupcake (by golly those things are good!) and then I decided to walk down to Sunset to check out Meltdown Comics. I walked through the neighbourhoods looking at different elements that I may have wanted to photograph or draw, but I didn’t want to stop because I was on a mission. And… truth of the matter is, I’ve not walked for a very long time, and I figured that if I stopped, it would be difficult to get my butt to move again, and I didn’t want to get “stuck” in a spot where I’d have to call a cab to haul me out of… too far from the closest Metro station to get back to Union Station in time to catch the train. My camera, as I discovered, is too f*cking heavy to lug around… LOVE it, but damn it’s mighty uncomfortable to carry around in a bag slung around my shoulder. I’ve decided that I will soon invest in either a camera phone, or a small digital camera which doesn’t weigh a ton. I had a second bag with my wallet, etc., and my drawing tools and Moleskines. And… I always feel like such a fraud when I pull this bigass camera out of my bag to shoot photos, when I’m so not the “pro” photog.

Anyway… I get to Meltdown and think I’m going to faint (partly due to the fact that I’ve just walked one and one tenth of a mile, and partly because of the sheer VOLUME of stuffage). I also determine that I smell like a wet dog and feel appropriately embarrassed. Perusing the aisles, I find some gems: a couple of zine-like comics books–Stories from the Ward, Book Three, by Lark Pien. The cover looks like it was printed with a Gocco, which suckered me in immediately. The second gem was Celso 3, Timmy’s Happy Day by Celso. Weird. Twisted. I *like* it! Some very good line art. It’s all inspiration. The third book I picked up is a compilation of comic strips from a variety of artists, all bound into a very cool tome: Headstatic (ed. Jay A. Hacker III). Wow… the line art is amazing and the stories are good. For twelve bucks, this was a steal. And finally, the ‘piece-de-resistance’… “La memoire de l’ame” (The Memory of the Soul), a collaboration between Jean Giraud (aka Moebius) and Jean-Jacques Launier. It is an illustrated novel whose illustrations are nothing short of breathtaking. I’m looking forward to reading through it–it’s been a while since I’ve read anything substantial in French.

By this time I’m getting rather hungry, and since I haven’t really had any breakfast (cup of coffee at home; a chai tea latte and a vanilla cupcake at Starbucks) I’m getting famished. But I don’t want to eat just *anywhere*–I decide that I would walk down Fairfax to Santa Monica Boulevard, and head down Santa Monica until I reach all of the restaurants near Melrose. I stop at yet another Starbucks and sit down with a Mocha. This is definitely a caffeine-fueled excursion. I made it as far as Robertson Blvd. and pretty much ran out of steam. Skewers was the place of choice for lunch/dinner (at around 5PM at this point) where I had a couple of skewers of chicken and lamb chunks, a bowlful of Jasmine rice and some pita and hummus. Yum! It was good, but I’m sure better than ever because I was starving! I left there to head back to the Metro, so that I’d get to Union Station in time to catch my southbound train. While waiting for the 304 bus at the corner of Santa Monica Blvd. and San Vicente, I pulled out my camera to shoot some streaming light photos. I’d felt too self-conscious all day to pull my camera out, but now that darkness had fallen, I didn’t mind so much (and hoped no one would notice). I snapped a couple of long exposure shots of the intersection, leaning the camera against my chest for stability. While I was doing this, a black man who was walking by said “You shooting pictures of all the gays?” “No,” I replied, “I’m shooting pictures of the lights.” “Yeah, there are lots of lights. But anyway, I *am* gay.” ??? Like I care about his sexual orientation?

I’ve conceded that although L.A. is a big metropolitan city, it has a different feel to it than others I’ve been in. It has a juvenile delinquent feel to it… like every person that ever decided that they didn’t want to grow up lives here, and is in your face about it. It’s the teenager wanting to be looked upon as sophisticated, but clunking around in shoes that are too big, and heels too high. It also has a layer of grime to it; not a carefully aged antique grime, like the grime of, say, New York, but more like a bar room floor kind of grime, where folks have been flicking their cigarette ashes all night and using it as a spittoon–that kind of grime. It made me feel like I needed a shower (and I probably did).

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