“I feel that there are too many realities. What I set down here is true until someone else passes that way and rearranges the world in his own style. In literary criticism the critic has no choice but to make over the victim of his attention into something the size and shape of himself. […] So much there is to see, but our morning eyes describe a different world than do our afternoon eyes, and surely our wearied evening eyes can report only a weary evening world.” John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley in Search of America
Well, I’m sure that the L.A. I’ve seen is different than the L.A. seen by you, by other travelers, by L.A. natives or Americans from other regions. If I’d go there again, I’ll probably come back with a different taste and feeling about the City of Angels.
This time, the L.A. I’ve seen during five days in September 2015 was a captivating, unbelievable and intriguing place where I could even consider living. It was one of the few cases when reality surpassed expectations.
A difficult start
Yet, the first day wasn’t easy. We’ve spent hours and hours in the highway jams, between Santa Barbara and L.A. Confused by the trillions of exits, lanes and overlapping highways, we had even had a small accident, but luckily we’ve solved it without any fuss. It must have been Julien’s sweet French accent persuaded the guys driving the Fiat 500 we ran into not to file a claim at the Police.
Things didn’t get much better at the place where we were staying. We found a room in a big “collocation” of humans, cats and iguanas in Korea Town, the “Lemon Lodge”. The room was sunny and large, but also covered in dust and cat hair. So the first thing was to ask for a vacuum cleaner. I think Darwin, who soon proved to be a marvelous host, was at first pestered by our cleaning mania.
Getting into the right mood in Korea Town
In the evening, we have spent a lot of time with Darwin and his friends, young people working in the cinema industry, of course. We’ve chattered about movies, actors, film directors, about L.A. and its secrets, about the neighborhood and the people sleeping at night on the verandas, about Texas, Amsterdam, France and the entire world. It felt more like CouchSurfing than Airbnb, as our hosts have spent a lot of time with us, offering us good companionship and advice. The weather was perfect, the beers were cold. From time to time, helicopter flyovers made us think we were part of a police movie.
As a European, I found it bizarre to take the highway inside the city. Want to go downtown? Take Highway X. Want to go to the beach? Take Highway Y. But L.A. is not a simple city. It’s indeed a complex conglomerate.
“There’s more to the picture than meets the eye”, as Neil Young would say. Much, much more.
Although I can’t say exactly why, L.A. felt somehow familiar. Maybe it’s because of all the movies we’ve seen, that faithfully seize and reflect the spirit of this city. Or maybe this familiarity came with the music. In the car, the KLOS radio station played the music that I was listening in my childhood or teenage years or later as an adult. It is more than familiarity: it felt like home.
Thank you Darwin for initiating us into the secrets of the Salvadorian kitchen! The pupusas we have tried a couple of blocks away from the Lemon Lodge were de-li-cious, doesn’t even matter that they were filled with GMOs, which clashes with our nutrition habits and standards. The pupusas and other Salvadorian specialties were mouthwatering, the people around were talking Spanish and watching soccer on the TV. There was also a big jukebox with kitsch CDs spinning inside and reflecting the light beams on the walls. We were under the spell.
L.A.'s 1000 faces
A five-days visit of Los Angeles it’s just a scratch on the surface of Mars. However, it’s enough to grasp some intriguing paradoxes. The funky night life of the Arts District and its fascinating choice of beers. The homeless “base camps” contrasting with the luxurious mansions in Beverly Hills and Hollywood. The lively Santa Monica and its pontoons versus the stiff Malibu hills looking deep into the Pacific. The scorched L.A. river flowing through the concrete bed as memento of a “dying city”. The painful issue of water supply that’s drying the Mono Lake. The shopping malls spreading their air conditioning through the wide open windows. The luxury motorbike design shops like Roland Sands. The night helicopters, the highways, the burger bars, the Sunset Boulevard, the Hall of Fame…
Everything about L.A. – good or bad, happy or sad – is just captivating.