Monday, February 7, 2011
Day 172: Los Angeles
Pasadena to Hollywood. 16 miles/3323.8 total
Monday, February 7, 2011
9:40 a.m. I’m leaving from Euclid and Bellevue in Pasadena, heading for Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood, a distance of 16 miles. I have chosen to divide the last two days into two relatively short walks, in part because the traffic is intense here and cuts into the time, and also because there’s so much to see in the city.
This is it; I’m getting right down to it. It took me the better part of the afternoon yesterday to drive out these walks, snaking through Los Angeles, and I’m glad I decided to do it in advance, because it would have consumed far too much time had I tried to do it in the morning before I started.
I’ve abandoned the walking vest in favor of a somewhat more urbane lightweight jacket, which still has its share of pockets. I’ll have no need to carry extra water or supplies—almost every street corner has something to offer.
It should get up into the mid-70s today under typically cloudless skies, a beautiful day for walking.
Once I get back on Colorado Boulevard I turn left, and within two blocks I’m past the downtown section, going uphill. I pass the Norton Simon Museum, which I've heard has a very fine collection. I will visit during the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned beyond the end of tomorrow, as I’ll be reporting on a few things here in southern California.
At about two miles into the walk I cross the Colorado Street Bridge, high over a gorge and a river. It was built during the first half of the last century when things were a little less purely utilitarian and automobile-centered than they are today, and features attractive light posts with globes and sidewalks on both sides complete with benches where you can sit and watch the cars go by. This attention to pedestrian detail is a vestige of a time when many more people walked around than they do today.
Over my right shoulder the mountains are dotted about halfway up with houses. For a mile or two I remain in Pasadena, but when I get to Figueroa Street I see a post office that says Los Angeles. So it’s official.
I’m in the area called Eagle Rock. Like many large municipalities Los Angeles is made up of lots of small communities that have been incorporated into the larger city. Eagle Rock is part of L.A., as are Hollywood and Bel Air, for example, through which I will be walking.
I pass the Oinkster Restaurant, advertising hamburgers, pastrami, and chicken, but where’s the oink? I go by the First Congregational Church, organized in 1887, now the Los Angeles Filipino American U.C.C. church.
I think my readers will understand that I can’t possibly describe in detail, or do justice to, a city like Los Angeles, nor do I wish to walk through the whole thing. I’ll be going through the nicer northern edges on my march to the sea. At any rate, my own description of the city wouldn’t add much to what’s already been said about it.
At 4.8 miles I turn left on Eagle Rock Road, heading more or less south. It’s a street of small older shops that exist to serve the local population. The dogwoods are blooming and it feels like spring here.
At 6.8 miles I strike over to Fletcher on Avenue 36, and at 7.6 miles I’m going up San Fernando in the direction of Los Feliz. I’ve temporarily left L.A. and entered Glendale, a city of about 210,000 which is filled with Armenians—social clubs, churches, stores, all with signs in English and a Semitic-looking script that I assume is Armenian. The name Ararat seems to show up frequently. Serious-looking old bald men and short women walk the streets.
At 8.7 miles I turn left onto Los Feliz and soon re-enter the City of Los Angeles. I'll mention here that L.A. is the second most populous city in the U.S. with over 4 million people. It was officially begun in 1781 as El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de los Angeles del Rio de Porciuncula--the Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels on the Porciuncula River. The river has been renamed the Los Angeles River and the name has been shortened considerably.
I put the iPod on and play “L.A. Woman” by the Doors. Soon I cross I-5 and begin to go by Griffith Park. At the front of the park there’s a statue, and I go over to investigate. It’s Griffith Jenkins Griffith, 1850-1919, after whom the park was named. Griffith was born in Wales and came to this country at the age of 15, eventually making his way to the west coast, first to San Francisco and later to L.A. He made a fortune as a mining expert. In 1896 he and his wife donated over 3,000 acres of their 4,000 acre estate here in Los Feliz to the city.
In 1903 Colonel Griffith, as he was known (although there’s no record of his ever having been in the military), shot his wife at the Arcadia Hotel in Santa Monica, as she knelt in front of him. She wasn’t killed, but lost an eye and was disfigured. At the trial it came out that Griffith was a heavy drinker and suffered from paranoid delusions. He was sentenced to two years in San Quentin and his wife divorced him. He got out of prison and lived for another 13 years. When he died he left 1.5 million dollars to the city for the construction of the Greek Theater and the Griffith Observatory here in the park. I suspect, but cannot prove, that his having the same first and last names led to his unbalanced behavior. Like Sirhan Sirhan, Humbert Humbert, or Louie Louie, this does not bode well. Something to consider when naming your child.
As I head up Los Feliz the apartments and houses get more luxurious, and many are large Spanish-style structures dating from the middle of the 20th century. It’s hilly and shady and well-settled and affluent. What magnificent houses they are here in the hills above Hollywood. Wrought iron gates and multiple luxury cars abound. Latin American gardeners, landscapers, and nannies wait on the white man.
I tumble downhill past another entrance to Griffith Park, and at 12.3 miles Los Feliz takes a sharp turn to the left and becomes Western Avenue. I’m heading south. At 12.6 miles I turn right onto Hollywood Boulevard. I pass a mural of a young Johnny Cash painted on the side of a building. With his slick fifties hair and weak pouting mouth Johnny looks like a gay hustler who would be right at home on the streets of Hollywood.
Every now and then at an intersection I catch a glimpse of the famous Hollywood sign up on the mountain to the north of the freeway. I arrive at the Museum of Death and go in. The guy inside says it takes about an hour to go through it, so I put it on my list for later. The Museum of Death is a collection dedicated to the horrors of death in all their forms—executioner’s and undertaker’s instruments, gory police photos, serial killer memorabilia, dead celebrity stuff.
On the iPod is playing a great Hollywood song, Warren Zevon’s “Desperadoes Under the Eaves.”
I was sitting in the Hollywood Hawaiian Hotel
I was staring in my empty coffee cup.
I was thinking that the gypsy wasn’t lying,
All the salty Margaritas in Los Angeles
I’m gonna drink ‘em up.
And if California slides into the ocean
Like the mystics and statistics say it will,
I predict this motel will be standing
Until I pay my bill.
Don’t the sun look angry through the trees.
Don’t the trees look like crucified thieves.
Don’t you feel like desperadoes under the eaves,
Heaven help the one who leaves…..
Look away down Gower Avenue, look away….
At Gower I begin seeing the stars of the Hollywood walk of fame. Unlike in Palm Springs, I recognize most of these names. Pinky Lee, Vincent Price, Tallulah Bankhead, Bob Hope, Milton Berle.
As I’m standing at the corner of Hollywood and Vine about to take a picture of Kirk Douglas's star a guy comes up to me and starts talking. “That’s my buddy, Kirk Douglas, man, I was named after him.” I nod appreciatively and say "Really?" and he says, “You probably don’t believe me, but I was.” He pulls out a wallet and fishes out his New York driver’s license, which says his name is Kirk D. Ferguson. I say, “Cool,” but he’s not satisfied with himself yet. He probes around in the wallet again. “I have to find you something that has my middle name.” He pulls out his VA card, and sure enough his full name is Kirk Douglas Ferguson.
I ask him if I can take his picture with Kirk Douglas’s star and he obliges, but the shot doesn’t get the star, just him. Then he sidles up to me and starts to tell me that he got charged double by the bus company for his fare out here from New York, blah blah blah, and do I have any money I could spare. But in his wallet, with all that I.D., was a decent-sized wad of bills. Rookie mistake, I'm thinking. So I say to him, “Hey, I just walked across the country. I should be asking you for some money.” He chuckles nervously, recognizing that it’s a standoff. No donation from me to the Kirk Douglas Ferguson exchequer. I wave and smile and move on. In my photo you’ll notice that he’s looking off to his left, eyeing the next person down the line, trying to stay one move ahead.
There are so many people trying to get my money and so many stores selling cheesy merchandise that I realize I’ll have to come down here again to spread it around at more leisure. And just like the panhandlers and the souvenir shops, I notice that the stars on the sidewalk are repeating themselves. I think I’ve seen Vincent Price three times already.
I pass a Scientology museum or store of some kind, where a silver-haired guy wonders if I'd like to come in and take a personality test. In his short-sleeved white shirt and black tie he looks like a senior member of the Geek Squad. As Jack Nicholson said in As Good as it Gets, “Sell crazy somewhere else. We’re all stocked up here.”
I’m on the other side of the street now to see if there are any different stars on the sidewalk. Of course there are tons of them. They never stop. To give you a general impression of the heart of Hollywood Boulevard, picture a succession of lingerie and sex toy shops and souvenir stores and lots of pictures of movie stars together with some gigantic neon signs. Sprinkle in fascinated tourists with cameras, bored foreign-born proprietors standing on the sidewalk, and trashy-looking locals of all genders.
I stop at the Chinese Theater to see the hand- and footprints in the cement and snap a few photos. A tour bus rolls up and a bunch of Chinese people get out and assemble on the sidewalk while their tour guide tells them, in Chinese, about the Chinese Theater. They nod seriously and take lots of pictures.
At La Brea I turn left and head down to Sunset, where I turn right and walk to Poinsettia. Here I cut south again, zigzagging my way along. The noise of the wide east-west streets disappears and I’m in a shady neighborhood of craftsman-style frame houses--I guess what you’d call Hollywood bungalows.
Well I just got into town about an hour ago,
Took a look around, see which way the wind blow,
Where the little girls in their Hollywood bungalows.
Are you a lucky little lady in the City of Light,
Or just another lost angel….
Poinsettia comes to Santa Monica Boulevard and about a block west the motor home sits in the parking lot of Trader Joe’s supermarket.