Familiar scenes in La La Land

lala landI recently watched the award-winning musical movie La La Land. In my 20’s I lived and played in the heart of  L.A., and embraced every moment including the jazz and Hollywood scene.  I was young, rebellious and passionate about the city, as I still am today at a distance.  The movie includes Universal Studios, Jazz and Griffith Park, as do these memories I share.

I somehow wandered into Universal Studios through a back gate with my BFF, my Asian twin.   I think the gate was unattended, or we simply smiled and walked through.  Tourists on trams were pointing at us and we seemed to be the only ones roaming the fake studios unattended.  I think we were walking through the set of Back to the Future, among others. The tram slowed and we hopped on the back as people took photos.  The driver was confused and pretended not to notice, or maybe he really didn’t.  After disembarking and spending the afternoon exploring, we asked one of the directors to give us a ride back to my car parked at the other end of the studio.

“How did you get here?”  He asked.

“We walked though the back gate, and jumped on the tram.  I think it’s a few miles that way, ” I said pointing.

“Without I.D?”

“Um, yes.  Nobody said anything.”

He grinned and told us not to try that again and then he had a conversation with the gate guard.

jax2My love of Jazz began in Los Angeles, with my first date night at JAX in Glendale. I think it’s one of the filming places in La La Land, or very close to it in ambience and location.  It was during the L.A. riots, 1992 and a curfew was enforced.

“Are you still up for getting together?” My future boyfriend asked.

“I’m game.  I need to get out for a while.”

The streets were smoky, eerie and strangely silent.  Live jazz at the close-by club reflected the mood.  We had a private booth, life altering conversations, and the beginning of a love affair that lasted until his sudden death.  Memories made but not forgotten.

griffithI considered Griffith Park my other love. It integrated nature and hiking, biking, the observatory, stargazing, drinking, and the famous Hollywood sign.  I’d hike or bike the trails and solve many of my problems.  Minor issues that seemed larger than life back then.  A breakup, head to the park.  A bad day at school, an intense bike ride through Griffith.  An hour at the planetarium watching projected stars on the ceiling while listening to Pink Floyd was a complete escape or sometimes a bonding experience with a friend as we sipped concealed cocktails.  I even watched a full solar eclipse with hundreds of others picnicking for popular the event.  A friend and I climbed the Hollywood sign and even met and flirted with the two Matt’s, young actors from the TV series Friends.  griffith 3

I was blessed enough to live close to the park.  When I moved near UCLA campus I found other places to enjoy the outdoors and jazz, but these moments will always hold a special place in my heart.  I’m visiting L.A. later this summer and I might visit Griffith Park, but not Universal Studios.  It’s too touristy and nothing can top my visit through the back gate.  I recently learned JAX jazz club and grill closed last year, such a shame since it was truly a unique local jazz club.

Marina Del Ray and Venice Beach, part two

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Image via Wikipedia

A morning cup of Joe when your just steps from the Cow’s End Cafe on Washington Boulevard is a divine way to start the day.  Although Starbucks is just an extra step away, the Cow’s End is by far superior.  My husband earned bonus points for ordering for me a triple skinny white latte before I even emerged from the covers. It became my morning beverage while in Marina Del Ray as I watched the local KTLA and their familiar but sometimes obnoxious news.  When did Entertainment overcome real news in L.A.?  One morning the local anchor was severely distraught  over the remake of Dirty Dancing…get over it.  Perhaps I’m just more wise now and didn’t notice the bad news coverage when I lived here.  But then again, I’ve had an aversion for the news the past decade.

My husband and I hopped on our rusty rental bikes and casually cruised through the Marina and the last remaining wetlands in L.A. We rode over to Playa Del Ray and lined ourselves up with the runway at LAX to watch jets pass over us.  The bike path was busy for a Friday afternoon.  I suggested continuing south for lunch in Manhattan Beach, but my hubby thought that was a bit ambitious so we did a u-turn and ended up at a Mexican restaurant back in the Marina. 

We spent the rest of the day people watching in Venice then we took an evening trip to Downtown.  I should have known better, but I was open to suggestions.  After all most big cities have a lively downtown area.

“Let’s go downtown tonight,” my husband suggested.

“I never went downtown at night when I lived here, except to see Skid Row.”  I paused and thought about the concept for a moment. “But I did read about the newly developed area called Downtown Live.” 

“Let’s drive by Skid Row and then eat in China Town,” he innocently said. 

I thought about the adventure and responded, “OK, I’ll get out the maps and do a bit of research.”  I’d hadn’t been to downtown L.A. in perhaps 15 years, and I did enjoy China Town for lunch back then.

We drove by Skid Row around 8:30.  The homeless were technically forbidden to put up their boxes until 9:00, but the effect for the boys was still priceless.  Groups of men stood on every corner.  Some restless ones were assembling their boxes and tents.  Everyone locked their doors as we drove through the eerie streets.  Police on bicycles patrolled the area.  The boys had a million questions one moment and complete silence the next.  They observed in amazement at the amount of homeless on Skid Row.  Their hunger forgotten for a brief moment.  But in the face of all the sadness their was no violence and therefore should have been no fear.  My husband let the boys know that if they didn’t live their life straight then they could end up in the same situation.

We cruised over a few blocks to China Town, which was dead at night.  A few restaurants were open, but not the hustle and bustle of daytime downtown.  So we went with plan B, Downtown Live.  I wasn’t impressed, it could have been a mini mall in any town and the wait for all the restaurants was over an hour.

So onto plan C, Hollywood.  My old familiar stomping grounds.  By this time the boys were famished.  I found our way to one of the best Mexican restaurants on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.  The wait, 1 1/2 hours.  So we walked along the Boulevard past a photo shoot for “Girls and Corpses” magazine.  Why does such a magazine exist?  Not sure, but only in Hollywood.  We ended up at a small restaurant with no wait and a decent menu.  Bread and drinks arrived as we glanced at the couple finishing up their dinner next to us.  All the tables in the restaurant came with crayons for creating tablecloth art while waiting. The beautiful girl and her partner drew images of pentagram crosses and other satanic images.  When they left the boys stared at their artwork.

“Is that 666,” one of them said.

She was gorgeous, why are they drawing that?”  Came from another’s one’s mouth, like I had the answer.

My typical response, “It’s Hollywood.”

I think the night made quite the impression and memories for our little surfers and adults alike.