Sunday, November 18, 2007

What's Mead's Big Trip, you ax?

Last week, as you recall, Will Robinson, I returned to Los Angeles after an absence of five years. It turns out L.A. is like riding a bicycle. Imagine my bemusement to discover I was hurtling down the 5 at 85mph without so much as a by-your-leave. Evidently not even a brace of years in Portland OR, where a 10-mile drive is considered a trek, can blunt a former Angeleno’s "freeway" "skills."

Actually the drive from Burbank Airport (now rechristened the Bob Hope in an unintentionally ironic act of twee homage) was the only death-defying act of my three-day stay. Since I was quartered in Pasadena – at the cozy Comfort Inn (not), I spent most of my time down south in a lovely green bubble, like Glinda the Good Witch. Pasadena and South Pasadena (the latter's my erstwhile home), are verdant and sleepy; coffee is excellent, you can get around on foot (to an extent), there are Greene & Greene houses with actual residents. In short, the area has little to do with the rest of L.A. County.

As with anyone or anything I love, I’m highly critical of L.A. But that doesn’t mean I disapprove of it. I really enjoyed the delirious sense of vertigo that suffuses life there. It’s nuts – which again is why I appreciated having the calm oasis of South Pasadena as a base. A single day in L.A. might find you coping with the smug claustrophobia of Encino, the alarming cheery pastels of Long Beach and the eerie outward calm of the South Central (please don’t feed the pit bulls!), but as long as you manage to wind up back at your retreat….

A writer who describes Los Angeles better than anyone else I know is Geoff Manaugh; check out his remarkable BLDGBLOG. As Mr. Manaugh says with exquisite accuracy:

Los Angeles is where you confront the objective fact that you mean nothing; the desert, the ocean, the tectonic plates, the clear skies, the sun itself, the Hollywood Walk of Fame – even the parking lots: everything there somehow precedes you, even new construction sites, and it's bigger than you and more abstract than you and indifferent to you. You don't matter. You're free.

That’s what I liked about the place so much. When I first went there in 1988, I was utterly alone and invisible as a wraith. I feel free to reinvent myself yet again with total impunity, and I proceeded to do that. So do many that find themselves there, whether by choice or through the apparently random machinations of career, love, etc.

Oh – Polly’s put the kettle on. Got to go. Stay tuned for the next exciting episode, Will Robinson, Will Robinson.


Steve Patterson said...

Though he wrote a lot of goofy stuff ("Horse Latitudes" anyone?), I thought Jim Morrison nailed L.A. (or at least West Hollywood) with the lines...

cops in cars
the topless bars
never saw a woman
so alone

On the other hand, Venice and Santa Monica...there's almost a "there" there. There's a joint right on Venice Beach that's a combination bistro/coffee shop/bookstore/full bar with a view of the Pacific. What else do you need?

meeegan said...

Alarmingly cheery pastels? What part of Long Beach you been hanging out in, baby?

Mead said...

O, my dear. All along the beach area it's a festival of bonhomie. Especially over in the Belmont Heights district. Enough to make you shudder!

Prince Gomolvilas said...

"L.A. is like riding a bicycle"

...Actually, L.A. is like riding a bicycle messenger.

Mead said...


Megan said...

You moved to L.A. in 1988...I was living there then! I was only four but I was there, hanging out and doing my theater thing at Santa Monica Playhouse...