Though I realize that there are many big cities in the United States, it seems that two have always been, in my mind, THE big cities. Perhaps it’s because publishing is so firmly grounded in these two cities, or perhaps it’s because they’re usually the cities people go to in an attempt to “make it” at their craft – but for me, the two quintessential big cities in this country are New York and Los Angeles.
I’ve been to New York twice, and though I’ve adored the people I’ve visited there, I have to admit that New York is not for me. It’s not my kind of city.
So when Amanda suggested this weekend that we go to Los Angeles for the day, I was cautiously optimistic that I might like it. Los Angeles is so thoroughly involved with film, writing, art. It’s sunny, it’s glitzy, even in that retro way where it’s lost some of its shine.
The day started with a spur-of-the-moment trip down Hwy 23, a last-minute endeavor to get from the 101 to the Pacific Coast Highway. As Amanda maneuvered hairpin, blind turns amid cyclists and sports cars, I was taken with how beautiful the landscape was. We were up in the hills. We were in the kinds of places that burn. And then it hit me – I was going to be sick.
Even with all that beauty, all I could do was squeeze my seat, blast the A/C in my face, and hope I didn’t puke. I couldn’t even enjoy the fact that we were in the Topanga Canyon area (enjoyable because Topanga… from Boy Meets World… Tuh-PANGA… Anyone?).
Alas, we made it, cresting over the hilltop. I settled my stomach enough to get this photo and to marvel at the beauty of the place before our final descent down to the PCH.
Let this be known throughout the land: I’m not taking Hwy 23 ever again. EVER.
We did the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which was fun and I’m glad we did it. But it was crowded – Vegas crowded. It’s hard to really enjoy the walk along Hollywood Boulevard because you are being rushed along with the crowd, a whole group of tourists looking at the ground in front of us. The brave ones sit down on particular stars and have their pictures taken, but for us, we just kept moving, up one side of the street and down the other.
I enjoyed, however, seeing the hand- and footprints in the cement outside Grauman’s Chinese Theater (now called TCL Chinese Theater). We all looked down at the ground like one of us had lost an earring and everyone stopped to help find it. I saw Margaret O’Brien’s hand- and footprints, and Amanda and I had a fresh excuse to quote our favorite Margaret O’Brien movie line: “I’m the most horrible!”
(I can’t embed the video for it, but watch it here. The line is towards the end. It’s fantastic, and somehow every horrible thing you do or say seems less bad if you follow it up with “I’m the most horrible!”)
But of course, our day wouldn’t be complete if we weren’t focused on food. I have two recommendations. For lunch, we went to West Hollywood and ate at Mendocino Farms, a fantastic sandwich place. I had the Prosciutto and Free Range Chicken Sandwich. There should be a photo of it, but there’s not. There was fresh mozzarella and honey-roasted almonds on that sandwich. There was no time to take photos. I ate that thing in a hot second. Amanda ordered the Chicken MBT (a basil and tomato sandwich), which was also quite good, though I liked my sandwich better. The staff there is super friendly, and it’s near lots of shopping and other restaurants and bars on Santa Monica Boulevard.
Speaking of Santa Monica, we ended our day there at a place called Huckleberry. Amanda and I love watching the Cooking Channel, and Huckleberry was profiled on Unique Sweets. This place was everything we hoped it would be, and it was my first introduction to Santa Monica, which I think I’m going to like. We had the chocolate almond cake, which was dense and had all the richness of good dark chocolate. The staff was so friendly, very patient while we shopped the bake case, and Huckleberry is just downright cute. We ate outside on the sidewalk in the sunshine, and truly, a trip to Huckleberry was the perfect way to end our day.
After we got tuckered out and came home, I realized that Los Angeles had been pretty and old-school glamorous and kitschy and delicious and touristy and polite. I think that quiet sense of goodwill among the people, of niceties, of relaxation – that is what I liked. The way that the sky seemed so perfectly blue. The way someone complimented Amanda’s tattoo after she told him, no, she didn’t want a copy of his CD. The way no one was angry while we all did the shuffle along Hollywood Boulevard. We were wearing shorts and sunglasses and looking at the names of celebrities. The sun was shining. What was there to feel jammed up and frantic about? (Answer: nothing.) The feeling is that you’re among friends. You’re connected by this place, by movies, by the quiet knowledge that everybody’s cool here. (Immediately anticipating the comments from people who will say that Los Angeles is just as loud and rude and pushy as any other big city. Don’t burst my bubble. Let me believe in the special effects of my Saturday.)