Things to do in LA in the rain
The name of the intersecting boulevard ahead of us is Sunshine. On most
days the sign hanging across the street would be a triumphant declaration
of fact. Today rain slashes across it. I say I should take a photograph
and turn it into a postcard. ³Ah, irony,² Sean says, as if acknowledging
a long lost friend. I have been in LA for one day, and today is my first
official day without jet lag. Unfortunately it is also the first day
in which I am no longer able to continue in denial about the cold which
has threatened to overcome me since I left England. I am definitely
ill. I have to have tissues constantly at hand, I need drugs, my nose
is going to turn red, Iıve lost my appetite. ³Are you hungry?² Sean
asks. ³Donuts?² I guess it is the first day of his vacation too.
We may have only just had breakfast, but at work it would be nearly
lunch time now. He turns the Miatta convertible into the parking lot
by Winchells donuts in Studio City. The sight of an array of different
coloured and shaped donuts turns my stomach, but I eat one anyway. We
sit in the window, and watch the rain. The LA streets are not built
for this weather, and they run like rivers. We have decided that the
thing to do on vacation when it rains is to visit museums. So we are
heading to Pasadena, and the Norton Simon Museum there. According to
expert opinion and my guide book, it has a finer collection than the
more recently opened Getty Centre. Pasadena is close to where Sean grew
up in the San Gabriel Valley, and while we finish donuts he rings his
sister so that we can meet her for lunch. Photo David Butow Coming off
the freeway we cross the Colorado Street Bridge, which became known
as suicide bridgeı after the stock market crash of 1929. It was closed,
and only recently reopened after a $28 million restoration project.
We also see the Rose Bowl, the 98,636 seater stadium, home of the UCLA
Bruins football team. The Norton Simon, we find is closed on Mondays
and Tuesdays. I sneeze violently, several times. I am probably not in
any state to fake thoughtful and studied looks in front of art anyway.
When I do go inside two days later I realise it is all European art,
which is disappointing somehow. Of course if I had bothered to read
my guide book I would already have known this. We drive around Pasadena
before lunch. Sean shows me the Wrigley Mansion which was once owned
by the chewing gum magnate, and is now the Headquarters for the organisation
of the yearly Tournament of Roses parade, which takes place on New Years
day in Pasadena, and is shown via satellite to over one hundred countries
world wide. We also see the Gamble House, built in the craftsman style,
and the house which was used in the film Father of the Bride.ı Architectural
knowledge is tested, in one street we see Tudor, French Colonial, Victorian,
Italian Renaissance and Craftsman. I am assured it will all look better
in the sunshine. Pasadena is often used for film locations, and it can
be recognised because of the distinctive short ornate lamp posts which
line itıs leafy streets. The Huntington Ritz Hotel is the place to go
for a taste of how the rich live, and we drive up to take a look inside.
We wander wide corridors, make our way onto terraces to view beautiful,
rain misted gardens. The staff we meet all nod and smile and say Good
Afternoonı in hushed tones. I try not to sniff too much. In one room
we overhear a girl being interviewed for a job.
We make our way outside and cross a wooden bridge which is festooned
with pictures of the wonders of California, and then take a quick look
at the ball room on our way back. While we wait for the Valet to bring
the car around, we listen to a boy in rap style clothes who looks around
fourteen, speaking in a whiny east coast accent, telling men in suits
heıll be in touch in New York, before disappearing into the back of
a white limo. We are a little late when we meet Naomi at the shop where
she works. She shows me her 1920ıs inspired hats, which she designs.
Her sunhats are being displayed at the Pasadena showcase house this
year, a big yearly event to raise money which gets thousands of visitors.
She drives us to a coffee house where we buy sandwiches and black coffee.
In the street outside cameraıs are filming, and at the table in the
corner a group sit around drinking coffee and discussing a script they
are all reading with itıs writer, explaining his vision. I listen in,
sipping at black coffee and not feeling very hungry despite delicious
roast chicken sandwiches. The script sounds very bad, but I feel I am
getting a first glimpse of the film industry. Everyone in this town
has a script, so I decide not to mention mine. Returning to the shop
I am almost entirely soaked so it canıt matter how much wetter I get.
We think we will do some shopping in Old Town, before catching a movie
at the Pasadena Playhouse, which is next door to Naomiıs shop. As I
am feeling tired like jet lag isnıt quite banished, I hope we will spend
some of the time sat down drinking more coffee. Colorado Boulevard in
Pasadena has enough cool shops to keep me happy on a good day, but on
this day I donıt feel like I have enough energy to try anything on or
take something to the counter. I am content to look. Sean buys a shirt
in French Connection. ³Youıre supposed to be contributing to my economy,²
he complains. The sales assistant tells me he is hoping to visit friends
in England this summer. I tell him heıll have a good time, and wonder.
Too many people I meet during my visit want to visit England. Today
they are also apologising for the weather. I assure Sean that I like
the rain, and I do. I must have been indoctrinated during childhood
holidays in Wales. Next, I buy a skirt in J.Crew. I feel suddenly energised
by the transaction. I fling the bag over my shoulder, as seen in the
Suddenly, money has been spent, sneezing isnıt so bad, and Iım on holiday.
More, Iıve found a man I can shop with. This could be heaven. We get
coffee at The Equator Coffee House, tucked down a tiny side alley. ³Starbucks
is evil,² Sean has already told me twice. The only acceptable franchise
is the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, but this is much cooler. We sink into
velvety arm chairs and drink herbal teas in the hope it will cure me.
We wonder about a man who sits silent and alone in the armchair across
from us, and appears to be in a trance like state. We are late arriving
at the theatre because I have to run back for Seanıs shirt, which he
has left in the Coffee House. The trance-man suddenly stirs, and tells
me he has looked after it for us. I smile, thank him, and run, landing
in a puddle on the way. The film, High Fidelityı is one Sean has already
seen, and assures me is hilarious. The theatre is old style, atmospheric,
and there are few others in it, so we get good seats in the middle.
It is funny, but it is also sad, and leaves me feeling sad throughout.
I want to lean my head on his shoulder and cry, but I canıt. It has
a happy ending I canıt quite believe in. Afterwards I pause at the entrance
to look at the films the theatre was used in. I realise it was the movie
theatre at the beginning of Scream 2 and feel grateful I didnıt know
that before the film.
We get chicken soup, which is exactly what I need, warm and comforting.
On the way home, we stop at a Drugstore, and Sean buys me drugs. I read
instructions to take two. ³Take three,² Sean tells me. ³And take the
pink ones before you go to bed, theyıll knock you out.² At home in Studio
City I change into dry clothes, before heading out again to Spaceland
in Silver Lake. We get lost on the way, and arrive about nine to meet
Naomi and her friend. This club is the epicentre of Silver Lakeıs underground
rock sceneı according to the guide book, and Beck, the Beastie Boys
and The Eels have played there, amongst others. Iıve forgotten the name
of the bands which played when I was there, but they were good. Spaceland
is also distinguished as having a smoking room at the back, one of the
few public places in LA you can smoke. There are pool tables, and Satellites
hanging from the roof, which mean you can overhear conversations at
the other side of the room. I drink Mexican beer and feel happy.
We leave around midnight, and realise it has stopped raining. It doesnıt
last. On the way back we are caught in a storm of sleet. Sean stops
his car under a bridge on the Freeway, maybe because he canıt see, but
possibly to protect the Miattaıs paint work and fold-back roof, on which
the sleet is reverberating harshly. After a minute he admits we probably
shouldnıt be stopped on a Freeway, the snow is easing off, and we drive
on. ³Freak weather,² he tells me. ³This is what LA is all about.² The
next day the sun is shining, but the news is a constant barrage of storm
reports from across Southern California, and warnings of three more
storms on the way. For the rest of my time there is nothing but hot
sunshine, and I feel I have passed an initiation test. I have loved
LA in the rain, too.
© Jayne Sharratt May 2000
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