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Hacktreks Travel

Hacktreks 2

First Chapters


by Jayne Sharratt

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 Œsuicide 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 ŒFather 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 ŒGood 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 film ŒClueless.ı

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, ŒHigh 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 Œthe 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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