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Hacktreks Travel

Hacktreks 2

First Chapters

To LA, with love

by Jayne Sharratt

Everything is LA. The films I watch, the books I read, the newspapers and magazines and the songs I hear on the radio, all have their LA reference. Can anything be complete without an LA footnote? Here the streets are wet and the sky is grey, although I donıt remember it raining. There it is eight hours ago, and I could live this wasted day afresh. In two and a half weeks the city view came to seem familiar to me, though it was not long enough to really know it. When I left I thought I knew. I knew that Wilshire runs down to Santa Monica, and is crossed by La Brea, which is crossed by Melrose, Hollywood and Sunset. Laurel Canyon runs up from Sunset, and that is where I lived. It seems this town has permeated everything I know before I arrived. Sean, to begin with. The streets have familiar names, or look like others I have seen in films and travel shows. The endless sun. The endless Starbucks, already so familiar from months spent temping in Manchester. Skyscraper vistaıs and gridlock.

A city laid out in a grid, and everything measured in blocks. But there is more. Before I went I was told I couldnıt wear blue or red. ³You do know about the Bıs and the Cıs, donıt you?² my housemate Kelvin asked. What surprised me was how safe and secure I never failed to feel. I admit I lived a sheltered existence. I was in a safe neighbourhood protected by armed security, and driven everywhere, help never being more than a cell phone call away. I felt safe and secure because the sheer size and scale of LA never overwhelmed me. Simply, I did not feel like I was in a vast city, and however false this feeling may have been, I was less on my guard than I would be in London. LA is a collection of 88 small cities. There is no hub, no Piccadilly Circus-like centre. Instead there are people everywhere, no quiet place. But it is never too much, never overwhelming or chlostrophobic. I come from an overcrowded island and it doesnıt seem that way to me. My lasting impression of LA is of creativity.

In two weeks I met aspiring rock stars and song writers, novelists and scriptwriters, actors and designers. Everyone in this town is trying to make it, and they are sure they are in the right place to do it. Remarkably, there is no sense of ruthless competition, of the rat-race or production line. LA is much too laid back for this. There is room for everyoneıs dream, at least among the young people I met. The city is so multicultural, styles become hybrids of many influences. From the restaurants to the music clubs, cultures, cuisines and influences overlap. New ideas and trends bubble from the hot bed to the surface like the exuberance of well springs in the desert. What I did not see was the glamour and bitchiness which is the impression the world has gained of LA through Hollywood gossip and sleaze and Beverley Hills 90210. Outside Beverley Hills, Bel Air and Rodeo Drive, Los Angeles is the most casual of cities.

The very rich are another breed altogether, as they are in any country or city. I did not see one celebrity during my visit, apart from a possible sighting of Tea Leoni which was probably just wishful thinking on Seanıs part, at the airport when I was leaving. Celebrities and Limoıs and Premiers and frightening Hotels (the valet at the Beverley Hills Hotel had barely parked the Miatta before we decided to leave) are just one facet of the diamond that makes up LA. My view may be simplistic and naive - from one visit it could hardly be anything else - but there are greater depths to be discovered than the stereotype of superficiality and trashiness with which LA can be branded. It deserves to be given a chance. In another town, a small town, close to the end of England, I am returned and refreshed, focused.

At Lands End there is a signpost which points to New York, 4,000 miles away. My city of dreams is 6,000 miles and three more hours even beyond that. It is a Pacific sunset I crave, not the squalls of the Atlantic. I feel reflective mourning. The illusions of the movies go hand in hand with the solid dreams young people dream. The dreams which may soon enough prove to be illusion, because while everyone can have a dream, not everyone can make it - this is the eternal false promise which America offers. Los Angeles is the place where fiction and reality can become blurred, and around the world we see it in the movies and the records, and we suspend disbelief. If the visitor cannot be an Angeleno, it inspires the desire to do something to become worthy of itıs approval, to achieve an acclaim that can be heard and noticed a world away. The edge between fiction and reality is a dangerous but creatively exhilarating place to be. Which is why I have fallen in love. The sun, the people, the views of the Pacific and the San Gabriel mountain range may have to be left behind. The positivity, the vibe that says it is natural to make your dream your goal rather than an idle reverie, and work towards it can be taken with you. An inspiring philosophy from around the world.

Jayne Sharratt İ 2000


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