Happy November From Blah-Blah Land!

1 Nov

Hooray for it!

I can’t believe it’s already November. Of course, who would know it out here in L.A., where the temperatures today were in the low 80’s and half of West Hollywood was out in Speedos last night for Halloween. Apparently underwear and a cute hat constitute a costume in Los Angeles. Who knew? If I wore that, I can guarantee you it’d be the scariest costume you’d see all night.

I’ve traveled a lot in my life – I’m very lucky and grateful for that – but I have to say I’ve rarely suffered from culture shock the way I have here. Tokyo might have been a little more shocking, but only slightly. We’re coming up on the end of our second week here and for the entire first week I was taking public transportation to get where I needed and wanted to go. In New York, that’s no problem. In L.A.? Fuggedaboutit! I’m splitting my stay in two different places – one in a house in West Hollywood with some friends of my boss and the other place is a condo a few blocks away off of Santa Monica Boulevard. The owner of the condo is away for a year shooting a movie, so her place is empty. This is my first real stay in Los Angeles – ever – and while having my own condo in West Hollywood sounds amazing and glamourous (which sometimes it is), it’s also quite disconcerting and lonely being in a new town with no friends and no way of getting around. I’m 7 miles from the theatre and about 10 miles from the rest of the cast and crew’s company housing, which doesn’t sound bad, but distance isn’t measured in mileage here – it’s measured by time. Seven miles could be 10 minutes or it could be an hour, depending on traffic which, in my limited experience here, is almost constant.

I learned the hard way that certain buses that run express only run Monday through Friday and only at certain hours. I’ve also learned that I don’t like being on any corner of Hollywood Boulevard late at night waiting for a bus, but particularly at the corner of Hollywood and Vine. I’ve lived in New York for 12 years and honestly have never felt unsafe, but L.A. is a whole other animal. During my hour-long wait for a bus last Saturday night, I witnessed a young man being chased down the sidewalk by a cop and a small crowd of screaming people. The young man was thrown against a chain link fence and handcuffed while three other cop cars pulled up and blocked off the corner of Hollywood and Vine. Half the crowd was screaming at the guy being arrested and the other half of the crowd was yelling that the policeman was being unnecessarily rough with him. Two other people were subsequently arrested. I walked to Sunset Blvd. and waited for a different bus. By Monday I had a rental car.

I was hoping the rental would solve my transportation woes – and it has, for the most part. L.A.’s is a car culture and this city is so spread out that you really need one to get anywhere. As William Holden’s character Joe Gillis says in “Sunset Blvd.,” “If I lose my car, it’s like having my legs cut off!” Cars bring on a whole other kind of responsibility, however, that are a headache. Parking in West Hollywood is a nightmare unless you have a spot in a parking garage or a driveway, which I don’t, so that means finding parking on the street. As in New York, you have to be aware of the street sweeping schedule – NO PARKING THURS. 8AM-10AM, for instance. You can park there, but you’d have to make sure you move your vehicle before the designated time, and let’s face it – I’m a night owl and I am not getting up at 7:45 to move the car. There’s also a parking permit system in place in WeHo that gets to be tricky. North of Fountain Avenue you need a 6R parking pass, but south of Fountain you need a 7R permit. South of Santa Monica, you don’t need one at all. It’s very confusing and, since I was staying by myself, I didn’t know what any of it meant. Thank goodness my hosts live 10 minutes up the street and were able to fill me in on the whole system.

L.A. is also very laid-back in a way that is completely opposite from New York. People aren’t really in a rush to get things done, which kind of drives me crazy when I’m in a rush. You can take the boy out of New York… All of this, along with a few work-specific things, have put me in a bit of a funk since we’ve been here. I don’t know if it’s the time change or the non-stop sunshine or the flu shot I got last weekend, but I just haven’t felt “settled” here since I arrived, but I’m learning and adapting. I’ve already mastered the “pull into the center of the intersection to make a left turn and wait to go until the light turns yellow” move, which would get me killed in New York. I learn! I LEEEEARN! WAAAH WAAAAAAAAAAH!

She learns! She LEEEEEARNS!!

Things are not all gloom and doom and crazy shootings at LAX, though. I have managed to have some fun while I’ve been here. If you’ve been following my blog or Twitter (@JasonHBratton) at all (and why haven’t you been??), you’ll know that my idea of fun is slightly different than others’, and I’m totally OK with that. I’ve done some of the typical touristy stuff like walking up and down Hollywood Blvd. (in the daylight), stopping to take pictures of all my favorite stars’ stars on the Walk of Fame. I went to (Mann’s Grauman’s) Chinese Theater to snap pictures of all the hand and footprints in the cement. I went to the Griffith Observatory, where a good chunk of “Rebel Without A Cause” was filmed, and took in the amazing view of Los Angeles and the Hollywood sign. I went to the La Brea Tar Pits and looked at mammoths and saber-toothed cats’ remains and my friend Bert surprised me with a trip to Disneyland on Monday. So I have had some “traditional” fun, but I also spent about three hours looking at gravestones the other day, which I actually found quite fascinating.

Griffith Observatory Panorama 1

A panoramic view of Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles and the Hollywood sign.

As I’ve said before, I don’t generally get starstruck, but walking around Westwood Village Memorial Park was a bit overwhelming. Celebrity after celebrity is buried there – Farrah Fawcett, Truman Capote, Natalie Wood, Don Knotts, Eva Gabor, Donna Reed, Eve Arden, Walter Matthau, Janet Leigh, Jack Lemmon, Dean Martin, Heather O’Rourke (Carol Anne from the “Poltergeist” movies) and, most famously, Marilyn Monroe. It’s a pretty impressive representation of Hollywood in one tiny little cemetery. And now I’m eager to go to the Forest Lawn cemeteries where the REALLY big names are buried. I’m sure some people would think that’s kind of morose and weird, but it’s the closest I’ll ever get to these people, even if they are dead. My friend Joe is a big movie buff and he knows each and every actress to ever win an Oscar. Today I told him I wish he were here to go with me to these cemeteries to find all the stars and he said that it was one of his dreams to do just that. It was a much-needed reminder that, despite how challenging it may be, I am very, very lucky to be getting to travel the way I do and that I am living a dream life in many respects. DSCN8518

Marilyn Monroe’s grave at Westwood Village Memorial Park in Los Angeles, California

I have a list of things I have left to do here. The Museum of Tolerance is high on the list. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is another. I’d like to go to Santa Monica Pier, Malibu and Venice Beach and I have to get to Little Japan downtown. But not before I go back to Disneyland with my pals Tom and Anthony on Monday, lunch with Jill on Tuesday and four shows this weekend. Eek!!

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