On The Grid

I love this article simply because of the headline:

How Your Brain Is Like Manhattan

The Good Man and I have long debates about cities set on a grid. The very town where I grew up, Albuquerque, has a beautiful easy to navigate grid. I always figured it was due to the city’s start as a military town that roads are well organized into either north/south or east/west.

So simple. Easy. Really tough to get lost.

I gripe about the Bay Area and these roads that are all angled off to Joneses, changing directions midway and stopping suddenly. For example, there is an exit off of 101 where you have to choose the north or south bound exit. However…the road actually runs east west.

Combine this with California’s lack of mile markers and only sporadic use of street signs and I can go from zero to bonkers in about three seconds.

One of the many reasons I love Manhattan is that it’s set up on a grid. Navigating makes sense! A hayseed like me had zero trouble in the big city knowing where to go and how to get there. I never, not once, got lost while in Manhattan. And if I’m not worried about how to get there, then I relax and enjoy the journey.

The Good Man, on the other hand, has a brain that’s a lot more fluid than mine. Where I’ll draw a straight line, he’ll make expressionist art. He don’t need no stinking grid roads, he has a powerful innate sense of direction and an even stronger sense of joie de vivre when it comes to getting lost. He sees getting lost as a fun adventure. I see it as a teeth gritting bit of fear and misery.

Meanwhile both my brain and my road preferences tend to be a little more like the gorgeous city of Manhattan.

Image from Grush Hour.

From The Department of Not Very Surprising

In a poll released Tuesday by the Public Policy Polling, California was the least popular state in the United States. Only 27 percent of Americans hold a favorable view of the Golden State compared to the 44 percent who view it unfavorably.

The gap of 17 points puts California far behind Illinois (19 favorable, 29 not) and New Jersey (25 favorable, 32 not) as the least liked state in America.

Worse than New Jersey? That hurts.

And further from the Not Very Shocking Files:

Democrats love California; Republicans can’t stand it. The opposite is true of Texas.

Yeah, yeah. Sometimes I still can’t believe I live here either. Though I have to say that most people’s opinions of California are formed by what they see on TV, and most notably what they see on TV related to Los Angeles.

There’s an awful lot going on here you don’t see on reality TV. Just sayin’

Story Source.

Image from Greetlets.com.

Finding Inspiration

And so, after many visits and many tries, I finally found the way to really, really *get* L.A.

The secret is this…if ya are gonna go to L.A., then really go to L.A. proper. None of this staying in Burbank or camping out in Pomona. No.

L.A. proper, and more succinctly, Hollywood, is the center of what matters. All the rest of those suburbs just serve to water down that which makes L.A. a goddamn fun place to be.

So you gotta stay in L.A., or to quote Wang Chung perhaps you live and die in L.A., and you only visit all of those other surrounding places if you need to. Mainly, you stay put, because there is plenty to see.

As my amazing cousin lives in West Hollywood, we wanted to stay somewhere nearby. Walking distance, even. The Good Man scored us a room on the Sunset Strip, and that’s where I finally learned to bond with a town that has vexed me for years.

Yes, I know, the Sunset Strip is to local residents what the Vegas Strip is to local residents, a place to go only when company is in town.

But I don’t care.

Our hotel was directly across the street from the famed Rock n Roll Hyatt also known as Riot House. We were also next door to the famed House of Blues.

So here’s my recipe for finding the soul of L.A.:

You get off highway 170 and you roll past the Hollywood Bowl. That street is called Highland. You stay on Highland until you get to the corner of Hollywood and Highland. Is that address familiar? Yes, it’s where the Kodak Theater is located, that place of red carpets and award shows. Be careful to look only at the Kodak, because if you look in the other direction it’s not quite so glamorous.

Turn right on Hollywood and drive slowly (you have to, traffic is a bitch) and let Grauman’s Chinese Theater roll by your car windows. For such a profoundly historic place, it’s so physically tiny.

Keep rolling. No need to stop here. See the stars on the sidewalk whip by as you pick up acceleration and keep rolling down Hollywood Blvd. As you leave the jam packed area, you find yourself among 1960’s era apartment buildings and that uniquely L.A. look of tall palm trees on both sides of the street. You’ve seen this in the movies. It’s as familiar as if you’ve been there before.

Onward to Fairfax where you take a left, then at the next light, turn right.

There you are on Sunset. Beautiful, ugly, magical Sunset Boulevard.

Park your car, check into the hotel, ditch your bags. Get out on the street and walk.

Yes, I said walk. Screw what the Missing Persons said about nobody walking in L.A. In this part of L.A., you do. If you don’t, you’re sorely missing out.

From the Rock n Roll Hyatt, walk west on Sunset past the House of Blues. There’s the Viper Room. There’s the Whiskey a Go Go. There’s the Roxy Theatre. Do you like music? Have you ever listened to Rock and Roll? Well hell, you have got your head and your feet solely in the middle of history, baby.

But there’s other things to see along the way. How about Book Soup, L.A.’s answer to San Francisco’s City Lights? And the Rainbow Bar & Grill. And even a few empty shops and a whole lot of restaurants, new and old along the way.

You note, as you pass each shop door, that everyone has etched into the glass “Established in ____” Yes, everyone has to publicly announce the year they got their start, even if it was only last year.

And when you comment on this to The Good Man, he gives you the quote of the day, perhaps of the whole trip: “In a town with little authenticity, everyone has to manufacture it.”

God he’s a smart man.

But then you take a turn somewhere. Doesn’t matter where, could be Olive or La Cienega, but head south and walk down the hill. Because Santa Monica Boulevard is down there and that’s a whole other place entirely.

Now you are smack dab in the heart of West Hollywood, and yes, the heart of the LGBT part of Los Angeles. There are less historical places to see, and more of just a thriving neighborhood. This place is practically buzzing with life. This is one of those “ain’t got no destination, I think I’ll just walk” kind of places.

Well, ok, I’ll turn off Santa Monica and drop into The Abbey because even though I am straight, I’ve never had a bad time at this place. The drinks are strong and the music is loud and the atmosphere is crazy. And lots of fun.

And it’s on a warm Fall night on the Abbey’s patio, over the top of a vodka tonic with The Good Man and my supremely cool cousin that I think, “you know….this ain’t so bad.”

Shove over, Frank Sinatra. L.A. might be my lady, too.

(No worries, I still hate the Dodgers.)

Hit the Road, Jack

What better way to celebrate the long drive home from L.A. than with my favorite story about the ubiquitous Grapvine. The Grapvine is what they call the bit of road leading through Tejon Pass in the Tehachapi Mountains in Southern California. After miles and miles of bleak, hazy and bland I-5, the Grapevine is sort of a welcome breakup to the drive.

It also, in my opinion, serves as the gateway to Southern California. Everything changes once you come off that mountain pass and drop down into the outskirts of L.A.

This bit of road is the stuff of legend and lore. Many a car has met its match on the Grapvine as the climb from sea level to at times as high as 4000 ft proves to be too much.

And with that, I’ll turn it over to a great New Mexican, the cowboy poet and dear friend of my best friend’s family, Baxter Black.

I read this story aloud to The Good Man as we made the summit….being on the very same road made it that much more hilarious.



The Grapevine
By Baxter Black

Equisearch columnist Baxter Black ponders the futility of tryin’ to impress the ladies while driving a Chevy Nova.

How better to impress his new lady friend, thought Rob, than to take her to his friend’s rancho for an afternoon branding and BBQ.

She would be pleased to see that he had many friends who drove pickups with chrome grill guards, tinted windows and coordinated paint jobs. He admitted to himself that his own outfit was less ostentatious. His ’64 model two horse trailer had been repaired so many times that it looked like a well drillin’ rig! The ’76 pickup was using 2 quarts of oil to tank of gas and his horse was . . . well, ol’ Yella looked right at home.

Rob was eager as a piddlin’ puppy when he picked up Delilah and headed north outta the Loa Angeles area. He was anxious to make a decent impression but one large obstacle lay in the pit of his stomach like a pea in the Princess’ mattress . . . THE GRAPEVINE! It was a monster of a hill dreaded by truckers and people who still drove a Chevy Nova.

The engine was screamin’ and smokin’ like a burnin’ pile of creosote posts when they finally leveled out at the summit of the Grapevine. Rob had sweated through his shirt but he sighted with relief as he gave Delilah a comforting look. She smiled back uneasily. Then the motor blew! A big dent appeared in the hood and it sounded like someone had dropped a Caterpillar track into the fan!

They coasted silently into a service station at the bottom of the grade. He assured his sweetheart there was “no problema”. He had lots of friends nearby. Her reaction was one of forced optimism.

By dark he’d borrowed a pickup from Hank and they both agreed returning back home was the best option. He loaded Yella, hooked up the trailer and back over the Grapevine they flew! Halfway down Rob managed to slip his arm behind Delilah’s neck.. Soon she was lulled into discussing’ her dreams of home and family. She snuggled closer as he watched a tire bounce by him on the driver’s side. No headlights shown in his rearview but he couldn’t help but notice the huge rooster tail of sparks spraying up from beneath his trailer! He could see her astonishment in the flickering light.

Rob wheeled the screeching rig to the shoulder. Together they unwired the trailer doors and Yella stepped out, unhurt. Rob tied him to the highway fence and unhooked the trailer. Rob’s facial tic had returned.

Seemingly in control, he jumped in the pickup and headed south for the nearest phone to borrow a trailer. He returned to the scene to find Yella grazing in the median with semi’s whizzing by on both sides and his date shivering over the still warm axle, forgotten. She, herself, was smoldering. She spoke not a word and Rob conceded to himself that it was gonna be hard to regain her confidence.

In the space of 12 hours and 50 miles he had left his pickup, his trailer, his horse and his girl scattered from one end of the Grapevine to the other.

Next day he towed the pickup to the shop. He left his trailer to be impounded by the State Police. His horse made it home safe but Delilah changed her phone number, wrote him out of her will and has not been heard of since!

For more from this cowboy poet, visit BaxterBlack.com.


iPhone photo of The Grapevine, copyright 2008, Karen Fayeth

Story reprint found on Equisearch.com.

This ain’t no disco. It ain’t no country club either.

Baby…this is LA.

My relationship with LA is a complicated one. Mostly because it’s a complicated city to love.

There’s so much that’s *wrong* with LA. But over the course of many, many years, I’m starting to understand what’s just so *right* about it too.

I’m excited to go because I have a super fantastic reason to be there. My incredibly talented cousin has written a rock opera, and this weekend is a first run of the production for the public.

This is the same cousin who wrote and staged a rather successful musical just a few years back. I know! Mind bogglingly talented.

Wild horses couldn’t keep me away from this event this weekend.

And so, over the Grapevine I go and back into the arms of the love it-hate it town of LA.

I’ll see about humming a Tom Petty tune as I do. Or maybe The Doors. Or… What is the perfect LA song? (And I don’t want to hear anything about no Randy Newman either.)

Photo by Sebastian Stefanov used royalty free from stock.xchng.