I’ve lived in Ireland for most of my life, except for two trips to France for study and work experience.
I live my life with certain prejudices, formed by what I have already experienced. Prejudices, not necessarily negative in any way, are needed to deal with the world. You need to live your life with a certain set of assumptions. It’s always interesting to experience something new that enrichens your pre-existing assumptions. Experience, I guess you’d call it.
The past 48 hours I spent in L.A. with my lovely wife. L.A. was always going to be difficult for me to conceptualise. There isn’t as far as I know, one “main street”.
Back in Limerick city, you walk down O’Connell Street and you get the see Limerick. It’s not the full representation of the city, but it’s the central location where upon seeing it, you can rest assured that you’ve seen the main bit.
But in L.A. I got the feeling that seeing any one part of the city didn’t tick off the “I have now seen L.A.” checkbox.
I guess I came close to that twice though: Hollywood Avenue and Beverly Mall.
L.A. is of course built on top of the movie industry. While being here it struck me just how successful an industry it is. They (whoever “they are) have founded an industry that has become enshrined in the globalised society. Something that comes from thousands of miles away is very much a part of Irish life and popular culture (only matched by Christianity, as far as I can tell!).
Hollywood Avenue is the tacky representation of the industry that seems to be based further up the hills and across in San Fernando valley. It has stars along the sidewalk with names of actors and musicians. I take it you’re meant to trample upon their names?
After the 48 hour mark of our trip, entering Beverly Mall in West Hollywood was finally the feeling of “I have now seen the type of person they get on My Sweet 16″. Girls really were dressed up to impress, as if they were imagining strolling through the Cresent Shopping Centre in Limerick.
The locals seemed to be good fun and quite relaxed. We got talking to one girl up by Griffith Oberservatory (great views of the city) who was walking her dog. Turns out she was in Dublin for two weeks’ acting classes in the Gaeity Theatre. Another guy, Adam, was at a bar in the Farmer’s Market with his girlfriend. He was smoking cigars, and offered that seeing Disneyland would be more fulfilling that cycling along Santa Monica beach. Maybe it is a tough call.
When I talk about the locals I met, I’m talking about the W.A.S.P.s of L.A. The city, while mixed, is certainly segregated along ethnic lines. But segregated is far too strong a word. Rather, there’s a focus of different races depending on their concentration and influence in any particular area.
It’s impressive how going even from block to block along the same road you get Jewish centres, then Korean, then Mexican. The Mexican influence here is obvious, and you hear Spanish spoken a lot.
The Mexican-style food here is delicious. The “City Market”, named in such general terms, is really a bustling market of real Mexican produce and ingredients. Indulging in a couple of margeritas in El Cayote (visited by Harry Bosch, no less) hit the spot along with some taccos, burritos and enchilladas.
Taking the metro from Downtown, it was again mostly people of Mexican origin. The public transport system here is nothing to be sneezed at. A day pass got us from Hollywood Blvd., to Griffith Observatory, across to Universal City, and back down to Beverly Ave. for our margeritas, with a mixture of buss, shuttle bus, and metro.
Taking any sidestreet off the main avenues brings you to the leafy residential areas. It was here that I got the feeling that the residents were perhaps a little fearful, many houses proclaiming that they were protected by “armed response” security companies.
These houses in the ‘flatlands’ must be the poor cousins of those people living in the hills. Everyone is jostling to live on the highest local peak. Nobody is satisfied with their current situation and always have another place to strive towards. This is the same as any city I know of (yes, of my limited experience).
One thing the local residents really surprised me with was their yielding to pedestrians. Walking along the footpath in Ireland, cars will pull across you without a second thought. They will pull out on the footpath right in front of you waiting to turn on the road, making you walk around them. But the drivers in L.A. always seemed to think ahead and let us pass first.
Overall, I think I can say I was pleasantly surprised by the city. The time of year definitely helped (late January), and there was generally a relaxed atmosphere to the place. There’s obviously huge wealth in the area, and my respect for the society here for being able to create that. The Hollywood industry is massive, while being massively fake, tacky, and difficult for me to comprehend. Public transport is effective, and the choice of food is (too) delicious. With so many other places on the list to visit in our lives, it’s difficult to see us planning another trip dedicated to L.A. That being said, it’s been an interesting place to spend time, and I certainly wouldn’t refuse to come back.