SEEING L.A. FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME – AGAIN

Something wondrous happened this month thanks to my niece Courtney. A college student in South Carolina, she decided to save up her money and fly to Los Angeles to spend Spring Break. She has some friends here, too, so most of her adventures would be with young adults her own age, not a grizzled burned-out-on-Los-Angeles veteran like me. She would have fun with them. What I didn’t realize is that I would have fun, too.


She arrived in time for gorgeous blue skies and eighty-degree weather in March. Talk about timing! All the perks of sunny California without the crush of summer tourists. I figured the best place to start her adventure would be in Hollywood at the famous Chinese Theater. I showed her Abbott and Costello’s hand and footprints placed in cement the day after Pearl Harbor. We saw the cast of Star Trek’s cement honor as well as the cast of Twilight, one of the more recent additions. I’m told that it’s to attract a younger crowd to ooh and aah in the theater courtyard. No one in the courtyard seemed interested in that patch of cement while I was standing there, however.


Frankly nothing in the courtyard can hold a candle to the cast of characters populating the north side of Hollywood Boulevard on a Saturday afternoon: from an ingeniously costumed Transformer to a Michael Jackson impersonator to multiple Spider-men in various costumes, the place was bustling with energy (and a few well-trained pickpockets, I’m sure). The costumed characters all want you to pose for photos with them for a small fee. There was a battered Donald Duck that I’m sure Disney would not condone. Captain Jack Sparrow was there, so was the Hulk, and a few ladies squeezed into leotards and spandex costumes from comic books paraded up and down the street, while the buxom blonde “cop” with cleavage and handcuffs set to entice more than a few eyes maintained a stationary spot in front of Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum.


Augmenting the costumed entrepreneurs where assorted rappers handing out CDs of their music promising “authentic Detroit rap” and so forth. Finally, a microphoned preacher spreading the teachings of the Gospel in this den of sinners through his Karaoke P.A. system put the finishing touches on Courtney’s introduction to Hollywood. Make no mistake here—it was fun!


I will say that the wax museum was impressive and well worth the price of admission. It had not been build that last time I was here. Then it hit me: I had not been to this area in ten years or more! The wax museum was new; the Kodak Theater complex at Hollywood and Highland was also new for me, despite having driven past it for some years now. It was new to me because do what most Angelenos do: drive past or avoid the congested area altogether. Now I had a reason to be a tourist in my town thanks to Courtney.


I later took her to the Getty Villa up on Pacific Coast Highway near Malibu, then to the Santa Monica Pier, and finally at the end of her week-long stay, to the Getty Center in Brentwood. We both took lots of photos. Courtney took over a thousand during her stay! She spent time with her friends doing fun things and getting to enjoy Southern California and its unique vibe. She had a great time and exuded energy and excitement. I found it contagious. And she / we had barely scratched the surface of Los Angeles!


All of this got me thinking about how much we forget about the wonders of our own cities and towns unless we get the opportunity to play tour guide. Then all kinds of interesting facts and stories come up and you take the time to stop and play in your own backyard. It’s really fun. I’m thinking of being a tourist in my own city more often now. In fact, I need to go back to Hollywood Boulevard and pose with the buxom blonde “cop” with the handcuffs!


I’m just saying…