Anne is not too fond of urban adventures and much prefers to be out in nature, that’s why she is Trail after all. I on the other hand am pretty much an urban creature. My instinct when confronted by the wonder of nature is to figure out how to work it to provide me with food and shelter or other interesting products. I exploit resources. This of course makes me appreciate our national parks where what is truly amazing landscape is protected from folks with my predilections. In an urban environment I can plug in to how other people live and think and feel through the institutions they have imagined, built and maintain. So it is that as we travel I feel compelled to visit the great cities as much as the parks and wild places. A trip past LA without visiting the walk of fame just wouldn’t sit well with me, even though I had pretty limited expectations.
LA itself is a city I’ve never given great thought to other than it was a famous place, home of of the motion picture industry, and renown for its contrasting wealth and poverty. It is America’s second largest city but frankly looking at it first hand, you wouldn’t guess that. It’s a big place geographically and its downtown core is pretty modest considering its population. I’d say the Seattle skyline has the feeling of being larger than LA’s and Seattle is a much smaller city over all. The Hollywood strip however is pretty far away from the downtown core, and I think the thing with LA is its spread out with many smaller hubs of industry and commerce which could be small cities in their own right.
The strip itself surprised me in that aside from a couple very lively blocks in the middle anchored by a large modern mall, much of it feels a bit run down and low rent. I got the same vibe from it as I do from the university strip or the capital hill strip in Seattle where cheap food stalls and thrift stores are pretty common. The bits that were not on the grungy side of life were more like Vegas, lots of noise and activity with a strong focus on gobbling up tourist dollars. That is more what I expected, though what was most missing was the California money, glamour and style one often associates with Hollywood.
I don’t travel to see what I expect however, I travel to find out what is there, and being surprised and getting a first hand feel for the truth is what makes travel great. So I was intrigued and excited to note all the differences between the fantasy image in my head and the reality at hand. One part of the strip for instance seems dedicated to stores selling cloths for strippers. There were a few other adult establishments but since we were there around noon these were closed for the day, and some were shut down. This part of the strip seemed to have fallen on hard times, no doubt thanks to the wonders of the world wide web of porn. Still, the costume shops here carry on.
People watching was also a lot of fun here. For starters you have the actors/buskers who wear character costumes and make a living of tips from tourists taking photos with them. While some costumes were quite impressive, others were a short step from what you would buy at Walmart for the kids. As I walked past a couple of folks dressed as the characters from “The Hangover” one called to me saying “Kung Fu Panda was last week pall.” Truth be told in my dragon print shirt my profile is not so far from the character so I got a kick out of that. The #1 hustle on the strip seemed to be Hollywood tours. All over were folks offering tours of the hills and the homes of the rich and famous. The range of quality and enthusiasm of these business was large and fun to observe. Aside from the locals there are of course tourists from all over the world. Some like me just to take it all in, others to worship and photo at the stars of their favorite actors and musicians. While we were there many were paying respects at David Bowie’s star since he’d passed away that week. A small shrine had spring up around it.
While there are many things to spend money on here, we limited ourselves to a little food and drink. The souvenir stands showed a lack of imagination, most carrying the same cheap goods varying only in how they chose to display them. The only businesses that seemed to be doing much innovation were the bars which were both lively and had cute themes. Of the many shops the one that struck me as the most interesting was a nice cinema themed book store offering a good range of used books related to the movies as well as scripts and the like. I would have loved to see more stores selling movie costume replicas or models from the movies or busts of actors.. anything other than cheap T-Shorts and “best dentist” plastic Oscar statues.
One thing that didn’t disappoint were the walk of fame stars. There are a huge number of them and its fun to look down as you walk noting the folks you admire or appreciate or even just remember from some point in life. They cover not only movies but music, radio and theater so its quite a variety. I was a bit surprised how long the walk of fame is, a great many blocks it turns out. We walked the whole thing but only just and it took a good couple hours to make the full circuit (lunch included).
All in all I’m glad we went. It was not spectacular or especially inspiring but I’m glad I did it and I think I have a much better perspective it than I did before I went. I learned a lot and yet just scratched the surface.