Hurray for Hollywood…

I finally got about an hour and a half of sleep before breakfast, and yes, it was a full, hot, cooked breakfast, complete with three types of eggs, sausage, cereal, bagels and bread products, juice, coffee – all the bare essentials. They also had waffles going, which the boys took advantage of. They smelled soooo good!

In a hurry to get to the Jet Rag in downtown Hollywood, we jumped in the car, found the vintage clothing store on La Brea Avenue, already with a packed parking lot. When the description said they haul clothes out in the parking lot, they weren’t kidding. The clothes were in a pile, right on the pavement, with people swarming around like bees and some finding spots right in the middle of a pile, pulling and pushing clothing and setting shirts, skirts, pants and dresses aside. Some had huge bins reserved for their purchases. Rodney guessed, and was probably correct, that some of the people were gathering items for their stage troupes. Tyler picked out a couple of shirts and Zach found a dress jacket. I realized a very important lesson in those moments at the Jet Rag…I have no fashion sense at all. I’m sure lots of those women could take the fabrics they found in the pile and make outfits from them that would be trendy and attractive. All I saw was stuff I’d probably never wear.

Once inside Jet Rag, many unique second-hand items hung on racks, but I wouldn’t pay $8 to $12 for a used t-shirt. Zach, however, found the exact jacket like Dad’s that he has been wanting for a long time. It was $22, so he walked out the door with it…we paid for it, of course.

From Jet Rag, we hunted and found the homes of several stars and drove around downtown seeing famous sites: the entrance to Paramount Studios, Hollywood Cemetery, the Happy Days house, homes for Antonio Banderas, Jason Alexander, Jenna Elfman, David Schwimmer, and the Hollywood sign, up close, after traversing the narrow streets winding up the mountain. The roadways, lined by houses on hills, parked cars filling one lane, leaving only a narrow byway for traffic making its way to and from the best view of the infamous sign.

Before we headed up to the sign, and after looking for landmarks, we decided to park in the same downtown lot I used when in LA last time. We immediately took a picture of Tyler with a huge Johnny Depp sign, one of his favorite actors, and then headed down the street to look at stars, in the sidewalk, that is. We walked first east down Hollywood Boulevard, stopping to take photos of us with different stars – Jimi Hendrix, The Monkees, Red Skelton, Dr. Seuss, The Rugrats – and some without us – Danny Kaye, and others. First down the street, and back up the other side, we stopped at Rigley’s Believe it or Not, and both boys wanted to go in, so we plopped down the bucks and toured the facility, which was a ton of fun and very informative and somewhat disturbing. The boys seemed to enjoy it. They had their fortune told from a palm reading machine, saw ancient torture methods and a myriad of people impaled in various body parts by various objects. As I said, disturbing, yet captivating.

As we crossed Highland and headed further west on Hollywood, the boys glimpsed a rare treat that ended up being a highlight for them. In front of the Grauman’s Chinese Theater and the Hollywood and Highland complex were street performers, costume-clad characters, break-dancers, a drummer pounding out beats on pickle buckets. They barely looked at Disney’s El Capitan as they hurried to the corner and crosswalk, and made their way to the north side of Hollywood. As soon as we hit the corner, our noses were invaded by the smell of cooking sausages wrapped in bacon. People packed the street and they stopped to have their pictures taken with Darth Vader, a Storm Trooper, Chewbacca, Mickey Mouse, Gandolf, Jack Skeleton, Michael Jackson (who danced around), and many others. It was here that Rodney took a picture of me, and as we tried to continue down the street, the Gandolf character told Rodney, “That’ll be a dollar. We pose for tips.” Rod didn’t even realize he was in the background. He tried to show they guy, but he was insistent. Reluctantly, Rodney gave him a buck, some sarcastic well-wishes, and then huffed off, away from the characters.
We pushed our way down the street to the performers, but not before a musician stopped Tyler and let us listen to his CD. We bought one for $10. His performer name is Sweet P, and the music is very good. On down the street, the boys were captivated by the drummer, and the impromptu dancing from listeners, including some girls from Hawaii who did the hula dance and then four girls who did a hip-hop dance. With hesitation, after many minutes watching him and the boys putting their tips in the bucket, we headed on down the street. At the corner, I took them north on Highland for a special sight. About halfway down the street, peeking through the buildings was the Hollywood sign. Rodney wanted to go to the corner to get a picture without a lamppost, but then he couldn’t see all of the sign, so as we headed back to the car, south on Highland, he crossed back over and got a few shots. Once back in the car, with two exhausted boys, we followed directions to the sign.

From Hollywood, we traveled east on Sunset Boulevard, so the boys could see Sunset Strip, then Santa Monica Boulevard, and then Wilshire Boulevard. We went down Rodeo Drive so they could see how the richer half shops and with hopes that they’d see someone famous, but no luck there. We drove all the way to Santa Monica, but the pier was packed, so we headed south on Ocean Avenue until we got to Venice Beach, also packed, but we were able to find a parking spot for $5. Venice Beach was having a weight-lifting contest, or something like that, and vendors and performers bordered the Beach Walk. Tyler freaked, though, when he saw basketball courts, complete with street-ballers. Because we were starved, and in pain from walking, we stopped in the Sidewalk Cafe, changed tables twice, for a total of three seatings, but the final was best, because it was right next to the walkway, so we sat and ate and watched all the people. We had pizza and two appetizers, mozzarella sticks and calamari. My coffee was cold, and the wind coming off the ocean was quite chilly. Tyler went back for coats, we finished eating, and then headed to the basketball courts to see if someone would play with Tyler. By the time we got there, few people were there, and Tyler didn’t get to play. We decided then and there that we would get him a ball so he could at least shoot hoops, but we couldn’t find a ball in the beach shops that were closing down for the evening. He was upset, but we headed back to the hotel and pretty much collapsed in our new room, 165, instead of 166, which had the broken air conditioner.

I observed so many people today, and realized that Hollywood, LA, California, is all about looks, how you look, how your house, your car looks. But “the look” is a look of individual, seeing how different and individual you can be, which makes them conformists in the greatest sense.

Despite so many people living here, there are small cells of people striving for their dreams, being alone in their lives, hoping to be part of something more. Dreams are alive, compelling people. And others are merely surviving on the needs of others, hawking wares and taking advantage of the tourists. People seem to see little beyond their personal space, six feet around them. They walk through life only seeing what is about them. It’s a self-serving society, a bohemian culture.

This makes me more aware, and makes me want to continue pursuing my own dreams, yet give back to others. The world’s much bigger than Nashville, Indiana, with it’s own self-serving, tunnel-vision residents.
Quote of the day: From Zach to Rodney, “Dad, you’re starting to bum out my mellow.”