With visitors I love to take them around some of the spots in L.A that I have a special affinity for. Some people talk of L.A as if it is filled with self-obsessed people with low self esteem desperately trying to find their way in the entertainment industry. I don't really know about that. If you are bitter about trying to run with that crowd, maybe that would color your perception, but to me L.A is a bustling city filled with multi-cultural energy and where magic can be found in even the most deralect and sun beaten of strip malls.
When I first arrived in L.A the homogenous collection of strip malls seemed a little dour, but the more I discovered, the more I felt closer and became affectionate to this city. Here are a few places I usually take visitors too when they drop by.
I love this place. Before you head up to the Observatory itself be sure to stop into Trails Cafe and get a coffee and a wholesome treat or a sandwich and then either drive, or hike up one of the many paths. There is something refreshing about this whole area of the city. The Observatory is clean, refurbished and has a monastic, sacred quality to it. Even the grass on the lawn up there has a luxurious sheen. You get a great view of the Hollywood sign but also a fantastic panorama of the city as a whole. L.A is sprawling and vast, and you can really appreciate its suburban majesty from this viewpoint. It is a very cool thing to be in the midst of nature in the heart of a metropolis, indeed, Griffith Park I believe is the largest natural park in a city in the U.S of A.
Inside the Observatory there are exhibits in mint condition that evoke warm feelings of visits to museums as a school child. Admittedly I've never taken the time to peruse the displays in any detail, but if you have the patience (and don't suffer from rampant ADHD), I am sure you will have a wild educational time. Something that does stimulate my wandering attention, indeed I find it quite riveting, is the presentation that occurs in the planetarium. For a while it was my favorite show. The presentation I am most fond of is titled something like, "Centered In The Universe", and bills itself as a "cosmic journey through space and time". It gives a nice history of astronomy and our fascination with the universe. They employ what appear to be seasoned B-list actors (one of the presenters is a spitting image of Troy McClure) to narrate the show and the display of the night sky and stars is wonderful and hypnotic. Take the ride; it is a spiritual experience.
In N' Out Burger:
My friend Moses, now a vegetarian, once stated emphatically that, "I don't eat fast food anymore but I will never stop eating In N' Out". Quite a passionate determination and yet completely understandable once you have sunk your teeth into what tastes like pure, juicy Americana. From the smart fifties-esque uniforms, to the subtle bible verses printed on the packaging In N' Out is a fast food icon on the West Coast. They serve up what you imagine a burger should be and you can even order your food "animal style" which means they dump a whole bunch of grilled onions and mystery deliciousness sauce on your fries and burger. I don't eat much meat nowadays, but whenever an In N' Out virgin is in town, I make sure they experience it animal style. I too vow to never stop eating In N' Out.
The Getty Center:
I remember doing a goal setting workshop as an adolescent. My goals always started with "The greatest ever..." What can I say, I was in a deep narcissistic egotistical reverie. Those impulses still lie within me but now I enjoy them by their technical terms: daydreams and fantasies. One of my current fantasies is that I own and live at The Getty Center, wandering out to the balcony for my morning coffee in my bathrobe. Relaxing and penning my memoirs in the immaculate garden and throwing cocktail parties in the courtyard for sophisticated socialites and movers and shakers. The Getty Center is beautiful. The architecture is clean and modern yet somehow manages to blend into the landscape. Perhaps the natural rock and strategically planted ivy on the walls act as a kind of camoflage paint, enabling this grand structure to comfortably sit within the hillside. The building itself is a work of art. It is spacious and airy and you can't help but feel relaxed walking around. The garden is so well kept and planned it almost seems surreal. It changes through the seasons and it is, like the architecture, a masterpiece, living and wild yet manicured and controlled. Yes there is wall art to be seen, there is even a Van Gogh in an impressive impressionist collection but the building itself is for me the real thrill.
You get crazy crackheads all over the world but L.A has the craziest of the crazy crackheads hands down. Thats only one of the reasons I appreciate a trip to Venice beach. It is colorful, crowded, tacky and with a bit of a hippie vibe. I love the Muscle Beach weirdos strutting their stuff. It is also worth going to one of the many psychics or palm readers for an amusing look at your possible future. One elderly obese palm reader once informed me I was doing it all wrong with the ladies. She proceeded to enact what this ultimate spiritual orgasm should look like. Totally worth the ten bucks. The best thing about Venice Beach is the actual beach part of it. I love being around all the activity on the sand, the surfers, the beach bums, the families. It is great to sneak a beer or three down to the water as the sun beams down and the surf rolls incessantly in. When my brother was here he took a refreshing dip while I napped and watched sailboats lazily make their way across the horizon. Bliss. A fantastic slice of California.
The Grove/Famers Market: