Saturday, April 27, 2013

Once Again Down Sunset

April has been a good month, invisible audience.  The first week, I returned to the beautiful state of California (unfortunately without my wife, as she was too tied up with work) mainly for my sixth audiology convention, this time held in Anaheim.  There is not a lot to report on that, other than I got a plethora of continuing education hours I needed and The Bangles played one of the hearing aid parties, where signs warned that each attendee was only allowed 2 free drinks from the bar, and which were not enforced. Cool bonus: during the band's finale, "Walk Like An Egyptian", they broke mid-way through it into The Who's "Magic Bus." Entirely unexpected and surprisingly good.  Three of the original 4 ladies played that night. Singer/guitarist Susanna Hoffs (on whom I had a healthy crush back in the 80s) still looked amazing.

As usual, I saw many of my old professors and a few former classmates at the Convention. The learning sessions were mostly enlightening. I was inspired by one of them to do a tinnitus presentation of my own, but "stay tuned" is all that I can say at the moment.  The Convention Center is directly across the street from Disneyland. You can see the tops of roller coasters and hear the occasional scream as you walk down Katella Ave. I did not play hooky.

The first part of the week was R & R and I stayed at the Park Plaza Lodge on 3rd and Martel in Los Angeles. It is an old, somewhat musty, and very reasonable hotel that apparently once had circular beds and suited me just fine. I'm very frugal when it comes to lodging, as I'm not there to lounge and luxuriate in amenities but to enjoy the city I'm visiting. And the neighborhood behind the Lodge was just sublime - I walked (yes, sometimes "walking in L.A." does happen) through it several times down to Beverly Blvd. to marvel at homes I couldn't hope to afford. But these were not  the ranch house mansions like you see in the Hollywood Hills. They were what appeared to be early to mid 20th century (some Southwest) style stone and brick structures with nicely manicured yards.

On the Blvd. I stopped at The New Beverly Theater, a great revival house that screens many traditional and not so traditional classic films in 35mm.  The night I peeked in there was a triple feature of DUCK SOUP, IT'S A GIFT, and HORSE FEATHERS, which was awfully tempting but I was too tired for it.

Interestingly, there were also hordes of Orthodox Jews strolling the area day and night.  There was something very comforting about that.

My walking continued the next day as I made my way towards Wilshire Blvd. and the La Brea Tar Pits. I unfortunately got a bit of the ancient substance on my fingers as some rascal used it to announce his or her love for another on the handrail overlooking the pits. Took nearly 20 minutes to wash it off.  After awhile I wandered over to LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) but it was not to open for another few hours. I'm kicking myself for not going back; there was a Stanley Kubrick exhibit there!

Dining? The first night I selected Lucy's El Adobe Restaurant on Melrose, very close to Paramount Studios. It's a longtime running Mexican restaurant that was very dark and very quiet - the way I like it. Above my table was a wall filled with head shots of actors and notables from a few generations, all exclaiming how much they loved the joint. It really was all about the atmosphere.  I read some unfavorable reviews online but was undeterred. Though, they were right about the watery salsa and stale chips. But the taco platter was quite good.
 Even better was my lunch the next day at Musso and Frank, another famous local haunt that dates back to 1919. A real Hollywood tradition, frequented over the years by too many to mention. It has been featured in several films, including GREENBERG and SUSAN'S PLAN. I spent an hour at the bar downing a vodka martini and Rob Roy (house specialties) and chatting with a very friendly bartender before I sat down to a lusty, damned near fatal meal of a porterhouse and twice baked potato (and a few glasses of red wine). The waiters - some of whom have been there for decades, wear red coats and are cordial but not into the small talk.  It was a great old school experience.

That evening, not very hungry, I found Crossroads, a vegan place that had opened a few weeks earlier. I had three small dishes: grapefruit salad, quinoa, and cauliflower pureed into an amazing soup. I sat at the bar with several Angelenos (some of whom were solo, like me) and thoroughly enjoyed the small meal and (mercifully free of pretense) ambience. And, I had my one and only celebrity sighting on this trip - James Cromwell, best known for his roles in BABE and L.A. CONFIDENTIAL was at a table to my left. I knew it was him as he is quite an outspoken vegan.

Breakfasts were also memorable and hearty - Fiddler's Bistro (which was attached to my hotel) and Blue Daisy Cafe in Santa Monica, which served zucchini hash browns.

This L.A. trip also allowed 2 must-do activities: driving west on the Sunset Strip (I did not "turn that jungle music down") at night and hugging the curves on Mulholland Drive in the Hills.  Both drives can be a bit treacherous with their curviness. I think I took a few turns a bit too hard and fast on Mulholland but you just have to. It's a rush. I stopped at a lookout point to gave down on Universal City.

Lot of history there, and of course on Sunset. I had to check to see if the Viper Room was still there.  You may remember that River Phoenix died out front in 1993.

The only disappointment was Hollywood Blvd., a long stretch of Tourist Hell. I was only there to get to Musso and Frank, which was built long before all the tacky shops and Walk of Fame were erected around it. There were hordes of people jamming the sidewalk and looking around cluelessly. I had been there before but this time it seemed especially obnoxious.  To add insult, I read that they're changing the name of Grauman's Chinese Theater again (and doing some ill advised renovations).

But...there's always at least one curious moment on the Boulevard.....
Looking forward to the next adventure in La La Land!

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