Los Angeles, post 1

I thought I would remember all those thoughts I had today. Somehow, with good food and company, they have slipped out of my head. Looking forward to this next week in LA and I am trying to figure out why I had such disdain for the place. Bay Area pride? Hard-headedness? The most surprising thing is that Los Angeles really is a normal place. There’s a fireplace 6 feet away from me and yet the AC is on. For some reason that feels weirder here than it should. Like, I grew up in a house with a fireplace and AC. Why would I want to prove that living here is surreal?

Drove about 400 miles today to get here, going about 6 hours straight. Had a little stash of hard boiled eggs to keep me going, which worked well. I really enjoyed the drive. It’s the first week of June and it’s been a wet year so all the rolling hills are still golden. I think the grass is at its peak, a rich deep golden shaft waving in the wind. And the gullies/arroyos- they’re even better. The folds just bristle and glisten. Only John Steinbeck has done justice to this landscape.

As I’m trying to make this trip a broadening and deepening experience with my home, California, the West Coast, there were all sorts of wonderful coincidences and connections on the familiar roads south today. I’m driving a 1999 Ford Taurus, the car I helped my dad pick out of the lot because, at that age, I liked its’ smooth curves. Later, when it became the second car, we dubbed it ‘The Courgette’ because it is long and green and fat. Today I put it over the 111,111 miles mark, but I didn’t even notice! The last 12,000 miles are all me, and I’ll be adding a few more this summer.

I am struck by how California-y the California I saw from I-5 was. Pictueqsue hills and suburbs, fields and oaks. The ranch feedlot didn’t smell at all when I passed it(although everyone told me it would, and really I tried by rolling my windows down and taking huge sniffs). The Central Valley was so clear I could see the snow-capped Sierras on the other side!

I was really excited to hit The Grapevine. My host here said I would know I was there when the road got twisty, but there was actually an exit called the Grapevine. I am trying not to use maps this summer, as I figure I can probably get everywhere I need to go following the signage. Tomorrow I am heading in to the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) to start my research. Surely there will be signs for that! I might even recognize it from the movies. (Surely it has been in a movie?) The problem is, I like maps. I want to pore over them. But it’s so easy to get places, I have to try. The freeways here, a maze I have been warned about, are actually called things like “The Hollywood Highway” or “The San Diego Freeway” so it’s not like remembering numbers, they make sense. This way, I hope I’ll spend more time looking around.

So I figured once I hit the Grapevine that meant I was finally entering Los Angeles, passing through the Tehachapi into the unknown. I knew that the Central Valley passed from lush fields into irrigated desert into… Something. I thought that something, that Southern California, would look different. But nope, it’s still California. The Tehachapi started out pretty. (The mountains probably go grey like the hills later in the summer, too. ) A good few bends in, the hillsides became coarse with bushes like the fur on a hyena’s hindquarters. It must be chaparral? It’s a leopard print landscape.

The view of LA, when the pass peaked, was not especially awesome. And then there was Magic Mountain. We drove down to Disneyland when I was 10 and I swear I must have woken up at that exact spot because I recognized it immediately! Or was that Knott’s Berry Farm? Well, driving into the Valley was anti-climatic. When LA opened up before me, it looked like San Jose and I think I can deal with that. Or maybe San Jose looks a little like it. And then I came down the Hollywood Highway and it started to look like something else, like a dense suburb with good taste and a whole lot of sparkle.

I think I’m going to have a great time here. I want to tell people I’m from Ohio, not the Bay Area. I’m staying with a friend’s family in West Hollywood, apparently the poor side of Hollywood where it is practically ‘the Valley.’ She tells me I can see the Hollywood sign from her backyard. Her house is lovely and homey, nicely remodeled and fully detailed by her architect father. I can already tell that space is definitely a commodity here. On my walk I saw lots of English gardens and picturesque manors, and I can help feeling that they are a little out of place.

Bit nervous and excited to start research at the LAPL tomorrow. I’d like to get deep into the directories and the public library has the largest collection for the whole of Southern California. I’ve already searched online and I know the LAPL is the place to be, I think I can access every city directory from 1900, 1920, and 1940 for each California city I’m going to from here. It’s just a matter of finding the halls within those… I tried some searches within a digitized directory, and I think it’s going to be an uphill battle. There will likely be a broad variety of titles and organizations to look under. Fingers crossed.

Feel happy. Taking this  road trip for myself and mostly, by myself; the research is a way to structure and motivate it. It will be useful for writing a thesis (hopefully) but thats not the point. I am glad to be exploring here now, while I feel free.

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