This past Sunday, after a week in Virginia, I headed to Dulles to take an afternoon flight back to L.A. When my seating group was called to board the plane, I followed the pack down the walkway. Shortly, I was at Row 13, where I heaved my little wheeled carry-on into the overhead bin and settled into my window seat. There, I closed my eyes for most of the ten minutes that passed before take-off.
I wasn’t trying to sleep, however. In fact, I soon began eavesdropping on the conversation taking place in the row behind me.
That dialogue began when the guy assigned to the middle seat arrived. The two women who would ride on either side of him had already settled in, and the gal on the aisle was quite cheerful as she stood so he could claim his place.
When one of the women made a joke about the middle seat, he said “That’s what I get for making my reservations three days ago.”
His new companions then learned that he was traveling to L.A. for a conference – some kind of software thing (that’s when I tuned out for a bit). And when, a minute or two later, window-seat lady asked him where he was from, he said Harrisonburg, Virginia. That got me listening again, only because I, too, was raised in the Shenandoah Valley.
He shared that he was going to the West Coast for the first time, and he was staying with a friend in Burbank. He also was looking forward to doing some sight-seeing, though he expected he’d only have about two full days at the end of the week.
And that is when the advice began. That is also when I began to cringe occasionally. As it turned out, both of the women on either side of him live in L.A., and as it turns out, they both live on Los Angeles’ west side.
I silently concurred with window-seat woman when she discouraged him from trying to go to Long Beach. Not that Long Beach doesn’t have much to offer – it absolutely does. It’s just that getting there and back (from Burbank) could possibly take four hours on the freeway. (Not the best use of vacation time.)
Aisle-seat woman fully embraced her travel agent role as the flight moved west, and it really threw me when she suggested he spend time on Melrose.
A part of me wanted to unfasten my seat belt, pop up on my knees, and turn around so as to present my head and shoulders to the three of them.
Melrose?! I wanted to say. Are you kidding? That is SO twenty years ago!
Aisle-seat woman continued with her suggestions. West Hollywood is nice, she offered, and yes, he should see the Hollywood sites – the typical tourist attractions, such as Grauman’s Chinese, etc. – but, she cautioned, Hollywood is “very dirty” and “you probably don’t want to go east of there.”
What?! I wanted to say. Do you not know?
Seriously. “East of there” is where the action is. East of there is Los Feliz. And Silver Lake. East of there is where the cookie cutter gives way to eclectic. And if you think it’s only for the unwashed, don’t say that to (be-still-my-heart) Jon Hamm, who apparently lives in my ‘hood. Apparently, he’s been seen in the little one-of-a-kind restaurants. Word has it, too, that he likes the no-franchise coffee shops that offer hot beverages in common English sizes.
(I’m not suggesting the Harrisonburg guy would respond to the Jon Hamm reference, but come on, west side girls, get with the program!)
Okay, I’ll admit it – I’m not a big fan of L.A.’s west side. I’ve always found it much too monochromatic. In fact, if L.A. were only its west side, I’d have moved back east 16 years ago.
On the other hand, the west side girls were absolutely right in encouraging him to visit the beach communities. One of them even knew to recommend the ever-funky Venice boardwalk. Good for her.
But… could they tell him, as a sightseer, the absolute best way to get there? From Burbank? Unfortunately, they could not. In fact, I believe one of them recommended a route that included the 10 Freeway. So wrong!
Here’s the deal: if you’re ever in L.A., and you want to see the beach, pretend you’re staying with a friend in Burbank. Because no matter where you’re staying, it will behoove you to find the Ventura Freeway and head west.
From there, take the Topanga Canyon Boulevard exit, heading south. Then, prepare to be awed. You’ll climb a tall winding hill that affords breath-taking panoramic views of the Valley. Then, you’ll enter the canyon, which is phenomenally rustic. You will be taking in that rusticity (great word, huh?) for probably 12 or 13 miles, and you will be blown away by the intensity of and changes in the landscape. Then, just when you wonder what could possibly come next, you’ll follow a curve in the road, and at an elevation that’s maybe 1,000 feet above sea level, you will see the grand Pacific Ocean. Your response will be audible.
… I know, I know. I should have told him.
It’s just that I felt like he already had been overpowered by women who know what they know. I was afraid I’d scare him. I also was tired. I needed to get home to my wacky neighborhood – the “dirty” one, just east of Hollywood.
But… now you know.
So: if you ever fly to L.A., and you sit next to some gal from the west side, ask her if she’s done that drive. And if she hasn’t, tell her she should.
I’m just sayin’.