Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Approaching Los Angeles

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’.


Lora said...

we stayed in calabasas when i was there and made the drive to malibu several times...not quite the same drive, but it was AMAZING. that is one crazy road!

cj Schlottman said...

As a recovering Type A personality, certainly understand the urge to jump into another's conversation when I hear something that is totally WRONG! I just have to grit my teeth, but sometimes that's not enough, and I lean into the dialogue and spout my two cents worth. "Actually, most GPS systems are flawed.....the best route is.......I'm hopeless!

As usual, Linda, your essay is very visual and concrete. I really like your writing.....cj

Deb Shucka said...

I love eavesdropping almost as much as I love reading about your eavesdropping! It's nice to know who to ask the next time I'm in L.A. looking for adventure. :-)

Sioux Roslawski said...

I loved your phrase, "...the cookie cutter gives way to the eclectic." What a great traveling partner you must be! (And I drool over Jon Hamm, too.)

Anonymous said...

Eavesdropping is great lol! I love hearing just part of a conversation - lying on a local beach years ago on a windy summer's day, listening to families walk by on the promenade,I still recall hearing one conversation that went like this:
child: "daddy I'm.....(didn't hear that bit)
daddy: "You're bored? How can you be bored?"
Child: "No daddy, I didn't say I'm bored, I said I'm blowing..."

The vision of this little girl blowing along the promenade is with me to this day...
Enjoyed your dilemma Katie!

Lisa Ricard Claro said...

Eavesdropping may not be polite, but it is a great way to "people watch". And it's only technically impolite if you get caught. :)

If I ever head west, I'll take your advice. That drive sounds incredible.

Lazarus said...

Very entertaining post Katie. But how could those two women recite the highlights of LA without mentioning your blog! Anyway, I'm sure that Jon Hamm will enjoy taking you on that ride to the beach, just keep hanging out in the local coffee shops and fate will take its course! Keep up the great blogging.

Cheryl said...

I could visualize that route and I'll definitely take it next time I'm out there. To see so much in so short a distance always astounds me. That's one advantage the west has over the east every day of the week.

Cheryl D. said...

Thanks so much for visiting me on my SITS Day and for steering me to this post. I enjoyed it immensely! I lived on the Westside for about 10 years and absolutely loved it! Some of that time was in a rent-control apartment in Santa Monica (the absolute best!). The only thing that got me out of the apartment was the cheap real estate prices in 1996 (after the earthquake and fires) tha afforded me a two-bedroom condo in Westwood for $125,000. After getting married and wanting to buy a house, we moved to the Valley where I sold my condo which paid for 50 percent of the selling price of a big hill house in Woodland Hills. I know that beach route very well, since I live by Topanga and Mulholland--right at the opening of the canyon! It's a great part of L.A. to live in. I have panoramic views of the Valley, and I feel like I live up in the mountains. I see Coyotes and rabbits all the time, and even once spotted a California Condor right outside my window! It's a very cool place to live!

What were you doing in Virginia? My sister lives 5 minutes from Dulles Airport. I used to travel to DC all the time when I had a job that paid! LOL

BTW, I'm your newest follower!

alison said...

never been west of CO...yet...i am amazed you were able to remain silent in the face of such incorrect and unhelpful info! and john hamm? if it's good enough for him then count me totally in...visiting from sits...have a wonderful day!


stuff and nonsense

Marie said...

I have overheard conversations like that before and sooo wanted to speak up, but it would've blown my cover....Everything you said was dead on....I mean from Burbank take the 10? Are they nuts? Worst case is you take the 101 to the 405 but your drive is much more beautiful. Downtown is sooo exciting, with the flower mart, etc. Oh I am passionate about my old stomping grounds can you tell?

Christina said...

Sometimes it's so hard to not say anything when you overhear a conversation... If I ever go to California, I'll be sure to ask where I should visit!

Tonya said...

I would love to go to L.A. and take that drive! If I am ever there...I will! I can almost picture it. :)

Maggie S. said...

That happens a lot on planes. Good to know if I am ever in L.A. I live in that neighborhood in my little city.

le Chef said...

Here from SITS, because I was intrigued by this post :) I'm hearing you loud and clear. So many times I've been the wall fly (is that even a term?) and kept to my unwashed self when all I really wanted to do was scream, "No! No!, Run Will Robinson! Bad advice, they're Starbucks swilling Stepford agents!"
Though, upon hearing that, they likely would have avoided my advice as well.

Lynn said...

I'm totally taking that drive...if only for a Jon Hamm sighting.

Morgan said...

Funny ... my mom and I call that little eavesdropping habit of ours "ear flapping" ... and it's so very entertaining!

Visiting from SITS :)

Sharon said...

This is too funny. I always listen to these bizarre conversations. Somehow my brain just tunes in. I usually stay quiet but while living in Hawai'i you could tell the tourists on the plane and just had to tell them where to go and what to see because they had the worst plans of what they should see. How could you miss and erupting volcano? Where else would you see that!

CK said...

Hahaha! You make me want to go to LA SO badly!!! We actually live close by (we are rather nomadic so we haven't been here too long) and we live on the west side and I LOVVVVVVE the beach and I love the 1! We haven't done enough exploring yet but hopefully we will get the chance before we're on the move again!

JanMary @ said...

Visiting from Ireland via SITS.

Not sure I would have shown the same restraint, I couldn't have resisted intervening!

Happy St Patricks Day - just 1 day late.