Feel it. It is real.
I wasn’t expecting to be excited. But when I saw the first turnoff I was beside myself – giggling and panting and pulling out my cell phone to take a quick photo while drivers swerved around me, honking their horns to protest me pausing before shuffling up in the 80 mile queue behind the next frustrated car, to continue traveling at 5.7mph on a freeway built for speeding.
Welcome to LA. Los Angeles… a city that actually has its name in lights at every turn. And traffic like you’ve never seen even in Joburg. It’s fun the first time because there’s plenty to check out as you inch along. Grafitti. Buildings built before 1999. Buildings that will have fallen down long before 2011. Massive billboards. Decorations on the concrete (very 70s). Promise and panic and studio city – the Capitol Records tower… each time my GPS lady gave me a new instruction – “Stay on this road in 2 miles, Los Angeles Interstate 101 North” I could barely contain myself. Los Angeles! Interstate! Nor… oh, nevermind. Interstate! LA!
The sign on the hill is not as I expected, either - the hill is bigger than I thought, and the sign smaller in relation.
“I’m here! I’m here!” I wanted to shout, but nobody was there to tell me to shut up and drive properly. So I just turned the music louder. Oddly, my South African jazz favourite Moses Molelekwa shuffled onto the ipod as the soundtrack to my arrival in the wild west’s city of dreams.
On the way back, after a few days in Santa Barbara with a friend, and another five hour drive in traffic, it was getting dark, and I was finished-tired, when I saw the a sign approaching: “Sunset Boulevard” it said – a little arrow off the 101 South. I was nearly home – but… I hestitated for only a second.
Because the sun was almost setting, and it’s SUNSET BOULEVARD, not “museum of boring mummies and other old shit (screaming kids half price!)”, for fuck’s sake.
Lou Reed, Dirty Blvd was actually about New York, not LA.
Lou Reed’s “Dirty Boulevard” played in my head as I drove down Sunset Boulevard, but the song didn’t fit. Why weren’t there prostitutes and druggies, just like in Pretty Woman? Well maybe there were, but since every second person is skinny and tattoed here, it’s really easy for druggies (and Lou Reed) to blend in, and women generally dress in tight stuff whether they’re 18, 80, or 800 pounds, so I couldn’t tell yet.
Maybe the prostitute was the one wearing the pin striped dress suit (just to draw attention to herself, you know). Or maybe she was a lawyer.
Sunset is probably a bad part of LA. But it looks like a good part of Obs or Melville! People walked or cycled around just fine, and tacos takeout places lined the streets advertising with words like “EAT LOCAL”. It was beautiful and strange, familiar from a million moves and unreal in reality, to be cruising down, watching the pale full moon flicking past the rows of impossibly tall palm trees, with the horizon turning smog-orange at the end of the a road – a road that never seemed to end.
I never made it all the way down to the fading orange smudge – not this time. My way was blocked by a Road Closed Sign, due to a film shoot on the lower part of the boulevard (Capetonians, you know this feeling!), and I had to take a detour through an old suburb – a really beautiful old suburb where the owners were still forced to park on the street, as if in memory of the days of public transport, and the days when Sunset Boulevard was a very smart place to be. Very few houses have burglar bars, so how bad can it be, really?
Closed for filming. I guess I'll come back later and see it for myself.
I could live there, I thought, as I accelerated back onto the highway in the dark. It’s definitely more my scene than anywhere else I’ve been so far in the USA.
Hey! I wonder if one day, I’ll live “just off Sunset”, drive my slightly dented salvage dark green Cadillac around LA and California, and write movies all day and all night long.
Well nothing is impossible right now. This story is only just beginning.