Josh in California - Part 3: Hollywoodland

Wednesday, October 24, 2001

Hollywood Boulevard, 5:15 PM, Tuesday, October 23, 2001…

I have to start this post off with a plug: If you find yourself hungry in Hollywood, let me recommend the inappropriately-named “Ronnie’s Donuts.” It’s a sub shop, really — “Home of the $1.50 Sub,” as they advertise on the storefront. I’m eating a big, Thundercloud-sized egg-salad sub and it really really cost only $1.50, which could make this one of my most comfortable eating experiences so far in Los Angeles. Most comfortable because I’m on a rather tight budget out here and spending $18.00 on incredible sushi like I did last night causes little alarms and sirens to go off in the back of my head: “If this continues, Josh, you’ll be spending your stay in Santa Cruz sleeping on the sidewalk.” Anyway, good sub for only a buck-fifty. And if this place can happily stay in business (it looks like it’s been here for a while and the servers had a good, silly rapport with the local businessman-sorts in line in front of me) I wonder what the hell makes most restaurants so much more expensive. Probably because they fail to creatively eliminate certain expersive overhead items, or maybe just because they can be.

This reminds me of a conversation I had with Claire the night before coming out here (that would be Thursday night). She’d mentioned sometime during the previous months her idea (of many, many) to found a chain of fast foods restaurants that serve normal food — “healthy” vegetarian sandwiches and raw veggies to go, I imagine. Imagine a place where I could get some sliced mixed veggies and dip, a medium-sized sandwich, and some juice for just a couple bucks. Yeah, you imagine that. I’ll imagine you with a green sombrero theatrically eating peach slices in light syrup straight from the can. What? I’m just floating off into space now. Let’s get back to the scene…

Besides this place, which is charming for its low-cost personality (it’s got a glass storefront about fifteen feet wide on Hollywood and goes about fifty feet deep with a counter with two fiesty Chinese women serving subs at the back and several round cheap-restaurant-standard round gray tables and simple padded cheap-restaurant-standard brown chairs around them), there’s the rest of Hollywood Boulevard which is predictably not that great. I’m up here because the Hollywood bus stop happened to be an easier trip from Brenna’s apartment than the LA station. That’s why I’ve got a few hours to kill (my bus leaves at 7:55 — I got the ticket at 3:40).

So I left my big travelling backpack at the bus station after an encounter with the surly ticket agents (all Greyhound ticket agents are surly, as far as I can tell) and decided to go walk around Hollywood to see what’s up. Now, let me save you the trouble of actually coming down here by describing exactly what you’re going to see. You’ll step onto Hollywood Blvd and think, “wow, look at the palm trees and, oh, look, here are those little stars that Hollywood sorts seem to make such a big deal about. Oh, look, ‘Ernest Borgnine,’ ‘Edward G. Robinson,’ ‘Zsa Zsa Gabor’ — famous names! Okay, that’s cool… And look at these shops I can visit! Boy, if I needed to buy pornography or cheap t-shirts that say ‘Los Angeles’ and ‘God Bless America,’ then this would be fucking heaven.”

I’m being grouchy.

It’s not so bad, really, I just find something logically funky with places that exist as tourist traps only to promote themselves… Something cyclical and pointless about that to me. I’m sure, if you’ve travelled with me, you’ve heard me bitch about it before and you’ll probably read some more bitching about it if you check back here in a few days, although not being quite as visible as a piece of American McCulture, I don’t think I’m going to find quite so much nonsense in the smaller towns of Monterrey and Santa Cruz. (The bus I’m taking this evening will take me to Santa Cruz.)

Anyway, I worked my way down to Mann’s Chinese Theater, which is actually quite nice, though under renovation right now. I could get an idea of what the place would look like without the scaffolding and I walked around looking at the cement hand-and-foot-prints of celebrities within the “courtyard” of the theater. Mann’s, in case you don’t know, is where many movie premieres are held and looks like a Art Deco Chinese temple with cut-iron dragons and reeds poinking off all the corners. Two arms sort of wrap around the entrance making a courtyard-sort-of area (there are no plants or anything here, just the celebrity cement-prints). This makes the perfect little celebrity photo-op fantasy-land, I bet. So I saw Harrison Ford’s prints and Nicolas Cage’s, Eddie Murphy and Shirly Temple and R2-D2, C3PO, and Darth Vader, the whole Star Trek (original) cast, and a bunch of older entertainment names I sort of vaguely have heard of but don’t really know anything about… All dedicated to Ted and … I forget the other name. Don, I think. Ted and Don. I didn’t know what to make of this. Ted and Don Grauman, maybe. The theater had a sign that said “Grauman’s Chinese Theater” on it. This could be the real name or this could be the name of the builders, designers, or owners. An interesting, unexpected find of mine was “Grauman’s Egyptian Theater” down the street, east of the Chinese Theater several blocks on the other side of the street. It’s a very similar construction, but with (hey!) and Egyptian theme. Same concrete-courtyard idea, but the building had orange—pink fake-sand colors with Hollywoodish Egyptian design elements on it. And they’re showing “Evil Dead” on Halloween, which is way cool. They have a whole classic film series happening right now.

After Mann’s I made my way back the other way — winding through some more residential areas a block north of Hollywood, just for something more natural — and ended up on the other side of the bus station out at Gower street. A web site I found that gives tips about viewing the “Hollywood” sign recommended Hollywood and Gower as a good place to see it from, and it’s right. Gower is aimed right at the sign so you can stand at the corner and go, “Yup, that’s the sign!” as you view it on the hill between the buildings that line Gower. There’s not really that much to do with the “Hollywood” sign except accept it’s existance. It’s pretty small from Hollywood and Gower, about a hand-width-at-arm’s-length wide. Maybe a little wider. And it’s really hazy out today (as it’s been through my entire stay in Los Angeles), so the sign wasn’t very highly visible. On a clearer day it might have been much more attractive on the side of a green hill with blue skies. This afternoon it shone a lighter shade of gray than its surrondings.

It’s about 6:00 and it’s getting dark outside. Ronnie’s Donuts is filling up with small groups of people — an Hispanic family, and Anglo family, a couple asian chicks, an older couple, and three business-boy sorts. Normal people, which seems odd for this part of town. 6247 Hollywood Boulevard — that’s the address painted on the storefront glass. The battery on my laptop is just about out of juice so I’m going to close up and take it back to the streets. I’ll be in Santa Cruz tomorrow morningat 6:55.