Los Angeles - Oct 21-24
Oct 24, 2011
|October 21, 2011
We landed early in LA, just before 5am, and we’d both managed to get a couple of hours sleep. Unlike the last overnight flight we had the plane was in darkness almost the entire way and we were able to ignore the movement around the plane and at least get some rest. We met Elizabeth’s parents at the airport and headed to our hotel, Jerry's Motel. Lynda and David had taken a road trip from Texas to LA to meet us so that we could use their car to drive around the US for the next 2 months and we were really grateful to them. They’d stopped along the way at the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas and it sounds like they’d had fun. We weren’t able to check in at Jerry’s so we put our bags in Lynda and David’s room and tried to find somewhere for an early breakfast.
We found a place in the Lonely Planet book called Waffle and we headed there. It hadn’t quite opened when we arrived so we went next door to the coffee shop and grabbed a drink while we waited. When it did open, it was worth the wait. The décor was really cool and the waitress was really friendly and made some great suggestions of what to try off their massive menu. Between the four of us we really feasted, enjoying some breakfast burritos, some waffles, plenty of bacon and lots more besides. Elizabeth and I hadn’t had a breakfast like that for a LONG time!
It was still early but we thought it would be a good time to drive around some of the Hollywood sights and to tick off some of the things everyone needs to see in LA! We started by parking up behind the Kodak Theater and walking along the Hollywood Walk of Fame and seeing all of the stars before visiting the Chinese Theater and all the hand and footprints in the tarmac outside. I had been here before but Elizabeth and her parents were all excited to spot the stars and prints of all those famous people they’d heard of and seen.
After that we popped along to the Hollywood Museum. It sounded interesting but didn’t sound like it was that big but in fact it was massive. The museum is housed in the old Max Factor building, named after the famous makeup artist who made some of the stars into who we know them today. This included rooms specifically for blondes, one for brunettes and one for redheads; the blonde one was where he made Marilyn Monroe the blonde we all know! Amongst the things on view were the ruby red slippers from The Wizard of Oz, one of Marilyn Monroe’s cars, a goulish contraption for measuring face imperfections and seemingly hundreds of autographs, photos and outfits from lots of major Hollywood productions. In the basement they even had the original cell from Silence of the Lambs amongst many other creepy artifacts. The upper floors had a lot of stuff about Lucille Ball, as it is the 100th anniversary of her birth this year, and Jean Harlow, born in the same year also. The story about Jean Harlow’s life was particularly sad but hey, she had a cool car (also on display)! We all enjoyed the museum as the variety of things on display was really great although I think Lynda liked the original, art deco bathrooms the most!
We’d tried to get views of the Hollywood sign from near the Chinese Theater but the fog and smog were too heavy although it was barely visible as we started to head back to the car. I’d told the others a good spot to view the sign from and I think they thought I was making it up until the fog started clearing. After a brief stop to pick up the obligatory Hard Rock magnet, we went back to the car and had a drive around. LA is vast and it is easy to get lost so we were grateful for the GPS which successfully guided us through Beverly Hills and up around Hollywood Hills where we finally got a great view of the Hollywood sign. We had taken a bit of a back route to get there and when the road ended we were left surrounded by amazing houses with the sign as a backdrop. Would’ve been the perfect spot if it was where we’d meant to be but it was pure luck we ended up there!
After driving along Rodeo Drive we stopped at a place called Cheebo for lunch. They had a lunch special of soup and sandwich and that was what I had, the lentil soup followed by a big, fat tuna sandwich. I felt like quite a pig as I was the only one to finish my sandwich but at least Elizabeth got hers to go so I could eat the rest later!
The lack of sleep finally caught up with us so we drove back to Jerry’s to check into our room and take an afternoon nap. I didn’t sleep for too long as I didn’t want to ruin my sleep tonight but I had to sleep a bit as we were heading out tonight and I didn’t want to fall asleep then! Lynda and David had wanted to go and see a performance by the LA Philharmonic Orchestra at the Walt Disney Concert Hall and we thought it would be good to go together. I’d never been to anything like this before although not being a fan of this kind of music meant I never really had a reason to! The concert was interesting mostly for the main piece which included an electronic cello, similar in a way to an electronic guitar but with the accompaniment of a hundred other instruments. We went to a discussion about the piece prior to the show and it actually sounded like it was going to be quite cool and a lot of fun. I have to admit, though, the performance itself didn’t live up to these expectations and whilst the performance was great to see, the inclusion of the electronic cello was neither here nor there for me. The sound of the cello was very unique amongst the other instruments but I really didn’t think it was that impressive. I think the others felt quite differently so maybe it was just me not getting it! I managed to stay awake for the entire performance and this was helped by my interest mostly in the mad conductor. I don’t really get the point of a conductor but then again that is probably something else I just don’t get. I understand the keeping the tempo and the beat and such like but surely if a band or orchestra practiced enough and learnt the pieces they were playing (which I’m sure they do), then why do they need someone to tell them how to keep time? Anyway, this conductor, Gustavo Dudamel, was quite a character with his stupid, curly, floppy mop hair but he certainly captivated the audience. It was certainly an interesting evening and as I always tell Elizabeth – it’s always good to try something new!
Back at the motel we all hit the sack pretty quickly as tomorrow was Lynda and David’s last day with us and there were still a few things they wanted to see and do!
October 22, 2011
This morning we decided to head out to the Getty Villa and on looking we found we needed reservations so I quickly made 4 for 11am and we headed out. We stopped in Santa Monica along the way to get a quick breakfast at McDonald’s and had a stroll along the pier to see the ocean and the Santa Monica beach. Well, that was the plan but like yesterday morning the fog was covering just about everything and it was actually fairly cold. It was certainly not what we’d expected in southern California!
Once at the Getty Villa we discovered we were just in time for one of their tours so we thought it would be a good idea to take that and get an idea about the place. The area was owned by Jean Paul Getty who had originally purchased the land for his own private residence. When his collection of art grew he initially allowed people to visit his house to view the pieces before deciding that a museum specifically for them was a better idea. He built the museum at this site in the style of a Roman villa, typical of that which would have been found in Pompeii. The building was really impressive and the art inside was equally so. The girl doing the tour was really good and rather than concentrating on the main, important pieces, she’d picked 4 pieces which were interesting and good for discussion. This was great as it really got you looking closely at the pieces to spot things. The first piece was a sarcophagus which had subsequently been used as a water trough! You were only able to guess of its later use by finding the small hole at the bottom which had been drilled to allow the trough to drain. Equally, by looking at the design on the front of the sarcophagus you were able to work out what some of the detailed sculpture was telling us about the person and the time and beliefs from their era. The rest of the tour was great, too, but as it only showed us a few pieces we had an hour to ourselves to go around and look at some other things. I headed to the gardens outside first and these were amazing with a wonderful pool in the centre and fountains all around. After that I basically used the guide we had been given by the museum to go around and see the major, more significant pieces on display, all the while enjoying the stunning building and surroundings. It was just a shame that the weather was still foggy as the villa is supposed to have great views down to the ocean but all we could see was white!
We all enjoyed our time at the Getty Villa and we were all ready for lunch when we left and so we sought out some food. We found a place called 3 Square in Venice and although we had a wait for a table, it was worth it. Elizabeth and I both had pretzel burgers and these were really yummy. The café seemed quite upmarket and it was certainly full of people who enjoyed spending their weekends drinking and chatting! Lunch did turn out to be quite expensive though as when we returned to the car I had a parking ticket waiting on the windscreen for me. When I was parking I had just pulled into the first spot I saw, not realizing that I was facing the wrong direction. The parking space was tight enough for me to get in as it was without having to mess around with a three-point turn first but then I didn’t realize parking against the traffic was not allowed!
From there we took a bit of a drive. Elizabeth and David wanted to go to Long Beach to see the Queen Mary ship. It was about a 40 minute or so drive and annoyingly when we arrived the area was closed for a special event. We managed to get into the parking lot for long enough for Elizabeth and her Dad to rush out and take some quick pictures before we were back on the road heading north into the city again.
We had found out that on Saturdays another of the art galleries in the city, the Getty Centre, was free to park after 5pm (usually $15) and so we decided to visit that in the evening. There was quite a queue to get in with many people having the same idea and after we struggled to find parking I let the others go in while I circled waiting to park. I eventually found a spot and caught up with them and we had a couple of hours to roam around on our own and to explore. The setting of the museum was stunning and given that I wasn’t that interested in much of the art here, I spent quite a bit of time roaming around outside, catching the wonderful sunset. The sky had really cleared from earlier and the colours were amazing. I spent most of my time going around the temporary exhibits which focused more on contemporary art and included some really cool pieces by Ed Ruscha, including the main piece of the exhibit called “Standard Station, Amarillo TX”. It was on the posters advertising the exhibit and the actual piece was really large and impressive and I love the style of Ruscha’s pieces. I’m sure they aren’t to everybody’s tastes but it is far more up my street than 16th century landscapes and portraits! There was also a “head” on display by Messerschmidt. These were a number of sculptures featuring different emotions on faces which were done by Messerschmidt and which we had seen elsewhere. Here they had the face which was “vexed”. The faces are so funny looking but they portray the emotions so well. The final piece I really remember was called “Pearblossom Highway #2” by David Hockney and it was interesting for me because it got me excited for the long drive we had ahead of us crossing the entire US, from coast to coast. (All of these pieces can be Googled easily so you can see what I am talking about using the searches “Standard Station, Amarillo TX Rushca”, “Vexed Head Messerschmidt” and “Pearblossom Highway #2 Hockney”)
By the time we met up, Lynda and David were getting tired and as it was late we started to head back to the motel. I wasn’t really hungry but we decided to stop for some dinner at Marie Callender’s, which I gather is a chain but I’ve never heard of it before. They had lots of heavy sounding dishes but as I was still quite full for lunch I went for a lighter salad. I did fancy something sweet at the end though and as they are known for their pies, Elizabeth and I shared lemon meringue pie. If I wasn’t truly stuffed before, I was now and I drove us back to the motel so I could collapse into a food coma!
October 23, 2011
Lynda and David’s stay with us was finishing today and we had to get up early to take them to the airport. It was so great of them to drive all this way so we could have the car for a couple of months and I hope they had a great trip along the way. We did quite a bit of stuff with them in LA, too, so I bet they were glad of the rest when they got home! The airport isn’t too far from where we were staying so after dropping them off and saying our goodbyes, we returned to Jerry’s for another couple of hours of sleep!
When we did get up we were really hungry so we tried to find somewhere to eat nearby. Unbeknown to us, about two blocks from our motel was a really shady area where little English was spoken and more goods were being sold on the streets than in stores. We did try and stop at a couple of places but the first was a packed Mexican place where we were the only non-Latinos around and the second was a fast food joint which had bullet proof screens covering the till area and your food was passed to you through a boxed opening. To say I didn’t feel comfortable in this Little Mexico would be an understatement. Honestly, I felt safer walking around Mexico City’s markets and poorer areas. We eventually headed towards where we wanted to go and along the way we found a Chipotle in Culver City and stopped there for some food after circling the block for 15 minutes looking for parking, conscious of not getting another ticket! Of course, I’d never been to Chipotle before and had no idea what to order so I followed Elizabeth’s lead. She ordered a burrito bowl. I ordered the same. Except apparently I was speaking in a foreign language because English isn’t actually that common in America.
Today’s lesson in American is pronunciation of the letter “t” which actually should sound like a “d” apparendly. I’m sure we’ve all laughed at a Family Guy episode where Peter (pronounced “Peder”) Griffin says we have to do our “duty” and then laughs because it sounds like “dudy” but this is actually how Americans speak. In fact, I might have mentioned before how my name is often translated to pizza by Americans because I dare to pronounce the “t” correctly. Anyway, Elizabeth helped me order my burrido bowl and it was very good!!!
It seemed like it had taken us an eternity to find lunch but thankfully our plans for the day weren’t affected as the places we wanted to go and see were open late. We started off at the Annenberg Photography Museum which had a special exhibition ongoing which focused on beauty. We arrived just in time to see a film which focused on how women are portrayed in the media and how the fashion and model industries project onto women what it expected of them, regardless of what women or general society perceives. The video was both funny and interesting and featured a number of schoolgirls who had been “chosen” by modeling agencies as potential models but had been told to lose weight. Most of them were already thin and it was really horrible seeing what some of the girls would do to become a model. This still was not as bad as the woman who spent over $100k on makeup and outfits for her daughter to enter beauty pageants. It was disgusting the way the woman dressed her young daughter in ridiculous outfits and every time the girl said something her mother corrected her and basically told her what to say. It was really sad and you hope this girl has more of a life than the one her mother plans for her. Lots of the photos around were of everyday names and faces and a host of supermodels but there were many which were more unusual and portrayed women of a more healthy size and shape, not just twigs. Some of the photographers they interviewed on the video were real creeps, too, and it was interesting to see these fat, old, balding, ugly men telling a young, attractive woman she wasn’t beautiful or skinny enough. Hypocrisy much?
From there we went to LACMA, the LA County Museum of Art and we were expecting this to be quite pricey by the time we’d paid for parking, regular entry plus the special exhibit we wanted to see. We were a little disappointed when we arrived as we found out the special exhibit on Tim Burton had already sold out but we wanted to see the rest of the museum anyway so we joined the queue for tickets. As we waited, a woman walked over and asked if anyone wanted two Tim Burton tickets and Elizabeth quickly answered that we would like them. The woman said she’d been here all day, was tired and didn’t fancy waiting another hour to go and see the exhibit. When we looked at the tickets we saw that she was a member of the museum so these tickets actually meant we had access to the entire museum and all of its galleries, not just the Tim Burton exhibit. This woman’s kind act had saved us $40! We had some time before our allocated slot for the special exhibit so we went and looked around some of the other galleries first.
We walked around some of the Americas galleries and there were some really interesting pieces from South and Central America, including a skull which was encrusted with jewels. There were also a number of portraits from Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. These included a Rivera portrait of Kahlo, Rivera’s famous Flower Day and a painting by Kahlo of crying coconuts. That woman was nuts.
By the time we had seen this we were able to queue for the Tim Burton exhibit. The queue was really long but when I realized we had member’s tickets we were able to skip the queue and go almost straight in! These tickets were great! Inside, there were hundreds of sketches by Burton showing many of the characters from his films, including early versions which were included in projects he never made but were reincarnated later. The best thing here though was the costumes from films such as Edward Scissorhands. These included the outfit worn by Edward as well as a gloved, scissor hand! It was really cool to see this up close as well as some of the models used for The Corpse Bride, A Nightmare before Christmas as well as some of his more recent films. We probably didn’t spend as long as we might have in here as it was pretty busy and there were lots of people not looking where they were going or shoving their pushchairs into you. It’s rare they allow pushchairs into these kinds of things so it was a pain having to deal with them.
We didn’t have long when we were done so we scooted around some other parts of the museum as quickly as we could and picked out what we wanted to see most. I wanted to see the modern and contemporary sections and there was a really great collection to things here from Warhol’s Electric Chair, Soup Can and Camouflage paintings to a variety of works by Klee, Kandinsky, Matisse and Miro. There was also a painting by Pollock entitled #15, the title not giving much away. As much as I want to hate paintings by Pollock and think of them as nothing more than strings of paint and colour going every which way, there is always something which draws me to them and interests me.
Other notable things included a massive dog made out of balloons (like the type clowns make but much, much larger!) and a statue of Michael Jackson and Bubbles by Jeff Koons which was creepily lifelike and scary.
They also had a couple of things by two of my favourite artists, a piece called Spam by Ed Ruscha and a Lichtenstein called Cold Shoulder. The end of the exhibit was marked with a massive painting by David Hockney called Mulholland Drive and this was really quite interesting, too, with so many things going on and so much bright colour. I think that is what both interests and infuriates me about modern art – the use of colours and objects and themes to highlight something whilst conversely using things so obtuse or ridiculous you can’t tell what is supposed to be going on. Elizabeth always gets annoyed when a picture is “untitled” and whilst it often gets us discussing it (which was probably what the artist wanted) it is annoying not knowing what the hell you are looking at sometimes! The accountant in me needs structure and a correct answer sometimes!
To be honest though, the most annoying thing about contemporary art is the snobbery which surrounds it. Whilst we were stood in LACMA looking at something reasonably interesting, I overheard two men in their 50s discussing a piece they were looking at. The piece in question was a square, painted black if I recall correctly, with another square possibly in red next to it. These two idiots were standing commenting on how the lines were so amazing and clean cut and the structure was brilliant and how it was “perfectly balanced”. Perfectly balanced? Yeh, I can use a ruler too and can paint inside the lines when required!
For dinner we spotted a restaurant as we were driving called Shakey’s Pizza and it seemed like it was family night! There were loads of kids around but they were all amazingly well behaved and it allowed us to enjoy our salad and spicy meat pizza before retiring back to Jerry’s for some well-earned sleep!
October 24, 2011
This morning we decided to visit another couple of museums, this time the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). MOCA is on two sites which are close to each other so we drove out to the Walt Disney Concert Hall to park and then went into the first site just over the road. The items in here were pretty much what you would expect from a contemporary art museum but they did have a lot of modern art works which weren’t quite so “far out there” and removed from normality. They had an early painting from Pollock which looked nothing like his later pieces and a piece called Football Players by Nicolas de Stael. This was one of those pieces that without a title would have looked like a load of splodges but with the title you looked closer and saw what the artist was actually painting. Google it and see.
There was an interesting Miro called Personnages Dans le Nuit and a painting by Jasper Johns merely called Map, I believe. This was a map of the US showing all the different states and whilst it isn’t something I’d hang on the wall at home, it was quite cool. They also had a few Lichtenstein’s here including The Grip, Man With Folded Arms and the astonishingly detailed Desk Calendar. They also had a number of photos by Ruscha of gas stations and it even showed the one which was his inspiration for the Amarillo painting we’d seen a couple of days before.
The final piece we saw was a load of different coloured strings on the ceiling; greens, yellows and red all going in different directions and patterns, with the green strings spelling out “pickle”. There was no sign at the beginning so you walked through it not knowing what it was or what you were supposed to think of it. It was really cool and when we got to the end we read the sign and saw that it was an installation by Pae White der Werks and the strings were supposed to resemble the top of a hot dog with the red for ketchup, the yellow for mustard and the green of course for pickle. Once you knew what it was and looked back on it, the piece seemed to take on a different meaning – the correct one! I told Elizabeth that if it was a hot dog, she must’ve been the wiener!
We had a short walk to the next place and the walk took us through part of downtown LA and into Little Tokyo. Outside the LA County Hall were a load of scummy, unwashed people camping out in the name and cause of “Occupy LA”. I don’t buy this crap. Go and have a shower and get a job, wasters.
Entering Little Tokyo we found a little Japanese restaurant hidden away and stopped there for some lunch. They had a lunch special going on and seeing all the local businessmen and women tucking into it we thought we would give it a go. The special included some sushi rolls and chicken teriyaki and was great value. The two women next to us saw that we were obviously tourists and were chatting to us about things to see and do here. It’s so nice to be in a big city where people are open and chatty but then I find that is the case in most American cities I’ve been to!
The second MOCA site was at the Geffen Center and the art here was much more recent and more about weird installations and funky paintings that you had no clue what was happening. The main things that interested me from the variety of things were the Raymond Pettibon cartoons/fanzines, a large painting called Downtown LA Underwater by Terry Schoonhoven and Ruscha’s Back of Hollywood. The Downtown LA Underwater picture was really funny as it crossed the hustle and bustle of city life with a very Atlantis type feel. The Back of Hollywood picture is such a striking picture, too, although it is really simple, with Hollywood written backwards on the hillside. For me though, the picture is made by the bright colours of the skyline which backdrop the sign and make it stand out so clearly.
After a bit of a laze around, we headed out in the evening to meet one of the Palace fans I know who lives near LA, a guy called Rob. We met at a bar along Sunset Blvd called Cat and Fiddle and thanks to Elizabeth choosing to drive I got to enjoy a few beers and some food while we chatted. Unfortunately, Rob lives quite a way outside of central LA so he wasn’t able to stay too late but it was great to meet another Palace fan on the road!