Home: West Hollywood VRBO
“Los Angeles” is enormous, so we could only ever hope to see a small part of it traveling by bicycle. So where to establish a base for a few days? Conveniently, the Hollywood area is doubly attractive to Rett, both as a fan of Hollywood’s productions, and as a fan of not deviating too far off our route to Palm Springs.
Our morning was mostly errands, walking from our VRBO to Trader Joe’s to stock up on groceries. Our VRBO was expensive, but had a full(-ish) kitchen, so cooking all our own meals was a way get value out of that expense. Another way was to use the free (and more-importantly, convenient) laundry machine to do both a normal load of clothes, and then also wash our rain gear, to keep the DWR (Durable Water Repellent) treatment in good shape. It’s the second time in the last couple weeks that we’ve used laundry machines that are just sitting outdoors, under minor shelters. Oh, Southern California, you’re so SoCal.
After those chores, we walked back out to Hollywood Boulevard, both for some more chores (Christmas charm-replacement on Rett’s watch band, printing tickets at FedEx), but also to do a bit of the standard tourist stuff. When riding, Rett frequently needs to spend more time staring at the ground in front of her (to avoid treacherous road surface) than looking at all the vistas in the distance, so it was funny/sad that even off the bikes, we both found ourselves doing the same thing as we walked down the Hollywood Walk of Fame, staring at the names on the sidewalk and missing all the weirdos and flashing lights at eye-level and above.
The messages/prints/signatures in the concrete at Mann’s (er, Grauman’s, er, TCL) Chinese Theatre are way cooler than the Walk-of-Fame stars, because they were left by the stars themselves at the height of their fame, rather than just commemorated by some 3rd-party committee after-the-fact. Unlike the fixed-format stars on the Walk, you can see a lot of personality locked into the cement (e.g., some clearly practiced their signatures in concrete, some clearly didn’t. Some did hands, some did feet, some did bare feet (Susan Sarandon) and peace signs (Jane Fonda)). Many frequently had warm messages for ‘Sid’, which just gives an air of Old Hollywood chumminess that completes the movie-star illusion.
I was surprised how soon after the ‘Star Wars’ release that three of the characters immortalized themselves, so when I was writing this, I checked the ‘Star Wars’ Wikipedia entry to see the actual date when the movie was released. In a bit of circularism, I read in the “Release” section about the re-opening of the film at Mann’s Chinese Theatre…at which R2-D2, C-3PO, and Darth Vader left their prints. It makes me wonder, is the main reason that that section was included in the Wikipedia entry because of the physical evidence of their visit that can be seen to this day? And then by extension, are most of the names scrawled into the concrete there recognizable to two 40-somethings, 70 years later, mainly because they’ve been sitting there for 70 years being read about by millions of people, and constantly re-boosted in our cultural memory?
It really goes back to Egyptian hieroglyphs, and cuneiform on clay tablets, and what has always bugged me about anthropology: how much of our understanding of human history is biased by our knowledge of those who were smart/lucky enough to leave their footprints in concrete, versus our ignorance of those who failed to leave a permanent mark of their existence anywhere?
I own excellent record albums that were released much more recently than ‘Star Wars’, but have already nearly vanished from cultural memory, because the streaming rights never got picked up by Spotify, and no other communities exist any longer on the supposedly infinite-memory Internet to keep them alive. Without any physical form, they will just continue to fade and be forgotten, like so many Hollywood actors who never got invited to scar the concrete at the Chinese Theatre. Or maybe they got invited, but their daughter got sick that day, so they had to skip it. And that brief illness is the difference between me writing their specific name in this blog, and me referring to them as a vague theoretical reference.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that our Hollywood visit taught me that I should be scratching this blog into the concrete shoulder of the roads we travel, and not just storing it as electronic bits in the ether.