Friday, April 9, 2010

Tourists


Yesterday we were tourists in our own town, taking the family out to see some of the sights of Los Angeles. First stop…


... Grauman’s Chinese! It must be a quarter of a century, at least, since we ventured to this end of Hollywood Boulevard. When Matthew was about Alice’s age and Jason not much more than Georgia’s and Joe’s, we’d come down here for dinner out at the Hamburger Hamlet and maybe see a movie. I’m thinking we saw “Star Wars” here many years ago.

How much the area has changed. What used to be pretty much a single, free-standing theater has become a huge complex that includes the Kodak Theater and dozens of tourist shops and fast-food stops. The underground parking is a maze, with escalators leading to the plaza; and above-ground, a multitude of what I took to be out-of-work actors pose as Batman, Superman, Marilyn, Yoda...

...to have their pictures taken for a couple of dollars with the tourists and their kids… The most popular, it seemed, was Michael Jackson, hovering near his star on the Walk of Fame. And then there was Mickey Mouse's star...

... and something to interest Alice...

We escaped from there with minimal damage to the wallet and the psyche, and drove on to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where we walked the children through the galleries to the new contemporary area in the Ahmanson wing to see the big de Kooning painting from Ellie’s parents’ home—looking so small in its new location beside a massive painting by Clifford Still. In the same galleries there are several other art works donated by her parents to the museum—some of which, truth to tell, we would happily have hanging on the walls of our own home!

Lunch in the museum cafeteria, followed by a visit to the Japanese Pavilion. Matthew and Diane lived in Tokyo for many years, and enjoyed the many gorgeous prints by Hiroshige currently on display on the top floor, and some beautiful ceramic work...

... along with the scroll paintings hung, protectively in very low light, along the ramp that leads down through the other two floors to the basement—an architectural feature that allowed the children an unseemly romp. A final stop in the room devoted to the art of the netsuke, a beautifully installed display of hundreds of these tiny, fascinating objects...



Matthew had been talking about his wish to take the kids on a nostalgic (for him!) tour of the La Brea Tar Pits since even before their arrival in Los Angeles, and we all enjoyed a visit to Pit #91, still an active and richly rewarding paleontological dig through layers of tar and asphalt; and a tour of the Page Museum...



... where the results of years of patient excavation and research are on display. It’s a stunning collection of exhibits, and one that never fails to entrance the younger generation—combing the appeal of fossils and the bones of exotic creatures from the ancient world.

From the La Brea area, it was a short drive up to the Farmers’ Market, also much changed since our last visit there many years ago. Here. “progress” has seen the expansion of the original market into a vast complex of walking streets and shops, and what was once free parking has become an expensive lot where it’s now a watch-wait-and pounce game to find a parking spot. Our energy flagging somewhat from the day’s exertions, we made an ice-cream stop in the central market area...




... and wandered around for a while before deciding—at my urging, chiefly, I confess—that enough was enough, and—at Ellie’s—that a drive through Beverly Hills might provide a different view of the city.

We headed off in that direction in our caravan of two cars, only to realize that we had lost Matthew and family along the way. We discovered that, in a moment of distraction, Matthew had followed the wrong silver Prius, turning off in completely the wrong direction and ending up way south of where he was supposed to be. Thank God for cell phones, which do turn out to have their uses! We talked him back on the right track, and all met up again in time for a pleasant walk through a few residential streets, which took us past the once charming, modest house where Ellie grew up—a place that has now been gussied up by its new owners to include the obligatory swimming pool and a pretentious front entry with columns and steps...

... and along “Little Santa Monica”, where we found her father’s old tobacco shop—Mrs. Kramer’s—still open for business with the original owner’s son-in-law on hand to sell me a couple of cigars. We were delighted, too, to find her father’s name, Michael Blankfort, still memorialized...


... on the directory of the old Writers’ and Artists’ building where he had his office, alongside the likes of Ray Bradbury and Billy Wilder.

From memory lane, then, we drove back east along Sunset Boulevard, passing through the Strip and pointing out the Chateau Marmont, which Diane had expressed the desire to see—though we no longer had time enough to visit. To end the day, we picked up Sarah from work and drove down to the Cliff’s Edge, on Sunset, where Ed joined us a little later; and enjoyed a decent meal in the very pleasant outdoor ambience of tables under the trees in the warm evening air. Back home, we unearthed a bottle of pear brandy, with a large pear mysteriously intact within, and opened it for celebrate the family’s last LA evening with a nightcap.

2 comments:

Nancy Youdelman said...

Hi Peter,
How great to do all the "touristy" stuff! It is quite enjoyable for me to read about it and see the photos. And this post especially! After all what would a visit to Los Angeles be without seeing Grauman's Chinese Theater, Universal Studios, etc.

I especially like the photo of you and your grandson, what a resemblance and what great smiles!

I lived in LA for a little over 20 years (1970 & 80s, moved away in 1992). And I remember Farmers Market, when my son was a toddler we would watch cakes being decorated at the bakery there, the baker worked by a large window facing a patio so we would pull up chairs and watch. They made wonderful cakes including one with huge pink elephants (made out of icing).

Now when I very infrequently come down to visit I am also astounded by the changes and the terrible traffic. It takes so long it to get anywhere!

Where I live now, one can always find lots of free parking. (of course we don't have the "attractions" that LA offers)

Thanks so much for your posts about your family's visit!
Nancy

TaraDharma said...

Ah, I love so many of those touristy spots! The traffic, no, but....

What a grand tour, thanks for taking us along!