Some background before I get started. The year is 2013 and I’m visiting college friends and a dear cousin in the Los Angeles area. In the meantime… sight seeing was the order of the day.
On this Sunday morning, the time was roughly 10:00 am and I wouldn’t be seeing my cousin until later in the afternoon. So I had time. And it was the weekend. No traffic to deal with. Whew!
Fun fact: The best time I’ve found to get anywhere in Los Angeles- on a weekday- is between the hours of 10:00am and 2:30pm. Otherwise, it’s like watching paint dry in slow motion as you’re sitting there on the claustrophobic webs of asphalt.
I didn’t yet own a smartphone at this point. So, old-school handwritten directions nestled safely beside me, I set off from my hotel in La Mirada. From there, without traffic, it usually takes around forty minutes to reach where I was headed.
I didn’t have much planned for this sightseeing venture; but a visit to the Walk of Fame was a must for me. I found a parking garage close by and pulled in. There were signs pointing toward the VIP “we’ll park your car for an extra fee” section and the regular “you still have to pay a parking fee” section.
Guess what? I accidentally parked in the more expensive VIP section. Due to my mistake, I inadvertently created a moment of confusion while the parking attendants figured out what to do. Should we let her stay there? Should we have her move? Do we park her car somewhere else? You get the gist.
Spoiler alert: I didn’t have to move my car. Instead, I sheepishly paid the extra fee and slunk away.
“Why didn’t you just move your car to the less expensive area?”
Because there was a bright side- I was close to the entrance/exit. Otherwise, I’d have been deep within the garage’s bowls.
Ah, the star-studded sidewalk. I’d been there before in 2009, but it was fun being back. Kind of tourist-trappy, although still worth a look, in my opinion. Not only do you have the Stars, but there are stalls where you can get a photo of your name on a Star, ones where you can get Oscar-related souvenirs, where you can book tours of the stars’ homes… things like that. The two times I’ve been there, it was pretty much elbow-to-elbow.
Also amongst all this are people- in costume- from a nearby acting school, presumably. Some from movies, some not. I had seen something about this school on Mapquest. I didn’t think much on it, though, until I came across a man who was dressed as a leprechaun. He sat in a wheelchair and, as I passed by, our gazes briefly met. He began wheeling after me, spouting various phrases in an Irish accent. I tried getting away quickly, but alas! The sidewalk was too well-populated.
“Kiss me, I’m Irish!” he chirruped at one point.
I quickened my pace to a power-walk and yet still, he followed. I almost admired his persistence as I spied him in what passed as my peripheral vision (I wear glasses, so it was nearly zilch. Nada. Bupkis).
Finally, I was rescued by another passerby who caught the leprechaun’s attention. You can guess what happened next. And if you can’t, go back and reread what I’ve just written. Then you’ll know.
Go on, I’ll wait.
Still with me? Cue Mr. Burns’ steepled fingers. Eeeexcellent.
The Dolby theater was nearby. And I’m a big fan of the Academy Awards; I’ve watched them every year since 1998. I can’t help it- I love going to the movies. Who doesn’t like a good story, amirite? There’s something magical about it. The sights, the sounds, the smells…the crying toddler that one time who ruined the most recent Thor movie for me because his parent refused to take him out of the theater…
The author blinks. Looks around.
Where was I?
Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to do an actual tour of the Dolby Theater (maybe next time, Los Angeles, you raving beauty). Instead, I tried to see how far into the theater I could get. Turns out: not very. I got as far as the doors into the theater. They were locked (guess how I found that out…), and I couldn’t go farther unless I was in a tour.
Instead, I began making my way toward the Hollywood & Highland shopping center. I knew it offered a fantastic view of the famed Hollywood sign. Seeing it never gets old for me. Originally, when the sign was first installed, it read “Hollywoodland” and was meant to advertise real estate. Interesting, no? Look it up if you don’t believe me.
Now, amongst the plethora of shops at Hollywood & Highland is a fountain- one that I’ve always found fascinating and fun- that jets right out of the cement walkway. No barriers, no nothing, except spouts of water waiting to say “Hi, how are ya?!” when you stroll through. I made sure to skirt its outer edge while watching kids play whack-a-mole with the water.
I walked to the very end of the center. The Hollywood sign looked fairly small from my vantage point. But- look what we have here! Pay-to-view binoculars! I fished around my wallet for a quarter and, before popping it into the slot, set down the iced tea I’d just bought. And then I inserted another one for good measure. I wanted to get plenty of viewing time, ya know?
Now, let me set the scene for what happened next.
There was a couple at another one of the pay-per-view binocular stations just a few feet from me. They were joined by what I assume were their kids. They were all taking turns looking through at the Hollywood sign while laughing and chattering with each other.
I had snapped a couple photos through the scope at the sign. How else was I going to get a good close up, I ask you? Without spending oodles for an expensive camera? And don’t say “you could have bought a print!” I wanted to have the satisfaction of something I’d taken myself.
I’d stepped away briefly to gaze at the sign with the naked eye (or as naked as an eye can be for one who wears glasses) and happened to glance toward the family. Our eyes met.
“Hey! Nice day, huh?” The husband said to me. His wife also gave a friendly hello, while his kids scuttled off to look at a store I’d heard them mentioning.
Truly, it was. Warm and sunny, with a few clouds. There I was in my t-shirt and beanie hat, jeans, and flip flops (and, for some reason, a scarf). There was also the hint of a breeze. It was pleasant.
“Where are you guys from?” I asked.
“South Dakota,” said his wife. (Yes, I know their real state and no, for the love of Eru, South Dakota wasn’t it.)
I could see him trying to stifle laughter. He pointed at the binoculars. “How would it be if you looked through that and saw someone over there murdering someone?”
I laughed, though. I love a good, dark sense of humor.
But then he acted as though he had a knife in his hand and proceeded to mime a stabbing motion, killing an invisible person. While chuckling, as though he were having the grandest time.
I could see his wife’s eyes widen. I just stared, head tilted, not quite sure what to do. My jaw may also have been slightly slackened (say that ten times fast).
All things come to an end though; such is life, right? His laughter subsided and he and his wife eventually bade me a cheery farewell. I spent a moment longer, gazing at the Hollywood sign, sipping my iced tea. I wondered what the heck just happened. And then I headed back to my car.