Sunday, February 14, 2010

#4 The Lights

#30 Hollywood Walk of Fame
#29 Yamashiro
#28 Hollywood Billiards
#27 Genghis Cohen
#26 Piano Bar
#25 Shmutzville
# 24 Loteria
# 23 The Griddle
# 22 Proximity
# 21 Hollywood Freeway
#20 Kitchen 24
# 19 The People
# 18 Sushi Eyaki
#17 Raymond Chandler
# 16 Jumbo's Clown Room
#15 Skooby's
#14 The Arclight
# 13 The Well
#12 Runyon Canyon
# 11 Canter's
#10 Hotel Café
#9 Body Factory
#8 The Troubadour
#7 Barney's Beanery (The Real One)
#6 Thai Food
#5 The Jukebox at Café 101

#4 The Lights

I've never really lived in a city. I've always wanted to, but since I graduated college I've lived in an isolated little town in Western Washington, I've lived in a suburb of Cleveland, I've lived in Long Beach—which is the closest to big city I've been in—and I've been in Silver Lake. The Silver Lake place is interesting because from our front porch, over some trees and up a hill, you could see a flickering of life. Nightly, as the sun went down, the western sky would start to light up about five miles away. It was like Oz. Whatever was going on down that road looked important.

We had no clue that our next apartment would not just be closer to those lights, but actually a part of those lights. Our apartment is in the center of life in Hollywood—a pain in the ass for sure, but life was bursting all around us. Coming into Hollywood on the 101, you feel as though you are showing up at Disneyland.

That's really how I'll remember Hollywood. Coming north on the 101;, the Capitol Building, the city lit up like Times Square, it just felt like you were entering something important. And coming in the other way, from the Valley, when you round that corner and pass the "Hollywood – Next 8 exits" sign mentioned earlier, it really is a special experience. There is the Capitol Building, and all the other 1940s era "highrises" lit up and flaunting their oversized billboards to oncoming traffic. There are huge swaying spotlights spinning from the El Capitan that can be seen for miles, there's the Patron billboard on top of a building that flashes and turns from one message to another, it's fucking breathtaking.

And off the freeway, the lights don't stop. Driving down the strip you are inundated with giant billboards lit up as though they were LCD televisions. Giant advertisements draping the bigger buildings reminding you to watch the new season of True Blood, the upcoming Academy Awards, or anything that might be new. It's both dangerous and moderately offensive in spirit, but in essence, it's a one-of-kind sight that reminds every commuter that they're not back home. There's something special about it, I insist.

And there are other lights that dominate Hollywood. From almost anywhere below Sunset, the natural compass of the Hollywood Hills directs you north. And those hills are lit up like a starry sky. Million-dollar homes dot the hills like a movie set model. From Melrose, and from Beverly, and Wilshire and 3rd, the lights of the hills guard the northern sky like a really, really expensive and gaudy sentry. They flicker, they remind you that you're not nearly wealthy enough to live up there, they implore you to enter the industry, but most of all, they dominate the northern skyline and constantly tell you that you are in Hollywood. The observatory is lit up like a castle and can be seen from all over the city. The bigger houses are like landmarks along the way. And somehow, all of these lights, these actors in nighttime urbanism work together to light up a city as unique as Hollywood.

My new neighborhood will have a new kind of lights. The downtown skyline will dominate our view, and provide a true urban experience. But what I've learned from living in Hollywood is that those lights that I pined for from my front porch in Silverlake don't just end with the tallish buildings, and aren't just patrons of capitalism. They are the life of the city and they are constantly changing and offering different perspectives. My new urban skyline is in every city in the world. Skyscrapers, theatres, and arenas aren't unique to LA. But the lights of Hollywood aren't found anywhere else in the world, and every time I make my way down the 101 into Hollywood, those lights—all of them—will remind me of how special a place this is.

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