11 January 2018

And...

Continuing with memories of our California trip back in 2005...
I tailored the holiday myself, having done plenty of internet research, booked all the hotels and, for example, even paid in advance for our tickets to the infamous Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay and seats in the Staples Arena to see the L.A. Lakers play . The planned itinerary was  like a picture book that simply needed to be coloured in.

After the long flight from England we arrived in Santa Monica, home to one of my musical heroes - Jackson Browne. But we weren't staying in Jackson's mansion - we were in a family room at the humble Travelodge overlooking Santa Monica Pier.

We booked in around midday and then took a sunny stroll along that famous  Pacific Ocean  pier which is at the western end of Route 66. Later, our slightly jet-lagged ambling brought us to Santa Monica's downtown area and its upmarket pedestrianised shopping zone on 3rd Street. Ian and Frances were keen to explore the Abercrombie and Fitch store where they each purchased some branded items and emerged grinning like two cats that had got the cream.
We enjoyed an all-American hamburger meal in an independent cafe and wandered back in the direction of our hotel. This was one of California's prime shopping locations - visited by the rich and famous but it wasn't them I was starting to notice - it was the homeless, the down-and-outs, the hobos.

They were mostly accompanied by supermarket shopping trolleys piled high with all their worldly possessions and not all of these people were men. There were a couple of women too. Later on, I would speak with one of them but I can't remember his name. He was a grizzled veteran of the Vietnam war, haunted by memories of that awful conflict. He had lost his job, then his wife and kids and finally his home. I gave him a ten dollar note, not caring a whit how he might spend it. How can it be that in such a wealthy, resource-rich country homeless people like him can move in the shadows, overlooked, blamed and often despised?

The next day we drove along the coast to Malibu where I saw Bob Dylan's house. Later, we visited Hollywood, cruised around Beverly Hills and strode from Grauman's Chinese Theatre along the Walk of Fame, observing various stars embedded in the pavement. (Perhaps they should embed Harvey Wenstein there too!) It was that evening when we went to see the L.A.Lakers which is something that Ian had specially requested. He got to see the famous Coby Bryant slam dunk a few basketballs and acquired the autographs of every one of  The Laker Girls cheerleading team.

Afterwards, we had a good value meal in the nearby International House of Pancakes (IHOP) before heading back along Santa Monica Boulevard to our hotel.
Frances outside the Chines Theatre in Hollywood
It had been a great day and the next day we got to see Rodeo Drive with its ludicrously expensive and exclusive shops before visiting the wonderful Getty Art Museum which overlooks Route 405 in the north western suburbs of L.A.. The palatial buildings themselves are a magnificent sight to see - anchored to a lofty hilltop and inside there was a treasure house of  magnificent paintings including for example Canaletto's  "The Grand Canal in Venice from Palazzo Flangini" and Claude Monet's "Marine Sunrise".

I asked a barrel-chested black security guard if I could take photos inside the galleries and he said, "Sure! Go ahead - no problem! Take as many as you want!" What a contrast with the majority of  European art galleries in which photography is invariably strictly forbidden!

We drove back to Santa Monica for the final time, looking forward to the next day when we would be driving across the desert to Las Vegas but as I drifted towards the valley of sleep I heard something outside our ground floor room. I edged back the curtains and saw a homeless man with his shopping trolley. He was settling down for the night in the bushes  right under our window in the land of the free.
The Getty Center, Los Angeles

17 comments:

  1. I enjoy reading your impressions of the USA and, especially, LA, a city that a lot of people hate but that I like a lot. Homelessness is a problem in most major American cities (I see it in London too, although to a lesser degree) but it's particularly acute, not surprisingly, in warm places. I used to see a lot of homelessness in my home state of Florida.

    Museums all seem to have different rules about photography, both here in Europe and in the US. At the Louvre, for example, tons of people cluster around the Mona Lisa, taking photos. I think they're allowed at Tate Britain and the Courtauld, too. (I've taken pictures there, in any case!) But yeah, at some other museums, they're prohibited. It's weird.

    If a flash isn't used, a picture seems a harmless enough thing. I think some museums suspect it deprives them of revenue from postcards and that kind of thing -- but then, they get publicity with photos on social media, right?

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    1. We never used to have any homeless people in my Sheffield suburb but under the current Tory regime we have seen the problem begin and watched it grow. It is the same in most northern cities but I saw far more rough sleepers in Seattle, Portland and Vancouver (Canada) three years ago.

      Some art galleries cite copyright concerns but I think they are simply being officious for the sake of it.

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  2. I see homeless people in my town and other German towns, too; they have somehow "always" been part of the picture to a certain extent. I do feel sorry for them but I do not give them any money; sometimes I am unsure about what would be the right thing to do, and sometimes I am plained scared of them, when they appear to be drunk or drugged or both.

    The only time I have been to the US so far was in 1999 to Florida, mostly in and around Tampa. Your holiday impressions are so vivid and descriptive.

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    1. Tampa? That's Steve Reed's old stomping ground. See above.

      I think that each homeless person has a different story to tell. I also find some of them a bit "scary" because desperate people can do desperate things.

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    2. What? You didn’t see the house on Sunset Boulevard where William Holden’s lifeless body floated in Gloria Swanson’s swimming pool? Or the place where O.J. Simpson stabbed Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman to death? Or the scene of the Fatty Arbuckle trial? Or the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library? Or the epicenter of the Northridge earthquake in Simi Valley? Or Roy Rogers’s favorite horse, Trigger, and dog, Bullet, stuffed by a taxidermist? You missed all the high spots.

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    3. It is a shame that you weren't there to act as our tour guide Bob!

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  3. I, for one, think the most beautiful part of the Getty Center is the facade of the buildings. The fire came so, so close to the buildings a couple of weeks ago.

    I do not like Los Angeles or Santa Monica at all. The last time I was on the Pier was about five years ago, and it was difficult to walk down to the end without stepping by and around the homeless and helpless. Sad and frustrating that this country of plenty discounts so many people and problems.

    I did live in Ventura for three years and loved the relatively old town and its people. Most recently, we had a second home northern California for three years and that was a good experience. Wonderful people and places to visit that were completely different from the fake and self-absorbed people of southern California.

    Just my opinion, you understand.

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    1. I do understand that that is your opinion dearest Donna and an opinion to which you are of course very much entitled. I had no idea that the flames reached the doorstep of the Getty Center. Hell, that's so very close to L.A..

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  4. It is a frightening thought to be homeless. I hope I never find myself in such a dire, hopeless, sad situation. And one can't generalise...there are many reasons beyond one's imagination that have caused some to have found themselves without a roof over their head and the protection of four walls...it's not all drug-related.

    On a far lighter note...I almost had Jackson Browne as a guest at the resort on Hinchinbrook Island, back in the day. I got as close as having him as my guest by having Peyton Wilson, his Production Manager stay for a few days just prior to Jackson's concerts in Australia. Peyton loved the island and said he would try to talk Jackson into spending some time there during his visit to Aus. Unfortunately, it was not to be. He couldn't fit it into his schedule. How much fun it would've been to have had him as a guest. I was a big fan. When my ex and I managed a restaurant in Noosa his music was regularly on our playlist...nightly on our playlist!

    Finally...it sounds like you had a wonderful holiday...one that made memories to be forever cherished. :)

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    1. High fives baby! You also like Jackson Browne! A few years back I finally got to see him in concert at Sheffield City Hall. I had front row seats with Simon - my younger brother - and we were not disappointed. Every since I first heard "Take It Easy" I have admired Jackson's lyrical wizardry - underpinned by keen awareness of the human condition and his own vulnerability.

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    2. How wonderful to have seen him! That would've been terrific, Yorkie. I'm envious. :)

      He's a cool dude! :)

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    3. Who? "Yorkie" or Jackson Browne?

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  5. The first homeless people I ever saw were in Washington DC in 1992. I was appalled. Now we have a large population of homeless too. I can't understand why it is so difficult to bring some solution to the homeless problem.

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    1. Where there's a will there's a way but increasingly politicians prefer to ignore this issue.

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  6. My comment somehow ended up under your reply to Librarian thanks to my so-called smart phone. I don’t want to have to type it all over again here, so please go there to read it.

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  7. Seeing homeless up close and personal would bring a sobering bit of reflection during an otherwise enjoyable trip, I would imagine.

    We have homeless even in our small region. Many are teens who have no stable home life and therefore couch surf at friends' homes - they are the hidden homeless.

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    1. "Hidden homeless". You are right to refer to them. Homelessness is not just about visible beggars on our streets.

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