LA story

June Gloom in LA. Not a dusky country singer appearing at the Hollywood Bowl, it’s the fog that clouds the coastal regions of the City of Angels. Not just in June either. It’s pretty gloomy here and now in April. If this reads like a complaint, then I’m using the wrong tone of voice. It’s wonderfully atmospheric and – comfortingly – slightly British in giving the air a hint of chill. Too much blue sky and blazing sun just wouldn’t be cricket would it? Plus, we’ve the desert states to look forward to: mustn’t OD on rays.

On “our” boat of course we are snug of an evening wrapped up in blankets watching movies on a cinema size telly. Marina Del Ray is our location, a couple of blocks inland and south of Venice. There are hundreds of boats here and on the weekend surprisingly few slip their moorings to sample the delights of Santa Monica bay. (My belief about the loaded being toy rich and indulgence time poor gains another data point.) It’s so very tranquil here compared to the rest of LA. Sure you can hear the jets at nearby LAX, but they melt away after a while.

The climate that brings folk to LA is more apparent in “the valley” when we spend the day at Universal Studios. It’s a bright, cloudless, late 20s centigrade day. Josie & I sample the new Transformer ride before its public opening – a technical rehearsal. It blends 3D with roller coaster and with some cleverly integrated 4D effects – heat/water spray – to fool your senses. Brilliant. The Mummy ‘coaster takes a couple of rides as does the Jurassic Park watersplash. The backlot tour scares the bejeezsus out of young Master Beer. Especially the biiig King Kong 3D show. House of Horrors? It terrified Josie May. It’s a weekday so that we avoid some of the crowds. We walk straight on to several rides after the longest queue of the day: to purchase admission tickets.

Standing in line is a bit of thing for the Americans. Immigration, tickets, the loo. They do seem to submit and comply rather. Unexpectedly so. That and signage. No Parking, No waiting, No right turn, No diving, No I can’t go for that, etcetera. Warning/rules signage everywhere.

Perhaps they enjoy rules? They moan but are secretly  comforted by a bit of bureaucracy? Of course, they will sue their own Grandma sue if there is an absence of disclaimer in neon at the roadside.

Land of the free, home of the brave?  Tsk.  Pah.  Ng.

Not from where I’ve been sitting.

And we think us Brits are the very zenith of queuing. 

Venice, California.

So called due to a small network of canals a block or two in from the Pacific. Nowadays these canals are lined with funky “homes” of varying architectural coolness, from shabby chic to sub-zero brutalist statements. Get nearer to the sea for it to become more bo-ho – murals and such – with the crescendo of eclectic on the boardwalk.

Not that there are any boards. It’s a concrete promenade on the beachside now. A weekend stroll along Venice Beach is a living encyclopedia of the bizarre. Thousands stroll the path to soak up the atmosphere. Small Beers eyes and mouthes are wide open. Without apparent irony, yet heaps of chutzpah, they even have a Venice Beach Freakshow – “$5 per person, see the two headed pig!” – amongst all the freaks you can see for free. Of course there are people here who are genuinely fascinating alternative types. Really alternative. Then there are skaters, bikers, joggers, artists, musicians, sculptors, “marijuana therapists”, tattooists, masseuse, body-builders and pan-handlers.

The latter is a bit of an eye-opener. On an early morning jog, I see more homeless in 2 miles than we did in 10 days in India. Later in the day I get pestered for change more than anywhere outside of Madurai. Bentleys and beggars on the same street. Welcome to LA. Then, there are the “pet adoption” folk who have very sorry looking doggies in cages trying to tempt would be owners into signing up for a lifetime partnership. Really? Adopt a dog on a Saturday afternoon stroll? Again, welcome to LA. Pumping iron outdoors at muscle beach seems ordinary by comparison.

Amongst the druggies, idiots, wasters and nutters are some really talented folk. At the skatepark, some radical moves are being pulled by the achingly cool skaters. None cooler than a boy of no more than 8 who shows everyone the way to get air. On the street stalls, some art is well crafted. Frankly, some of it is comically pap.

Santa Monica

North sees the more affluent town of Santa Monica. Shopping heaven, if that’s your thing, with its “heritage” all wood pier thronging with weekend visitors. City-wide wifi for all. How civilised. We wander the town as chic Angelenos mix with tourists watching the performers on the 3rd Street Promenade. When we were last here in 1997 we stayed in Santa Monica and ate a memorable all American breakfast at the Broadway Deli. Disappointingly it’s closed and given way to a fashion store. An ex-Pat we meet tells us it was an institution, always busy. Perhaps the economics of the rag trade trump the numbers for independent cafe. Shame.

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LA is nicer than we remember. Maybe it’s because we’re longer in the tooth? Maybe times have changed. We’ve seen a lot more movies and being “on set” casts a spell. A cleaner and more chipper city I feel. We eat way too well, walk miles, drive (west on) Sunset (to the sea) with the top down and the kids love every minute of it. Living on a boat and driving a Mustang appeal to kids of all ages.

Ah, the boat. The Waterhouse is a 47′ motor cruiser that whilst most definitely afloat isn’t really seaworthy these days. It is dead cool, very spacious, well-appointed and properly comfy. At £140 a night it’s not bad value considering where we are.

I’m with Randy Newman: I love LA.

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