Saturday, June 6, 2009
Beverly. The Hills, that is.
It was tough leaving Big Sur behind, but I know it's not going anywhere anytime soon. We left our campsite on the Friday of the Memorial Day long weekend, which in retrospect wasn't the best move. Apparently there was some sort of mass urban evacuation in place, as every city dweller in central California decided to camp for the weekend. We tried unsuccessfully at every campground we could find, but no amount of bearded charm could land us a campsite, so we had to stay in hotels for the Friday and Saturday. Mercifully we found a county park just north of Los Angeles with plenty of open sites and great mountain views for the Sunday night.
We awoke Sunday morning and knew that we were so close to L.A. - a place that we had both sworn we had no interest in and weren't going to bother with - that we would be remiss if we didn't check it out. A peek at the atlas showed some available camping in Malibu, so not knowing what to expect but figuring we'd only be there for a night or two, we cruised down the Pacific Coast Highway and followed the smell of Botox. What follows is a blow-by-blow account.
Monday - Arrive in Malibu. Without a doubt, one of the fifteen or twenty nicest beach towns I've seen in the past month. Seriously, is there really this much hype over a thirty mile stretch of gas stations, fish and chips restaurants and out-of-business surf shops? Granted, the houses in the hills immediately to the east of the highway are impressive, and yeah, the ocean is right there, but Malibu might be the most underwhelmingest place I've ever seen, relative to its hype. We're talking Ottawa-Senators-in-the-postseason letdown. Ouch. At least we have a campsite at the less-than-escapist Leo Carillo State Beach and Campground.
Tuesday - I lock the bikes to a tree at our site (better to not have anything on our roof if we want to fit in underground garages) and we head into L.A. It takes around an hour for us to pull into Beverly Hills, and our dusty station wagon loaded to the gills with our stuff feels right at home amidst the parade of 7-series BMWs and other paycheques on wheels. We park off Rodeo Drive (this must be where the cowboys hang out) and launch on a self-guided walking tour. We see Beverly Hills, Sunset and Hollywood Blvds., the Walk of Fame, Grauman's Chinese Theatre, etc. etc. etc. Highlights of the day include seeing Slash's hand prints in the cement and talking with a friendly local in a neighbouring car at three consecutive traffic lights as we were driving out of town, with her giving us tips on what we should see. The Venice Boardwalk should be high on our list, she says. We head back to the illustrious Leo Carillo State Beach and Campground, thinking that Hollywood isn't nearly as shiny as we had thought.
Wednesday - We take our new friend's advice and head to the boardwalk at Venice Beach. We quickly realize that it is just like the county fair, if everyone at the county fair was either selling t-shirts, slightly strung out, or selling t-shirts while slightly strung out. It's quite the urban bazaar, and unless you are in dire need of a handmade hemp necklace or pink shorts that have B-I-T-C-H bedazzled across the ass, you can probably skip it on your next trip to Southern California. A man pulling a little red wagon gives us "free tickets" to the next day's taping of Real Time with Bill Maher in L.A. We're suspicious, but take them since they're free.
We roll back into Malibu in the early evening and decide to hit a coffee shop for some e-mailing. I park the car without paying much attention to our surroundings, only to return a couple hours later to find it in a lineup of cars that went: Bentley, Bentley, Subaru with shoddy brakes and a Phish sticker, Bentley. Also, their are paparazzi swarming around. Apparently I have inadvertently parked in front of one of Malibu's poshest restaurants. My bad. Kenny G is emerging as we return to the car (we should have shared curl-enhancing techniques) and the paparazzi tell me that Lisa Rinna is inside. They then tell me who Lisa Rinna is. We see her blow past in her blue Bentley as we start to make our way back to the friendly confines of Leo Carillo State Beach and Campground.
Thursday - We head to the "taping" of Bill Maher's show. Unfortunately, even though the tickets were free, this is just a rehearsal for Friday's show, with the host running through his monologue, some jokes, and his closing commentary. It's entertaining, but feels a little like a bait and switch. The consolation is that it is filmed in the studio where they do The Price is Right, so I have successfully completed a pilgrimage I promised my ten-year-old self I would make. We also put our names down for Friday night when they tape the actual show.
After Bill Maher we make our way to Sunset Blvd., where a band we both enjoy - moe. - was playing that night at the Roxy. Seeing a band we dig at a legendary Hollywood venue is not something we want to pass up, and the show is rockin' despite a tragic dearth of overindulgent celebrities passed out in bathroom stalls. Apparently Sunset isn't all it's cracked up to be.
It's a late night and we return to camp at around 2:00 in the A.M. and find to our very brief amusement that they lock the gates of the campground at 10:00 P.M. Apparently the California State Parks system thinks it is our mother and has decided to impose a curfew. We try unsuccessfully to rig something up with rocks and a hockey stick (don't leave home without it) to drive over the spikes in place to prevent you from driving in through the out door. Unable to do so, and unwilling to leave our car packed with most of our worldlies out at the highway, we resolve ourselves to an uncomfortable few hours sleeping in the car (can't recline the seats in a car full of stuff) while we wait for the 7:00 A.M. opening of the gates. The novelty of saying "Yeah man, after that show at the Roxy I passed out in my car in Malibu," wears off quickly, although we remain mindful of the fact that there are many in the world who would think it a privilege to have a warm, dry and safe car to sleep in. We don't sleep much, but the time passes rather quickly and we didn't pay for that nights accommodation, so all in all it wasn't a horrible experience. At 7:01 Friday morning we are nestled snugly in our tent at the paternalistic Leo Carillo State Beach and Campground.
Friday - Back into town to catch the actual taping of Real Time with Bill Maher. Aside from the novelty of being in a studio audience, the show is engaging and thought-provoking, with discussion ranging from corporatization of food to the newest appointee to the U.S. Supreme Court. We want to go for a drink afterwards, but if we're not home by 10:00 we get in soooooo much trouble. We agree that as soon as we graduate we are so moving out of the tyrannical Leo Carillo State Beach and Campground.
Saturday - We are awoken by an apparent combination of Smokey the Bear and Rod Farva telling us that there seems to be some confusion about what nights we have paid for, and that all sites are reserved on weekends so we have overstayed our welcome. We are to proceed to the front kiosk at once to get things sorted out. We pack up and leave without stopping to pay for the night we had to sleep outside the gate. I think we may have made the prestigious lifetime ban list at the world renown Leo Carillo State Beach and Campground.
And that was L.A. for us.
If there is one enduring sentiment we left with, it's that L.A. itself might be the world's biggest movie star. It's image of beauty, perfection and glamour pervades popular consciousness and is carefully crafted and maintained. Even a cursory glance at the city without the magic of television, however, reveals a decidedly grittier reality - even in Beverly Hills and Malibu, and especially in Hollywood. We were both glad to see L.A., but in a way it was like waking up next to the prom queen and seeing her without her makeup on. Warts and all it was a fun few days, but neither one of us was sad to pull out of Malibu and make a run for the mountains.
And we both sincerely hope that there will be but one "sleeping in the car" story upon the trip's conclusion.