Monday, April 15, 2013

Santa Monica

Fairyland. That's what L.A. is like to me - those legendary names, legendary images - but people actually live here, work here, like normal people. Almost. But not quite.

Before I go on about my little life, I have to mention the bombs that went off in Boston this afternoon. The country is mesmerized, wondering about the source of this new terror; TV news, radio programs and the on-line universe are going mad. Of course, every program has to focus on it, even with absolutely no new news - on and on about the extent and kind of injuries, who the perpetrator might be ... appalling. Maniacs, bloodthirsty horror everywhere.

Even out here in Lalaland, this new terror doesn't seem far away. And yet it is so very beautiful here, incredible lush vegetation - neon bougainvillea pouring down walls, and the most incredible trees of all kinds, ancient, gnarled, mysterious with white trunks, rows of sky-high skinny palms, monkey puzzles, gorgeous, my mouth open at the beauty of the greenery on the boulevards and in front of homes. I'm the guest of my dear friend Suzette, whom I've known since university in Ottawa, like Lynn. She's a screenwriter and a producer with her husband Pierre; they live here part-time, in an apartment that fronts on the beach at Santa Monica, the light and fresh air flooding through the windows. As Pierre says, even when we're hard at work here, we just look out the window at the beach, the mountains and ocean, the people playing tennis and jogging, and it feels like a vacation.

Yesterday, we went first to a local farmer's market, where I thought that every single person was a movie star - all slender, unlined, expensively dressed. I asked my friends if ugly or old people were simply asked to leave the premises. Later, Suzette and I walked for miles along the beach, to the Venice boardwalk which is a freak show, many crazy people and thousands of others there to watch them. And she drove me to see what I thought were the mansions of Santa Monica until we went to see the mansions of Brentwood nearby - massive, like a dream, mini-Versailles chateaux or Tudor manors or 50's ranch houses or Italian villas. With bougainvillea and incredible trees.

Today Suzette drove me around this crazy spread-out city, the famous names - Beverley Hills, Sunset Boulevard, Coldwater Canyon, Laurel Canyon way up in the hills - Joni lived here, no? - with a spectacular view of the valley, crazy houses perched on stilts. Mulholland Drive, Hollywood Boulevard with Grauman's Chinese Theatre, the Walk of Fame with the stars in the sidewalk. We went to LACMA, the LA Museum of Art, a terrific museum, and from there to Suzette's favourite store, Barney's, to have lunch on the roof with a view of the Hollywood hills and its famous white sign, and to gaze at the extremely expensive wares on sale within. It was a wonderful tour.

This evening, a meeting with two more old friends. In 1972 in Toronto, Suzette helped me find a place to live - a room in a communal house with her friends Larry, Barry and Fred, and Larry's girlfriend Dee. Larry and Fred were American brothers, Larry a writer and actor and Fred a musician, Barry a Canadian working in an improv troupe with Larry. Living in the house was an unforgettable adventure which lasted maybe 7 months for me. Larry and Dee married and moved to L.A. where he ended up producing "Beverley Hills 90210" for a number of seasons. He bandied several well-known names about last night, talked of the wasted months he spent developing a TV project for Ringo Starr. Dee is very creative, the woman who got me into vintage clothes way back then; I still have a 40's dressing gown she gave me 40 years ago. They live in an ocean-front bungalow right on the beach in Venice, and after our visit, we all went out for a gourmet Mexican dinner - shrimp tacos, fried zucchini blossoms filled with cheese, grilled corn and the best guacamole and margaritas. I've not seen sweet Dee since 1973; she's now grey-haired with 2 adult sons and the same lively blue eyes. A great reunion.

(And incidentally, my friends are vegetarians; after a week in Austin eating more meat than I usually consume in months, I've had only fish since arriving here. As Suzette says, a cleanse.)

I could not live in a city which is so far flung that you have to drive everywhere for miles and hours, let alone where youth, beauty, money, sex and power are valued above all else. But it is so much more magical than I'd imagined, with its glorious trees and flowers and amazing old buildings - vintage Deco, 50's, old neon signs, well-preserved old cars; with the endless beach and sun, and the glamourous aura of those names, the famous faces.

My friends watching more news about the bombings. Back to earth.

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