Hollywon’t Drive Again

At 2:30 p.m. last Wednesday, FilmArt3’s Raymond Daigle was burning our show reel to DVD. I had to hit the road in half an hour if I still hoped to pull into Abe Levy’s Hollywood Hills driveway in time to at least have a glass of wine before getting adequate beauty rest for the next day’s meeting. It’s been two years since I’ve had a legitimate reason to be in L.A., though as any indie filmmaker knows, there are plenty of illegitimate reasons to visit the City of Angles.

As for the means of travel, I drove. Or at least attempted to drive. I had forsaken the option of catching a commuter flight (Horizon Air now offers a ride on a dual-prop Bombardier out of Santa Rosa, which I realize now I should have taken), I heard a friend of mine was working a shoot in the Bay Area and could use the ride south. Whenever business travel takes on intimations of a road trip, especially a relatively painless one, my adolescent fixation on Kerouac rumbles back to life. I’m no “road dog,” more of a “sidewalk dog” or, frankly, “sidewalk ferret,” but I’m a romantic when it comes to the premise of a picaresque adventure. However, I learned late that my pal’s itinerary had changed, so I was I left to make the drive solo. Then my car wouldn’t start. Then my wife’s car wouldn’t start. Since I couldn’t fathom renting a second rental car (the Contessa took the first), I bummed a ride … with my dad.

Retired and between bouts of re-reading “Beowulf” or the “Aeneid,” Lord Howell had not only the time, but mercifully, the inclination to pilot my adventure. My father has that particular inborn wanderlust that imbues ribbons of asphalt with strange allure. Despite our consanguity, that gene was apparently lost in the folds of my genetic road map. Most days, there’s no place I’d rather be than Nomaville (apart from perhaps the late ‘80s). That said, I acclimated to Los Angeles long ago, having inhabited a handful of addresses on both the east and west sides, and as anybody who has lived there will attest, you can leave L.A. but L.A. never leaves you. The effect, in a word, is intravenous. Which is to say, to a wine country sidewalk ferret, it’s addictive.

It’s the geography of Los Angeles that most frequently invades my slumber. The vast web of intersecting avenues and parallel boulevards that grid Los Angeles will sometimes suddenly and explicably cross for reasons long lost in the archives of its city planning department. Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards do this at Hillhurst, right on the cusp where neighborhoods Los Feliz and Silverlake meet and where, inexplicably, the rental market diverges in favor of Los Feliz landlords. This particular concrete conundrum is no weirder, I suppose, than having double sets of number streets rippling sequentially from the historic Sonoma Plaza. Imagine a topography in which First Street East and First Street West managed to intersect, contorting the surroundings like those computer-generated grids depicting the gravitational pull of black holes. This is why, as a rule of thumb, it takes an hour to cross from the beach to downtown (10 miles) or simply motor down the street. This is also why I assume the Missing Persons sang “Nobody walks in LA” (I will not conjecture why Randy Newman sang “I love L.A.”). I don’t love L.A. For me, it’s more like a “friends with benefits” proposition.

Lord Howell doesn’t love L.A. either, at least not while I’m navigating.