Welcome to Glamor City

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Rumor, or rather a recent e-mail exchange, has it that two of my Stanford friends are coming down for a visit this weekend. Their first time in Los Angeles. So as to be at the airport when they arrive, I ambled down this morning to the UCLA bus terminal, bright and early. Of course I missed the bus I was aiming for, so I spent half an hour waiting for Big Blue Bus numero 3. An opportunity to check my cellphone messages.
The bus itself had the usual interesting assortment of individuals. We had people out shopping, people on their way to work (yes, even on a Saturday), and of course, all different colors and backgrounds. A little Russian, a little French, a good amount of Spanish, even some Iranian! Still, the bus took a painfully indirect route, so I saw a lot more of Santa Monica than I was really hoping to. On account of leaving a bit late, and some traffic in the downtown, the 75 minute trip stretched to more than 90. So when we finally stopped at the LAX transit center, I was happy.
From there, I had to take the airport’s own bus to the terminal. LAX traffic didn’t make this any easier either, but I did eventually get there, a bit after 11AM. My friends had of course already arrived (and picked up their baggage), so in short order we went back outside to take the bus back to the transit center. Of cource we got on the wrong bus, and wound up making a circle, but the tour of LAX was interesting, I am sure. Once we actually made it to the transit center, we got on the same bus I’d taken down (well, same number bus, don’t know if it was physically the same or not).
The return was a little slow, and they were a bit sleepy, in part owing to having left so early. The view hadn’t changed much in the intervening hour, except that we were unceremoniously left off 7 long blocks further from the UCLA bus terminal than planned. Stupid construction.
I showed them a bit of campus on the plod up to my dorm, where we sat, and had a think. They had a bit of luggage, which made travelling around a bit more complicated, and we had tickets to a concert for the night, so we decided the best thing would be to simply take the bus to their hotel, drop the stuff off, and see what happened from their.
From mta.net, I was told to take the #2 LA transit bus. So down we went, to take what was in fact the same bus that I’d taken to my uncle’s place a few weeks earlier. I was a bit worried at first that it wasn’t the right bus, but gradually that fear wore off. It was however a rather slow bus, and became a very crowded one. Still, we had a view of Sunset Blvd. pretty much the whole way, passing from Beverly Hills, through the edge of Hollywood, and so on. By the time we’d made it to the downtown, the crowd had dispersed a bit, and you could see the odd mixture of skyscrapers, vacant lots and whatnot that make up LA’s ‘center.’
To get to the hotel actually proved quite easy. It was a rather proper looking hotel too, surprising given its price. Their room was on the 14th floor, and offered a very impressive view of a pool, not to mention a lot of western LA. It also had a very extensive collection of soaps and shampoos, which were promptly examined and pilfered by the guests. Hey, that’s what you do in hotels, right? Just don’t try to carry them on the plane any more (in fact, one of my friends lost a couple of odds and ends, courtesy of the new restrictions for ‘liquids on a plane’).
After a good rest, everybody (but me) was in their concert dress, and we set out to find a place for dinner. This was complicated by the fact that LA’s downtown was mostly a commercial district. This made for few restaurants, and even fewer on Saturday night. We gave up for the time being.
Instead, we took the metro (subway) in the direction of Hollywood. This proved a much more convenient method of transportation than bus, and in only 20 minutes we were less than a mile from our concert destination, and on Highland Blvd. in the middle of Hollywood. Glitz and kitsch abounded.
We admired the scene for a bit. The sun was getting a bit low, and the limos, hummers and taxis were whizzing by in a sort of golden glow. The sidewalks were packed, and the street itself was lined with boutiques, curios, and other tourist-oriented businesses. Everybody was trying to take in the Hollywood mystique.
Our restaurant ended up being a somewhat unassuming looking Italian restaurant. Inside though was a somewhat darkened 3 level place with a lot of vintage ’40s era decor. It claimed to be the oldest Italian restaurant in Hollywood, and they were certainly doing their best to look the part. On the bottom level, somebody was banging away at the piano, resulting in a lot of classical-Hollywood era music. Later on, one of the servers sang songs from that period too. The food itself was decent, and far more than any of us could eat. It was definitely a fun place.
Still, we had a concert at the Hollywood Bowl to go to, so around 7PM, we left. Given the crowds of cars and people streaming up the road, it wasn’t too hard to find. The church with the ‘Got God’ sign was a nice touch though. The bowl itself was enormous, and just getting in took a while. Our seats were definitely peanut gallery territory, although 4 giant screens gave us a somewhat better view of the performers, some many hundred feet in front of us. The place apparently seats 19,000, and it was pretty full.
The LA Philharmonic was doing an all-Tchaikovsky program. Fortunately, with some well-done amplification, we had no difficult hearing, although in the quieter parts, the crickets gave us an interesting counterpoint. It was actually rather cool, and many people had brought picnics (or wine) along, since the seats were essentially long benches.
The music itself was great: first the Cossack Dance from Mazeppa, then the Piano Concerto No.1 and finally the Fantasy from Romeo and Juliet. The finale, though, was incredible: the 1812 Overture complete with cannons, extra musicians (the USC marching band) and a very elaborate fireworks display. Colorful and loud it definitely was. The conductor himself was a pleasant fellow, and his commentary between the pieces was most amusing. A very fun concert.
Still, when it was over, we had to file out with the other thousands. After discovering that the buses there were private (didn’t take our bus passes), we decided to walk back down to Highland Ave. There we split: they to take the metro back (or failing that a direct bus) to the hotel, and me to continue to Sunset Blvd.
Sunset Blvd. was a parking lot. I waited with half a dozen other people for over half an hour, as traffic slowly meandered past, a ceaseless train of glittering vehicles, accompanied by a cacophony of horns and brakes. Around 11:30PM, the bus did arrive. Once again, I was too impatient, and got off the bus three stops too soon, with a bunch of other people. The result was a long walk back to the dorm. through slightly unfamiliar territory. My roommate, who’d just returned from a two-day trip to Santa Barbara, was already back and asleep. I followed his example.

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