Thursday, February 16, 2012

The City of Angels, CA

Love it or hate, Los Angeles can not be ignored. From inane rom-coms to the grit and funk of Rage Against the Machine or the Chillis, it pumps out its version of culture to the four corners of the planet. That being the case, we thought it would be rude not to pop in on our way down the SoCal coast.

Over the years I have heard two broad categories of opinion on LA. By far the majority say "one big over-hyped freeway.... get out of there as quick as you can". The other is something like "really cool place... something for everyone...loads of cool enclaves... yada yada...". To their credit, most Angelenos I have met fall into the latter category. To my mind there is a striking, if peculiar, similarity here with Johannesburg. En masse, locals (or at least the richer ones) are proud and big it up, whereas visitors are rarely impressed. This intrigues me as in most cities, like my hometown London, it is the other way round.

In short, after an admittedly short couple of days jumping around the city, I sort of see both points of view. Sorry to hedge, but that is the way it is. Yup, undoubtedly it is a monstrous motor city paved in seemingly never ending freeways. I mean, to travel just 2 km from our funky hotel in south Downtown to the old Mexican Pueblo took us on not one, but two 6-8 lane freeways. Madness. Apart from a couple of metro lines, to get around this mega city (or to be more accurate this conglomeration of dozens of interconnected cities) you have little choice but to jump in the car and sit on the freeway. To someone like myself who does not even own a car, this is a crappy way to live and not the least bit endearing. Add to this the mixture of grime, vanity and the corollary juxtaposition of wealth and poor that shows the US at its worst and LA leaves you with a bitter taste.

However, much as I would like to leave the city with such a straightforward dislike I cannot. From the endless beaches and historic pier of Santa Monica to the funky Camden'esque counter-culture of Venice boardwalk, complete with everything from botox bars, through skate-parks to medical marijuana con-shops and muscle beach. From the you so want to hate Hollywood Chinese Theatre, through the weird glow you get under the Hollywood sign to the corporate bonanza that is the LA Lakers - we caught a game. Amongst all the shit, this place has undeniable attitude and a splash of charm.

I hope the next few pics give a better impression of the odd, cool, nasty LA that we caught a glimpse of, then I have written here. I will not be racing to come back, but am mighty happy I dropped by...

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