Not loving la la land

I’m a bit of a fiend when it comes to pop culture. Mostly of the Perez Hilton kind. But I also go in for the old stuff, like Gloria Swanson biographies.

There’s a whole hierarchy to the exploitative press. For example, I’ll read People or Us Weekly if I’m sitting in a waiting room, but I would never buy those magazines, even at an airport. And sometimes I’ll watch a few minutes of TMZ before The Simpsons starts, but I avoid going on their website at all costs. As if there’s a difference to reading about Selena Gomez’s cutting habit on one site versus another.

I’m also aware that there are better sites out there and that Googling “Perez Hilton app” puts me in an age demographic that I’m not really enthusiastic about. But if I was a sensible person I’d be spending more time reading The New York Times (not just looking at the pictures) and I’d be able to remember the difference between the Sunni and Shiite Muslims.

I can never remember the difference. I can’t even remember which one Saddam is no matter how recently I looked it up on Wikipedia.

But I never need to do a Wiki search to remember if Brooke Muller is in or out of rehab, and she’s basically just a celebrity by association.

Most of my celebrity fascination revolves around Hollywood. It’s got the new scandals, the old scandals, it’s got it all.

I made my first, and so far only, pilgrimage out to LA to celebrate my 25th birthday. It was a high tragedy of my young life that both events were disappointments.

In the days leading up to my western adventure, I could not have been more excited. I’d be commuting home from my job in sleepy Marblehead, MA with a crazed smile plastered on my face thinking about how I’d probably piss my pants with excitement if, say, I ran into Nicole Ritchie doing coke in a bathroom.

Never mind that the two of us don’t run with the same crowd and I don’t suffer from incontinence, even when I’m giddy.

I’d mapped out my time in Los Angeles with the zeal I reserve for exploring new cities. I take more of a crossing-things-off-my-to-do-list approach than a let’s-just-enjoy-this approach.

My list included a walking tour of downtown L.A, getting cocktails at the Roosevelt Hotel, seeing the Paper magazine pop-up store, visiting Laguna Beach and Malibu, and a variety of other Sunset Strip clichés.

Except for a lovely afternoon exploring the sprawling garden of the Getty Museum, my little heart sank with each outing.

First up was a walk down Hollywood Boulevard to see Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, the Walk of Fame and the Kodak Theatre where the glamorous Oscar ceremony is held.

I wasn’t totally ignorant to the seediness of Hollywood, but I was surprised to see grimy pawn shops and drug stores selling gallons of cheap vodka so close to silver screen landmarks. Grauman’s was much smaller than I’d expected; not usually I sentiment I feel exploring the West Coast, which always feels gigantic compared to my Northeast frame of reference. The Walk of Fame was about as exciting as I’d expected, names on a sidewalk not being a real turn on.

But the sight of the Kodak Theatre scarred me for life. It’s in a fucking mall. Like a regular mall with Sunglass Huts and Auntie Anne Pretzels. This temple of film making, this place where I’ve pictured my self accepting my Oscars (for screen plays, directing, whatever) was nothing more than a capitalist fart.

Just break my heart and send me home. Don’t even bother to switch the airplane tv to Access Hollywood. I’m over it.

The trip contained a mix of activities I’d been waiting years for and other ones I’d only recently heard about. For example, did you know you can go horseback riding around the Hollywood sign and take a break mid-ride to have burritos and margaritas at a Mexican restaurant? Sounds cool, right?

Yes, it sounds cool, but it was actually more like torture. For many reasons. First of all the horses are noticeably overworked and tired, so I felt guilty even getting on them. Then, they have a habit of walking right on the rim of the cliff aka the beautiful Hollywood hills, with a wobbly, sleep deprived gait that does not inspire confidence. And they make your ass, and every other muscle you sit with but can’t name, hurt for days.

By the time you reach the restaurant it’s dark, constant fear of cliff diving has left you exhausted and you’re too afraid to drink incase you need your senses to fight off the howling coyotes you keep hearing in the distance, getting closer. And as long as the ride felt on the way out, it feels even longer on the way back. And the bright lights of Burbank offer no consolidation.

Thank you Hollywood sign, I think next time I’ll just admire you from a distance.

Somewhere in the middle of the fabulous vacation I had my official birthday. I remember sitting in a parked car in a Trader Joe’s parking lot when my dad called to send me his birthday greetings. He said life goes down hill once you turn 25, as if I needed the disappointment reminder. My parents, always keepin’ it real.

The one sacred truth that I thought I could count on no matter what else happened is that it never rains in L.A. I mean, statistically it rains sometimes, but what would be the chances of that happening.

It seemed like it rained every goddamn day I was there.

Maybe it didn’t actually happen that way, but I know for sure it happened when I was frolicking on the sand at Laguna Beach. I have the pictures of myself in a raincoat to prove it.

Also, one of the most beautiful beaches in America that everyone admires even when it’s smooched into the small screen on a crap MTV show was under construction when I was there. The town was renovating the walkways, or something, and yellow tape and port-a-potties obstructed the vistas.

I don’t mind seeing the underbelly of foreign countries I visit, or even my hometown. But there’s something about the fantasy of Hollywood that I wanted to preserve.

Watching hilarious Judd Apatow movies does warm my heart a little to the idea of L.A. Still, I don’t think I’ll ever get over the shock of discover the Kodak Theatre lives in a mall.

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