Los Angeles, Douglas Adams very nearly wrote, is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to Los Angeles.
It’s also a very long way from Cayman, particularly if like Weekender you deem it a good idea to save a few dollars by going via Washington, DC. That’s a day up the swannee, then, to travel. Well done, us! We rule.
Still, the City of Angels has much to recommend it for a week’s break. Take Santa Monica as an example; a lovely, art deco beach town with some cool shops, the world-famous pier and plenty of opportunities to people-watch as the sun sets over the Pacific. Or the Brentwood area, home to Arnold Schwarzenegger as well as a great little shopping and food centre, the Brentwood County Mart. We eat strangely-flavoured, locally-made ice cream at Sweet Rose there. Tip: though perfect alone, madras flavour ice cream does not go awfully well with a scoop of salted caramel. The sensation’s like getting kicked in the mouth by a herd of irritated cattle.
Then there’s Hollywood Boulevard, where the pavement is dotted with stars’ stones. Hooray! Names on the floor! Couldn’t be better. Actually the thoroughfare is also a surprisingly well-appointed shopping area – we pick up some cool Pumas there. Hungry? Well, try a food truck. They’re everywhere in LA and Hollywood is no exception. For $8 and a few pence we pick up a hybrid Mexican-Chinese plate from Don Chow. And, yes, Guy Fieri has been to this one, although we’re starting to think that the Food Network star really just likes eating greasy food and after a hard day’s filming probably goes home to bathe in margarine whilst snacking on pig fat popsicles.
Forget about hiking up to the famous sign, though, cause you’re not allowed on it any more. And even if you were, it’s basically, like, a load of wooden letters on a hill. (Hey, we can recreate that on the side of Mount Trashmore; maybe a project for the new government? A huge sign saying MCKEEVAWOOD or something. Trust us, it’d look awesome from the cruise ships passing Cayman by on their way to Falmouth’s new port.)
The pace of the place is insane; given that LA is spread out even further than Fieri’s belly, everyone drives at 600 miles an hour. There is, in fact, a nominal speed limit, but that appears to be treated as a minimum by the drivers. Tip No. 2: any boy racers of Cayman thinking they’re Ayrton Senna, let them loose on the 105 and see if they can last five minutes.
It’s kind of exhilarating to be driven around on the edge of madness here; the nightlife at Sunset Boulevard includes Rainbow Bar and Grill (say hi to Lemmy when you go there) and a multitude of entertainment options, from great bands to dodgy theatre, jazz and, well, less family-friendly places, which are so well-heated that the ladies don’t seem to need many clothes. So we hear, anyway.
Muscle beach yo
A must-do is Amoeba Records, a vast, hangar-sized shop full of both new and used CDs, actual vinyl records, cassette tapes, T-shirts and books. Lots of lovely, lovely books. You could spend days here and never get bored and the place also hosts acoustic performances.
Long may it last; the Web hasn’t quite choked the experience of browsing through albums yet. In a record shop develops a community, a shared and beautiful obsession with sound, regardless of individual taste. Here all are equal whether you’re the guy with the Napalm Death T-shirt on and the well-heeled concert pianist or the old hippy chick dressed in cosmic tie-dye, love of music persists. Hooray!
Souls thus refreshed, we head out to Venice Beach which features such delights as a lump-armed spodge of very shiny men working out at Muscle Beach (they’re so impressed with Weekender’s physique that they do not mention it once, due to being awestruck no doubt); skateboarders flippin’ trix to a soundtrack of hip-hop and Blink-182; families picnicking; surfers getting their wave on; miles and miles and miles of trashy T-shirt and souvenir shops. Oh, and the Pacific is cold, man, particularly after Cayman. But if we wanted a beach holiday we’d have stayed at home and called in sick to work. We mean, taken a day off from our allocation, of course.
Venice is also home to the swish Abbot-Kinney Boulevard, on which you may yet see that elusive film star browsing the upscale and indie shops. Tip No. 3: Stop off at Joe’s for the $19 prix fixe lunch menu – it’s California-French, with big flavours and excellent ambience and best of all, mobile phones are banned from the premises. Yay!
LA’s too big to do in a week, a year, a lifetime, so dip in and out and don’t worry too much about missing things. Do, however, try and catch a Dodgers game – splendid fun, particularly if you get the $27 tickets which include all-you-can-eat hot dogs, peanuts, popcorn and the most nuclear-looking taco ‘cheese’ that ever oozed out of a vat at a particularly brackish chemical factory. Although you may wanna take an extra $100 for beer (that should buy about three glasses of depravedly-light drink.) Dios mio.
Do, also, do as we did on our last night in this splendid, strange, expansive and extraordinary city and do the best sushi in the universe at Katsu-Ya in Encino. It is not cheap. But you are paying for a thousand years spent perfecting the art to this superior level. Miso-Marinated black cod, crispy rice with spicy tuna, yellowtail sashimi with jalapeño – heavenly and packing more punch than the strongest Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster.