Day 13

8 Jun

Today Lee and I became Major League tourists; we took the five and one half hour Grand Tour of Los Angeles offered by StarLine Tours. Our bus driver was Pedro and our guide, Rob. I though Rob’s accent sounded a little familiar; he came to LA from Charlotte and has not quite lost North Carolina.

Before the tour began, we were picked up at the hotel. After we entered the large-sized van, the driver said, “They told me to make a u-turn here.” And he did just that — over six lanes, with a fair amount of traffic, in not the most wieldy of vehicles. I was amazed. The drivers for this company know how to deal with LA traffic.

We transferred to a large, double-decker bus for the tour. Lee and I sat on the lower level because the passageway to the upper level seemed mighty narrow to a wide person. The people we sat across from were from the Villages in Florida. They had not driven cross-country. They had flown to Fairbanks, Alaska, rented a car and driven down the Pacific coast to LA. I felt as if Lee and I could do more.

Our first stop was the Hollywood Bowl. Knowing this, Lee and I had worn our shoes, but it must have been too early because not only did I not see anyone bowling, I did not see any lanes. Besides, Rob gave us only fifteen minutes for the stop. (I know this is a cheap joke and probably an old one. Old hands at the Hollywood Bowl surely roll their eyes when some guy asks, “Where are the lanes? But if you’ve driven cross country to see it, you have to use whatever material comes to mind.)

After the Hollywood Bowl, the tour became something of an impressionistic adventure in which I had only a vague awareness of where I was and how one place related to another. The Kodak Theatre, home of the Academy Awards, and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre are next to each other.

The red carpet walk at the Kodak is over 150 yards long and includes a sizable staircase. At the moment, the Kodak is showing a Cirque du Soleil production called “Iris,” based on the history of Hollywood.

Next door is Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. with the famous cement slabs in front, signed by movie stars and decorated with handprints, footprints and any other sort of print a star could come up with. John Wayne used a fist print. Jimmy Durante impressed his “Scnozolla,” Whoopi Goldberg left an impression of her dreadlocks. Who knows what else may be indelibly impressed in Sid Grauman’s cement.

On the sidewalk beyond Grauman’s is the Walk of Fame with many, many stars for many, many celebrities. These stars are arranged by publicists and others while Graumann’s cement impressions are considered a greater honor. On the Walk of Fame are also people dressed as celebrities — Darth Vader, a Pirate, Marilyn Monroe, Superman and others. I was thrilled. Also we saw the preparations for the premier, later in the day, of Rock of Ages, starring Tom Cruise, Julianne Hough, Russell Brand, Paul Giamatti and others. I don’t know. I guess I was thrilled again.

Onward. We saw the Hollywood Sign from various viewpoints, took a turn through Beverly Hills, drove down Rodeo Drive, stopped briefly at the La Brea Tar Pits and cruised through Melrose Place. There is a strange sensation in much of this sightseeing in that you see familiar places, and yet the scenes are hard to place. Much of the tour had a distinct, dream-like quality.

For lunch we stopped at the LA Farmer’s Market, though nary a farmer was in sight. Lee and I had the opportunity to be in the audience for some event involving a new cast member for Glee. The bus had us on a tight schedule, and we could not participate. Who knows, I may have lost my second chance at show biz. I missed out earlier in Dodge City.

Back on the bus, we headed for downtown LA. Like all cities, LA is made up of many places, but the core is Los Angeles. Many TV shows pan across the small area of skyscrapers in downtown and many other downtown locations stand in for other places all over the country. The oldest part of the city is Olivares Street which has a house from 1818, when this whole area was the desert we crossed coming to LA. For a full explanation of how LA developed, watch Chinatown again and pay careful attention attention to the political aspect of the movie.

Chinatown reminds me — we went there too, though by that time I was beginning to long for the cheery confines of the hotel.

This tour helped me start to grasp how this city works. The tour was an overview of a large and complex place even though we saw barely a fraction of the city. Our driver, Pedro, deserves sainthood. He could be Saint Pedro, the Patron of Tour Bus Drivers. He maneuvered the behemoth of a bus through enormous amounts of traffic, down narrow streets, around tight corners and into tight parking spaces and never gave us a bump. No one honked at us, even when we held up traffic to take pictures. The saintly, Pedro held some sort of sway over the drivers of Los Angeles. We gave him a round of applause.

Rob, our guide, had a “guide” voice, made even more pleasant by a light North Carolina undertone. Rob’s position seems pleasant to me. He gets to ride through an interesting city. He learns facts and stories, develops his patter and throws in an amusing story now and then. Rob kept us informed and entertained, but Saint Pedro kept us on the road and kept us moving.

Tomorrow we deliver Cash Bar and get Gardner’s personalized LA Tour.


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