LaLaLand - Life in the Bubble

LaLaLand. Hollyweird. LA-Bubble. There are many names that express how aware we all are that we live in an odd place. Girls are ditzy. Guys are meat heads. Models are anorexic. And everyone is somehow connected to the biz. Pretty much every waiter and waitress I've had wants to be and actor or an actress. The other day someone handed me his business card and it just said 'Entertainer' on it. WTF? So, if I tear off my clothes and jump in a hotel pool can I call myself an entertainer because, well, I just entertained a whole bunch of people, didn't I?

After nearly a decade in the City of Angeles, I've come to terms with it - the city's strange ways. I've accepted it for what it is and I appreciate what it has to offer. It took me a long time to get here. But I have arrived! Not that I want to be included in the ditzy crowd or the biz-hungry entertainers of the city. Not at all. But while I used to try to make LA something it is not - more like Europe? less superficial? not sure... - I have unclenched my teeth, relaxed my fists and transformed into a - dare I say it? - happy L.A.lien!

So what does L.A. have to offer? First and foremost, I have to mention Hollywood. The nickname Hollyweird is well deserved. Weirder at night than during daytime. The club scene is a league of its own. A game. Girls need to dress like hookers to get in. Guys need to grease the bouncer with some Jacksons. If you arrive with a mixed group, you need a girl to guy ratio of at least 3:1 to get everyone in. If there are more guys than girls in your group, the guy with the clipboard that holds the sacred guest list ALWAYS has a birthday party going on and can't let you in just yet because of overcrowding. Oh yeah? Would it help if I smacked that clipboard over your head? Maybe not, but I'm willing to give it a try! Truth is, they see guys synonymous with 'big spenders'. They want to get the guys to pay for a VIP table because they think they would be embarrassed in front of the girls if they don't get in. And I guess it works for guys with tiny penises. And there are plenty of those apparently... A VIP table, which is really just a regular table that no one else gets to sit at but you, runs about $400. It comes with two bottles of vodka and some mixers. At the store, those would run you about $50. Hm... Worth it? You decide...

But there is more to Hollywoodland than the glitzy nightlife. There is also the less glitzy but just as surreal day spectacle of city that makes and breaks stars. Take Hollywood Boulevard for example. The Chinese Theater, Kodak Theater, Walk of Fame as well as the hand and foot prints of the famous draw millions of tourists every year. I've been here so long and I still get a kick out of going there. Putting my hands in Robert Downey Jr.'s handprints is probably the closest I will ever get to him. Oh wait, I live in Los Angeles, I might just run into him at Rite Aid like it happened with Martin Sheen. He was dressed in all denim. Not a good look Martin...
Walking up the stairs at the Kodak Theater where world famous celebrities wonder on the day of the Oscars is an experience you can't get anywhere else. Sure, this place is really a mall like any other but tourists won't know that until they get here.

Chance encounters with celebrities is still what separates this town from most. Robbie Williams, who is so famous in Europe that he would never leave the house without his entourage to protect him from crazed fans, founded an amateur soccer league here in L.A. and used to play down the street from where I live at a local High School. When he said 'hi' to me, I almost fainted. Another day, I was out in Venice Beach at a local dive bar. Who is a few bar stools away from me? Owen Wilson. And when my friend and I were waiting for a table at a sushi restaurant in Hollywood, Kiefer Sutherland was doing the same. Just last night, another friend was convinced he saw Seth Rogan and Jane Lynch (not together) at a trendy hangout in downtown LA, so I pulled out my camera and we went on the hunt. Never found Jane. And we were not sure it was Seth Rogan after all. He didn't quite look like he does on screen but he had some major arm candy with him, so it could have been him. But we ended up not asking him for a picture. Wouldn't wanna waist a frame on a random dude, now would I?

But Los Angeles has a lot more to offer than the glitz and glam. There is, of course, the beach which presents a kitschy yet stunning sunset every night like on a silver screen. It's a spectacle! I go to watch it whenever I can. It seems the same every day and yet somehow it is not.
Californians like to point out that here you can go surfing and snowboarding on the same day. While I haven't met anyone yet who has done just that, it is in fact possible. The nearest ski resort is only about two hours outside Los Angeles. No one in Manhattan could ever say that. Take that east coast!
There is amazing nature in and outside of town. Spots a tourist would never know about. And even locals have often never been to some of those places. I mentioned to a coworker recently that I went on a hike up to the Hollywood sign. He didn't even know you can do that. As someone who grew up in the Alps I'd like to refrain from calling it a 'hike'. It's more like an uphill walk. My boyfriend likes to call it a Mickey Mouse hike. Word.
Another beautiful and peaceful location is the Lake Shrine. It's meant to serve as a spiritual place. I'm not much of a spiritual person myself but I loved the secluded aspect of it. Cell phones are not allowed. You can't hear any cars. It's pretty much a small lake with a walking path around it and some benches here and there. A bit up the hill is a temple and next to the lake is a spot where some of Ghandi's ashes are kept. This is definitely a place where you can forget about the world and lose yourself for a while. In a good way.

No worries, there are plenty of malls for the shopaholics - I hear Abercrombie & Fitch is popular with the Euros - and other places where you can indulge in American capitalism, eat a greasy burger and down some disgusting (IMHO pointless) light beer.

So, come to L.A. and seek out the places mentioned in your tour guide. Ride the mechanical bull on Sunset. Visit the hotel where the girls from Sex and the City stayed when they came here. Get a picture with your favorite star on the Walk of Fame. Blow a kiss while putting your hands in the prints of Marilyn Monroe. Run in slow motion on Santa Monica Beach imagining you are wearing a red bathing suit. Take a ride on the ferries wheel on Santa Monica Pier that Iron Man flew by. But maybe also visit the City of Angels through the backdoor (nod to Rick Steves) and learn about a different side. It's a beautiful one - I promise.


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