Exploring Los Angeles

Los Angeles- there’s a certain energy about it that’s unique and always enticing. It’s about more than just the beautiful beaches which lay on its outskirts, it’s wide boulevards outlined with palm trees, the luxury of Beverly Hills that’s almost incomprehensible, and the grit and dust of the city which sprawls with seemingly unlimited people and opportunities. Los Angeles is a place that has made a name for itself, and I always want to experience that name and try and figure it out. It’s a hard place to figure out, because its just so diverse.

Here’s how I see it. It’s the land of surfers and skateboarders, of Hollywood trendsetters, and the social elite. It’s the land of the vain and self-obsessed, the die hard liberal, and the vegan gluten free soccer mom. It’s the land of graffiti, the burrito, towering palm trees, expansive beaches, and Mexican immigrants. It’s a land of new ideas, and lost dreams, of success and failure, high tops and flip flops, and sprawling poverty in the dusty dry air. It’s a land of struggle, of creativity, of bright neon colors… and traffic, horrible traffic.

This would be my second visit to the Los Angeles area. The summer before I visited downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood, and Disneyland for the first time, while I camped in Malibu and Laguna Beach. This year I was making a last minute decision to visit Los Angeles. I was arriving from Pinnacles National Park and would stay with my friend Ricky in Huntington Beach.

I had a hard time trying to get in contact with Ricky. My backup plan was to try and find a spot to camp in Crystal Cove State Park in Laguna Beach. I had camped there before, but the only campsites that would likely be vacant were the hike-in campsites, three miles removed from the beach up in the hills. Luckily contact was made, and I was able to invite myself to stay at Ricky’s with his welcome.

Ricky has been a long distance good friend of mine, who is just a couple years older than me. He is someone I find to be very smart, of sound judgement, and also adventurous. He can talk about and entertain just about any topic, which makes him interesting. Recently he has been investing in his future by studying and training to become a pilot. Originally from Ohio, he moved to Los Angeles alone, and after being followers of each other on social media, we were able to meet last summer, and we hit it off. Although sometimes hard to get a hold of, when I do get a hold of him, he is a good listener and always willing to help out. He advised me when I was looking to buy my car later that year, and that meant a lot to me.

Driving into Huntington Beach, traffic was horrendous. Traffic all throughout the greater L.A. region is always bad, but a accident had three lanes of traffic reduced to one. When I arrived Ricky had to do some grocery shopping. I accompanied him and was excited to finally, after nearly a month, be able to buy some cereal and milk, something that was typically a staple in my diet. Something that is usually so commonplace was now exciting.

Ricky owned a nice condominium which he was constantly renovating, with plans to increase its value, sell it, and move out of California. He had a guest room, where he blew up a giant air mattress for me. I felt like I was living the life of luxury. I had a comfortable and spacious mattress to sleep on, running water just steps away, and access to a hot shower and a bowl of cereal and milk. That evening, we caught up a little, and I inquired about places to visit in the city. I’d be here for two days. I wanted to spend the second at Disneyland, but I needed some recommendations for the first. Ricky had to work, but he provided some good recommendations, and we planned on meeting up at the end of the following day for dinner.

Ricky gave me a key to his condo so I could come and go as I pleased. The next morning I was up bright and early. My first stop of the day was at the Old Los Angeles Zoo in Griffith Park. Griffith Park is a massive park in Los Angeles that houses many different features and trails. The zoo that was once there was abandoned as a new zoo was constructed elsewhere in the park. Now the abandoned zoo cages and walkways can be explored. One can even go right inside the areas the animals used to dwell in. I climbed into one area and took this picture and posted in online with this caption:

13517544_10210327919454753_2627697168926187287_oVisit the old Los Angeles zoo and see the wild Josh in captivity. The Josh is a very adaptable amiable creature who can be found in prairies, temperate forests, alpine tundras, and dry deserts. The Josh is native to North America but it is believed to be an ancestor of those from the Iberia peninsula. The Josh is an omnivore and gatherer whose diet consists of meats, vegetables, nuts and berries, breakfast cereals, and tacos. When threatened the Josh is known to retreat and is rarely found to be aggressive.

Leaving the Old Zoo, I proceeded to the top of the park where the Griffith Observatory lies. I was there early enough that the place was very quiet. The observatory building itself is a beautiful white domed deco style planetarium, with a sculpture out front. It appears in many movies.

I wasn’t so much interested in that building as I was in the view of the Hollywood sign and L.A. down below in the distance from atop that hill. The view of the Hollywood sign was clear but the hazy dusty and polluted sky made Los Angeles difficult to see. Also, from the observatory,  a series of dusty trails ran down the hill. I was familiar with these trails, because a lot of celebrities and YouTubers from the area love to take pictures and videos from this place. I literally ran down a trail, for time’s sake, for there was much more to be seen. I wanted to experience it, but I didn’t want to spend a lot of time here. Running back up the sandy path was a very strenuous workout. When I got back to my car, I turned the air conditioning on full. The parking lot had grown crowded. I connected to the parking-lot’s wifi network to determine my next move.

I ended up at the Autry Museum of the American West, located right on the corner of Griffith Park. I had driven by it earlier and it looked interesting. Parking at the museum was ample and easy, and so I decided to give it a go. When I got inside I was fully enthralled. I had spent many nights of this trip, reading my book about the American West, as I traveled through the West. Paring that book and this whole trip together, made history come to life for me. And this museum was the grand finale. Numerous things I had read and learned about were now before my eyes. The museum told the history of the West and was filled with relics from the era of the cowboys, natives, and pioneers. There was one room with fancy old bars and slot machines taken out of saloons. Another was filled with old sheriff badges and elaborately designed revolvers that were fine pieces of art. There were also artifacts from the native people, a California stagecoach, paintings depicting many scenes and landscapes, sculptures of characters of the West, and a whole exhibit dedicated to the singing cowboy era of Hollywood. As a grand finale, I came to a room with a complete chuck wagon. As silly as it may sound, I was so excited by the chuck wagon. I read so much about it in my book and now  I was seeing one before me, every part explained. It made the strenuous life of the cowboy all the more real to me.

Leaving the museum, I was very satisfied. I stopped at a Del Taco near the park for a quick lunch, then I drove to the Glendale Transportation Center, which serves as an Amtrak station. I admired its Mission Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival Style architecture. I then searched my gps for a place to get a haircut, because I needed one, and I wanted to look good and on point for all my pictures with Disney characters the following day, truth be told. My attempt to find a barber was unsuccessful, but I ended up at the Goodwill Southern California Outlet. It was huge and on the edge of Hollywood. My thrifty mind knows that a Goodwill store is only as good as the wealth which surrounds it. Sure enough, I found a great find- a pair of Nike high-tops, which looked like it stepped right out of the 90s untouched, with bright green zig zag stripes on the sides, purple heels, and orange paint artistically splattered on the sides. This had to be my best thrift store find to date.

While I was standing in line, a middle aged latina woman, with her hands full of clothes, started talking to me.“Those are muy bien lindos,” she began speaking. “Make sure you take good care of them. Get the green soap they sell at the laundromat. That works really well on shoes, to keep them clean.”

“Oh, is that right?” I had to say something.

“Yes, use the green soap, it comes in the little packet. It’s like a miracle on shoes. They sell it for like 25 cents. You know what I’m talking about right?”

I nodded my head to pacify her enthusiasm. I loved how she assumed I knew what her laundromat was and the soap they sold there. Thanks for assuming I’m a local, that’s flattering I thought, but I know nothing about your laundromat and their soap.

I thanked her and walked out of there having bought the best L.A. souvenir I couldn’t have even imagined.

My final stop was at Downtown Disney, where I would purchase my Disneyland ticket for the following day. Downtown Disney at Disneyland is a very chill place, especially in comparison to Disney World. You can just sort of walk around leisurely in Downtown Disney in and out different stores and around restaurants, enjoying the bright colors and tasteful instrumental Disney music playing the background. I grabbed a sandwich at Earl of Sandwich, and then went into the World of Disney store, where I bought a Mickey Mouse tank top I would wear into the park the following day. I may not have gotten my haircut, but I got a pair of sweet kicks and a cool Mickey tank. I was gonna be a cool cat walking around the park.

Once I was back at Ricky’s, we went together to a casual Peruvian restaurant located in a nearby strip mall for dinner. Over some lomo saltado, we opened up to each other about our love interests. I told Ricky about a young lady I worked very close with whom I found really attractive and felt very hopeful with. She shared so many interests with me, was smart and with it, and seemed to have a similar upbringing. I admired her intelligence, her sense of adventure, her humor, her simple style, and most attractive of all, her interactions with others. My plan was to ask her out once I was back home. I was so excited about the prospect that during this trip, there were multiple occasions I would be driving, thinking about her, and in all the excitement of imagining a life together, my heart would start beating faster, and I would find myself going ninety miles per hour. I had to slow down.

Unfortunately, when the summer was over and the time had come to pursue her. She dismissed me, showing no interest. I had to move on, and so I suppose somewhere, amongst my grand map of life, there is a little ghost town with her name across it.

After our Peruvian food, Ricky drove me to another strip mall (It seems everything in the L.A. area is in a strip mall) where we had some ice cream. I had some Frosted Flakes flavored ice cream. Ricky talked to me about Instagram and this social media strategy he had. He asked me if I had a social media strategy. I had never even heard that term before. We proceeded deeper into the topic of the internet, and I asked him about where data on the internet is stored. He explained it in great detail.

Back at the condo, when we were both wrapping up the day, getting ready for bed, I was working on a strategy, not a social media strategy, but a Disneyland strategy. One should not walk into a Disney park without a strategy. A Disneyland strategy takes some fine skill and careful consideration. I plugged in my camera to charge, laid out my outfit for tomorrow, and secured my park ticket, which prominently displayed Olaf’s face on it, in my wallet. I was ready, Disneyland, here I come!

Read the previous entry,  “Pinnacles of Purpose,” here:  


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