Relationships take work. Love affairs are dynamic relationships that challenge us more than, let’s say, friendships. Best sung by Motown’s Four Tops, one of my favorite old-school songs titled “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?” concludes with this refrain:
The love affair I began with Los Angeles in 1991 has gotten better because of will, effort and intention. I’m committed to my relationship and I believe that Los Angeles loves me back. It is my hope that even if you’ve begun your LA divorce proceedings, you can reconsider and rekindle the fire!
In Volume 1, I sent you west on Sunset Boulevard as far as the road can go. It’s a cheap trick – that drive to the ocean at sunset is fail-safe. Who wouldn’t, who couldn’t fall in love with that breathtaking crescendo? Admittedly, it’s been a bit trickier to navigate that ride since road construction has threatened our “marriage” but if you stay the course and keep going west, the payoff is worth it.
Here are some other detours, chosen ones, that can lead you to more of LA’s charms. They offer good reasons to veer off the road even if there are no roadblocks. On a day when a schedule is not harrowing and you have the time to breathe (oh, that’s key in all of this love affair stuff – breathing), explore in and around Sunset Boulevard as you’re heading west. Some of these divergences are as free as the ride; others will call upon your wallet. You’ll know which is the right diversion for your particular exploration. Keep in mind that the goal is to revive your love affair with Los Angeles or begin a new one.
The first stop, should you choose, is The Beverly Hills Hotel, affectionately called the Pink Palace. I’ve done this stop many ways. Try one on for size. I’ve pulled up to Valet Parking bidding my friendliest greetings to the valets and doorman (I wouldn’t suggest shorts and flip flops for this version) explaining I’m meeting a friend. And then I just wander – and sometimes just sit in the lobby. It’s a small lobby, not particularly inviting but I just sit and breathe. On one stop, I saw a very young, very awkward, regal sort sitting there bemused. I began light casual conversation with him to ease his way. Little did he know, I had no business there at all. Long story short, he turned out to be a prince in Norway (and no jokes about the Prince of Bel Air). No, really, a royal prince! I’ve since seen him on the news. His entourage and his grand limousine (let’s just say this one is not in uber’s fleet!) were at the ready to have me join him for a tour of the area. We spoke for hours though his “people” stayed near. He was so hungry for a person with a life in the real world with whom to communicate. Despite his eagerness to have our friendship continue on another day, my work at my detour had ended. Los Angeles was magical again. “Only in LA,” it’s said. Being friendly in a royal hotel costs nothing.
I’ve also been enchanted at the Beverly Hills Hotel with lunch or snacks there on my own. (Remember these are mostly unplanned detours!) Not at the Polo Lounge where the bill will set you back some serious change. No, the way we locals do it is to head directly to their pool and sit at the Cabana Café. Surprisingly, you do not have to be a guest to sit in this gorgeous, albeit exclusive-feeling setting. And lunch can be whatever you want it to be – including a cup of tea and a bagel. And the other locals’ secret is to go downstairs from the lobby to the Fountain Coffee Shop. Get a milkshake – or have breakfast – at the counter. It’s an authentic old-school diner, except that it’s in the basement of a palace. Then back to Sunset the boulevard or the rose-colored one in the sky. By the way, Options #2 and #3, the meal ones, don’t require valet parking.
If hotels and people watching are not your thing, another alternative route off of Sunset Boulevard is to explore Holmby Hills. I discovered this quite by accident on one of my Sunset Boulevard meanderings in the mid-90’s. I turned left on Beverly Glen and then noticed magnificent homes and landscapes tucked on some of the streets behind Beverly Glen. I turned again onto Charing Cross Road, then onto Mapleton. Inching my car slowly, I remember getting quite an eyeful ogling properties on Mapleton. I had no idea that I was heading to the Spelling mansion at the time, the penultimate eyeful. What’s key about this kind of exploration is that it not trigger resentment, animosity or worse, feeling bad about your own life. These rides are supposed to feel like receiving a bouquet of flowers unexpectedly. Don’t make up stories about the inequality of wealth at these times; it defeats the purpose. There is a purity of aesthetics that your new eyes can bring to the vision. Greenery, architecture, texture, color, and surprise light your mind as you take in new things each time you explore. Years later, I took a New York friend to see the Spelling mansion. It was a Sunday afternoon and we slowly pulled up. Wait, what?! How did I not know? Purely by accident, our car kept getting guided towards a Valet Parking umbrella in front of the compound. It was Tori’s wedding day, at home. They thought my friend and I were guests and we kept smiling, okay flirting, with each of the officers directing our car. It was such an uproarious spectacle. We laugh. Only in LA. Love.
By the way, Charing Cross Rd., on the other side, will lead you to the Playboy Mansion. That is a horse (pardon the reference) of a different color. And driving up and thinking about what has gone on and for how long may just amuse you. Or not. It doesn’t pull my chain (pardon the reference). Seriously, there is lore, not necessarily lure, and American history there and it’s right in our L.A. backyard.
Volume 2 ends there with two forks in the road – the right turn into the hotel or the left turn into Holmby Hills. When we continue, we will be turning right, into what look like private gates, the gates of Bel Air. It’s an elegant twilight zone. Can’t wait to continue… til next time.