Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Getting Away to LA, Part II
My sister Kim is a recreational therapist who works with the mentally ill, many of whom are homeless. Her partner Lisa works in a chi-chi drug rehab center that caters to the rich and famous. Both say a lot of their patients, upon release, head to Santa Monica. After a couple of hours here, I understood the attraction.
I can’t say we spotted any celebrities that evening, but we did witness Paris Hilton wannabes holding pooches, watched a furry woman croon Donna Summer songs into her mysteriously blackened finger, and shared a scary shuttle ride with one psychotic woman that didn’t like the looks of us.
We’d invited Kim and Lisa, who live 30 minutes away in San Gabriel, to join us for the evening leg of our trip to Los Angeles. The two met us at our hotel, located 3.5 blocks from the beach. Maybe it was the crutches, or maybe it’s just my luck, but I ended up scoring a deluxe, ocean view room for half the price advertised. The service and décor were excellent, too.
Here are a couple shots of our balcony view. That’s Malibu just beyond the buildings in the picture featuring the Santa Monica Mountains.
As mentioned earlier, physically I already was spent from a full day at the Getty museum. My wrists were tender and I could tell my arms, back and chest would be sore come morning. So I was elated to learn the hotel had a complimentary shuttle to all the downtown hotspots. First stop: Third Street Promenade.
It was going on 6 by then, so we first decided on dinner at Gotham Hall. A note to frugal travelers: I’d done my research and picked this place based on what I’d read. It’s more known for its pool hall and sports bar than restaurant, but the Survivor crew and other Hollywood types had held gatherings here, so I knew the food couldn’t be that bad (or some junior assistants would have lost their jobs). It also was likely less expensive than the trendier establishments along the open-air strip since dining wasn’t its main draw. My hunch was correct: All four of us consumed soda and iced tea and plentiful plates of good-tasting food (our appetizer, vegetarian spring rolls with Thai sauce, was my favorite) for under $65.
Next we checked out some of the shops, including this place that had self-serve facials. It also offered “happy pills,” according to a neon sign, and the coolest bubble bath bars I’d ever seen. They looked like perfumed, pastel scones that melted when you squeezed them – which I probably shouldn’t have.
We noticed a big crowd outside and fell in just in time to see the finale of a break dance performance. I tried to blend in but my sister made sure I got noticed by the guy with the mic and thus got a shout-out (“Everybody give it up for the lady from San Diego!”) I didn’t want nor deserve.
Finally feeling my second wind, I ignored the pain in my palms and “walked” down to Ocean Blvd., where we took in the sunset on the beach and watched the Santa Monica Pier come to life.
This is my younger sister Kim and Lisa.
Sadly, by 9 we were all beat and decided to take the next shuttle back to the hotel, which first went through a section of Venice Beach. “This is the beach scene you think of when you think of California,” my husband noted. It wasn't until much later that I remembered one of my high school classmates, who also was one of Gilbert's former girlfriends, now lives in the area.
Midway through the trip, the driver let on a woman who was clearly deranged. At first, we thought she was arguing with herself, though she was staring in our direction. She kept hitting the stop cable and then refused to get off. Then I realized she was yelling at us and turned to the two mental health professionals for guidance. They both gave me the look that said, “Hang tight.” The shuttle driver eventually deposited the woman back on the streets and before my sister left for home, she gave us a crash course on schizophrenics.
The next morning I sat on my balcony’s chaise lounge in my hotel-issued robe and slippers, hugging a mug of tea while watching sunbeams soak through a thin haze. I thought about brunch later that morning at a Mexican restaurant called Gilbert’s El Indio, a favorite among the locals. A cavalcade of cyclists passed a nice, cushy high school track I hadn’t noticed across the street. Suddenly there came a long screech, the familiar sound of burning rubber. I watched a white sports car do a 180 at an intersection. The light was green. He turned around and peeled off. By then the light was red. Something set off someone’s car alarm. None of the pedestrians sipping from their Starbucks cups, nor the people pumping outrageously priced gas at a service station, seemed to notice all the noise pollution.
This place was starting to feel like home.
Miss Part I? Not Anymore!