After driving for so long through such desolation, it was a shocking change to arrive on the outskirts of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area and drive (very slowly) through an urban landscape so vast. Los Angeles’s size is almost as intimidating as its traffic, which is NOT exaggerated. Traffic in LA is awful even when your luck is running good. “Normal” would be “5-car pile-up” in just about any other city. So neighborhoods that really aren’t that far apart geographically are actually incredibly isolated from one another. Do you have a friend who lived next door in Venice, but moved to Pasadena? Kiss that motherfucker goodbye, because he is effectively dead to you.
We became more and more aware of all this as we arrived at my brother’s apartment in what its 1920s developer dubbed the “Miracle Mile.” Los Angeles is probably the only city in the world who could turn tar pits into desirable real estate, so it really shouldn’t be a surprise that ritzy apartment complexes, huge office towers, and one of the most prominent museums in the world abut a former oil field and Ice Age graveyard.
We were far more aware of how incredibly tired we were. We had left Kansas City just before noon on July 7th, and were parking across from the La Brea Tar Pits just a little more than four days later. A few nights to just throw all our crap down and let my very generous brother Dusty do the driving sounded like a little slice of heaven.
Indeed, as we ate breakfast the next morning at The Sidewalk Cafe on Venice Beach, things felt pretty heavenly. We also completed our Route 66 tour on the Santa Monica Pier. Later, we got some culture at the LA County Museum of Art, where Alexander Calder and French and German Expressionists were taking center stage. It was a LOT of walking, and the three of us crashed pretty early.
Saturday was a little more balanced but no less packed. We cruised downtown to see the iconic and architecturally wild Disney Hall, then walked down to historic Olivera Street, essentially a little slice of Mexico. It was at this point we found a very tempting leather owl-shaped purse that we now regret passing on. If you have a leather owl-shaped purse, you have made good life choices, and I applaud you. Another good life choice? Knowing when to NOT go to Chinatown. We were starting to feel the effects of walking around for hours in the baking LA sun, and very wisely decided to go home and regroup instead.
So we were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed when we lit out for Pasadena and the semi-annual Bridge Party. And it is, in fact, exactly what it sounds like. Pasadena shuts down the Colorado Street Bridge, lines it with food and drink vendors, and just hopes no one gets drunk enough to fall off. Of course, given the grisly nickname of “Suicide Bridge,” accidental deaths might be slightly preferable. The bridge was also a part of Route 66, and after the party, we raced to get to one last major Route 66 stop before it closed: The Fair Oaks Pharmacy and Soda Shop.
Fair Oaks may hold more significance to my brother than anyone else. Once upon a time in Joplin, MO, he sat at a stool at the McGee Pharmacy. Years later, that pharmacy would go out of business and its fixtures sold, shipped across the country, lovingly restored, and brought back to life at Fair Oaks. So as Dusty sat on that stool and put his hands on that counter, he reached back decades and across 1,500 miles. But metaphysics aside, it was just a cool place to be. The staff were super-friendly and had tremendous energy, even though we were well past their 10pm closing time. Another group of diners had foolishly chosen to tackle the “Kitchen Sink” challenge where they were presented with a sink-sized sundae and would either have to eat it in 30 minutes or pay the $40 it cost. Not surprisingly, they were not prepared.
On Sunday, we had breakfast on the Malibu Pier, which is just as glorious as it sounds, and then drove up to a friend’s Topanga Canyon house and watched Germany beat Argentina in the World Cup. Parts of Topanga Canyon seem like they made the 1,500-mile journey alongside the soda fountain, as a weird fusion of California spiritualism and Ozark outdoorsmanship are sprinkled along a curvy mountain road.
My girlfriend lit out on her own adventure to meet up with an old pal in Hollywood, so it was just the Rhoades boys for a Sunday night out on the LA streets. And boy, let me tell ya, we lit that place UP. When we woke up bleary-eyed the next morning with little-to-no memory of what had happened, a representative from the Guinness Book of World Records was in the apartment waiting to tell us that we had set the record for most (live) prostitutes in a single phone booth AND that we had somehow stumbled upon a hidden enclave of dodo birds, a species long thought extinct. We hurled a couch cushion at the representative and told him to “talk quieter” before rolling back over and passing out again.
So our trip to Los Angeles was much like the city itself, a vast flurry of activity. We are so grateful to our generous and hansum (sp?) host for carting our asses around all weekend. Truly, he is a prince among men. A lion in winter. A sizzlingly white-hot mountain of a man. (Wait, this goes on? How much of this do I have to…oh, all right…) He is soft as a kitten yet rugged like the California coastline. The Most Interesting Man in the World once split a plate of spaghetti with him, Lady and the Tramp-style. Lebron James pays him to stay out of the NBA. DUSTY RHOADES IS THE ALPHA AND THE OMEGA.
But it was time to leave the glow of my smiling god of a brother and travel up the Coastal Highway, a road curvier than Sofia Vergara. (Dusty, I’m drawing the line at writing about how you “repeatedly turned down” Sofia Vergara.)