Dispatches from Los Feliz: horror proposals, The Cult, and authentic vanity

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“Remember when you proposed to me in front of a thousand or so people in an abandoned zoo before a screening of The Shining?”

We got to Los Feliz yesterday and at around 6:30 we went to see Great Horror Movie Night‘s screening of The Shining at the abandoned zoo in Griffith Park. Having only eaten a banana 14 hours before we got in I was cranky and hungry and I needed a nap so I sunk into a deep sleep for a few hours beforehand. I woke up refreshed but still hungry and wild—feeling that way you do when you have each foot in separate realities—and we went to Albertsons to get some snacks. The woman in front of the line had a long and tedious exchange with the clerk about who, exactly, owned the store these days and she held us all up. The man behind us, who looked like the well-aged singer of a New York Hardcore band, and who had a cart filled with ice, said loudly, “Okay, come on!” and when the clerk finally got to us he apologized and said it’s the same way with her every time. The clerk had a conversation with the ice guy behind us which I didn’t understand outside of hearing that when the Cult played some venue in the neighborhood  staff from that place had to come in and get a lot of ice because that band drinks a lot of booze. I don’t know if this is true, but I was happy to be reminded that The Cult is still around.

We got to Griffith Park, fought a little because we were wild and hungry and panicked about not being able to find a parking spot. We stood in a huge line where a woman told her friends the plot of Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep for about five full minutes, though I didn’t realize it was about that book until she got to the part about vampires and I thought that she just had a very exciting and unorthodox lifestyle. My wife and I set out our blankets on the grass and sat with what looked to be about 500 – 1000 other people and we ate pita chips and olive tapenade while the hosts of the event did trivia things and one of the two participants answering trivia questions—a couple—used the opportunity to propose marriage in a stunt that would have made you want to puke were you not there but I was and so it was heart warming. Remember when you proposed to me in front of a thousand or so people in an abandoned zoo before a screening of The Shining? It’s certainly memorable.

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“I am making a plan and I am praying a lot. That’s all you can do. Pray and plan. Plan and pray.”

Today I got a haircut at a place called Rudy’s and the woman who cut my hair, a fine and talkative woman named Christina who turns 30 next month, told me that she doesn’t see herself living here long term. She’s already been here for 5 years and can’t see herself doing the expensive one bedroom thing forever. There used to be a lot of rent controlled apartments here, she told me, and so it was more affordable when she first moved to LA but now not so much. She’s been cutting hair since she was a kid when she did her grandmother’s hair before church. Her mother encouraged her to go into a technical program when she was in high school and when she graduated from school she came out with a diploma and her certification. She moved to Los Angeles from the Bay Area after seeing BAPS. “Black American Princesses. It’s probably Hale Berry’s most ghetto movie but I loved it and my friend and I saw it and we moved to LA to open our own salon. We haven’t opened a salon yet but we’ve got something in the works.”

In fact, this morning on the front page of the LA Times website there was an article about this trend — where rent controlled buildings are being taken off the market to make room for costlier developments. Two sections down was a feature focused on luxury properties which hosted an article about Judd Apatow and Leslie Mann’s $11 dollar home in Malibu. Different hoods, of course—much different, but it reminds of once hearing Noam Chomsky say something to the effect of there not being much by way of conspiracy control of our government and culture; if you want to see where power is open about how it operates just read the business section. And apparently the real estate section too.

An op ed published today in the same paper details how Los Angeles is segregating again due in large part to these fluctuations in the housing market.

Christina hates SnapChat. She was rear-ended by a guy last Friday and when she was taking his information, he asked if she could just take a picture of so they could hurry up. She said, “No, I am not going to hurry up. That’s part of your predicament right now, sir. You’re always in a hurry.” I told her he was probably sending a Snap and she laughed. “That’s the thing. People are either in a hurry or they’re distracted. God sends signs to slow down and people miss it because they are distracted. Slow down when God tells you to slow down,” she said. “Slow down and you can see all the signs God sends you.” She told me about her business plan, which sounds very good but as she told me in barber-to-customer confidence I won’t share any details in fear of inadvertently giving it away to somebody else. But she told me confidently, ”I am making a plan and I am praying a lot. That’s all you can do. Pray and plan. Plan and pray.” And while I don’t have a lot of God in my life and get angry when people use their belief to legislate and intimidate, I always love hearing people talk like this.

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“You know the guy who played the second best friend in that movie about three guys who are all friends until one falls in love? He’s my business partner, and…”

We saw Kathryn Hahn, who I believe to be one of the funniest people on the planet, at the Silver Lake Farmer’s Market this morning where she was being the normalest mom on the planet. My wife marveled aloud at how celebrities are able to integrate without being too bothered here and I openly considered whether this is because they are such a normal fixture—part of the fabric—or because people are so naturally self absorbed in these neighborhoods. Folks are either famous or posturing as if they are. And I say this with all of the love, and I qualify it as such not to be effusive. Last night I heard a guy in a 7-11 go on forever to some other guy about how his company has evolved over time. “You know the guy who played the second best friend in that movie about three guys who are all friends until one falls in love? He’s my business partner, and…” Woefully unaware that the other guy was glazing over, likely waiting to tell his slightly different version of the same story. That’s something I love about this part of Los Angeles, at least. People wear their vanity on their sleeves in a way that is almost refreshing, particularly when contrasted against my spending a lot of time in places where people are just as vain but attempt to posture as though they are not.

But—and I have already written about this before—I also, all of this aside, love so many of the people I have met here who are not representative of any of this. I came here for the first time 8 years ago now expecting to hate it because that’s what New Englanders are taught to expect. I came with two pairs of clothes, all ill fitting and definitely not designer, and a giant pair of motorcycle boots as part of a boot-strapped (ugh, puns) research tour and I was met with genuine curiosity and interest by everyone I ran into, and greeted hospitably all around.

Alex Steed

About Alex Steed

Alex Steed has written about and engaged in politics since he was an insufferable teenager. He has run for the Statehouse and produced a successful web series. He now runs a content firm called Knack Factory with two guys who are a lot more talented than himself.