We are in the terminal waiting for our overnight flight to London after one more precious day in California. After packing up and leaving the house we went for breakfast at “Linda’s” which could not have been nicer. Its such a popular place that they serve you coffee on the benches outside while you wait for a table.
We walked back to the house along quiet streets in bright, late afternoon sunshine. Its a really pretty neighbourhood and P and I could both very happily live in Santa Cruz.
We are all keenly aware that our time in LA is coming to an end, and one of the marker points for this is the premier of Tom’s second and final movie. He’s been extremely focused on it for the past few days and was nervous about how it would be received as we set out for a screening room in the Warner Brothers complex.
To see the movie, click here: All the best intentions and make sure you watch it on full screen.
So today was all about conquering the highest peak in the Santa Monica mountains and by God it should consider itself well and truly conquered!
Once off the white-knuckle racetrack that is Highway 101 and into the mountains, the drive there was exactly what you rent a converible Mustang for: endlessly twisty, narrow, patched blacktop spiralling up into the mountains with no other cars in sight. There was only one other car in the parking area and we set off along a track lined with juniper and sage which smelt like a herb garden. It was a hot dusty climb but after scrambling up a ridge we found what will go down in the family annals as one of the most spetacular lunch stops of all time.
The peak of Sandstone Mountain (3,111 feet) had 360 degree views down to the satellite communities around LA on one side and the small peaks and ridges we had climbed on e other. The logbook concealed in a drawer was completely filled with the thoughts and exclamation marks of other hikers but we found a space on the back cover to record our triumph. We route-marched back down, passing a large group of exciteable teenage hikers – perhaps 30 of them – adding their own distinctive sounds to the quiet rustlings of nature.
Thanks to NPR we discovered that the 101 was the most congested freeway in southern California due to various accidents so we took the scenic route through LA suburbs which was far more interesting anyway, with gaudy sixties streetscapes and realworld businesses. “Organic headlice removal” was one that caught P’s eye. Not that she needed their services I hasten to add. That was all a long time ago. Joke!
We got back just in time to pickup Tom who had texted to say “filming could not have gone any better!” We’d helped him make various props last night and this morning and he seemed to think his filming (in the “Old Europe” area of the Universal backlot) had gone well. The traffic was so dense by the time we picked him up that we beat a hasty retreat to Bob’s Big Boy Diner and ate far too much. Again…
The satnav breezily informed us it would take 25 minutes to get to the Getty Villa but the entire population of the region seemed to be on the same road and we stop-started virtually all the way down to the coast and the most extraordinary art museum anywhere. It took almost two hours and we almost missed the turning but I’m glad we didn’t.
J Paul Getty was for a while reckoned to be the richest man in the world having built his fortune with Getty Oil. The company boomed after he leased some apparently barren land in Saudi Arabia, and spent four years and thirty million dollars turning it into a highly profitable oilfield. He learned Arabic to negotiate with the Saudi royal family himself.
Getty was an interesting character who looked a bit like Alfred E Neuman would have done if he’d ever grown up.
Well that was a big day. After dropping T at Film School, P and I crawled on the highway down to Malibu Creek State Park. It would probably have been easier to take the car but we needed the exercise.
Having read that Paramount still has a Wild West set in those hills we struck out for it, hoping we could get there without having to double back on ourselves. We walked along the road that the MASH producers had built to get the filming location, but the main road it used to link to is now blocked off by an officious landowner who had fenced his property off and posted warnings that tresspassers would be hung drawn and quartered etc. We took a fork in the trail to the next bit of residential road and began the much longer walk to get to the Paramount set along hot roads which had some shade and a bit of a breeze but not quite enough of either. I could sense that P, walking behind me was Not Impressed with my gung-ho attitude to striking out for Paramount in the blazing heat but when we got there, rather red faced and dessicated, we found that there was an actual movie under way (“Boonville Redemption 1906” starring Pat Boone and Ed Asner). The first indication was the extras in full-on western gear riding horses out of the little town they’ve built there.
After a quick pit stop for showers we went to collect Tom and headed back tto the Griffith Observatory where we failed to find a parking place amid the frenzy of visitors last Friday. It was still busy but we got there in time to see a presentation in the vast planetarium. It was a new show about the history of the universe which combined the usual projected star maps with fantastic – and vast – animations of Ptolemy at work and Galileo’s study and various other illuminating scenes. It was really effective, I can still hardly believe that it takes billions of years for the light from the furthest stars to reach us, We are very very tiny but as Carl Sagan said, “we are all starstuff”, which is comforting.
LA is saturated with cars. They are a dominant feature of life here. We have taken the metro train and its great, but it probably won’t get you to where you are going. You do need a car and you have to get used to driving on highways with six to eight lanes going in your direction. Hurtling along a densely packed freeway today I suddenly realised why Americans like NASCAR rather than Formula One. NASCAR is driving Americans can relate too – its the LA driving experience on steroids. A pack of cars travelling together at roughly the same (high) speed on wide smooth roads. F1 is much more of the European driving experience, all sharp corners and small buzzy cars.
We, of course, still hanker for our beloved ’67 Corvette and our ’78 GMC motorhome so we get the whole American cars thing. At Bob’s Big Boy diner in Burbank we got our classic fix on Friday night when all the car lovers fill the parking lot and show off their chrome. There was a yellow version of our Corvette there and its still about the handsomest car ever made in America (though no picture…)
Every branch of civilian law enforcement has to have a helicopter it seems. If the state library network has an enforcement unit for overdue books, you can bet they will have a chopper on the roof. On the beach at Malibu at least three different agencies (coastguard, sheriff’s office, state police) buzzed the shoreline about two hundred feet up at regular intervals. It struck me that they posed a far bigger threat to the people playing beneath them than anything in the sea. Twice we have been woken up in the wee small hours by police helicopters circling low over our neighbourhood for fifteen minutes or more. The first one had a spotlight on someone and they were using a PA system to tell him not to move. All very exciting but I really hope whatever he had done was worth waking everyone up in the entire community.