Incurably Curious

Hollywood is a Crazy Dump

Los Angeles“Stay safe, girls, stay safe,” said…well, pretty much fucking everyone, to be honest, when we told them we were headed to Los Angeles after Las Vegas. It’s funny, but being lectured about safety by complete strangers – and they were strangers: policemen, bus drivers, ice-cream scoopers – is a bit disconcerting, so we were sort of shitting our pants by the time we arrived at Union Station. Which actually would have been quite nice had we not been on high alert looking out for potential axe-murderers and gun-toting rednecks. Quite difficult to appreciate nice architecture, I’ve always found, when complete strangers keep telling you you’ve more or less got a 50% chance of getting shot.

Hollywood is a dump, and yes, it’s full of lunatics. Five minutes off the (surprisingly un-shit) Megabus from Sin City and we had already seen a man having a heated argument with the back of his hand and another who seemed completely sane except for the (definitely alive) tortoiseshell kitten he was wearing as a hat.

On the Metro, which is actually not as rubbish as everyone says, a swaggering youth in a purple tank top sat down and fidgeted distractedly with his left sock, which after a few minutes of quiet but horrified observation turned out to be a convenient hidey hole for a switch-blade knife.

The next day we went to Venice Beach, which may as well be called Shoreditch-on-Sea. Like certain areas of East London, it is renowned for its ‘alternative’ living, so there are tattoos and sugar-skulls and Godawful hair cuts as far as the eye can see. Many people were wearing trousers too short for them, apparently by choice. Street vendors selling everything from model aeroplanes made from Coke cans to custom toe rings lined the boardwalk between the beach and little shops selling treasures and tat. There were cute little cafés and medicinal marijuana stores (“Eligibility assessment only $40! Free samples!”) and bigger restaurants serving up huge baskets of fries and well-griddled ex-cow, enbunned and garnished with great dollops of Uncle Sam’s curiously flavourless yellow mustard. We sat on the terrace of one of these and watched the throngs of people go by. Say what you like about Los Angeles, it is fucking brilliant for people-watching. Chock-a-block full of weirdos.

Eventually, a stocky, retired beatnik-type sat down at a piano on the other side of the pavement and played it for half an hour with the kind of mad skills that kept us there for a good while longer than we intended. He could have been any age upwards of forty, but his skin was as creased and leathery as an elephant’s elbow and his long hair, the colour of old ivory, was tied back in a stubby ponytail. The piano man eventually gave up his spot to an ageing guitarist who smiled at everyone and played old folk rock songs. A skinny guy who looked both elated and eighty, the kind that might be described as ‘spry’, stopped his bicycle in the middle of the sidewalk and danced around solo for a full twenty minutes, waving his arms and swivelling his hips like a demented sprinkler, entertaining the crowd with all the enthusiasm and shamelessness of someone who is very definitely on LSD.

Because we were so knackered from Vegas (and scared shitless of leaving the house after dark), we spent most of our evenings in LA in our apartment, making healthy(ish) dinners and, er, remotely exploring California’s vineyards. Through taste.  Because we were in LA, Maxine said, we should take the opportunity to watch some old Hollywood classics. Merce and I weren’t particularly enthusiastic – because, you know, black and white – but one night we sat down to watch Roman Holiday, which I’d always assumed was a predecessor for shitty romantic comedies starring Sandra Bullock. I was actually getting proper in to it, because Audrey Hepburn is so beautiful and Gregory Peck is so debonair (in contrast to Hugh Grant, who is more runny than dashing), and was quite looking forward to them getting together at the end and living Happily Ever After, but no. She just fucks off home to carry on princessing when in fact she could be having a lovely time with Greggers, who frankly nobody in their right mind would kick out of bed. I’m so glad I don’t live in black-and-white times, it all seems so terribly disappointing.

Because we watched a bit of telly in Los Angeles, we also watched a lot of American adverts. The USA has no equivalent of the NHS; its healthcare system is privatised, and uninsured Americans seeking medical care often find themselves well and truly up shit creek if they come down with something dreadful. This is partially why there are so many homeless people; many people have literally bankrupted themselves paying their way back to health. There are Medicare and Medicaid programmes for the particularly old and/or impoverished and Obama is doing his best, but compared to our own comprehensive health service it’s every man for himself.

As though the odds weren’t stacked enough against the sickly public, the pharmaceutical companies also wield much greater power across the pond, and they use that power to extract every last possible penny. They aggressively lobby doctors to prescribe patients their drugs, even when the equally effective but cheaper generic alternatives are available. They sponsor ‘independent’ studies and conferences that will help boost their sales. They pour billions of dollars into direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketing, trying to get people to badger doctors into prescribing them their products. It’s certainly unethical, but it also means the airtime is clogged with thousands of utterly RIDICULOUS adverts. Pharmaceutical advertising is allowed, but there are rules about not misleading people, so you end up with video montages of people enjoying golf or ballroom dancing because they haven’t wet themselves or got piles, but with sinister, long-winded voiceovers. Chantex, for instance, is an anti-smoking drug:

“Some people have had changes in behaviour, hostility, agitation, depressed mood and suicidal thoughts or actions while taking or after stopping Chantex. If you notice agitation, hostility, depression or changes in behaviour or changes of mood that are not typical of you, or if you develop suicidal thoughts or actions, stop taking Chantex and call your doctor right away. Talk to your doctor about any history of depression or other mental health problems, which can worse while taking Chantex. Some people can have allergic or serious skin reaction to Chantex, some of which can be life-threatening. If you notice swelling of face, mouth, throat or a rash, stop taking Chantex and see your doctor right away…The most common side effect is nausea. Patients also reported trouble sleeping and vivid or unusual strange dreams. Until you know how Chantex may affect you, do not drive or operate any heavy machinery.”

Bloody hell. So, take Chantex and you’ll save some cash not buying your fags and reduce your risk of lung cancer, but you may get a disfiguring skin disease, hallucinate, kill yourself or just lose the plot completely.

…Actually, given the level of crazy in Los Angeles, that may explain a lot.

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16 comments on “Hollywood is a Crazy Dump

  1. ByAnUknown
    November 11, 2013

    wow thanks for the inside prespective – makes you wonder how the hell it got to that stage?

  2. Rachel
    November 11, 2013

    While I agree with a lot of what you have said here, I think you are being very, very unfair about Los Angeles. I lived there, from London and before that the English Countryside for 10 months and I don’t think you have represented what has become one of my absolute favourite cities fairly. Yes, you get absolute nutters on the bus. Venice boardwalk is a bit sketchy, the adverts and entire healthcare system were mental (and I had to actually use the system while I was living there), and while I have happily been in some rather dodgy parts of London by myself at night, I did not really like Los Angeles after dark either. I’ll also add that it is terribly polluted, the supermarkets have serious issues and the public transport infrastructure was clearly designed by someone who had just escaped Bedlam. And Hollywood? It actually really is a dump. But, from the sounds of it you pretty much only stuck to the tourist bit of Venice. The canals? Such a beautiful place to have a wander around. Rose Avenue? Some great tiny shops, cafes, restaurants and a lovely residential area. And it is hip in a fun way. Last time I walked down it I encountered a guy on a skateboard heading in the opposite direction playing the guitar fantastically at the same time. Abbot Kinney Boulevard has some of the best food trucks, shops, food places and generally awesome hangouts like the TOMS flagship cafe and Intelligentsia. The food? Just like in London you get what you pay for and you can have shitty food or amazing food, in Los Angeles there is also incredible food. The culture does not allow for it, but if it were to be judged by restaurants and other foodie enterprises alone I would be willing to stand up and say that the LA food scene could easily rival London’s. And there are also some really beautiful places that are not grubby, or dodgy and unappealing like some parts of Downtown, Hollywood etc. Malibu is fantastic. Pasadena is beautiful and the Huntington Gardens are better than many I have seen in Europe. 3rd Street in West Hollywood may not be too aesthetic, but it is so totally awesome when you get to know it. Westwood Village, my old home has such spirit to it and a community feel while I am so happy to be back in London, I miss it and my apartment there every day. I completely respect your right to voice an opinion, and yes I’ll agree. The place is fucking crazy mental, but when you have not really had a chance to get to know the city past the things visitors see, I don’t really think it is fair to class a whole entire city that is so varied from neighbourhood to neighbourhood a total dump.

    • CuriousEmily
      November 11, 2013

      Hi Rachel,

      Thanks for your comment, and you’re totally right: I only did go to the touristy bits. We were only there for a few days, so we did Hollywood and Venice Beach (which I actually sort of liked, in a grubby kind of way!) and all the central parts that tourists go to. I guess I didn’t like it in the same way that somebody visiting London and only doing Leicester Square and Oxford Street would hate our city too. I guess it would be more accurate to say that Hollywood is a crazy dump; I appreciate LA is a huge, sprawling metropolis that covers even more ground than London, so I’ll change the title for accuracy.

      And I totally forgot the pollution! Oh my Christ, the rubbish situation was appalling. Considering the prison population in California they really ought to be taking more felons out on litter-picking excursions.

      Next time I end up in Los Angeles I’ll make sure we end up in Malibu or one of your other recommendations rather than Tinsel Town. :)

  3. escortzero
    November 11, 2013

    Swelling of the mouse? That’s one mad side effect! ;)

  4. The Style Box
    November 11, 2013

    Could not agree more about the mental healthcare adverts in America. I honestly don’t know how anyone watches TV out there, you get like 5 minutes of TV to 15 minutes of adverts. No wonder Netflix is so popular.
    I also wasn’t a huge fan of LA but I also only visited the touristy parts. That was back in 2010 and my first visit to California and we crammed a lot into 2 weeks, driving from San Francisco to LA and Vegas but I know that the city has loads more to offer and I can’t wait to go back one day.
    x

  5. Costume De Rigueur
    November 12, 2013

    you didn’t go out at night in LA?!?!!?

    CDR

    • CuriousEmily
      November 12, 2013

      We’d just done five nights in Vegas so we were pretty exhausted…LA was more laid back for us. Presumably we missed out?

      • Costume De Rigueur
        November 12, 2013

        I guess you did a lot of bonding and wine tasting…just like Bran Van 3000:
        But we did nothing, absolutely nothing that day, and I say:
        What the hell am I doing drinking in L.A. at 26?

        :)))

        CDR

  6. Aussa Lorens
    November 18, 2013

    This absolutely cracked me up. America, huzzah! I’ve never made it to LA (other than the airport) and the single time I had planned a trip my friend found out she was preggo the night before so we had to cancel. Now I feel a little superstitious about planning another trip and someone else getting knocked up. . .

    • CuriousEmily
      November 19, 2013

      It must be fate! I would avoid Hollywood, if I were you, but there are plenty of other neighbourhoods to explore (as advised by another commenter!) Also if you go to the West Coast absolutely don’t leave until you’ve seen San Diego and San Francisco, they are both magical.

      • Aussa Lorens
        November 20, 2013

        I’ve definitely been to San Francisco! Need to check out San Diego..

  7. TheShitShowThatIsMyLife
    February 25, 2014

    I fucking hate LA. I actually think everything between San Diego and San Francisco should separate from the US. I’ve been too many times and have hated it all, except for one night in Korea town, but I’d swear we were actually transported to Korea.
    Also while trolling through these comments, 5 nights in Vegas? Are you fucking insane? I’ve never made it out alive past 3. That last day is usually me hurling in the airport without any of my belongings.
    LA may be a giant shit hole, but it’s not scary. That’s really funny people were so worried. The only thing you should be afraid of is being surrounded by a slew of douchebags.

    • CuriousEmily
      February 26, 2014

      Yeah, we weren’t there long but we hated it. I know LA is huge and there MUST be some nice bits on the outskirts (sort of like I would never recommend anyone coming to London to visit Leicester Square), but yeah, I’m pretty put off. San Diego was beautiful though, and San Francisco is one of my favourite cities in the world.

      …Please tell me there’s a story floating on the internet somewhere about what weird shit inevitably went down when you visited Koreatown!?

      Five nights in Vegas was pretty extreme, yeah. Although we’re nowhere near as hardcore as you. And also you’re so close by! We had to fly fifteen hours to get there, fucking ridiculous.

      • TheShitShowThatIsMyLife
        February 26, 2014

        haha I’m going to take that as a compliment. It’s really only and hour and a half by plane and with the time difference you land about the time you left! It’s also only $100 round trip on occasion. Oh how I love Vegas.

        Unfortunately, that story is not on the internet, but LUCKILY it will be in the book. It’s part of the story of when I committed treason, which is also only in the book.

        Soon my friend, (well soon is relative to when I get my act together).

  8. bmowner
    March 2, 2014

    LA and Vegas are probably the saddest of the major US cities. I live in California and have been to both routinely. Sure LA has a few high spots…but you are wise to stay in if you don’t have a car and know exactly how to get to these small oasis. Much of the city even in the good parts live behind dead bolts and bars on the windows. Vegas…I mean if you are into that type of thing…I guess go wild…leave the strip and see the miles and miles of leathery locals strung out on meth. Both are over the top decadence in many ways…surrounded by a giant lack of culture, aesthetic, or safety. My throat burns every time my car starts the downward descent from the Grapevine into LA from the pollution. San Francisco is the place to be…but ugh…living here…the 40 year old single unapologetic lifetime narcissists…takes its toll. I need a euro to marry me so I can take my upcoming pension and get the fuck out of here. :p We now have Obamacare…a bastardized semi-private system towards providing healthcare for everyone…but the laizze faire capitalists control so much of our government we will still end up paying out the nose for meds, that like you said, are just fucking ridiculous much of the time. Many are no better than aspirin but wall street is booming off the sales… The doctors hardly know any more than you do because they bombarded with as many fake studies as we do commercials.

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This entry was posted on November 11, 2013 by in Travel and tagged , , , , .

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