The thing about Los Angeles
And the Canyon of Dreams
Tracy and I decided to celebrate his 50th birthday and our 16th anniversary (it's the same day) with a week in Los Angeles.
As soon as we started telling people this is what we were going to do, we met with push back.
A few people shared stories of how much they disliked L.A. and offered suggestions of alternative places to visit in California.
Others feared we would fall victim to natural disaster.
But we knew our hearts and we knew where our hearts wanted to go.
I've been dreaming about L.A. since around about middle school, and Tracy, who has been several times to record music, already knew he loved it there.
When we started planning our trip, we decided to stay in Laurel Canyon. The history of this area, the people who lived here, the music that was made, the way culture and history was informed by it - that's what drew us in and I'm so glad we chose the Canyon as our home base. Nothing could have been more perfect for us.
We arrived at night, and made our way up the long winding staircase to our treehouse in the stars.
Tracy's thoughts on our arrival: The house was everything I hoped it would be. Walking in, I felt...relief.
Our first day morning, four young deer visited us. They came grazing up the hillside right by the house and peered in at us. It was magical.
I was also visited by a black and white tuxedo cat, and down the hill, we could hear a chicken clucking.
The day was rainy with a forecast for a huge rainstorm the next day.
We drove around Hollywood and up and around Mulholland*, then went to the Trader Joe's on Sunset Blvd. to stock up on snacks.
That night, we met Tracy's friend Eric and his girlfriend Madison at El Coyote for dinner.
(I'll be honest with you here - the primary reason I wanted to go to El Coyote was because it was the location of Sharon Tate and Abigail Folger's last meal.)
It was a great atmosphere and a wonderful welcome to L.A. and I enjoyed a tasty margarita.
*If anyone knows who lives in the big white home on Mulholland with the Eye of Horus on the gates, please do tell.
Tracy's thoughts: We also drove by Joni Mitchell's house and got to see the Beverly Hills sign...you (LL) got quite an introduction to L.A. traffic. The food wasn't so great at El Coyote, but it was cool on the inside. My favorite things on this trip were the things that felt like going back in time.
Our second day in L.A. was Tracy's birthday. It was also the day of the rain. It can't be overstated what a big deal rain is in L.A. The newscasts about the storm were pretty disconcerting, although the primary mudslide concern was for the burn scarred areas.
The rain was so heavy, we stayed at home and listened to music and ate those snacks.
When it was time to go to dinner, the rain let up, and we made our way to Burbank for birthday anniversary dinner at The Smokhouse, namesake of George Clooney's production company.
It was old school perfection.
After dinner we drove around the Valley and ended up in front of the Brady Bunch house. As fortune would have it, a cat walked in front of the house and tripped the security light, so we could see it even thought it was dark.
Tracy's thoughts: I felt like we were having dinner with Humphrey Bogart and Lucille Ball.
The House on Love Street
We started our day at the Canyon Country Store and Jim Morrison's house.
Then moved on to the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
then went to Griffith Park where we stayed at the Observatory for sunset.
That night we heard coyotes in the hills behind the house and three ran across our deck.
Tracy's thoughts: We kinda criss-crossed the town, didn't we? We also saw Stevie and Lindsey's house. It was our most touristy day. The thing I was knocked out by was how everyone had done their make-up and wardrobe to come up to the Observatory and take pictures at sunset. It was like being in a moving fashion blog.
After a morning of deck relaxation, we met up with Eric and his dog Dusty at the Santa Monica Pier
and walked all the way to Venice Beach and the Canals.
That night, we had dinner at the Apple Pan, another place that felt like stepping back in time.
If you, like me, are a Beverly Hills 90210 fan, you may remember that the exterior of the Apple Pan was used in the first season for what would become the Peach Pit.
Tracy's thoughts: The canals were unbelievable. I really don't know what to say about that - it was incredible. I loved being with my buddy Dusty.
I went to the Choral Eucharist at All Saints Episcopal in Beverly Hills.
Afterwards, we met my friend Julie, who I hadn't seen since graduate school, for lunch at The Farm,
strolled Rodeo Drive, then got cupcakes from the Sprinkles ATM.
You may think we couldn't possibly have eaten more food, but we did. We had dinner that night at Canter's Deli, which was the best deli I've ever had in my life - and I used to live in New York.
I absolutely stand by that statement.
Tracy's thoughts: I sat in a cool little cactus garden while you (LL) were in church. Hanging out with Julie was awesome and it was fun to eat in Beverly Hills which was, surprisingly, not intimidating. The thing is, all the food we ate was pretty heavy but it also seemed really clean. I hope Canter's never changes.
Our Lady Guadalupe
We made our way to beautiful, life-affirming Olvera Street, where we visited the oldest house in Los Angeles
and I drank in all the amazing Guadalupe and Frida imagery.
Tracy's thoughts: What a nice blend of new and old. I loved how many different kinds of people we were with all day long.
The next morning, we savored one more sunrise in the hills.
I had actual tears in my eyes as we said goodbye to the house and closed the door.
My years in NYC taught me - I am not a city dweller. There are many reasons why we can't live in L.A. - the cost of living, the traffic (I could never drive there), the fear of the big earthquake, the distance from our families - but something special happened to us while we were there.
Maybe it was the golden light.
Maybe it was the Hollywood Hills.
Maybe it was the giant jade plants, or the cactus, or the tall skinny palm trees.
Maybe it was the coyotes singing into the night...but we felt free there.
We felt a sense of belonging.
We felt alive.
Tracy's thoughts: It was really sad to leave the house. It's the same as every trip I've had there which is, when I leave I feel like I'm leaving a location of opportunity. It was a massively positive trip. Both of us were sort of juiced by the vibe. Our energies felt in-tune with the place and we felt better, in general. Already, being back here (Kentucky), I feel a little muted.
There were so many things we wanted to do and see that we didn't have time for on this trip.
So we're already planning our next trip, and we're thinking about how to capture some of that L.A. feeling and bring in to our Kentucky lives.
I couldn't be more grateful to have had this opportunity.
You know, sometimes when you fantasize about something for a long time and build it up in your mind, you're disappointed when it actually happens. I prepared myself for that - I knew that Los Angeles might not feel the way I'd always thought it would feel...but the opposite was true.
I wasn't disappointed in the least.
L.A., particularly Laurel Canyon, felt exactly like I thought it would feel...and then some.
I love you, California.