San Diego is one of those places that is famous for its mild, lovely weather. For the 7 days I was there, it rained 4 days. I'd planned to stay only 4 days, but since the weather wasn't cooperating, I postponed my trip to LA and stayed longer to enjoy some of that famous weather.
First, I made my way to the Hotel Del Coronado. It's beautiful and I've long wanted to see it because it was the hotel in which Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon stay in Some Like it Hot! It's also purported to be very haunted. Next, I explored the Old City and some of the shoreline, but the best experience I had was taking the Old Town Trolley Day Trip to La Jolla. I'd wanted to see La Jolla but knew there wouldn't be a place to park my enormous van up there. When I found the trolley tour, I knew that was my ticket! The day began at 10:00am in the Old City. Our first stop was Mount Soledad which affords some pretty spectacular views of the entire area. Next, we drove into La Jolla and had three hours to explore, have lunch, and enjoy the village.
La Jolla is a wealthy enclave and absolutely one of the most beautiful places I've ever
seen. The elephant seals that make their home there know what they're doing. I watched mothers and pups play, swim, and sunbathe for almost an hour on Children's Beach. Lunch was a really perfect sandwich from Girard's Deli. Finally, I took myself up to the point of the bluff and let myself sit in the sun for as long as it lasted (the rain blew in just 15 minutes before pickup time). Such a peaceful, relaxing afternoon. The trip back to Old City was lovely, too, as it continued to wind along the shoreline. We were a small group, only 9 of us, and it felt like a private tour.
I was feeling pretty nervous about going to Los Angeles because of the traffic. And the cost. And the confusion. There’s a lot to see in LA. I knew that I wanted to visit three sites in LA: 1) the original Bob’s Big Boy in Burbank 2) the House of Pies in Los Feliz 3) The Griffith Observatory. All of my LA must-do’s were firmly rooted in the 1950s and 1960s (which probably won't surprise you). Bob’s Big Boy has been sitting on Riverside Dr in Burbank since 1949. The House of Pies is a holdover from 1969 (and the only remaining location). The Griffith Observatory, dedicated in 1935, is nonetheless attractive to me because of its appearance, in 1955, in the James Dean film Rebel Without a Cause. So, just like most places, I found myself seeking out the Los Angeles of the past.
Mostly, I worried that I wouldn’t find places to park when I arrived. LA isn’t known for its comprehensive public transportation (hence all the traffic) and I knew that my best bet for getting around would be to drive myself. I decided, after checking into my hotel - located in Anaheim for budget purposes - to go ahead and give Bob’s Big Boy a shot. Luckily, the restaurant had a large parking lot with plenty of room for my van. I enjoyed a Big Boy Double and a chocolate milkshake. I also got a good look at the Big Boy himself. I remember when Big Boys used to populate plenty of restaurants (in WV you’d find him at Shoney’s and Elby’s). Now, they’re a rare if still familiar sight.
The drive back to the hotel that night was an hour and 45 minutes (for roughly 20 miles of road).
The next morning, I girded myself and drove again into the city. This time, my
destination was Griffith Park to see the observatory. I was lucky because there was free parking and a city bus up to the top of the hill on which the observatory sits. It was a beautiful, sunny day and the place was packed with people picnicking and lining up for the planetarium show.
I stood on the front steps and felt a strange vibration...it's where poor Sal Mineo’s Plato, bullied and desperate, is finally shot and killed by the LAPD. James Dean screams, “I got the bullets!”, but it’s too late. I’d been waiting a long time to stand there. At least as long as I’d been waiting to see Marfa, TX. As long as I’d loved James Dean. After strolling around the building (the knife fight happened in back), I took the bus back to my van and then drove on to the House of Pies.
House of Pies is a slightly newer discovery. When I first went to college, I was deeply in love with the X-Files and especially David Duchovny. In an attempt to see more of his work, I ordered the entire run of Twin Peaks on VHS from a very primitive amazon.com. Thus began my obsession with Twin Peaks. I spent a lot of time over the next couple of years collecting Twin Peaks memorabilia. Among these was a copy of Rolling Stone from 1990. The cover featured Madchen Amick, Sherilyn Fenn, and Lara Flynn Boyle (stars of the show). Inside, the women were interviewed at The House of Pies. I read the article about 10 years after its publication. Then, I finally made it to The House of Pies myself about 19 years later. Better late than never, I say. I had a slice of fresh strawberry. It was worth it.
Overall, despite my anxiety, I made the most of my time in LA (certainly, I'd have loved to see and do more, but I felt lucky to get done what I did). This was stop 2 of 4 on my James Dean tour of the US. Next, Monterey and Salinas...which will fulfill my East of Eden curiosity!