When I moved to Los Angeles in 1983, after I had gotten my Graphic Design degree at Arizona State University, I ended up in Hollywood. No, I wasn't star-struck, I was going to try to find a job at an advertising agency, which I understood were on Wilshire Boulevard. Of course, even back in the 1980s rent was very high in the Wilshire area, so I snooped around and settled into a little apartment at the base of the Hollywood Hills on Argyle just north of Franklin (which is north of Hollywood Boulevard). My goal was to "pound the pavement", showing my Graphic Design portfolio, sending out resumes, and, well, getting a job.
All I remember is how overwhelming Los Angeles was. It was soooo big, and soooo crowded! And everyone else seemed to know where they were going. And anyone who has ever heard that Californians are "laid back" has never driven on the Hollywood Freeway! It didn't take long for me to develop the "LA hee-bee jee-bees".
|In the Argyle Apartments, Hollywood, California, 1983|
If you've ever moved to a strange town where you didn't know anyone, and started looking for a job, you know that the goal is to get through the day and remain optimistic. I did everything possible, I sent out resumes, I made phone calls, I went to job interviews. But I still had a lot of time on my hands. And that's when I discovered the cure for my "Los Angeles hee-bee jee-bees" in Hollywoodland.
Hollywoodland is a neighborhood that was built in the 1920s. In fact, the Hollywood sign originally advertised the subdivision. The word "land" was taken off and it has since become a symbol for the glamor of movies. For me, it was an escape into a simpler time. I discovered Hollywoodland, and Los Angeles in the 1920s, at the local library.
There were pictures of Hollywood, and Los Angeles, in the 1920s on the walls of the library. And as soon as I saw them, I knew what I had to do. I was going to turn Los Angeles into a small town. I did. My interest in the history of Los Angeles began then, and I visited historic areas, and read books about the 1920s and 1930s. The best recommendation that I got was to read Raymond Chandler novels, which were set right in the neighborhood where I lived.
I found lots of hidden away places that even people who grew up in LA had never heard about. In fact, people used to argue with me and insist that they didn't exist. These places exist, and I go to them whenever I feel the "hee-bee jee-bees". Nowadays I mostly visit them in cyberspace. It still feels good.
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