Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Top 10 Places: Los Angeles

I was never interested in L.A. before I visited it, and I’m a little surprised that I’m including it in my top 10. And yet, it is one of those places that has stuck with me and kept me thinking long after I’d left.

I first went to L.A. on a sort of arts junket, part of a group looking at the role of Canadians in Hollywood. We did the studio tours and schmooze fests. The dollar figures tossed about by our enthusiastic guides when referring to various film and television productions were so surreal that I found myself laughing. I couldn’t help by translate these figures into monies needed to fight poverty, AIDS, malnutrition, malaria.... anything. It was all so ludicrous that I found I could only laugh and disengage. Otherwise, if I had started ranting, I feared I would never stop.

So L.A. seemed to me a ridiculous, self-absorbed, elite enclave that seemed to function on an entirely different plane than the rest of us. And if it hadn’t been for chance encounters, this probably would have been my final impression.

But I actually ended up meeting and dating someone from L.A. It was as short-lived as one would imagine a relationship over 4,500 kilometres apart would be. But it was enough to give me a glimpse behind the Hollywood facade. To see the L.A. that was much the same as most other American, and even Canadian, cities I’ve visited – climate and palm trees aside.

It was this juxtaposition which intrigued me. Meeting students and people with everyday jobs, having a coffee at Starbucks that tasted the same as it did back home – taken alongside the extravagance of Hollywood. It was also a little surreal to go for a walk and recognize the view before as one I had seen several times on the screen.

While touring the studios we visited the sets of some television shows like Friends and Gilmore Girls. It all seemed so fake, these odd rooms with missing walls filled with props. We could see the boundaries of the fantasy, the drab reality beyond the view of the cameras – which essentially is what I found so fascinating about L.A.

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