Wednesday, August 27, 2008

View From The Top

David's room was laughingly messy. The first time I laid eyes on it, a loft space at his house on Dunsmuir, I literally laughed because the disarray was mind boggling. This was late tenth or early eleventh grade. David, Duane, Rick and Rob had attended junior high at Audubon whereas I was the ghetto kid from Foshay. David moved after the ninth grade and wound up going to Fairfax High instead of to Dorsey with the rest of us. I'd also moved after the ninth grade, from Manual Arts' district into Dorsey's. I can't imagine how different my life might have been had I attended Manual Arts instead. As for David at Faifax, there he had the distinction of meeting one of the Jones trio, my best junior high buddies. What did he think of Michael, I asked. He told me what I already knew, Michael was a crazy guy.

As an aside, my boss did a double take when I told him I was a Foshay alumni. When he was in school (ten or so years ahead of me), he said that was the threat used to force them to behave - if you don't, you'll get sent to Foshay, that school for delinquents. Up until he found out that was my alma mater, he still believed it. Maybe he still does.

I think when we are totally overwhelmed with something our reaction is to laugh hysterically. I think that's what happened when I saw David's room for the first time. Clothes, books, papers strewn about - not one thing was in order. It felt comfortable, though. That's where Duane and I were one evening when David announced it was time to get in the car and go for a drive. That sounded good so we piled into the Battlewagon SMD944 (one of these days I will write a screenplay entitled, SMD944 as the successor to George Lucas' THX-1138) and headed towards Hollywood.

Unlike most evenings of cruising, this time he drove purposely. Up Crescent Heights we went, past Sunset Boulevard where it became Laurel Canyon Boulevard and snaked into the Hollywood Hills. Further up he took a left at Lookout Mountain Avenue which brought us further into the hills, up congested streets lined with houses that were the subject of Joni Mitchell's Ladies of the Canyon when she had lived there in the 60's. Lookout Mountain became Appian Way at the top, and from there David drove along the narrow road and finally stopped at a turnout that overlooked the entire city.

We got out of the car and walked the few steps to the edge of the turnout. There before us was an incredible, unobstructed view of the city spread out below. I was in awe. I guess I should have laughed right there, too, since the majesty of it was as overwhelming to me as the messiness of David's room but instead I stood and gaped.

It was so peaceful. The millions of lights shimmered from the warm air still rising from the ground courtesy of the summer's heat earlier in the day. Closer up we could see lines of cars moving through Hollywood; further out the lights dimmed but were still visible until they merged with the night sky on the horizon. We pointed out familiar landmark buildings and areas to each other like excited school kids, which I guess we were.

The street immediately below us was Blue Jay Way. George Harrison lived on that street and that's where the title of the song came from on the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour album. No link to that song appears here because I hate it. It's made only for people to enjoy if they are in an artificially-induced stupor, if you know what I mean.

David couldn't have chosen a better viewing night - absolutely clear, absolutely breathtaking. We stood and stared for a long time, taking it all in, then finally got back in the car and made our way back down into the city and the noise of Saturday night.

I visited that spot often after that introduction. Mostly it was at night but there were a few day trips as well. On a clear day, like right after the rains swept away the smog, it offered an incredible view all the way out to the ocean, even Catalina Island. The breeze through the canyon was so invitingly clean and fresh, too. On the daylight sojourns that weren't so clear, a thick panorama of brown haze stretched from one end of the view to the other; and on smoggy days you could barely see past Hollywood. It was up there that we first asked ourselves, is there smog in the nighttime? If so, how come it is always so clear even when the day is smoggy? Do you know the answer? I still don't.

After a particularly late Easy Livin' gig, Teri and I stopped at Magos to get a bite to eat - well, at Magos the big portions they whipped up were more than just a bite. It was really late - or early depending on how you look at it. The sun was barely making an appearance when I dropped her off at her place. Instead of going home, I decided to make the run up to "LC" and check out the sunrise from our now familiar vantage point. Talk about spectacular - it was still early enough for the day to be pristine, before the usual layer of smog emerged, and it was one gorgeous sight. I got out of my car, stood there taking it all in for a long while, then got back in and drove home, wishing there was some way to freeze that moment.

The trips up there became less and less frequent over time. It's been more than ten years since my last visit. That last time, I made the familiar trip, the twists and turns still embedded in my memory, up to Appian Way and around the bend to the old turnout. There was no more turnout. It had been replaced by ugly, and I mean ugly, architecture. Some developer had built a big ugly house on that spot and obliterated the view. So ended an era.

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