Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

LA impressions

Another week is done, and all of our stuff arrived in mostly one piece. After a few more days (or months) of rearranging, it will be business as usual here. Which brings me to thoughts about what I like, what is good, and what’s odd about this place. Rather than try to write some prose, I will start with a big bulleted list.

    • I am in awe anytime I drive past something and realize it was in movie XYZ or some recent TV show. I had this to the point of overload in NYC, especially with all of the Law and Order shows, but I think moving to Denver knocked that out of my head, and now it’s all amazing to me again.
    • I’m always reminded of Bukowski. There are old dive bars that still have their signs from the 60s, the styleized cursive words in neon, dull after 40 years of dirt and smog, and I always wonder if that was a bar where he hung out. This is further confused by the fact that a lot of brand new bars and restaurants have similar signs that were made to conform with the whole Swingers retro craze.
    • (As an aside, I want to make a google map of all Bukowski stuff. I have heard there is a bus trip that makes this route, so maybe I better get off my ass.)
    • I forget if I mentioned Fry’s, the electronics store. There’s one down in Manhattan beach, and I think I’ve been maybe once or twice. I don’t know how I missed out on this all of my geek life (probably because I didn’t live in California) but that place is off the hook in a very major way. Basically you start with a Best Buy or Circuit City, but instead of, say, only three types of computer keyboard in stock, they have an entire aisle, like three dozen types. And they aren’t all from one manufacturer, they hit all of the bases, and even have the el cheapo Taiwan junk you can only get in mail order. It’s the same way in every section. Like in Best Buy, if you need a USB cable, they have the Belkin 3-foot or the Belkin 9-foot, end of story. At Fry’s, they have 863 different USB cables, half of them things you’ve never heard of before. And the place even has resistors and oscilloscopes and soldering irons and computer parts at the level the big boxes would not. The customer service can be a little surly, and the ambience is Costco meets a room in the MIT computer science freshman dorm. But yeah, very dangerous to the wallet.
    • I’ve spent very little time in what most people would think of when they envision LA, because Playa Del Rey is isolated. With the ocean to the west, LAX to the south, the LMU campus west, and the Marina Del Rey channel and Ballona wetlands to the north, there’s a pretty decent buffer zone on all sides.
    • That buffer also includes smog, which seems to be broken up by the ocean. And the temps are about five degrees cooler here, which is weird, because I put forecasts for both here and LA in my dashboard.
    • When I drive to/from anything north, I have to drive on Culver (which just got repaved last weekend) and through the Ballona wetlands. It’s strange to be in LA and be driving down a road in which nothing but swamps are on either side of you. It sort of reminds me of the farming in the middle of Oahu, if you drive the back roads to the North Shore. And at night, you hear very loudly the sound of frogs out in the swamp.
    • (Yesterday I determined that the best song to listen to while driving there is Lynard Skynard’s “Swamp Music”.
    • I still hear and see the jets from LAX southeast of us. The jets aren’t that loud, and the sound is almost soothing. I am sure when I go on vacation and I’m not near an airport, I won’t be able to sleep.
    • We were driving around, and south of LAX (at Imperial and Main) is this little observation park, where you can see jets taking off and landing. There was a small group of dudes with gigantic camera lenses the size of tallboy beer cans taking pictures. I guess before 9/11, you could park and go inside the terminal to a roof-top restaurant and see the jets close up, but that ended quickly.
    • There are a ton of old cars on the road here. I always thought the draconian emissions laws kept cars older than a decade or two from geting plates. But with no salt and no rust, cars last forever here. There are fuckloads of old classic Beetles still rolling here, with perfect sheet metal. And at least once a trip, I see some completely cherry car from the 50s or 60s, like an ancient Packard or a topless GTO with three twos. And I’ve seen many classic Camaros, the early 70s models that are my favorite. For a fan of old cars, it’s a phenomenal place to be.
    • The best food in LA tends to be in strip malls. I don’t know if that’s because all of southern California is a strip mall, or if just one of those backward things, like that the best doctors don’t take insurance, or the best clubs in NYC don’t have signs outside. We went to this soul food restaurant, which was like next to a TCBY or Vons or Rite Aid or something, and it had been there forever. They had the signed photos on the wall, and I’m looking and there’s a picture of Martin Luther King Jr. – personally signed to the owner. Their fried chicken was also like the best I’ve ever had. I need to forget about that place if I want to make it to 40, though.
    • Hughes Aircraft had a huge facility just up the road in what’s now called Playa Vista. They built the Spruce Goose there, then disassembled it into chunks and trucked it to Long Beach for its maiden flight.
    • Prices of almost everything here is back to about what I was used to in New York, with a few odd exceptions. For some reason, the McDonald’s closest to me is very cheap. My usual (#2, no pickles, coke) cost $5.95 in Denver, and now it’s $4.84. Other cheaper things: car washes, housecleaning, lawn care and landscaping, and anything related to fresh fruits and vegetables. (See a pattern?)

And I am now in bachelor mode, as Sarah goes to Atlanta to visit Mitsubishi. This will largely consist of playing the now-connected PS3 and trying to write this game I am working on. So I better get to work on that.