So here’s my Sunday.
I got up in the morning and got most of my stuff packed to go back home. Then I set out on a two-hour bus journey from Burbank, through North Hollywood, LA, and Beverly Hills down to Santa Monica.
The first bus I got onto had the same rainbow gradient fabric on the seats as I remember from a decade ago. And the usual homeless guy having an animated conversation with one or more people I couldn’t see. What was new was the television mounted just back of the entrance way, playing audio for its ads throughout the bus. I saw these on four of the seven busses/subways I’d ride that day. They alternated between silent spots on proper bus behavior (which, of course, ironically included an admonition to not annoy fellow passengers by playing loud music), the kinds of idiotic ‘trivia’ you get in pre-movie ad slideshows, snippets of news, and ads. Mostly ads. Mostly drowning out the automated voice announcements of upcoming stops. Plus I ended up not being able to hear them myself, since I snarled and put in my earphones to try and block these things out.
There was an ad spigot from a different company in the airport terminal when I left; this one had its own set of speakers mounted in the ceiling, right next to the ones playing soft rock and terminal announcements. LA: an exciting laboratory for new developments in monetization of all available public spaces! I wonder how far a bill banning trying to serve audiovisual ads to captive audiences like this would go.
On the way I saw tall LED screens playing video of slowly-falling flowers outside of a mall…
…a drive-thru cigarette vendor…
…and spent twenty minutes slowly sliding across a bench in Hollywood to stay in the tiny sliver of shadow offered by a phone pole.
Finally, I made it into Santa Monica, and got off at the Third Street Promenade. Which looked pretty much unchanged from what I remembered, from that point of view. I was a little worried, as the shopping mall at one end of this three-block stretch of pedestrian-only streets had been transformed into a lovely open-air mall like the one they’d opened at Hollywood and Vine while I lived in LA; I’d seen that one suck all the commerce off of Hollywood and into itself, which was pretty depressing.
But for the most part it was unchanged. There were a few new shops -
- like a giant hangar of an Apple store, in which I was sad to not see an iPlane hanging -
- and a Tesla dealership, complete with cars lurking inside (and, I am told, available for test drives out the back side of the store) -
- and a Barnes & Noble somehow hanging on by the skin of its teeth at the other end of the Promenade. The Borders near the center, of course, is long gone.
Having satisfied my initial curiosity, I decided to see what had become of the building my animation school once occupied.
But on the way from 3rd street to 2nd, I got distracted by the magnificence of Hennessy & Ingalls. They used to be on the Promenade; now they’re just off of it, and I think even more amazing. I’d go in there now and then when I lived in Santa Monica and browse, but rarely buy anything due to being broke. This time I was able to just wander around and grab whatever caught my eye and have it shipped home; I got a book full of Maurice Noble’s production sketches and a book on staircases. I spent $75 on a book full of nothing but photos of staircases; I have become decadent. I also picked up a little softbound sketchbook because I wanted to draw some stuff.
Trying to see what had happened to my former school’s site was a little hard because I couldn’t remember exactly where it was.
Was it this building? I wasn’t sure. Then I went a block further and saw Ye Olde King’s Head, which I’m pretty sure was on the same block as my school.
So maybe it was this place, I think?
Or possibly this one. I wasn’t sure. Upon reflection I think it was probably the building that’s now immigration lawyers. I spent a lot of late nights in that building, pushing my skills, before getting kicked out.
Then I wandered down towards the beach. Santa Monica’s got an abrupt drop from the level of the city down to the beach; there’s a lovely strip of park that runs along the top of this cliff. One enigmatic feature of it is this building labeled as a Camera Obscura. I’d never actually wandered into it when I was a depressed boy; coming back as a pretty happy lady I couldn’t find a way in. It will remain an enigma to me. The guy sitting in its shadow was a homeless dude who asked if I had a marker; after reflexively saying “sorry, no,” and walking past, I remembered that I did have a marker on me, and a fairly nice one at that. I pulled out the black Prismacolor sitting in my bag and gave it to him. He was quite surprised when I told him he could keep it. I figure there’s 4-5 signs in it, it’s worth a lot more to him than to me.
Ambling behind the building the Camera Obscura is in, I liked the look of these trees clinging tenaciously to the very edge of the cliff.
So I drew them.
There sure were a lot of people who thought “this is a lovely November sunday, I’m gonna hit the beach”. I thought this was a pretty good idea, too; I just didn’t come in a car.
On my way towards the pier, I passed a public bocce court. At least I think it was bocce? Some game involving gently pitching balls at other balls, at least.
Also an old cannon. “Don’t worry, Marsha, I’m sure that cannon only goes off on Sundays.” “If you say so, Bob.”
Then I joined the horde of people going down the bridge to the pier, and took the first set of stairs down from that to the beach that I could find. I passed some people carrying flag-draped coffins to some sort of demonstration/installation on the subject of soldiers and suicide, and a couple guys with very large and very pretty snakes who were offering to let you take your photo with them for a few bucks. The snakes, not the guys. And then I was at the edge of the sand.
I took my boots off and walked barefoot across the sand, cutting diagonally towards the ocean and away from the pier.
When I got to the water’s edge, I just stood there for a while, letting the Pacific kiss my feet for a while. The tideline was actually a few inches past where I was standing; I just ended up with a shot seconds before the wave hit my toes.
“If I’d stayed in Burbank,” I thought to myself, “I’d be sitting behind a table right now watching gay men pass me by like I was trying to sell vials of leprosy.” And that made the sun, sand, and sea that much sweeter.
I also took a panorama of the pier. I like the way it sort of vanishes into the sunhaze towards the right.
There were a couple airplanes towing banner ads, as usual. For once they weren’t urging people to buy something; instead they were something like “I CAN’T GET PARIS WHITNEY HILTON OUT OF MY MIND #269, MR AND MRS HILTON PLEASE ALLOW ME TO COURT YOUR DAUGHTER”. All I could really think was “this will probably not end well”. Ah, here’s some photos of it on the Internet.
My feet still wet with the ocean, I wandered back up towards the land. Still somewhat diagonally, away from the pier. Its delights were just not for me, I suppose. They never really were.
Looking at these brightly-colored beachside buildings, my only thought was “wow, I bet those cost a lot”. They were also right next to a sign warning that the area would be completely inundated in the event of a tsunami, so maybe not. Who knows? Choose your risks and live with them. The bridge on the right looked like a way back up towards town – and food – so I gravitated towards it.
One last look back at the beach. Man I miss living on the sunny coast like that now that winter has quite definitely come to Seattle.
The bridge leading up towards that dramatic apartment building looked like a modernist version of a fairy tale castle. Gorgeous.
I slapped some sunblock over my wings, sat down on the beach, and happily passed about a half hour in drawing it.
And here’s a photo of it from ground level, looking up, because I kinda want to use it as inspiration for something someday. My intuition was that it’s a pretty pricey building, and a little googling confirms that - studios “from $1835″, and single bedrooms “from $2235″. I’ll save that for after some studio decides to option one of my comics or something, I think. Not gonna hold my breath on that, either.
Next door to that modernist fairy castle is this lovely piece of gingerbread, painted to show itself off. You just don’t find colors like that more than about three blocks away from a beach.
Wandering back towards the Promenade for some food and amusement, I grabbed a photo of this crazy-looking building that’s almost done being built across the street from where my animation school used to be.
I thought about seeing a movie. I’d seen a lot of movies in this theatre, or in the now-closed one across the Promenade from it. But nothing playing really appealed to me. And they certainly didn’t appeal more than wandering up and down a bustling pedestrian mall, drinking in sights and sunlight.
Like a bunch of cosplayers of I-don’t-know-what posing for photos with may happy kids. Or a couple of balloon twisters dressed as Peter Pan and Tinkerbell.
Or the cutest White Stripes cover band ever.
Or a dude doing comedy and juggling to a pretty good crowd. Or some breakdancers practicing their moves without music. Or an old lady dancing to Arabian music.
Or a couple of dudes showing off some mad guitar skillz. I’m a sucker for this kind of thing, I may be buying some of their stuff later on.
I went to Radio Shack and snagged a USB->Mini USB cable because I’d forgotten the cable for my Wacom tablet back in the hotel room, waaaay back in Burbank. The guy working the store was amazed by my tattoos. I went and sat down next to one of those dinosaur fountains, and worked on edits to book 2 of Rita – I’m revamping the scene where Rita 2 pretends to stab herself at the end of her burlesque act to make it more clear that this is a Fake Stabbing On Stage.
Then I had some dinner in an Italian joint in a former bank. I sat inside watching the passing crowd while I had my steak. I also discovered that while the garlic buttered broccoli that came with said steak were kinda bland, dipping them into the dark vinegary stuff that came with the pre-dinner bread was a mouthgasm.
There were amusing vintage liquor ads on the stairway down to the bathroom.
I wandered about a bit longer, filmed that video of the two guitarists I posted a little earlier in this, then drifted back to the open-air mall to use their bathrooms for the third and final time. I’d ended up using the ones on a different floor each time, after finding that the ones on the first floor only had two stalls and a hell of a line – the one on the second floor had like twelve stalls and was virtually empty. This time I went to the third floor, and realized afterwards that my phone battery was getting dangerously low. I’d bought an external battery at Fry’s on Thursday night, in anticipation of running my battery down using it for net access while selling stuff at the con, and I’d brought it with me for this ramble as well. So I sat there at the top of a swooping, gleaming steel and concrete structure, waiting for my phone to charge up.
And, of course, what did I do while waiting for my phone to recharge?
A few weeks ago, I’d gotten some art books for my friends’ kid Lucy. One of them was Gurney’s ‘Imaginative Realism‘. The two things I really took away from it were (1) man this guy sure makes a lot of reference models, and (2) when Gurney has time to kill, he takes his sketchbook out and draws whatever the fuck is nearby. Doesn’t matter if it’s “interesting” or not, he just draws stuff around him. I used to do that second thing myself, but ever since switching from a large backpack to a small purse it’s fallen off, and since getting a smartphone it’s pretty much stopped. I’ve decided to try and change that, so I’m pretty delighted to have done no less than three observational sketches during this one day out. I think the sketchbook I did those in is going to start just living in my bag all the time, with a pen nearby. I’ve started a tumblr called “James Gurney Would Be Drawing Right Now”, which I’ve written on the cover of that book as well; if you want random observational drawings, then follow it.
Finally, my phone was charged, my bladder was empty, my water bottle was full. I really had no excuses left; it was time to start the journey back to the hotel in Burbank so I could fly back to Seattle the next day. I got on an LA county bus, rolled my eyes at the ad spigot, and sat for about an hour.
The place I transferred to the subway was pretty cool-looking, and built to deliberately confuse one’s sense of perspective.
I took the wrong subway line, had to reverse back a couple stops and take the right one, then came up out of the very familiar nested arches of the North Hollywood station. I used to pass through there all the time on my way to Spümcø when they were in NoHo. Another bus ride, a lengthy walk when I accidentally missed my stop in the industrial wilderness of northern Burbank, one more bus, and then I was back to the hotel.
Originally published at Egypt Urnash. You can comment here or there.