I lived in Los Angeles from October 1983 through July 2002, just shy of 20 years. We moved to L.A. from Warwick, Rhode Island. The two places couldn’t be more different. A multiplex theater—the only one in the entire state of Rhode Island—had recently been built. It was in that theater that I saw Return of the Jedi earlier in 1983. Prior to that, we saw most new movies in Fall River, Massachusetts. Los Angeles contained Hollywood, and multiplex movie theaters were everywhere.
Initially, I was excited about the move. I was moving to Hollywood. I had only the vaguest notions of what that meant. But it was exciting nevertheless. I was also moving to a place where the weather was always warm; warm relative to New England winters, at any rate. Living in L.A. was a novelty at first, but one that quickly wore off. It wasn’t long before I found I really didn’t like L.A. My dislike was, in part, in no way L.A.’s fault. I discovered, for instance, that I liked four seasons. In Los Angeles there are only two seasons: Brown, and a brief couple of weeks of Green in the spring. I didn’t like how big L.A. felt. I didn’t like the Hollywood atmosphere for the town.
I moved back east in 2002, and now that I have been here for nearly 14 years, I have enough time and distance to appreciate some of the places in Los Angeles that I liked.
For about 8 years, I lived in Studio City, a suburb of the San Fernando Valley that sits astride the north side of the Santa Monica mountains. Studio City, and its neighboring town, Toluca Lake, felt different from nearly everywhere else I visited in Los Angeles. The houses were not crowded up against one another. There were quiet neighborhoods. The streets were not jammed with traffic. It was old Hollywood. I used to take walks that would take me past the house used in exterior shots of the Brady Bunch. Around the corner, lived the character actor, Jon Polito, and he would always wave to me as I walked by and say, “Hey fella!” Mike Farrell lived somewhere nearby and I would occasionally see him riding his Harley in jeans and a t-shirt.
Toluca Lake was another place I liked in Los Angeles. I’d often eat at the Bob’s Big Boy in Toluca Lake. Occasionally I’d eat at the Marie Callendar’s there. It was not unusual to see someone like Bob Hope or Garry Marshall. Toluca Lake was a quiet Hollywood town. Walking through the town had a completely different feel than walking through Hollywood proper.
There were two great bookstores that I frequented. The first was Dangerous Visions on Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks. The other was the Iliad Bookshop at its original location in North Hollywood before it moved closer to Burbank. I could spend hours wandering around those bookstores.
I worked in Santa Monica. My office overlooked the Santa Monica Pier. I’d arrive at work early in the morning to beat the traffic. Around 7 am, I’d head out for a short walk, and I loved walked along Ocean Avenue and across Colorado early in the morning when there was no fog clinging to the Pacific ocean. Sometimes, me and friend would go running along Ocean Avenue in the evenings for exercise. There was nothing quite like jogging while the sun was setting over the ocean.
The commute was part of what I really hated about Los Angeles. I lived 20 miles form the office, but it could easily take 2 hours to get home in the evening. I had about 10 different ways I could go, but my absolute favorite was taking the 10 to the 405 to Mulholland. The 10 and 405 were terrible, but I looked forward to the exit ramp to Mulholland. There was almost never traffic on Mulholland. It took me across the ridge between Los Angeles and the Valley. On days when the Santa Ana winds were blowing, I could see clear across the Valley on my left, and clear into down Los Angeles and out to the ocean on my right. I’d take Mulholland to Coldwater Canyon. I loved that part of the drive.
Though I’ve lived in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area for nearly 14 years now, I haven’t found walk that I enjoy as much as my walk through the quiet streets of Studio City. Nor have I found a drive that I enjoy as much as the drive across Mulholland from the 405 to Coldwater Canyon.