Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Final days in LA

The next to last day of a trip is always worse than the final day. Getaway day, you're prepared to leave, and you begin preparations such as repacking the suitcase, figuring out how to get in those extra things (books) that you didn't bring with you, and how best to avoid freeway traffic and find the least harrowing route to the airport--well, actually, that final thing might be unique to LA and LAX, since I'll be traveling to the airport during rush hour.

My first trip to the City of Angels has been a memorable one. Seeing my son for the first time since August was the highlight, but there were so many other things. Attending my first major book festival, the Festival of Books on Saturday, spending time in some of the great neighborhoods of the city, like Los Feliz, and Silver Lake. That entire morning in Silver Lake was very enjoyable, beginning with a visit to Angelus Temple, strolling around Echo Park, and then relaxing over coffee at Intelligentsia, drinking in the vibe of hipness, while being the antithesis of "the scene" there, that morning.

Driving the Pacific Coast Highway, late Sunday afternoon was a highlight, as was yesterday's amazing visit to Griffith Park and Observatory. The park was stunning, and the views fabulous. This was one of the "must sees" I had on my list of things to do, and it exceeded my expectations. What an amazing gift that Mr. Griffith bequeathed to the people of Los Angeles, and those that come here to visit. I know that if I lived here, this would become my periodic sanctuary from the urban craziness.

[One of the highlights of my visit to LA]

Last night, my son and I spent dinner with many New England transplants, at Sonny McLean's, watching the Celtics eke out an exciting OT victory over Chicago. One of the great things about west coast time, is that games from the east are on so early. Nothing is worse than fighting sleep to stay up on a work night, or worse, going to bed and missing the excitement. Here in the west, most ball games are done, and the box scores online, long before slumber, and playoff games from the east are watchable over the dinner hour. A sports junkie's dream!

The city has been so much more than I expected. Actually, I didn't know what to expect. It is more beautiful, in its urbanity than I expected. Yes, traffic is crazy, and Angelinos cannot drive, or park their own cars, or mow their own lawns, etc., but by and large, as cities go (and I'm not really a city guy), LA exceeds Boston, Chicago, and the other U.S. cities I've spent time in.

The visit's also been good in one other way--I've actually gotten a bump in my blog stats from readers who have found Write in Maine based upon my posts on the Festival of Books, so that's been positive.

Today will be another great day, as I'm getting together with Bill, an old friend and fellow writer. He and I got to know one another when he was living in Portland, attending Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. He was part of a group of writers that founded the free weekly, The Portland Pigeon that helped me get my start, writing regularly, and having a supportive group of people to critique my articles. It was this group, and the paper that helped me hone my writing, crafting articles like this one, which then led to my first book project. As they say, the rest is history. I've continued to write, blog, and I'm in the early stages of a third book. The Pigeon helped lay the foundation for that.

My friend is now back on the west coast (where he's from), attending the graduate journalism program at USC's Annenberg School for Communication. Like many, as newspapers decline, and the face of journalism changes, people like Bill are opting to pursue graduate school, as they hope to have a role in changing reworking news journalism in the digital age. This article from The Times touches on that phenomenon.

As I contemplate my departure, I have plans to keep Los Angeles close over the next few months, reading books connected to the city, and its culture. There is a posting here of someone asking about good books about the city, and understanding its uniqueness. This seems like a good starting point, including the books by Mike Davis, which I plan to tackle. There was even a recommendation of Weetzie Bat, by Francesca Lia Block. I welcome any other suggestions from readers.

I bid you "Adios," as this will most likely be my final post from Los Angeles. The next time I sit down to post, I'll be back in Maine, but enriched from my time here.

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