While just about all of this year’s action took place at the Los Angeles Convention Center, I was also keen on seeing what the city had to offer on the whole. With that in mind, I scheduled some free time to just kick back and explore the greater city for a few hours. Of course, as someone who had never seen the City of Angels before, let alone explored it, I was up a creek. Instead, I enlisted a friend. With the promises of gas and lunch, they agreed to give me a quick tour through the city.
As the clock struck 10:00 AM, I stepped outside the confines of the Westin, and into the oppressive heat that awaited outside. I was expecting things to be toasty, but the temperatures would eventually top 116 degrees Fahrenheit (47 degrees Celsius). Needless to say, it was stifling. The few people outdoors were seeking shelter in the shade, fanning themselves with whatever they had available.
A few minutes after I had exited, though, my comrade in arms for the day arrived in a deep green Corvette. The car’s engine rumbled as she pulled into the pickup lane, and I couldn’t help but smile a little. It had been close to three years since she had moved out this way, so to see her was a sight for sore eyes. We exchanged our greetings as I got in the car. Moments later, the Corvette was speeding down South Figueroa Street.
Before heading to our destination, she took a quick pass by the Los Angeles Convention Center, to see “what the heck you’re doing here this week.” Taking a quick look at the crowds, she let out a small, impressed noise before saying “Good luck with that” with a laugh.
With that, she turned off, and made her way toward the nearest highway on ramp.
We exchanged small talk as we drove, the Corvette’s fans whirring heavily to keep up with the building heat. The temperature outside continued to climb, from 95, to 100, to 110. By the time we reached the off-ram for Hollywood Boulevard, it had finally reached 125.
At this point, we both agreed that we wouldn’t be stepping out of the car for photo ops.
In the distance, we could see the famous Hollywood sign, its bleach-white letters presiding majestically over the area.
Hollywood Boulevard, itself, proved to be a truly fascinating sight to behold, albeit not in a good way. As we began our drive, all that surrounded us was slums and poverty. Small shops and homes with bars on the windows were the norm, as were countless homeless individuals pushing carts with meager possessions. Some people hunkered down in alcoves as they tried to beat the heat. Others slumped against stoops, or just slept on the side of the sidewalks.
Without warning, though, everything changed. The ruin and poverty of the mile that preceded us was replaced by the brilliant glitz and glamour of the strip that folks know from television and film. The TCL Chinese Theater stood as a majestic beacon for all who would come to the boulevard, while the Roosevelt Hotel beckoned to weary travelers. The black sidewalks gleamed in the blistering sun, as if to highlight the legends who were immortalized within each tile.
Meanwhile, hundreds of tourists walked the sidewalks, their necks craned down as they admired the Walk of Fame. My friend and I exchanged a somewhat disgusted look, as this realization settled in. We both shared an observation that the spectacle illustrates exactly how superficial Hollywood is, where iconic landmarks are just a block away from badlands, and millions pass through without giving it so much as a thought.
Ultimately, we decided that it was probably best to move on; it was too damn hot that day. So, plugging an address into her phone, my friend charted a course for Beverly Hills.
Within twenty minutes, we found ourselves driving down the famed Rodeo Drive, whose streets were immaculate and lined with palm trees. Classical and modern architectures mingled in harmony, as countless cars that were worth more than the two of us combined drove down the road.
At the corner of Rodeo Drive and Via Rodeo stood a monument to wealth, as two gleaming structures, bearing the logos of Stefano Ricci and Brequet. As we drove through the city’s manicured neighborhoods, we noticed that it was close to 1:00PM. With that, lunch was in order.
The two of us pulled into a nearby In-N-Out Burger, which literally everybody says you need to try. No, really. I’ve yet to meet a person who’s been to California without raving about this local burger chain.
For my meal, I ordered a double-double (cheeseburger with two patties and two cheese slices), a small order of fries, and (at my pal’s suggestion) a Neapolitan shake. And, really, I could see the appeal immediately upon biting into my sandwich. The burger was beautifully seasoned and perfectly cooked, with just enough of that greasy kick to really satisfy a junk food craving. The fries, meanwhile, were a bit underwhelming. While cooked well and crispy, I couldn’t help but find the flavor lacking a bit after years of Five Guys’ offerings in the east.
The shake, on the other hand, was the stuff that makes me super happy that we don’t have the chain in Rhode Island. These things are dangerous. They’re perfectly sweet, blending the smooth vanilla with a creamy chocolate, finished with the mildly acidic bite of the strawberry. The shake was delectable and refreshing, as it took the edge off the pounding heat that we had just walked in from.
I have to admit it: In-N-Out lived up to the hype.
Unfortunately, time wasn’t on our side. As we walked to the Corvette, we took stock of the time, and began our trip back toward the heart of the city. As we pulled up at the hotel once again, my friend and I exchanged goodbyes. Though it had been three years since we last met, it felt like it had only been a day. We both promised to spend some time catching up again next time I was in the city.
With a small smile and a wave, I saw my comrade off as the Corvette sped away. It was a bittersweet exit, but I had no time to feel wistful. There was work to be done, and Anime Expo waited for no woman.
Editor’s Note: The Felix Auto Dealer photo was taken later that day – I just wanted to use it in a piece, because it was a good shot. -SF