Thursday, February 18, 2010

Swimming pools ... movie stars ...

I didn't even realize the irony, on the eve before leaving Austin and finally relocating back to the city I've been thinking about since I left it a decade earlier, that I chose to watch the 2009 Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film, Departures (Okuribito, in its native language). From Japan, this brilliant, humane, and indescribably touching film had my eyes watering long after it ended, and is such an affirmation of not only life but the solemn reverence of death and those it touches (or leaves behind) ... well, let's just say I've never seen a film like it, and can't stress enough that I think everyone should see it. On my film review blog I gave it the highest rating of any film I've ever written about there, and I hope anyone who reads that review will take the time to seek out the film and view it ... and yes, even with subtitles. What a moving, lyrical masterpiece.

This is my third day back in the land of (to quote "The Beverly Hillbillies") "swimming pools - movie stars" - and while I have yet to see either a swimming pool OR a movie star, I have gotten my job transfer set up, and even ventured into Hollywood yesterday.

Hollywood and Highland to be exact, which was a disaster area of construction and snarled traffic when I last left this town ten years ago. The snarled traffic is still there - but WOW, what a difference a decade can make! From the huge parking structure climbing up Orange Drive (the street I once lived on) , to the Kodak Theatre and all the shops and such at the Highland end, this was all new and fairly shocking to me. Kind of sad, in a way, to see Grauman's Chinese Theatre - once the sole highlight of the block - now sort of fading into the distance, seemingly swallowed up and the glitz and glam of tourist-oriented (no pun intended) retail shops and glittering escalators that seem to go up to heaven. I wandered over some stars on the Walk of Fame, checked out some of the newer footprints preserved in concrete forever (the Harry Potter trio, the Star Trek cast, etc.), and even took a couple of photos ... but that area is even more insane than I remember, and within fifteen minutes the absolute throng of tourists and tour buses - clogging the sidewalks and streets, respectively - drove me batty enough, I had to flee. The dude walking around in the Heath Ledger-as-the-Joker costume, though, was chilling enough that I wish I could have gotten a pic of him (though I'm sure he would have charged for the privilege); his costumer, makeup, and even the leer were pretty spot-on.

The entire shopping plaza, featuring Super Target, wasn't even a gleam in some planning commissioner's eye when I last visited La Brea and Santa Monica Boulevard. I wrote most of my first novel at the Carl's Jr. at that intersection, and remember looking out the window at the car wash across the street - now replaced by another huge mall, which is cool but I sort of miss the unobstructed simplicity of watching a bunch of young Hispanic guys working their butts off, getting those cars polished until they gleamed. But that's progress, I guess ...

The offices my company has on Wilshire are on the 36th floor, and have this amazing view of "the hill" that separates L.A. from the valley. You know you are in Los Angeles when you can glance out your office window and see the Hollywood sign in the distance, and for that reason alone I am looking forward to starting work this weekend.

My new roommate's a great guy. Night before last he took me out to dinner in Koreatown (the area of L.A. we live in), for my first authentic taste of Korean food (barbecue, no less). I loved it, down to the black raspberry wine (even the cod roe was good!), and as I am in the neighborhood plan to see much more of the area (though all of that aside, let's just say I am glad the roommate didn't order the "milt" for dinner - after learning what it was). Those who know me know that I've been hooked on "K-dramas" since first seeing "The Bizarre Bunch" maybe 5-6 years ago, and when we found this store called Movie World, complete with a ton of DVD boxed sets of K-dramas (not to mention other brilliant-looking Korean-language films), I about went nuts with grief that I couldn't buy them all. OH yeah, this is definitely a part of the city I'm glad to be living in!

Still trying to catch up on sleep, as well as from being stressed of all of last week, during the moving process. Am hoping the writing career will take off even more that I am here - and that I can finally meet and have coffee with some of the people I've met online, trying to network with; there's a whole lot of talent in this town, and I'm just trying to wade through all the egos to get to know it.


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