Life in Los Angeles is hard without a car. Life in LA is almost as hard when your car is crap. Particularly if it's the automotive equivalent of a Hello Kitty purse: a Civic in the hyper-butch Camellia Red Pearl.
I happened upon this automotive dilemma by chance. A coworker was moving out of town and was going to be spending about 6 weeks back home getting a house together and needed a sitter for their two cats and their quirky 60's era home at the top of a steep hill under the Hollywood sign. At the time I was driving an old convertible that had about three million miles on it, no AC and no particular ability to climb to the top of that hill without exploding. Since it was necessary for me to actually stay there to feed their cats, I was offered the use of my friends car, the aforementioned fuschia Honda. Upon their return they offered me the car at a price so low it was nearly free. I weighed it in my mind: the Honda was less fun to be in than my old convertible, had darty handling and was the color of lipstick women wore in the 80s / On the other hand it had working (if not well) AC. It also started with regularity. The fact that it only had 40,000 miles on it was a wash: it meant I would have it for a long time. It also meant I would have it for a long time. Being a stick AND the same color as Manic Panic hair dye meant that no miscreant would ever attempt to carjack me. Believe it or not I almost talked myself out of the purchase until I had a rare attack of common sense, thanked my friends for their generosity and grabbed the keys.
LA is known as a car town. It's also known for some of the worst traffic this side of Jakarta. Justly, I might add. What is less well known is that there are some roads that are magnificent to drive. Pacific Coast Highway is the first one to come to mind but Piuma Road in Malibu isn't so well known. It twists and turns over the crest of the mountains above Malibu with dizzying drop-offs and a distinct lack of guard rails. The last time I was up there a classic car rally was going on. A steady stream of Corvettes, Ferrari, Mercedes, even an Arnolt-Bristol passed in the other direction, which was fortunate for them since while my car does get stellar gas mileage, neck-snapping acceleration is not part of the deal.
Forest Lawn Drive is interesting; it wends its way past the studios and past the eponymous cemetery. It leads into the back part of Griffith Park and the LA Zoo, where in December the LA DWP puts up its drive-through Festival of Lights, the charmingly cheese-tastic ode to all things LA and ends up where on the last Saturday in July we have the Blessing of the Car Car Show, where an actual Priest bestows the Lords protection against parking lot dings or something on the attending autos.
But Mulholland Drive is perhaps the most famous. It actually starts close to my friends former home under the Hollywood sign, ends and reappears in the Cahuenga Pass and wending West. There's a lookout not far from the Hollywood Freeway that on good days will give you a 230 degree view from Mount Baldy to Catalina and on bad one give you pause at what you're going to be breathing when you get down the hill. There are switchbacks, radius-curves, the famous "esses" and some of the most expensive real estate on the West Coast, usually behind gates in enclaves with names like "Beverly Park" or "Mulholland Estates". This is where Charlie Sheen had his Mercedes dropped off a cliff by pranksters, twice. If you pass a passel of parked SUVs it's most likely paparazzi staking some starlet, just waiting for her to be off to Kitson. Or prison. At night you are equally apt to run into kids drag racing as you are errant coyotes. I suggest not meeting either ones eyes. This is where I occasionally decide to detour to go to the grocery store in Beachwood Canyon on a nice day, despite there being one a 15 minute walk from my place. Because even if I do drive an ancient, now battered Honda in an unmanly color, I aspire. So if you're behind me, please don't honk.
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