By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
|Photo by Anne Fishbein|
Mrrrrreowh. That’s the sound of my cat in heat. One hundred and two degrees of it, and rising with the ambient. Normally, Los Angeles bites. Normally, one could avoid the suckage by never leaving one’s building. But this year brings a whole new meaning to the term P.C.: Power Crisis, Partially Cooked, and Pent up and Choking. Yes, it’s summer and I’m stuck in my apartment, a 12-by-12 box that’s packing more fire than the psycho next door. The DVDs aren’t spinning. The air conditioner’s not cooling. The battery on my PowerBook is starting to blink. Must. Get. Out.
Oh, for the love of a backyard pool.
But I’ve got no pool. I’ve got no back yard. Neither does anyone I know.
So I gather the geeks, the freaks, the friends of friends. Ditch the laptops and head out to the pool at the local motor inn. Our mission: to seek out the best that urban swimming has to offer — clean water, cheap rates, a good bathroom, and parking in less than five minutes, at a spot where there’s more down the block than sand. Style? Variable. Company? Flexible. This summer, motels aren’t just for sleeping and sleeping around. Dig out the doughnut floater and see-through fluorescent raft. Let your feet dangle. Splash and snorkel to your heart’s content. Drive on in; the water’s fine, and there’s nary a piranha in sight.
Don a flowered swim cap, pussycat, and head out to the pool at the Beverly Laurel Motor Hotel(8018 Beverly Blvd., 323-651-2441, $75). Lounge like there’s no tomorrow. There’s nothing a tankini and a Creamcicle shake (from the adjacent Swingers Diner) can’t fix. The Beverly Laurel, built in the mid-’60s and still maintained by the original owners — the Adler family — hearkens to the time when jet-set travel was just getting started. Even the poolside potted cacti have curved over the years into the very same parabolic shapes that defined the era. I want to ride the brushed-steel Electro-data elevator all day. I want to lick the creamy turquoise tile. If Jackie O had a hip, swingin’ sister, she surely would have laid her towel down here.
Swimming in Stardust
Whatever the curious alchemy of stardust, smoky mirrors edged with strings of tiny golden lights, and the turquoise glow of a thousand twinkling squares of vintage tile, the pool at the Best Western Hollywood Hillshas an air of casual decadence (6141 Franklin Ave., 323-464-5181, $109). Indulge your inner voyeur while pretending to backstroke. A man in a black suit and tie flips channels on the television in a first-floor room. A nymphette in pink maillot — long stringy wet hair, long tanned legs — patters across the hall toward the ice machine. These warm waters are best enjoyed in the glow of a late afternoon that’s fading into dusk. Post-swim, visit the attached Hollywood Hills Coffee Shop (of Swingers fame).
Lost in the Desert of the Sunset Strip
East of the main drag on Sunset, there’s a series of motels that once upon a time might have seemed cozy and welcoming to the passing motorist. Some of the exotic names suggest respite: the French Cottage, the Hollywood Center, the Travel Inn, the Saharan. Of these four, only the Saharan, with its cheerful, well-kept pool, lives up to its name (7212 Sunset Blvd., 323-874-6700, $55). Bulletproof-glass shields, it seems, are there for a reason.
The Travel Inn’s Jetson-era marquee is about as futuristic as it gets (7370 Sunset Blvd., 323-876-0330, $40). It’s 2 o’clock in the afternoon, and the door to the lobby is locked. A “ring for service” sign points to a doorbell embedded in a star-shaped frame. There’s a fuzzy mountain-lion sculpture behind the desk, a “Snoopy for President” bumper sticker on the plexiglass barrier. There’s a fully decorated Christmas tree beside the reception desk. Never mind that this is April. The pool itself? Think Everglades, think tetanus. Conversation with management goes as follows:
“Are you cleaning out the pool?”
“Not today we’re not.”
“How about for the summer?”
“Oh sure” (chuckle, chuckle), “sure we are.”
Well, there you have it.
No better luck at the Hollywood Center down the street (6720 W. Sunset Blvd., 323-462-6051, $60). Why the peeling brown paint? Why the metal and garden-hose contraption festering in the half-drained back-lot pool? Hidden potential is sometimes best left to the truly, uh, adventurous. Forty bucks, it seems, just doesn’t go as far as it used to.
If nowhere had a style and a pleasant disposition, this would be it. Gray-painted concrete patio, young ficus trees in pots, a few modest lawn chairs, the quiet hum of a water filter. The swim area at the Travelodge is recessed into the back and cordoned off from the street by a concrete fence (7051 Sunset Blvd., 323-462-0905, $70). A pool-cleaning net rests on wall hooks. It’s humble, that’s for sure. And from the obvious signs of diligent pool care to the straightforward pot of coffee brewing in the lobby, it’s a far cry from the more fashionable venues down the boulevard. Call it homely and uninspired, or call it the Zen of affordable corporate accommodation. Every now and then, it’s a relief to let our pretensions go and slide into anonymity.