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
BEST ELEVATOR RIDE THROUGH L.A. ROCK HISTORY
That might be your lost copy of Wall of Voodoo’s Seven Days in Sammystown on the wall of the spankin’ new elevator that leads to the even spankier new Trader Joe’s on Sunset and Crescent Heights. The company has long made each of its stores reflect its neighborhood — TV production murals at the Studio City outlet, for example. But they went the extra mile down Dead Man’s Curve to make this new Sunset Strip store reflect the rock & roll history of its street. Inside, colorful giant guitar picks with likenesses of Frank Zappa and Iggy Pop grace the walls. But the best part is the elevator — actually, there are two of ’em — covered with actual rock-album covers you can ogle and even stroke as you ride the three stories from the parking garage. Wait — that has to be my Blondie Eat to the Beat cover! 8000 W. Sunset Blvd., L. A. (323) 822-7663, traderjoes.com.
BEST FREE SCENIC VIEW
Disclosure: The CHP will be displeased to see this published, so please obey the 45 mph speed limit and approach this triple-gulp car ride with caution: Begin in Chatsworth at the Topanga Canyon exit of the 118 freeway with your windows rolled down, heading south, foot off the gas pedal. As you accelerate down the mountain (watch your speed or the motorcycle cops hiding inside the Indian Hills Mobile Home Village will) at about ¼ of a mile, gaze up to the left (east) and take in the magnificent, boulder-embedded Stoney Point Park (gulp 1) — the site of an ancient Indian village — where climbing pros and novices attempt their skills at bouldering, rappelling and downright foolishness. Look right (west) to spot a tiny black hole carved into the Santa Susana Mountains, which is a railroad tunnel built in 1904 (gulp 2). Coast onward (traffic light, hopefully) with the wind blowing in your hair, and pull over. Sit a spell and contemplate the beauty of these historic landmarks you might not have noticed (gulp 3) had you been in a hurry. Stoney Point Park, 11000 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Chatsworth. (818) 883-8531.
BEST PLACE TO PICK UP HEAD . . . S OF LETTUCE
Ever since its grand opening in July, the Pavilions in West Hollywood has turned into something more than a supermarket — it’s where hot gays and lesbians go to mingle in WeHo. While the old Pavilions had more of a laid-back neighborhood feel, this sleekly designed and reasonably priced market’s new interior decor features soft lighting — essential for any good pickup joint. And the pickup scene is highly charged: Whether you’re selecting apples and peaches near the front, picking out cookies in back or standing in line for a custom-made sandwich next to the in-house Starbucks counter, it seems impossible not to meet someone and strike up a friendly conversation about fresh meat. It almost feels like a trendy nightclub, if not for that plastic bag of bok choy you’re clutching. Pavilions is open 24/7, and it’s a fun spot to shop — for more than just groceries. Pavilions, 8969 Santa Monica Blvd., W. Hlywd. Open daily, 24 hours.
BEST OBSERVATORY OF INNER TORTURE
You could always take one of those Hollywood tours past James Dean’s L.A. haunts, but one of the most beautiful and enjoyable ways to commune with the spirit of the young actor who died too soon is to drive to the Griffith Observatory in Griffith Park, which was an important location for Dean’s best and most influential film, Rebel Without a Cause. The homage is a three-parter. First, as you walk toward the famed observatory and look to the right, you’ll see a white slab of concrete with a bust of James Dean sitting on it. The actor commissioned artist Kenneth Kendall to create the sculpture just before his death, and Kendall coincidentally began work on the piece the September 30, 1955, night Dean fatally crashed his Porsche 550 Spyder in Northern California. The bust depicts the inner torture Dean’s characters often endured, and it’s situated away from the observatory crowds so you can have a moment of silence with your thoughts. From there, walk to the front, eastern side of the observatory, where you’ll see a small parking lot. Against a white wall, with a beautiful view of downtown L.A., is where Dean’s character, Jim Stark, took part in the famous knife-fight scene in Rebel. No plaque dedicates the site to the actor, but movie history happened exactly at this spot. Few people make it over here, so again, it’s quiet and uncrowded. Finally, head into the observatory itself, where Dean’s Rebel alter ego actually watched the planetarium show in the 1955 film. Griffith Observatory, Griffith Park. Tues.-Fri., noon-10 p.m.; weekends, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
—Patrick Range McDonald
BEST JACARANDA STROLL
“L.A. is the cruelest town,” musician Loudon Wainwright III has said. “You’re in a car all the time and the weather is kind of unrelenting. That blue, California weather.” To live in Los Angeles is to live in ignorance of snow — the experience of white powder descending on a city, urbanity reinterpreted as pianissimo, buried under verses of sparkling ice. Here, the notion of cold is relative; foggy mornings, a brisk October wind, rain in November. In April, when the jacaranda trees bloom like fierce violet fires, the city lets down its hair: Dainty blossoms paint a second draft of the city, which makes you wonder if we’ve been living in black-and-white. The juncture of Hope and Flower — with all the city’s music on its back, running like a scoliotic spine behind The Mark Taper Forum, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and Disney Hall — is lined with jacarandas. When in bloom, petals a shade of purple that only recurs in children’s clothing and certain pastel-colored candies, they transform the street into a study of tree figure and form, a Hockney painting realized in the middle of downtown L.A.