Nighttime high-altitude views of Los Angeles County have always been my secret aphrodisiac. I crave them, seek them out, drive at all hours during insomniac hazes to find one, and I am almost always lifted to a euphoric state once I reach my destination. I feel grateful, satisfied, happy to be above the city’s miasma in my black cotton sweatpants and gray hoodie, feeling enveloped and healed by the cool, damp air.
Seeing the grid of L.A. at night always calms me down — something about how the tiny beads of orange glow and the lines of red and white car lights creep along. I stand and breathe deep, hands in my pockets, and eventually realize that, yes, I can deal with whatever is keeping me up on that particular night.
Unfortunately, many of our great vistas have been unceremoniously privatized. One in particular, the Mulholland Drive Universal City Overlook, about nine minutes east of Laurel Canyon, has always been the focal point of my rage against the rich who usurp public access to beauty. I was ticketed there many years ago for a variety of transgressions. Of the eight Los Angeles County Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority–posted rules, I was violating perhaps five. I was there after hours and parked illegally. I was smoking and drinking beer. My dog was off leash. And I was 16, with my best friend at the time. A gay German couple also there managed to run off before the policeman made his way over to our bench. But we, being girls, figured it would be better to try to talk the officer out of giving us a ticket. Running from the law just seemed so undignified for a teenage girl. We almost succeeded. He only cited us for parking on Mulholland after 9 p.m., and I am still grateful.
But as he was writing in his notebook, I asked him why it was illegal for us to be there at night. It’s not really a park, after all — it’s just a bench. And it’s on a public street. It’s basically just a bus stop with a tree around it, I reasoned. The officer looked up at me and gestured with his pen to the mammoth private residences on the other side of the road. “They don’t want people here at night.”
I’ve stopped at the overlook many times since then, before 9 p.m., because it is so beautiful. And I always think to myself: One day, this spot will be reclaimed by the general public. When the shit hits the fan, and some great earthquake, fire or flood hits our county, this will be my vantage point to watch the valley self-destruct. I’ll stare at Universal City ablaze, and see smoke rising from Forest Lawn to the east. By then, all the peace officers will be too busy to respond to a call about a 16-year-old girl standing and breathing in a park after 9 p.m.
7701 Mulholland Dr., Studio City, www.lamountains.com/parks.asp?parkid=42.