The heat, it wakes me up. The time: early afternoon. The place: my bed. Mishima had the right idea; I feel I’m approaching Death in Midsummer. No power means no a/c, means no lazing around the house watching TV, which really means spoiled L.A. boy must find things to do to cool off. But what can be done with limited funds, transportation — and energy, both my own and hydro-, nuclear-, gas- or wind-generated? I’m underage, which eliminates the out-by-the-pool-with-Corona-in-hand fantasy, and I’m starting my summer vacation, which by definition means that I must be productive — well, at least in terms of enjoying myself. Like me, you’ve got to understand that in this time of executive decisions, you must do things that once you wouldn’t be caught dead doing. Now’s the time; become a tourist in your own city and ignore all your previous “knowledge” about how to have fun and stay cool.
Tourists generally flock to the hot spots listed in their guidebooks or to the star-studded avenues and cafés that we neglect as much as possible. I’ve discovered another hot spot. The Griffith Observatory (2800 E. Observatory Road) sits ä p.10 just on the slope of Mount Hollywood, where cool breezes are known to waft by. From there, you can grab a telescope, a coinless telescope, and focus in on almost any part of the Los Angeles basin below. For the first time, I believe, it can be said that the voyeur behind the lens who is staring down at the victims of smog and heat and hovering smut can be envied by his subjects. And when the novelty of being a legitimate peeping Tom wears off, it’ll be time for sunset, and you can march off with the Sierra Club into the 53 miles of marked hiking trails the park so generously offers us. Some trails are tree-lined and wonderfully shaded, and others — well, avoid the others. But to be honest, I’m not much of the hiking type, although I never say never, considering the circumstances.
For now, though, to find me, just fan your way through the thick cloud of smoke that smells suspiciously different from the L.A. smog you’re used to, and follow the high school hippies to the observatory’s Laserium. At dusk, all summer long, “2001: A Laserium Odyssey” will take you on a psychedelic journey, with bands like the Beatles and Aerosmith, and even Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, as a soundtrack. The cool, dark planetarium-turned-theater is a great place to relax and chill out after a day in the sun, whether yours included hiking (in the light, you will find the road), bicycling (bicycle races are coming your way) or playing by Lake Balboa, also inside Griffith Park. The lake offers pedal boats and even pavilions (fitting up to 100 people!) for rent. Bring out the old charcoal barbecues and splash around in the water while a hearty steak — or veggie burger, depending on your personal preference — is grilling under the shade of your own cabana.
A wise man once said, “Westward ho!,” although I have no idea who he actually was. The temperature on the coast tends to drop 15 degrees, and places like Third Street Promenade (between Broadway and Colorado, in Santa Monica) are bound to have something you are looking for. We all know about the appeal of that place, because it’s either drawn us to it or repelled us many times in the past. Well, swallow your pride. There’s no excuse this time to pretend that you’re too cool for the buzzing atmosphere of Third Street. Sure, the ambiance at Urban Outfitters may be embarrassing, but you know you really love the clothes. Amble down the ä
stroller-friendly promenade in your new low-maintenance summer gear (read: black) while enjoying the pleasant ocean breeze. Head down to the pier, where the waves crash effervescently and the women appear as angelic mermaids. Hop on the Ferris wheel; trust me, the view is much better up there. You wouldn’t believe how many low-cut and revealing bikinis there are just within your eye line. As long as a pack of bronzed Greek gods doesn’t intimidate you, join those stupid washboards for a game of volleyball on the sand. If you would feel more comfortable somewhere else, although I fail to see why, head down to the part of the beach that is named after the most beautiful city in Italy, possibly the world. Funny, they smell the same, but everything else is really very different.
While you’re down on the boardwalk at Venice Beach, after you’ve listened to the bongos and hit the cheesy head shops, strap on a pair of rollerblades. Flying down the sidewalk, cutting through the warm air, can really be an exhilarating experience, not to mention a cooling one, although you would probably prefer the wind-chill factor as opposed to the headfirst-into-the-water factor. If you’re a little self-conscious, I can assure you that the dreadlocked guy who rollerblades up and down Venice chanting and playing an electric guitar that’s amplified by a battery-operated device hanging out of his backpack looks goofier, and he gets plenty of respect, honest.
And what about doing something cultural for a change, huh? Succumb to your parents’ nagging and become a more worldly teenager. At The J. Paul Getty Museum (1200 Getty Center Drive, just off the 405 freeway), you can really relate to the art world, and keep cool, too. The breeze up on top of that Olympus-like architectural extravaganza, fit for the kings themselves, can actually be quite nice, especially if you’re sitting in the shade enjoying a hot dog and a chilly frappuccino from one of the New York–style carts (the latter being sold only from the New York hot-dog carts in L.A., of course). And if it does get too hot, just wander inside to one of the many galleries or exhibitions that I’m told, due to the preservation of the artworks, must be temperature-controlled at all times, hint-hint. Check out the new “A Royal Menagerie: Porcelain Animals From Dresden,” and get a glimpse of the art from the city that Vonnegut so strangely navigated us through, although these works of art are from before his time. And avoid the temptation to lean up against the sculptures, no matter how much you’re convinced that they’re actually ice sculptures. (Surely you won’t be the first to suffer from hallucinogenic mirages.) New acquisitions to the Getty feature the clownesse by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, the oddly shaped drunken Post-Impressionist whose intoxicated perceptions of the Moulin Rouge are obvious influences for the new movie. The whorish white/green-faced woman in his most famous painting, At the Moulin Rouge, bears a striking resemblance to the movie’s star, Nicole Kidman. I guess that in L.A., even on an oasis high atop a mountain, you just can’t escape Hollywood. Oh, to be a tourist in my own town.