What can you say about new! L.A., except that by the time you read this, everything new! in this section will have been ruined. When a hot new! place opens, it’s new! for about five minutes, until the same group of trendmongers that ruined your last favorite place shows up to continue their circle of ruination. However, it is true that no matter how long you’ve lived in this town, you can always discover something that’s new! to you. Not everyone is as lucky as you are to live in a city where there’s always another strip mall, mini-mall, pod mall, mall mall, caffeine pusher, MTA construction site, notorious crime scene, oxygen bar, manicurist, incense peddler and tarot reader to discover.
Yet, for all the vastness of our choices, people in L.A. still stick to their bubble of home, work, shopping and enjoyment destinations. If you want to discover “new! L.A.,” you’ll have to break out of your tattered bubble.
1. MAKE A NEW FRIEND (See back of this paper) Have him (or her) take you to his (or her) favorite spots. See how little time it takes you to tire of someone else’s bubble.
Bonus: When you’re sick of him (or her), you’ll have a new appreciation for your familiar bubble.
2. BE A TOURIST ON YOUR OWN TURF Have a houseguest, preferably from a small, foreign country where people tend to glamorize what they perceive as “Hollywood.” See your hometown through the eyes of an outsider. Your guest will come armed with only slightly out-of-date copies of the Time Out Los Angeles Guide and will drag you to the new!est Wolfgang Puck restaurant, the new!est Sunset Strip theme club, the new!est thrill ride at Universal Studios. He or she will gawk at everything we take for granted — not just our regular attractions like traffic snarls, rude people, chunky air and Angelyne, but stuff like the local weatherman’s hair and the price of a loaf of La Brea Bakery rosemary bread. You’ll find yourself happily explaining our custom of running over people in crosswalks.
Bonus: See No. 1.
3. GET A NEW LOOK There’s nothing like a fresh face lift, tattoo or haircut to put a bounce in your step for at least a few days.
Which brings me to Candace, a regular at a certain east Hollywood transvestite bar. Candace (not her real fake name) probably has a better grasp of how to make life seem new! than anybody. The other night, she pranced (I was going to say she “sashayed,” which was more like it, but thought it seemed too much of a cliché — but she really truly did) into the bar beaming like Mary Richards on nitrous oxide. Nobody can prance like an über-tall tranny dressed head to toe in fireball red. Candace is probably 175 pounds (without silicone), with hormone-generated boobs and cheekbones Faye Dunaway would kill for. Candace is always slathered in ensembles from (C)Ross Dress for Less and enough makeup to make Zsa Zsa look like the mom on Little House on the Prairie.
The reason for Our Sister of Perpetual Electrolysis’ extra exuberance? Today was the coming-out party for her extremely new! body part — a shiny, freshly installed, top-of-the-line Vagina™! Talk about a bounce in her step. Imagine how new! she must feel. It must be the next best thing to the Witness Relocation Program.
On a less extreme level, the closest equivalent to the Candace School of Body Alterations can be seen nightly at Millennium on the Sunset Strip, where many fresh boob jobs make their social debut.
4. START A NEW LOOK Wear lederhosen to Bar Marmont every night for two weeks. The next time you turn on Entertainment Tonight, expect to see Christian Slater looking like a Keebler elf at an elite Hollywood soirée.
5. HAVE FUN WITH YOUR COMMUTE For example, live in Santa Monica and commute to Hollywood every day and see if you aren’t forced to discover a new! route to work every three-and-a-half weeks. Start by taking the slow hell of Santa Monica Boulevard (because you remember something about a shortest-distance-between-two-points theory). Then
some one will tip you off to the 10 east–Fairfax–Venice Blvd.–Redondo–Edgewood–Highland extravaganza that’s three times farther than Santa Monica Boulevard and takes just as long but at least you’re moving. At parties, pine for the days when Olympic was useful. Now you know why everybody takes Sunset, which doesn’t seem so bad until you can’t stand it anymore and try another new! route.
Bonus: Voila! A new! ulcer!
6. HAVE A CLOSE CALL WITH DEATH Pretend that walking between those two thick white parallel lines that bridge a busy intersection will induce a driver to stop his moving vehicle and allow you to cross the street. (Recommended: the “deathwalk” at Sunset and Las Palmas). Or you could also try skydiving. After you’re able to breathe normally again, for the next two to 24 hours you’ll feel a rebirth, with a new! appreciation for the joy of breathing.
7. EXPLORING NEW TERRITORY It’s not unreasonable to say that very few residents of Los Angeles have set foot on every page of the Thomas Guide (except for this one guy who claims to have touched all but a tiny piece of Paramount). Pick a spot you’ve never been near. Spend a Saturday there. Walk around with a map and act like everything is foreign to you. Get lost. Ask a resident for directions. And never pass up a visit to the neighborhood watering hole to chat with colorful locals.
Recently I explored Duarte. (Hint: Maybe don’t schedule a Duarte getaway on an August afternoon.)
On arrival, a local takes my photo in front of the Old Spaghetti Factory, the town’s original schoolhouse. For $5, anyone can attend the Chamber of Commerce’s town mixer, held “pond-side” at the Royal Oaks Manor, an exclusive retirement complex in Duarte’s posher side. So I do. The Duartians greet me warmly. I tell them I’m exploring a new! — to me — area of the Southland. “Oh, just like Huell Howser,” says one local business owner (either the pet groomer or the chiropractor; I forget). I ask them what’s so great about Duarte. “Super-friendly people,” enthuses Sharman Warner, handing me her business card that reads “Avon–Tupperware–Princess House Crystal–Parakeets.” Her husband, Steve (his card: “Performing Arts and Related Purveyor Services”), has lived in Duarte since 1980. “People bend over backwards to help you,” he replies. “It’s a microcosm of Los Angeles.” (But I thought Los Angeles was a microcosm of the world.) “You should go to the Myrtle Street Fair,” continues Steve. “It’s like a 1990s Norman Rockwell painting.” Later, he adds (joking, I think), “Arcadia is an elitist, semi-racist community.” I ask a small group whether they feel connected to L.A., and an elderly lady tells me, “The only reason to go to L.A. is for a pastrami sandwich at Langer’s.”
No visit to Duarte is complete without a trip to the Trails. Even though it’s been discovered by hipsters, this Western-theme steakhouse-bar-lounge still retains its 1952-feel, good-time-gal waitresses and colorful regulars who show up in the late afternoon, cigarettes already lit, and talk about the loudmouth who got 86’ed the night before. The restaurant side has a forest-ranger motif. I choose the lounge side, where I sit on a red Naugahyde chair on thick wheels. The waitress rolls over a dolly and loads up my table with a tureen of split pea soup and my own personal salad bar of condiments.
I like Duarte.
For my next excursion, I’m going to Little Bombay in Artesia, where I’m planning to get lost for Christmas vacation.
8. IF ALL ELSE FAILS . . .
. . . there’s always the new! fall TV season.
Bonus: Homer gets a gun!