When I made my plan to visit the United States, a couple of cities were a definite to-go on my list. One of them was Los Angeles. Who wouldn’t want to visit Hollywood? Who wouldn’t want to walk with the stars and visit the homes of a few of them, even if it was just a fleeting glimpse from the outside? And Tussauds! What better place than Hollywood to socialize with the stars? Such is the enigma called Los Angeles.
With these thoughts in mind, even though I had to shell out an extra 300 dollars for accommodation, I made it a point to visit LA.
I had expected Los Angeles to be a place that was neat and clean, as spick and span as any celebrity’s home. But it is unkempt when compared to the other cities I had visited so far. Chicago, San Jose and San Francisco. How could the most celebrity-friendly city be the dirtiest among the rest? My mind was working overtime because it had already compared Indian cities among themselves. The final result was that it had decided to forgive the city its slovenliness, because it was, after all, charming, however that charm might be.
My hotel was at a fifteen minute walk from the first star on Hollywood Boulevard. As I walked there, I could hardly see anyone walking through that particular stretch. There were people skateboarding through the pavements, abandoned cars in the corner, unpopulated buildings and a couple of shops that looked plenty shady to me. But still, I plodded on.
To be completely truthful, I was disappointed when I saw the first star. I had expected more fanfare, more people milling around it to gaze wondrously at it and some sort of an aura around it. So I just kept looking at the stars on the Walk and kept moving forward, hoping to sight a familiar name.
It was kind of enchanting for a tourist like me to be walking among the stars that were installed there as achievements for some of the biggest celebrities in Hollywood. On the other hand, locals went about their chores, passing them by in a bored manner, much as a snobbish celebrity would pass by someone like us. There were tour guides, there were extremely well dressed men and women, there were travelers, there were residents. But when you go into Beverly Hills, you see the high class stores and the sophisticated looking people going about like they do in movies, you get a feeling that this is no place to move around dressed shabbily despite seeing firsthand that there is absolutely no discrimination between the people walking on the streets of LA.
And yet, LA has two completely opposite types of neighborhood hugging each other right in the center. One, highly sophisticated and one that has the common people walk through it without bothering about what they are wearing. And both neighborhoods are beautiful in their own ways.
Despite the clarity in the varieties of population and behaviors, LA has an aura around it that will probably never be explained to me. It is beautiful and glorious, yet at the same time, maintains an inexplicable mystery around itself. Two days or a lifetime would not be enough to understand the depths of the enigma that calls itself Los Angeles.