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Postcards from Travel Near and Far by Jia-Rui


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90028, Hollywood

 

Halloween party at EastWest Studios

 

Dear ——–,

It’s been 10 years since I last dressed up for Halloween, but Bryan was invited this year to a costumes-required party at EastWest Studios. I thought about getting a ruffled prairie dress, fluffing up my hair and going as a character from Big Love. Or getting a shirt with chiseled abs and saying I was “The Situ-Asian.” In the end, I dressed up as a flapper (safe, I know). Bryan dressed as a surfer getting eaten by a shark (with apologies, of course, to the recent actual shark fatality). I’m glad Erika (jailbird) and Marjorie (Mad Hatter) were able to come with me, since Bryan did a lot of networking at the party. The three of us spent most of our time gawking at the crazy decorations — a maniacal doll in a bathtub spitting blood, a writhing mannequin on the floor, skeletons playing guitars. We appreciated the effort made by a Cher-lookalike (spiky black hair, fishnets and a glittery microphone), a 6-foot-tall-plus Avatar (blue body paint and braids) and a skinny David Bowie (lightning bolt on his face and gold lame shorts). But some people barely tried — one ill-fitting wig or a simply slutty outfit do not a costume make!

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90041, Eagle Rock

The parking lot at the Eagle Rock Plaza

Dear ——–,

My car’s odometer turned 100,000 in a Target parking lot on Saturday. It got me thinking how parking lots are L.A.’s blank pages. A few weeks ago, nearby restaurant parking lots were filled with bands were blasting fuzzy guitar sounds as part of the Eagle Rock Music Festival. Sometimes, this parking lot is a farmer’s market with tomato and peach stands. This time, someone set up an inflatable slide, pony rides, pumpkin picking and a mini ATV course divided by bales of hay. A chain link fence separated this fantasia of rural life from cranky drivers. You need parking lots to write the American dream, I guess — to load up at a store full of low-priced plastic goods, you need a car and a place to park your SUV. If you don’t live close enough to the farm, the farm can come to an empty space close to you. My reverie came to an end when I saw my side view mirror lurching crookedly. (I didn’t recall hitting anything!) I had to drive home with my window rolled down, holding my mirror in place.


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92264, Palm Springs

Sunset at the Ace Hotel & Swim Club

Dear ——–,

Bryan and I spent our fourth wedding anniversary in Palm Springs. He booked us a room with a patio at the Ace Hotel, which is built on the foundations of an old Howard Johnson and features what I’d call utilitarian chic. It was a little outside of downtown, but that turned out to be a blessing since downtown was swarming with bikers and the snarl of Harleys was hard to take. We were plenty happy hanging around the hotel, going to the spa, eating at the King’s Highway restaurant, listening to the record player in our room. (The Apollonia LP was random, but I actually really liked the Mongo Santamaria.) It was around 90 degrees, so we lounged as much as we could by the pool. That was quite a scene, with a drunken guys playing a drinking game with a plastic pink flamingo. But once those guys left, we could watch the light change on the San Jacinto Mountains in peace. On the drive home, rain fell thickly. I picked up dinner at Pita Pita in shorts and a t-shirt. Everyone else was wearing a jacket and sweatpants. It was then I realized that summer was really over.


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90291, Venice Beach

Canals just inland in Venice Beach

Dear ——–,

Jen wanted to see Venice on Monday, so I took it as an opportunity to go looking for the canals I knew were there, but had never seen. We spotted them out of the side of the car and pulled over quickly to park. Jen likened the scene to the Cam in Cambridge, where colleges and buildings come almost right up to the grassy bank of the river. The California version was very charming: a snowy white egret stalking his supper, wooden pedestrian bridges, canoes and rafts moored a few steps away form each house.We headed over to the beach afterward, doing the requisite stop to see overdeveloped guys pumping iron at the Muscle Beach gym. It turned out to be a sporty trip, since we also stopped to watch some paddle tennis, a game I hadn’t seen before, which features solid racquets on a small hard court. Then, as the sun dropped lower, we stood over an elaborate skate park and saw skateboarders roll up and down the smooth sides as if they were riding waves just beyond the sand.


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90272, Pacific Palisades

The outer peristyle garden at the Getty Villa

Dear ——–,

Jen happened to be traveling through L.A., so I took Monday off to hang out. I rarely venture over to the westside, so I thought we could spend the day over there. We had breakfast and a Spanish latte at Urth Caffe in Santa Monica, which Jen had heard of because the mom in the “Teenage Paparazzo” documentary talked about going there. Then we drove up Pacific Coast Highway for a visit to the Getty Villa, which I’d never been to. The galleries were stuffed with elaborate Grecian urns, Roman busts and Cypriot fertility figures. The strangest items were plates and drinking vessels from the original Greek frat parties: there were literally scenes of guys vomiting. The villa also had a rare mummy from Roman Egypt that had an ibis tucked into its midsection. Under a foggy marine layer, we wandered among the pomegranate and olive trees in the outer peristyle. We could barely make out the ocean as we sat on a deck at the villa, so I was surprised when Bryan told me over the phone that it was 10 degrees warmer in Eagle Rock. So the sun was shining, just 20 miles away from us.


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90013, Downtown Los Angeles

Going up on Angel's Flight

Dear ——–,

After spending the morning editing a story in my pajamas, I had a hankering for Mendocino Farms and Bryan and I headed down to meet Kimi and Ron for lunch. Usually, you get a Stairmaster-like work-out on your way up to California Plaza. But this time around, the Angels Flight funicular was open. (The railway was closed after a fatal accident in 2001.) So we rode up with two tourists in a wood-paneled car. Angels Flight is the shortest railway in the world, which, of course, begs the question of why anyone bothered to build it. Still, 25 cents isn’t much for a moment to catch your breath and marvel at how vertical parts of downtown L.A. are. I wonder if the railway architects could have even imagined towering glass skyscrapers when it opened in 1901. At Mendocino Farms, I ordered the Chicken MBT sandwich I was craving. Kimi got the “secret sandwich” — peanut butter, apples, almonds and bacon. I was skeptical, but it actually tasted pretty good, though maybe a bit more like dessert than lunch. “Maybe we should’ve walked up the stairs instead of taking Angels Flight after all,” I said to Kimi.


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91204, Glendale

 

Skating at Moonlight Rollerway

 

Dear ——–,

Whitney invited me out to Moonlight Rollerway on Monday night and I said yes. I hadn’t put on a pair of roller skates since my 6th grade graduation. I eyed a sign outside warning, “No short shorts,” as I pushed cash through a bank-teller-like window. Inside, the crowd wasn’t exactly what I expected. There were a couple of heavy-set older guys who glided around the rink with flair. One Evan Lysacek-type floated by in an arabesque. Getting out on the hardwood was a little intimidating. Every time I poked my head out, it was like freeway traffic, with skaters streaking by. I finally shuffled out and met up with Whitney and Amy in the middle of the rink, where you practice dance moves. They were smooth — rocking back and forth and doing “crazy legs.” I scooted my legs back and forth and did an anemic robot. I took a tumble once — when I got a overconfident about my ability to stop. But it was actually a really fun night. By the end of it, I was taking long strides around the rink to “Take My Breath Away.” Was it the 1980s all over again?