Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Elusive Hollywood Sign (L.A. Part 1)

I'm back.

There's so much to tell about Los Angeles - so much that I cannot fit it into one post. I was going to tell you what happened day by day, but that doesn't lend itself to the stories very well - some stories incorporate several days.

Stories like The Elusive Hollywood sign. Probably the most famous landmark in Los Angeles - anyone that has ever visited L.A. has seen it. However, it takes a few days of driving through the roads near the sign to truly respect it - and to get creeped out beyond all reason.

I stayed with my sister and her boyfriend in L.A. - in an apartment I wanted to take back with me it was so nice - and she lives a stone-throw from the sign. Literally, if you could throw a stone a few miles, it would hit the sign (you'd also have one hell of a pitching arm.) Driving on a street near her on the first day I asked - where is the sign? She turned the car 180 degrees and pointed out the windshield. There. Wow.

She told me about a road that her friend had taken her through - up the hill and around the sign - ending the in valley, which is on the other side (like, oh my GAWD! Gag me with a spoon!) That first night we drove up the hill looking for it.

There are no roads that lead directly to the sign. You can't get that close to it. This story doesn't end with me climbing up on an "O" and taking pictures. Sorry.

It's hard to accurately describe the roads that lead up the hill to the Hollywood sign. Try standing on your roof, looking down, and then running around and quickly turning - also, blindfold yourself and get drunk first. One of the roads that leads close to the sign is called LEDGEWOOD. I vote they change the name to Scare-the-Shit-Out-Of-You-Wood.

Driving up that first night, I wasn't very creeped out. I had heard that the sign was haunted. An actress had thrown herself off of the "H" to her death years ago - her soul still wanders the hill. I quickly became creeped out as my sister kept reiterating "Isn't this spooky?!" and "You know, we could die up here, and no one would know." Thanks, Karen.

Even without the prodding, I have to admit it is a spooky place. The roads - which must have been designed by Dali - curve randomly and alternate between steep inclines and crazy steep declines. A lot of them end like this. You'll be driving and BOOM - no more road. (Also, walk up past the end of the road for a bit and you fall off a ledge. BOOM - no more life.)

It may be hard to imagine, but there are houses on each and every road leading near the sign. In Hollywood - they will put a house damn near anywhere. Imagine living on the edge of a cliff - then imagine it ten times worse. That explains these houses. They are perched like coked-up birds on the very edge of cliffs hundreds of feet deep. In some cases held up by a single stilt. Next time you see houses sliding down an L.A. hill on TV because of a mudslide, don't feel bad. They know what they are getting into.

We didn't find the road that leads past the sign and into the valley that night. Let the record show that my sister was willing to keep looking. And that I had the heebie-jeebies and wanted to go home.

The next day Karen, her boyfriend Brian and I went up during the day (thank God). We still didn't find the magic street that took us over the hill, but I did get some great shots, even though in some you can't see the sign all that well (Yes, the red arrow in the picture with my sister and Brian is pointing to the sign).

That day it was interesting to see the backyard views of some of these ledge-houses. They can turn their head in their living room, look out the window, and see the Hollywood sign staring back at them. The crazy, spooky, haunted Hollywood sign staring back at them. They crazy.

The next night, with the help of google maps - we had directions over the hill, past the gorgeous Hollywood Resevoir (more like a lake in the middle of the hill) and down into the valley. Heather Road is the key. Take Ledgewood to Heather - then keep going left.

This road took us up further onto the hill, and allowed us to stop and see the sign just a few hundred yards away. Coo-Coo Crazy spooky. Each turn on the road allowed the Hollywood sign to disappear and then peek out again.

Pictures of this evening didn't come out so well. Maybe if I had a flash a few hundred times stronger.

You'll simply have to trust me that this is the best shot I got of the sign at night. Which brings up your part of this post. I was shocked to realize that the Hollywood sign is not lit up at night. I can understand why - the houses up there are really pricey, and who wants tons of tourists heading up into your neighborhood every night to look at a sign? Still, I thought for sure it was lit at night. Let me know what you thought.

The lack of lighting is what made the sign so mysterious at night. Imagine driving up a road and suddenly seeing one of the world's most famous landmarks - cast in shadows on a steep cliff. It really makes you examine your thoughts and feelings about things you think are so common - to contemplate the things in your life and put them into perspective.

Then we went to the valley and I had fish and chips at a brew pub.

More L.A. tomorrow.


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