An L.A. story

Next month I wing my way back to the City of Angels. It’s going to be amazing. It always is.

And this time, I’ll be travelling again with Sean, the man who taught me so much about love and life, and worthiness, and helped me find this concrete river that runs its way through my veins these days.

Here’s a little recollection from years ago:

On our last day in L.A., my man and I set off intrepidly in search of a monument we’d heard about, that marked the exact geographic centre of the city. It seemed a fitting way to say goodbye to the place, and we were curious to discover the spot, which we gathered was tucked behind Beverly Hills somewhere. With vague directions from someone we’d met in our travels, and a snippet of info from google that said it was only a very short work from a carpark, we set the GPS and started on our way.

We drove through Hollywood and the dripping-with-riches Beverly Hills, took a right turn and headed into Franklin Canyon Park, this heavenly piece of nature in the midst of the city. A mountain of films and TV shows have been made there…it’s the perfect spot for  adventure, murder, romance, nature, secret liaisons, expedition, gambolling, anything really.

We got some very vague directions from a park ranger (she put an X on a roughly photocopied map, which seemed promisingly exact until she said “I think it might be somewhere near there. I’ve never seen it, but it’s probably covered in grass, so it might take a bit of looking). With map in hand, we set off. An hour or so later, on about the twentieth round of “should we go back”/”no it must be near here, let’s just go a little further”, we find ourselves at the top of the canyon, scaling a fence and ending up on Mulholland Drive. There’s a public phone box, but it’s been burnt out and there’s no phone. Our map has proven utterly unhelpful, and we can either retrace our steps (unappealing, as we knew it wasn’t where we’d been) or head along Mulholland and see what happened next. Walking in L.A. is always conspicuous, because people drive. Everywhere. But walk we did, winding our way along the road, down through a little enclave of mansions and back into the park. We eventually reach a grassy clearing, and wishfully think we might be getting close. The ranger said it was hidden in grass, and this area had more grass than anywhere else in the park.

We searched for ages. I was wearing flip-flops and fear, given the warning signs everywhere about rattlesnakes and poison oak. Unwilling to walk in tall, snake-harbouring grass (having once experienced US medical care during the trip already I wasn’t up for a return visit) I resorted to using a large twig as a pendulum, trying to dowse the plaque’s location, and shouting out suggestions to Sean who was examining that clearing inch-by-inch. Nothing worked.

We started back uphill to get some perspective, and Sean spotted something a little further up. He went in pursuit of what he thought might be the plaque, promising to be back momentarily. Soon, I couldn’t see him any more and he didn’t respond when I yelled out. I had no water, no car keys, no memorised phone numbers…and a boyfriend potentially in the clutches of a savage rattlesnake. Oh, and I had a kidney infection. And a way overactive imagination, running through the stories that had been filmed here at the canyon, and Charlie Sheen’s cars that had mysteriously careened off Mulholland Drive just a few months earlier. Much to my relief, Sean finally reappeared.

He’d ended up outside of the park, staggering into a fire station, breathlessly saying “we’re looking for the center of L.A.”. It’s lucky they didn’t have him committed, as he must have seemed quite mad. One fireman vaguely thought the plaque might be near a fire hydrant and a concrete structure, and confirmed that we’d been looking in the right place in the grassy clearing. His parting words were a warning about rattlesnakes. They’d been in the park and shot two of them the day before. We returned to our search buoyed by this new information. It was fruitless though.

And the more we didn’t succeed, the more steely our determination became. I remembered I had my laptop in the car, and a satellite internet dongle. We sculled all the water we could find in the car, and like a good Gen Y-er, googled our quest. We found a map, photo and information immediately. And we found, quite to our dismay, the backstory to how the plaque came to be. Turns out this guy volunteered for years at Frankin Canyon Park, it was his favourite place in all of the city. So he got a map, and a pin, and moved the map around until it balanced. And, the point of balance turned out to be his favourite place, Franklin Canyon. So he made a DIY plaque, sort of scratched into metal and concrete, and popped it under a tree just near the carpark. You know, to make it easy to find, for people like us.

Los Angeles is a hard city to get to know, but when you manage to get under the veneer it’s a spectacular place. It makes you work, but returns many riches to those who do.

We celebrated our eventual victory with a trip to Mashti Malone’s legendary Persian icecream store in Hollywood, where Sean saved my life but possibly ended someone else’s….but that’s another story.

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