Saturday, August 26, 2006

What Are The Rich People Doing?

On Thursday, I played tourist for the day, saw some sights I wouldn't normally (I mean, I live here and who does these things?) and frankly I feel sorry for people that have to sightsee in this city on any given day of the week, especially during the summer. Say you’re only in town for a few days and you want to go to Disneyland… well, guess what, it’s super packed. I don't mean it's packed like a bar on New Year's Eve; It is as if someone put an ad in the paper that says they're shelling out free hundred-dollar bills to anyone who shows up…and that’s everyone it seems. You’re going to pay full price, walk elbow-to-elbow with thousands of people, wait in hours-long lines and only enjoy a couple of rides, if you’re lucky. The experience gives you new hatred for your fellow man becasue people become rude, self involved and completely absorbed in squeezing as much as possible out of their experience. What else? Oh yeah, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get whacked in the back of the ankles by a stroller driven madly by a wide-eyed Midwestern mom on a crazed dash to see the new-fangled spacey machines and them flying contraptions.


So, instead, let’s go to Hollywood and Beverly Hills and see how many Rolls Royces we can see, how many fake blondes trolling the streets with Prada bags over their arms with more plastic in their bodies than in Natalie’s toy chest (there’s a pun in there somewhere if you look hard enough) and see how many self-important narcissists with alligator shoes chatting away on their cell phones. Sounds like fun. Okay, we’ve got our assignment, so here are the caveats: You have to leave during rush hour and you have to drive on five of LA’s worst freeways before you get there, the 91, 10, 5, 405, and 101. For extra credit, drink two glasses of Diet Coke before you leave (because you stayed up too late the night before and need a little wake-up juice) and try to make it to a bathroom before the situation becomes so dire you start rummaging around in the back seats for an empty bottle. Also…also, for extra, extra credit, leave downtown Los Angeles at exactly 5pm along with thousands of other people. Discover that rush hour actually lasts for a couple of hours.

Let the fun begin. I dropped off the kids at school. It was Splash Day, which means that on this one day of the week, Natalie actually looks forward to a day at school rather than finding a way or excuse to stay home. My tour group was in the car at 10am and on our way toward a horizon scratched by the tall buildings of LA; we had high hopes that there wouldn’t be any traffic and that we’d make it there in no time. We took Kara’s Escape because it is a lot easier to zip in and out of traffic than it would be in my big truck. Plus, the fuel mileage would be horrific and the parking nearly impossible. Now that the truck is over seven feet in height, it doesn’t fit in most parking structures, which is a mainstay of downtown parking.

Kara’s mom Carol and her cousin Kailey went with me, because Carol wanted to see the Mann Chinese Theater and the famous footprints in cement and Kailey wanted nothing more than to walk the pearly streets of Rodeo Drive and see some of the world’s most famous boutiques and shops.

Since I missed the 101 (thankfully I’m sure, given the traffic we had just sat through—at least an hour and a half), we pushed on toward the 405, arguably the worst freeway in the country. It didn’t disappoint us. Once Santa Monica Blvd appeared, we decided it was time to get off and immediately find facilities, those preferably attached to a restaurant, but that wasn’t vital. We found some kind of mall on the boulevard that had a few places to eat, most importantly a Macy’s…and more important than that, a Macy’s bathroom. Once relief was found, we bought perfume, but not before testing and trying on most all of the brands they offered, from Britney Spears’ which smelled like a Southern prostitute to Paris Hilton’s which smelled like, well, it smelled like just a regular hooker (but look at the source). Luckily, Kailey didn’t go for either of those, but instead picked up some that smelled like flowers, nice.

Of course, we left the place with such various scents emanating from our pours that we not only attracted flies but our perfumes were able to kill them when they got too close.

We ate at Hustons, a nice upscale place, and half the check was dedicated to wine, naturally. Kailey ended up not liking her chicken, so the manager came over to apologize and to let us know that we wouldn’t see it on the bill; since the bill was $109.00 without the tip, I didn’t really notice if it wasn’t there or not.

First stop, Rodeo Drive, and after we took a back-and-forth jaunts on Wilshire in order to find the street, I was surprised to even find parking so easily. We walked from Jamba Juice to the Beverly Regent Wilshire Hotel and then back up the other side. The first shop we decided to stop into was Ralph Lauren, and I don’t remember the last time I felt like a second class citizen. I’m usually pretty self assured when it comes to who I am, but standing next to a $600 leather jacket and a sales lady who is looking down her nose at me, I felt just like Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman” when those mean women wouldn’t help her… you know, because she was wearing Paris Hilton’s perfume… I mean, because she was a hooker. But later, boy did she show them, by buying a lot of clothes from them so they enjoyed nice commission checks that week. Yeah, she sure showed them. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to come back and spend a lot of money for the happy ending. I just got to use the bathroom (hidden behind the door marked “Private” upstairs, just in case you ever need it), and retreat back onto the street in my shorts from Kohls and my shirt from Target. I took a couple of pictures, like a tourist.

There is one thing I don’t really understand about Rodeo Drive. It’s “why?” Why is it so important? Maybe I don’t understand fashion, but why do people go there and spend their money on those things? I’m not talking about the producer’s wife or the Ferrari collector who have much more money than good sense. I’m talking about the average Joe who thinks they need a pair of $800 shoes or the woman who thinks she’ll look better with a Coach handbag that looks like every other purse on the street. It’s like the piece of junk car with flashy rims. What’s the point. You still have a piece of junk car. It’s false materialism, trendy fads and a complete waste of money. Remember back to any time in your life when you spent a considerable amount of money on something that was the latest rage, a fad, and now think about where that one thing is. Is it in the back of your closet? Did you get rid of it? Did it break or rip or wear out? Or did you just get sick of it? Probably.

We saw what the rich people were doing, so we zipped over to Hollywood to see the Theater, put our feet in the footsteps of the long dead or forgotten…and see the freaks that come out of the woodwork for the tourists.

It took us an hour to get from Rodeo Drive to Hollywood Boulevard. We parked right next to the theater in some seventh level of hell parking structure that I felt if we were to go down any further into the earth we would certain start see upside-down Chinese people walking about. Anyways, we parked, and spent all of 10 minutes amongst the crowds at the Mann. I hadn’t been to Hollywood in years. Kara and I saw “The Lion King” at the El Captain and a lot hasn’t changed much. The Kodiak theater was all new, but everything else looked dilapidated, run down, dirty and smelly.

Then we sat. We sat. We sat and we sat some more. It took us two excruciating hours to get home. So, that was our day as tourists in the big city.

Oh, and we saw five Rolls Royces and untold numbers of Prada bags and alligator shoes.

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