Shortly before leaving the U.S. in May 2013 we stopped in Los Angeles for a couple days to see friends. Our overwhelming sense then – our first visit to LA together – was that it was a city that made our friends happy. Even friends who were not known for being bright, smiling, happy people. In LA, though, they were remarkably happy. So, after our week-plus in Utah & Las Vegas, we stopped again in LA for a few days.The good news is, our friends are still happy. Something about the weather and the people and the pace of life just agrees with them. I have to say, though, I’m not sure I get it entirely. The big drawback for us was the need for cars. While there has been some improvement in public transportation, overwhelmingly to get anywhere you need a car. And that suggests all the traffic woes you can imagine.
That’s just not typical of most great cities. Obviously our old home in Boston had pretty good public transportation, and we got by our last five years without a car. You can get by just fine in New York, Paris, London, Hong Kong and lots of other cities we’ve been in without a car, certainly as a tourist. Not so in LA, though; it’s just not realistic to spend time there without spending much of it sitting in traffic.So there you are. Great friends who love the city, but maybe I’m just not a West Coast kind of guy. I should add that the weather didn’t help matters either. It’s supposed to be pretty much always beautiful in LA, but there was quite the little heat wave while we were there, with temperatures hitting 100 degrees or close to it mid-day. Oh yeah, and a drought. I mean, who could have predicted that when you build a major metropolitan area in a desert region?
OK, enough complaining about LA. Our big cultural excursion was a tour of the Getty Villa, a museum dedicated to the arts of ancient Greece and Rome. Our favorite part was the Mummy of Herakleides, a 1900-year-old mummy that “combines the millennia-old Egyptian tradition of mummification of the dead with the Roman tradition of individualized portraiture.” And later I learned that one of the museum’s most prominent pieces, The Victorious Youth dating from about 200 BC, is part of a serious controversy with the Italian government. They have indicted the Getty’s former curator for trafficking in stolen antiquities and Greek authorities are investigating her; she claims she’s being hung out to dry for doing things everyone on the Board knew of and condoned. Sounds like fun!
We had a great time visiting with friends, and we have the pictures to prove it. I hiked up the hill behind the big HOLLYWOOD sign and even went through the Batcave, the very cave that Batman drove the Batmobile in that classic 1960s sitcom, right there in Griffith Park by the start of the hike to the sign. I might not love cars, but I made an exception to pay my respects to the Batmobile! Oh, and we drove past Cher’s house. That’s right – a Roman-Egyptian mummy, the Batcave, Cher, and great friends all in one weekend. Who says LA ain’t grand?!?