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Voyage to La-La Land, Pt. 2

Continuing from yesterday’s post, here is the conclusion of our four-day trip to Los Angeles, Burbank, Sherman Oaks and Palm Springs. Since our Getty museum trip turned out to be a single day, we spent Thursday morning looking through the shops on Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks. Although getting around and parking is a problem around there, we eventually got settled behind a store called “Aunt Teek’s” and looked around. One of the neater things we came across was a building that was a converted motor court from the ’30s or ’40s that had various small businesses. We dropped in on a jewelry shop nestled in the back and had our rings resized while chatting with the ladies who worked there. It was a fun bit of local color. We also went through the main antique mall. I ended up buying a vintage ’50s brochure for Disneyland’s Aluminum Hall of Fame – which wasn’t cheap, but it’s a good addition to my paper ephemera collection.

We had an appointment in downtown L.A. that afternoon, so we got back to the hotel room and checked out before navigating the freeways. Obama was in town at that time, but strangely the traffic was okay (despite all the helicopters hovering around). Having a couple of hours to kill, we went back to the Japanese district which is just down the street from the historic City Hall building. This is one of my favorite parts of L.A. The shops are a riot of fantastic imagery and nifty packaging. Although I was tempted to buy everything I saw, I wound up settling on some cute toys (including a blind-boxed plastic “cute animal inside a household object” toy which turned out to be a cockatiel in a rice bowl), a book on Japanese cinema, and several bags of gummi candies, cookies and shrimp-flavored chips.

After Japan Town, we drove up to the Fashion Institute to meet with our friend Shirley and see the new exhibit they’ve got of costumes from many of the major films released in 2011 – including all the films nominated for this year’s Oscar awards. We drove through the “skid row” area and the fabric merchandising districts to get there, both of which were really something to see (from the safety of a locked car!). The exhibit was wonderful. Christopher wrote about it here. One of the genuine surprises of the exhibit was that it had a handful of classic-era costumes, including two (Jean Harlow’s shorts from Reckless and a hat from Pride and Prejudice) designed by MGM’s Adrian. After meeting with our friend, we went on a little walking tour of downtown which included L.A. Live, Staples Center and that area of downtown. L.A. Live was too chaotic and overcommercialized for my tastes, but it was still interesting to walk around and people watch. Most of it is chain restaurants. The Grammy Hall of Fame Museum was also there, but the admission was too expensive for us. I got a kick out of the sidewalk pieces with each year’s Grammy award winners inscribed in a metal record, however. There was some hubbub with the police going on there — a large group of local Tibetians were there to protest China’s treatment of their country while the Chinese Vice President was staying at the nearby Ritz-Carlton hotel. That was pretty cool to watch. We also stumbled across the historic Figueroa Hotel and took mucho pictures. It looked especially pretty as the sun was setting.

Thursday was a long day — and we still had to drive out of town to get to our hotel, in San Bernadino! I was really hungry by the time we got there, devouring my bean and cheese burrito dinner. The next morning, we enjoyed the free Best Western breakfast buffet and headed out to Palm Springs to visit with Christopher’s plastic collecting friend, Robin. We arrived pretty early, so we checked out the little exhibit of ’50s-’60s items at the visitors center (perfect timing; it was “Modernism Week”) and gaped at the overpriced furniture and decor in the Midcentury Modern shops along Palm Canyon Drive. We also looked at a few of the thrift shops in the area (I picked up a few kitschy, unused ’60s greeting cards at one). The weather was a bit dry and hot, but otherwise it was a relaxed, fun time. After a long time spent looking for it, we finally found Robin’s place and he regaled us with a bunch of neat vintage plastic pieces from his collection (tiny creamers for airline use, demitasse cups, etc.). After a satisfying lunch at one of the older Mexican places in town, we shipped off for Phoenix. Did you know that Palm Springs is one of the hardest places to get out of? It was frustrating to drive down the same road, sitting through 100 red lights, but once we were out on that highway back home it was a total relief. At about 8:30 that night, we were finally home — safe in the knowledge that we had another memorable trip!

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