A fortnight ago, I spent the week working in Los Angeles, a place for which evolution has really not equipped me. The whole not-driving thing is a bit of an issue there, as is my dislike of warm weather and my utter slobbosity. (I met a writer for drinks one evening. I had actually gone back to the hotel and changed into nicer clothes than the ones I’d worn to the office before meeting her, but taking one look at me, she sighed, with a slight note of aggravation, “Oh, you look so comfortable
Still, I did as well as could be expected by staying in a hotel just 20 minutes walking distance from my work place (and needless to say, I never saw another pedestrian). There were tons of amenities within walking distance—a cinema literally across the plaza from the front door and lots of shops and restaurants within just a few blocks.
My first evening there, I had to run a few errands—I’d forgotten my alarm clock and it was an early call, I needed some aspirin, that kind of thing. I could see the drug store just a few hundred yards down the street, but it took me about 20 minutes to get there and back.
On this trip, I realized that in Los Angeles you can’t just cross the street at any old corner; you have to schlep down to the closest official pedestrian crossing, and they only show up every five or six blocks. So, to get to the place that’s directly opposite the spot you’re standing, you might have to walk two or three blocks, then cross a street wider than a Seattle block, and then walk two or three more blocks back in the other direction. It’s like one of those puzzles about foxes and chickens and a boat that can only hold two creatures (in which, incidentally, I could never understand why you couldn’t temporarily stun the fox so it can’t menace the chicken even if you leave them together on the shore). THEN, when you finally get to the store or restaurant or whatever, you have to walk around the back of the building, because no one has an entrance on the street. What would be the point? The door opens out the back onto the parking lot!
I had a good star-spotting fortune this trip: I almost banged into Nancy Wilson
in my short-term place of work, and at dinner at Orso
in Beverly Hills, we dined (not at the same table you understand) with Jack Valenti
, Ricky Jay
, and an actor, possibly English, who is always seen being tight-lipped and mean dressed in either a boiled shirt or a safari suit.