Visiting La-La land

Réal and Paul
Réal and Paul in La-La Land

Sublime to ridiculous

One of the really great things about living in Palm Springs is being close enough to big cities to easily take advantage of all they have to offer while remaining safely insulated from them. I had proposed to the gang a weekend outing to Los Angeles to take in a photography exhibit, among other things, but in the end only Réal decided to go along. Too bad for the others!


Ashes and Snow is an exhibit of photographs and film by Gregory Colbert in which he is "working towards rediscovering the common ground that once existed when people lived in harmony with animals. The images depict a world that is without beginning or end, here or there, past or present. The exhibit is installed in a gallery constructed of shipping containers stacked in a checkerboard pattern and enclosed under a canvas roof.

Nomadic Museum, at the Santa Monica Pier through May 14, 2006.

Inside, visitors walk through long, darkened galleries with very large, sepia photographs hanging from the ceiling on both sides, while abstract "new age-y" music plays in the background. At the end of each gallery is a screen showing a movie — again in sepia — in which people and animals interact serenely. The impact is powerful, and people watch in hushed awe.

Here's a sample of images from the exhibit. For more, be sure to visit the exhibit website and check out the portfolio.

elephant woman touching


Réal tries the free rings. He at least could lift his feet off the ground, which was more than I could do (Click picture to enlarge)

After assuaging our hunger pangs at Mariasol Cocina Mexicana on the pier and nourishing our more-refined sensibilities at the Ashes and Snow exhibit, we headed down the shore to Venice Beach to experience a wholly different kind culture. Venice Beach — aka Muscle Beach — is every bit as tacky and fun as you can imagine. Vendors and street performers line both sides of the walkway, and the full range of human variation is on display.

There weren't a lot of muscles being flaunted. I suppose it was too late in the day and too chilly. But there was no end of people to watch. We strolled up and down, then sat under an umbrella for a coffee.


Beth Grant as Willadean
Beth Grant as Willadean

For Saturday night, we had tickets to The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife, one of three Del Shores plays being performed in a Season of Shores at the Zephyr Theatre. We handed Penelope over to valet parking (this will be significant later on) and headed across the street for a fine pre-theatre dinner with a bottle of wine.

Del Shores has the knack of writing very funny plays that pack a powerful, serious message. In this case, Willadean was struggling not to "shrivel up and die," confined to life in her trailer married to philandering, abusive, Bible-thumping J.D. A measure of her desperation is that she considered a part-time job as a greeter at the Super Wal-Mart a way out.

My quarrel with the play is that Willadean should have shot the bastard in Act I instead of waiting until Act III, but then that wouldn't have left much of a play.


After the play, we collected Penelope from valet parking, which did involve a minor kerfuffle stemming from a misunderstanding about payment: I thought Réal had already paid for parking when we left the car, so I thought I was giving the valet a nice tip; he thought I was trying to stiff him on the fee. Easily straightened out, but a kerfuffle nevertheless.


We dropped the car back at the hotel and set off on foot for a tour of West Hollywood bars. A couple of blocks down the street, walking with my hands in my pockets, I realized something was amiss — the fob that serves as the Prius' electronic key was missing! "Oh, sh*t," I said with alarm. When the valet brought Penelope back he must have stuck the fob in the slot, which I never do, so when I got out of the car at the hotel I simply shut the door and locked it, as I always do. Ergo, my "key" was now locked inside the Prius!

slot for fob
Slot for fob — its use is completely optional
fob in slot
Fob in slot

A clarifying explanation may be in order: The Prius does not have a traditional key and ignition switch. The car simply senses the presence of the fob, which you can leave in your pocket, or wherever. You just get in and push the Start button. Same thing with the doors — it senses the fob and unlocks the door when you touch the door handle. You don't have to push any buttons or insert anything.

With visions of a ruined evening swirling through my head, we hurried back. You can imagine my relief when I walked up and Penelope dutifully unlocked the door as soon as I touched the handle, allowing me to retrieve the fob. But relief didn't last long, for the implication immediately became clear: anybody else could have done the same.

Anyway, with the crisis past, we resumed our pub crawl. And a fine crawl it was.

For more pictures, check out the slideshow (sidebar).

Post script

While driving around LA I noticed a new icon had appeared in the corner of Penelope's map. It seemed to depict an intersection: a cross with dotted lines. I pressed it. The map shifted to an ultra close-up view showing outlines of the buildings on both sides of the streets, marked with the street numbers for each building. Even better, you could touch a building and a list of stores and offices in that building would pop up! Now that's cool!