Underneath a heavy June gloom, on a cross street off Sunset Blvd, the sidewalk is pockmarked with the black remains of chewing gum. Is it that people on near-derelict blocks are more likely to spit out their gum? Or is it that such blocks are cleaned so infrequently human waste builds up, a film of spilled soda and urine and soot that just also happens to include the odd wad of gum?
A building in an intermediate state of abandonment spills torn cushions, rebar, insulation foam and chunks of fiberglass into its inner courtyard. A chain link fence is covered with a modest black gauze. The screen doesn’t hide the disrepair. It just keeps it in shadow.
I’m fleeing the Customer Service Representative at Toyota of Hollywood, who, when asked whether they regularly check the alignment, said in a tone dripping with condescension: “No, there’s a special machine for checking alignment.” As if repairing my micro-chipped car doesn’t require endless special machines. As if only a woman would ask such a basic question. They should check the alignment. My alignment is out of whack.
They speak down to me at the dealership in part because I’m a woman, in part because I always wear jeans to drop off my car and in part because I walk off the premises instead of using their near-useless shuttle service. I would rather walk through Hollywood. What I’m trying to say is that part of loving a city is looking at it very carefully. I look at the gum on the sidewalk, and the guy sitting in a suit outside Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles, and the newly whitewashed Siren Studios building, and the faded, drooping canvas signs for twelve dollar noodle specials. I look at the Denny’s. I have come to believe that there is a special sub-culture of Denny’s-goers in Los Angeles. Denny’s is always crowded. I have never gone in.
As I walk by Denny’s, I smell the unmistakable scent of the ocean. I’m fifteen miles from the sea. It’s like one of those parabolic imperfections in the domes of cathedrals that lift a sound and drop it, unmolested and crystal clear, into the ear of a listener on the other side. An imperfection in the marine layer lifted a gulp of kelp and salt and fish and dropped it onto the wood siding outside Denny’s in Hollywood. I live by the ocean, but I don’t see it very often.
I should go inside, I should go see why so many people eat at Denny’s, but I’m sure it would break the spell. So I just walk around the fake-Wild-West strip mall for a little bit and then walk back to pick up my car.