old & new
Last week a friend's colleague, Mike, invited anyone with equal levels of insanity to participate in an end-to-end trek of Wilshire Blvd. The idea was born as a way to celebrate his ten year anniversary as an Angeleno, having worked on the boulevard since his arrival. I was drawn to it immediately. Although I've never planned an epic walk, I am prone to them in bouts of spontaneity, though usually occurring in NY. Until now mine had always been a solo stagger - how to employ the buddy system when the walk provides no answer? Face it, your friends are lazy - they might walk the equivalent of 16 miles in back/forth pacing at Sunset Junction, but no way are they going to consciously string those steps together into consecutive motion. That's why you need strangers. Fellow strollers who are happy to do, just to do. In this case the strangers were friends of friends and faithful readers of Mike's LA-motifed blog. About 30, to not be exact. All ~30 gathered early Saturday morning to make their way from the unplaceable smells of downtown to the [equally unplaceable smells masking the] cool ocean breeze. That would not include me, as I had to cut out early with prior commitments. (I also had an early morning soccer match on Sunday, one which a post 16-mile walked body would not agree with!)
Wilshire is my most particularly special of LA streets. When I thought of ten years in LA I realized that I'm a few months away from my own ten year mark with Wilshire Blvd. Three years spent intrigued by Wilshire from afar, and the past seven living on its parking restricted edge.
When I was 20 I fell into my first "real" job with the Associated Press in NY, assisting in photo research for every piece of media outside of traditional newspapers. One of our bigger clients was E! Entertainment, and I addressed more fedex slips to "5670 Wilshire Blvd" than any other vendor in my 2 1/2 years there. As part of my job I was the liaison to our Los Angeles office. This was, yes sadly, the first time I'd considered the rest of the country. I had never been west of Ohio and the phrase "time zone" only inspired thoughts of what time a particular TV show was going to air. (Tonight, at 8pm, 7pm Central!)
"California is better!" filled my ears whenever speaking with the LA office. I soaked up the sell, ignoring other calls & wearing the doe eyes I only would have had back then. Intrigue led to action, and in early 1998 I arrived in LA to see for myself. My first day there I was driven down Wilshire Boulevard, and I spotted that familiar shipping address laid out in concrete on the front of the very visible E! Entertainment building. I was "so excited." In August of '99 I took another vacation to Los Angeles, and as I'd just quit my job I decided to get a one way ticket and stay until I felt like going home. Cut to: Two months later, after getting a job at CBS and signing up for west side rentals, vacation was a mute term. I moved into an apartment on the Miracle Mile, which I'd previously only known as random words in "that Billy Joel song." (Sidetrack to Wikepedia - did you know HIS Miracle Mile is actually in Massachusetts? But those lyrics are so LA! Bummer.)
And that's how Wilshire Blvd became mine. I loved and love my stretch of Wilshire, with enough tall and historic buildings to ease my transition from the beats-all beauty of New York City. I loved being so close to the "E!" building - it was familiar to me when the rest of the city was scary and new. I would usually walk home from CBS at night, and instead of learning direction I would lazily follow the bright red "E!" icon in the sky. Early the following year "E!" moved down the street. The lettering as well as the sign came down, and I must have been one of the saddest to see it go.
Seven of the fastest years later, time to pay homage. On a better day I would have foot it whole, maybe someday...