After being very amused by Wolfgang Puck's face grinning at me from my coffee cup (Remember when he used to actually cook for a living?) we headed to the Fairfax area. Luggage was out of the convertable's trunk, so we took the top down to enjoy the blue skies and warmth. Larry wanted to see the La Brea Tar Pits.(Probably from hearing Johnny Carson make so many jokes about them, and doesn't that age us?) Mercifully, we were just ahead of several busloads of school trip groups. The Page Museum was a lot of skeletons pulled from the pits, although we managed to get roped in by a zealous docent who was quite interesting to listen to as he talked about the big find of a mastedon skeleton which was announced to the public yesterday. He took us over to the lab area, where you can see people working to clean tar off the fossils. Pretty cool.
From there, we walked over to Pit 91, where a docent told us more about what goes on behind the scenes. There are huge trailers full of fossils they're still going through. And yes, a pool of tar looks about what you'd expect it to-
The enormous LA County Art Museum is right next door, but they don't open till noon for some reason. Dan had wanted to go to the Peterson Automotove Museum on the next block. We were very amused when a guard at the art museum told us it was a far walk since we had to go the long way around--a distance that took us a bit more than five minutes. People in LA don't seem to walk much in their daily lives, except when in exercise clothes. There is a bus system, but we saw very few people actually using it.
The Peterson had an exhibit tracing how the use of cars shaped the growth of LA, which really did help put the city into perspective. LA feels very strange to me--there are lovely streets of small Arts and Crafts and California-style houses, cool Bauhaus-style apartments, but few attractive nearby small business areas to serve them. And rarely pedestrians. The main avenues are largely ugly, with groups of chain stores in flat-front low buildings, small strip malls and very little in the way of "street scene" as I would see in Boston, New York, San Francisco, Chicago. Definitely a city that was influenced by the constant use of the car.
From the Peterson, we drove (heh) the short distance to the Farmer's Market, and wandered around so everyone could choose lunch from a stall. Sure its touristy, but there were also business people meeting for lunch, groups of young moms with babies, people with shopping bags from the nearby stores. I was very happy with fish tacos.
We had seen online that the Warner Bros. studio had spaces in the afternoon tours, although the unhelpful website and even less helpful person on the phone would not let us buy them. Luckily, we were able to get on a tour when we asked at the studio. We enjoyed the drive over there, going through lots of different neighborhoods--an Armenian area, an Ethiopian neighborhood, the old Jewish neighborhood on Fairfax, the gritty Sunset neighborhoods through Hollywood, and then Burbank. First we saw a short film about the studio and their most popular movies and tv shows. We then boarded our little trolley with our personable guide. We saw many of the outdoor sets, the street facades that get changed and used over and over again. The exterior hospital set from ER was there in all it's fake grime, and started counting how many times the guide could fit George Clooney's name into his patter.
We saw the outdoor sets used in Friends, ER, Back to the Future, the cafe from the flashback scene in Casablanca, Gilmore Girls, Sarah Conner Chronicles, The Mentalist, etc. We were taken to an indoor set where they shoot some show I'd never seen with Charlie Sheen, and heard about how sitcoms are filmed. Then more outdoor sets, a warehouse of cars used for Batman, Gran Torino, Harry Potter, and other movies, the prop building, the coffeeshop set from Friends which they kept. Gee, a photo op!
Although it was a slow day on the lot since many shows were on haitus, it was interesting to see people going about their business--loading unwanted props onto a truck for resale, discussing a set for Sarah Connor Chronicles, getting glimpses into sound stages for movies that will have millions pumped into them that will probably go straight to DVD if they're not picked up by a distributer. Interesting to hear about all the tendrils from the entertainment industry that go into other businesses in LA.
We ended up at their small museum, which had costumes, props (the Maltese Falcon!) and some very entertaining memos and letters from Jack Warner. There was a whole upstairs of stuff from the Harry Potter movies, but I never made it up there. The tour was expensive ($45 per person!) but we all thoroughly enjoyed it, and learned a lot about the movie and tv business.
Headed back west toward Santa Monica, but first made a stop to satisfy the boys' request to see the Hollywood sign. Afterwards, went driving through more neighborhoods--Koreatown, a Mexican neighborhood, then onto the highway. Where we enjoyed the sunset from a traffic jam.
Headed over to the Pier in Santa Monica, and then the Promenade. Looked at menus for dinner, but nothering thrilled us. Finally wound up at at Musha, a Izakaya (Japanese bar food) place on Wilshire. Lively, loud, young crowd. You order small plates to share, and try to pace things so they come out 1-2 at a time. Some things were more successful than others--the yellowtail sashimi was incredibly wonderful, as was a "dip" of chopped raw tuna with crisp rice cakes, and a noodle dish with garlic. The salad we had was overdressed, and a duck dish was just dull. Still, a fun, interesting meal.