Saturday, August 30, 2008

Shady Characters: Angela Petrelli & Noah Bennet

Racked up another two Heroes bus posters today, both in West L.A.: Angela Petrelli, spotted on Olympic at Sawtelle, and Noah Bennet, found on Overland at Pico.

Good to see that Angela, after two seasons of providing sterling supporting villainy, has been booted up to a series regular. Great poster, too. However, I'm chagrined to report that I did not manage to get a single shot of the Angela poster that did not feature the phantom image of Morgan Richter, Ace Photographer, reflected in it.


(Good poster of Noah, too. As much as I liked him in the first season, I've been a little down on Noah--HRG, if you prefer--since last season, where he was less "coldly competent enigma" and more "ineffectual dickwad". However, it's a brand new season. As far as I'm concerned, the slate's clean.)

The original plan was to hunt for posters at the beach. I was feeling a little logy from all the walking this week, so I hopped a westbound bus on Wilshire and got off in Brentwood at Barrington, at the site of the Ando poster I found on Wednesday, then started walking towards the beach from there.

Once I crossed into the City of Santa Monica, however, the bus shelters dried up. No bus shelters = no bus posters. I walked down to Santa Monica Boulevard but ran into the same problem there. So I scratched the beach idea and backtracked east to Bundy, then headed south to Olympic, right by the production offices of a narful television show where I used to work (hint: rhymes with "Zamerica's Runniest Foam Gideos"). Went east on Olympic and found Angela right around the cluster of Japanese shops and restaurants that have sprung up in that area. I went south to Pico at Westwood Boulevard, because a) I knew from experience I was entering a long, hot stretch of Olympic with very few bus shelters, and b) by this point I needed to utilize the restrooms at the Westside Pavilion. And there was Noah Bennet, right along the east end of the mall. Headed back on Pico -- saw a duplicate Noah, a duplicate Claire, a duplicate Nathan -- then up Fairfax to home.

So I'm 75% there, with three posters left to find: Sylar, Matt, and Maya. I'm a little surprised Sylar's been so tricky to hunt down; I sort of expected to find his villainous mug plastered all over the place.

Today's mileage: a reasonable 9.7 miles. I'm aiming for even less distance tomorrow: my legs are starting to protest that they need a break, so I think I'm going to cross my fingers and hope I get lucky around the Park La Brea/Hancock Park area.

Onward, upward.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Trifecta: Hiro, Peter, Nathan

Hunted down three more Heroes bus posters today: Hiro, Peter, and Nathan. I found Hiro on Wilshire at Mansfield in the Hancock Park area, Peter on Wilshire at Norton in Koreatown, and Nathan on Olympic and Union just west of downtown.

In light of all the camera trouble I've been having this week, these photos were taken with an Aries digital camera I picked up at Walgreens for a big twenty smackeroos. It's sort of a Fisher-Price My First Digital Camera--it's chunky and plastic, and the resolution, as you can tell, is a little wonky--but you know what? It gets the job done. Runs on two AAA batteries, has ample memory, works just fine. For the price, I have no complaints.

I also spotted another Hiro and another Claire, and a staggering four Mohinder posters (three on Wilshire. Mohinder pwns Wilshire!). Mohinder, my love, it's fantastic seeing your beautiful face plastered about my fair city, but in the interest of me finding the remaining posters before my poor stumpy legs give out, consider ceding some territory to your castmates, okay?

Today's mileage: factoring in some dithering around the downtown area, about an even fifteen.

(It's probably obvious this isn't really about finding the posters, and is more about being frustrated and discouraged and needing some sense of accomplishment. I have too many projects where I don't seem to be making much progress: finding a production job, finishing my screenplay, securing a book agent. I can't seem to complete any of those things right now, but I have a better than even chance of tracking down every single bleeding last Heroes poster. I take my victories where I can find them.)

Today's route: due east on Wilshire from about the 5600 block on the Miracle Mile to Wilshire's downtown origin. It's a good, scenic walk, through Koreatown and MacArthur Park (sing it with me: "Someone left a cake out in the rain..."), past that strange yet awesome mural of Jaime Escalante hugging Edward James Olmos (in costume as Jaime Escalante for Stand and Deliver) on a building at Wilshire and Alvarado, and ending at the cluster of downtown skyscrapers. Once downtown, in keeping with the Heroes theme, I snapped a quick photo of the double helix-esque sculpture at City National Plaza, aka Kirby Plaza.

I hit the Famima!! on Figueroa for restorative cold green tea, a cappuccino cupcake, and a delightful little something called Chicken Curry Fried Bread. Those are four of my favorite words. When you walk fifteen miles, you can eat a fried bread-and-cupcake lunch with impunity.

I walked back on Olympic, past the blocks-long sprawl of construction for the new entertaiment complex rising up next to the Staples Center, through more of Koreatown, retracing part of the route I ran in the 2006 Marathon. Started getting a little bit heat-sick and dazed in the afternoon sun around this time. Detoured south on La Brea to San Vicente, hit Starbucks for a restorative iced coffee (the barristas were unduly gentle and kind with me, which leads me to think I probably looked frazzled and out of my mind), then on toward home. Another cold bath, another blog post.

By my count, there are five posters remaining: Sylar, Noah Bennet, Matt, Maya, and Angela Petrelli. On the positive side, there seem to be more posters going up all the time; on the other hand, the fewer posters I have left to find, the more I'm likely to keep running into repeats. Tomorrow I'll try the beaches.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Hard-Won Blondes: Claire & Niki

Spotted two more Heroes posters today: Claire, located on La Brea at Melrose (kittycorner from Pink's), and Niki, located on Wilshire at La Brea (kittycorner from Luna Park).

Nice posters, both of them. I'm impressed with this ad campaign: it has a nice larger-than-life comic-book feel to it, which is exactly where the show should be heading. I'm also thrilled that thus far none of the promotional material has featured Claire in a cheerleading outfit. Heroes had two chances to drum up an original or interesting or witty cheerleading-related plotline, and they biffed it both times. Here's hoping this season marks the end of high school scenes.

Gmaps Pedometer informs me that the Niki poster is a scant 1.18 miles away from my starting point, whereas the Claire poster is 2.65 miles away.

Gmaps Pedometer also tells me I walked 15.2 miles today in search of these damn posters.

This was today's route: west on Olympic to Robertson to the BP Helios House, which is the snazziest gas station in the history of gas stations. If you don't think a gas station could possibly dazzle you, click on the link.

The original plan was to stick on Robertson north through Beverly Hills to Sunset, but I had the same problem as yesterday: no bus shelters in Beverly Hills. So I shifted east on Third to La Cienega and crossed through West Hollywood instead. Once I reached Sunset Boulevard (very few bus shelters, but plenty of big splashy billboards), I walked east to Crescent Heights (the Virgin Megastore on Sunset is gone, as is the Buzz Coffee in the same complex! When did this happen?), then south to Fountain and over to Fairfax. A brief shimmy south on Fairfax to Melrose, where the ABC shows still have the monopoly on the bus posters in this area -- nothing but Pushing Daisies, Private Practice, Dirty Sexy Money.

(The Jamba Juice on Melrose: gone. Both Jamba Juices in Beverly Hills are gone as well. Hmm...)

East on Melrose to La Brea, and there's where I spotted Claire. And there's where I discovered my digital camera, which held a charge long enough yesterday to take one meager photo of Ando before dying, wasn't even going to give me that today: it was dead.

Headed toward home south on La Brea, which is where I noticed the Niki poster. Got home, recharged my failing little camera, and walked back up La Brea. Snagged Niki, snagged Claire, camera died, went home via the tar pits. Took a cold bath, decided I really need a better camera.

Wrote a blog post about it.

So, four posters down. Eight to go. And I can already hear my dad saying, "If only you devoted this time and energy to studying quantum mechanics..."

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Un-Special Ando!

Found another Heroes bus poster, this one of Ando, located at the bus stop on Wilshire and Barrington in Brentwood. These posters are proving tricky to find -- I spotted this one only after walking through Beverly Hills along Wilshire (a totally wasted effort, as it turns out, because, whilst Wilshire has about eight thousand bus stops through Beverly Hills -- number possibly exaggerated for comic effect -- none of them have bus shelters and hence, no bus posters), then dropping down on Santa Monica to Westwood (another wasted effort -- no bus shelters along that stretch of Santa Monica, either), up Westwood Boulevard to Westwood Village, where I scouted for bus posters around UCLA, then back down to Wilshire again and over to Brentwood. And there was Ando. Managed to snap off one photo before my camera died, then I hopped the bus home.

I could make a snide comment at this point about how a ten-mile walk is a lot of effort just to get a look at a poster of Ando ("Un-special Ando", as Hiro dubbed him in Season One), but heck, I like Ando, I like James Kyson Lee, and I'm thrilled he gets his own damn poster.

Two posters down, ten to go.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Heroes Invasion

At left: Heroes continues its promotional onslaught around Los Angeles. This Heroes-bedazzled building is on Wilshire just west of Fairfax; the TV Guide building on Hollywood Boulevard has received similar treatment. No new individual-character bus stop posters sighted today, though I cut a good swath through Hollywood and West Hollywood on my walk: Wilshire from Fairfax to La Brea, La Brea up to Hollywood, Hollywood over to Highland, Highland down to Santa Monica, Santa Monica over to Fairfax, down Fairfax to Olympic, scrutinizing bus stops all the while. Looks like they’re rolling out the individual-character posters slowly, perhaps to drag out the suspense for people like me. Or perhaps there’s no room left over for Heroes now that Pushing Daisies has blanketed the city with its own bus posters (I counted well over a dozen Pushing Daisies posters along Santa Monica alone. Which is fine--glad to see it survived the strike after all--but it’s the same damn poster! Heroes has twelve different character posters, eleven of which I have yet to spot!). I remain ever vigilant.

Evidently I'm a sucker for a well-done marketing blitz, because tracking down these posters somehow seems very, very important to me right now.

I could really use a job. Or a time-consuming hobby.

On that front, yesterday I finished the treatment for the as-yet-untitled horror film screenplay I’m writing for the ever-fantastic Morgan Dodge (henceforth to be referred to as Boy-Morgan to avoid confusion. When I mentioned to my sister I was working on Morgan’s film, she assumed I was referring to myself in the third person, which would be just awfully special of me). Anyway, the horror film script looks to be in pretty good shape thus far. It’s gory, it’s funny, it’s creepy, it’s loopy. It has judicious doses of both sex and violence. It’s chock-full of needless One Day at a Time homages. It features an adorable chainsaw-wielding school-uniform-wearing Asian punk girl. I’m happy with it, Boy-Morgan is happy with it, and as soon as he gets the thumbs-up on his prospective filming site (much of the plot is pretty location-specific), I’m going to go ahead and blaze through a first draft of it. It’s good to have a project. And this might even be more fulfilling than wandering through the city in search of Heroes posters.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Mohinder is pretty.

I came across this on my walk today: a downright snazzy bus poster of Mohinder from Heroes on the corner of La Cienega and Whitworth.

We're less than a month away from the premiere of Season Three of Heroes, at which time I'll be resuming my weekly episode recaps. In the meantime, my reviews of Volume One can be found here, Volume Two can be found here, and my miscellaneous Heroes-related posts, including my account of meeting those damn pretty cast members--yes, I'm looking at you, Mohinder--during the WGA strike, can be found here.

(For anyone who clicked through, I have precious little to add, other than to note that I get a spike in my blog hits whenever I mention the name "Sendhil Ramamurthy". According to Google Analytics, my most popular post by a landslide is my Ultimate Force guide, which was discovered by ninety-six people using the specific keywords "Sendhil Ramamurthy Ultimate Force" alone. Intriguing...)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Cruel Summer

I took a bad walk yesterday.

The goal was to walk to Burbank. I didn’t make it there.

I’ve been in a funk. It’s August, which is my least favorite month of the year. Los Angeles is too hot and too bright and too dead, and everything smells like the tar pits, or hot metal, or curdled milk and uncollected garbage. I’m unemployed. I can’t figure out how to find a job--I’m living in a vacuum these days, firing off applications and résumés into a void. My book is dead in the water: my last batch of query letters to agents came back in a perfect wave of rejection. I’ve exhausted my list of potential agents, and, as much as the thought of giving up on it makes my stomach ache, I’m out of options. I’ve been struggling with the outline of a screenplay that’s going nowhere. I’ve also been collaborating with a friend on the script for a horror film he’s planning to direct, and while his ideas are flowing fast and furious, my contributions to the creative process have consisted of little more than endless variations on “yeah, that sounds like a good idea.” I promised to update my blog more frequently in August, but for the past two weeks, I’ve been pounding out a lengthy draft of an essay that, in its current form, is so pedantic and humorless and awkward that the back of my neck becomes stiff and prickly whenever I try to revise it.

My brain, in short, is filled with cold, overcooked ramen noodles these days.

Somehow I thought a walk to Burbank might help with this.

I’ve never walked to Burbank. I don’t visit Burbank all that often. I can’t remember the last time I was there. I don’t know what there is to see in Burbank (er… they have a nice IKEA?). But it’s different and unfamiliar, and maybe a change of scenery will give me a much-needed jolt of inspiration. Burbank is one of the cores of the entertainment industry--Disney, Warner, and ABC are all within blocks of each other, with the entire Universal lot only a hop/skip/jump away. Maybe visiting Burbank is just what I need to give myself a kick-start of ambition, a renewal of purpose.

This all hinges, of course, upon being able to make it there. Yesterday, I fell short.

Here’s how it went down:

7:45 AM: I leave my apartment. I’m wearing jeans, t-shirt, Converse, and a lightweight jacket. Too many clothes for mid-August, but I like having as much flesh covered as possible to reduce exposure to the sun and the elements. My face and limbs are liberally sprayed with pore-clogging, chemical-scented 50 SPF sunblock. I have a stupid canvas hat stuffed in my purse--I bought it specifically to shield my face from the sun on long walks like this, but I never wear it. Hats do not flatter me: I have a small body, a big head, and bigger hair, and the addition of a hat turns me into a walking sight gag. Thus, it remains wadded in the bottom of my purse at all times. I’m also carrying Maps 563 and 564, of Glendale/Burbank/Griffith Park, torn out of the 2000 Los Angeles County Thomas Guide.

The maps make this look like a breeze. I’ll bop up Highland until it hits Cahuenga, take Cahuenga to Barham, take Barham until it turns into Olive and runs into Alameda, and hello, beautiful downtown Burbank! But I’ve had problems with Cahuenga in the past, serious problems involving disappearing sidewalks, and from the onset I know this might torpedo my plan. I’m hoping I can make it to Barham before I run out of sidewalk.

This, as it turns out, is optimistic of me.

I’m walking fast. Walking is something I do well. I’m small and bio-mechanically efficient. As a distance runner, I’m slow to middling, but as a distance walker, I’m downright zippy. I don’t swing my arms, or pull my shoulders, or clench my fists, or point my feet in odd directions, or waste energy in any other way. It’s a gradual incline all the way up to Hollywood. The exertion feels good; the frustration ebbs.

9:00 AM: I cross through the Hollywood & Highland center and hit the restrooms, then get back onto Highland and head north into the hills. I make sure I’m on the west side of the street--Highland merges into Cahuenga here, and I remember this becomes sticky. Cahuenga dovetails with the busy 101 Freeway along this stretch. Cahuenga, in fact, is divided in two by the freeway: West Cahuenga and East Cahuenga. West Cahuenga runs alongside the Hollywood Bowl, whereas the sidewalk on East Cahuenga disappears just after the merge with Highland.

I pass the Hollywood Bowl, and it’s already decision time: there’s a crosswalk here in the middle of the street leading to a short bridge over the 101, with East Cahuenga on the other side. No stop sign, no light, just a half-hearted sign advising drivers that maybe they might want to keep an eye out for pedestrians, if they feel so inclined. It’s a bad, bad location to cross: as this is a pass through the hills, with no signals or cross traffic, the cars go fast. Plus, it’s rush hour. There’s no natural ebb-and-flow to the traffic, no pauses where I could conceivably scamper across without forcing cars to stop for me. I remember doing this walk years ago with my sister; we crossed here to the other side and still lost a sidewalk short of our destination. I don’t know if the sidewalk vanishes before or after Barham. The only way to find out is to scurry across.

Nerve fails. The traffic doesn’t pause. I don’t feel like playing Frogger. I continue on West Cahuenga for a short distance until I hit my Waterloo: a pedestrian underpass.

Los Angeles has a few of these scattered around the city: subterranean foot tunnels where pedestrians can cross without disrupting traffic. Most of these are now permanently closed off, the city having evidently reached the conclusion that, gee, this would be a mighty good place to get mugged, or raped, or killed. This particular underpass might or might not be closed; I don’t get close enough to check, because pedestrian underpasses terrify me. I don’t even know where this one leads--all the way under the 101 to the other side of Cahuenga?--and I have no intention of finding out. It hasn’t escaped my attention that I’m the only pedestrian I’ve seen since the Hollywood Bowl. I’m alone up here. I’m not climbing down into the earth, into a dark tunnel, all by myself.

Cahuenga’s a bust. I thought it might be, but now I have confirmation. With a lingering sense of personal failure, I turn around and head back down the hill, back past the Hollywood Bowl, back towards Hollywood Boulevard.

I’m frustrated. I’m angry, a kind of all-encompassing anger without a clear target. Am I mad at myself for not having a car, for being too scared to scamper across Cahuenga, for being too small and too defenseless to risk going into the pedestrian underpass alone? Or am I mad at the city for supporting a car culture to the extent that a major street--the only straightforward connection from Hollywood to Burbank/Universal City--is not navigable by means other than driving?

9:45 AM: Something happens. I’m not sure what, even though I probably saw it happen, but in the rush of ensuing chaos my brain overwrote the images before it had time to convert them into thoughts or memories. Either a car hits a motorcycle, or a motorcycle hits a car, or maybe nobody hits anybody at all, but there’s suddenly a squeal of brakes (I think), the ruckus of a collision (I think), and then there’s a motorcycle careening out of control, spinning across multiple lanes of traffic, and crashing onto the sidewalk about half a block in front of me. Here’s where my memory becomes clear: I’m running toward the fallen motorcyclist, fumbling for my phone to call 911. He’s sprawled across the sidewalk, the motorcycle on its side several feet away from him.

He gets to his feet and shoots me a thumbs-up. No harm, no foul. Relief tastes like stomach acid.

10:00 AM: Back to Hollywood Boulevard. Nerves are jangled, and I’m parched from the walk up the hill, so I duck into Famima!! for something to drink. It’s a shame to visit Famima!! and not pick up a tuna handroll or a steamy pork bun, but I’m not hungry, and sushi doesn’t travel well on a hot summer day. The friendly guy at the counter urges, “Tell all your friends about us!” This breaks my heart a little, because it makes me worry that Famima!! might not be doing well, business-wise, and I love Famima!! madly and would hate to see it disappear. So I’m taking his advice and telling all my friends: Famima!! is an adorable string of Japanese-based convenience stores (Famima!! is short for Family Market, the parent company, and yes, the double exclamation points are very important) that have sprouted up all over Los Angeles. If you pass by one, stop in for iced green tea and a chocolate banana parfait.

Established: Cahuenga is not a viable means to walk to Burbank, but there are other options. It’s hard to get through the Hollywood Hills on foot. Maps 593 and 594 are no help at all, because all I can make out are a tangle of unconnected short drives twisting across the face of the hills, impossible to navigate on foot. But there’s Griffith Park, not far away, and on the other side of Griffith Park lies Burbank. It could work. I head east on Hollywood Boulevard, toward the park.

10:15 AM: Once I’m past the tourist clutter of Hollywood, after the pink stars on the sidewalk have ended, I’m in an ugly stretch of abandoned buildings and convenience stores. Something’s being filmed here. I can tell this from the parked trucks, the beefy guys in shorts setting up lights, the competent young women with clipboards and walkie-talkies. I envy them.

10:25 AM: Thai Town. I can hear it from a block away: a man at a bus stop bellows obscenities at the top of his voice. His shopping cart blocks the sidewalk. A young man is talking to him, or listening to him, or tolerating him. The only way to pass is to cross between them, but I hesitate in the face of all that bellowing. The young man looks at me and smiles and waves me through. “You’re okay,” he says. He gestures towards the man. “He’s okay. He’s…” He spreads his hands--what can you do?--and shrugs, apologetic.

10:40 AM: Two teenage boys stand on the sidewalk, hands cuffed behind them, while two LAPD officers search the front seat of their SUV. Everyone involved seems remarkably nonchalant about whatever’s going on.

10:45 AM: When I put weight on my toes on my left foot, there’s a stabbing, slicing pain in my big toe. It feels like I’ve stepped on a tack, but there’s no way any street debris could penetrate the thick rubber soles of my Converse, so I figure it’s just an oddly-placed blister. If I don’t put weight on my toes, there’s no pain. Problem solved. Later, when I reach home and take off my shoes, I discover a shard of glass has somehow embedded itself in the tough, calloused underside of my toe.

11:00 AM: At Vermont, I head north, past the restaurants and shops of Los Feliz. Outside a sidewalk café, people drink frothy cappuccino and pick at Eggs Benedict and fruit cups, enjoying a leisurely brunch. Once I hit Los Feliz Boulevard, I head east. I’m just south of Griffith Park now, but Griffith Park is a huge, honking sprawl of land, and trusty Maps 593 and 594 indicate there’s no direct route through it until Crystal Springs Drive and Griffith Park Drive at the east end. This is starting to seem like insanity to me. By the time I reach the east end of the park, I will have overshot the city of Burbank entirely and will in fact be just due south of Glendale.

It’s hard for me to shake the growing feeling that I have botched this expedition beyond repair.

11:17 AM: I encounter a man coming down out of the hills. He’s red and flushed and frazzled, a mirror image of myself. “Do you know where Hyperion is?” he asks, with a touch of desperation. I stop and realize with faint horror that my brain is a blank, that I have no idea where Hyperion is, that all I can say for certain is that there is in fact a street named Hyperion somewhere in Los Angeles. I consult Maps 593 and 594. For not the first time today, they are of no help.

“I’m so lost,” the man says. Sir, I know exactly how you feel.

11:30 AM: I get the brilliant idea to veer north onto Griffith Park Boulevard, which sounds like a promising way to gain access to the park and which might even be connected to Griffith Park Drive. Griffith Park Boulevard turns out to be a beautiful little residential street. It meanders uphill and down, then comes to a dead end well outside of Griffith Park. I slump back down to Los Feliz Boulevard.

11:40 AM: The park! I reach Griffith Park, proper, at last. The pony rides are right near the entrance; on a hot afternoon the stench of manure is overpowering, but it’s fun watching the small kids having a wild time riding the ponies around the corral. I get rehydrated at the food stand and assess my options.

Here’s a stumper: There are no sidewalks alongside the major drive through the park, nor is there a significant shoulder to walk on. On the plus side, it’s not like Cahuenga: there’s not a whole lot of traffic, and it looks like it’s certainly possible to walk in the street without getting killed. Still, it’s a little hostile. It dawns on me that I’ve never been in Griffith Park without a car-driving buddy. Griffith Park is not the kind of park you walk through. It’s the kind of park where you drive to the pony rides and park, then you drive to the Los Angeles Zoo and the Autry Museum and park, then you drive to the picnic grounds and park, then you drive to the hiking trails and park. It is, in fact, a very Los Angeles kind of park. There are ways through it on foot, I’m sure of it. On a better day, a day with less sun, a day that isn’t in August, a day where I hadn’t already walked twelve miles prior to reaching this point, I would be game for figuring it out. But right now, I can’t do it. I’ve been wandering in the midday sun for over four hours. If I keep going, the walk will turn into a spiral of exhausted despair. It’s time to call it in.

12:10 PM: I catch a shiny red Rapid bus headed for home. There are good bus karma days, and then there are bad bus karma days. This is one of the latter. It’s a bad bus: crowded and hot. A crazy man takes the seat next to me, moaning and muttering incomprehensibly to himself. He seems harmless enough, but I’m not in the best frame of mind for this. The bus retraces my path and heads down Hollywood Boulevard, past the glut of tourists outside the Chinese Theater, past people dressed like Captain Jack, like Charlie Chaplin, like Marilyn Monroe, like Supergirl, like Heath Ledger’s Joker, like Darth Vader, like a dueling pair of Batmans, all trying to make a buck by posing for photos with tourists. I wonder how profitable this could be. I’m unemployed, and quite frankly, I think I’d make a sterling Batgirl.

12:35 PM: Another crazy man gets on at Sunset, one who makes my muttering seat partner look sane by comparison. Something about August in Los Angeles--the heat and the brightness and the smell of methane--tests the boundaries of the formerly sane and makes the less-sane among us go further around the bend. The new arrival brandishes a cigarette lighter. He flicks it and thrusts the flame in various faces. It’s hostile and aggressive, and it’s building to something. I want off this bus. I want off this bus, now.

12:40 PM: Melrose. Fairfax High School. The bus stops. It’s standing room only, but about thirty or forty students are waiting at the stop, no lie. Claustrophobia mounts. I need to get off the bus. I’m still a couple miles from my stop, but I need to get off. The students stream in through the back door, bypassing the fare box at the front entry, pushing and shoving their way through the people trying to exit. A student shoves me to the side, hard, and calls me a foul name. I shouldn’t take offense--it’s not meant personally, not really. He barely even sees me as he bulldozes through the crowd, boasting loudly and trying hard to show his friends how much of a badass he is. These kids probably aren’t worse than any other large pack of kids, loud and crude and careless and desperate for attention--but right now, for a violent millisecond, I really, really, really want to punch him in the mouth and see him crumple.

Scratch that. Right now, I want to go home and forget about this walk.

I trudge home, exhausted and joyless. My toe hurts. I’m angry. I’m hungry. I probably don’t smell great. I detour to Whole Foods for comfort food: tandoori chicken, yuzu fruit-flavored sparkling sake, mocha soy ice cream. The comfort food options at Whole Foods are often wonky, yet still effective at boosting my spirits.

1:30 PM: I’m home. I don’t even stick my groceries in the fridge before stepping into a cold shower to wash off the salt and dirt and grease of Hollywood, the shiny chemical film of my sunblock, the stink of exhaust from my hair.

Burbank is still a pipe dream. Maybe if I try again, but this time steer clear of Cahuenga altogether, maybe if I walk around the Hollywood Reservoir on Lake Hollywood Drive, then somehow snake my way through the hills until I meet up with Barham further down the road… maybe something like that would work. Because it seems important right now to grab some little success out of the air somewhere, some distraction from the string of non-accomplishments: the book, the blog, the job hunt, the dueling screenplays.

I have trouble forming conclusions sometimes. Here is the point where I should draw all the threads of this essay together into a tidy summation of my themes, but for the life of me, I have no idea what it all means. Instead, I’ve come up with a selection of possible conclusions. Choose the one that best suits your mood:

a) Sometimes Los Angeles really sucks when you don’t have a car.
b) Sometimes I have difficulty telling the difference between erring on the side of caution and cowardice.
c) High school students are often mean little rat bastards.
d) Famima!! is an excellent and reasonably-priced source of tasty foodstuffs.
e) I should probably find a job soon before I lose what’s left of my marbles.

Here’s the one I’m going with, though: The coda to this story is that I arrived home to find a spirit-raising package from my sister waiting on my doorstep: Japanese coffee, Indian food, tubes of pesto and sun-dried tomato paste, a jar of roasted red peppers, the Death Note movie, and her beloved Duran Duran Rio t-shirt. Therefore, my conclusion is simply this:

f) Los Angeles may sometimes suck, but my sister is consistently awesome.

Thank you, Ingrid.