The Valley of Love

LA Day 3. Raining. Postponing our trip to Hollywood until the afternoon because apparently Californians are awful at driving in the rain, and there’s likely to be an accident. Also, apparently people in LA are so unused to rain that at the first two drips out come the umbrellas and raincoats. This is a desert, after all. And the other thing that’s funny – particularly funny for Tasmanian parents who have fought the good fight to buy their children parkas or warm clothing in winter at Target and have found them sold out within the first day – there are enormous quantities of parkas and snow coats in the shops in the mall. Theresa tells me this is quite, quite unneccessary, because it never actually gets that cold. This is a desert, after all.

I do realise that I had, in fact, believed all the stereotypes about LA and completely forgotten the fact that out of all of the city’s 15 million people, many of them (most of them) are very, very normal. Yes, even here in the Valley. It’s a nice neighbourhood with nice schools and friendly people (even with the pumpkin thing). There are, however, a few strange things that I’ve learned about the place.

  1. Sometimes they charge you money so they can insist that you keep your lawn immaculate and your garbage in.

    Theresa says these are fire hydrants. I suspect they come alive at night and roam.

I know. Theresa tells me that they bought a house in an “older” area of the Valley (cicrca 1980s), because if they bought a house built after 2001 then they’d be charged a MONTHLY fee of $200-$500 by the Homeowners Association. This fee then holds them accountable to laws such as the need to have their wheelie bins in by a certain time in the morning (the wheelie bins are HUUUUGE by the way, and collected weekly), the need to have their lawns IMMACULATE (ie no longer than 2cm in length) and their houses in general to be postcard-perfect. Theresa tells me that they used to live in a rented apartment in such a neighbourhood. They didn’t have to pay the fee – that was the owner’s responsibility – but they had to abide by the rules. Theresa says once she put her garbage bags outside the door for twenty minutes while she mopped the floors, and by the the time she got them in again there was a nasty letter taped to her door.

2. They make movies everywhere.

In this previously-rented apartment their little girl went to a local kindergarten. It was in Pasadena. One time Theresa went to pick up her little girl at the end of the school day and found a bunch of strangers there filming a movie. That kindergarten was also used for the remake of the Fame movie, and featured as the orphanage in Stuart Little.  Anywhere is fair game for location shoots.

3. Even in the Valley there are “bad neighbourhoods”.

Yes. When Steve and Theresa first started looking for a house in this area their real estate agent warned them off certain districts, known as the “bad neighbourhoods”. Yeah.
Ummm…yeah. I don’t know how to say this really any better, so I just will. According to the real estate agent a “bad” neighbourhood is such because of…oh no…Small Houses, and…even worse…Train Tracks. (Everybody who lives near me stop laughing now. Pick your jaw off the floor!). Granted, “small houses” are trailer-parks (with all the associated stereotypes) but seriously, these aren’t caravans like we know them: they are literally Small Houses. With gardens, and flowers and all that stuff. Just instead of solid foundations they have wheels.

I think, looking at the place, the majority of suburban Australia, especially the areas built in the post-war era, would be considered a “bad neighbourhood”. And, train tracks? I think that makes most of Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Hobart “bad neighbourhoods”. Its the Valley.

So that’s LA. Today I get to do my best Billy Joel impersonation and “say goodbye to Hollywood” (okay, bad joke). Tomorrow…Sacramento!

Thanks for coming with me on the trip. I’m loving your company!