Hollywood Boulevard is not all fancy theatres, red carpets and stars. Much of it is pretty run down and has a lot of adult shops and a lot more homeless people.
Going through my notes that I made on my travels (not as many as I wished that I had) I stumbled across the account of a time I spent in a cafe on Hollywood Boulevard. My husband was having his hair cut in The Fade Inn Barbershop so I went for tea at Sabor y Cultura while he got himself groomed. I was the only person using pen and paper, and the oldest one there by at least 20 years. It was the music that made me feel that this was the place for me. Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head; Love Potion Number 9; Under the Boardwalk; You Were Made for Me; Downtown and McArthur Park. I could have stayed there all day.
Customers were mostly 30 something white and male and unlike most of the other people we met in LA did not appear to be resting actors. One guy was meticulously sticking pictures on to small cubes, others mostly seemed to be freelancers using the cafe as their office. They may have escaped corporate life, yet, as there were very few communal tables, had exchanged a cubicle for a table of one’s own in a cafe with free wifi.
As an older woman I was invisible to them so it was easy to people watch and make up lives for them. Indeed a place I could write a novel.
There was art for sale, laptop leads trailing across the floor, a hum of creativity. Lots of herbal tea and coffee. The notice board carried ads for charity walks and live music events. It may have been full of 20 and 30 something geeks, but these guys were just like the people I hung out with in the 70’s. Just a lot more geeky. With tech.
I liked it there, the 70’s was my era, and, if you are ever on Hollywood Boulevard step away from the bright lights, head towards Hollywood and Western and stop off at Sabor y Cultura and support this indie. Fortunately this place has not changed since I was there, unlike the best diner we went to in LA (see below).
Along this stretch there were a few good Thai restaurants, and further up past Hollywood and Western you are in Thai town, 5 minutes south you are in Little Mexico. The food at all of these was incredibly cheap and very good, lots of motels around here, some seedier than others, yet I never felt unsafe.
On our first day there we were so scared of LA we thought getting to Starbucks for a nasty tea and muffin without being mugged was a bonus. After 5 days we were living like locals eating bacon and eggs and pancakes with maple syrup for breakfast at Angels Restaurant. Family run, excellent food and as many coffee refills as you can take.
While they have retained the 70’s diner look (it looks as if everything is brand new) it has fancy food on fancy plates and no doubt the photograph of the fountain used in Friends has gone too. Such a shame. The area was having a clean up when we were there but this is not progress in my opinion and makes me quite sad. Change isn’t always for the better and I cannot believe how much this has upset me.
This is where the real people live and work on minimum wage, not 10 minutes walk away from the fake glitz and glamour of the Chinese Theatre where wannabes dress up as Darth Vadar and charge punters to have photos taken with them (we got this one free). Real people like Bon and Brian who worked at Coral Sands Motel, who sent most of their wages home to family they had left behind in the Philippines. They were so kind to us when we had our own Hotel California moment. We could check out, but due to the grounding of the Qantas fleet, we could never leave.
The Coral Sands Motel, was opposite a clinic where addicts queued each morning and next to a shopping mall with Starbucks and a supermarket. It was undergoing renovation when we were there in October 2011, yet they seem to have kept the mirrors at bed level. Can’t think why!
What seemed to be a disaster at the time became an opportunity thanks to these guys. Brian drove to the airport so we could return the hire car and get a lift back to the motel with him. The manager gave us a phone for our room, at no extra charge, so we could call Qantas 24/7 to see when we could fly to New Zealand . They all suggested places to visit which we had not covered in our original whistlestop sightseeing LA tour.
We travelled on the clean, safe and unstaffed Metro, got to see Union Station and explored Little Tokyo. And the icing on the cake being in town for the West Hollywood Carnaval. We got to Santa Monica Boulevard by public bus (only poor people use the bus) yet that night as the streets were closed, carnaval goers took the bus too. I was sat next to Marilyn Monroe and opposite 3 witches. I may even have seen Elvis. We had many interesting experiences in California but this was definitely the most memorable.
I will never forget their kindness and understanding. There are kind people all over the world. Even in LA.
And it wouldn’t be Hollywood without a cheesy picture.