August 2, 2008

Drive-by photography — L.A.

It wasn't all fisheye photography in L.A. I don't always have my big SLR camera at hand, but I do always have my Sony DSC-T9 at hand and often in hand — where it fits as easily as a deck of cards. It was fun to use the T9 from the passenger seat. Yes, on my trip to L.A., I had the benefit of never driving. So I was always looking at the scenery — fascinating, because we avoided the freeway — and seeing things to snap. Here are my 4 favorite drive-by shots:

1. (Enlarge.) A chance collage that seems to have everything: Marilyn, Elvis, the Beatles, a dog, an ATM machine, a traffic light, Thai food, Mexican food, a smiling guy waiting for the Metro, graffiti, "sop," "flo," "order now," a manly arm receiving a California tan. Yes, of course, it's cropped. (Uncropped.)

Traffic Montage

2. (Enlarge.) Like Madison, Wisconsin, and unlike NYC, L.A. has signs telling you the names of the neighborhoods. Here you see a sign for Thai Town. Under the sign are 2 women. Neither appears to be Thai. They look like hardworking individuals — do they have jobs that require white shirts and long blue pants? — waiting for the bus. The apt words "Working World" appear on a newspaper vending box. There's also the L.A. Times, and 2 women in shorts and flip-flops who don't seem to have to go to work. I love the colorful buildings — ocher and pink on one side and white-orange-blue Mondrian-inspired on the other. I love the checked sidewalk in pink, white, and 2 shades of gray. Fruit, palm trees, street lights, quintuple traffic lights. A very blue sky resonates with a blue sign that says "Western." There's a smaller sign that says "Hollywood/Western" and I know those are the intersecting streets, but it makes me think of a Hollywood western, and then I notice the black and white photographs of actressy models in the windows in the lower left corner and return to the rock-solid women waiting for the bus.

Thai Town

3. (Enlarge.) I only wanted to drive by Grauman's Chinese Theater, so my feelings vibrated with the pink-haired girl who was just trying to slurp up some caffeine and get home with her groceries. I love her squinty sneer as she slump walks past the Jack Sparrow impersonator and toward the hands (like mine) pointing a tiny camera at the scene. In a differently pink shirt, to the right of the shot, we see a woman who's happy to play the tourist and take a shot of her friend who's about to attempt a movie-star pose while standing on a sidewalk star. (And it would have been a better picture if we could see the friend posing, as we can in the next shot.)

You can be excited about Grauman's Chinese Theater or not

4. (Enlarge!) On our way to LAX, we pass a famous icon, the giant doughnut at Randy's Donuts, that Wikipedia informs me — in a ludicrously somber tone — "dates back to a period during the mid-20th Century that saw a proliferation of programmatic architecturely designed buildings throughout Southern California that were made in the shape of the products they sold." And I'm not going to perseverate —or proliferate any programmatic perorations — about the proper spelling of "doughnut." It's "doughnut." I established that rock-solidly — architecturely? — here.

Randy's Donuts


vbspurs said...

"programmatic architecturely designed buildings throughout Southern California that were made in the shape of the products they sold."

OH! Ann, you HAVE to go to Pink's Hot Dog stand.

The reason I am reminded, is that I immediately thought of the other iconic hot dog stand, Tail o' The Pup, which was one of those shaped-like-a buildings.

From their site:

Alas, Tail O' the Pup was forced to close in early 2006 when the owner of the property refused to renew the famous hot dog stand's lease. (They plan to develop condominiums and a retirement community for gays & lesbians on the site.)

LOL. And yet so sad.

Glad to see you are having exceptional weather!


Chip Ahoy said...

buildings throughout Southern California that were made in the shape of the products they sold

The building is in the shape of a building and not in the shape of a torus. It's an ordinary building with a great big three dimensional sign on top. That's all. End pedantry.

Ann Althouse said...

Victoria, you missed a key phrase: "On our way to LAX."

Ann Althouse said...

Now, I'm reminiscing about the giant Uniroyal tire which I saw many times as a kid and which makes me realize why I wasn't that impressed by Randy's doughnut. When I saw it, I thought it might be the famous L.A. icon, but I also thought it might just be a pale imitation of the famous thing, which seemed as though it should be a whole lot bigger. And if you want to impress me, I would like it to have been a ferris wheel once.

Ann Althouse said...

Looks like somebody needs to edit Wikipedia.

vbspurs said...

Ack. Frankie say LAX. Oh well. It was a great tour of LA whilst it lasted.

Happy flying.

Randy said...

Amazing. I've been to every one of those places listed in Wikipedia. All the same, none compare to the Brown Derby.

Paddy O. said...

More donutty programmatic is the Donut Hole in La Puente.

vbspurs said...

Randy, that's really impressive! (Even to the Longaberger basket HQ?).

I clicked on the programmatic architecture link, which took me to Googie architecture.

I had never heard of such a thing, but it turns out, we all of us can instantly recognise it as where the Jetsons lived.

Googie, also known as populuxe or doo-wop, is a subdivision of futurist architecture, influenced by car culture and the Space Age and Atomic Age, originating from Southern California in the late 1940s and continuing approximately into the mid-1960s. The types of buildings that were most frequently designed in a Googie style were motels, coffee houses and bowling alleys."

Curiously, Google's site is retro-post-Googie. It's funky, but clean, and yet attempts to take itself seriously by not doing so, all at the same time.


Maxine Weiss said...

You don't want to hear this, but:

All the weird characters in front of Graumanns, the costumed apparitions.....are paid performers.

They wanted to create the look of an "edgy" street scene. They wanted something more than tourists just mulling about. And, they pay to create that. Everybody you see in costume--all the street performers---totally hired by Graumanns (Hollywood Highland Corp.)....actually I think it's the CRA Community Redevelopment Assn. so some of it's public tax money that's paying for it.

Honey, it's all fake.

The traffic jams are real, though. The oppressive smog and pollution, that's real. The cement is honest to goodness genuine concrete.

The edgy, costumed, street-performers.......all bought and paid for !

Trooper York said...
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Randy said...

That would be impressive, Vics, but I meant the donut shops mentioned in the first Wikipedia link.

Trooper York said...
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ricpic said...

City wacky
City mad
City boiling in the sun
City too much and even more --
Why is it then that as I leave you I feel a pang?
L.A. au revoir.

TitusBlue Devils said...

I love those kind of buildings.

Did you have an in and out burger when you were in LA? Yum....

TitusBlue Devils said...

I only get my information from conservipedia. Wiki is too liberal and slanted for me.

TitusBlue Devils said...

What other restaurants have cool buildings?

I used to like the Stucky's buildings when I was little.

Is Stucky's still around?

TitusBlue Devils said...

I had sex last night.

Trooper York said...
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John Stodder said...

ah, the most photographed icon of LA, Randy's Donuts. Our Statue of Liberty. Our St. Louis arch.

there's actually a pretty good drive-thru mexican place on the same lot.

Mr. Sal Monella said...

Everything is staged to provide "atmosphere"...atmosphere run amuck, but who cares, especially if the people keep coming.

They even pipe in canned laughter and artificial rustling noises to further set the mood.

If you see crowds of people gathered around, and hear loud laughter and whoops......that must be the place to be !

Even the killings and the stabbings are staged, for the sole purpose of adding to the gritty, urbane reality of it all.

David said...

Nice crop job on the "manly arm" photo.

Junk to funk in a few easy snips.

ricpic said...

I had sex with a donut
Then I washed my hog
Then I had sex with an in and out burger
Then I laid a log

Mr. Sal Monella said...

Here's your problem with programmatic architecture: If I don't want donuts, they've lost my business for anything else they might offer besides.

It both attacts and repels.

Mr. Sal Monella said...

Or, I might desire donuts, but not have to be reminded about my sinful desire.

You never want your advertising to be that overt and brazen.

Trooper York said...
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Trooper York said...
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TitusBlue Devils said...

I did it in a Dunkin Donuts bathroom once with a guy I met in the coffee line.

ricpic said...

Beat me baby,
Beat my buns,
Quick! in the bathroom
For good clean fun.

Trooper York said...
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TitusBlue Devils said...

Ricpic and Troop are true poets and artists.

Susan said...

Here in Mount Dora, Florida we have a
cute little building shaped like an orange
.  It's a fixer-upper.

Chet said...,0,5187708.story

Stupe said...

Michael_H said...

Donuts and hot dogs. The vagina and penis of food porn dreams.

blake said...

No interesting houses on your routes?

If you drove west on Sunset from West Hollywood you would've seen those massive future mansions going up on one lot. They look to be about 10K and 8K square feet, respectively. (I assume the 8K one is the servant's quarters.)

They've been building it for over two years. The family that's waiting for it must be getting tired of the Holiday Inn.

Middle Class Guy said...

TitusBlue Devils said...
I had sex last night.

2:37 PM
Trooper York said...
Did it involve a donut?

Did it involve a canoli!

Jack said...

The oppressive smog and pollution

What are you talking about. The city is no different from any other big city.

In fact it has vastly improved.

Kev said...

I clicked on the programmatic architecture link, which took me to Googie architecture.

Did anyone else misread this as "Google" architecture for a second? Part of me thought "I wonder what this company will get into next," while another part of me thought that a Google house would be cool; you'd never lose anything because of the advanced search function. ;-)

Titus--Stuckey's is still around, though in a much smaller form than in its heyday. I've seen the Stuckey's name attached to a fairly ordinary-looking travel center just outside of Waco, Texas; ironically, it's maybe one exit south of the site of a long-closed original Stuckey's. The building's still there, but it's boarded up, and I'm pretty sure it serves only as a repository of farm equipment at the moment.

blake said...

>>In fact it has vastly improved.

Yeah, we rarely have the smog alert days any more. Over ten years since the last one. Which is impressive if it's true that it's down from over 100 just ten years earlier.

I don't remember there ever being that many.

But due to our geography, and without rain to clean it, our air gets pretty schmutzy.

Richard Fagin said...

Did you catch the "El Tomate" and the "Pupusa Loca" in the first picture? My ex wife was from "that part" of town in Corpus Christi, TX. After 15 years of visits to the in-laws, my first trip to Mexico was startling, even astonishing: it didn't seem even one tiny bit like being in a different country.

Theo Boehm said...

Hollywood & Western! Here's a Charles Bukowski Hollywood tour video, hosted by the great man himself, back in 1985. This is the LA of my memory.  Of course I left So. Cal. 28 years ago.

From Althouse's picture, looks like the place has come up a bit.  And what's this about no smog??

Jeez!  I'll have to reconsider my LA-hate.

blake said...

I've been down on Hollywood and Western quite a few times in the last decade--hell, in the last year--and never noticed it had been labeled "Thai Town".

They throw those street signs up like crazy.

blake said...


There are different things to hate about L.A. these days.

Hollywood is rather cleaned up but still pretty freaky-friendly. North Hollywood was revitalized. The surrounding media-heavy areas are all pretty kept up these days.

The air is cleaner. I can't remember the last time my lungs or even eyes were set to burning by mere smog. (Discounting heavy ash from nearby brush fire.)

There are new things to hate, however. Population density has gone up, but infrastructure has not been scaled appropriately, so "rush hour" extends for about 4-5 hours in the evening and 4-5 in the morning.

There's a strong push to turn areas into mini-Manhattans. I hope this will die down when gas prices drop again. (Not because I have anything against Manhattan, but because it'll result in a bunch of kitschy mini-versions of it.)

Other than that, though, the changes have been for the better, I think.

238912398n32n49823b said...

I worked at that Inglewood donut shop on its last day as Big Donut Drive In. This was back when you gave free donuts to the police. It had been bought by the Pup & Taco company, which used part of the parking lot to build a Pup & Taco behind it.

A hit and run driver ran into the left drive-through window area early one morning while the baker was making the donuts. He hit a giant proofer that must have weighed a ton, and it in turn hit other equipment and the whole interior was destroyed. The female passenger got into the driver's seat and backed the car out of the building, somehow managing not to pop the tires, picked up the drunk driver, who was wandering around the parking lot at this point, and zoomed off into the morning sunrise. They were never caught. The baker was stunned but unharmed.

When I arrived for work the police were investigating and a vice president of Pup & Taco was sobbing in the parking lot. He was the son of the founder of Big Donut, and he must have known his father's last shop would never reopen.

I was glad that Randy's preserved the building (and painted the pigeon droppings off the donut). There are other more-or-less intact Big Donut buildings around Southern California, or at least there were back then, but this was the last one to carry the name.