Those Letters

Ever since I came to Los Angeles in 2012, I have been fascinated by the Hollywood sign. I dragged my parents up there in the scorching summer heat, up countless winding private roads, (parking is at the foot of the hill); it’s always the first stop when friends come to visit and I have always wanted to admire its backside. How many weekends have I spent planning the route… It’s a hiking route, which you can also bike, but it’s extremely steep, and there are many forks where you have to simply decide left or right.

For months now, I’ve been printing out pictures, directions, hints, tips and advice pages, but my insecurity always got the best of me. I was afraid to not find parking, do it alone, get lost, hurt, or something I hadn’t taken into consideration. I don’t currently own a car and would have to take the bus for about two hours to even get anywhere close to the sign. Last weekend, I rented a car. As I do almost once a month – just to do the heavy grocery shopping and far-away sightseeing (far-away as in “inconvenience”, not “distance”).

The last time I took a trip up to Griffith Park and the observatory, from which you can hike to the sign, was in January. I had proposed the idea to myself that an early-morning start would be a good idea. I could catch the sunset at Griffith, witness how the sun starts warming up the city and dip the cold blue sky in a golden hue. I saw it alright. I was up there at 6 am. And it was already crowded. Not Sunday afternoon crowded, but not what you expect of 6 am either!

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I was too chicken to hike up to the sign that morning though. I thought “it’s barely light outside; I’m all by my lonesome – what if a stranger jumps out from behind a tree on that long and lonely hiking trail”. To make sure my thoughts, fears and hunches were justified, I googled when not to hike the Griffith trail. Just as with any illness you google for yourself, it says exactly what you were afraid of (which doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s right): Don’t go at night and if you’re a woman, don’t go by yourself. Great.

So I waited. Until I had someone to go with. The problem was that nobody ever wants to get up early to hike to the Hollywood sign with me. It’s a whole thing- you have to do it early because otherwise it gets too crowded and too hot, and you cannot find parking anywhere. Plus, it’s also a way of meditation – early morning hiking has something cleansing about it. I had convinced our interns to come with me (yeih- triumph). So this time at least, I wouldn’t go alone, and they would have the chance to see the sign as well.

To make this even clearer: this is something I have been wanting to do for almost 3 years: Hiking to the BACK of the Hollywood sign. This is as close as you can get. You can almost touch the letters. How many people have promised me “oh, I’ll take you there”, “no worries, you’ll see it”, “it’s easy”. Guess how many of those went with me… Exactly.

We didn’t leave as early as I had hoped or planned, but there was still plenty of time. It wasn’t the same feeling either because they weren’t on the same page as I was. They hadn’t been waiting for this moment, planning it out, imagining it in their head, created imaginary profile pictures with the sign in the background. They still enjoyed it, no doubt, but there was something missing.

As one of my work colleagues said the other day “those letters MEAN something to you”.

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Actually, they mean everything to me. The overlook where I live, they imply a certain lifestyle. They carry a history, and are what LA dreamers imagine in their creative phases. It’s a rock in this crazy town – something that has always been there, that has changed, but that most likely won’t leave because it’s so characteristic of Tinsel Town.

The hike was everything but magical, creative or life-altering. It was actually quite exhausting. After about 45 minutes one way, and my well-prepared and much-appreciated instructions on which trail to take, we bent around a corner on top of Mount Lee. I was talking to one of the interns, and didn’t even realize the large life-size letters to my right. I missed them.

When I turned around startled “oh”, I was confused… this is it? No sun bursting through the clouds? No angel choir singing Halleluja? No one applauding that I’d finally done it? I guess here you really have to do EVERYTHING yourself.

Hiking to the back of the Hollywood sign is STILL on my list of things to do. I haven’t scratched it off yet because I refuse to believe that bending around that corner and seeing those letters can be anything less than magical.

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(#My500Words Day 19)

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