S W A S H B U C K L E R
on the West Coast
The horrible news of the death of Jerry Goldsmith came the first morning of my stay here in Altadena, which is part of the greater Los Angeles area. Goldsmith grew up around here, and so I decided to take a walk while listening to some of the music that I am most thankful for by the Great Ponytailed One.
I printed up a map and took a walk.
Nobody walks in L.A.
I found out why.
First of all, there are the distances. One can walk and walk and walk and not really get anywhere (has anybody out there ever watched a cat drinK?). The distances are vast. At least on Long Island, you can walk a while and eventually you'll hit some damn thing or other, but not here.
Second of all, there is the fact that, while there is a nice, protective layer of fog in the morning, it burns off by the afternoon and the sun beats down on you like you owe it money.
I made the mistake of taking a walk down the hill that is Lake Avenue, almost to the highway. It wasn't going downhill in the morning that was the problem. It was walking uphill in the afternoon that nearly killed me.
Now, I've taken care of the sunburn issue... yes, my face is red.
The film that most accurately captures what this area looks like during the day is Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye. Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond pioneered the process of "flashing" the film, that is exposing the undeveloped negative to additional, pure light, which literally dampens blacks and softens colors, but gives an extremely bright image... and it is excruciatingly bright around here. It doesn't look anything like the Tony Scott portrayal of L.A. as a sundrenched paradise. It sure as hell is sundrenched, though.
I now understand what smog really looks like. You literally can't see the views around here until later in the day because of the fog, but then there is an obscuring haze. It really is obnoxious, reminding me of that line from The Limey, "This would be a great view if you could see it."
I have no qualms, by the way, about using movies as reference points. This place became something because of the fact that the film industry moved here to avoid rain, unions and taxes, and there are so many pictures shot here, one can almost say that the film industry matured the L.A. area (if you want to call it maturation, anyway).
One can find all the answers at Zombo.com. Check it out.