Route 66 Day 1: Trouble in Tinseltown

Today marks the first day of my Route 66 journey, which will take me from all the way across the country from Los Angeles to Chicago. I will do my best to posting daily updates as I make my way east. I not exactly sure what to expect out on the road, but it will be an amazing experience to see what this huge country has to offer. So without further ado, I give you day one:

We arrived at LAX at around 11:30am on a flight from JFK. I made the decision to purchase the in-flight wifi and I do not regret it in the slightest. The flight time was 5 hours and during that time there was never a moment I was bored. I had my music, I had my sudoku in the in-flight magazine, and I had (almost) full access to the world wide web. The wifi allowed me to surf pretty much any website and I was able to check my email, Facebook, and Twitter accounts. I was even able to write a post on Bradley Manning from the comfort of my economy class seat. The downside is that the service doesn’t allow for streaming video, so I had to hold off on Netflix and Youtube. My main issue with the wifi is that they charge the same price for using it regardless of whether the flight is two hours or ten hours. So while I don’t usually spring the extra money for wifi when I’m traveling between New York and Chicago, on longer flights it is totally worth the cost.

So everything went smooth with our arrival at LAX and at the car rental my family and I picked out a Ford Taurus as our trusty steed for the long journey ahead. The first leg was a short one; up to our hotel in Hollywood. The ride was stereotypical LA, complete with the sunny weather, the palm trees, and of course the infamous traffic. Unfortunately our hotel didn’t have a room ready for us when we arrived, so while we waited for a room to open up we decided to walk a few blocks down to a Mexican restaurant on Hollywood Boulevard. The food there was fine, but there was something off about our waiter. I can’t put my finger on it, but maybe it’s the New Yorker in me having a negative gut reaction to a typical LA waiter/actor type.

After lunch, we took a walked down the Boulevard along the Walk of Fame. I have to say that this was the one part of the day that really bummed me out. Of course I expected the Walk to be an overcrowded tourist spot, but there were so many panhandlers and people trying to sell me CDs and guided tours. Every block there would be somebody walking up beside you and shoving some flyer in your face. It was worse than Times Square.

As we walked west towards Vine St, I couldn’t help but notice the urban decay that was all around me. There was a seemingly endless procession of caged up storefronts and dilapidated theaters that lined Hollywood Boulevard, the ruins of a bygone era. The shops that were open looked like they belonged in an low-end outlet mall rather than Hollywood.

And then there were the panhandlers, homeless, and drug addicts that could be found on every corner. I read that LA has had a large homeless population, but I didn’t expect to see it up close and personal in Hollywood of all places. Some of vocally begged for money, others wandered around like zombies, but most simply sat on the sidewalk with nothing but an empty cup and a thousand-yard stare.

After an hour and a half of walking around, we returned to the hotel and checked into our room. My family went a bit later that evening with my uncle, but I wasn’t feeling feel so I recuperated in the hotel room. I had been up at 3 am Pacific time and I was exhausted after travelling across the country and doing a walking tour of Hollywood Boulevard.

I have to admit that my first day was a little disappointing. Tinseltown isn’t really that glamorous, and LA has a way of looking gloomy even if there isn’t a cloud in the sky. Still, it’s not that bad of a city and I’m looking forward to seeing more of it tomorrow, when I’ll be heading to Paramount Studios and the La Brea Tar Pits, along with other LA landmarks. Stay tuned!

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