Below is the Hollywood Reservoir. I’m two hours early for this interview because, as usual, I’ve guessed the traffic incorrectly. You see, I’m not really from LA. Have never considered myself from here. I’ve lived here most of my life, but I’m not from LA. Being from or not from here usually goes unspoken. It’s typically assumed you are not from here…and never will be.
I park at a trailhead. I’m in dress shoes. Black dress shoes. Black shirt. But I have a scarf and a jacket to fight the wind. Rain coming. The sky is a neapolitan of grays, blues, and whites, laid out horizontally with little light filaments touching down. The canyon is absolutely quiet even though I can see some bulldozers crawling up and down the side of a precarious ravine in the distance. They remind me of the sandcrawlers from Dune. This seems just the type of place where famous LA murders would have taken place. The fact that Ray Manzarek lives in this neighborhood somehow makes it seem more eerie.
I imagine Moby watching from his tower window, watching me turn away from the house and down the dusty trail in my black dress shoes. I’m obviously early. He might think I’m intentionally heading out for a hike. Like I worked this into my itinerary because I knew there was a trail here. Actually, I had no idea. I have never been in this neighborhood and rarely come to this side of town. Just like I have no idea what I’m going to ask him. At this point, I’ve lost almost all interest in architecture, buildings, and the reasons he’s blogging about these things.
Cormac McCarthy’s gun-metal clouds are forming and cold drops of rain are starting to plop down. They are spaced such that I can almost walk in-between the drops, like weaving among trees. Once in a while I am struck by tiny, cold explosions. First rain of a dirty sky. The acid rain that is better than it used to be in the bad old days of smog alerts.
A lone bird of prey glides down into the bowl of the reservoir. There are footprints on the trail. Maybe Moby walks or jogs down here. If I lived here I imagine I would. But then I imagine I wouldn’t because I always could. The narrow neighborhood streets are claustrophobic. It’s like walking on the cluttered deck of cruise ship. No sidewalks. Large mirrors are hung so cars can back out of acutely angled driveways. Every curve is blind.
Two hikers in hoodies pass me by. Sweatpants and hoodies. I disregard them. They disregard me. They seem to disregard one another and walk silently by in billowing anonymous bagginess. I am struck by the naïve assumption that everyone up here is famous and that’s why we mutually disregard. We don’t want to intrude. Maybe a knowing nod, a wink. That’s what the hoodies and dark glasses are about. The pedestrian equivalent of luxury cars with tinted windows. Baggy hoodies and glasses. Dead giveaways of someone trying to have a normal life. Who can blame them?
A plastic bag. The Hollywood sign. Words are paintings. Have to be because I don’t want to kill my battery. Need it for recording. I take notes, make sketches. With nothing better to do I try to identify the local flora. I find my knowledge dreadfully lacking. Shouldn’t people who write know such things? The arboreal child within feels shame. Resolving to Google them later, I make crude rain-spattered sketches in my notebook like some explorer to the new world. Anise? Lemonadeberry? Sugar Bush? More garbage (I can identify), half-biodegraded. Winding my way through a maze of fast food wrappers and beer bottles. It’s beautiful country.
If it actually starts to pour, there is no shelter. I keep going. It’s what I do. Dog feces. Little pockets of views open up every few feet. My hoodie friends are long-gone. My hands are numb. How did I get here? This feels like some magical span of time, a gift, the unintended consequence of a random email. It was a quiet day for architecture. Now I am out in the wind.
I am here to talk to a complete stranger about architecture. Or maybe we won’t talk about that. Of course, after finishing a Starbucks purchased at the bottom of the hill, I now need to find a place to pee. What if the hoodies come back, I worry. There is an art to peeing in the wilderness and in this I am artless because I have chosen a place with the wrong angle. My pee flows back toward me and I have to jump out of the way. Now my dusty black dress shoes are spattered. A crow caws and dives.
Mercifully, the rain starts up again. I wipe my shoes off with some garbage and step up onto the street. In a moment of panic I re-check the address. The door is open. I’m in a studio. Mixing boards, etc. I phone Moby’s person. Wrong door. Press the button, she says. A gate opens as if to the Emerald City. A long, winding drive before me. It feels wrong to walk it, but it would look awkward to turn around, get the car and drive through the gate after having already entered on foot. And there’s his person. And there is Moby.
Moby: People over here are pretty comfortable going to Eagle Rock, Studio City, Laurel Canyon, or Hollywood. Psychologically, it’s their turf. And then there’s Venice and there’s West LA and there’s kind of nothing in the middle. Not to malign or demean….
Guy: No. Exactly. You just get on the freeway and go. Just kind of sail past everything.
M: I met someone the other night…and she lives in the neighborhood that doesn’t have a name. It’s somewhere northwest of Culver City. So it’s like south of Beverly Hills, south of West Hollywood….
G: Right. It’s that weird little area…sometimes I think part of it is Beverlywood….
M: Yeah. But she lives there and I was like I didn’t even know how to process it because I was like, but I don’t know anyone who lives there.
G: Yeah, and a lot of those places have like a generic LA address.
M: That’s sort of like the provincialism of this vast city.
G: It’s not a singular city at all. It’s completely multiple.
M: And that’s one of the reasons (for the blog). Because there is that tradition of people from the rest of the world maligning Los Angeles. And I think…. OK. So years ago, when David Lynch put together that movie, Inland Empire, I loved it and I took friends to see it and they really didn’t like it simply because there was no frame of reference for it. They didn’t know how to compartmentalize it and I think LA is the same. Whereas, most people have a conventional idea of what a city is and what a city should be. You know. You think of Florence, or you think of San Francisco, or New York, or London, or Moscow, even Sydney, Auckland…. These places that have a fixed identity and a center, you know, and everything relates to that center. And you can go to any of these cities and in about two hours see a lot of the stuff. You know? Like you go to New York and you could take two hours and you could see the Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, The Met, the Chrysler Building. It’s all right there and it’s easy to find.
G: You can grasp it’s logic almost immediately from the moment of descending into it.
M: It’s such a misnomer to call LA a city. In so many ways it’s the anti-city. It’s also fascinating that the great stuff about LA is either hidden or far away. The gross stuff about LA is right in the middle and easy to find. People come here expecting to have this urban experience. You know. They go to Hollywood. They go to West Hollywood. They look around and they judge it by that same criteria as other cities and, it’s like, but they don’t go to Griffith Park. Or even last night. I was driving to pick someone up on Hollywood Blvd, but I didn’t know Hollywood Blvd. actually goes beyond Laurel Canyon. It does for like a hundred yards. And so we had to cross Laurel Canyon to find this part of Hollywood Blvd. none of us had ever heard of and there’s a stunning Frank Lloyd Wright house right there. And I’m with these architecture snobs and, it’s like, you didn’t even know this existed. This amazing, iconic architecture hidden in plain sight that no one knows about, or very few people know about.
…Do you want to start recording?
G: I have been, actually. Is that OK?
Tomorrow: Moby, Part 2