La La Land

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I swear, I didn’t fly all the way to Los Angeles just to get my photo taken with the Property Brothers.

It was a bonus.

I did go to LA for a couple of meetings, which I deliberately scheduled around the LA Times Festival of Books. I wasn’t completely thrilled that this meant cross-country trips on two consecutive weekends, but it seemed to make sense: I’d gone to the festival once or twice while a grad student in Southern California, and I knew that it would be a good time.

IMG_4569And it was, mostly, although Saturday was uncharacteristically rainy—not ideal, given that the festival is largely outdoors. (They say “rain or shine” on the festival materials, but Mother Nature doesn’t usually call their bluff.) I was kind of slogging through the beginning of the day; my flight had arrived very late Friday night, my hotel’s fire alarm went off three times on Saturday morning (“weather,” the clerk at the front desk explained; apparently the humidity was messing with the sensitive system), and there wasn’t enough coffee in the world to perk me up. If not for the blare of the fire alarm, I might have been tempted to stay in my hotel room and watch HGTV, but instead I decided to head down to the University of Southern California campus and see two of the channel’s stars in person.

The morning’s intermittent drizzle turned into an all-out downpour just as the Property Brothers took the stage, and I had arrived too late to secure a spot underneath the tent. Dozens of other overflow audience members and I stood on the sidewalk around the stage, trying our best to keep umbrellas upright while we snapped photos of the Scott brothers. Fortunately, the worst of the rain lasted only about ten minutes.

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After listening to the Property Brothers talk about their television shows (“slow-motion home renovations in tight jeans”), new book (Dream Home*), and the questions they hear most often (“Will you marry me?” and “Granite or quartz countertops?”), I joined the long, long line of people waiting to get their books signed.

Well, it was really a long line of women. I never went to any New Kids on the Block concerts as a kid, but I think the vibe in the Property Brothers line was only slightly calmer than at one of those. The group of fangirl friends behind me spent much time fixing their hair and makeup and selecting the perfect words to say to the brothers when their turn at the signing table finally arrived. As we approached the front of the line, a security guard briefed us on the rules for interacting with Jonathan and Drew: “No touching, no hugging, no kissing, no marriage proposals.”

Not that there would have been an opportunity for any of that. When my turn finally came, one publicist took my book and slid it across the table to the brothers for their signatures, while another assistant took my cell phone and indicated where I should stand for the photo. Twenty seconds later, I was standing on the other side of the tent with book and phone in my hands again, only the faintest memory of being whirled through clinging to my jet-lagged brain. I emailed the picture to my mother and her sister (also huge Property Brothers fans) and decided it was time for lunch.

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Other festival events were less star-studded but no less fun—and, in fact, far more informative and thought-provoking. (As much as I enjoy watching Property Brothers, I won’t pretend that the show is notable for its depth.) Two highlights: a panel about history, which starred Cambridge classics professor Mary Beard, one of my favorite fearless female academics; and a talk by travel writer Pico Iyer, whose topics of conversation ranged from the Dalai Lama and V.S. Naipul to his love for In-N-Out burgers. One of the things I really enjoy about Iyer’s writing—and the talks he gives—is that he’s incredibly thoughtful and learned, yet also unabashed about his enjoyment of things that might get derided as lowbrow. Tacky tourist traps, in other words, are not only worth visiting, but it’s also okay to admit that you enjoy them. (For a different take, see anything Paul Theroux has ever written.)

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I do generally love tacky tourist traps, but a few hours in Hollywood on Monday afternoon tested that fondness. I walk through Times Square every day on my way to and from work; strolling down Hollywood Boulevard was strikingly close to that experience, just with better weather. Hawkers tried to sell me CDs, touts tried to convince me I needed to take a bus tour of the area, and costumed superheroes hoped I would take a picture with them and leave a tip. Other tourists swarmed around me, frequently stopping in the middle of the sidewalk to snap pictures. And, I soon realized, there really isn’t that much to do in Hollywood if you’re not willing to spend money on tours or a ticket into Madame Tussauds. Nothing piqued my interest enough to convince me to open my wallet, though.

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So I obediently checked out the Walk of Fame, took a picture of the Hollywood sign in the distance, and examined the hand- and footprints at TCL [Grauman’s/Mann’s] Chinese Theater. (There, I suddenly found myself in the midst of a large tour group consisting of elderly Chinese rushing to follow a guide as he headed for one specific set of handprints, which they eagerly began photographing. Lurking around the edge of the group and eavesdropping on the guide’s speech, I realized that the celebrity who had attracted such interest was Arnold Schwarzenegger.) I continued walking down Hollywood Boulevard, which grew less crowded as I moved in the direction of Hollywood & Vine, and I alternated between looking at the names on the stars below my feet (mostly unfamiliar; who are all those people?) and the Art Deco buildings lining the street. Upon reaching the Metro station to get the subway back to my hotel, I’d decided that Hollywood underwhelmed me, at least on this trip. Maybe I’ll give it another shot some other time.

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I’m usually an eager traveler and generally, I know, only say positive things about my trips. And my long weekend in LA definitely had its good points: I met the Property Brothers, of course; the meetings I’d gone out there for all went well; I ate three delicious dinners (bibimbap at Beverly Soon Tofu Restaurant, pork katsu at Wako Donkasu, and a burger and fries at In-N-Out); I spent a lot of time walking around outside and enjoying California. But, I have to admit, I also spent a lot of the weekend feeling run-down and out of sorts, wishing either that I had stayed at home or that I had planned for a longer trip. Three days for a journey that involves cross-country travel, I think, just isn’t enough; it really does leave me feeling like I’m in la la land.

* Use this link to purchase your copy of Dream Home and I’ll receive credit through the Amazon Associates program. Thanks! ~Maura

3 thoughts on “La La Land

  1. I don’t know…..I think the Property Brothers are reason enough! Two McDreamy’s!!
    Your mother’s sister

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