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The Oscars, 2011

Pull back the bedroom curtains, Friday, February 25, 7am. Pouring, howling, blowing rain. Due to leave for Los Angeles at 9am. It’s Oscar time, again, The yearly journey.

Pull back the covers. I don’t want to in this…

Efficient, clean, rental Ford Focus, the wind and the rain can’t touch us. 99 South, tractor-trailer trucks, their wakes on the windshield. Not much to see because of the weather. I’ve seen it all for several other Oscars, anyway.

It’s beautiful that you can travel in it. It ain’t snow, so enjoy the privileged experience. There will be snow on the mountains of Los Angeles — count on it. Worth the going, the Pacific Ocean and the mountains. Yes, surf or ski. Where else?

Enjoy going, with clearing off way up ahead, around Fresno it seems, about 150+ miles out from LA.

The sun starts to shine, the wind is a California cold, another coffee just below the “Grapevine” and over to the valley below.

“The King’s Speech” was the finest of the year, with Firth and Rush really bringin’ the A+ game. What talent! “Winter Bones” is in there, adding its grit, and Jeff of course in the Coen rift. “Black Swan” was ridiculous. Kids — my lesbian neighbors — hated it, so I’ll go with them. Didn’t see “Social Network” and don’t do Facebook. Didn’t see Toy Story 1, 2, or 3. Didn’t see the Fighter — don’t much care for Mark Wahlberg. What else was up? Who cares. “King’s Speech” is it, so that’s enough.

The wind has blown, and away goes the filth. Los Angeles is Athens on American soil. The mountains at the end of the block, snow covered, like Montana had come for the red carpet.

Beverly Boulevard off of Santa Monica (what else) and the Beverly Laurel Motor Hotel. Simple and casual, and its Jewish neighborhood; makes a former New Yorker feel good.

The wind blows and brings back the rain. Plans for the evening canceled, stay warm in the TV as fireplace room.

Saturday Morning — This year, for the first time, the Independent Spirit Awards, down on the Santa Monica sand; and architecture in Culver City, the real reason for coming down.

Open the 8am curtains to some glorious weather, clear and cleaned out, 20° colder than usual.

Breakfast eggs and spuds in the Swingers Cafe next door. Garbage, but at least it’s juice and coffee.

Well-used, permanently busy La Cienega all the way down to Culver City, the air so clear you might see Mexico.

Culver City is a good place that doesn’t get the Malibu or the hills of Beverly — most pleasant, and what I’ve come for is Eric Owen Moss Architects, in a low warehouse, artsy district, their new work all funked-up space platform architectures, spiral towers and swirling roofscapes, taking the plain and making it inner-space, all very metallic and raw and signature new.

Saw their work in the New Yorker and online, now that I finally can see it, and here it is, live, and just below the deep green Baldwin Hills, a Los Angeles not exactly hidden from view, but one you’ve got to get to to know.

Because of Baldwin Hills Scenic State Park. All of Los Angeles on a cold, almost crystal clear February day, up on a high green hill, from Santa Monica to the Griffith Observatory to the sign that says Hollywood.

Clear, like you’ve never seen, and how green was the valley, like you’ve never seen, minus the traffic, minus the crud, a valley populated almost like humans should.

Breathtaking, buildings and hills, ocean and sand, the off coastal islands you never see, Shangri La, Bali Hai behind their usual smokescreen of exhaust and dust.

Proud of the city that could be so far-flung and still be a Paradise, what Athens and the Riviera wish they were.

Take a toke on the medical pipe and celebrate my love for a city that just doesn’t get enough.

Easy to Santa Monica without any freeways, always no rush; the cars are the subway.

Santa Monica, the most livable place, not exactly cheap, but not exactly over the edge; at the edge of it all, ocean front, normal and chic, stop for a bagel and coffee on its normal and chic Main Street.

Women from other life forms, where beauty is food. Met John Densmore of the Doors here, so it’s all fuckin’ good.

OK, let’s see about these “Spirit Awards” — oh, and two hour metered parking, easy in, easy out in front of a bookstore where even the books laze about.

Drive the two blocks down to the beach, the cold wind has done its job, all the way to Malibu and beyond, and down to Manhattan Beach and far beyond. Santa Catalina like a great humpback on the horizon, waves rolling in, cold, yet still inviting, a big white tent, some early limos arriving, so down, down a few lovely blocks where us commoners can find parking.

Holy shit what a day! “A man could fight a lion.” So said Robert Shaw’s “Man for All Seasons” Henry VIII, George VI overcoming his stuttering.

About an hour and half before the 2pm awards; there’s a fence between us and them, but no red carpet galore.

The limos pull in and unload their stars, not too big a crowd, so you kind of get close to Mark Ruffalo, Aaron Eckhart, a couple of unknown blondes, Danny Boyle, some guy from Harry Potter, and more who’ve come over to shake hands and sign autographs for us common men.

Some other TV blonde, and then the royal couple: Annette Bening and Warren Beatty coming on over for a royal greeting.

Way cool of course; he’s a little grumpy, but she’s not face lifted or lip enlarged — lovely, real, in a blue suit outfit.

There’s Paul Rudd, Samuel L. Jackson, John Waters and that French dude from Banksy Productions.

Wow! If you’re into it, who needs gowns and a red carpet? Jennifer Aniston, where are you? It’s fuckin’ cold and some of the local paparazzi aren’t exactly courteous to yours truly with his little single-use camera.

So that’s enough, as the stars run their plastic encased comfortable camera gauntlet.

Tonight’s the Razzies, and I’ve been invited — $35 on line that is.

Later on, a lunch at Johnny Rocket’s at the Farmer’s Market in the Fairfax district. It’s all pretty phony but when in somewhat phony land… A Route 66 burger with onion rings on the side, LA Lakers news on the motel tube, a nap before the Razzies — envelope please.

I wouldn’t bother with the Razzies but it gets a bit bigger each year, and they’re being held at the Barnsdall Theatre; that’s at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House, so how can you possibly deny…?

Want a great view of the hills of Los Angeles? Go down to the end of Hollywood Boulevard, almost to Vermont. Stand on the hill of the Hollyhock House: the Griffith Observatory, mushroom mosque, the H — etc. sign, and Wright’s Ennis Maya pile, a trio that can’t be duplicated.

There are great cloud formations, floating armadas of snowdrifts, and an orange sunset seeking the Pacific, so enormous it shrinks all blockbuster art. This is a California you don’t have to dig out of. A benevolent Viking evening descends on the city of starry numbered lights.

Quiet as a Mayan tomb at the Mayanish Hollyhock House. If you haven’t, you must, Frank’s tribute to a Mayan princess, as I stand in the standby list, waiting under a concrete awning that isn’t Frank’s, but sort of an assimilation, as several camera crews start to set up.

A few interviews from the US and Japan, and I think maybe some local Mexicans, which lends to the idea that the Razzies have grown on the population; with some guy monitoring the lines, lookin’ like he stepped out of a “Jackass” movie.

It’s all very congenial and quietly festive when in go the already reserved and the rest of us B-listers.

Sandra Bullock and Halle Berry have appeared, so we’re all hoping somebody will come to accept the fruit of their failure as we’re all into the gala.

Enough cameras are set-up like some presidential press gang, so on with the show, let the Razzies begin.

The best description of it is half-assed community theater, amateur to the point where you feel uncomfortable for everyone.

But it’s all in good fun for everyone and somewhat original, and all the outside reviews are so cruel and so on the dime critical.

“Airbender,” of course, leads the pack, with “Sex and the City 2” in close pursuit.

Funny little skits you’d see in high school, with clips of the films, lots of laughs with lots of wolf howls — for the vampire sagas, of course, and “Vampire Sucks.” I was hoping that Jennifer Aniston would show up, a permanent nominee, this year she and Gerard Butler in their “Bounty Hunter” crap, but “Airbender” can’t be overtaken and it wins the night.

It’s all been pretty silly with nobody but the actors, directors and writers getting hurt, all in good fun, with the truth of it that really would hurt.

I’m glad I made it but I’d never go back, especially after Annette and Warren.

Out on the hill and the Griffith Observatory all floodlit like a star traveler from earth.

Down to Hollywood and Highland, past the Kodak Theatre before the streets are blocked off, the giant Oscar out front all covered in black like some dark Egyptian black cat from the movies of mummies; nothing scarier than that.

Later on dinner at Barney’s Beanery, on Melrose, where Jim Morrison sat.

Sunday Morning — Oscar morning breaks breathgiving beautiful, robust and gorgeous.

Sunday LA Times, all plumped up with Oscar stuff, in Malibu, parked against the surf, just up from where Sunset Boulevard ends its journey west from Union Station.

Biscuit and sausage and egg McJack In the Box from the Malibu Jack in… It’s not bad, cup of somewhat coffee in the armrest, OJ too, Oscars like the sports page. A gift for the folks I know who don’t make it down for the Oscars. Just about everyone. I’m the only one I know.

Surfers in wetsuits like imitation seals, great white sharks, napkins, teeth, a meal…

The PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) blowin’ BMWs and Mercedes, the Santa Monica Pier hurdy-gurdy…

That arduous task completed, it’s downtown on 10 to 110 to the Staple’s Center to catch the brand new Zeek from Cabin Creek, Jerry West, statue out front and some gift shopping on Broadway de central LA. Throw in the Angel’s Flight and you’ve got a day of it.

Clips vs. Celts at the big Staple’s so no place to stop and get out — just coast past the main entrance: there’s statue Magic, statue Oscar de la Hoya, (what a name) and statue Zeek from Creek, each of them a bit too impressionistic — would have preferred more natural — heroic. Left out Gretzky because he’s Calgary’s.

Throw in the Nokia Events Center next door and maybe a Farmer’s Insurance Field for LA football and you’ve got yourself a complex; let’s hope so because Los Angeles downtown at night can be very, very, very empty.

Broadway‘s not empty. But Mexico City might be, very, very very… “not that there’s anything wrong, you see.”

Looking for something Porsche, key ring, a little car, for a buddy who just got Porsched up.

Nada, Impossiblé! Everything else in the world, this being the jewelry district too.

Should I try the Farmer’s Market back in Fairfax? I do, slice of pizza, lemonade, chocolate chip cookie, crab cake, Coke, hot dog, bagel, deep fried something, endless booths of midway eating. And a Route 66 keychain and little Porsche.

Nap time, about two hours to Oscar telecast.

A bit of the red carpet nonsense, all the interviews, always so embarrassing.

Best dressed: Gwyneth Paltrow, all shiny and sleek like the statue come to life, but with clashing earrings that look like rhinestone maps of Africa. Hailee Steinfeld wins the three-peat of Globes, Screen Actor’s and Oscar.

There’s Annette and Warren. Hey, Annette and Warren! Remember me from Santa Monica? Annette’s dress looks like something from Tron — take that, Joan Rivers.

Got my doubts about Franco and Hathaway, too goofy and silly just from the promos. “Bring me the head of Billy Crystal.”

Game time, Franco and Hathaway stink, right away, goofy and silly. “Inception” stunk, so they don’t get me with that.

It all pretty much stinks, and then, God help us all, out comes what used to be Kirk Douglas. Shame on everyone who allowed this to happen. It’s a disgrace to all things human. That’s about enough.

A quick stop at the Beverly Hills Hotel Polo Lounge and the Chateau Marmont on Sunset, which are both usually a plus but I feel so uncomfortable from the Kirk Douglas I’ve lost my celebrity appetite. Sleep.

Monday Morning — The wind and the big sun continue on home on 101 the coast, green and cliffs and earth and surf.

Inland 101, green and hills and farms and the bloom is on the rose, quiet, left alone.

Paso Robles 46 to 41 — James Dean for another moment — out to I-5, three hours bored and home.

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