... Moving from the blinding brightness of the Sunset Strip into the ghostly dark of the Chateau Marmont, we are tired and a little cranky, but mostly thirsty. We order drinks from comfy couches in the courtyard, the servers stealth and stoic, the patrons behind sunglasses and countenances of cool. Here in the heart of Hollywood, at a hotel steeped in celebrity and debauchery, my kids drain their Cokes as my wife and I share a Stella. Breaking the silence is the young hostess who seated us, Noel, whose outsized friendliness contradicts the Chateau’s solemn vibe. Her accent sounds slightly southern. Turns out she’s from a familiar place. “I came out here two years ago from North Carolina,” she tells us, “from a town called High Point.”
... We make it a priority to rent bikes and cruise from the Santa Monica Pier to Venice Beach and back, shimmery Pacific on one side, edgy SoCal boardwalk weirdness on the other. Posh condos and Teslas mix with graffiti and homeless camps. The smell of weed wafts around every turn.
... Disneyland is a family destination where happiness reigns and dreams really can come true. Most of the time. We stroll through the front gates and onto a jam-packed Main Street only to spy the iconic castle veiled and scaffolded and under refurbishment. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” says my pouting daughter. Thankfully the initial disappointment fades as the pixie dust takes effect, intoxicating the kids and prompting them to declare the Incredicoaster at Disney California Adventure “totally the move” and “fire” and other terms of endearment that mystify the middle aged.
... “This is MY favorite kind of roller coaster,” I inform the family as I steer us along the spine-tingling ups and downs of Topanga Canyon. This is the freaky interior of L.A. canyon country, once home to 60s rock stars and now aging eccentrics and hippy art dealers. We make our way up a steep side road and are rewarded with a killer view. Golden sunlight drenches the mountaintops. All is quiet except for the who-who, who-who of an owl. We literally taste sweetness with every breath.