Wednesday, June 27, 2012
How to Be a Met Fan in Los Angeles
Tomorrow, the Mets will begin a 4-game series against the Dodgers in Los Angeles. But if beating the Dodgers in the 2006 National League Championship Series could not erase the treachery of 1957, then a 4-game regular-season sweep this time, if the Mets can do it, won't do it, either.
Perhaps Met fans should be glad that the Dodgers left Brooklyn then, and that the Giants left Manhattan at the same time. After all, if they hadn't, the Mets never would have been created, and the fans of the 2 former clubs, the Capulets and Montagues of baseball (or the Hatfields and McCoys, if you prefer), would not have been united in the love of a new club, the canonization of the National League, and hatred of the Yankees.
Before You Go. Unlike the Seattle and San Francisco Bay Areas, the Los Angeles area has very consistent weather. It’s a nice place to visit. If you don’t mind earthquakes. And mudslides. And wildfires. And smog. Check the weather forecast on the Los Angeles Times' website before you, so you'll know what to bring.
Getting There. It’s 2,779 miles from Times Square in New York to City Hall in downtown Los Angeles, and 2,789 miles from Citi Field to Dodger Stadium. In other words, if you’re going, you’re flying.
After all, even if you get someone to go with you, and you take turns, one drives while the other one sleeps, and you pack 2 days’ worth of food, and you use the side of the Interstate as a toilet, and you don’t get pulled over for speeding, you’ll still need over 2 full days. Each way.
But, if you really, really want to, well, in order to get there in time for this series, you may have to leave... right now. But in the future... Take Interstate 80 West across New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska. Just before leaving Nebraska for Colorado you’ll get on Interstate 76, and shortly before reaching Denver you’ll get on Interstate 70 West. You’ll take that all the way to its end in Utah, where you’ll take Interstate 15 South. You’ll go through a short strip of Arizona before getting into Nevada (where you’ll see THE Strip, Las Vegas), before getting into California.
Assuming you're not going to a hotel first (and you really should), either in Los Angeles or near the stadium or Disneyland in Anaheim), you’ll get off I-15 at Exit 109A, and get on Interstate 10 West, and almost immediately onto U.S. Route 101 North, the San Bernardino Freeway. Take that road's Exit 3 to State Route 110, the Pasadena Freeway, and Exit 24 will drop you off at Dodger Stadium. The official address is 1000 Elysian Park Avenue.
Given an average speed of 60 miles an hour, you’ll be in New Jersey for an hour and a half, Pennsylvania for 5:15, Ohio for 4 hours, Indiana for 2:30, Illinois for 2:45, Iowa for 5:15, Nebraska for 6 hours, Colorado for 7:15, Utah for 6 hours, Arizona for half an hour, Nevada for 2 hours, and California for 3 and a half hours hours; for a total of 46 hours and 30 minutes. Factor in rest stops, you’ll need more like 3 full days. And, remember, that’s just one way. And if you end up using Las Vegas as a rest stop, well, you might end up missing the series and end up, yourself, as what “stays in Vegas.”
That’s still faster than Greyhound (65 hours, 40 minutes, changing buses 4 times, $435 round-trip, station at 1716 E. 7th Street at Lawrence Street) and Amtrak (64 hours, 15 minutes, $839 round-trip, Union Station at Alameda & Arcadia Streets). But flights, usually changing in Chicago, will be a lot more expensive.
Public transportation in L.A. is a lot better than it used to be, but not to Dodger Stadium. The Number 2 bus leaves Union Station and drops you off at Sunset Boulevard and Douglas Street, and then it's a 15-minute or so walk to the stadium. The Number 4 bus leaves Pershing Square, downtown, and drops you off at the same intersection. L.A.'s new subway and light rail service won't get you any closer. Taxis do go to the stadium, and will drop you off in Lot G, which is also where they will be waiting after the game.
Tickets. With basketball legend Earvin "Magic" Johnson having bought the Dodgers, settling their ownership situation, and injecting some much-needed cash into what had been one of the wealthiest baseball teams from their last few years in Brooklyn until owner Frank McCourt's spectacularly messy divorce, the Dodgers currently have the best record in baseball, and are averaging 39,883 fans per home game.
So getting tickets could be tough. But compared to most teams, including the Angels down the freeway, they're relatively inexpensive. Except for Field Boxes, every seat in the park can be had for $80 or less (unless you go to a scalper). Reserve seats can by had for $28, and the top deck -- infield-only seats, although they may be the highest in baseball history, even higher than the upper decks at the old Yankee Stadium and Shea -- go for just $10.
Going In. Dodger Stadium points away from downtown, but on a clear day you'll get a view of the San Gabriel Mountains. It was built in 1962 and thus turns 50 this year, but its age is hidden well, with its architectural style giving it away much more than its condition. The Dodgers have usually been nuts on maintenance, including cleanliness.
You’ll most likely be going into the stadium through the home plate entrance. It may look odd, due to not being very tall. This is an illusion, as the stadium was built into the side of Chavez Ravine. Along with the Oakland Coliseum, up the coast, this is the only active ballpark where you can walk in the front gate and go downstairs to your seat.
Being in the California sunshine, the field has nearly always looked good. But Walter O'Malley's old policy of no advertising inside the stadium, save for the two 76 logos (for the gasoline station chain now owned by ConocoPhillips) on the scoreboards, is long gone. It doesn't make the place look tacky, though. (Tommy Lasorda can do that, if he shows up.)
Food. The Dodgers' team website, alone among the 30 MLB teams, does not give information about concessions. It may be that they simply don't have any specialty stands, but this seems unlikely. Their hot dogs, the Dodger Dog, is renowned as one of the best in baseball, though.
When the stadium opened, O'Malley had it built without water fountains. The old bastard didn't want to give anything away. The team website said that they have been installed since.
Team History Displays. The outfield fence has notations for the Dodgers' retired numbers: 1, Harold "Pee Wee" Reese, shortstop 1940-58; 2, Tommy Lasorda, pitcher 1954-55 and manager 1976-96; 4, Edwin "Duke" Snider, center field 1947-62; 19, Jim "Junior" Gilliam, 3rd base 1952-66 and coach 1967-78; 20, Don Sutton, pitcher 1966-80 (with a brief comeback in 1988); 24, Walter Alston, manager 1954-76; 32, Sandy Koufax, pitcher 1955-66; 39, Roy Campanella, catcher 1948-57; 42, Jackie Robinson, 2nd base (mostly) 1947-56; and 53, Don Drysdale, pitcher 1956-69.
Robinson, who grew up in Pasadena, never actually played for the Dodgers in Los Angeles. Neither did Campy, who was paralyzed in a car crash in the off-season when the move happened, although he was kept employed by the Dodgers until his death in 1993. Reese barely played in L.A. But Snider, born in L.A. and raised in adjoining Compton (yeah, the Duke of Flatbush was straight outta Compton), was a member and indeed a key cog of their 1959 World Championship team in his hometown, as were Brooklyn "Boys of Summer" Gil Hodges and Carl Furillo.
Aside from Gilliam, who died while he was their 1st base coach (they wore Number 19 patches on their sleeves in the 1978 World Series against the Yankees), all of these are in the Hall of Fame. Aside from team owner Walter O'Malley (at least part-owner 1942-79, sole owner 1950-79), all of the Dodgers' Hall-of-Famers from the Los Angeles move onward have had their numbers retired.
This could be why they have not officially retired Number 34 for Fernando Valenzuela (pitcher 1980-91, number not issued since), or Number 6 for Steve Garvey, 1st base 1969-82, only briefly issued since including for Joe Torre while he managed the Dodgers), neither of whom is in the Hall, and to be fair each is at least a step short of it. The Dodgers do not have a team Hall of Fame.
The Dodgers' 6 World Series Championships are also shown on the outfield walls: 1955 (in Brooklyn), 1959, 1963, 1965, 1981 and 1988. Pennants and Division titles without going all the way are not shown.
Stuff. The Dodgers have a "Top of the Park Gift Store" in the upper deck behind home plate. On non-game days, it's open 10 AM to 5 PM.
Contrary to its image as a city whose idea of culture is yogurt, there is a Los Angeles literary tradition. Much of it is the "hard-boiled detective story," as pioneered by Raymond Chandler and his private eye Philip Marlowe. Writers influenced by the city include Nathaniel West, Charles Bukowski, James Ellroy, Michael Connelly and Bret Easton Ellis. And the Los Angeles Times has produced many fine sportswriters, including the late Jim Murray, and ESPN Around the Horn mainstays Bill Plaschke and J.A. Adande. But as for books about the Dodgers? Uh...
Lasorda and Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully recently collaborated on The Dodgers: From Coast to Coast, as they are two living links to the club's Brooklyn days. (Lasorda pitched for them there, and Scully is the longest-serving broadcaster in baseball history, having begun at Ebbets Field in 1950.) Plaschke wrote I Live For This: Baseball's Last True Believer for Lasorda. Robinson (I Never Had it Made), Campanella (It's Good to Be Alive), and Drysdale (Once a Bum, Always a Dodger) all wrote good memoirs, although remember that Jackie and Campy never played for them in Los Angeles.
Arnold Rampersad's Jackie Robinson: A Biography is highly regarded, and Jane Leavy's Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy is fantastic. So is Tom Adelman's Black and Blue: The Golden Arm, the Robinson Boys, and the World Series That Stunned America, which covers the 1966 season (and its leadup), culminating in the shocking World Series upset of the defending World Champion Dodgers by the then-upstart Baltimore Orioles, and is an excellent examination of both cities in that turbulent time (and is nearly as superb as Leavy's work in discussing Koufax). Paul Haddad, who grew up in the Seventies and Eighties like I did, recently published High Fives, Pennant Drives and Fernandomania: A Fan's History of the Los Angeles Dodgers' Glory Years (1977-1981).
But if you read any of the books that try to justify O'Malley's move of the team out of Brooklyn, you have only yourself to blame when your head explodes due to the ingestion of bullshit through your eyes. The truth is, O'Malley DID have a choice. If he was "visionary" enough to see that Los Angeles was a great baseball market, he wasn't the first to have that vision (though the first to truly act on it), and he should have had the vision to get around New York's Mayor Robert Wagner and construction boss Robert Moses.
As for videos, of particular interest to Met fans is Gil Hodges: The Quiet Man, about the Dodger first baseman who became the Mets' first baseman and the manager who brought them the 1969 "Miracle." The Dodgers also have a collection of the official World Series highlight films of their 5 L.A. titles (1959, '63, '65, '81 and '88), a collector's edition DVD set of the 1988 World Series, which remains their last Pennant. (This drought, currently 24 years, is their longest period out of the Series since the Series began in 1903. The previous longest was 1920 to 1941.) There is no team-history DVD available (though the 1990 VHS tape, issued on the 100th Anniversary of the team's entry into the National League, could be available somewhere), and no Essential Games of the Los Angeles Dodgers or Essential Games of Dodger Stadium.
During the Game. The Dodgers' greatest rivals, in California as in New York City, are the Giants. Their fans go from laid-back Southern Californians to rabid dogs when the Giants are in town. But they have no ill will toward the Mets. Sure, they want to beat New York. Los Angeles always wants to beat New York -- doesn't everybody? But they will not initiate violence against you.
The Dodgers don’t have a guy in a suit to act as a mascot, not even unofficially, as the Dodger Sym-Phony Band dressed like "Dodger Bums" in the last 20 or so years in Brooklyn. (The Dodgers don't really need a mascot, as long as Tommy Lasorda is still alive.) Like the Yankees, the Dodgers play "God Bless America" before "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the 7th Inning Stretch. In the middle of the 8th inning, they play "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey. This pissed off Journey lead singer Steve Perry, who is a big San Francisco Giants fan. He recently got the last laugh, as the Giants invited him to sing the song during their 2010 victory parade.
After the Game. Dodger Stadium is one of those 1960s-70s suburban islands in a sea of parking, so you won’t be in any neighborhood, much less a bad one. At least, as I said, there will be cabs waiting in Parking Lot G.
The closest thing I could find to a New York fan-friendly bar nearby is O’Brien’s Irish Pub, at 2226 Wilshire Blvd. in Santa Monica, which is the home of the local fan club of the New York Giants football team. The local Jets fan club meets at the Federal Bar, at 5303 Lankershim Boulevard at Weddington Street.
Sidelights. The Los Angeles metropolitan area, in spite of not having Major League Baseball until 1958, has a very rich sports history. And while L.A. is still a car-first city, it does have a bus system and even has a subway now.
* Site of Wrigley Field. Yes, you read that right: The Pacific Coast League’s Los Angeles Angels played here from 1925 to 1957, and the AL’s version played their first season here, 1961. The PCL Angels were a farm team of the Chicago Cubs, and when chewing-gum magnate William Wrigley Jr. bought them both, he built the Angels’ park to look like what was then known as Cubs Park, and then named this one, and then the Chicago one, Wrigley Field. So this ballpark was Wrigley Field first. The Angels’ PCL rivals, the Hollywood Stars, shared it from 1926 to 1935. Its capacity of 22,000 was too small for the Dodgers, and the AL Angels moved out after one season.
Torn down in 1966, it lives on in ESPN Classic rebroadcasts of Home Run Derby, filmed there (because it was close to Hollywood) prior to the 1960 season. Mickey Mantle was a fixture, but the only other guy thought of as a Yankee to participate was Bob Cerv (then with the Kansas City A’s). Yogi Berra wasn’t invited, nor was Moose Skowron, nor Roger Maris. 42nd Place, Avalon Blvd., 41st & San Pedro Streets. Metro Red Line to 7th Street/Metro Center station, transfer to Number 70 bus. Be careful, this is South Central, so if you're overly nervous, you may want to skip this one.
* Gilmore Field. Home to the Hollywood Stars, this 13,000-seat park didn’t last long, from 1939 to 1957. A football field, Gilmore Stadium, was adjacent. CBS Television City was built on the site. 7700 Beverly Blvd. Metro Red Line to Vermont/Beverly station, then either the 14 or 37 bus.
* Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Probably the most famous building in the State of California, unless you count San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, which celebrates its 75th Anniversary this year.
USC has played football here since 1923. UCLA played here from 1928 to 1981, when they inexplicably moved out of the Coliseum, and the city that forms their name, into a stadium that could arguably be called USC’s other home field. The Coliseum was the centerpiece of the 1932 and 1984 Olympic Games. It was home to the NFL’s Rams from 1946 to 1979 and Raiders from 1982 to 1994, and to a number of teams in other leagues, including the AFL’s Chargers in 1960 before they moved down the coast to San Diego.
The Dodgers played here from 1958 to 1961 while waiting for Dodger Stadium to be ready, but the shape of the field led to a 251-foot left-field fence, shortest in modern baseball. They got the biggest crowd ever for an official baseball game, 92,706, for Game 5 of the 1959 World Series; 93,103 for Roy Campanella’s testimonial, an exhibition game against the Yankees on May 7, 1959; and the largest crowd for any baseball game, 115,300, for a preseason exhibition with the Red Sox on March 29, 2008, to celebrate their 50th Anniversary in L.A. A crowd of 102,368 on November 10, 1957, for a rivalry game between the Rams and the San Francisco 49ers, stood as a regular-season NFL record until 2005 (when a game was played at the larger Estadio Azteca in Mexico City). Ironically, the first Super Bowl, held here on January 15, 1967 (Green Bay 35, Kansas City 17) was only 2/3 sold. Super Bowl VII (Miami over Washington) was sold out. The Beatles played their next-to-last concert here on August 28, 1966. Officially, the Coliseum now seats 93,607, and would likely be a stopgap home for a new or moved NFL team until a modern stadium could be built.
* Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. Next-door to the Coliseum, it opened in 1959, and hosted the Democratic Convention the next year, although John F. Kennedy gave his acceptance speech at a packed Coliseum, debuting his theme of a “New Frontier.” The NBA’s Lakers played there from 1960 to 1967, the NHL’s Kings their first few home games in 1967 before the Forum was ready, the NBA’s Clippers from 1984 to 1999, the American Basketball Association’s Stars from 1968 to 1970, the World Hockey Association’s Sharks from 1972 to 1974, the 1968 and 1972 NCAA Final Fours (both won by UCLA, even though it was USC's home court), USC basketball from 1959-2006, and UCLA basketball a few times before Pauley Pavilion opened in 1965 and again this coming season due to Pauley’s renovation.
Due to its closeness to Hollywood studios, the Sports Arena has often been used for movies that need an arena to simulate a basketball or hockey game, a fight (including the Rocky films), a concert, or a political convention. Lots of rock concerts have been held here, and Bruce Springsteen, on its stage, has called the building “the joint that don’t disappoint” and “the dump that jumps.”
3900 Block of S. Figueroa Street, just off the USC campus in Exposition Park. The California Science Center, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, and the California African American Museum are also there, and the Shrine Auditorium, former site of the Academy Awards, is but a few steps away. Number 40 or 42 bus from Union Station. Although this is on the edge of South Central, you will probably be safe.
* Rose Bowl. Actually older than the Coliseum by a few months, it opened in 1922 and, except for 1942 (moved to Durham, North Carolina for fear of Japanese attack right after Pearl Harbor), it has hosted the Rose Bowl game every New Year’s Day (or thereabouts) since 1923. As such, it has often felt like a home away from home for USC, Michigan and Ohio State. UCLA has used it as its home field since the 1982 season. It hosted 5 Super Bowls, including the first ones won by the Raiders (XI) and Giants (XXI), plus the all-time biggest attendance for an NFL postseason game, 103,985, for SB XIV (Pittsburgh over Rams, the "home" field advantage not helping the Hornheads). Rose Bowl Drive & Rosemont Avenue. Number 485 bus from Union Station to Pasadena, switch to Number 268 bus.
* Pauley Pavilion. Following their 1964 (and soon their 1965) National Championship, UCLA coach John Wooden wanted a suitable arena for his ever-growing program. He got it in time for the 1965-66 season, and it has hosted 9 more National Championships, making for 11 banners (10 coached by Wooden). It was also the site of the 2nd debate of the 1988 Presidential campaign, where CNN anchor Bernard Shaw asked the question that shattered the campaign of Governor Michael Dukakis – not that the Duke helped himself with his answer. Oddly, he held his Election Eve rally there, despite being a Bostonian. (In contrast, Boston’s JFK held his Convention in the Coliseum complex but his Election Eve rally at the Boston Garden.)
Currently being renovated, so be advised of construction if you want to visit. Metro Purple Line to Wilshire/Normandie station, switch to 720 bus, then walk up Westwood Plaza to Strathmore Place. A few steps away is Drake Stadium, the track & field facility that was home to 1960 Olympic Decathlon champion Rafer Johnson and another UCLA track star you might’ve heard of, named Jackie Robinson. On the way up Westwood Plaza, you’ll pass UCLA Medical Center, now named for someone who died there, Ronald Reagan. The UCLA campus also has a Dykstra Hall, but I’m 99 percent sure it wasn’t named after Lenny Dykstra.
* The Forum. Home of the Lakers and the Kings from 1967 to 1999, built by their then-owner, Jack Kent Cooke, who went on to sell them and buy the NFL’s Washington Redskins. Known from 1988 to 2003 as the Great Western Forum, after a bank. The Lakers appeared in 14 NBA Finals here, winning 6, with the Knicks clinching their last title over the Lakers here in 1973; the Kings appeared in just 1 Stanley Cup Finals here (or anywhere), losing it.
Now owned by the Madison Square Garden Corporation, thus run by James Dolan, which means it’s going to be mismanaged. Elvis Presley sang here on November 14, 1970 and May 11, 1974. The Forum is not currently being used by any professional team, but was recently the stand-in for the Sunshine Center, the arena in the ABC sitcom Mr. Sunshine. 3900 W. Manchester Blvd. Hollywood Park Racetrack is on an adjacent site. Metro Silver Line to Harbor Transitway station, switch to Number 115 bus. (Be careful, this transfer is in South Central.)
* Staples Center. Home of the Lakers, Clippers and Kings since 1999, and usually the home of the Grammy Awards. 1111 S. Figueroa Street, Los Angeles. Nearest Metro stop is Westlake/MacArthur Park, 8 blocks away.
(Yes, that MacArthur Park, the one where songwriter Jimmy Webb used to take the girlfriend who ended up leaving him and inspiring the song of the same title recorded by Richard Harris and later Donna Summer, and “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” by Glen Campbell, and “The Worst That Could Happen” by Johnny Maestro's later group, the Brooklyn Bridge. The worst that could happen there now, you don’t want to know: Since the 1980s the park has been a magnet for gang violence, although this was significantly reduced in the 2000s.)
* Anaheim Stadium. Home of the Angels since 1966, and of the NFL's Los Angeles Rams from 1980 until 1994, it was designed to look like a modernized version of the old Yankee Stadium, before that stadium's 1973-76 renovation. The football bleachers, erected in 1979, were demolished in 1997 and replaced with a SoCal-esque scene that gives the place some character. Unfortunately, the old "Big A" scoreboard that stood in left field from 1966 to 1979 was moved out to the parking lot, and now stands as a message board. 2000 E. Gene Autry Way at State College Boulevard. Metrolink's Orange County Line and Amtrak share a train station just to the north of the stadium.
* Honda Center. Previously known as the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim, it is across the railroad, the Orange Freeway and Katella Avenue from Angel Stadium. It has been home from the beginning of the franchise in 1993 to the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks – formerly the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, and I still tend to call them the Mighty Dorks and the Mighty Schmucks. The NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers, with their typical luck, had to move one of their few home Playoff games there in 1992 during the South Central riot. 2695 E. Katella Avenue. Anaheim Metrolink stop.
* Hollywood Bowl. This 17,376-seat outdoor amphitheater in the Hollywood Hills, with the HOLLYWOOD sign in the background, is one of the best-known concert venues in the world. Opening in 1922, it should be familiar to anyone who’s seen the original 1937 version of A Star Is Born, Double Indemnity, Xanadu, and Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl. The Beatles played here on August 23, 1964, and again on August 29 & 30, 1965. 2301 N. Highland Avenue. Metro Red Line to Hollywood/Highland Station, then walk almost a mile up Highland.
* Academy Award ceremony sites. The Oscars have been held at: 1929, Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel (7000 Hollywood Blvd.). 1930-43, alternated between the Ambassador Hotel, 3400 Wilshire Blvd.; and the Biltmore Hotel, 506 S. Grand Avenue, downtown. 1944-46, Grauman's Chinese Theater (more about that in a moment). 1949-60, Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. 1961-68, Santa Monica Civic Auditorium (which also hosted The T.A.M.I. Show in 1964), 1855 Main Street, Santa Monica (Number 10 bus from Union Station). 1969-87, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Avenue, downtown. 1988-2001, Shrine Auditorium, 665. W. Jefferson Blvd., Los Angeles. (Metro Silver Line to Figueroa/Washington, transfer to Number 81 bus; Elvis sang here on June 8, 1956.). 2002-present, Kodak Theater (which also hosts American Idol), 6801 Hollywood Blvd (Metro Red Line to Hollywood/Highland).
All of these still stand, except the Ambassador, demolished in 2005. The site of a legendary nightclub, the Cocoanut Grove, and filming site of a lot of movies, the last movie filmed there was Bobby, in honor of the building's most tragic event, the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy on June 5, 1968. (Directed by Emilio Estevez, one of its stars was his father Martin Sheen, who may be the only actor ever to play both Jack and Bobby Kennedy, although not in this film.)
In addition to the above, Elvis sang at the Long Beach Municipal Auditorium on June 7, 1956, the Pan Pacific Auditorium on October 28 & 29, 1957; the Swing Auditorium in San Bernardino on November 12 & 13, 1972, and May 10 & 13, 1974; the Long Beach Arena on November 14 & 15, 1972 and April 25, 1976; and the Anaheim Convention Center on April 23, & 24, 1973 and November 30, 1976.
The Los Angeles area is home to a few interesting museums, in addition to those mentioned at Exposition Park. The Getty Center is an art museum at 1200 Getty Center Drive, off I-405. The Autry National Center, 4700 Western Heritage Way, was founded by the Singing Cowboy and Angels founder-owner to celebrate and study the Western U.S. and Native Americans. (Metro Red Line, Hollywood/Western.) Also at Griffith Park, the Griffith Observatory, at 2800 E. Observatory Avenue, should be familiar from lots of movies (including Rebel Without a Cause) and TV shows.
The Hollywood section of town (not a separate city) has a few interesting sites,and the studio tours may be worth it, but do yourself a favor and skip the tours of stars’ homes. You’re probably not going to see any of the celebrities. You’ve got a better chance of seeing one back home on the streets of New York. And stay away from the HOLLYWOOD sign. You might remember the shot of it in the ESPN film The Bronx Is Burning, when the Yankees went out to L.A. to play the Dodgers in the 1977 World Series, their shot of the sign was accurate: In 1977, it was falling apart, a genuine ruin. A year later, it was restored, but it’s still no big deal up close. It was meant to be seen from afar.
Grauman’s Chinese Theater, with its cemented signatures and footprints of stars, is the centerpiece of the Hollywood Walk of Fame at the legendary intersection of Hollywood Blvd. & Vine Street (6931 Hollywood Blvd., also at the Hollywood/Highland Metro stop).
If you’re interested in American history, especially recent history, Southern California is home to 2 Presidential Libraries. Richard Nixon’s is not far from Anaheim, built adjacent to the house where he was born in 1913 at 18001 Yorba Linda Blvd. in Yorba Linda, Orange County. (They are currently preparing commemorations of his 100th birthday for next year.) Metrolink Orange County Line from Union Station to Fullerton, then Number 26 bus to Yorba Linda.
Nixon's “Western White House” at San Clemente can be reached by I-5 or by Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner to San Juan Capistrano (the former Spanish mission where, as the song goes, the swallows return on the first day of spring) and then transferring to the Number 191 bus; however, the house, which Nixon called La Casa Pacifica, is privately owned (not by the Nixon family), and is not open to the public.
Centennial celebrations were held last year at Ronald Reagan’s Library at 40 Presidential Drive in Simi Valley in Ventura County. (Reagan was born in 1911, in Tampico, Illinois, about 130 miles west of Chicago.) Unfortunately, it’s next to impossible to reach without a car. Reagan’s Western White House, Rancho del Cielo outside Santa Barbara, is owned by a private foundation that can be contacted for tours. Nancy Reagan still lives at their post-Presidential home in the Bel Air section of L.A., and while I’m no fan of the Reagans, I’ll respect Nancy’s privacy (she is 90 and has been recovering from broken ribs recently) and not list the address (or how to get there) even though it’s been published elsewhere. It’s been remarked that the ranch was his home, whereas anyplace they lived in “Hollywood” was hers.
Did I forget anything important? Oh yeah, Southern California's original tourist destination, outside of the Hollywood studios. Most people I've talked to who have been to both Disneyland in Anaheim and Walt Disney World outside Orlando, Florida have said that the Florida one is a LOT better. Anyway, the address is 1313 S. Harbor Blvd. in Anaheim, and if you're staying in Los Angeles, just drive down I-5. Public transportation is possible, but it's a mile and a half from the closest bus stop to Disneyland's gates.
So, if you can afford it, go on out and join your fellow Met fans in going coast-to-coast, and enjoy the Mets-Dodgers matchup, and enjoy the sights and sounds of Southern California. In spite of the fact that this weekend may be one of those rare occasions where New York’s weather will be just as good.