A really long time I went on a date to see a movie at the Beverly Center. It was so long ago, the movie I saw was Bowling for Columbine. We went because the girl I was dating needed to see it for class. I don’t remember much about the experience. Since that time, sure I’ve gone to CPK before it went to total balls. I’ve pretended I was at Cheesecake at Grand Lux. I’ve Chipotle’d. Hell, I’ll even freak way out now and again and find myself knee deep in lettuce wraps at P.F. Chang. But, none of these little jaunts ever required me to go inside the mall. I must have been avoiding it.
Recently, I went there because suddenly the Beverly Center is the closest place to go to the Apple Store. I had become so Grove-centric, retreating to its yuppie-goodness, it’s Nordstromness, it’s Farmer’s Marketology, it’s Loteriancy, hell, even it’s Kiehlisciousness (their Blue men’s products actually are awesome. I recommend using the Facial Fuel if you drink on school nights. It is like dipping your face in ice cubes and Certs in the morning). Basically, for all the knocks against the Grove, it is still a nice place to be outside, eat great tacos from Jimmy Shaw and talk shit to B-celebs that go there to be pointed at.
But now living in Beverly Hills, the Apple Store closest is the Bev Center. So I had to go. I the new iPod shuffle had come out and I wanted to get the old one on sale. I like how it has buttons. Old school. Easy to change songs on days I run with music. But I digress…
I pull into the Beverly Center and suddenly, I am in the sequel to Lost in Translation. The parking lot looks a lot like a main street in Tokyo. There are glowing lights everywhere, tranquilized voices and subdued beeps coming from the PA, lights and color everywhere. People are queuing in front of a big, glowing, green machine that apparently validates your parking. I am wondering if we will need to go through customs. Now, I am actually excited about going inside.
Each level of the parking structure unloads onto an escalator that ascends up to the mall itself. I’ve stumbled up and down La Cienega a million times, but it looks different from this escalator with the glow of tailights on the huge glass partition between the city and us. In the sky above the escalator are giant lanterns that are clearly intended to be mushrooms. What better do line the ride down the rabbit hole.
The interior of this mall is astonishing. I wonder how much it has changed since I last visited. Was it always this strange? There are literally five shoe stores in a row all selling custom Nikes. There is an Ed Hardy store, which right away screams this place is Douche City. But it’s not the content here that truly sucks. It’s the context.
This place was designed to look like a night club. A bougie one. You might think this is the Kansas City version of Area with it’s low couches and television viewing clusters. It’s got mood lighting everywhere. It is the place where the Sherman Oaks Galleria meets Katsuya on Vine meets Christian Audigiers private deviant torture chamber. I am almost afraid to be in here. There are groups of Beverly Hills teens in matching D&G outfits. These are the kind of kids that spent hours, hours of real human time, to find Gucci covers for their iPhones (which they don’t know how to use as evidenced by their constant picking up of the phone, getting confused then screaming louder into them as a possible troubleshoot).
This is how Hunter S. Thompson felt entering the Flamingo Hilton back in the day. It was wear the weird came to have sex just before dying in an explosion of excess. I think the Beverly Center has this act down. It gets the part. Conveniently, it’s right next to Cedars in case you actually go into cardiac arrest from too much bullshit.
I had never been so comforted by the white glow of the Apple Store. I know, I know. I bought a red shuffle. Clearly I was influenced by my surrounding. At home, I regretted it. Should have kept it black or silver, pro status. Oh well. Gotta live sometime.
The night air felt really, really good. I wanted to crawl into one of my hiding spots in this city. I wanted to get lost, if you read me. Sure, Los Angeles. Call it an overreaction to a shopping mall. But for those of us in Lost Angeles, it is more than a mall. It is a place that donates an entire street corner (Beverly and La Cienega) to Ed Hardy window displays and now, Roar, who I am sure I will get into later (“win a Ferrari, douchenozzle!”).
Whatever, whatever. It’s just a mall. I mean, we all need to go to the mall. If you went there today, don’t be hard on yourself. We all need to buy things. Hell, this is a blog post about how I went to this place. What can you do? Hope for something less gaudy, I guess. When you have a kid like me sitting here preferring a giant fountain that sprays water to the tune of “Amore” and that is less gaudy than the Beverly Center, you know it’s dire straights, here.
Alone, later I found myself sitting poolside at Trader Vic’s sipping on a London Fog watching Endless Summer being protected on the white wall above the pool. Sure, Vic’s has become a mere replica of its former self, but if you drink enough and squint your eyes, you can imagine what it was like before this city was split into the mainstream and the Lost. There was in fact a time where it was all the same. The time when postcards had Oranges and beach bunnies on them. The time Sinatra and Dean would come out here and mess around before swinging back to Vegas. Back when this was a scotch and soda town, not a Patron shot and Red Bull Vodka dystopia.
Keep squinting Lost Angeles. One day we’ll open our eyes and with enough hard work, it’ll be Shangri-La again. Jack Fucking Nicholson, friends.