Drifting and striding, in Hollywood and elsewhere, with Geoff Nicholson - author of The Lost Art of Walking, and Walking in Ruins withcholson, author of Toff Nidrifting and stomping withcholson, author of The Lost Art of Walking, considers the narrower and wider shores of obsessive pedestrianism.

Saturday, December 28, 2013


I suppose there are a lot of people who “go for a walk” at Christmas who’d never dream of doing it the rest of the year.  It’s a thing you do on your holidays, it’s a thing you do with the family, or something you do to get away from certain parts of the family, a way to walk off the turkey, if not the devil’s bath.

Walking around Hollywood at Christmas has its appeal.  It’s sunny and mild of course - good walking weather - though the days are short.  And you might think that in Hollywood you’d see all kinds of excessive Christmas lights and decorations, but with a few exceptions it’s all curiously and surprisingly modest.

Yes the Capitol Records building on Vine Street (above) has a sort of tree made of lights up on its roof, but it’s not exactly Vegas, and it’s had pretty much the same look since it was first designed in 1958. True it uses 4,373 bulbs which is impressive in its way, and I like it a lot, but I like it because it suggests an old fashioned, dignified kind of celebration.  You can see more extravagant and baroque lighting rigs hanging off suburban bungalows all over America.

The fact is I always prefer to see the small-time, domestic, personal decorations, put up by people who’ve made just a little bit of effort but not too much.

I’m particularly fond of this one that’s been placed at the top of a lamppost.  Is it Santa, or is it a Cabbage Patch Doll? Or both?  You decide.

And the thing is, you walk past these decorations in the days before Christmas, and however low key they are, however downright pathetic in some cases, there’s always something optimistic and forward-looking about them, looking forward to a happy Christmas.  But after the day itself you see them with new eyes.  However happy the Christmas was, there’s something forlorn and melancholy about the decorations now.

And that applies especially to abandoned and discarded Christmas trees.  You see some of them dumped by the side of the road, all over Hollywood, sometimes just a couple of days after Christmas.  In certain ways I respect the sentiment - once the party’s over, it’s over – but really guys, there’s no need to be nihilistic about it – at least put the  tree in the recycling.

And so I’m very glad that whoever was walking in Hollywood, up by the corner of Highland and Franklin, and found this discarded tree below (still with some decorations on it for Pete’s sake) decided to plant it in the adjacent pile of rubble, so that it stood upright, so that the season of combined optimism and melancholy lasted just that little bit longer.  

On balance, and I hear your arguments against it, I think that’s probably a good thing.

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