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.
Showing posts with label Hollywood. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hollywood. Show all posts

Thursday, April 5, 2018


I just reviewed Geoff Dyer’s The Street Philosophy of Garry Winogrand – there’s a link below at the end of this post – so I’ve been thinking a lot about Winogrand and street photography.

Neither the book nor the review discusses walking per se, but as a street photographer, Winogrand obviously did a lot of walking, as I suppose all street photographers must.  We tend to think of his “beat” as being in Manhattan but he traveled widely and spent time in LA.  Here he is on Hollywood Boulevard; the photograph is by Ted Pushinsky.

And here’s his most famous Hollywood Boulevard picture:

Towards the end of his life (whether he knew that he was coming to the end of his life is a moot point) he moved to Los Angeles and since he was suffering from a slow to recover broken leg, he had people drive him around and he took photographs out of the car window.

In a sense this seems like no way for a street photographer to operate, and his “strike rate” for good pictures seems to have been pretty low at this stage, but it did result in pictures such as the one above.  And this one:

That link is here: 

Friday, January 19, 2018


Even before I lived in Los Angeles, I was still an occasional Hollywood Walker.  I used to come as a tourist and I usually stayed in a hotel on Franklin Avenue, and I’d get up in the morning and wander the streets, looking at the houses and the cars and the flora, and it all seemed a kind of fantasy land.  I didn’t take many photographs but on one of my walks I took this picture of a house.

At the time I didn't really consider my motives, but thinking about it now, I reckon I took it because the place struck me as both very typical and very special, thoroughly Californian, without being a cliché of Hollywood architecture, and completely unlike any house you might find in England.  It seemed cheerful and optimistic – I guess that was the color.  It wasn’t exactly modest but it wasn’t a mansion; you could just about imagine yourself living there.

Well, I took the picture and pretty much forget about it for the best part of 15 years, but then the other day I came across it again and I realized that the house really wasn’t so very far from the places I currently go on my neighborhood walks, and so I took my camera and set off with the intention of doing one of those “now and then” comparisons.   I tried to stand in the same spot, and what I saw this:

The house hadn’t disappeared but it had gone into hiding.  I wouldn’t have been sure I even had the right house if it hadn’t been for that curious spherical “streetlamp.” Not to labor the obvious, but there has been some exuberant growth, huge trees that weren’t there at all 15 years go.  Is that intention or just neglect?   And of course the chainlink fence has been changed to wooden slats, and the gate looks like this, indicating that it’s now two homes rather than one, but possibly it always was.

You have to go round the side before you can really see the house at all.  And I must say it looks less special and less optimistic.  There’s been a complete change of color on those shingles, but have they been replaced or have they just faded to their current shade? But then the owners have kept the paint color on the bricks.  Or maybe they've just done nothing,  Things change but sometimes they also endure.

There was a woman in the garden, and in certain circumstances I might have talked to her and told her what I’ve told you, but as it was I didn’t.  She might have thought I was weird.  But I did go home and check out the house on Google, because that's the kind of thing you can do these days, and in this picture, taken in a different season, it’s even more hidden:

Thursday, December 21, 2017


I was at a party a couple of nights back and got talking to guy who’d grown up in Hollywood in the early nineties.  He went to Hollywood High, alma mater of Keith Carradine, Linda Evans, Fay Wray and Terry Richardson – to name a broad selection.

And the guy said that any time you walked in Hollywood in the early 90s you were always in danger of turning a corner and realizing you’d set foot in the “wrong” street, and then you’d be confronted by junior gang members who demanded to know what you were doing on “their” street.  The answer, “I’m just walking home from school,” wasn’t a good enough answer.

Of course, he said, you learned the rules pretty fast one way or another, learned where you could walk and where you couldn’t, but there was always this lurking anxiety that you might get it wrong.  
And some people think that Hollywood has become too safe and gentrified, eh?  Yeah, don’t you just hate it when there are no gang members confronting you on the street?

I’m not naïve enough to think that Hollywood is now an entirely safe haven of peace and tranquility, but as you walk around you don’t worry much about straying into enemy territory.  And of course it being Christmas and all, Hollywood looks pretty festive right now.  Even if the inhabitants behind this particular window haven’t quite got into the Christmas spirit yet:

Wednesday, August 2, 2017


The days have been hot – pushing 90 degrees – and it’s been humid (that’s known as “monsoonal moisture” in these parts), but I’ve been walking because it’s what I do.  And of course I’ve been doing it early-ish or late-ish in the day to avoid the worst of the heat, and I’ve been walking more or less in the neighborhood, although trying to head for those streets that, for one reason or another, I never usually walk down. 

It must be a few years since I walked past the garden below, with its blue glass decorations.  It’s right alongside the street, and most of those bottles and vases are just a stone’s throw away, and yet they remain intact. This seems a reason to be cheerful.

They’ve been trimming – pollarding, I suppose is the word - the trees in parts of the neighborhood – a huge operation, big trucks, a big crew, a big mess, especially when it comes to the ficus trees – a job that needs doing, and it doesn’t do the trees any harm, they'll be back just as big next year, but of course it does mean there are certain sidewalks where you can’t walk at all.  And it must be said that the guys on the crew, while by no means hostile, didn’t look very cheerful:  maybe it’s the heat, and maybe the one below just doesn’t like being photographed.

Now, I don’t know much about the school system in Los Angeles.  Some people say it’s a disaster, some people send their kids to public schools (which means exactly the opposite in the States than it does in Britain) and they say they’re fine.  Even so, this sign warning drivers that there’s a school nearby, may be a symbol that not everything is absolutely as it should be.

Of course you can’t (and shouldn’t) walk in LA without being aware of the traffic.  Mostly it’s about avoidance, and yet my inner motorhead never quite gives up, and when I see a truck like this one, my heart does leap just a little.

And you know, I’m always fascinated by the wrapped cars of Los Angeles that I see when I’m walking.  I know there are wrapped cars in plenty of other places but I’ve never seen so many as here, and I’m never sure whether it’s for protection from the sun or to dissuade low-lifes from running a screwdriver along your paintwork, not that one precludes the other. Sometimes it’s a full cover:

Sometimes just half:

But how about this one, gift-wrapped, padded, in disguise:

As you can probably work out, this is some some kind of forthcoming model from one of the big manufacturers, being secretly road-tested.  Of course, a cynic might think that under the disguise there’s going to be some big, ugly, penis-substitute of a pickup truck, essentially no different from any of the other monsters on the roads.  My inner motorhead can be pretty cynical.

And of course, the Los Angeles housing crisis rumbles on, and here’s one feller who’s found a temporary solution:

It looks like one of those “forts” that kids build in their grandparents’ back yards, although since the guy was passed out and there was “drug paraphernalia” visible on the mattress, the phrase “not in my back yard” sprang rather readily to mind.

Friday, June 2, 2017


Those of us who walk, and like to consider the meaning of walking, tend to believe that a walk is something special.  We like to think a walk can be a source of inspiration, a form of meditation, a sacrament, a journey of discovery both of the world and the self.  And of course it can be, and often is, all those things.

But sometimes it’s not.  Sometimes it’s just a walk. 

And of course it ought to be possible to walk without thinking, without writing about it after the event, without blogging about it, without taking photographs en route and downloading them when you get home. But you know, we’re all creatures of habit, and sometimes “just walking” is much harder than it sounds, perhaps much harder than it ought to be.

Sure, you don’t want to get into a rut, but when walking has becomes a means of looking, observing, recording, and also I suppose, metaphorically, a form of hunting and gathering, it becomes hard “just” to go for a walk.  Maybe that’s OK after all, and even if it’s not I’m not sure we can do much about it.  We are how we walk: we walk how we are.

Here are some things I saw and snapped on some recent walks within the borders of Hollywood.  They don’t add up to a source of inspiration, or a form of meditation, a sacrament, or a journey of discovery both of the world and the self.  But we’re just going to have to live with that.