Drifting and striding with Geoff Nicholson - author of The Lost Art of Walking, and Walking in Ruinswithcholson, author of Toff Nidrifting and stomping withcholson, author of The Lost Art of Walking, considers the narrower and wider shores of obsessive pedestrianism.
I was walking, a couple of weeks back, in Whitley Heights, or perhaps more precisely Hollywood Dell. Whitley Heights was once a very ritzy little enclave in the Hollywood Hills, home to the likes of Bette Davis, Gloria Swanson and Rudolph Valentino. Then they built the Hollywood Freeway and split the area into two - Hollywood Dell is the name given section east and north of the freeway, though I think it still counts as Whitley Heights.
It’s still fairly ritzy in places, a bit funky and hippyish in others. No doubt a few Hollywood types still live there but nobody with the star power of Bette Davis, I think.
One of the special “only in Hollywood” places to walk by is the Vedanta temple, tucked up against the freeway wall. Vedanta is a form of Hinduism. “All fear and all misery arise from our sense of separation from the great cosmic unity, the web of being that enfolds us,” says the website. Aldous Huxley was a fan, and for a while Christopher Isherwood slept in what’s now the bookshop.
It was a good and interesting walk, and of course, if you have enough obsessions, even minor ones, a quite modest walk can feed quite a few of them. Along the walk I saw a headless Buddha:
An extremely emphatic no parking sign:
It was also a good walk for spotting Volkswagen Beetles, well only one of them in fact, but it was a beauty, this gorgeously distressed little number:
In fact enjoyed the walk so much that I want back and did a longer version of it, although of course I know that you can't walk on the same water twice. Nevertheless I saw more flora and architectural curiosities, in fact at the same time:
And more VWs, wrapped and unwrapped:
And when I passed the distressed Beetle, the trunk and hood were open, and then a rangy, very friendly, young black man appeared and looked forlornly at the car’s innards. I said it was a fine car – and he agreed, and said it usually ran pretty well, but it had rained earlier in the week and he thought water had got into the electrics. I made sympathetic noises, and I thought about taking the guy’s picture but it didn’t seem the right moment.
I used to be quite good at dating Volkswagens, but I’ve lost the skill lately. I knew this one was old but I was still surprised and impressed when he told me it was a 1960. You have to have some cojones to drive a 58 year old car in Los Angeles.