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

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.

Thursday, March 2, 2017


 Nobody would pretend that Selma Avenue in Hollywood is one of the great walking streets, nor one of the great places for urban exploration - it runs for about a mile and a half, east/west, between and parallel to Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard.  But it’s not without interest, because nowhere is.

Back in the day Selma used to a be a place where young men, inspired perhaps by Midnight Cowboy, hung out and plied their trade. There’s still a YMCA in the street, but you can’t stay there these days however much fun it might be.  This is John Rechy below on the steps of the First Baptist Church of Hollywood, which has stood on Selma in its present form since 1935.

Currently Selma is the site of all kinds of development and redevelopment, and I dare say a truckload of “gentrification.”  Restaurants close and are replaced by new ones that don’t necessarily look any better than the old ones, but presumably they have a better business plan.  There’s a stylish barber’s shop, a store that sells only vinyl, and there used to be a tent city of homeless people, but they were recently moved on by the cops.

There’s some curious stuff on the sidewalk:

 Some curious window treatments:

And there’s this, which may be the best reason for walking along Selma – an amazing example of scarcely improvable, ramshackle, improvised urban infrastructure.  It may possibly be a Thomasson (op cit) although possibly not because this thing, however ramshackle and improvised, is actually functional.

As I hope you can see in the above pictures (one mine, one from Google), and I know it's not easy, it’s essentially, two telegraph poles stuck together.  There’s one big, tall, fully-formed pole, supporting wires that run high across the street, and then there’s a shorter pole attached to it, accommodating wires that run in a somewhat different direction at a lower level. 

Two big, tall, fully-formed poles might have seemed the way to go but apparently the powers that be couldn’t find an extra pole of the required length.  They ended up with one that was shorter than the other, that wouldn’t even reach from ground level to the required height of the wires running crosswise.

So what would you do?  Well, what they evidently did was attach the short pole to the big pole but they had to hold it three or four feet off the ground.  In order to do that they used brackets and then a length of lumber for support.  But even the length of lumber proved too short and so they put a lump of wood underneath that as a shim.

It’s wonderful.  It works, I guess.  And frankly this is the way I personally do “handyman” projects – ham-fisted but functional.  You might imagine the powers that be in Hollywood would operate with more style and skill.  The fact that they don’t is somehow charming but also unsettling.  Is the whole of Hollywood held together with wire and string?  I think we all know the answer to that one.

Friday, May 27, 2016


There’s a story, maybe it’s a fable, maybe it’s even in the Bible (in which case I suppose it’s a parable), about a man who goes around, walking in the usual way, looking at this, looking at that, just generally looking in all directions at whatever grabs his attention.

And one day he happens to look down and he sees money lying on the ground.  It has to be a shiny coin of some value for the story to work, so let’s say it’s a silver dollar.  He picks it up and changes his life.  From then on whenever he walks he only looks at the ground, hoping to find more money.

And he goes around like that for years, always looking at the ground when he walks, but he never finds any more silver dollars.  And then one day he’s walking along and he sees something shining in the gutter and he thinks, “OK, at last, more money!”  But it isn’t a silver coin, it’s a fragment of broken mirror and when he looks down at it he sees a reflection of the sky up above his head, and then he looks up at the sky itself and he sees it looks wonderful, and he realizes what he’s been missing all these years.


Well, I certainly look around at thing as I walk.  I like to think I look in all directions (though not all simultaneously, of course), and sometimes I do look notice things on the ground.  I think I have found the odd bit of money here and there, but not much, and I’m sure I must have seen a few mirror fragments.  But it hasn’t changed my life.

And lately, I’ve been noticing things painted on the pavements and sidewalks where I’m walking.  Some of it’s street art, and some of it’s done by guys who work for the utility companies, and the latter is usually much more inscrutable and enigmatic.

Of course on Hollywood Boulevard you have to look down at the ground if you want to see the Walk of Fame and the stars set in the concrete, that celebrate showbiz people.  But a couple of miles east of the Walk of Fame, I found this star that celebrates self-loathing. 

It’s a Hollywood thing, I’m sure, but by no means only a Hollywood thing.

Friday, October 2, 2015


I often say (I mean often enough that it probably irritates people) that you can’t walk in the same street twice.  Then I add that you can’t walk in the same street once.  This is about as Zen as I ever get.  And there’s a street in Hollywood, Franklin Avenue that I walk down all the time, I mean really all the time, and suddenly a couple of days ago saw something, arguably two things, that I’d never seen, or at least noticed, before.  There was a doorway situated between a couple of eateries (Birds and The Bourgeois Pig, with mysterious stairs leading up into darkness and a sign saying Duarte Salon.

I found this intriguing, and so, being a man who expects too much, I imagined the Duarte Salon was some kind of decadent Bohemian hangout where louche types lolled on velvet couches and sipped absinthe.  Well, that’s too much imagination you’ve got the Geoff.  Duarte Salon, I discover online, is a fancy hairdressers offering, in addition to the old cut and blow, trichological services and the revolutionary technique of "X-presion Creativos."

So, not much there for me, but curiously, and maybe you spotted it at once - whereas it’s taken me about 10 years – there’s a bit of street art next to the door, that I assume is the work of Invader.

You may remember Invader, if you remember him at all, from the Banksy documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop.  He’s a Frenchman who goes around the world making and installing mosaics, some of them very small, some less so.  But in general his work is so discreet and it’s hard to imagine anybody objecting to it, which is no doubt why it tends to remain in place for so long.  Also possibly because many people, myself included in this case, don’t even know it’s there.

In fact his website suggests that I walk past his lots of his work all the time.  He’s got a couple of mosaics stuck on the Hollywood sign for instance, though admittedly not many people get to walk very close to the Hollywood sign.

But there are also these two right on Hollywood Boulevard, never seen by me till now. I guess there’s so much happening at street level there that few people ever look up. 

Anyway, having spotted the Duarte/Invader nexus I continued walking around my ‘hood and spotted another sign I’d never seen before, this one:

To be fair to myself this one actually was brand new, and similar ones had gone up all over the local streets in just the past few days.  Clearly it’s meant to stop people feeding coyotes, which are a bit of a thing in the neighbourhood – you sometimes see them walking down the middle of the street – and obviously a menace if you own a small appetizing pet. 
But it does of course beg the question of how we define “wildlife.”  Is somebody going to be going to jail for feeding squirrels?  Hummingbirds?  I have been known inadvertently to feed raccoons when the little bastards came and ate all the tomato plants.  And deer in my experience will eat pretty much everything that grows in a garden.  The courts would surely cut me some slack.  The people who put up this sign (again one I’d never seen before) seem like they might be less forgiving.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Thursday, December 11, 2014


We know that walking is often used as a tactic of political protest.  The image above shows a walk in Bangor, designed to preserve a bus service, so there may be one or two unintentional ironies there, but the principle remains.

There was even a walk of protest in Hollywood last week, to protest police brutality. The walk ended in a “die-in” at the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue (above), where the protestors lay down in the road, which I guess is kind of the opposite of walking, but in any case it all seems to have been peaceful enough. And of course a few celebs got in on the act.

Where I grew up, close to the Peak District in Derbyshire people still talk about the Kinderscout Mass Trespass of 1932 as though it too happened just last week.  It was certainly monumental in establishing the right of access to land all over the UK, and it shows the power of walking, especially the power of walking where certain people think you shouldn’t.

And then I saw this oddly moving piece in the LA Times about how things have been going in Hong Kong - not a walk of protest, but a stroll. (The full story has now slunk behind the pay wall and I can’t even find who the writer was, a woman I think and apologies to her for not giving credit, but this opening gives the flavor.)

“For decades, pro-democracy demonstrators here have tried marching. And for more than two months now, they have camped outside government headquarters. In recent days, as they face ouster from their encampments, they’ve begun a new tactic: strolling for democracy.
After dusk, throngs of demonstrators, self-styled shoppers all, pace the thoroughfares across several neighborhoods in the city’s Kowloon district, putting police on edge.
The strolling concept took shape Wednesday in Mong Kok, the bustling shopping district where authorities had just forcibly dismantled long-standing protest encampments.
Hours after the clearance was completed, demonstrators returned to flood major intersections, attempting to build barricades and retake lost territory. When police interceded too quickly for them to succeed, the demonstrators, said they were there to shop …”

Well I suppose shopping can often a highly specialized form of walking.  When you can combine it with trespassing, it may be considerably more.