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: