http://www.laweekly.com/bestofla/ink/00/01/11-james.shtml Sept. 22-28, 2000 Best Places to Visit Before Leaving L.A. For Good And top things to avoid if you're planning on staying by Falling James When it dawns on me that, with the exception of several childhood summers and springs spent in the woods of south-central Oregon, Iíve spent my entire life in this dusty, forgotten little town and that at the rate Iím going Iíll always be here, I start to react schizophrenically, not wanting to be another George Bailey. Part of me goes into a giddy state of denial, pretending that I really am leaving town for good at any minute. Iíll put up maps of Amsterdam, New York and Italy in my kitchen to get familiar with my future homes, and Iíll pack my suitcase and tell friends in faraway places to get ready for me. Then, the Dr. Jekyll kicks in, and I make my peace with L.A., realizing Iím never going to escape. No other place Iíve seen has an ocean, mountains, dry heat, Mexican food, a nonstop underground rock scene, and such a wide mix of people and cultures. Iíll always stay, a stone sentinel, twisted frozen like a Joshua tree, eroding stoically under the windís terminal desiccation. But I have to be careful. Iíve been here so long that Iíve done almost everything I can in L.A., which is why I made a list a few years ago of local places I havenít seen, and should avoid. The idea being that if I went to every site on the list, Iíd have to leave town because thereíd be nothing left to do here. The list included landmarks Iíd somehow missed on school field trips: 1) Camera Obscura, Santa Monica 2) Watts Towers 3) Catalina Island 4) Hollywood Wax Museum 5) The Magic Castle 6) Magic Mountain 7) Inside of a Scientology building 8) Legoland 9) Lake Arrowhead The problem with the list was that it was a combination of things I desperately wanted to do (go to Catalina) and schlocky tourist traps that I, as a carny local, knew Iíd have no trouble avoiding (Hollywood Wax Museum). Unfortunately, some out-of-town friends and I were strolling down Hollywood Boulevard a while back, and I got sucked by accident into the draft of their spontaneous scheme to pop in the wax museum full of glistening, embalmed-celebrity monstrosities. The list kept getting shorter. Some inexorable tidal force finally dragged me over the tufted waves to Catalina, and I know it wonít be long before I wallow in the snow íround Lake Arrowhead. From now on, I canít make any more mistakes. And yet, if I were to finally move from Los Angeles, Iíd have a totally different set of things Iíd do before going. The places Iíd revel in would be the places I know I couldnít find anywhere else. Iíd body-surf at my favorite beaches in Venice, Zuma, Pacific Palisades. Iíd gobble down every churro from any street vendor I could find, drowning my geographic separation anxiety with cinnamon-flecked horchatas. Iíd spend my last quarters on the Twilight Zone pinball machine at Alís Bar, and Iíd go up to every living rock hero in the local scene and earnestly and tearfully confess to them how much theyíve inspired me. Iíd go to the sick and surreal art gallery Delirium-Tremens in Echo Park, the La Brea Tar Pits, Pickwick ice rink near Griffith Park, Waterman and Cloud Burst on Highway 2, Mr. Tís Bowl, the Santa Monica Pier, and eat a condemned personís last meals at Leonorís, Astro, Millieís Diner, Don Antonioís. Iíd stand around in the desert, memorizing the smog-induced brown and pink tints of every sunset, soaking up the sun, saving it for later like a reptile. Iíd finally ask that certain girl for a dance at Spaceland, with the bravery of knowing I was never coming back.