Today, my destination was Silverlake for my daughter's guitar lessons at the Silverlake Conservatory of Music.
After exiting the 101, I headed East up Sunset Boulevard, way far from the swank celebrity populated bistros and boutiques that sit under mammoth billboards with barely clothed models who look so nonchalantly dewy. The neighborhoods became more decrepit the further I traveled: littered alleys, yellowing plastic store front signs in Vietnamese, Thai, Armenian and Spanish. Crumpled, beaten people looking defeated while waiting for buses, pushing shopping carts, or scuffling along aimlessly.
Then Sunset curved, and there around the corner was Silverlake - much different than I remember in the 1980s. Then it just a quiet neighborhood of sagging and paint-worn bungalows and apartments below larger hilltop estates. In those days, my husband and I would go to Millie's for breakfast and Charlie's for thrift store treasures. Way before the '80s, Silverlake was once a haven for stars of the '20s and '30s, and where Laurel and Hardy dropped a piano down a stairway in the movie "The Music Box." Charlie Chaplin had a place on the hill above, I've heard. Even many of the streets are named after silent film stars like Norma Talmadge. Not long ago, I went to a vine covered, Spanish style mansion above Sunset Boulevard, called The Paramour which was the home of silent star Antonio Moreno and his oil-heiress wife Daisy Canfield - and heard tales of how they might still live there... in spirit. Today the estate is home to a recording studio and, I believe, is still rented out for parties, weddings, concerts festivals and film shoots. Lately, it's the home of the Super Nova contestants on Dave Navarro's show.
Silverlake's past still lingers, but now it's come alive with an artistic energy: store fronts painted in bright terra-cotta, aubergine and saffron; Exteriors bright with artwork and decorated metal sculptures.
I dropped my daughter off for her guitar lesson, then wandered over to the Den of Antiquity - a cramped shop selling an eclectic variety of things from days long past. Amongst dusty objects was an old circa 1950s television, the glass screen filled with water and swimming goldfish. Then, craving a hot cup of coffee, I entered the Casbah Cafe through its turquoise, arched stone doorway and headed toward the pastries, coffees, teas, French and Northern African treats behind the glass counter. Further back, under large Moroccan lamps, were brightly colored robes, gowns and scarves draped over tables and hanging along the walls. Men and women spoke softly while sipping cappuccinos and trying to ignore the loud, actress dressed in a black turtle neck shirt, faux leopard mini-skirt and suede Ugg boots. Over and over she mentioned her agent, the shoot and the studio. I wanted to scream, "Yeah, we heard you already!" but decided to buy a tart instead of yell at one.
After I dusted pastry crumbs from the front of my shirt, I headed past the crowds eating al fresco, shopping or talking to friends and walked into the brick building where my daughter had her guitar lesson. She walked toward me, as I heard the distant "aaaahhhh, eeeeehhh, oooooooh" of a singing lesson and the screech of a new violin player.
Walking back to our car, we passed apartments with windows opened wide blaring music and blowing incense scented smoke, bringing me back to my childhood in San Francisco. I got a taste of of my bohemian past, and it only took me one freeway and a half-hour drive (without weekday traffic) to get it.