Tuesday, 5 January 2016

LA - In and Out

It was that time again. At the check-in counter, trying to distribute weight between hand and check-in luggage. Keep calm, keep on smiling and remember to distract the check-in lady with superficial questions. How are you? What a lovely day. When are YOU going on holiday? This time I was on my way direction west. That was the intention, however after several hours in the air, according to the GPS tracking system, it declared something else. Why so far north when the shortest way would be directly over the Atlantic. I opened up the little airplane sliding window and to my surprise it was night time. However, local time said 3 in the afternoon. Then within the full moon ray a clue to the puzzle was revealed. A large iceberg landscape towered endlessly to the horizon. We were after all flying the shortest way to the land of opportunity. Straight up over the north pole.

I sat next to two very intelligent guys. Ahmed and Mohammed were going on a week's holiday to the USA. They are both from Iraq. Man, I could not contain myself and started my usual list of uncool questions. It was interesting to hear their view on their Muslim faith, the falling of Sadam Hussein and their argument on how the concept of terrorism originated. I love these kind of conversations. You learn so much from other people by stepping out and not being afraid of making a fool of yourself. 

I arrived in Los Angeles on Thanksgving evening. This is a big deal in the USA, taking Thanksgiving more serious than Christmas. The streets were deserted and most restaurants closed. People spend time with their families, and the United States profits from 46,000,000 turkeys losing flight on that thanksgiving night. Hungry and clueless I settled for the only open place I could find. Burger King. The king of plastic. That's how it started and after that it took time to cleanse my system. I have to say that from probably watching too many movies I had an ignorant impression of what American people look like. I know that Los Angeles by no means represent the entire country but for the moment that was my point of reference. To my suprise, skinny Asian looking people were what it was all about. Never before have I seen so many Asian people together, and all speaking American English. Truly an unique sight. I also quickly realised that there is probably no such thing as a cliche type of American people. They come from everywhere in the world and in the case of LA it was the continent of Asia.

It's not easy to eat healthy here and after my Thanksgiving Burger King experience I was adament not to repeat my mistake. So with that in mind my driver Paul, a skinny Asian looking guy took me to, what is considered the number one burger joint in America called “In-N-Out”. Opposite side sat a dodgy looking family. Dodgy by the way is actually not a word here.. the equivalent would be a “Sketchy" looking family. I watched with fascination how the family started devouring their burgers. During the eating frenzy a piece of cheese got stuck unto the 20+ year old son’s nose. It happened in the middle of a verbal argument with his mom, where he was accusing her of making a scene about everything. In disbelieve I watched him not noticing the hanging cheese. Then while the trickling cheese slowly started rubberising longer from his nose and he still yapping at his mom while chewing  on the last bit of cheese that made it into his mouth, the next face dive was approaching.  With a clean swinging motion the burger went right back into his face and his nose disappeared again into the juicy burger. I could not imagine what was going to happen and with great anticipation I eagerly awaited the outcome. To my surprise with complete control over the situation and probably having experience in these type of situations, he wiped the dripping cheese away with his hamburger and gone was any trace of the cheese. My mouth was hanging open. I have to say that I was impressed. Even better was that nobody thought anything of it. That was the moment when the name "In-N-Out” was forever transformed in my mind. 

One of my highlights was the 6th Street Downtown LA bridge. For me this was truly a dream come true. Located in an industrial area, the bridge crosses the famous LA river channel connecting LA industrial to LA Downtown. I have seen this iconic bridge in so many classic skateboard films over decades of growing up with the sport. More recently it showcased a magnificent 3,000 skaters in the film “We are Blood”. Not to forget drag sensation Ken Block who made his recent appearance in his legendary 1965 Ford Mustang in the film "Gymkhana 7" speeding over 6th Street bridge. At first I was wary of all the wandering people on the bridge and was at unease with all the film gear. Then I noticed that it was actually like-minded photographers cruising around to get the perfect shot. Not necessary pros, no, just guys high on life and with that deep underlined love for what they were doing. Believing in the dream was enough of a driving force for them. I was inspired - to say the least and could not wipe the smile off my face. Just being there and talking about this legendary bridge and sharing thoughts on framing and lenses, was everything. Everybody simply stoked on life and soaked in the golden glow of the magic hour. 

Two weeks of little sleep and lots of filming went by quickly and I experienced so many amazing moments. Strange to always dream of going somewhere and then suddenly it's all over. I will miss this country and its people. People are dynamic and things are happening here. The country is clean and very organised. Nobody is afraid to work and try new things and people really work very hard here. You don’t have the spoilt mentality of the world owing them something. There are so many moments I will remember. From the little squirrel running over the power line in the middle of the street to my 'In-N-Out' experience. Learning how to work fast and find solutions on the fly. How to deal with minimum lighting and filter techniques to get great results. And once again I realised that it's all about people skills in this business. If you want to be the best possible filmmaker, be a great caring person and it will take you a long way. People don’t necessary only work with the best guy for the job - they work with the person they get along with.  

If you have a little time in LA and district here is my 1- 10 of where to eat. LA county dining. 
  1. Burger Lounge ($8.24) (Food)
  2. Kurian Town District Los Angeles Orange Café ($8.50) (Food)
  3. Maisis Kabab Glendale ($7.95) (Food)
  4. Mediterranean Beach Cafe, Venice Beach ($10.99) (Food)
  5. Norms Diner, Orange County Garden Grove ($14.50) (Food)
  6. Denny’s Diner Hollywood, LA ($10.95) (Food)
  7. In-N-Out Burger Culver City LA ($3.75) (Food)
  8. Urth Cafè Downtown LA ($3.50) (Coffee only)
  9. Mak Cafè, Kurian Town District LA. ($6.35)(Most expensive coffee of my life)
  10. Burger King ($5.85) (Food)