I’ve been going to LA once a year for a week for the past six years, but always felt indifferent about it. I never got a chance to really explore outside of downtown before this year, which gave me a chance to see some of the tourist stuff (still not a fan). I spent a day walking around West Hollywood and Hollywood (still haven’t seen the sign), turning what was supposed to be a two-ish mile walk from my friend’s apartment to the cafe she works at, into a three hour adventure because I’m awful with Google Maps’ walking directions unless I have headphones on. I didn’t have headphones on.
It would’ve been fine except that I was wearing a new pair of running shoes and too short of socks. So, before one of the biggest events I cover every year I had not one, but two blisters on my Achilles tendons that popped and then rubbed raw. This all happened within the first half hour of my walk. There are two dark brown streaks on the heels of those shoes. I earned those stripes by walking the rest of the day with useless bandaids on the back of my feet that kept sliding around.
The upside is that I wound up catching the very beginning of the Hollywood Walk of Fame (there’s even an empty star waiting for your name) and was immediately underwhelmed. But Sunset Blvd. was right near by and was actually on my way back to West Hollywood. That day I learned that the Sunset Strip’s defining feature is there’s a nigh-omnipresent cloud that smells like equal parts weed and stale piss hovering overhead.
i don’t know what that street was like during the early ’90s, but the scent kind of fit for the bands that came up from there. One of the first songs I remember hearing on the radio was Guns N’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle.” Up to that point I’d just been listening to stuff like RIchard Marx, Michael Bolton and whatever else was on the adult contemporary channel my parents kept on in the office. I was eight; sue me.
This played a huge role in why Slash’s iconic opening riff hit me so hard. I’ve never owned any GNR albums (and still don’t) because the radio eventually ruined all the big stuff for me and I’ve never felt a need to dig deeper. Plus, I don’t really care for “Mr. Brownstone.” Or “Sweet Child O’ Mine.”
Regardless, it’s hard to deny the band’s place in music history. And I can’t deny how much I love “You Could Be Mine” thanks to Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Or the chill I got when I saw the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas commercial on TV and C.J. was riding a not-Harley with the sunset at his back as “Welcome to the Jungle” played.
It’s why I had to take this shot of a graffiti mural I saw on Sunset while I was walking around. I made it back to my friend’s cafe much later that day, grabbing pictures the entire time. Those tall hard apple ciders tasted amazing, and, like the blisters on my heels, well-earned.