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"The streets are paved with stars!" - Arriving in Hollywood Pt.1

Updated: Dec 13, 2022

Stepping out onto a bridge at LAX

Seeing that California sun rise for the first time.

Palm trees and empty pavements

Scarred by roots

Hey Baby. Take a walk on the wild side.

Let's walk to Hollywood!


Everything is bigger than we thought!

The wrong bus takes us to the ghetto

Exposed in our whiteness

This is what it's like to be the other one.


We don't even contemplate wasting money on a motel

The streets are wide open

And paved with stars

In Hollywood.


Into the night

Californian nights -

We had imagined them warm

Tropical almost

In March they are

Cold.

The above poem is part of a 3-song mini-musical about our arrival in Hollywood in March 1996. Like Sunset Shit, these are songs we actually wrote WHILE we lived on the streets, so in the very first weeks after our arrival.

We arrived at night and spent the hours before dawn in the terminal - I recall that we bought a garlic butter baguette, not realising it was frozen and supposed to go into the oven... But we were hungry and so we ate it as it was. Our first LA meal! Gross! 😂

Once it started to get light, we stepped outside and watched the sunrise. It was amazing, just standing there, watching the warm glow of a fresh Californian day spread across the sky, the silhouettes of palm trees swaying in the breeze...

We had very little idea of the SCALE of things in LA. In London, we had mostly walked everywhere because we didn't have money for public transport. So we were used to long walks (our usual walk in London was from our place in Shepherd's Bush to the city centre, that was about 5 miles)... We figured that we'd just walk to Hollywood from LAX! 🤪 I mean, ok, it's doable... It's about 11 miles, so maybe a four hour walk... We started walking uphill on some random street because we had the basic idea that Hollywood was somewhere uphill. It was still pretty darkish and a bit spooky. And it was clear that no-one ever used the pavements - they were broken up by these huge roots! Of course: NO-ONE walks anywhere in LA! Soon we were discouraged by the vastness of the roads and the complete absence of pedestrians... Also, we carried a huge rucksack and two guitars in hard cases... So we went back to the airport, locked our gear in a 24h locker, bought a map and then tried to take a bus. For some reason we ended up in the wrong bus and in a predominantly African-American area. This was the first time we ever experienced racism first hand - most people were super nice and helpful but they also made it clear that it would be better for us to leave and they pointed us to the right bus to do so. On this bus was a dude (a HUGE dude!) who clearly hated white people and who was very hostile. It was a very sobering feeling not being able to "blend in" and keep your head down but to stick out because of the colour of your skin and be targeted for it. Being the minority, even only for an hour, really opened our minds more for the situation of minorities! We escaped the experience shaken but unscathed and finally made our way to West Hollywood.


We had with us the obligatory $1000 dollars you needed back then to enter the country as a tourist, that was all we had. So we didn't want to spend it on a hotel room - we figured we'd just either sleep rough for some nights until we found a car to live in or we'd go to some rock clubs and meet girls who'd let us stay at their place - that's what we had read in our heroes' biographies after all!! We did try to buy a cheap car but didn't succeed - we hadn't realised that you generally need papers to register a vehicle and the more dodgy places where you could maybe get a car without the paperwork were so scary to us that we didn't even dare to talk to the sales people... We probably also just didn't look like potential customers - we were 18, but looked extremely young, so they probably thought we were just some kids checking out the cars...

Summer 1996. Visible in the background is 1114 N Clark St where we'd eventually find an apartment!


With the car-plan out the window, we set our sights on finding an apartment. After viewing the first one we were told we could have it and they gave us a list of all the paperwork we'd need to provide... Bear in mind: we were in the US with a tourists visa (which we had thrown away upon arrival...) and no legal documentation! Deflated, but unwilling to give up, we found a place to hide away for the night: we set up "camp" (some cardboard on the ground) behind a wall on a building site at what used to be the "Old World Restaurant" and is now the "State Social House" at Sunset and Holloway. This would be where we'd spend most of our nights for the next two weeks.

A 2022 Google Streetview of the place we used to sleep at...


We left most of our stuff in the locker at LAX - since it was a 24h locker, one of us had to make the drive down there every day to feed it another dollar! And since we had locked our stuff up very early in the morning, we had to get there EARLY! We had this old travel alarm clock from Sabú's grandfather which we set to 6am every day. We used to joke that we were probably the only bums with an alarm clock! It never occurred to us to just sit with the stuff at LAX for a while and lock it up again later in the day!! 🤣

We were pretty fortunate during the time we spent sleeping rough - we didn't get assaulted or robbed, we managed to keep our heads down and didn't get arrested. We only had one minor altercation with some other street kids further up on Hollywood Boulevard and that was it. We were pretty street-wise at that time after often having led a somewhat vagrant lifestyle during our youth, that came in handy!

This is how we portrayed ourselves back then (drawing by an 18-year old Sabú...) - we liked to think of ourselves as tough kids for sure!!


We did try the "going to a club and finding a girl who lets you stay at her place" thing, too, and we even succeeded, but that's a story for next week!!


Here's a playlist with the soundtrack to these times - a bunch of songs that were super important to us, literally our daily bread!



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