(Shooting stars, that is. In other words, meteors. I’ll get to them eventually [or jump].)
The evening started with a 10:15pm movie at the Arclight. I saw the excellent biopic “Talk to Me”, (all about Petey Green and his manager Dewey Hughes) which happened to star two actors whose work I like a great deal, Don Cheadle and Chiwetel Ejiofor, who both seem to grow and get better and stronger with every performance. I could be very wrong, but they’re also both among that (much) shorter list of actors who seem to me like people it would be interesting to get to know and talk to as well (missed a chance earlier this year with the latter, who was rumoured to be one of the people they were trying to get to take part in that New York shoot for King Magazine I told you about here and here).
Then, at 12:30am I wandered over to my “local” (well, they treat me like one, which is good), and favourite English pub outside of England - the Cat and Fiddle. Said hi to and chatted briefly with the guy at the door (about Stephen Donaldson books, of all things) and then ordered my customary thirst-quenching Hoegaarden and sat in the lovely courtyard for a while, reading some detailed notes of a series of what turned out to be startlingly excellent computations by my student Jeff Pennington. (Well, I don’t know if I should not call him my student any more. He’s graduated now and is off to do graduate work up North.) The Cat was relatively quiet (as it can be late on a Sunday night – it’s a very conservative town when it comes to staying up late; my theory is that it is partly because of all those early starts for shoots – and everybody seems to be connected to the Industry in some way), although I did get treated to the conversations of a group of people at the table near my bench. It seemed that all of a sudden, I was immersed in an episode of Entourage. The five women, dressed in severe (for a Sunday night) regulation “high powered 30-something person out on the town in Hollywood” outfits – more of the scary heel height and mercifully less flesh than the 10 years younger equivalent – seemed to be unabashedly discussing their various liaisons with members of the opposite sex, and two of the men from the group stepped aside (in my direction) to have a conversation about “the deal”, where one guy seemed to be seeking reassurance that he could pull off asking someone for 60 million. Ah, yes. It’s good to be back. Been several weeks since I intersected with this stuff.
The next stop - meteors. There’s nothing like a romantic evening under the stars – even if it’s a solo outing. I went to Runyon Canyon Park of course, getting there at about 1:45am. As I’ve mentioned before, it is another of those LA gems that most people don’t know about. Just a few blocks beyond the heart of the Hollywood tourist trap (Mann’s Chinese Theater and so forth) is the entrance to the park. It’s not a tidy city park like a New York or London or Dublin green square. No, instead it is an amazingly convenient rugged hiking spot that rapidly takes you into darkness, solitude (at this time of night) and spectacular views of the city. Multi-component click-able panorama below.
The gates are locked at sunset, but….. well, anyway, there are ways in. (I personally think it is ok to wander in after hours if one is very quiet and respectful of the space and the privilege of using it after hours. This time, I had the entire park to myself, strangely enough.) I donned some dark extra covering (for warmth and better blending into the night) and slowly wandered up a path, heading up and East. As soon as I wandered into the park I saw one meteor, and as I walked up (one ridge of the canyon shielding my eyes perfectly from the city’s glow) I could see others as my eyes got better acclimatized. Eventually, I got to what is the best spot for viewing the city (not the sky) – it is the second level of the more well known look-out points, in case you’re interested. I found that the bench that’s there (yes, it is really huge, and quite splendid actually) although facing the wrong way for viewing the Perseids (looking South and into the glare of the city lights), is perfectly aligned for viewing them if you lie down on it facing up and East. So I did. My jacket made a nice pillow, and as I had a lot on my mind to think about, I was perfectly content to lie there for a good while and stare up at the stars, listening to the sounds of the city mumbling appreciative remarks from time to time as I was rewarded with a bright streak across the sky. At about 3:00am or so I began to get sleepy and decided that it would not be a good idea to be woken up by a park ranger the next morning and/or arrested (I can see the headlines now), and so I wandered back down the hill, and then home to bed.
Although last night (and early this morning) was the peak, there’ll be some to be seen in the next 24 hours too. I recommend trying. Look up and East for the big “W” of Cassiopeia (which is easier to spot than Perseus, I find; see my earlier post on spotting these, the Perseids) look just to the right and down (so below the “W” as it reads), and you’ll be more or less starting at the right spot. Let your eyes relax and take in a wide field, and wait. If you’re in the city here, and of the mistaken opinion that you have to be out in the boondocks to see stars (and planets, comets, meteors and so forth), please know that’s just another tired clichÃ©. There might quite a few easily accessible relatively dark spaces near you (even the beach might be a good spot – even though you’ll be looking back across the city; go late in that case so that you’re looking more up than across). Even if you don’t see any meteors, it could be a good outing. It’s worth the effort to be silent and lift your eyes and thoughts beyond the usual everyday cares of life and the city, at least once in a while. Well, it was for me, anyway.
Some Related Asymptotia Posts (not exhaustive):