Stepping outside all the comfort zones, we have set off on several months of travel. The discomfort of the endless flight across the Pacific, and the complete bliss of a hotel bed afterwards. That much is familiar, along with the endless grime of the airport district in Los Angeles.
Familiar too is the impressive way everything seems to work well in the US, and the marvel at a hotel that can give us a big room, free wifi, a decent breakfast and a pool (if it were warm enough) along with airport pick up, all for about $60 a night. And now that the $Aussie is about parity, a real bargain.
We set about broadening our minds, cause that’s what travel is all about. First by speaking as much Spanish as the locals would tolerate, and second by exploring the public transport options to access art galleries.
A quick spin on bicycles at Venice Beach, and then a long longed-for visit to the Getty Villa, to marvel at the generous spirit of a man who never even saw the public benefit he created, high on a cliff in Santa Monica:
The Getty Villa houses Roman treasures and antiquities, some of which the Italians would like back. It replicates a villa destroyed near Pompei, and volunteer guides are there to tell us about the architecture and gardens and decorations. It is always surprising how modern some of these look:
These were, of course modern interpretations of Roman painting, but accurate in as much detail as possible.
The LA Metro system is much quicker than the buses, but some of the stations are situated in the middle of freeways, and the sound was just deafening. I always imagine the bicycles multiplying and the cars decreasing, and indeed I have read that road traffic has lessened somewhat in the US, even though the population has grown.Until that transformation happens, the freeways will retain a certain surreal beauty.
The pervasiveness of the movie industry is one of the fun aspects of LA. There is always some shoot going on, hard to miss it. And conversations overheard include references to someone or other who was an extra or had a minor role in some film or another. Or the guy on the bus reading a manual on how to be a stuntman. And the ads for courses on movie makeup. It’s always there in the background, and this time we saw a small photographic display at the LACMA of the recently deceased Liz Taylor in Iran, beautifully decked out in colourful native gear.
But LA was just the entree, and now we are in Mexico City, in the cultural district of Coyoacan, where Frida Khalo and Diego Rivera were part of a coterie of politically minded artists. Lots of opportunities to practice Spanish here, and I’m grateful that I can read it, as the museums don’t always offer English captions.
Yesterday we visited Trotsky’s last house, also his burial place after a demented partisan went at him in his study with an ice pick. Stalin shared the quality we see in certain of today’s leaders, of being a particularly vindictive hater. I don’t know much about the various factions of Russian communism, but it was sad to see where Trotsky wrote and tended rabbits in a fortified house after a first failed assassination attempt. The Mexicans in the 1930s were pretty bolshy themselves, and offered him asylum.
Tomorrow we are setting out to see another art museum created by another incredibly rich man. Carlos Slim is a Lebanese-Mexican, and the richest man in the world. Like the 2 Getty museums in LA, the Soumaya Museum is free, and I am grateful. My mind has already enlarged to reflect on philanthropy on such a scale.