Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Griffith Park Pool

I used to think everyone in California had a pool. You live in SoCal, you drive a sports car and boom, a deep, sparkling pool is permanently attached to your svelte, tan hip. It only took a couple months of living out here for me to realize the secret- only rich people have pools. If you live in a lowly apartment you are more likely to be psyched by underground parking than the occasional tiny, greenish, fenced in pool sometimes found in older buildings. This is a bummer on many levels, especially since young contemporaries the nation over seem to pay half the rent we Angelino's do for complexes that include outdoor/indoor pools, saunas, wine and cheese cocktails- you name it.

Public pools in LA are generally not much better. They are usually teeming with sweaty, screaming children and often tagged within an inch of their life. This means many people are all gooey about their gym's pools, but I have found mine at 24hour Fitness is often an over-chlorinated retirement home, that stings my eyes and smells like b.o. But I still go because I loooove the water, and I love to swim, and yes the beach is only theoretically 20 minutes away, but let me tell you traffic makes it more like 2 hours and often once you get there it is chilly and overcast.

This is why the Griffith Park Pool is so refreshing. It is one of the cheapest things you can do in LA- only $2.50 for an all day pass! It is a public pool with an adults only section, a beautiful if fading art deco bath house and an area outside perfect for picnics or buying ice cream from a vendor. However, NO SOCCER, according to many posted signs. The water is clean and the lifeguards are nice. It is perfectly located in Los Feliz right by the 5 and the children there are well behaved and happy. It feels like a dusty summer camp.

Even the many downsides are surprisingly charming and old school metropolitan rustic. The schedule is beyond confusing and handwritten on poster board. There are no chairs around the pool so you have to sit on the cement or lean against the chain link fence when you are not in the pool. The showers are kind of icky, but with the old fashioned ticket counter and the high beige walls surrounding the pool and me in my hot, pin -up girl one piece bathing suit, I kept waiting for Philip Marlow or Sam Spade to walk in and ask me about some dame's sexy disappearance.

The saddest thing about the pool is that it is seasonal. And the season ends on September 5th- so this is your last week to try it out until next June 26th when it reopens. I strongly suggest you go. There is nothing like watching children swim with their fat little bellies stuck out with abandon in this town full of sucked-in stomachs. It makes you feel like a kid again, and in this town of grown up traffic jams and soul crushing rent, that ain't such a bad thing.

Travel: A
Ease: A
Content: B+
Subjective coolness: A-
Overall: A-

Directions: 3401 Riverside Drive. Heading north on Los Feliz Blvd. right before the 5 take a right on Riverside Drive and left into the parking lot (free parking!).
Hours: Only god and parks and rec know. Here is the schedule: http://www.laparks.org/dos/aquatic/pdf/poolPrg/griffith.pdf.
Price: $2.50. $2.00 with library card (how cool is that).

Monday, August 23, 2010

Jumbo's Clown Room

When I was nine years old my mother took me to a book signing to meet her idol, Gloria Steinem. It was at the old Intimate Bookstore in Chapel Hill and the line was sooo long. But Mama made me stay with her and by the time we reached the front I was super bored and absolutely itching to go find the newest Babysitter Club book. Finally, we were next! Ms. Steinem smiled at us, very pretty and friendly and as my mother fumbled out a greeting I tugged at her hand.

Me: "Can I go now?"
Mama: (Stammering an apology for my rudeness, a not uncommon occurrence.) " I...sorry she..."
Gloria: (Totally awesome and sincere) " I understand, more important places to go!"

That brief brush with a second wave feminist deity must have had quite an effect on me because I have a very non-my generation, non-third wave feminist confession to make. I hate strip clubs. I in no way think they are empowering. I have been to several and I do not find them funny or hot, even though true pole dancing is an art and an athletic skill that I certainly do not possess as several facebook pictures demonstrate.

What I had heard of Jumbo's Clown Room was not positive. Opened in 1970, it is legendary in part because Courtney Love stripped there. It's in a strip mall on Hollywood Blvd. and it was where old, tired strippers often end up. And Courtney freaking Love stripped there. I like to laugh at a lot, but snickering at a woman baring her flesh to try and make a living is not one of them.

So I was pleasantly surprised and strangely touched by what I found. Jumbo's is in a dirty strip mall, but once you get past the bouncers (no cover) you enter what looks like a tiny dive bar. And as you may know, I love nothing more than a rockin dive bar in a strip mall. The space is tiny and there is only one stage with one pole. Hipsters mill around drinking (cheap drinks!) and sit at tables while the women perform. Everyone I saw was engaged and respectful and trust, my critical eye was watching out for that.

The women on stage were not freaks, but interesting, slightly older pro's who all had their own look and their own dancing style ranging from punk rock to soft, faded belle to alternative pixie. They get to pick their two song sets, and there is no DJ or Emcee, so the dancers really set the tone. It's almost like watching a piece of modern dance minus the pretension. At the end of each set the dollar bills trickled (one stripper taught my friend how to flick a bill) on stage.

I found myself starting to have fun in spite of myself. But then returned the shades of gray.

One of the performers struck up a conversation with us. Fueled by alcohol we told her how in awe we were of her splits, her style, her sexy. She was the soft faded belle, and she was enthusiastic, sweet, a little drunk and getting drunker, which is her right. She was appreciative of our compliments but it didn't stop her in her search for another drink. That was a definite trend- the women's second and third sets all seemed a little more brash, sloppier, angrier. I was leaving as a g- string clad woman walked on all fours on stage grasping at dollars. I'm pretty sure my mom and Gloria would have would have been glad I did. By the way, that book signing was for "Revolution From Within: A Book of Self-Esteem ."

Travel: A
Content- B-
Subjective Coolness: C-
Overall: C+

Directions: 5153 Hollywood Blvd. between Kingsley and Winona.
Hours: 4pm-2am.
Price: Free parking, no cover, cheap drinks.