Oh Sunset. What a street. Everyone knows it. You, your grandmother, your European cousins. It’s probably the most famous street in the world. It runs through Los Angeles like the Amazon river, feeding the city with fresh nutrients from near and far.
Like the Amazon, Sunset is filled to the brim with snakes. Be it the man on standing on the other side of the liquor store counter absolutely fleecing you for booze and smokes or the slithering animal. The Television portrayal of Charles Manson from Aquarius with David Duchovny once said something about freeways being the great snakes that eat the world while looking over some busy LA thoroughfare. I like to think he was talking about Sunset.
The thing about Sunset is everyone has a different version of it. It’s really many many different streets depending on where you are in the city. My Sunset Blvd. is the only one I have any authority to speak on, and I can only speak on contemporary Sunset.
I’m from California. I’ve lived my entire life an hour outside of LA, and once I graduated college I split straight to the city. Fuck New York. I’ve heard about the bacon egg and cheese at the bodega enough to know that I don’t care enough to move to Bushwick. LA had been calling me, just out of reach until I was old enough to drive. It was a carrot dangled in front of my teenage prepubescent face.
Sunset Boulevard always captured my imagination as a kid. My father worked on set as a First Assistant, the guy who moves the T.V. or movie cameras, so I’d get to go hang around the Warner Brothers lot and then go eat shrimp at Yang Chow and walk around Sunset in Echo Park. We’d go to Dodger games and sit way the fuck up in the nosebleeds and eat garlic fries out of the little plastic helmets.
Sunset was central to all those memories. Always taking you in or out of the city, once you hit sunset you knew you had arrived. My first apartment in LA was just off sunset on the 101. I’ve drunkenly stumbled around every inch of that cursed boulevard in Echo Park and shot dice and drank whiskey in most of the alleys. Had beautiful conversations with friends and lovers on the concrete blocks that protrude from the dirt hill sides, watching the helicopters beaming their midnight suns, like little eyes of Sauron down on the city. I’ve been welcomed in by the violent fluorescent lights of Brazil Tobacco and thrown up next door at King Taco. There’s an old man who’s banned from Royale Liquor and I always try and get him a shooter of Vodka when I have some tip money in my pocket.
Waking Sunset at night, covered in flour, on my way home from tossing pizzas I feel like I belong to a special club. While Sunset is the temporary home of million of visitors every year, those of us that live there see each other everyday. There’s a distinct sense of solidarity amongst those weaving through the line for Monty’s and Triple Beam Pizza just to get to Brazil Tobacco and stand in front of that shining bong case to grab what you need and split home.
All this to say Sunset Boulevard is just like the Amazon river. Providing nutrients with its constant flow, feeding those who dwell on its banks. It’s also full to the brim with snakes.