Monday, January 30, 2012

Iconic L.A.: "The Chateau"

THE SUNSET STRIP is an open wound, twinkling bacteria and brilliant billboards in shades of lime and tangerine and cherry litter the sidewalk. 

 The yellow train-car, rusted and repainted, a piece broken off from the forties, has been converted into a very narrow diner and complains lazily that LA has been written about and re-written about; seems to complain that everything in LA has been done. 
Beyond the train-diner are tufts of slender trees that play with the light and rise up into a microcosm of forest and a brief suggestion of wilderness.  Through the trees, a series of pale stone towers emerge, pointed and withered and majestic.  White cloth blows gently in the wind, stripped with tenuous gold. 

The grey shackled roof flickers light and dark swallowing up slits in increments, rows and rows of windows, no two the same size.  One tall, slender shrub juts up the front of the building, trying, unsuccessfully to penetrate.  Where the smooth, cream façade bends into an L, a light spray of bare, bony branches erupt over the outer wall.  They seem to shiver.  Palm trees and telephone wires collide amicably, making room for each other; they share rust, becoming one.  I am potently aware of my exclusion from their tight bond.

Directly in front of hotel stands a larger-than-life bottle-shaped advertisement for Absoulut Vodka, that can be recognized even from behind, a network of iron rails, also bottle-shaped.  Everything glows and blurs together as if I’ve consumed the entire bottle.
The Chateau Marmot on Sunset is a real place.  At sunset, when you have only heard the name in movies and internal monologue fantasy sequences, it doesn’t appear to be so.  It is more like a palace of mesh and lace, a mirage rising up from the burnt nothingness of Los Angeles terrain.  An apparition, most definitely, it has to be.  But it isn’t.  It is a real place (whatever that means), and real people eat and drink and smoke there.  Some of those people are even regulars.  But tonight may be my only night at the Chateau: the vodka mojitos we order are eighteen dollars each.  And it is things like this that expose it as a real place: the glossy red, white and black woven chairs, the charmingly uneven marble mosaic walls and tables, the touches of gleaming brass on knobs and handles, the cold and cruel smell of various liquors, mixing and chilling in the air like gaseous metal.  It is a real place that wants to be a fantastic mirage, most likely for business purposes, or something bigger, like our fear of being average pushes us to strive for the whimsical.  I am calmed, then excited, by the dream that I could vanish here behind these fantastic, phantasmagoric walls, never to face the outside world again.

The Chateau Marmot is built on an incline, into the base of the Hollywood hills.  It is modeled after a French-Normandy villa, intentionally crumbled and covered entirely in ivy, made to look delicate as table doilies.  Everything is tinged with nostalgia for the 1920s with classic art deco designs woven into the makeup of the building.  The elevator we ride up to the exposed courtyard is plated in gold leaf with intentionally scuffed up patches that give the narrow box a soft, cinematic glow.

-- Zahra Lipson

(image: robertjasoncross via flickr creative commons)

1 comment:

  1. I love your writing Zahra, you really paint a vivid picture full of color and the harsh reality that is the Sunset Strip. Having worked at the Coffee Bean there for several years, I can see exactly what you are referring to in your post. Well done.