Monday, December 8, 2008

Searching for a needle in the haystack "Los Angeles"

In late October, I visited Los Angeles, CA - the reason being an information technology conference (namely Microsoft PDC - quite a good one by the way). Besides attending the conference, there are several other things you can do in Hollywood's home. Of course, there's the whole Hollywood experience - the Walk of Fame amongst other things. There's LA's neighborhoods, e.g. the glamorous Bel Air, which is certainly interesting to drive through. As a PDC attendee, you get to see the well-known Universal Studios, no explanation needed. Leaving all that aside, the city itself is not what you would expect - or, more precisely, what I had expected before my first visit in 2005. Streets are mostly empty - deserted in comparison other cities, you would think that people don't live in the fast lane in the undisputed capitol of America's film industry. I'm thinking New York City (been there many times; without a doubt a favorite of mine), the ever pulsating and forward-moving city life - cars in the busy streets, sidewalks filled with stressed people making their ways through Manhattan's grid of avenues. No, not in LA. If you invert my thought, you could think of LA as a relaxing place to be - the predominantly mild weather encountered throughout California contributes favorably.

One other thing you can do while you're in "The Angels" is searching for a needle in the haystack of buildings and streets on a sunny morning (28°C) in fall - the needle being a filming location of a Showtime TV show I enjoy watching for it's originality in terms of story and characters - Dexter. If you've heard of or seen it already, you know it's set in Miami Beach, FL. Unsurprisingly, that usually means filming was not done in that part of the US. Before the trip, I had done some research and ultimately found a reference, which confirmed the theory and actually covered three locations in LA, all of which should be known to an audience familiar with season one. The hockey stadium a victim of the so-called "ice truck killer" was found in. The hospital where "Tony Tucci", a surviving victim of the ice truck killer, was found. The third was in close proximity to my hotel, an easy choice: one of many sites where the ice truck killer recreated a memorable moment of Dexter's youth, in this instance him standing beside a palm with a black smiley face on it and a junkyard in the background.

The site provided the address, I fed my iPhone with the data via wifi and thereby preloaded the maps (unfortunately, there's no way to explicitly do so for all levels of detail). Off I was to follow the 3km route before the conference started, a piece of cake for the most part. A worthwhile feature though would be automatic map rotation based on the current / last GPS vector, that would make navigation more intuitive. Having arrived at the supposed filming location, I compared the surroundings with a screenshot of the scene in question - Season 1, Episode 4, "Let's Give the Boy a Hand", 39:42 excluding opening credits...

...and, I can confirm that the site matches the scene location, it (still) looks more or less identical.

The major missing piece is the palm tree that featured the smiley face. I certainly didn't expect to find it there, it was a requisite (identical to the one in the photo). The tree was placed inside a circle-shaped traffic refuge. That's still there, palm-less though.

I wish I had taken a picture of me reenacting the scene :)

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