Sunday, April 29, 2007

Driving By

In Los Angeles, nothing remains the same for too long. Most of the local landmarks from my childhood are long gone.

The Topanga Theater, my childhood theater of choice in the West San Fernando Valley, closed perhaps ten years ago. It had once been a single theatre, had already split into two by the time I began attending films there, and later was further split into four tiny theaters, which made the venue useless. It was to be torn down and replaced with a huge, modern multiplex, but neighborhood opposition forced Pacific Theaters to move that concept a mile or so north, replacing a drive-in movie theater that had also gone from one to two to four screens. Today, after a couple of years as a furniture store, it stands empty. I will always remember it as the place where I saw the original "Poseidon Adventure" about 15 times (using my dad's pass, which required only that I paid tax), and the scene of countless movie previews.

Several miniature golf courses in the area were long ago destroyed as land grew in value, as was a branch of the Malibu Grand Prix kart racing track and arcade, a very popular destination for kids at one time. It's now an auto dealership.

The massive Westfield Topanga mall was once known as Topanga Plaza, and featured an ice-skating rink, which was later converted into a food court. When the mall was overhauled in the last couple of years, the food court itself was deconstructed, and the space where it existed, which until then retained the shape of the old rink, was completely removed as the mall more then doubled in size. That very spot is now just another wing of the mall.

True, there are some parks in the area that have vastly improved since those days, and forms of entertainment have changed dramatically - there's not a lack of things to do - and a mall is still a mall, just bigger and more "upscale," but the business of recreation, aside from movie theaters, has shifted to the personal rather then the social. We didn't have video game systems, movie rental houses (or cable TV), or the internet.

Not only did land become more expensive in Los Angeles, but kids drifted away to more convenient recreational activities as time moved on.

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