Having recently learned from my doctor that I am vitamin D deficient, I took advantage of my Sunday afternoon to stroll around Venice with a friend and soak up some sun. Whilst winding through side streets, alleyways, and nether regions (and generally avoiding the hipster crowds on Abbott Kinney), my eye fell upon an unexpected landscape atop the cracked sidewalk. A mound of earth, about 3 inches high and emblazoned with familiar lettering, “H. O. L. L. Y. W. O. O. D.”, stood in my path. As seemingly insignificant as a discarded fast food wrapper, its backdrop was a fire hydrant, some weeds, and an abandoned door. A far cry from the majestic summit of Mt. Lee that is home to the somewhat larger famous landmark.
The actual Hollywood sign has been much in the news lately, with developers wanting to build a luxury neighborhood on the peak above it. This ignited a campaign to buy the land and protect it as public open space. The sign was recently covered up by the words “Save the Peak” as part of this effort. Needing to raise $12.5 million dollars, many Hollywood players got involved, including studios, producers, directors, and even Tiffany & Co. A final $1 million donation by Playboy mogul Hugh Hefner has made the preservation of the land a done deal.
So what was this miniature doing in my path? It turns out that this diorama was itself an effort to address the problem of Mt. Lee, put forward by the “Center for World Problems” (flavors.me/centerforworldproblems). What I can only take for a grassroots organization (who knows how many members there actually are?) their suggestion is that “using simple economics (via supply-and-demand), the price would go down if there was more than one mountain for the Hollywood Sign to go on.” (www.centerforworldproblems.tumblr.com) A worthy and creative solution.
But that was not where my mind instantly took me upon viewing this molehill reproduction. Rather, it made me reflect on what the sign itself represents. I recall driving west along the 10 freeway, not long after I had moved to Los Angeles, and spotting the sign for the first time off in the distance. It is cliché to talk of the thrill that the sign made me feel, the naïve expectation that has long since dissipated in the years I have been plugging away building a career. If anything, the sign has become merely a backdrop, taken for granted as a tourist attraction. These days I tend to regard it with a sense of irony, rolling my eyes at my former wide-eyed self and laughing at my insider’s joke. But I would be remiss to suggest that all of that earlier hope and belief is gone. If it were I doubt I would still be here. And that was the power of the miniature, a tiny reminder of the dreams that drive us all.
We need to remember our dreams as we soldier on, forging ahead in this uphill battle we call life. Sure, the realization of a dream is anything but easy, fraught with challenges and obstacles to make even the toughest of us whimper. But on we go, because what is the alternative? And sure, not all dreams will be realized. Many are simply there to propel us in new and more interesting directions. They serve as guideposts, incentives, starting guns. But without them…
Perhaps we all need a little Hollywood sign, casually thrown together with bits of wood and dirt in an unlikely spot. A reminder that dreams, albeit grandiose at times, are as essential as the weeds that line our sidewalks, or the cracks that let them grow.
More information on the Hollywood sign can be found at www.hollywoodsign.org