The Coral Sands Motel occupies a fairly nondescript building on Western Avenue just north of Hollywood Boulevard. According to the guy at the front desk, it was originally constructed in 1940 as an apartment complex, but fell into disuse sometime in the 1960s. It was converted to a hotel in the 1970s, and for the next few decades it was known as a popular gay motel, recently downgraded to just “gay friendly.” Today, it has no official affiliation with any particular sexual identity, but you can still find a small, faded rainbow flag sticker on the hotel’s marquee outside.
I chose to stay at the Coral Sands mostly because the price, location, and Trip Advisor ratings were right. It’s situated on the outskirts of Thai Town, and my favourite cinema, chicken shop, and music store are all within a mile locus (something I might have disregarded if I’d remembered how uncomfortable it is to actually walk anywhere in LA in August, with temperatures pushing 100°F). It’s also nearby Los Feliz, one of my favourite neighbourhoods, and not too far from the West Side, should I for some reason want to go there.
The hotel itself could barely have been more wonderful. Walking past a ramshackle reception and a beat-up vending machine, your first vision is of a courtyard, the centrepiece of which is a pristinely turquoise pool flanked by tall, sun-frazzled palms. It looked like somewhere an out-of-work screenwriter or starlet might shack up while lazily looking for a job or inspiration. It felt romantic. It felt like Hollywood. And it had free wifi.
At night I encountered European tourists and the occasional cockroach out by the jacuzzi. One German visitor, a dentist recently separated from his wife, had just come from Vegas with a few friends and seemed bemused by America in general, and particularly unimpressed with our food. It transpired that he had only had things like lite beer and Jack in the Box; I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I told him that he was currently staying in one of the greatest food cities in the world, but of course that’s something that you’ve got to find out for yourself. He wasn’t convinced. I shrugged, told him to go get barbecue in Koreatown or tacos in Highland Park, and went to bed in my gloriously air-conditioned room.
I woke up the next morning, went for a swim, and spent another day indulging in fantastic food and drink. I thought about that German guy and the following quote:
Photograph by Angeline Gragasin.