Behind tinted glass, the landscape rolls on towards the horizon. Its just as I had always imagined, Giant Saguaro Cacti, standing like lone prospectors; staking their claim to a slice of thorny, desiccated desert. This was the empire of desert, the distant plain, the back-of-beyond, that had landscaped my imagination from early childhood to the present day.
From a Fistful of Dollars, to No Country for Old Men, my visions of the West have been coloured by the technicolour tones of Hollywood and the wild, wild country that has inspired its industry so greatly.
And at last, some twenty years since the first days that my dreams were first invaded by sandstone skylines and vast vistas of tumbleweed and thunderheads, here I was, in the back of a big gas-guzzler, driving down a big lazy highway, headed towards the city where dreams come true.
There's a lyric from a song by Richard Ashcroft, "And I wanted to go; half my life, and I'm feeling kinda strange 'cos I never lived that life..." He was singing about New York, but as far as I was concerned, it fit perfectly with my expectations for Los Angeles, and in particular, Hollywood.
But then again, in a strange, second-hand kind of way, I had lived that life, through the silver screen. I understood that it was a version, of a version of someone else's life, but I have watched enough movies, enough Oscar Ceremonies and wasted enough late nights on Entertainment Tonight reruns to recognize Hollywood at least at face value.
But what I got was more than I anticipated. Hollywood is difficult to digest. It is wierd and wonderful at the same time. So alien and yet so familiar.
And now here I was at the threshold of the Empire of Make-Believe. Hollywood Hills would be home for the next few days. Above me perched the iconic "Hollywood" sign, and down below sprawled Los Angeles and all its promises of instamatic fame and dreams come true in the blink of a movie mogul's eye...