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Travel

Bum utopia: Exploring the locations of The Big Lebowski’s Los Angeles

@TomTaylorFO

The screenplay for The Big Lebowski opens with the scene description: “We are floating up a steep scrubby slope.” This wilderness is man’s final frontier, the westernmost outpost of the back of beyond. The screenplay action continues: “We top the rise and the smoggy vastness of Los Angeles at twilight stretches out before us.” This twinkling bohemia is the home of the bums and their foremost Godly paragon, The Dude (or El Duderito if you’re not into the whole brevity thing). 

As directors, the Coen brothers have always been disciples of the Alfred Hitchcock mantra ‘if it happens anywhere it matters not’, but Ethan Coen stretched the cinematic virtue of time and place a little further and referred to the sort of movies they make as having a sense of “Natural History.” It’s not only a time and place they want to capture but also “the creatures that survived there.”

When it comes to creatures and their habitat, sometimes “there’s a man, well, he’s the man for his time and place, he fits right in there.” In Los Angeles, that man is The Dude—a fellow who pays for a carton with a damn cheque. Amid this so-called City of Angels, his species are thriving like sloths in a hybrid jungle / Bed, Bath and Beyond utopia. It isn’t exactly a glowing indictment of the sprawling city or its denizens, but then again, maybe that’s why the place is so durned interesting.

Any other travel guide to this desert town in denial will tell you that there are myriad things to do, but who wants to do things. There are countless folks out there doing nothing but things in a state of list ticking perpetuation, and someone needs to take her easy for all of us sinners. Beyond the endless things, this is where Los Angeles really comes into its own, because aside from the tourists, it seems to me that nobody is doing much of anything out there. 

Thus, if you want to abide by the apparent central tenet of good tourism, then you ought to follow in the footsteps of The Dude when you’re in Los Angeles. From Johnnie’s Coffee Shop to a beloved nihilist pancake house, we’ve collated what remains of The Big Lebowski’s LA. While a lot has changed (the bowling alley was torn down to make way for a school for little urban achievers), the bums certainly didn’t lose in LA, their revolution is very much underway. 

Travelling around The Big Lebowski’s Los Angeles:

Point Fermin Lighthouse, San Pedro 

At no point in the entirety of the film is it mentioned that Donny is a fan of surfing, and yet during his impromptu funeral travesty, we not only learn that he explored the west coast of America during his avid wave riding days, but we also find out his full name. Aside from the beautiful ‘life outside of itself’ aspect that this brings to the film, it also allows for a beautiful breakup to the scenery of the suburbs. 

Here amid the rocky cliffs and roaring waves, you can really feel at home in your jelly sandals with a few oat sodas on the go. Just a half-hour drive south from Los Angeles through Long Beach, you arrive at the so-called sunken city where you can bask in the salt-kissed golden rays and pour one out for a long-lost sweet prince. 

Point Dume State Beach, Malibu

The nice, quiet, little beach community might not be very welcoming to jerk-offs but if you keep your behaviour intact then, the site of Jackie Treehorn’s beach party is a beautiful spot to soak in. An hour’s drive out west from central LA takes you through the stunning scenery of the Santa Monica mountains and a certain Bob Dylan’s old Californian compound, to the eponymous long-haired paradise of Malibu. 

This Californian spot was even heralded as a chilled-out utopia by none other than John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas. If one of those guys is saying it’s a mellowed spot where “people really know how to live,” then you’re dealing with a uniquely toked out town. Lord knows, you can’t partake in what unfurls for The Dude in this surfing hotspot, but why would you want to? You can certainly take her easy and unwind though.

In some ways, that is the beauty of the LA that the Coen brothers offer up—there are stark contrasts in this city that the very first shot hints at. Away from the swarm of the centre are a string of idyllic spots where man really seems to have happened upon a gold rush, that is unless you have been drugged by a porn mogul.

Johnie’s Coffee Shop, Wilshire Blvd

Johnie’s Coffee Shop goes beyond The Big Lebowski’s Los Angeles, it is a monument that affects all of us—a place where our “basic freedoms” are upheld.  Sadly, however, it no longer serves up coffee, green toes, or stern lectures by staff members who can’t stand cussing. Nevertheless, the exterior of this iconic LA establishment is worth the trip alone. 

In true LA fashion, this diner is now reserved as a filming location. It is such a paradigm of the Californian coffee shop aesthetic that it became a living set. Beyond Walter’s rant, it has also housed similar diatribes by the cast of Reservoir Dogs and other great movies. 

Located at 6101 Wilshire Blvd., this hot spot is across the road from the Academy Museum. Therein you can check out statuettes of little Oscar himself and a slew of other movie buff attractions. Sadly, you won’t find many mentions of The Big Lebowski, because it was nominated for jack shit.

In-N-Out Burger 

Such is Donny’s unwavering and almost-annoying determination to go to the In-N-Out Burger in North Hollywood, even passing fans of the film are likely to want to visit one of these iconic Californian establishments. Some folks think they offer the best fast-food burgers around (“Those are good burgers, Walter”), whereas others think the joint is widely overrated, but that’s just like their opinion, man. 

A mile south of Radford Avenue, you’ll find the North Hollywood In-N-Out in question. While the specific geography of the dialogue is questionable, you’ll certainly receive your fill on Lankershim Blvd.

Dinah’s Family Restaurant, Sepulveda Blvd

6521 S. Sepulveda Blvd is a nice place to sit down with a marmot for a quick snack while you record from losing a green-tipped appendage. And it has been since it first opened back in 1959. This historic establishment offers a glimpse of LA’s past. In a city that gets a face-lift every five minutes, this allure is, well, timeless. 

With a typical American menu that is about as thick as a Leo Tolstoy novel, the excesses of LA are the focus of this famed food house. Quirky without trying to be so, Dinah’s ties Lebowski’s LA together as the inherent stupefying madness of a city that spends half of its time gazing out of its back door and the other half of the time chasing the stars only to find out they were ringers all along. 

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