It is a modest ride that’s been suggested, reports our LA-based contributor, Reagan Alexander. A grey ride on a grey Sunday morning. That’s until rising Hollywood star Tyler Case tells you why, within shouting distance of majestic canyons, repeating deserts, mountains and ocean vistas, that this is his ride.
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Tyler has chosen what, to the jaded and uninformed, is little other than a suburban circular route.
“It is the ride that felt right,” the 23-year-old actor says. “These are places that are extremely special to me. Going through Hollywood, being at the place where it started, going to the places that seem to be steps in the right direction.”
He has chosen a Sunday. He wants to ride early in the morning. Wants to cut a soft path through Los Angeles on one of those rare days that the Californian sky denies the sun its appearance.
“It’s something someone once said to me: ‘Ride your own ride. Don’t go at anyone else’s pace. Work on what you want to work on’.”
It happened to be a motorcycle cop at a training course who dispensed this advice. It’s likely this was said without irony and it is well known that motorcycle cops in LA have a less than favourable opinion of anyone else on two wheels, but it still spoke to Tyler.
We meet at the intersection of Gower and Hollywood Boulevard and then just north of us is the Hollywood sign – that thing on the mount that was a real estate advertisement turned cultural landmark.
Our first stop is TCL Chinese Theatre, more commonly known by its original name, Mann’s Chinese Theatre, and even more commonly known as a tourist trap on Hollywood Blvd. The street is eerily empty, metal barriers are set up in front of the landmark building, likely in preparation for a movie premiere because the Chinese theatre is where celebrity casts gather in suits and gowns to celebrate themselves, their blockbuster films, grinning through a lightning storm of flashbulbs on a hastily arranged carpet in front of a throng of adoring fans.
When he takes off his helmet, Tyler’s smile has seemingly, impossibly, grown wider, more sincere. He sees nothing but a sliver of a memory from his childhood, when he was a tourist at a tourist trap having his mother buy him a tourist’s memento.
“I got my first job acting when I was six in a Bounce fabric softener commercial. I remember the audition vividly, I remember the shooting process vividly. We moved out to LA when I was eight.”
“I came here for the first time in 2004 with my mom, saw Hollywood Blvd and the crazy-anything-can-happen of it all. To commemorate the moment, we had our hands ‘cemented’ in a Hollywood Blvd frame that my mom picked up from one of the street vendors.
“She still has it,” Tyler says before he walks out into the middle of the boulevard, a street made famous by the famous. “It has a crack in it from one of our moves.”
It is that joy. In the moment. In the past. In things that will be on the horizon. Tyler’s joy is addictive. The way that he rides is addictive, even with the short stops and starts that we have to make.
‘You already know you are going home with this bike’
He has a 2012 Bonnie, a bike that he purchased online from a manager of a motorcycle shop in San Diego. From the very beginning the bike owned him as much as he wanted to own the bike.
The idea was he’d parlay, haggle a bit, then he realised that arriving in a massive truck and trailer wasn’t the best way to kick-start a negotiation.
“I drove down there as if I was going to bargain, and I pull up in a giant Haul with a trailer,” he says, laughing. “I was like, ‘Yeah, do you think you could take a little bit off the price?’ and the guy was like, ‘Right. You already know you are going home with this bike’.”
Magic is real
We swing up Orange Street, pass The Magic Castle, a private club for adult magicians who reportedly believe that magic is actually real, take Cahuenga until we reach a side street that is the back entrance to the elementary school that was Tyler’s experience while he was in second and third grade, a child actor with a single mom who was dedicated to seeing her son’s dreams come true.
The ride is stilted, cluttered, even though the road is shockingly empty as we reach Valley View Elementary. But, when Tyler whips his helmet off, the smile is even broader, cleaner than it was before.
His mother was an actor, was allowed one chance at her dream, was driven from her home in New Jersey for an audition that fell flat and was never given that chance again. She made certain that the same fate would never befall her own offspring.
“She is an awesome mom. She didn’t get to chase that dream, so when it happened for myself and my younger sister, our mother was all about it and fully ready to support us.”
The family – single matriarch, two girls and a boy – bouncing from Fort Lauderdale to Georgia to Los Angeles had Tyler landing at an elementary school that opened his eyes to what could be. “It was a different experience to what I had been exposed to in Georgia. I felt like in Georgia there was one way to do everything for the most part and at Valley View I saw a lot of variety in the way that classes were taught.
“We had two recesses a day, which I thought was the coolest thing ever. They had a recess immediately after lunch, which is absolutely genius.”
And then again there is that childish wonder that is becoming more and more addictive. That notion of a ride that makes sense to you, how your bike meets the pavement, how a recess after lunch makes sense to you. How two recesses make sense to you.
We ride to the Water Tower at Warner Brothers, a place that is locked away from us, still in sight, and Tyler gets off his bike and wonders at it again.
“That is the drive I used to make, past those buildings along Olive and I would think, ‘I want to work there. I want to go behind that big gate and I want to do great things.’”
He has worked there, so it has been close to him and yet is still so far away.
‘When it all makes sense’
“When you are just alone with the bike you are kind of your own thing. There is nothing else that comes to mind and if it does, you have to press it out.
“It is kind of a meditative experience. Especially when you are in the canyons of LA. And the sun is up, and the breeze and the light and the tilt of the road take you to a place where you forget about all of the other bulls**t that happens in this city.”
And that is when it all makes sense. Tyler sees the city that is his third home as it is, a tourist trap, a temptress, a sign on a hill, knows how to be jaded but looks beyond that. He knows the joy that is the ride in itself, with its starts and stops, it’s 29 degrees, it’s three inches, even when it is grey after grey on a day that should be filled with sun.
He sees the colour where the rest of us have lost sight of it.