Saturday, April 9, 2011

SoCal Trip

I just finished reading this fascinating book Erick made me pack in the luggage as we left LA.  This is my kind of book broomstick bro; it was chock full of the most interesting details of the comedy greats and their stories during the heady 70's. What a gem.  I could not put this book down for very long as it continually fed my voracious appetite for anything pop culture history.  I could eat this stuff all day! I love the 70's and 80's but more so the former as I was zygote to 9 and remember fondly the great TV shows and personalities as I was sucked- in and nurtured in the warm and glorious light of a 19" black n white.  But enough about the free babysitter.  In the book, I was excited to see references to Canter's Deli, the place we all ate our last meal over a period of 2 1/2 hours on our final night in LA.  I told Erick in Canter's that I had imagined some material for my first appearance at an open-mic night and it would reflect on my first visit to LA.  Just now writing something down and however unpolished, it would start something like this.

Intro blah blah....."I'm from Chicago and this is my first time in California.  I drove down Sunset Blvd, walked on Venice Beach, did the Griffith and stepped into the ocean.  Did Universal Studios, enjoyed the scenic landscape and the saw the Hollywood sign.  All great stuff. Amazing!" And then I would angrily whine, maybe a little hint of Sam Kinison.."But Jesus Christ on a pogo stick why is it so frickin COLD!  I'm cold. Silly me, getting all worried about the radiation.  That's nothing!  The cold is what's killing me. Unbelievable. Clouds everywhere, raining everyday and we are getting SICK.  Where the hell is the sun and the 80 degree temps?? Southern California you SUCK right now.  I could have gone to Alaska.  At least there they got heat and winter jackets.  Do you guy's have any concept of home heating systems?  My brother doesn't.  He had one of them little oscillating floor heaters and I prayed that he paid his electric bill.  I was looking around his house for pink disconnection notices and was damn well prepared to pay for it. Yeah I was paranoid. 'Where should I plug this in, don't wanna blow a fuse, you got extra fuses bro?' And you couldn't stay in the house.  Gotta go places. Things to see.  Grab that umbrella and say goodbye to Sparky.  That was the nickname I gave to the heater.  We developed a bond. Forty years it took to get to the ocean and now I thought about drowning in it!

Maybe it could have worked as it played on the unusual weather Cali was having. I know I said long ago that if I ever came to LA that I would do an open mic night.  I wasn't prepared though.  Such a scary idea if you really think about it.  Most people bomb their first time up. One day I will cross that off my bucket list.  One day.

should have brought my thermals!

My imaginary stand-up material and the picture above is a slight exaggeration. Yes it was a bit chilly and damp and you had to take hot showers to rapidly elevate body temperatures, but I'm mainly poking fun at those night time temperatures. Although Chicago is much colder, I guess we are used to 68 degree home heat. 

Erick picked up my mom and I at LAX on Monday morning.  We met up with Bianca at the house and promptly got a tour including the back yard where they have plants and stuff growing everywhere.  A cute little house up on a hill, their front door is above the neighbor's roof tops across the street.  Needless to say, they have some great views. There are some benefits to living on a hill I'd imagine.  No dogs or deranged humans to crap in your front yard. I've always hated that.  There is no need for a lawn mower and drive-by shootings are not so effective. One bummer is that with all those stairs you pretty much have to tip the pizza delivery guy.

We got some grub at a local landmark diner called Fred 62.

I forget what I ordered but I know it wasn't 'The Dime Bag' or the 'White-Trash Tuna sandwich'.  I'm fairly certain it wasn't the 'Hunka Hunka Burnin' Love Pancake' or the 'The Manhandler'.

Our first meal in LA.

a wacky place we checked out

We then went to the Great Lawn at Hollyhock House, the Hollyhock house being a Frank Lloyd Wright structure erected in 1925 and the landscape architecture designed by his son Lloyd.  A visual setting for one side of the house it featured trees, shrubs and ground cover that thrive well in the SoCal climate.

We then made our way to the famous Griffith Observatory.  I was pleasantly surprised to see a bust of James Dean and realizing THIS is where that scene from 'Rebel Without a Cause' was shot. So cool. We saw the stunning views of the LA landscape perched high up on the hills as well as the iconic Hollywood sign. There were no knife fights today.

Erick and Bianca had to work the following day and throughout the week.
off to work
I was tempted to build them new stair railings
Left to our own devices but with a nice hand drawn map, we explored the local neighborhood on York street.
We met Giovanni, the owner of El Chapin restaurant who took a liking to us.  By the second visit, he would pull a chair and tell us all about the way he prepares his Guatemalan entrees.  He also gave us some insightful info on the area.  I thought it was interesting that the area is very similar to Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood; a slowly gentrifying artsy type community. I miss Rogers Park.

A day was spent in downtown LA.
We took the Metro Gold line to Union station.  We walked through Olvera street, a mexican style plaza marketplace.  As part of the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument, it is the oldest part of downtown LA.  On this day it was free to take a look inside the oldest standing house in LA, the Avila Adobe (1818).  In this very colorful area of town, my mom was in search for a hat.  Many were handled but none gave her that new hat spark of joy. After donating money for the Japanese relief, a guy wanted to take our picture and add it to to a

 Tracking down the scent, I saw these young people smoking weed and took their picture.Kids nowadays have to hide behind large trees .I say legalize the stuff already!

One of my goals downtown was to take a picture of the tallest building in LA and see if I would be hassled by security as had occurred there before. link  No security was out at US Bank Tower but when I tried to point camera up to get a shot of the Federal Building the police yelled out "No pictures". Ugh! I got my revenge with a faraway shot and even then I was looking over my shoulder and making sure we weren't being followed.

we were lucky to get this shot and escape without arrest or bodily harm

pic of federal building taken from a safe distance

 We did a lot of walking downtown.  We never quite made it inside a museum but we did get to the library a half hour before closing. Nice library.

 Our last stop downtown was The Coffee Bean to wait for Erick to arrive.  Erick then took us to Mr. Ramen and we had some tasty noodles.

One day we took the Gold line out to Pasadena.
We went to a library which so happened to have a book sale going on.  I was tempted but passed on getting this over-sized picture book on Mount Everest for 5 bucks.  We saw the civic center, went up the stairs, walked onto the wrap-around balcony, got locked out; Like mice in a big maze we found our way back down.  We checked out our first museum, the Pacific Asia museum. link  This museum had a lot of stuff in there.  We were going to also check out the California Contemporary Art Museum but they were closed but a parking garage next door was open and we took pictures of their colorful walls. We walked through Old Town where all the big-name shops were.  There were quite a few people out walking and shopping.  We hit up a Subway and split a 12".  I knew we had to eat light as Bianca's family were coming over that night and there would be a lot of food.  We then made our way back to the Gold line.  Erick gave us directions over the phone and we took the 83 bus to 50th Avenue on York Street, a 5 minute walk from the house.

 What we really enjoyed was simply hanging out when Erick and Bianca got home in the early evening.  They made some awesome dinners. Whether it was just conversation or some television, it was quality time. On Friday we met Bianca's family and they looked over the new changes to the house. There was a LOT of food including a Harvey Wallbanger cake.

breakfast by wolfgang pauk

They had the Gus artwork displayed on the wall

 On the sixth day, Saturday, we went to Universal Studios Hollywood.

 The weather was decent.  A chill in the air but not raining.  It's generally not a good idea to put me in a crowded place like a theme park.  Someone always gets hurt.  With my bad eyes (peripheral vision loss) it's stressful and tiring to always be on the lookout for those unlucky souls who try to dart across my path. Perhaps a name for these people would be 'The Walking Dead'.  No joke, I'm following someone only 2 feet behind and some Darwin candidate thinks they can quickly squeeze through and act shocked when I run them over.  Do you think you are playing the video game Frogger?? Guess what, I'm like a train and I can't stop on a dime. If I saw someone much bigger than myself, say, 7 feet tall and 300 pounds I'd give them their space.  Why even chance it?  It's like driving on the highway on a windy day, you best get away from them tractor-trailers.   But no, I'm like a magnet attracting those who have a death wish.  Whatever, I hope those girls were ok.  Maybe next time I should wear a sign on my back that says 'Do not follow close' or get more aggressive with those Yosemite Sam mud flaps that I somehow attach to the back of my shoes.  Whether it's a Bill Cartwright elbow to the face, stepping on shoes, kicking a wandering unleashed dog or minor booby benders, I'm certifiably a public nuisance. That is why I tend to avoid crowded areas. 

 We went on 4 attractions.  The Simpson Ride (a virtual roller coaster), The Studio Tour, Animal Actors and the Jurassic Park ride.  I liked the Studio Tour the best even if I was being tortured with spraying water every now and then.  I was sitting on the end and I kept thinking to myself  "Why is this happening to me? After a couple times it became humorous and I began to accept my fate.  I was half expecting the Tram to hit a bump and I'd be the only one to fall into the movie lake and be in the path of motorized plastic shark.

The studio tour was a great experience. I'd love to do it again, albeit on a warmer day

Sunday was nice. The sun was out.  In the back yard Erick filmed my mom and I in a little skit that his friend wrote. It was a wacky little ditty based on a previous skit called 'Eggs' that we did several years ago.  It was a lot of fun and reminded me of the day Erick and I filmed 'Revenge of the Nerd' however this time I was shut out of the creative process and was simply an actor with orders to follow the script as written.  I did however get to design the axe made out of cardboard and tin foil.  I hope I get mentioned in the credits for art direction at least.  Erick had me dressed up looking like a woodsman but I thought I resembled a serial killer.  I could have been the poster boy for a stranger danger campaign "Attention kids, If you see a jerk like this, shin kick and run anywhere"  My mom did a good job on her lines and sometimes got a little too dramatic.  It was funny that she had a habit of immediately looking back at the camera after her lines.  She was cracking us up. Hopefully the editing guy creates a blooper segment.

* This white space below is reserved for the finished video.  I will be checking back here in 3 months.

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 Monday, the last full day of vacation was pretty nice.  With a good dose of sunshine the temperature reached into the lower 60's.  We all piled into the Honda for a car tour.  With Erick and Bianca as very capable guides, they led us down Sunset Boulevard eagerly pointing out all the famous landmarks.  We didn't have time to get out of the car and walk on the Hollywood walk of stars but we at least got to watch others walk it.  We eventually made it to Venice Beach.  It was awesome.  I felt so much more energized as I absorbed the sun's rays and funky culture on the boardwalk.  One engaging plyometric-to-the-max street performer did a leap and flip over 9 people.  That group was very deserving of my dollar. I don't know if anyone gave money to the half-naked man with stick.

 My mom finally found a hat she liked after a week of intense searching. She talked the proprietor down some bucks.  I'm not sure what she liked more, the hat or getting a deal. I was pressured by Erick to buy a shirt at American Apparel presumably to look more Californian.

We finally saw the ocean up close.  It was a little chilly on the open beach with the whipping winds.  I stepped into the ocean but didn't venture too far as there is no way I'd see an oncoming maneater.  Yes, I still had a fear of the plastic jaws from the Studio Tour.  It was still fresh on my mind.

Looking out into the vast waters it was like a scene from one of my favorite movies 'The Warriors'.  Never mind that we were on the opposite side of the country.  We made it.  We survived.  Instead of fending off crazy New York gang bangers, we battled mother nature.

Masai- "You warriors are good. Real good".
Swan-  "The best"
Masai- "The rest is ours"

I've just learned that a re-make of The Warriors in under development and will be set in LA. Holy crap!

We then made our way to the Santa Monica pier.  We got the best photographs here as the sun was starting to make it's descent. Lighting does make all the difference.  I thought these pictures were really good.  I'm not even sure I look like that in real life.

As we were losing daylight we hopped back into the car for a drive along the scenic coast eventually reaching Malibu.
our last glimpse of the ocean

Then we had our last supper at Canter's Deli.
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