It used to be that whenever I’d travel somewhere, I’d do my pre-Internet go-to-the-library research, buy or borrow a Lonely Planet, and highlight a map (probably a TripTik by AAA). Well-armed with information, I would then put myself in my host’s hands and be led around from one must see to the next.
Nowadays, I just sort of wing it and figure whatever I see or don’t see, it’ll still be an adventurous and/or relaxing time. Basically, I’ve started traveling like Zora says rather than as Lonely Planet or Trip Advisor or Time Out says. I am old enough now that I have my own network of widely-traveled and trusted friends so I can just toss out a “what are your top five?” email and get a glut of helpful guidance and warnings (see post below). That is how Wednesday morning found me: packed with a simple carry-on with some clothes, two paperback books (one to leave on the plane and one to read on the way back), some e-books, toiletries and a few notes and two printed directions on how to get from LAX to Gojira’s work and from Gojira’s work to Gojira’s house (I packed my GPS too but am still wary about trusting technology completely – also the reason for carrying paperback books). I used to rely on my battered notebook for my many witty and deep observations but I’ve started replacing words with pictures and I’m not sure that’s a good thing. I’d love to have the energy and creativity for a good travelogue but maybe just notes for now with additional stories when prompted and hopes that decades from now when asked about the trip, my memory won’t fail me.
Travel Day: Wednesday
Arrived in LAX and saw first-hand the paps with their cameras at the ready, none of which were aimed at me or my fellow Southwest Airlines peons.
Greatly enjoyed the backup singing style of the Avis bus driver who shuttled us from the gigantic terminal to the rental lot miles and miles away. His “mmm hmmms” and “yeahs” whilst grooving to his slow jams were tremendously entertaining. His closing his eyes and bopping his head while driving were not.
Living in my cocooned little Metro/bus/walking world, the 405 would have completely terrified me but for the fact that traffic was sparse and the soothing GPS voice assured me that it would be so kind as to recalculate after every wrong turn I took.
Made it alive to Gojira’s office but so desperate to park that I pulled into the first lot I found which ended up costing me $15 for an hour rather than $0.00 if I had followed her directions to park in her office’s lot.
Joyous reunion with Gojira with obligatory sushi immediately upon arrival.
Puttered along the streets of LA but was a little disoriented because among all of the palm trees and hills were gigantic billboards featuring DC [White House Down and House of Cards] – had I even left?
Was greatly amused by the fact that we were pretty much the only pedestrians on our stroll to Laurel Hardware for dinner. This song does not lie:
Gojira racked up the undying love points by generously giving me her big, comfy bed and bedroom with door that foils the over-affectionate, playful-at-3am cat. Passed out in half a minute.
All modes of transportation: Thursday
As anticipated, awoke at 3 a.m. (6 a.m. my time) with nary a cafe open at that hour. Completed one book, showered, and lounged on the balcony with a privacy screen the likes of which are unparalleled.
Tried to relax and read another book but (a) Clo kept making me nervous by slipping through the rails to chomp on the palm fronds and (b) some really loud buzzing distracted me and I kept my eye out for pterodactyl-sized bees only to discover that a hummingbird wanted to make friends! He was so small and gray (no brilliant flash of iridescent green that I expected) and hovered right above my toes, tilting its head to get a good look at me, before zipping across the courtyard.
After Gojira awoke, we hit the sidewalk (desolate but for us) to peruse the aisles of the Rite Aid for our various ailments and conditions. I scored a new pair of sunglasses (thank ye, G) which had dimension-altering lenses that let me see things that ordinary sunglasses did not! Turns out they were polarized but Gojira insisted they were TARDIS sunglasses and I did not disagree.
As usual, our topics of conversation swerved from the mundane (“it’s so sunny here.” “it’s like that all. the. time.”) to the absurd (“sometimes I think it wouldn’t be so bad to be a little bit deaf.” “ME TOO!”) to the ludicrous (“why don’t you get some throat lozenges for your sore throat?” “no, I think I’ll try [radio edit]”).
From there, we walked to Coffee Commissary for my much needed jolt of caffeine.We took a break from catching up with each other to catch up with (i.e. eavesdrop on) our neighbors (burgeoning script-writers, I believe).
From there, we walked to The Grove for some greatly over-priced but what-the-hell-I’m-on-vacation $5 lemonade from Monsieur Marcel. I refrained from dropping $14 for the Beverly Hills 90H20 Sommelier-Crafted Water though.
From there, we walked through Gojira’s old neighborhood, past Magnolia Bakery (not the one with the cupcake ATM, alas), and generally around the area until finally, FINALLY, Izaka-Ya by Katsu-Ya opened. We were seated, given washcloths to clean our hands, and told about the “limited to the first 10 orders” special of the day: $12 for an assortment of bliss including miso soup with asari (clams), salad, tuna sushi, salmon sushi, white fish under a blanket of fried onions, asparagus tempura, and (pinnacle of the dishes) crispy rice with spicy tuna. Thank you, L.A., for introducing me to a dish that I now must scour DC/MD restaurants to find.
From there, we staggered out into the bright sunshine and into an Uber car. Our private car slid up to us, the driver asked us where we’d like to go (Venice Canals), which route we’d like to take (as though were were The Californians), whether we’d like something to drink (free water!), and what music we’d like to listen to (didn’t matter; Gojira made the fatal mistake of asking me how the TARDIS works and got a non-stop Doctor Who 101 lesson until we arrived at the canals in our slick ride like a BOSS. Well, two bosses.).
The Venice Canal Historic District. The canals were dreamy. The softly rising bridges led from one interesting home on the water to the next. The diversity of architecture and design intrigued us. The sunlight glittering on the water pleased us. We were content.
The Venice Beach and promenade were eye-opening. The Pacific Ocean fooled me again, as it always does, looking so warm and inviting but really being chilly and cruel. Parking ourselves under the shade of some palm trees, I surreptitiously observed and then outright stared at the antics of the boardwalk denizens. I simply could not get over the fact that some of these people were homeless. They looked fine and healthy: tan, untangled hair, all limbs accounted for, non-raggedly clothes, but there they were – digging through the garbage cans, sorting through it all looking for food. One garbage can in particular had at least five patrons picking out the Styrofoam containers, taking a bite of whatever was in there, and tossing them back in. I’m pretty sure this particular eating establishment/can got five stars on Yelp. My gawking was interrupted by a shirtless gentleman who asked us if we wanted to get high. No coyness. No subterfuge. No “do you want to party?” code. Very blunt (ha): “Do you want to purchase and enjoy some marijuana?” We politely declined to which he responded, “hey, I never touch the stuff myself.” Then how do you know if you’ve got any good bud?
As we waited for our next Uber ride to whisk us away from the hazy, crazy beach to the sweet, elite LACMA, we sought some shade near what turned out to be a medical marijuana dispensary. You’d think they’d be cool about two lovely ladies perched on their planters awaiting their chauffeur but you’d be wrong. A burly badged and belted guy (guard? security? dealer?) came out to tell us that we couldn’t loiter around there. We stood up like the altercation-averse good girls we are but then I asked, “we are just waiting for our car, we can’t stand on the sidewalk?” The dude glared, shrugged his shoulders, and dismissed us with, “well, if you are going to be difficult about it, do whatever you want.” I took that to mean we could resume our seated positions but Gojira took it to mean the compromise of standing on the sidewalk was the order of the day. So she stood and I sat until our car appeared.
At the LACMA, our good karma returned to us. LA County residents can enter for free after 3 p.m. but because it was so late in the day (around 4 p.m.), the clerk just waved us through. Free museum (unheard of outside of DC)! We behaved childishly through the Jesús Rafael Soto sculpture, Penetrabile, we perused the Kubrick exhibit, and we treated ourselves to some warm beverages (artisan hot chocolate for me) while we sat and soaked in the sun. We scurried under the enormous boulder exhibit, Levitated Mass, before running to catch our bus. Yeah, you read that correctly. I was a livin’ la vida local sans locomotion.
Crossing off In-N-Out Burger from my list, we wolfed down our double doubles and drove to the Arclight.
After some dithering over the confusing posted parking but maybe no parking signs, we parked directly in front of the theater, flashed our electronic mobile app tickets to the usher (well, Gojira did; if you know me at all, you know I don’t have a smart phone), and found our reserved seats (RESERVED SEATS!). I settled back and spent the next one hour and 49 minutes in a state of bliss. Much Ado About Nothing by Joss Whedon.
On My Own: Friday
I read and read and read until it was finally 7 a.m. and the Commissary was open. I engaged in scintillating conversations with the staff: “I love your PBS shirt.” “Thanks!” “It’s such an important part of television.” “Yes.” [awkward pause] “and education.” Gojira had to work until midnight so after dropping her off, Garmin and I zig-zagged our way to Diddy Riese for, as one friend described it, the “BEST GOTTAM cookies you will have in your life.” She was not wrong.
The Getty Museum afforded me with some more culture, some history of the architecture in L.A., and some fantastic views of the city. My PBS t-shirt garnered more remarks (“are you here for the Roadshow in Anaheim?! I’m going there tomorrow!”) as I waited for a docent-guided tour of the gardens to begin. I found out that for parking at the Museum ($15), I could get free parking at the Villa as well. The Villa required advanced timed entry tickets (strike one), was in Malibu half an hour away (strike two), and would make me late for my visit with my old college buddy (strike three).
I braved the 405 and made it to Manhattan Beach around 1 p.m. and wanted to taste these chilaquiles my friends had been raving about but ended up at some dive, El Tarasco, with a friendly staff and inexpensive comfort food of enchiladas and burritos. Noah met me on the pier where I had secured a nice bench so that we could ogle the hardbodies below while we caught up on good news, bad news, and ridiculous news (“if that was his idea of Plan A, what in the world were Plan B and Plan C?”). At his lovely home in Redondo Beach, I met the rest of the family, he made me his secret-recipe homemade egg cream (he’s from NYC, he knows what he’s talking about), and we reminisced over our 25 year friendship (“you’re looking good!” “you too!” “you both look great!” “well, at least on the outside; our insides are rotting and falling apart.”).
I spent an inordinate amount of time creeping through Friday evening summer rush-hour traffic before returning home, walking over to the Whole Foods for some dinner, and falling asleep.
Gojira Returns: Saturday
Thank you, Urth Caffe, for opening at 6:30 a.m. I joined the other early risers (mostly cops for some reason) and settled into a gigantic mug of Spanish Latte. The caffeine hit got me through the first part of the morning when I finished my second book, showered, changed, and waited for Gojira to wake up. I’m sure she’d have loved to sleep in, but brunch at Eveleigh was awaiting us and that got her moving. For me: ‘bubble & squeak’ corned brisket, fingerling potato hash, green hash, fried egg and to drink, coconut date young coconut meat, coconut water, date, cinnamon, vanilla stevia, vanilla, almond milk, hazelnuts. For G: soft scrambled eggs, hot smoked salmon, hollandaise, house – made english muffin. Sighs and moans and groans later, we merely sat in the dappled shade of the outdoor patio and planned the rest of our day.
Mutato Muzika (Devo) building above!
Griffith Observatory granted us yet another unbelievable view of the city as well as the famous Hollywood sign. We stood in line for the planetarium until we figured out that tickets were required and then we hightailed it out of there. Delusionally, we thought we could check out the Getty Villa too but we got stuck in some traffic that sapped whatever strength we had left. Taking advantage of our blase attitude towards any further sight-seeing and opting to enjoy our time together in a more picturesque environment than behind the wheel of a Ford Fusion, we returned to West Hollywood and splurged at Chateau Marmont instead.
We may have gotten some odd looks from the valets when we walked up (rather than drove up) to the hotel but when I entered the cool, dim lobby with my giant space-time-continuum-bending sunglasses, I couldn’t see and didn’t care. Crisped artichokes with rosemary, garlic & meyer lemon aïoli and iced cappuccinos to start followed by simple but devastating spaghetti bolognese. Our sun-addled brains could only function enough to chat with each other and eat but not to look beyond to see what stars and movers and shakers may have been dining with us. We were celebrities in our own minds (“the most over-qualified managing editor ever” and “the cheese queen”) and sufficient unto ourselves.
We could have basked in the carb glow until nightfall but the wedding reception party we were invited to was going to begin before long. Dressed, bussed, and hiked over a highway entrance at one point. We joined the revelers at the top of the Hollywood Hotel where my only celebrity sighting was a Dave Grohl look-alike who, it turned out, may not have been Dave Grohl but actually may have been Vince Gilligan. Yes, that Vince Gilligan. With a fantastic view of the sunset on one side and the rare sighting of the supermoon on the other, we smiled and mingled until way past my bedtime. I was knackered so after a lightning fast stop at Son of a Gun to top us off, I packed, set my alarm (as though I’d sleep past 5 a.m.), and put myself to bed.
Passed the Sweetlove dogs on the way to and from Urth Caffe for one last brobdingnagian mug of Spanish latte in the morning. Said my farewells to Gojira. Drove to Randy’s Donuts for a little sugar rush to carry me through the day.
Returned the rental car, got through security, and found my gate. Also found out that my flight was two hours late. Make that four hours late. This gate. That gate. Make that “just settle down, we’ll let you know.” Grudgingly enjoyed some Pinkberry for lunch and after the second delay went ahead and had a proper meal before we finally were allowed to board.
Although I had checked in online, the system deleted my boarding assignment (the dreaded “C”s) and so I was granted a new boarding assignment (still a “C” but now with an orange highlighted “XT” all over for the “extra time” I was bestowed for showing up at 9:30 a.m. for my noon flight). I found a window seat, spent the next five hours trying to stay awake, landed, took the Super Shuttle home, sneaked a peak in on the kids, settled in next to TP, and passed out for a full four hours before waking to the whispered shrieks of “get out of there, you’ll wake up Mommy!” and “no YOU get out of here!” Home again, home again, jiggity jig.