I just had a great little mini-vacation in California. Los Angeles was fun, sunny, and relaxing... and I hope I never see it again. San Diego, on the other hand, was as perfect as I've always imagined. Highlights include the weather (duh,) beach puppies, and Fiona Apple.
Last month, my friend asked me if I'd like to come along for her work trip to L.A.. She wanted company at night and she knows that I'm happy to entertain myself on my own during the day. So, last Wednesday, we met at LAX and headed for the JW Marriott in downtown Los Angeles.
This hotel is pretty new and it is attached to the Ritz Carlton. That first morning, I was at the concierge asking about transportation options when a huge rush of security came through the lobby and blocked me from taking a single step. As I stood still in a sea of intimidating men, I heard cheers and clapping before President Felipe Calderon of Mexico strolled by. So, that was my big celebrity sighting of the day, I guess. Anyway, we weren't on the Ritz side, but if that side is fit for a President, the JW Marriott was fit for me. (The Best Western would've worked, too. I don't care.) Sadly, I do not know much (anything) about the President of Mexico, so the only person I could think of as he hurried through the lobby was Esteban Reyes, the fictional mayor of Tijuana on Weeds.
After we checked in and were settled, we walked to the convention center so that Jen could figure out where she needed to work the following day. We went out for dinner with some of her coworkers at a wine bar in downtown L.A. called Cork. She has some really nice coworkers... it was nice to see coworkers who were not filled with venomous hate for one another.
Day Two. Santa Monica, Hollywood, and Marilyn's Crypt Keeper
For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ~ Robert Louis Stevenson
On Thursday morning, Jen left for work and I made my way to Santa Monica.
I just wandered, like I do, on the boardwalk, towards the pier where men who were wrinkled from years in the sun, cast their fishing lines into the great, blue Pacific. I love some of the photos that I took, but there needs to be a way to capture the whole sensory experience. The air smelled salty, the gentle breeze was tousling my hair, and I felt like my thirsty pores were drinking the vitamin D straight from the sun's teat. (Someone owes me $5 for using that word in my blog.)
I left the pier and did a little bit of shopping on the Third Street Promenade before I went back to the hotel to meet Jen for her only free night of the week.
Since our trip was a short one and neither of us wanted to rent a car, we decided to really own our tourist-selves and do a hop-on-hop-off double decker bus tour of Los Angeles. My giant camera hung from my neck and I rocked a pair of sensible shoes. I know. And I don't care.
The tour started at Grauman's Chinese Theatre. We had a few minutes to spare, so we found a couple of handprints that we recognized, took a photo or two, and then got on the bus.
We were lucky to do this on Thursday night because it was absolutely the best weather that we had the whole time. We saw some of the well-known clubs, restaurants, shopping districts, and beautiful residential neighborhoods. (I didn't want to do the celebrity house tours because that seems creepy and I also don't care to see how the other half (or top 1%) lives. We did see the streets of 90210 though, and... ugh. Whatever. In my best Christian Bale, Gooooood for youuuuuuu with your silver fire hydrants. I would have only been impressed if Dylan McKay stopped his black Porsche convertible in front of my tour bus and asked me to the 1993 prom at Beverly Hills High.
So, the whole notion of Beverly Hills just makes me kind of ill, but I did appreciate another affluent neighborhood. I don't know enough about architecture, but after a ride through Hancock Park, I have decided that I'd like to learn more about the different house styles and their origins.
The last stop on our bus trip was the Pierce Brothers Memorial Park in Westwood. Jen has always loved Marilyn Monroe so when we saw this destination on the yellow line, we made it our priority to get there. When we arrived, we made a beeline for Marilyn's crypt. Hers is pretty easy to find among the walls of beige because in the last fifty years, women have left their lipstick kisses on her slab. Since marble is porous, the stone absorbed the lipstick and is now pink.
|In front of Bijou on Rodeo Drive. We were trying to see if the men taking photos were paparazzi or just dudes who were into this car.|
|“The nicest thing for me is sleep, then at least I can dream.”|
I imagine some of those lipstick kisses belong to aspiring Bunnies paying their premature respects for Hef. I did not kiss either of those skanky slabs. The man on top of Marilyn, is apparently face-down, for all of eternity, or until his wife finally sells the crypt. (She put it on Ebay and sold the crypt for $4.9 million, but the sale fell through.)
We knew that the cemetery would close at dusk, and anyway, I'm not a fan of walking over the dead in the dark, so even though we knew that there many more notable crypts and tombstones to see, we decided to do a quick lap around the small cemetery and head out. "Let's see if we can find Donna Reed and Truman Capote and then we'll go," I said. At that moment, a man appeared from out of nowhere. He asked if he would like for him to show us around. Even though we later confirmed that we both thought, "he's going to kill us and bury us and no one will ever know," we politely accepted his offer.
The graveyard guide told us that he worked for a film production company in the tall building behind the cemetery. He was definitely very knowledgeable and a great storyteller. We were wondering if he was really an employee at the cemetery, but when we Googled him from our hotel room that night, it seemed he really was some guy who worked for a certain production company. We also kind of wondered if he was possibly a ghost. Go ahead and laugh, but this guy was otherworldly. Jen and I wonder if he is always trolling the cemetery for women to impress with his charm and encyclopedic knowledge. Thanks, mystery man, for showing us around. Also, for not killing us.
Day Three - San Diego
On Thursday morning, I woke up super early to catch an early train to San Diego. For the same cost as a taxi ride from downtown L.A. to Hollywood, I took the Amtrak from L.A. to San Diego. This three hour ride started with the sights of industrial Los Angeles. I just kept my nose in my book until the halfway point where the industrial sights ended and the southern California beach paradise began. As much as I wanted to read this fantastic book, (The Brothers K,) I couldn't pull my eyes away from the window. I am forever in love with the ocean.
The first thing that I did when I arrived in San Diego, was I left San Diego. I took an $8 ferry to Coronado Island. It was a grey morning but the closer I inched towards the island, the harder the sun tried to shine. I did not have a map on me, but since I had no place to be, I got lost. I didn't look on a map to find the beach or the famous hotel. Instead, I just walked. And walked, and walked, and walked. I went through the residential area of Coronado, up and down the streets, admiring the houses that I'm sure I could never afford, but were not so over-the-top as the mansions from the night before.
I kept walking until I found myself at the beach. I thought about how far away I was from home. I imagined myself on a map and thought about how my life is so small in this world. The spells of insurmountable sadness that I struggle with from time to time, (like the week I had before this trip,) seemed consolingly insignificant. This is why I travel. I slept so well every night that I was away because I was mentally and physically exhausted from walking all day long, taking in the sights, getting lost, finding my way back to familiar terrain, all while thinking about life, expectations, and happiness. I need to challenge my brain and I need to move my body. Since I do neither of those things at my job, I am not content during a typical week. Wandering and wondering to the point of exhaustion was bliss.
I shared these insights with a couple of friends and had to laugh at myself. Why can't I just go on vacation and STOP thinking for a little while? Why do I have to correlate meaningful insights to every damn thing that I do?! Annoying.
Alright, so in the interest of moving on, I took a ride on a tourist trolley with a bunch of irreverent senior citizens, back to San Diego by way of the Coronado Bridge.
I hopped off of the trolley at Balboa Park. Holy bejeezus, the weather is perfect in San Diego. I walked through a couple of the museums, the botanical park, and just relished the sunshine. Knowing that it was humid and either overcast or raining back at home, made the San Diego sun that much sweeter. I am evil.
So, even though I am not generally a fan of captivity, I know that the San Diego Zoo is supposed to be pretty special. I did not have time for this massive zoo so I will have to make a point to return, probably with Matt, maybe when we have a little bambino to bring along.
I couldn't leave San Diego without going to the beach. I know that Mission Beach is like the Goldilocks of the SD beaches. La Jolla is a bit hoity-toity for my taste, Ocean Beach is kind of sleazy, but Mission Beach is just right. So, why did I choose to go to Ocean Beach?
Ocean Beach is home to the first big dog beach. A couple of years ago, I stumbled upon the blog, "A Dog's Beach." This site became one of those bookmarked sites to visit when I needed a break from the monotony of the job. Two years ago, I wrote a guest post on Jen's blog about my first puppy love, Molly. I definitely thought of my Molly bear as I watched these puppies at play.
Does it get any better than grand epiphanies, brilliant weather, and puppies? My day in San Diego will be high in the ranks of the best days I've ever lived.
Day Four -
Do not follow where the path may lead. go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
I still only travel by foot And by foot it's a slow climb. But I'm good at being uncomfortable, so I can't stop changing all of the time.
~ Fiona Apple
On my last full day in Los Angeles, I was not really feeling great. When I returned from San Diego, I went to my room to freshen up a bit and then headed for the hotel bar. I met with Jen, a coworker, and a friend for some drinks. The next morning, hungover, I decided to go to Venice beach. This was a mistake. The loud music pumping from the boardwalk shops, the people trying to hand me their CD's, or call me into their shops, it was all a bit overwhelming. I just wanted to get out of there. I walked from Venice to Santa Monica, enjoying the kids biking in the lane to my right, and fun volleyball games in the sand to my left. After the beach, I was feeling a little better so I went to the observatory, (terribly smoggy so not the best day for it,) and took a short hike through the canyons. I took a taxi back to the hotel and hung out by the pool for a couple of hours.
I was going to go to Jen's event that evening but she was unable to get a ticket for me. I really didn't mind though. I was going to just relax, get a headstart on packing, and maybe even go to bed early. I had enough of Los Angeles. Sure, everyday was beautiful and fun, but L.A. is not the town for me. (New York, you're still number one.) The weather may be ideal, but the traffic, the cost of transportation, and the sprawliness made L.A. seem like an unbearable place to live.
Before I left for L.A., I checked the calendar at the Largo theater. Not sure which night would work the best, I decided to pass on going to a show, even though a friend of mine told me it was a must-see venue. On Saturday night, as I scrolled through Twitter, I decided to see who was playing that night. In just a few hours, Fiona Apple and Jon Brion would play.
How did I miss this? It was announced only a few days before and it sold out. Suddenly, I was so bummed. I tweeted my disappointment but resigned myself to a night of take out and SNL. My friend Sheila urged me to just go. Go! Maybe someone will be there selling their ticket. Well, it didn't work out quite that way, but in the end, I was in!
In this tiny theater that seats about 200 people, I watched the incredible Fiona Apple/Jon Brion show, including guest appearances by Margaret Cho and Sara and Sean Watkins. Incredible ending to my time in Los Angeles.
... every stranger's face I see reminds me that I long to be, homeward bound.
~ Paul Simon
I was as happy to go home as I was to leave it a few days before. That is the beauty of stepping outside of your life for a little while. After a few days away, my flattened, old pillow felt perfectly used and comfortable. My smelly dog, well she still smells, but when she knocked me down on the sofa and started licking my face like she thought she'd never see me again, it was a nice reminder that she likes having me around. (This also happens when I return from the mailbox, though.)
Finally, it was nice to see Matt. With our opposite work schedules, we don't really see each other as much as I would like, but I missed not crossing paths with my ship in the night. I'm happy to spend this weekend at home, enjoying the cooler weather, watching football at home, and appreciating my family in this suburban space that I'm always plotting to escape. It feels good to want to be there.