I'm gonna see the folks I dig, I'll even kiss a sunset pig. California I'm comin' home.
I went back to Los Angeles on a Friday morning over a month ago to visit friends and go to Judge Alarcon's birthday party. Also, in case you don't know, the subject of this email is a Joni Mitchell reference.
Of course, all hell broke loose at work the day before I left and I had to work late and miss Mack's class. So I felt like a sluggo when I boarded my plane the next morning.
The flight was uneventful. I checked my luggage in Tucson (because I had over the permissible amount of liquids) and I waited like an idiot at the wrong baggage claim area for about 30 minutes before I realized that my luggage had already arrived at another claim area and had even been put into the "non-claimed baggage section." I rescued my bag from that group of misfits and looked for my shuttle to the rental car place. That also took a while. I had to call Budget and ask them if there was some problem before the shuttle finally showed up. (I was still excited about my trip but this was starting to show signs that something bad may happen to me.)
The plan was that I do some errands, drive out to Pomona to meet my friend Stacy for lunch, come back and meet up with my friend Jenn later in the evening and spent the night at her place. Then, I go to my friend Donna's house in Malibu the next day for Judge Alarcon's party and spend the night there and fly back to Tucson on Sunday.
The car I get looks like something a federal agent might drive. It looks like a larger version of a "K car" but I think it was a Mercury or something. I feel very "pimp-like" in it. Cool. I drive over to the 405 and see that it is totally backed up with standing traffic. At 10:30 AM! Where are these people going and shouldn't they already be there? Yeesh. I called my friend Jenn in Phoenix to make fun of her sometime job as the traffic reporter on the local NBC news there. Traffic in Phoenix? Hahahahahaha. I decide to go the back way via La Tijuera and down La Cienaga to West Los Angeles. Ahhhh...the familiar oil rigs in Hacienda Heights, the mega Target, the See's Candy factory, the back way to the Sony lot....I'm back home again. What's this? There are tons of billboards with digital displays that change every 5 or so seconds. Very distracting.
House....Bones....Fringe...Fringe?...what's that about? There are certainly a lot of ads for it. Heck, there are radio ads for that show. I'll have to check it out (I'm a dream consumer that way). [By the way, I have since checked out the show and despite having my west point classmate's skin liquify in its pilot, I find it pretty dull. It's off the TiVo....which leaves more room for Bridezillas and America's Next Top Model. I appreciate quality television.]
First stop on the list of things to do is go to King's Road Beads (on the corner of King's Road and Beverly Blvd.). I had a request from my mother for some tiny seed pearls and that is, by far, the best place to get beads, etc. I park my car about a block away and walk over to the store. I love that place and you can haggle prices down with the Armenians there. Fun. I get the beads and go back to my "Federal Agent car" and.....the passenger side front tire is flat. Not just a little flat, there is a large chunk of tire missing from the side wall. I must have rubbed it against the curb but I've never seen anything like that in my life. Now, I've had flat tires before but I've never ripped a chunk out of the side of a tire before....even when I tried. Alright....I need to get this sucker changed and get to a Firestone or something. I go to the trunk and find the 55-mile an hour spare in the trunk. I get it out and look for the jack and lug wrench. There's the jack...where's the wrench? I pull out the rest of the carpeting in the trunk and can't find the thing anywhere. Great. I called the rental car place and explain the situation and ask them if they know where the wrench is. Nope. They connect me to a "repair service" that says that they can be there in 2 hours. What could possibly be keeping them so busy that it would take 2 hours to get over here? I REALLY NEED TO FIND THIS WRENCH! I finally open up the owner's manual and start frantically reading through it and realize that the wrench is folded up inside the jack. Ohhhhh. Yes....I should always read the manual first. Relieved, I take out the flimsy wrench, loosen the nuts and get ready to find the thing under the car where you place the wrench.
I felt a shadow and looked up to find this little hispanic lady standing over me saying "no no miss." "What am I doing wrong?" She came over, picked up the jack and started to place it under the car. ....okay..... What is she doing? I said "Ummm....Thank You." She proceeded to change my tire for me and she explained that her husband is a mechanic. Alright....but I really can do this myself. Really. Did I look that helpless? I mean its nice and all but I'm not an idiot.... Actually I'm sort of proud of knowing how to do that sort of stuff. There was no dissuading her from her "mission of mercy." Whatever. I had to sit by, trying to do stuff and having my hands pushed away until the spare tire was on my rental car. I explained that I didn't have any cash to give her but she continued. A lady from a nearby store asked if we needed water and explained that the lady's name was "Irma" and that she cleaned their store for her. After Irma was done, I drove over to a "Good Tires" and bought another tire for the car. The service guy asked what year my car was and I said, "I don't know...the 70s of something." He went out and checked and it was a 2008. They said it would take about an hour so I walked over to a Long's drug store, browsed through some magazines, smeared some lipstick on my hand and hung out with the homeless people there. I had no idea they sold big bottles of Colt .45 at the Long's drug. Need to file that information away for the future. My car was finally done and outfitted with its new tire. I got some cash from an ATM machine and bought a card at Long's drug and left a thank you card with some money in it for Irma at the store near where my car was. It was the least I could do for being forced to accept her hospitality.
OK, a slight detour but I'm back on the list again. I need to go to Santa Maria Novella. That pharmacy is actually located in Florence but there are a few places that are authorized to sell their stuff. Let me explain. Santa Maria Novella is FANTASTIC! The few times I've been to Florence, I've made a point out of visiting this really cool old place. It has mahogany walls with bottles all over the place and chandeliers, etc. It was a monastery back in the times of the Medicis. They use these ancient formulas for all of their stuff and their lotions, soaps and bath oils are, of course, organic and pure heaven. My mother and I swear by the rose body lotion and the carnation soap while Ray swears by the gardenia soap. I like to just walk into the showroom and smell everything. I start picking up shower gels and opening caps to smell each one. I'm the only one there. This sales lady comes over and starts to rave about my hair color. I mean rave. Super effusively. I tell her that this fellow in Tucson did it for $85. She just can't believe it. Believe it lady...you're looking at it right now. I'm sure whether she really likes my hair or she's on some type of amphetamine. Are salespeople in Los Angeles always like this and I just didn't notice until now? I thank her for the compliments and she insists that she give me a ton of samples (even though she tells me that she's not supposed to do that). Alright. I need to get out of here asap.
I had to cancel my plans to drive out and visit my friend Stacy because of the tire situation, it's way past lunchtime now and I realize that I'm starving. I drive over to one of my favorite lunch places on La Brea Blvd, Puran's. As I drive I get cut off several times and yell "Get your head out of your ass." Yes....I'm definitely back in Los Angeles. It only took a couple of hours for me to get back into the groove. I had my favorite pesto chicken wrap with peppers and a salad. Not exactly on Mack's plan but very delicious. I notice that everyone is very busy and the traffic is constant. Oh yeah....this is a town of actors who don't work most of the time. In other places people are at work during the day....not here. Now that I notice it a lot of people are sitting at coffee shops doing nothing. Weird. I drop by the Broadway shoes on Sunset Blvd to check out their massive collection and walk around with one bare foot. I need to remember that Chuck Taylors are not good shoes to wear when shoe shopping. I know you're going to find this hard to believe but I didn't buy anything. Nothing...really...I'm not lying this time.
Now, I know I look good now and everything but I feel like a huge pig here. People here ARE really thin. The standards are almost impossible. I imagine that being around this for 11 years before must have taken a subconscious toll on my self-esteem (maybe that's why I just gave up at the end).
I drive over to Fred Segal on Melrose and check the hyper-expensive stuff out and realize that I don't want any of it anymore. I then go to Sunset Blvd. (my old stomping grounds) and stop by one of my favorite book stores, Book Soup. I buy a few books and some odds and ends and the actor who plays the old lady neighbor from Desperate Housewives is also browsing around. They have a really cool children's book section and I find a few books for Hannah. I then walk across the street to my old Coffee Bean (which actually used to be further up the street at Sunset Plaza) and get coffee (yes...you read that correctly) and sit down on the porch to watch traffic and read a little. By the way, at that time I was reading an illustrated novel called "The Watchmen" which I predict will be a fantastic movie (if it ever gets out of litigation and gets released).
Next stop, Buddha's Belly. I decide to go have a drink and dinner while I wait for Jenn to get off work. For those of you who don't know my fantastic friend Jenn Yale, let me give you a short introduction. She's a really cool chick that I met about 8 or so years ago at my acting class. Instead of rehearsing we would read People magazine at my apartment. She was Mel Brooks' writing assistant at the time. She's a fantastic writer but she's an even better friend. I have no idea why she doesn't tell people that she's already won an Emmy for her writing. She's currently writing the webisodes for a show called "Harper's Island" that is going to air on CBS. Its sort of a horror mini-series and its sounds pretty creepy and interesting. Keep your eyes out for it.
Buddha's Belly is a great place. My mother was told to go there by the owner of this furniture store called Modernica and the bartender is pretty much in love with my mother because he's Thai and she speaks Thai with him. I go in and sit at the bar and the bartender asks me about my mother. Of course. He's starts sending me drinks but I have to take it easy because I need to drive later. I drink a few Mojitos and then switch to coffee. This gay couple sits next to me and we strike up a conversation and they insist that I try this japanese beer they're having...so I drink some of that too. That couple eventually leaves and then this woman who's a representative for some kitchenware manufacturer sits next to me and tells me about traveling to their factory and working with Paula Deen on her new line of kitchenware. She's really nice but I'm starting to wonder what it is about me that makes people want to tell me these things. I get my bill and find out that the bartender hasn't been charging me for anything. I leave a big tip for the sweet fellow.
Now I've been going to Buddha's Belly for many years and everytime I wait for my car at the valet, I look over at this apartment on Gardner avenue where this dude has a huge TV. I mean, I can read the football scores from across the street! It literally takes up the whole wall. I've never met the owner but I have to say that only a guy would have a TV that huge...a single guy. I'm constantly amazed at the size of that thing and, I guess, he hasn't moved. Maybe he can't move anymore because of the size of that TV. I don't know how he can see the whole screen without turning his head. You've got to admire that guy.
I meet up with Jenn at her condo in Playa Del Rey, which is near the beach. We go to a club/bar and watch Michael Phelps win another world record (I have no idea which one, it was hard to keep track of them all). Jenn has some food which is good because she's teeny tiny and needs to eat. I have some more alcohol which is good because...well...its just good. We are both exhausted and go back to her condo and fall asleep. The next morning we get up and Jenn's boyfriend comes over. Now, I'm eyeballing this guy because I've never met him before and I need to make sure that this boy will treat her right. I can tell he feels uncomfortable but I don't really care. He seems to pass the test...so far. We go to breakfast at this cool little place with a large line but a lot of hidden back rooms. We get back and its already time to go to Malibu for the party.
I drive the "Federal Agent car" down the PCH to Malibu and up the hill to Donna's "mansion." Yes, she and her family live in a huge, beautiful place with an ocean view. Last time I stayed there I was in the "west wing" of the house. Donna and her husband Jay are two of the coolest people I know. Donna has been my friend and stuck by me for a long time (even when I checked out of our friendship for a few years -- actually I checked out of a lot of important things during that time). Donna and Jay were the people who sent my resume along to Gov. Napolitano which lead to my current job. They have three awesome little kids who are so much fun to be around. I feel very welcome there. When I go there it was like I never left and I'm instantly included in all of the activities. Donna is also one of those people who can do anything and she's a fantastic cook. Judge Alarcon and his wife are also cool people who mean the world to me. For those of you who don't know, Judge Alarcon is a 9th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals judge (one level below from the U.S. Supreme Court) and I clerked for him for a year after law school. He's the reason I went out to Los Angeles in the first place and he encouraged me to stay there. He's a great judge and a great person. I've learned so much from him over the years and he's always helped me out. He and his wife also each have a great sense of humor -- which you know I love. So, basically, I drive to Malibu so that I can be around their collective coolness. Sigh.
The people that hang around Donna, Jay and Judge Alarcon are really nice and we have a great birthday dinner. Celia, Judge Alarcon's former secretary who has since retired, was there. Celia could get anything done and she drove like a bat out of hell but with the command of someone who has been trained to drive like that. Judge Alarcon used to tell us that she was a secret agent in her former life. I don't doubt it for a minute. My dear friend Ray Warner was also there. He retired from the Navy and then started a career as a lawyer. A bit of an overachiever, I would say. He used to work with me at my firm in Los Angeles but he now works for the local Federal Court district and will soon be a federal prosecutor. I know...where do I find these people? We had a grand time and, big surprise, we spent a lot of time joking and laughing and drinking. In other words I had a great time.
Little did I know that would be the only fun I would have for a while. I'm going back to Los Angeles this weekend for a quick one-night trip to see Stacy and go to her baby shower. I'm really excited. Let's hope that my rental car doesn't get a flat. Oh yeah, Budget reimbursed me the full cost of replacing that tire.