Hang Loose Yinz!
Today I'm going to share with you our latest trip to Lalaland, or better known as Fantasyland, or if you haven't guessed yet, Los Angeles, California.
Diane's friend, Barbara, and her 13-year old daughter, Lisa, came out for visit and wanted to see the weirdoes. Having already met our friends, we decided to take them to California. The three females drove over early on Saturday and as I slaved at the salt mines they enjoyed themselves on Rodeo Drive.
I caught a flight after work on Southwest Airlines for $91...one-way! Southwest makes you feel as if you are on a field trip with your third-grade teacher. They give you a boarding pass and tell you it's first come, first served on seating. So while holding your baggage over your head you run screaming for a seat next to the prettiest girl where you have to beat out a businessman from Bisbee and a punk from Prescott. I, of course, lose out to the punk and grab a window seat in an empty row. I am later surrounded by real third-graders who have lost control of their voluntary movement and proceed to bounce my chair around like I'm re-entering orbit. My first fantasy is of an astronaut. "Houston, can we eject the rug rat cargo?"
The stewardess, I mean flight attendant, is giving us instructions on what to do in case our life becomes imperiled and following that up with jokes. As if that will loosen us up after telling us what to do in case of oxygen decompression! I'm appalled at utter lack of seriousness and unprofessionalism but I come to find that Southwest has the number one safety record. That has to be attributed to their savings on good dry roasted peanuts.
I try to settle in and enjoy the otherworldly view of Arizona at sunset from 20,000 feet but I'm getting a stage show as the stewardesses are trying to balance six drinks in their hands without the aid of a drink cart. Obviously saving Southwest more money. I decide to try the crossword in the magazine and after a frustrating 90 minutes of fumbling for answers, I cheat and look at the answers. Here I'm working on the hardest puzzle known to man! It has words like FRODE and ZOOFITE. Webster himself would question this idiot's venacularity!
As we begin our approach to LAX, I'm amazed at the ocean of lights below me. It looks as if all the stars in the sky fell to the ground. As we get lower I can see the I-405 moving along like a giant lighted snake. I'm hoping there are ten lights to every person, but I know there are ten people to every light.
The relaxation of being above the populace is now over as the stress has hit fever pitch, we have landed in Grand Central Station cubed - LAX. I get off the plane and moo myself through the crush of humanity. Luckily, Diane has already taken my baggage with her, in more ways than one.
Here at LAX the English language is broken, no one is from Hoboken and the Caucasians are token. The international flavor is rich with an air of schmooze and do-lunchers. I fantasize that I'm a Hollywood producer at a casting call gone awry. "I asked for actors and all I get are savages!"
Since I get to bypass the luggage carousel, I shop. I go into this store called: Bow Wow Meow. I'm not here five minutes and I'm already missing my animals. I buy Layla a hat with ear cutouts and Lola gets a lifelike mouse that will surely scare the bejesus out of Diane. I laugh, in the evil kind of laughter saved for mad scientists, at the thought of Diane on top of pool table screaming, "A mouse, a mouse!" while she pulls her dress over her head...
Anyway...I find my way to the ground transportation, which in my case is called a jitney cab. It's basically a van where they put as many people as possible going the same direction. So as the driver is finding more head lighted deer to share my ride, I'm getting crushed further into the back. I try to make light of the situation by striking up conversation with my fellow passengers while the driver is swearing profusely and circling the airport for the fourth time. There is a woman from Taiwan who is going to Arizona tomorrow and wants to know all about it. Boy, has she asked the right person! I fantasize that I'm Louis L'Amour. "From the buttes you can feel the desert in your pores." I tell her about the Apaches, the Grand Canyon, Ex-Governor Fife Symington and everything in between, except the scorpions of course. We are now best friends and she says I can visit her whenever I'm in Taiwan. Meanwhile the other passengers hate us. And she is the first one to be dropped off. So now there is this eerie silence as everyone is afraid to say anything to me. But as the second to last passenger gets off there is only an Oriental girl and I. So I strike up a conversation, "Where are you from?" After an eye roll she says something totally unintelligible. "Pardon?" She tries again, "Hundwan." "Hundwan?" "No, Londwan!" "Oh, you mean London." No wonder I couldn't understand, the Oriental girl is speaking with an English Cockney accent! I continue nodding absently as I manage to coherently understand every third word. It seems she lost her boyfriend at LAX after traveling for 24 hours to get here. She doesn't seem the least bit concerned then Diane calls on my cell. "Where are you?" "I'm at the Santa Monica Pier." "Fortunately, so am I!" "I see you! Driver let me off here." In the mass of millions, there's Diane sitting serenely on a bench under a dolphin statue. It's a bleeding miracle! I run to her and we embrace, I'm now fantasizing that we are in a Kodak commercial. We twirl, smile broadly and gaze deeply into each other's eyes. I snap out of it when she asks if I have been drinking on the plane.
Santa Monica Pier is a wonderland of activity. It has an amusement park with a roller coaster, Ferris wheel and hawkers of all sorts. You can get a tattoo, your name on a piece of rice or an anatomically correct balloon. We meet up with Barbara and Lisa. Diane has made arrangements to meet her friends from Nashville also, Jeni & Greg. A delightful couple that is as nice as the day is long. Jeni works at Paramount Studios who are in the planning stages of filming this email and Greg is following his dream of doing voiceovers for TV, radio and movies. Talk about fantasy! He's still trying to break into the business but has a real shot with his talent of being Mel Blanc, Jr. He regales us with his repertoire of cartoon voices. Elmer Fudd, Tigger and Winnie spring to life via his tongue.
They have ridden the rides and I have missed it all. We trek back to the 3rd Street Promenade to watch the collection of street performers amongst the upper scale shops. There's the bendable man, someone lying on glass and the break dancing children. I fantasize now that I'm a talent scout. I dismiss all the semi-talented and look for someone to take to the casting couch: looks like Diane has got the part again!
We are enthralled with the break-dancers even though it went out with the eighties. They have taken it to a new level. These kids are a combination of Gene Kelly and Gumby with the showmanship of a young Michael Jackson. Their bodies contort with the fluidity of water and they make a big splash (pun intended).
We bid adieu to Jeni and Greg as they invite us to come see a movie premiere sometime in the future.
But before I start pumping iron...huh? What do you mean there's no Iron City Beer here! We decide to have breakfast at a world famous diner, though I don't remember its name. Jimmy Durante once owned the diner or was that Cagney? We eat, people watch and laugh at the weirdoes. Although I believe they are doing the same. My jaw will have to be wired shut after hitting the ground so often...if you know what I mean. We meander about the beach and watch the surf and surfers crash on the rocks and shop...and shop...and shop! I talk the girls out of getting their palms read, getting a massage, getting their eyelids pierced, going out with weightlifters and pretty much anything that sounds fun to them. But they manage into talking me into getting a tattoo. Hey! I'm not sailor on leave, drunk or an aborigine. What am I going to do with a tattoo? Scar my body for life...what's henna? Oh! Fake ones, like the kind that come in my Count Chocula? Sure, give me Punxatawney, Pennsylvania on my peni...Oh, okay, I'll settle for Kokopelli on my calf. So now I am a sailor on leave! "I'll only be in port for a day then it's back to deck swabbing." They get their usual array of flowers and dolphins and tell me it will go away in three weeks. So now I got a three-week souvenir from Venice Beach. Sort of like my sunburn.
We leave there and it's off to Hollywood! This has become old hat for me. I think I have the Hollywood Walk of Fame memorized. But it is always fun to put my shoes in John Wayne's footprints because my feet are (nudge, nudge) bigger! At Mann's Chinese Theatre they've got Whoopi Goldberg's dreadlock, George Burns' cigar and R2D2's roller print all encased in cement. They have handprints of Marilyn, Bogie and Tom Hanks. I'm in full fantasy now as you can get your own hands encased in cement. "I want to thank the Academy and Sid Graumann for this opportunity to wear these cement shoes." We didn't make it to Frederick's of Hollywood Underwear Museum this time but for anyone that comes visit we'll save that treat for ya!
On the way back to the hotel we find a funky kind of restaurant on Sunset Blvd. It has a country western flair and the plates they serve are 16" long. We eat like the grazing cattle that we are and get a free helping of smores that we make toasting our marshmallows on the fire. We are all cowboys stooped around the campfire. "Cody says the kid is looking to fill you with buckshot." It's a real hootenanny and then they start putting females on the mechanical bull. I don't think Diane would like what I'm fantasizing now, even if she is from Texas! So we leave so we can rest up for our next adventure.
Monday morning we are riding up the coast on US 1 along the Pacific Ocean. The vistas are spectacular with the waves crashing against the rocky coastline. As we approach Malibu the houses begin their approach to millions of dollars status. Diane is all excited because Mel Gibson lives somewhere around here. I don't want to know what she is fantasizing. I just want to see Malibu Barbie's dream house. We find neither and stop at beach sanctuary where they have beginner surfers and seagulls galore. We watch the surfers wipeout in gonzo fashion while avoiding bird poop. I'm now surfing in my mind. "Cowabunga dude, that curl was gnarly!" It's relaxing and refreshing but frankly kind of boring so we proceed up the coast to our ultimate destination, Santa Barbara.
It was Barbara's idea to go to Santa Barbara, as her name is, duh, Barbara! I must say it is a wonderful town. Located 93 miles north of LA proper along the ocean it is a beautiful hamlet of hidden treasures. I can compare it most closely to St. Augustine and the history is almost as storied. We start out by going to Stearn's Wharf where you can drive right onto the pier and park. This pier is colossal. It has three restaurants and a host of browse-about shops. We have a late lunch at one of the fine seafood restaurants overlooking the ocean. Jimmy Cagney once owned the pier or was that Durante? We shop for knick-knacks, bric-a bracs and paddy whacks and then head for the famous Santa Barbara Court House.
The Court House is built in Spanish Colonial style and dates back to the 18th century. We go inside and find it virtually, okay not virtually, really empty. We wander around snapping photos like crime scene investigators and come upon an open courtroom where the walls are filled with historic murals of conquistadors. Reality slips away. "I claim this land for the King of Spain, bring me your gold." Ialso condemn the prisoners to death for shopping too much.
We take the elevator to the clock tower that overlooks the city and Lisa is sure we'll be arrested for violating the time ordinance. Something about, "Thou shalt not be in the clock tower when thou time has struck the hour of closing, blah, blah, blah." Doesn't she know I have a camera and no conscience? I'm taking some pictures! The view is spectacular and I snap away as they try to escape without me! I leap into the elevatorjust in the nick of time before its descent. All of a sudden I'm in a "Die Hard" movie. As I'm biting their heads off for trying to ditch me, I, alas, realize that the child prodigy was right; they have locked us in! Here we are stuck in this ancient courthouse that was once used as a jail for the likes of the meanest, snarliest cads of the Barbary Coast! The light grows dim and I can feel their ghostly presence suffocating my breathing! Do you hear the chains!!! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh...Oh... you dropped some coins? You found an open door? Um...never mind. I'm fine...really.
This is our last day in Fantasyland. I still haven't decided who I'm going to be? I think I'll try being Charles Boyer today. Today our mission is to visit the mission. The Santa Barbara Mission that is. We arrive at the crack of noon, like we have everywhere, and descend upon its majesty with awe. Dating to the 1600's it is a rare jewel in the annals of California Missions. Destroyed by earthquakes and rebuilt it is a testament to man's relationship with God, old and kind of brittle. The fountain dates to 1808 and I wish for what I always wish for as I cheaply throw my penny. I take two rolls of film getting every transept, altar, and candle in the building. We try to find the grain mill in the woods but are dissuaded by the bum. Or maybe...he is a woodland sprite who is to warns us of impending doom! No...he's just a bum.
We have one last stop to make before our six-hour drive home, land of the Roses, Pasadena. I'm determined to see the Rose Bowl, even if the girls could care two shillings. I think it was owned by Jimmy Durante, no, maybe Cagney. I change into double ought agent mode as I capture directions from a local contact and stealthily we move in the direction of our target. Soon we are hindered in our approach by a vehicular traffic. After delaying our sortie to a point of critical time expenditure, we are soon within sight. I cannot fathom what event could have descended upon the "Granddaddy of them all" Rose Bowl on a Tuesday at 3:00 PM. There is traffic for miles. I wanted to take a tour and I can't get within ten blocks of the place. I take a photo through the trees at 1500 meters distance. I can get no closer to our objective. The mission must be aborted! I come to find out we have been hoodwinked by a N'SYNCH concert! Blast! Those precocious teenyboppers from hell have ruined my chance of reliving the 1979 Super Bowl! My fantasy days are over as we begin our trek back to Phoenix.
On the ride home, I'm just another "Zonie" back from vacation in California. I curse the mundanity of my real life and try to accept my fate as a consumer statistic.
We decide to play my Brother's Bob's favorite game of naming famous name's initials. I say Ralph Kramden (R.K.) and the next person has to say a name that begins with a K. They may say Kate Winslett (K.W.) whereupon the next person may say Willy Wonka (W.W.). Then the order would go backwards because of the double initials. A tea party begins, as the next name said is Walter Winchell (W.W.) until you can no longer think of a double letter name. We did this inanity for six hours! Life is sometimes too long.
Well, I hope you enjoyed this little peek into my madness and come again soon. Oh...that's right, I sent this to you!
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To my only fans,