So, I didn’t take that new job after all. The only reason I felt able to take it is that I would stay on in my current job part time. But I had too many questions. It was only a 95% chance that they’d keep me on permanently. Another listing for a similar job said that a raise was possible, when it was basically promised to me, and the recruiter said that I would only be temp for three months until my boss pointed out that my prospective employer is known to keep people temp for six months or even more. When I asked the recruiter, he admitted that sometimes it does end up being more than three months. But, he added just a little too quickly, sometimes it’s less.

The entire thing made me feel sick, and if it didn’t work out, or wasn’t what I was expecting (like there was no raise, or the raise wasn’t what I was hoping), I would end up part time. Again. I’d been part time for five years before I finally became full time and, well, I turned down the job.

I’m still working on my foreign language skills. I finished my first year on the 15th (meaning that I’m starting on my second year as of today). I haven’t missed a day of study and have paid myself over $400 in that time. I’m hoping to start investing the money on the stock market sometime in 2018, which should bring me closer to my goal a bit faster.

I don’t know if I’ve posted this here or not, but I really should have majored in modern languages rather than elementary education.* Things would be so much easier now if I had. I could have been working as a translator back when I was first working and could have kept my hand in while raising my son. When I found myself single in 2008, I would have been employed all the way through and could have gotten work right away. So, I’m going to fix that oversight. I’m saving up to get a graduate degree (because there’s no point in getting another undergraduate degree) in modern languages. Which language? I’m not sure. I’m going to study all of my languages and see (a) which ones I’m more comfortable with, (b) which ones I can get the most work in**, and (c) which are available at whatever public university they have in whatever city I’m living in at that time. Hopefully, the same language will be in all three columns and that will make my decision there.

I’m almost done with Rosetta Stone Vietnamese and am going to apply for Rosetta Stone Italian and see if I can build on the Italian I learned before our 2014 trip.

*Why didn’t I major in modern languages? Thomas and I were in a long-distance relationship. We only saw each other every three weeks and phone conversations were sporadic at best. To get that degree, or even just to be competitive once I graduated, I would have to have studied overseas at some point. I didn’t want to be in a completely different country from him for 16 whole weeks, so I chose to major in something that basically everyone else in my family has done. Turns out that was a bad fit, so I ended up becoming a paralegal.

**I’m not just going to study to make this money. My plan is to see if I can get an actual part-time job as a foreign language tutor at one or more of the local colleges or universities for mornings or weekends or whatever I can work out around my day job. I was my junior college’s Spanish and German tutor back in the day, so I have experience and that was part time as well, so there’s that. And once I’ve been doing that for a while, I may venture out as an independent contractor and see if I can make a bit more that way. Eventually I want to hang my shingle up as a translator. If all goes well, I’ll be able to do that for enough money to make a living wage even if I do stay as a retail pharmacy technician for the long haul. Half of my part-time job income and one-quarter of my independent-contractor income will also go into my graduate school fund. Who knows? Maybe I’ll be able to get that degree before I reach retirement age.

Our fifth full day in California, we left the Pasadena/Los Angeles area once again to visit our annual national park. This year, we went to Joshua Tree National Park (which is another topic to spend an entire post on). And my bank did not like this day, like, at all. You see, I forgot to tell them that I was going to California and the algorithm was able to cope okay with expenses in Los Angeles, Burbank, Pasadena, San Pedro, Malibu, and so on. For some reason, however, it couldn’t cope with my buying gas in Morongo Valley or a t-shirt or pretzel rods in Twenty-Nine Palms. Fortunately my debit card went through for all of those purchases, but when I got home, I had an email from my bank asking about it. And, yes, it was from my bank. I called the phone number on the back of my debit card.

We actually got out reasonably early, at 8:00 in the morning, though I had hoped to leave at 6:00 or 7:00. We stopped at the Walmart in Glendora for the only concession I made to the fact that we were going to spend the day in the desert. I bought — and then actually applied — a fairly high SPF (or whatever they’re calling it these days) sunblock (spoiler: I also did kind of a lousy job and ended up with a streaky, blotchy sunburn).

We then headed off to Joshua Tree. After a bathroom stop at a rest stop and stopping in Morongo Valley for gas, we arrived at Joshua Tree about three hours later. This meant, of course, that we were in the desert for the hottest part of the day, and most of the animals (which weren’t as stupid as we were) were hiding out. We did see one coyote just outside the park, though.

Joshua tree shadow

The shadow of a Joshua tree in, well, Joshua Tree.

We spent four hours at Joshua Tree and then headed back to Los Angeles. After a stop at Walmart in Redlands for a restroom and a pair of nail clippers (I left mine in Texas), we had dinner at an H. Salt, Esq. Fish and Chips in San Bernardino. My folks and I used to eat at an H. Salt (maybe in Hammond, Indiana?) when I was a kid and I hadn’t been to one since Thomas and my 1996 trip (we ate at the one that apparently used to be in Oxnard). The restaurant was kind of empty, but the couple who seem to run the place make the fish to order, so it was fresh out of the fryer when we got it. The restaurant was so dark that we went outside and ate in the rental car. There was a wildfire (a small one, as it fortunately turned out) nearby, so Alex got to watch the planes put the fire out while we ate.

We headed back to our hotel. I fell in love with the bridge that takes Colorado Boulevard over the Arroyo Seco in Pasadena, so Alex and I went around the long way to try to get some pictures of the bridge at night. My phone really doesn’t like to take nighttime pictures and adding motion to the mix doesn’t help at all, so they came out blurry.

Blurry Colorado Street Bridge photo

See what I mean?
Picture by Alex Ogden

We took a few pictures the next day as well, and you can see the bridge in them, but I’m still not totally happy. On our next trip, we plan to actually drive that road and take some pictures of the bridge from the bridge. Ooh! Apparently they have a biennial festival actually on the bridge itself. So if we go back in 2020 (no way we can make it in 2018 unless my dad wins the Lottery), maybe I can get pictures of the bridge while actually walking on it. That’s a definite possibility for the future.

We did so much this day, that looking back I’m all, “Are you sure that was all one day?” And, well, I guess it is.

As we’ve covered before, Alex is a vehicle buff. His particular interest is in airplanes, and I discovered that there is a museum, called the Blackbird Airpark, in Palmdale, California, near the Palmdale Regional Airport and Plant 42 Plant 42 is a manufacturing plant that makes vehicles for the Air Force and NASA).  Blackbird Airpark has both types of Blackbird airplanes — the SR-71 and the A-12 (I’m kind of scared that I remember those letters and numbers).

So, in the morning, we headed off to Palmdale. We got there without incident, only when we got to the airpark, none of the planes that we’d been promised were there. They were great planes, including one of the 747s that carried the Space Shuttle, but Alex was still disappointed. Once I went to hide from the heat, I did some research and discovered that we were in the Joe Davies Heritage Airpark, next door to the Blackbird Airpark. I found the open gate between the two, told Alex where it was, and went back to hide in the shade (July in the desert is not Olivia-friendly).

After Alex had photographed everything he could at the Joe Davies Airpark, he came to get me and we went over to the Blackbird Airpark, where I hid in the gift shop/museum while he took more pictures. He came in, got some souvenirs, talked to the workers for a while, and we headed back to Los Angeles.

B-52, Palmdale, California, 2017

The B52 at the Joe Davies Airpark. Everyone sing along with me. “Here comes a stingray . . .” And, yes, I know that the B52s were named after a beehive hairdo, but my fondness for the band led me to take this picture.

After a two-hour drive, we arrived at Hancock Park, home of the La Brea Tar Pits. we ate lunch at a Vietnamese food truck, then visited the George C. Page Museum*. After we left the museum, we walked around the park and looked at the displays, including the Observation Pit, which was closed when we were there. It’s strange how familiarity can change the way something looks. I swear that Hancock Park has changed a lot since our 1996 visit, but I couldn’t tell you exactly how it’s changed.

Back in the days when Thomas and I used to meet up with friends in Los Angeles, we’d stay at the Sportsmen’s Lodge and would frequently eat at the Jerry’s Deli just down the street. So, since we weren’t too terribly far from there at Hancock Park, we had dinner at Jerry’s Deli (I had to have the chicken noodle soup, which tasted just like I remember it) and left the car there while we hiked up to the Sportsmen’s Lodge, which looks almost nothing like I remember. I know that they’ve remodeled, but between the remodel and the 18-year gap, it looked very different from what I remember, but still similar enough that I was sure we were in the right place.

On the way back to the hotel, I made a big loop, and I’m not entirely sure why. I think that might have been when Alex and I had a miscommunication on which way to turn when and we ended up driving around Arcadia at night. Then again, maybe that big circle is just because the cell towers lost track of us.

*Which is probably going to earn itself its own entry after I finish the travelogue.

We began the day making our second attempt at getting to the Griffith Observatory. And, once again, we failed. So we headed off to our second stop of the day, the Warner Brothers Studio Tour. Thomas and I had done the tour in 1996, so I was interested in seeing what had changed and what had stayed the same in those past 21 years.*

I tried to get Alex to buy our tour tickets from the website while I looked for a place to park. It turned out that the surface parking lot was full, so we ended up underground, and lost our connection in the process. By the time we got parked and were back on the surface, that tour was sold out and so we had to buy tickets for one (to my memory) at least an hour later. So we spent that hour walking around the outside of the studio. We walked up Warner Boulevard and along Riverside Drive then back down Avon Street to the entrance. We walked through security and grabbed a bite at the Studio Plaza Cafe, a little cafeteria-style place in the lobby of the tour building. Then we went to wait around for our tour and ended up joining a slightly earlier one that had just gotten together.

After the tour, I figured that if we didn’t go lighthouse spotting that day, we never would so I pulled up the directions to Los Angeles Harbor Light (I generally refer to this one by its colloquial name, “Angel’s Gate Light”). This took us through the Port of Los Angeles and out onto Pier 400. Nothing looked familiar to me from our previous trips to the light, but I admitted that it had been almost 18 years and kept driving. Eventually we reached a gate separating us from the lighthouse, the guard, who seemed friendly enough, didn’t speak English (and I drew a complete blank on the Spanish word for “lighthouse” (which is “faro,” but by the time I remembered it, it was too late, but I doubt I’ll ever forget that again after this)).

Point Fermin Lighthouse, 2017

Point Fermin Lighthouse, San Pedro, California, 2017. I’m not sure what’s up with the bunting. Leftovers from the Fourth of July, maybe?

So we gave up and headed to San Pedro for Point Fermin Light. As we head into San Pedro, I keep having flashes of driving off to the east of where we’re going for some reason, but can’t place why we were going that way. I found the lighthouse pretty easily — it’s a straight shot down Gaffey Street, but Gaffey Street winds around Fort MacArthur, so it’s not as straightforward as one would think. We walked around Point Fermin Park, took some pictures, I remembered some, but not all, about the Sunken City, and suddenly I remembered why we’d been driving through the neighborhoods of San Pedro — the fishing pier that we always took to go look at Angel’s Gate wasn’t in the Port, it was in San Pedro.

The Pacific Ocean with Angel's Gate Light in the Distance.

If you squint, you can see Angel’s Gate Lighthouse there in the distance. Cabrillo Beach is a good place to see the lighthouse; it’s not necessarily a *close* place to see the lighthouse.

So we headed off to make a second attempt to see the lighthouse and this time we were successful. We got to Cabrillo Beach and there were all of the things I hadn’t found on Pier 400 — the bath house, the aquarium, the beach. I accidentally paid for another person’s parking space (I’m not even sure how that happened, but he then paid for ours, so it all worked out) and walked out on the pier. It was getting late by then and was a bit chilly out there. The lifeguard announced that he was going home and I took some pictures of the lighthouse. As it got darker, we got back in our car and headed back towards the hotel.

Once I got home, by the way, I sent a message to the folks at Google suggesting that they might want to offer Cabrillo Beach as an alternative Angel’s Gate Lighthouse destination.

We needed food for our planned trip to the desert the next day, so we stopped at yet another Walmart, this one in Pico Rivera, which turned out to be not far from the office where Thomas tested that application so many years ago. If it hadn’t been so dark, and I hadn’t been kind of panicked when I realized that Alex was taking us to an entirely different Walmart from the one I’d planned to go to, I might even have recognized the area. We bought some fruit and some paper plates and plastic utensils and we realized that we had a microwave in our hotel room, so we bought some microwave dinners as well, then headed back to Pasadena to get some rest before our (as it turned out) very busy fourth day in California.

*Warner Brothers will also get a longer writeup once I finish the travelogue portion.

Well, a temp-to-perm assignment, for the time being. I’m still working as a pharmacy technician, but won’t be in retail anymore. Well, I’ll still be in retail part-time for at least the next few months, because I won’t be able to afford the COBRA payments if I were to leave completely. Instead I’m going to work at least enough hours to meet my share of the insurance payments until I can get on my new employer’s insurance. After that, I may decide to continue working at my old job part-time, because I like money. Also, did you see the words “temp-to-perm” up there? If I’m not a good match, I don’t want to end up completely without a job. So if it doesn’t work out I can always go back to my old retail job.

I really, really want it to work out, though.

What does that mean for this blog? Well, I’ll have more weekends off for travel, and even as a temp, I’ll be making about 110% of what I’m making at the retail job. If I stay on after the initial three months, and my pay goes up as much as the temp agency guy says it will, then I’ll be making 130% of what I’m making now. This means that I might be able to go back to putting a little money aside every week for an international trip in the next few years. Also, my day will now be ending, at a minimum, two hours earlier than it is now, so that will hopefully translate into (a) visiting museums and parks and things in the evening sometimes, and (b) more energy for blogging in general.

I’m still just so nervous, though. I accidentally discovered the off-label use of propranolol for anxiety (I was prescribed it to prevent migraines) when I was in and just out of college. I wonder if I could get away with intentionally using a beta-blocker that way.

The plan for our second day in California was to visit the grave of Debbie Reynolds* and Carrie Fisher, then to see the Griffith Observatory, and then to knock around in Griffith Park for a while before heading out to Marilyn Monroe’s grave and then maybe the La Brea Tar Pits.

We ended up having to rearrange things a bit. In fact we lost two whole hours when I hit myself in the eye with my knuckle while drying off after my shower and scratched my cornea. We had paid ahead for breakfast for this trip, so we stopped off in the hotel restaurant and had some bread and fruit while the concierge found a walk-in clinic for us to visit. After breakfast, I started fretting about what we would do if I’d damaged my cornea badly enough to make the doctor restrict me from driving. I figured that we could afford one taxi ride per day, and our hotel wasn’t *that* far from the light rail line, so we could take the train most other places we wanted to go, so long as we stayed in the Los Angeles area. This would mean that our planned trips to the desert would be out, but just as long as we wouldn’t be trapped in the hotel all week, I’d be mostly okay.

It turned out not have been that badly scratched. I wasn’t having much pain, the scratch was off to one side of my pupil, and I wasn’t having more sun sensitivity than usual. The doctor prescribed some eye drops for me just in case and had them e-prescribed to the nearby Walmart (our second Walmart of the trip, for those keeping count). And, as I’ve discovered since becoming a pharmacy technician, sometimes it takes a while for an escript to come through and it did take about half an hour that day. Then we waited for the eye drops and headed off to Forest Lawn.

We made it to the cemetery okay, but then made a wrong turn looking for the mausoleum. This led us to the Birth of Liberty mosaic, which holds come kind of mosaic record — largest outdoor mosaic in the United States? Largest outdoor mosaic west of the Mississippi? I can’t remember and I can’t find the info right now.

Birth of Liberty, Forest Lawn

The Birth of Liberty Mosaic at Forest Lawn, 2017. it really is very impressive up close.

We made it to the mausoleum and Alex wanted to walk around the long way so as to avoid stepping on any of the graves in the lawn. He really would have been horrified by the way my cousins and I used to play in the cemetery down the street from my great-aunt and great-uncle’s house. As we walked around the mausoleum, a stretch limo pulled up. It just sat there for a couple of minutes and then drove away. I do often wonder what that was about.

It took using Findagrave.com and the GPS on my phone to finally find the monument. Along the way we passed a room where they had apparently just finished a funeral and the chief mourner was still understandably upset. If Carrie and Debbie had turned out to be in that room, we would have come back another day. But they weren’t and we eventually found them and paid our respects.

After that we made our first attempt (of several) to get to the Griffith Observatory. There is at the time I’m writing this, free parking down at the Greek Theater (known as just The Greek to the locals, from what I can tell) on days when there isn’t going to be a show and then a shuttle up to the observatory. And, of course, there was a show that day. So we drove up the hill and discovered that the parking lot was much smaller than I remember. We drove past and right back down the hill. There are parking spaces on the way up and down the hill, as well, but I’m not a confident enough driver (particularly in a rental car!) to parallel park on a hill with a big line of people ahead of and behind me.

Marilyn Monroe's Grave, 2017

Marilyn Monroe’s Grave, Westwood Village, 2017. Notice that the stone is a different color. I’m not sure if that is the original color of the stone, or if it’s discoloration from the cleaning supplies they use to remove the lipstick marks. None of those lip prints are mine.

We headed towards Westwood Village Memorial Park to pay our respects to Marilyn Monroe next. Alex and I had watched Some Like It Hot (and again with the Amazon links) before we left so that he could see why I wanted to visit her grave so badly. I don’t really wear makeup at all, and I totally considered bringing a lipstick so that I could kiss her grave. I chickened out, but I made sure to “tell her” that I considered it, despite it being terribly out of character for me. Mental illness sucks. There’s no way that Monroe could possibly have known that 50-some years after her death, people would fly hundreds or even thousands of miles to visit her and even if she had known, since, as the saying goes, depression lies, it probably would never have made any difference.

Well, that was cheerful.

By the time we got done saying hi to Marilyn Monroe, it was too late to make it to the La Brea Tar Pits. Well, I’m pretty sure that Hancock Park was open, but the museum closes at 5:00 pm and we were at Westwood Village until 5:05.

So, instead, we made what is my fourth (and Alex’s second, unless you count the trip when I was pregnant with him) trip to the Universal City Walk and, as has been our tradition, we ate dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. This, being our first discrete destination (I mean, I guess that cemeteries count, but I don’t know if there is a huge demand for blog posts about cemeteries), will get its own blog post.

*For my mom’s birthday one year we went to see Debbie Reynolds perform. One of the lines in her patter was something to the effect of how she knew we were all there because we thought “let’s go see Debbie before she dies.” For some reason, that memory returned soon after her, fortunately not too untimely (84 is a respectable age), passing.

So. Word just came down that Tom Petty died today (well, yesterday Central Daylight Time, but it’s still October 2 in California as I write this). Petty was one of the celebrities I always kind of hoped I’d bump into on one of our trips to California, but we never did. I don’t think. I generally have to have people point celebrities out to me, so for all I know, I walked right past him and just didn’t notice.

I first became aware of his music in 1979. I was in eighth grade and my English teacher wanted us to write the lyrics for our favorite song down as part of his poetry unit. My two favorite songs were Rock Lobster by the B-52s and Refugee. We didn’t have the Internet in our homes at the time, and so I had to try to puzzle out the lyrics by myself. I didn’t even try with Rock Lobster, so I dedicated myself to figuring out the lyrics to Refugee. I didn’t do too badly, but the bridge tripped me up. Finally I had to call my mom in for assistance. She had some really creative interpretations of song lyrics (one of my favorites was the Beach Boys asking Rhonda to “skate around in (his) heart”), but when she was actually paying attention, she was better at it than I was. At least when I was 13, she was. She threw up her hands in despair pretty quickly, so I ended up using Cliff Richard’s We Don’t Talk Anymore, which I liked okay, but, most importantly, Richard enunciated fairly clearly.

I have always been terrible about keeping up with musicians, so I generally was an album or two behind in my collection (which are pretty much all on cassette tapes; I really should start collecting them on CD (I will buy individual songs as MP3s, but for stuff that I want to keep long-term, I still like to buy CDs because I don’t have to rely on the continued existence of the server that I got the song from if I want to listen to it later)).

In 1991, Thomas and I went to see Petty’s stop at Poplar Creek for his Into the Great Wide Open tour and I had a blast. Thomas was not so much of a fan, but he was good company anyhow. I remember that concert with great fondness. About a month later, my folks and I were at the mall and I was wearing the T-shirt I got at that concert and some guy stopped me because he hadn’t known that Petty was on tour. He was very disappointed when I told him how long ago the concert had been.

Over the years, I discovered new musicians and new genres (and started listening to music in foreign languages once I got the Internet and such a thing became easier than it had been in the 1980s). I still loved Tom Petty, but loved other musicians, as well.

Then, this past year, I started thinking about him again. While training a Pandora station, it started to serve up Petty’s songs, and I remembered how much I loved them. I began to read things about his life and found out about his struggle with his ex-wife Jane’s mental illness and his own attempt to cope which ended with him becoming addicted to heroin. I read about the home in Encino where he and Jane raised their children and how it burned down. While they were having it rebuilt, they lived in the house that Xavier Cugat had built for Charo while they were married, which was apparently not a good fit, to hear Petty tell it.

And this led me, during our recent California trip, to telling Alex to keep his eyes open for a gaunt blond guy (though he was less gaunt towards the end) as we went through Encino on our way to Malibu (little did I know that after his divorce from Jane, Petty moved to Malibu). When we got home, I looked up what he was doing and discovered that when we were in Encino, Petty was on tour and that on my birthday, he’d be playing the Hollywood Bowl. Of course, by then I was back in Texas, but . . . it’s the thought that counts?

I also found that the Petty family’s home in Encino (the one that they’d built after the other had burned  down) had been for sale until just before our California trip. Not that we could have afforded it even in my wildest dreams, but I had fun looking at the pictures and imagining what I would do with that house (after I brought in a priest or a shaman or something (or both!) in to dispel the negative vibes left over from the whole end-of-the-Pettys’-marriage era).

Alex and I are still planning on taking another California trip relatively soon (like a long weekend in 2019) and a part of me wondered if he would tour and I could take Alex to see him. And that’s never going to happen now.

This has reinforced for me, though, how important it is to do the things you want to do while you can. Like taking Alex to see Weird Al Yankovic during his 2018 tour. I don’t know where, if anywhere, he’s going to be in Texas. He announces the stops on the tour, by my estimate, on Friday, October 13. So just over a week away. Let’s hope I don’t forget to check it out when he does announce it and maybe Alex and I can turn it into a travel destination as well as a concert.

We got to Los Angeles International without an incident and I had my first experience of disorientation. I swear I used to be able to find my way out of that airport back in the 1990s. I was our navigator on all four of our previous California trips, for crying out loud.

Alex and I made it to our first stop, Seal Beach, successfully. Thomas and I watched the old soap opera Sunset Beach (which is not available on DVD or even for streaming, dammit) faithfully for its entire three-year run and, so of course, on our final three visits to California, we had to visit Seal Beach, which is where many of the outdoor scenes were filmed. I took Alex to the Richards family’s first house, and to the Pier, of course, and then we looked at the buildings they used for the Waffle Shop, the Deep, and the Java Web. Then Alex went to a coffee shop (not the Java Web) to get something to eat and I hiked down to the buildings they used for Ben’s and Annie’s houses. We never got to a bunch of the buildings, because Alex was starting to drag already and we still had several stops to go.

Our next stop was the Sweet Cup in Garden Grove. I’m learning Vietnamese and would have loved to have had more time to explore Little Saigon while we were in Orange County, but we had places to go. I would have linked to Sweet Cup’s web page if they had one. But check them out if you’re in the area. And, no, I didn’t get comped or anything for this. I almost never talk about food or anything, but I’ll make an exception in this case. The viral video was pretty much spot-on.

Then we undertook an hour drive to Parkers’ Lighthouse in Long Beach. Normally, it’s about a half-hour drive, but I wanted to drive along the ocean for a while. We ended up going back into Seal Beach and soon discovered that Pacific Coast Highway goes entirely too far inland there (as we discovered to our chagrin after following it for a few miles) So we had to turn around and head back We then overshot the turn for the restaurant and had to go back around again.  So it ended up taking about an hour. We also took some pictures of the Queen Mary while we were out there.

The Queen Mary, Long Beach, 2017

The Queen Mary in Long Beach. When we were planning this trip, i suggested staying on the Queen Mary, but we ended up moving to a more traditional hotel to be closer to some friends we were hoping to meet. We never met those friends. After seeing the ship, Alex has requested that we follow through on staying on the Queen Mary next time.

Thomas and I went to Parkers’ Lighthouse when I was pregnant with Alex. We’d been whale watching with a friend and spending time on or near the water always makes me crave seafood. So when we saw Parkers’ Lighthouse, we bet they’d have seafood, and they did. I always had fond memories of our visit there, so of course I wanted to go back with Alex now that he’s old enough to build a memory of the place. I was kind of worried because we weren’t dressed up, but the people there were very gracious. And the food was just as good as I remembered.

By then, Alex was falling asleep and having a hard time navigating, so we headed to the hotel. Once we’d gotten some rest, I realized that I’d left some of my over-the-counter medication at home and we headed out to a Walmart to replace it. Then we attempted to visit Santa Monica Pier at night. That was a failure; we could *not* find anywhere to park (note to self: check out parking ahead of time next trip). So we drove back up Santa Monica Boulevard until we passed the Latter-Day Saints Temple, and then went back to our hotel for a good night’s sleep.

Little did we know how much of an adventure our second day would end up being. . . .

In what I’m pretty sure was 1996, Thomas wrote an application all by himself that was going to be used company-wide. He worked more than 12 hours a day on it over a couple of months and the end result was something to be very proud of (I wonder if he has it on his resume?). The company was so pleased that, since the software needed to be tested in the field anyhow, that they said they would send Thomas (and me) to any field office in the continental US (they had an office or two in Europe, if I recall) for a long weekend. We’d fly out on Thursday, he’d test the software on Friday and Monday, and we could knock around in the area on Saturday and Sunday (turns out he got most of the testing he needed on Friday so we ended up with a lot of Monday as well) and then we’d fly back on Tuesday.

We looked at the map and either one or the other (or both!) of us had been to most of the places available or the places were too far off the beaten track. So with one thing and another, we ended up deciding on Los Angeles.

We flew in on Thursday afternoon, got our rental car, and headed for the hotel. Once we were checked in, we decided to explore a little. We somehow ended up on Santa Monica Boulevard and, based on the Sheryl Crow song All I Want to Do Is Have Some Fun, decided to see if there is, in fact a giant car wash out that way. We never did find the car wash, by the way (since the lyrics come from a 1987 poem by Wyn Cooper, maybe the car wash is long gone?). But it turned out that there was a lot to see on Santa Monica Boulevard, including the Los Angeles Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Thomas and I had long missed the hustle and bustle of the big city (San Antonio’s a big city, but is more suburban in its feel) and we felt a lot better about our choice of Los Angeles.

The next day, while Thomas worked, I took the rental car (fortunately his employer was willing to add me as a second driver) and explored the Pasadena region, from San Dimas to Arcadia (I wanted to visit San Dimas because, of course, of the movie Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (Oh, look! Another Amazon.com link!)). I also went lighthouse-spotting and managed to find Point Vicente Light at the very least. I don’t remember seeing Angel’s Gate or Point Fermin lights until later trips.

Picture of San Gabriel Mountains taken from San Dimas,California, 1996

The San Gabriel Mountains taken from San Dimas, California. This is not the best photo ever, but it’s one of the few I have from that 1996 trip.

And I enjoyed that drive so much I took Thomas with me the next day. We also went up into the San Gabriel Mountains and took an unfruitful trip to Forest Lawn Cemetery to look for Marilyn Monroe’s grave (my folks found her grave on their own late-90s trip out that way).

We visited other things on the trip, as well, and I’ll go into those things in future posts. I thought I might wait until I get to 1996 in my travel memories series, but since Alex and I visited a bunch of these places this year, I’ll probably go ahead and cover the 1996 trip and the 2017 trip together. Overall, though, we had a wonderful time and loved Los Angeles, much to our surprise. We even considered the possibility of moving out there for a while. We returned in 1998, 1999, and 2000, and that was my last trip until this year.

I’ve been wracking my brain about why I was so desperate to visit New York City, but was never equally desperate to visit Los Angeles. At first, I thought that maybe it was because Los Angeles spends so much time pretending to be someplace it isn’t and that there were no really iconic places in Los Angeles to compete with Central Park, Grand Central Terminal, the Statue of Liberty, and so forth. But Los Angeles has the La Brea Tar Pits, Santa Monica Pier (which, by the way, I still haven’t visited), Universal and Warner Brothers Studios (I always heard wonderful things about the Universal tour, but nowadays the Universal tour is an amusement park, which loses something), Griffith Park, Malibu, and so on (the first time we passed the Sherman Oaks Galleria, I actually said, “We have to go there,” not because I’m so into shopping malls, but because it’s, well, famous).

So iconic locations wasn’t it. Maybe it’s because the people who make the movies and television shows seem less enthusiastic about showing us the beauty of Southern California (except insofar as that beauty is wearing a bikini) than the people who make movies and television shows are about New York. And that may be part of it. Television and movies made a big deal out of gang violence, smog, and that period in the early 1990s when freeway shootings became big news (played, rather peculiarly, for laughs in the 1991 Steve Martin movie L.A. Story (warning: Amazon,com link)). And that may be part of it, because on some level, you get the feeling that maybe it’s not such a great place to visit (or to live in).

But, upon further reflection, my lack of burning desire to visit Los Angeles may be attributable to one specific thing.  Let me tell you a story about a man named Jed. A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed. And no, that’s not a tangent. Jed is central to this epiphany. During Thomas and my second trip to Los Angeles, we were there with a group of friends. And one night, about half of our group piled into a car and drove off to see the house that they used as the outside of the Clampett house on The Beverly Hillbillies (warning: another Amazon.com link). And I had to pause for a moment, because the Clampett House was in California and . . . well, California isn’t a place that actually, you know, exists. When it comes right down to it, that might explain it all. I knew the names of place in California, but I also can name places in Narnia and Middle Earth, but that doesn’t put them very high on my very real list of very real places that I want to visit.

Coming up in Part 2, how Thomas and I ended up in this mythical world and what we thought about it once we got there.