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All posts for the month September, 2017

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.

I hit my third hundred dollars the other day and I’m thinking of putting this one on the stock market. I’ve considered buying a share of Disney stock, maybe, or perhaps putting the money into some kind of mutual fund (most of the money I’ve invested in the stock market is in electronically traded funds and they’re doing pretty good). Maybe I’ll just put this one into a CD as well and buy myself another three or so months before I have to make any decisions.

At any rate, getting that degree in modern languages that I want will cost me about $16,000 and so I only have $15,700 to go. And by that time I may not actually need the degree. I’ll still get it, though, because I’m into collecting pieces of paper with my name on it issued by colleges and universities (I’ve got four already).

Next up is a bit on my history with going to California — how I went there for the first time, my impressions both before and after that trip, etc. I’ve got a bit of a headcold, though, so I may need some time to recover from that before tackling this.

Now, I want to make money from my travel writing somehow. I’ve actually made a tiny bit ($15 or so, I think) from writing on different for-pay sites over the years, but I really want to get somewhere with this. So I’ve got some ideas:

  1. I’m actually breaking ground on a travel book. I really need a public-domain map that I can modify for this purpose, though. What I want to do is break the city up into manageable slices and do something a little more than a pamphlet but a little less than a book on each and then eventually join them up into larger regional guides (like having a downtown guide, a Missions-area guide, etc.) and then, if I ever finish the whole city, have one larger guide for everything. I have pictures taken of two of these sections of downtown and (as I write this on August 31) hope to get downtown to take pictures for the third soon. I’m planning to hit my friends up for personal experiences in/near/with these places to include. My dream is to include nearby towns like Boerne, New Braunfels, etc. in this guide eventually.
  2. Kinda/sorta sell photographs. My idea isn’t to actually sell them, like setting up a booth or anything, but to take requests for photos to post in my blogs. If someone, for example, wants to see if the Alamo is really in the middle of downtown (it is, but it’s not really downtown as someone from, like, Chicago or New York would understand the term), they could pay me a relatively small amount and I’d go downtown when things aren’t so crowded (an early Sunday morning in January, say) and take a panoramic shot, which I then would post in my blog for the requester and anyone else who cares to look at it. There would be a sort of mileage scale to this, so 0 to 20 miles from downtown would be X and 20.1 to 40 miles from downtown would be 2X, and so on. And I would reserve the right to reject offers that I consider to be trespassing, like you can’t take photos inside the Alamo, and so a request for a picture inside the Alamo would be trespassing and I would refuse. I like this plan, and may make this an actual thing down the line. And if there’s a fee to take professional photographs in an area, and getting paid $X counts as “professional” for the owner of that area’s purposes, then the requester of the photograph should probably foot the bill for that fee.*
  3. Start a Patreon. This is what all the cool kids are doing and I’d like to get into this, but I don’t have enough traffic to make it worthwhile and even if I did, I’m not sure how to give bonuses for people who subscribe. Maybe I could modify point 2 above to be $X into the Patreon will get you a picture posted on the blog, $X+Y will give you a photograph emailed to you a week before posting on the blog, $X+Y+Z gets you a photograph that no one but you will ever see? I’ll have to mull that over for a while.

*The fee for the Cibolo Nature Center is $20 and the Cibolo Nature Center is 31 miles from downtown, so assuming that the Cibolo Nature Center people consider getting paid $2X for the picture counts as “professional,” I’d ask the requester to pay $2X+20.