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All posts for the month October, 2017

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.