2017 Vacation

Technically we visited them the other way around, but we found the Joe Davies Airpark accidentally when we were looking for the Blackbird Airpark, so Blackbird gets the priority.

This trip was an object lesson in something that Thomas and I discovered when a friend came to visit us in the mid-90s. And it was in the mid-90s, both chronologically and meteorologically. We took her to the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park and were dragging her around showing her all of the cool things we’d noticed about the buildings and the grounds during our own visits. She was more interested in the air conditioned parts, like the bookstore. The next day we took her to the botanic gardens and she was enthralled with the plants and the gardening techniques. She had a long conversation that I was completely unable to follow with one of the workers about something horticultural. Meanwhile, Thomas and I were about to keel over from the heat.

While she was talking to the worker, Thomas turned to me and pointed out that when we were at the missions, we didn’t notice the heat so much because what we were talking about was interesting to us but she was miserable. The next day, she didn’t notice the heat but we sure did!

And our trip to Palmdale definitely was an experience along those lines. I mostly noticed the heat. There was a little picnic shelter that was the only shade around and so I hung around there as long as I could before I returned to the rental car and sat with the engine and air conditioner running. Going out into that southern California desert sun made me feel even more like Gollum than usual. And the summer sun does a pretty good job of that regardless of where I am.

Alex, on the other hand, had a blast. Which was my intent. Alex is an airplane buff, so this side trip was for him specifically.

The reason why there are two open-air airplane museums in such close proximity is Plant 42, which 20-ish miles southwest of Edwards Air Force Base. Near as I can figure, Plant 42, which manufactures top-secret aircraft, is actually part of Edwards Air Force Base, despite the distance. The space shuttle Enterprise (which Alex and I saw at the Intrepid museum in New York City) was assembled at Plant 42.

Enterprise at Plant 42

NOT MY PHOTO (I was 10 years old and in a completely different state when this photo was taken). This is the Enterprise at the Edwards Air Force Base end of its trip in 1977. The photo is labeled on NASA’s website as “NASA Photo,” which my understanding of copyright law leads me to the conclusion that it is in the public domain.

The claim to fame of the Blackbird Airpark is that they have not just the SR-71 Blackbird but its predecessor, the A-12. At first Alex was disappointed that the place we ended up didn’t have even one Blackbird, let alone two, but I got onto Google and found that we were next door to where we wanted to be. So I ventured out into the summer sun to see if there was an easy way to get from one to the other. And there is. There is a gate in the fence between the two parks.

b52 with better saturation than last time

I’ve already posted this picture of the B-52 once before, but I goosed up the saturation a bit before I resized it this time.

So Alex got to explore both airparks while I hid in the air conditioning, first in the car, then in the minimuseum/gift shop once we got to the Blackbird Airpark side of the fence. As we returned to our car, I made a quick detour because I’d been seized with a desire to take a picture of the B-52 at the Joe Davies Airpark, even though The B-52s were named for a beehive hairstyle, and not the airplane.

Since I didn’t really explore much, I may ask Alex if he’d like to do a guest post.

Now, this is a post that would lend itself to overdoing on the Amazon Associates links. I will try to restrain myself to only maybe two or three.

Warner Brothers was founded by, well, four brothers with the surname of Warner — Harry, Albert, Sam, and Jack. I’m not 100% certain why Jack has always been the only one whose name I know off the top of my head. I’ll have to ponder that one. The Warner family originated in Poland (though Jack was born in Canada) and began in the movie business by owning theaters. Somehow they parlayed that into actually making movies and moved from Ohio (how’d they get from Canada to Ohio? I’ll have to look into that) to California.

The Warner Brothers’ first studio was on Sunset and Bronson (and has the scintillating name of the Sunset Bronson Studios today).* The studio had the money to move to nicer digs in Burbank after the release of The Jazz Singer, the first ever “talking picture” — a movie with sound. The Warners accomplished this when they purchased a company that owned movie theaters and which had a one-third stake in First National Pictures, a different movie studio. They purchased the other two-thirds of First National later that year and First National owned the land in Burbank where Warner Brothers is today.

Over time, Warner Brothers continued making movies and also diversified into animation, television, music, and publishing (with their purchase of DC Comics). Looking at the official company history page, I kind of both would love and hate looking at their corporate structure chart. “Warner Horizon Scripted Television”?

Anyway, so the tour. As I think I’ve mentioned before, Thomas and I went on the tour back in the mid-90s and I wanted to see how the property has changed and also to give Alex a chance to check it out. As you might expect, a lot was the same (if you lowered me gently from a helicopter into the middle of the backlot, it might not have taken me a dreadfully long time to figure out where I was, and I certainly would’ve known by the time I found Stage 16, which is the tall one with the WB logo on it that figures prominently in the company logo that runs before movies these days). Quite a bit has changed as well.

The tour starts out on a tram where the guide takes you around the backlot. This is where the outdoor scenes for a bunch of movies and television shows have been filmed. There’s a generic midwestern town and a generic city street, for example. There’s a generic little corner of a Paris street there as well, which was used in Casablanca, but I think I missed the photo of that one.

branch with extra leaves attached, 2017

I got a kick out of this. It’s a for-real tree with extra clumps of leaves tied onto the branches. Why would they do this? Because maybe the director’s vision has the trees fluffier than in real life? To change the apparent season? Anything like that, probably.

There also used to be a generic western town, but that area has been replaced by a generic suburban street, the buildings of which double as offices. That area may have been in use when we were there because I don’t remember that area, though maybe the tour guide just didn’t point out that they were also offices.

One of the other things that must have been in use that day was the jungle set with a water tank that has been any number of ponds, lakes, lagoons, and ocean shorelines. When Thomas and I took the tour, the guide gave a list of just some of the things that were filmed there. I’m sure the list would be even longer today.

Let’s see if I can stick an Amazon Associates link into a picture caption:

Daily Planet Building from Lois & Clark, 2017

Generic City Street — this in particular was used as the Daily Planet building in Lois and Clark (and, in fact, was in use in just that way when Thomas and I were there). As you can see, there are stairs down to the “subway,” though they just stop at the bottom.

Hey! It looks like it worked!

*And here I took a break of something like 20 minutes to figure out if we ever got there in the 24 Hours of Happy thing and looking at the studio on Google Street View, it sure looks familiar. And, no, I don’t think we ever get this far down Sunset. It looks like we only go as far as Gower.

This is just bizarre. I’m worrying about how to make a post on the Universal CityWalk when it’s basically just a mall attached to the Universal Studios Theme Park. There’s no real history and it’s about as handicap-accessible as any open-air mall (which means that if your handicap is things like asthma or cutaneous porphyria you’ll have the usual exposure to outdoor allergens/sunlight problems that you’d have anywhere). It’s a very nice mall with lots of themed eateries, plenty of street perfomers, and one of those dancing water fountains that’s fun to watch.

Traditionally, we eat at the Hard Rock Cafe when we’re there. I’m not 100% certain why my friend group decided that would be where we would eat, but we ate there in 1998, 1999, and 2000, and now it’s not a trip to California without a meal there.

Hard Rock Cafe Guitar

The Hard Rock Cafe guitar, 2018

There’s an outdoor stage right there, as well, and when Alex and I were there, Kirstin Maldonado of Pentatonix was performing songs from her solo album. I watched her while we ate, figuring that if she ended up being the next Madonna or Pink or whomever, I could say that I saw her at the mall. It doesn’t look like she’s going to, though, since I had to do some digging to jog my memory as to who she even was. Oh, what the heck. I need to monetize this thing, so here’s the Amazon Associates link to the album she was promoting: Love. I’m sure there’s a way to make those Amazon links come out Amazon Orange, but I haven’t been able to find it yet. When I do, though, watch out.

Universal citywalk globe 2018

The Universal Globe, 2018

Apparently there are some actual regular clothing-type stores at the CityWalk, but you can’t prove that by me. I usually just notice things like the big Universal globe at the entrance, and the aforementioned dancing fountain, which I took a bunch of pictures of, and the Voodoo Donut Shop (which we didn’t go into, but I noticed it!).

And now here we are, 300+ words later, and I guess I’ve actually managed to make an actual post on the CityWalk. I intended to make this just sort of a general mall post (since I’ve been getting my pedometer steps in at our local enclosed malls lately) and it turns out I didn’t need to. Who knew?

This project is seriously eating into my language learning time. Before I started this project, I was routinely getting $2 and $3 easily. Now it’s like pulling teeth to get more than my average daily amount (currently $1.32) so that I don’t lose ground. And I’m definitely not going to make it for today — it’s 11:51 pm and I’m only at $1.30.

On the other hand, doing this project is going to give me 20-something new blog posts, so that will advance this part of my future as a self-employed something-or-other.

Speaking of which, I had something of a setback recently. I know that if I want to reach my goal, I’ll need to start investing in the stock market. So, to that end, I finally saved up the money and then the stock market dropped. I watched my stock for a couple of days and once it started going back up again, I figured I’d better get in while it was still low. And then it dropped farther. And farther. Fortunately, I’m investing and not speculating, so I’m just going to wait this out and figure that it’ll turn around someday. And if it drops another $50 or so I might go ahead and buy my second share now and then work to pay myself back for it.

Notice the words “20-something” up there. The 9:56 to 10:55:59 hour was spent in Union Station. The dancers really didn’t explore around the station much, so I’m probably going to lump that hour in with either the 8:56 to 9:55:59 hour or with the 10:56 to 11:55:59 hour, which means that I will have, at most, 23 posts.

On Alex and my last day in California, we finished up a couple of things I wanted to do but hadn’t had time to. The whole story will have to wait until I post my next installment (hopefully I’ll get to working on that tonight) but when I was watching the video for Pharrell Willams’s song Happy, I saw one of the places we’d been that last day. At least, I was pretty sure that it was the same place. I called Alex in and he agreed that it was the same place. Well, while I was working my way up to making these posts, I watched that video again (for reasons that you’ll understand when I post that post) and saw a note at the end directing me to go to 24hoursofhappy.com and so I did. And I discovered that the official Happy video is clips from a huge 337-person* project of people mouthing the words and/or dancing to the song. And so I began to watch it to see what places I’ve been to on my trips to Los Angeles.

I watched the first hour and then I realized that I was going to need a list. And then the list started to include notes on how I figured out where we were. And then I started marking the areas we’d been in on a map in Google Maps. This became a polygon (as I write this, after finishing the 9:00-9:59 hour my polygon has 10 sides and covers 21.64 square miles). And I put notes about that, as well.

I eventually realized that what I have here is the beginning of a 24-post series. So I think I’m going to do just that, once I finish my next post about the time Alex and I spent in California.

*Each segment is 4 minutes long, so we have 360 segments. However, the top of every hour is Pharrell, so I had to subtract all but one of his appearances because he does have to be counted once for the first time he shows up. So you get 337 people. Technically, it has to be more than that, since some of the segments have more than one person in them. We’ll have to just go with 337+ people,because I am not going to go back and rewatch those first nine hours to make sure I know exactly how many people are in there. I’m not that OCD.

I guess it’s not a terrible surprise that we finally did make it to the observatory on our last full day in California. I mean, it was totally a quest by then. If I’d needed to park in downtown Los Angeles and take the Red Line to the DASH, I would have done it with a smile on my face and a song in my heart.

Fortunately it didn’t come to that. There was actually no event at the Greek Theater that night, so we were able to park there for free and take the shuttle (50¢ apiece) up to the observatory. The shuttle was affordable and convenient and as a fan of public transportation, I have to give it, oh, 3.5 stars. You see, it wasn’t very comfortable. I had surgery on my tailbone 35 years ago and so my hind end is kind of picky about the surfaces I use it on. As a result we walked back down. But more on that in my special post on the observatory.

I have to admit that I’ve been up to the observatory something like four times in my life (actually maybe something like 5 or 6), but I’d never been inside until this trip. Always before we were there during the school year and there were always field trip groups in there. We’d visited the outside of the building, and I seem to recall visiting the room that has the telescope in it, which is on the roof of the building itself. I was very pleasantly surprised at what we saw and experienced while we were there. I’ll do a separate post on the observatory later.

sea cave, carrillo state park, 2017

This is about as good as photos of that cave got

After we left the observatory, we headed out to Malibu to visit yet another beach. If Thomas and I had known about the beaches of Orange County, then this trip probably would have been my first. Instead, however, when Thomas and I went to California that first time, we wanted a public beach. So, figuring that a park would be a public beach, I found Leo Carrillo State Park, which I will also go into detail on in a future post. Since Thomas likely has those pictures in his collection I set about creating my own. Alex and I took pictures of the rocks and wildlife, built our annual sandcastle (a rock castle this time, based around a rock that Alex found that looked like a grand piano) and slogged around to the other side of the rock outcropping where I made numerous attempts to take pictures of one of the sea caves. Finally we went back to the car (after bypassing the showers, which were awfully sulfurous-smelling). While we were rinsing off our feet in a little of our drinking water, we saw a car wreck (the front parking lot at Carrillo is a little too small for the trailer that the truck was pulling) and watched rescue workers come to help a man who thought he might be having a heart attack (I think it turned out he was okay). With everything else, it took a while to get out of the parking lot.

I wanted to take Pacific Coast Highway all the way down to our final lighthouse, but we gave up after 17 miles of stop-and-stop-some-more traffic. We headed inland in Santa Monica and took the 405 and the 101 down to Palos Verdes. I missed a step in my request for directions to Point Vicente light, but we got it sorted out and made it to the park next to the lighthouse just as the last bit of light faded from the sky. It’s been a long time since I went to California, but I swear that park wasn’t there 17 years ago. I remember a smallish building with a deck for whale watching, but nothing like the park that’s there today.

By this point, it was full dark, so we stopped in San Pedro for gas, got on the highway and headed back for our final night in our hotel.

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.

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.