los angeles

All posts tagged los angeles

Okay, let’s cast our memories back. Back, back, back. Farther than that. Okay, are you to 1978 yet? If not, we’ll wait.

Are we all here? Jimmy Carter is in the White House (I’m a big fan). David Berkowitz is tried and sentenced (I am a bit of a true crime geek). We had three popes, including the eerily prophetically named John Paul I, who really did put the “I” on his name (also a religion geek). And the top-grossing movie for the year? Grease.

If you’ve seen Grease, you’ll probably remember the drag racing scene. Remember the street they’re racing on? That’s not a street. It’s a river. The Los Angeles River, specifically.

There was catastrophic flooding along the Los Angeles River in 1938 and to fix the problem, they completely destroyed the river’s ecosystem. They dug the river deeper and widened it and covered the whole damn thing with concrete, as if that doesn’t add insult to injury.

In past visits, I’d seen the river occasionally, and it was just as heartbreaking an eyesore as you’d expect. I couldn’t believe that there ever had been a healthy river there.

In recent years, however, I’d been hearing that they’d been working on restoring the ecosystem. I’d heard rumors that there was enough water in some places that people were actually kayaking. This, I wanted to see with my own eyes. I spent quite some time trying to figure out exactly where the improvements had been made and how to get there. Finally I found an article in the Los Angeles Times giving directions that involved parking by the tennis courts in Griffith Park and walking behind the soccer fields. There, you’ll find a bridge over the Golden State Freeway which will lead you to the river. So, we did just that. It certainly was an experience, and on an early Monday afternoon in late July there aren’t a whole lot of people out and about, which made Alex very nervous. We got some fantastic pictures and got to watch an actual blue heron in the water of the river.

After a few blocks, Alex had enough. So we took what turned out to be the Alex Baum Bicycle Bridge back to Los Feliz, took Los Feliz back across the 5 and returned to our car. I’m glad I got the chance to see the revitalization of the river, even if it was kind of creepy and deserted, and I hope to get a chance to explore more (maybe on a weekend when there will hopefully be more people there) on future visits.

Also, coming back on the bridge is why I began my 24 Hours of Happy project. I was watching the video for Happy and noticed that Pharrell is on the Alex Baum Bicycle Bridge at one point. The end of the video directed me to the 24 Hours of Happy site and then I found the individual hours on Pharrell’s iamOTHER channel at YouTube, and it was all downhill from there.

Los Angeles River between Glendale and Los Feliz, 2017

Look at that. From this angle it almost looks like nature. And someday it will hopefully look completely like nature from all angles.

But back to our final day. Traditionally when someone from our pharmacy goes on a trip, they bring something back for everyone else in the pharmacy — magnets, food, pens, whatever. I hadn’t found anything yet, so I looked up souvenir shops and found that most of the best ones are in Hollywood. We hadn’t been to Hollywood yet on this trip, so we figured why not?

We found a parking lot not too far from Hollywood Boulevard and hiked for maybe a quarter or a third of a mile. But what a quarter or a third of a mile! We walked down the Walk of Fame looking at all of the names and watching the people looking at all of the names. I noticed, by the way, that Betty White’s star and that of her late husband, Allen Ludden, face each other, which I thought was sweet. We also went past the establishment formerly known as Grauman’s Chinese Theater. You may be familiar with Grauman’s. It’s the place where all of the actors’ hand- and footprints are in the squares of the sidewalk. I dragged Alex from actor to singer to director just agog and I managed to restrain myself and only take one (not very well framed) picture of Bette Davis’s square. Finally Alex dragged my attention to the task at hand and we continued to the souvenir store. I resisted the temptation to stop by again on our way back to the car, but we needed to get on our way to the airport to return to Texas.

We got our souvenirs and made it back to the airport in plenty of time for our flight. Unfortunately we were seated on the “wrong” side of the plane, by which I mean the side that faced out onto the ocean. As it took off, the plane circled around the Palos Verdes Peninsula, and from that side of the plane I could have maybe gotten one last picture of Cabrillo Beach, the lighthouses, Seal Beach Pier and the Queen Mary. Well, now I know. We need to be on the left side of the plane on our flight back next time.

And there will be a next time. Not in 2018, and maybe not even in 2019, but someday.

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.

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.

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.