Wednesday, July 16, 2008

From My Travel Journal: My Excellent Adventure in Los Angeles - Part 1

I've been flipping through the travel journal that I keep, and I found a few trips and stories that I'd like to share.

This one is from October of 2007 when I made a pilgrimage to Los Angeles to see my beloved Dixie Chicks in concert. It's a little long, so I'm breaking it down it's a trilogy.

The old saying is true. Los Angeles---or whatever place you're discussing--- is a nice place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there. The city's personality just doesn't mesh with mine. The natural beauty (when you can find it) is breathtaking, but there's not much else there that's beautiful in my eyes. There's no beautiful architecture, nothing historically significant (unless you're a movie history buff, which I'm not), no beautiful skyline, etc. I've been to other big cities, and while it's true that people in those cities aren't what I would describe as "friendly" (in Southern standards, anyway), L.A. is the first city I've visited in which people went out of their way to be shi**y. I'll explain more about that later. That being said, I wouldn't change anything about the 3 days that I spent there.

Some background: I am an avid Dixie Chicks fan, and I have been since 1998. I love their talent and music, and I deeply admire them on a personal level. For about a year prior to this trip, I had been regularly reading and posting messages on a Dixie Chicks blog that was authored by an embedded reporter. He was touring with the Chicks, and he posted background stories and pics as he traveled with them on their 2006 Accidents and Accusations tour. There were several regular posters there, and I became good friends with two of them. Brooke lives in NYC and Betsy is in Minneapolis. We learned that the Chicks were going to be playing with The Eagles for six nights in L.A. as they christened the brand new Nokia Theater. We discussed this, decided "Why not?", and we started planning our pilgrimage to L.A. Neither of us has much disposable income to toss around, so we decided this had to be an economical trip. Our plan was to attend one show and to sit in the cheap seats. Betsy's brother was a general manager with a major hotel chain, and he was kind enough to arrange for us to spend three nights at the LAX Radisson free of charge. Needless to say, that took a significant chunk out of our expenses. Each of us managed to find good deals on airfare, so we decided we were going to make this happen!

Now this is where it gets interesting...we had another acquaintance from the same website named Paul. Paul lives in Las Vegas, and he is a professional gambler. Betsy and Brooke met him in December of 2006 when they all met in Dallas on a whim to see the Chicks play their final show on the Accidents & Accusations tour (I couldn't get the time off, dammit!). Paul has lots of connections, and he seems to be financially quite comfortable. As a treat, he gave front row seats to Betsy and Brooke for the show in Dallas. There were no strings attached, no expectations----just a genuinely altruistic gesture on Paul's part.

So when the concerts in L.A. were announced, Paul came into the picture and learned that Brooke and Betsy were planning to attend a show. Brooke informed him that another blogger (me) would be coming, too. Paul said he loved our adventurous spirits, and he thought we should be rewarded. So he treated all 3 of us to orchestra seats for two of the L.A. shows. We protested (albeit mildly), but Paul insisted, and we accepted. Now before you call me naive, let me tell you that I was guarded prior to meeting Paul. It's not that I didn't trust Brooke and Betsy's judgment, but it just sounded too good to be true. I went armed with cash in case I had to buy a ticket at the last minute from a scalper. I asked that we rent our own car and pay for our own hotel (he offered to pay for those, too) so that we could maintain some control of our situation. Long story short----he is not too good to be true. He's genuine, down-to-earth, and a really nice guy. He truly seemed to enjoy making us happy.

So there's the background.

I got up reallllllllllly early on Friday, Oct. 19th to catch a 6 a.m. flight to Atlanta. The 45-minute flight was very choppy due to rain and thunderstorms---the plane dropped and dipped the entire time. They even
cancelled beverage service and the seat belt light stayed on for the entire flight. Maybe I was in denial, but the motion of the airplane was soothing to me, and I slept for most of the flight.

The 5-hour flight from Atlanta to L.A. was uneventful, and I was fortunate enough to sit with people whose company I enjoyed. Louise is a Jewish sixty-something reading teacher from Washington, D.C., and we talked for much of the trip. She was warm and open. Her husband was a nice man, but he was pretty quiet. I think he was grateful that his talkative wife found a distraction. They were heading to L.A. to visit their son and daughter-in-law. We were talking about all of the places we wanted to visit, and she said she had always wanted to visit Santa Fe ever since she was a little girl. Immediately after she said this, the pilot said over the intercom---I swear---"Folks, just to give you an update of our trip, we are now flying over Santa Fe, New Mexico, and we'll soon be flying over The Painted Desert in Arizona." Our mouths dropped, and I pointed out the window and said, "Well, Louise, here you are."

I landed at 11:15 a.m. (L.A. time); Brooke and Betsy's flights landed earlier that morning, so I called them as soon as I touched down. They were in the process of picking up our rental car, and Betsy said they'd pick me up outside of baggage claim in about 15 minutes. I grabbed my suitcase from the conveyor belt, and I
headed outside. Brooke and Betsy were there, waiting for me in our silver PT Cruiser convertible(!!). Brooke and Betsy are both tall with long legs. I'm about 5'3" with short legs. Therefore, I was relegated to the backseat for the entirety of the trip. But you know what? I had the best seat in the house! I stretched out, wind whipping around me, and I took in the sunshine and the sights.

We ate lunch at a great place called Paco's Tacos. Brooke says that Mexican food served in CA is "real" Mexican food as opposed to what you find in other parts of the country. Brooke is originally from CA, so she knows of what she speaks. I had a huge delicious cheese enchilada, drank a couple of Mexican beers, caught a good buzz, and then off we went to the hotel.

The hotel was nice, but it always pisses me off that the "nicer" the motel, the more they charge you for amenities. It was $13/day to park there (Motel 6 lets you park for free!). Anyhoo, our room was on the 9th floor, and the hotel was right next to the airport. We had a great could see planes landing and taking off, but you couldn't hear the loud roar.

It seems that what I have heard about the air quality of L.A. is indeed true. It stinks. I was eating sinus/allergy medicine like it was candy. My sinuses burned and ached for the entire trip, and I had numerous sinus headaches, a sore throat, and a persistent cough. When I blew my nose, my mucus had noticeable tinges of black soot. My apologies to the reader for not having photos of that.

We got settled and unpacked, and then we hit the town. Each of us was pretty exhausted (we'd all caught early morning flights), so we knew we wouldn't be able to hit the town too hard. We walked up and down Hollywood Blvd, which has a very Myrtle Beach-y feel to it. I wasn't all that impressed, to be honest. But we did see the Walk of Fame, and I saw all of the stars on the sidewalk. Did you know that Kermit the Frog has one? I had a yummy vanilla ice cream soda at the Disney Ice Cream Shoppe.

While on Hollywood Blvd., we ate dinner at Verte, a Franco-American restaurant owned by Wolfgang Puck. It was casual, so we were comfy popping in while wearing our jeans and capri pants. I had the best steak I have ever had in my life! And I mean this quite literally. I also had a really good apple martini.

We drove back to the hotel, got into our p.j's, and talked. By the time I crawled into bed, I had been awake for over 25 consecutive hours. I fell asleep in about 2 minutes, and I slept the hardest I had in a while.

End of Part 1


Brooke said...

Good times! Thanks for reminding me of some of the fun I'd already forgotten. :)

Pam said...

Brooktini! You're my very first comment ever! Thank you for taking the time to leave it. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I smiled as I recalled the trip while reading over my travel journal notes :)