Friday, July 18, 2008

From My Travel Journal: My Excellent Adventure in Los Angeles - The Final Chapter

On Sunday, we all took it easy during the day. We were exhausted! Betsy and I sat pool by the pool and had a heart-to-heart conversation while Brooke spent the afternoon with a friend from high school who lives in the L.A. area. This was the day that the wildfires started in Malibu and San Diego.

The Radisson has a bar up on the penthouse floor. It's a marvelous view! Prior to leaving for the Dixie Chicks concert that night, the three of us had a drink there. I had absolutely the best lemon drop martini I've ever tasted. It should be the best for $12. We watched planes landing and taking off, as we were overlooking several runways at the airport. Sadly, we could also see the black smoke billowing from the wildfires in the distant mountains.

We were going to meet Paul and his girlfriend at the Nokia tonight, so we took off for downtown L.A. in our nifty PT Cruiser convertible. One of Wolfgang Puck's restaurants had set up an outdoor cafe at the Nokia, so we grabbed some dinner there. There were lots of people around who were excited about the show, and the weather was beautiful! It was the perfect night for eating, drinking, and hanging out outside. I ate a really yummy Caesar chicken sandwich and several beers. We stood at a table that we shared with 4 ladies who had come all the way from Saskatchewan, Canada to see the show. They were nice and friendly, and we liked them very much. They were there for The Eagles, but they said they enjoyed the Chicks, too. We assured them that the show would be worth their long (and expensive!) trip. We talked a little bit about the war in Iraq, and all four ladies agreed that regardless of whether or not you believe the war is just, the troops should always be supported by their countrymen. We all said "amen", and we drank a toast to the American and Canadian troops.

We met Paul and his girlfriend, and he presented us with our tickets. Sweet! They were even better than last night! We were in row P in the left orchestra. But first, we had to go through security again. The night before, we had to go through a metal detector and have our purses searched. I decided to hide my digital camera in a side pocket on the inside of my purse. I camouflaged it with a couple of tampons, presuming that a male security guard wouldn't dare touch tampons and would look no further. Guess what? I was right. He unzipped the pouch, saw the tampons, and immediately apologized while handing the purse back to me. Later, during a phone call with my brother, I told him this story, and he referred to them as my "campons".

Security personnel were swarming the place and looking for people taking pictures. I have to say that I am pretty impressed with the quality of the pictures and short videos we were able to get. We had to snap 'n duck. We were finally busted towards the end of the show, so we stopped for fear of having our cameras confiscated.

I'm not sure what it was about this night's crowd, but they were extra surly and nasty. Since we were closer to the stage this time, we thought we'd make ourselves a little more visible to the Chicks and let them know that we were there to support them. We decided we were going to stand up and dance during fast-paced songs and during parts of the songs that moved us emotionally. We sat for slower-paced parts of the show, and we thought this was a fair compromise. They opened up with "The Long Way Around" (my personal favorite from the new CD); we got up and cheered and danced. We were on our feet for about 30 seconds, and we started hearing people behind us shouting, "Sit the f**k down!!!" People were trying to get security to make us sit got pretty confrontational. I was stunned at how angry and hostile people became when we would stand up...shouting insults and saying some pretty nasty things. One woman whined, "Some people aren't physically capable of standing up!" We informed her that when The Eagles appeared on stage, she was going to be sorely disappointed because 99% of the crowd would be on their feet for the entire show. It turns out that our new Canadian friends were only a few rows directly in front of us. They stood up and started dancing too. They turned towards us and smiled and waved, giving the thumbs up. We sat down and were perfectly still for much of the show, but we did dance during some of their more powerful numbers. After the Chicks were finished, we left. We just couldn't stand being in such a nasty environment any longer. Plus, we didn't want to sit through The Eagles again (my apologies to any Eagles fans out there).

As we were walking back to the car, we walked past a roadblock that was being manned by several really young policemen (like 20 or 21 years old). We asked if this was the point from where the Chicks would be leaving the theater, and the young guards told us that this indeed was from where the Chicks would be leaving. So we decided to stick around and see of we could catch a glimpse of them. We befriended one of the officers, Rudy, and he agreed to let us know when he received word to remove the roadblock so that the Chicks could get through. A few minutes later he informed us that someone was preparing to leave. We were standing on the corner, and Emily drove her car up and had to stop at a red light. She stopped right in front of us, and she was talking on a cell phone. She noticed us, and she smiled and waved as she pulled away. We waited for a while longer, and nothing was happening. Betsy wanted to walk around to the front of the theater and buy a t-shirt from a vendor. I went with her so that she wouldn't have to walk alone. Brooke stayed behind with a couple of other fans who were hanging around with us. I swear, Betsy and I were gone for not even 10 minutes. We returned only to learn that we had missed seeing Martie leave. Aaarrrrgghhhh. We decided to hang around and see if we could catch a glimps of Natalie leaving the theater. As we waited, we had fun talking with Rudy and his friends. We also were able to witness other goings on in downtown L.A. The Nokia Theater is right across from the Staples Center, and the Lakers were playing a game that night. While we waited for Natalie, the Lakers players were leaving the Staples parking lot (I had a Kobe sighting). There were fans hanging out there and converging on the players' cars as they were leaving the parking garage, practically forcing them to stop and acknowledge them. I don't ever want to be that kind of fan. I would rather never meet the Chicks than to meet them and leave them believing that I'm a lunatic.

Suddenly, we noticed paparazzi swarming around us. I think they were from We asked who they were waiting for, and they said Hayden Pantierre was reportedly going to be leaving via this route soon. Her car pulled past us, too, and the camera flashes started popping! And then the jackasses ran to their cars and started to chase after her. I overheard one of them on his cell phone asking one of his "buddies" for Hayden's address. He apparently got it, and he was off to stalk her at her house, I guess. We also saw Steve Kroft (from "60 Minutes") hanging around outside. This was the last of our celebrity sightings. We waited for about an hour hoping to catch a glimpse of Natalie, but she never came out. We figured that she either sneaked out without being noticed, or she was sticking around for The Eagles' performance. We headed back to the hotel and crashed hard----again.

Betsy had an early flight on Monday, so she was up and out early. We gave her quick good-bye hugs, and then she was out the door to catch the shuttle to the airport. Brooke and I had each scored an afternoon flight, so we slept in a little bit. Then we got up, showered, packed, and checked out. We ran a few errands (went to buy more sinus/allergy medication and cough drops). While driving around and exploring, we found a public beach, so we parked in a residential section and walked down to the ocean. We parked in a space in front of a private home. We had to park close to the car in front of us in order to squeeze in to the space, but this wasn't a problem because there was nothing in front of the other car to prevent the driver from being able to pull away.

We walked down to the beautiful beach, took our shoes off, and walked in the water. It was pretty cold, the kind of cold that makes your ankles ache. But I had never touched the Pacific Ocean before, so it was worth it. We could still see the black smoke and haze hanging over the mountains.

When we got back to the car, we witnessed yet another example of that gracious L.A. hospitality. There was a handwritten note underneath the windshield wiper that said, "You need to be more considerate when you park. You obviously don't live at the beach, thank God!" We were baffled, and we never figured out what our offense was. We walked around the cars to see if we had inadvertently bumped the other car when we were parking; but we ruled that out when we saw there was a good 2 inches between the cars' bumpers. I have no idea what made this person so angry. So I balled up the note and threw it in the his/her yard. Jackass.

We headed over to an In 'n Out Burger joint. This is a west coast franchise, and Brooke had been raving about the cheap yet delicious burgers. At this point, we were running way behind schedule, so we got the food to go. We sped to the airport, and we made it to the Alamo Rental car return area with 2 minutes to spare. It was a beautiful day, so we had a picnic lunch sitting outside of the Alamo Rental office (the burger WAS yummy!). Shortly after we ate, we boarded the airport shuttle bus with our luggage, and we headed out to catch our flights. We got to my terminal first, so we gave each other a quick hug and said 'good-bye' before I got off of the shuttle.

The flight from L.A. to Atlanta was uneventful. The flight wasn't full, and I actually had an entire 3-seat row to myself. Ah, I felt like I was in Heaven. I was able to spread out a little bit. I read my "Newsweek" magazine, watched episodes of "Family Guy" on my iPod, nibbled on my Hershey pretzel bars, and drank tasty complimentary beverages.

The east coast weather was pretty nasty, and it was wreaking havoc with flights flying in and out of Atlanta. We were late landing in Atlanta, and I was hauling ass across the terminal, because I only had 20 minutes until my connecting flight was scheduled to take off. It was originally scheduled to leave at 10:55 p.m. and arrive in Charlotte at 11:55 p.m. The gate number had been changed twice, and I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off and trying to figure out where the hell I was supposed to be. I finally located the correct gate only to find that the flight had been delayed until 11:35 p.m. This was okay with me, because I needed to go to the bathroom, and I really wanted to grab a bagel.

There was already a plane waiting at this gate, and I assumed this was our plane bound for Charlotte. It turns out that this was a flight bound for Indianapolis, and they hadn't even started to board yet! The AirTran employee said that our plane was on the ground, however...we just had to wait for this other plane to take off so that our plane could approach the gate. At this point, it became obvious that we would not be leaving at 11:35 p.m. Oh boy, was the tension high! Travelers and airport employees alike were tired and very frustrated with all of the delayed flights and gate changes. I felt bad for the gentleman working at our gate. People were being really nasty to him and very demanding, as if he had created the weather delays (I thought he did a great job of keeping us informed, and this decreased the stress a lot for me. I told him that before I got on the plane). The flight to Indianapolis finally boarded, and I thought "Great! We're on our way!" It boarded, and then it just sat at the gate. And sat. And sat. And sat. The gentleman from AirTran eventually announced that the plane couldn't leave for Indy yet because---get this---THE PILOTS HADN'T ARRIVED YET! The pilots for this flight had been delayed coming in on another flight, so the pilots weren't even in Atlanta yet! So we sat and sat and sat (and so did the poor people on the plane). The pilots finally arrived, and everyone in the waiting area cheered and yelled as the pilots boarded the plane.

They changed our gate---again---and about 100 people collectively groaned as we gathered our belongings and walked about 40 yards to another gate. We got boarded, and we finally lifted off around 12:35 a.m. I was seated with the cutest young couple. They were both around 19-21 years old, and they were both Marines stationed at Camp Pendleton in CA. They had been married for about 7 months, and they were 6 months pregnant with their daughter, Janelle. Dominique (the wife) was from Louisiana, and Chris was from VA. They were on leave and headed to VA because Chris' grandmother had died that day. They were both so sweet and innocent and open and friendly; I suspect that neither of them had been to Iraq or Afghanistan yet. Dominique wore braces (making her look younger), and she smiled constantly, calling me "Miss Pam"---making me feel like I was about 80 years old. But I still appreciated her manners and kindness. The nastiness of some of the passengers continued on the plane; some of them were being really crappy to the flight attendants who were obviously physically and mentally exhausted. Dominique and Chris also noticed this, and Dominique was offended. She said loudly enough to be heard by the jackass in front of us who was giving the flight attendant a hard time, "I'm so glad the Marines taught us to be respectful towards other people no matter what's going on around us!" We talked the entire time as we shared snacks. Dominique and Chris looked out for me. After we landed and were disembarking, Dominique asked Chris to retrieve my suitcase from the overhead compartment for me, and he did. And then they scooted me out into the aisle in front of them as the line shuffled along. Chris' mother was waiting for them at baggage claim. Those two introduced me to her, and they both hugged me before they left. Such a sweet young couple. I told them to go and have a happy long life together. I got my big suitcase from baggage claim, caught the shuttle to the parking deck, and I walked into my apartment around 3:30 a.m. Thank goodness I had taken the next day off of work, too.

The End

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