Wednesday, April 28, 2010

“This is LA, we celebrate mediocrity”

Well, Los Angeles was certainly the strangest stop so far on this trip, and with the exception of not being able to eat at Randy’s Donuts or go to Venice Beach, I’m not particularly bummed that I had less than 48 hours here, since I totally Jack Bauered those hours.

Just before I arrived in LA, I had called the people I was hoping to crash with while I was in town. Unfortunately, they had just been evicted for, um…being too loud during personal relations. So I googled “Hostel, LA” and found The Banana Bungalow in West Hollywood. The Banana Bungalow is overly campy and tiki-themed to the max, and for some reason all of the foreigners there ate that shit up.

After checking in, I stepped on the patio for coffee and a cigarette. I was soon joined by two Brazilian men who were in town for Coachella. They asked what my plans in LA were;

Me- “Nothing concrete, really. Just going to wing it, play it by ear.”
Brazilian Man #1- “FIND WILL SMITH.”
Me- “…What?”
Brazilian Man #2- “The Fresh Prince! Hollywood! Look for the Fresh Prince!”
Brazilians in Unison- “DJ JAZZY JEFF!”

I didn’t have the heart to tell them that I was not going to spend my time in LA looking for the 1992 version of Will Smith.

Instead, I called my cousins Sean and Alex and spent the day hanging out with them and their awesome babies (that aren’t-so-babyish anymore) and getting a mini driving tour of LA. And now, as much as I’ve loved spending so much of this trip trying new restaurants and new foods, Alex made me a big homemade vegetarian feast and it was really incredible in the middle of the trip to taste slow food again. It was really fantastic to see family, hang out in the warm weather, and drink some wine. We capped off my visit to their place with a quintessential California dessert: Froyo.

After that, I caught up with my friend Bato at Golden State for french fries (with curry ketchup!), beer and ice cream. (Editor’s Note: to anyone reading this blog who is underage, do not listen when your parents tell you being a kid are the best years of your life. You can’t have beer and ice cream for dinner, so that can’t possibly be true.) Our waiter suggested we go to his friend’s bar, Surly Goat. Upon arriving, we made friends with the staff, as it was fairly empty for a Sunday night. They opened up the bar to Bato and I, letting us sample everything, and let us just start mixing shit together (Editors Note: Framboise and obsidian stout mixed together tastes like raspberry chocolate cake.) After we asked if they had any Sofie from Goose Island, they got the (completely misguided) impression that we were “girls who know their beer” and let us tap into their reserves, open their rare bottles, and browse the closed-to-the-public cooler. After about five hours and $120 worth of beer, we closed our $14 (!) tab and I stumbled back to my hostel, much to the chagrin of my terrified German roommate, so instead I had a tea party with some Irishmen on the floor of the common room downstairs.

In the morning, I caught up with Nyna, who I picked up in Arizona, Our mission was fairly simple: go to the beach. However, we got lost all over the Palisades and Santa Monica. It becomes especially hard to become unlose yourselves when the place where you’re lost in is so beautiful that you don’t really want to find your way out. So we drove around aimlessly, taking everything in and debating between pizza or burritos until we realized we could eat both. (Editors Note: My life is hard, please leave pity or kind words in blog comment section.) So we laid down a blanket and feasted at an empty beach, two friends who met as children and had barely seen each other since, sleeping and laughing an the shore in Santa Monica.

As Nyna drove back to Arizona, I wandered through West Hollywood, looking for a psychic to tell me exactly how the rest of my life was going to play out. I was hoping to find a shop that looks like Oda Mae Brown works there, but it was getting late and I had dinner plans, so I just stumbled into the first neon “PSYCHICS! PSYCHICS! PSYCHICS! LIVE NUDES” sign that I saw. (Editor’s Note: I made up the Live Nudes part.) This woman gives readings out of her living room and insisted that my life was miserable, that I had a very hard time making friends and connecting with people, that I hate my job and should quit, have an intensely close relationship with my parents, and am a hopeless romantic. There was not one single thing she said over the course of the reading that was remotely true, but maybe it’s my palm that’s the hack, not the $20 psychic on Beverly.

Leaving the psychic prepared to put in my two weeks notice and fall madly in love, I instead made dinner plans with a guy that I had gone to Canada with when I was 19. We called him Kilometers up there, but in California he goes by Miles. We headed to an Italian tapas trattoria by the Beverly Center, because apparently they are all about the fusion in LA.

Before dinner, I had received a text saying “What are your evening plans? Well cancel them, because we’re going to STEEL PANTHER.”  So as I was walking north down Fairfax, Jake and his girlfriend played Richard Gere to my Julia Roberts. (Editor’s Note: Except for the whole hooker thing.) Since the show didn’t start till 11, we went bowling to kill some time. I don’t know about you, but when I think of bowling, I think of beer-bellied old men with stories about ‘Nam, lounging around a wood-paneled alley, drinking Coors Light and getting a few hours away from the old lady. This bowling alley was not like that. More than a few people were wearing leather pants and drinking martinis, and when we walked in, Jake’s friend Caleb just winked at the bowling shoe guy and all of the sudden shots appeared and we were given free games of pool while we waited for our free bowling lane. Never underestimate the power of being attractive in Los Angeles.

So…Steel Panther. They are an 80’s hair metal cover band that has been an LA staple for years akin to Spinal Tap. However, many people seem to be either in denial or just not care that they are a fake band, as many legit hair metal fans showed up and the things that girls were willing to do to get the attention of these heavily-botoxed, over-40 actors in Nikki Sixx wigs was remarkable. Let’s just say there was a lot of hair mousse and vagina that night.

Anyways, the show is pretty small, you can easily stand up front by the “band” with little effort. That is, unless Dane Cook is there. Whenever celebrities show up at SP shows (which is fairly often since its on Sunset Strip), they wait until they get nice and sloshed and then make them come on stage to sing Guns & Roses songs. So we just stood there, singing Paradise City with Dane Cook, as he remained oblivious to the merciless mocking. And I was with the best three people for it, people who could appreciate not knowing what the fuck was going on and laugh hysterically but were not too cool to sing along when Every Rose Has Its Thorn started.

Morning came, I threw my stuff in a bag, freaked out my German roommate for the last time, and headed back to Union Station. So far the ride to San Francisco has been unbearably beautiful. We go in and out of tunnels carved through the middle of mountains and are 100 feet from the Pacific coast. There are stretches where we ride along on cliffs, but the fog is so heavy you can’t see past the rails and it legitimately feels like you are on the edge of the world.

Love from the rails of northern California,


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