I have a childhood friend who lives in LA. Actually, she lives in Brentwood, which, for those of you who don�t know LA or remember, is where O.J. Simpson lives and where the murders took place. We recently reconnected, thanks to the internet and Google, and our first re-meeting was this past weekend, when Christopher and I went to her �casual wedding reception.�
My friend comes from money, which always made our friendship one of the more unusual�she was loaded and we were really poor. We�d spend one day at her penthouse or going for cheeseburgers at McDonalds in her family�s Rolls, then the next day it would be cabbage rolls at our (rented) house. There is still a sizeable difference in our standards of living, even though Christopher and I do okay financially. So going to this party we knew we would be going into a slightly different world.
Also, my friend works in the entertainment industry. She used to do PR for famous folks like Salma Hayek. Now she�s a manager, which is not the same as an agent (I think a manager is more about the strategic whole of an actor�s career while an agent makes the financial deals…but don�t quote me on that). We knew that there would probably be some industry folks at the event�another different world, at least for me (Christopher had been more exposed to it in his previous job doing cartage for famous musicians).
So, for this girl from Columbus, Ohio, I had no idea what to expect, how to dress, or, well, anything. I hadn�t even ever been to LA yet! But here I was, going to a party in a restaurant in Brentwood to see a friend I hadn�t seen in 20 years.
On Saturday around 10am or so, we left San Diego in my husband�s Miata, top down in the sun, all our exposed skin coated in heavy-duty sunscreen, and headed north on the 805, to the 5, and eventually the 405 (also made famous by O.J.). The traffic was really heavy heading south we noticed, but it was moving well heading north, and we had no problems until we stopped in Irvine for gas. They seem to have hidden all the gas stations in Irvine�so it took some driving around a bunch of corporate parks to eventually find one. It was at about that point that I decided I�d had just about enough heat, too. The sun wasn�t so bad, but it was hot, hot.
Yeah…dry heat, but really hot dry heat. The top went up and the a/c got turned on for the rest of the trip.
The one thing I noticed as we approached LA, besides the heat, was the color of the sky. You could see this brown, thick, haze in the distance. This was one of the better air quality days there, but it looked disgusting, and smelled bad too.
And then there was the traffic. This was a Saturday, around 12:30, and the traffic was stop-and-go in places on the 405. And when it was �go� it was �go like a bat outa hell��people whizzing past us while we were doing 80…for the half-mile stretch where that was possible. Since I arrived in San Diego, whenever people ask me how I like the city I say that I do, but that the traffic is amazing. They have all said, �Wait until you go to LA�now that�s traffic!� They were all right.
We found our hotel, the Century Wilshire, with little difficulty. We like older hotels, when we can find them, and this one fit that bill. Three stories tall, with two courtyards (one with a pool)�it looked like a bit of old Hollywood in many ways. It�s on Wilshire, in Westwood�which is just across the 405 from Brentwood and just before Beverly Hills (if you keep going down Wilshire). I kind of half-expected to find Ester Williams doing laps.
We freshened up, then went to get Christopher some new sunglasses and to get some lunch. On our way towards La Brea, we took a quick side trip and drove down Rodeo Drive. Mecca, for some of my friends. It is one incredible display of wealth�I give it that for sure. We called our friends who would love that stretch of road�just to be evil and brag that we were there. We certainly didn�t stop, though. Not our bag at all.
Anyway, we wanted to get some Pink�s hot dogs, but the line was HUGE�and in that heat, I just wasn�t up for a long wait. So we went to the Target we saw at the corner of Santa Monica and La Brea for the sunglasses. We then grabbed a quick bite at the Greek fast-food place in the same complex and, after, walked out to the patio so Christopher could have a smoke. I looked up, and there on the hill in front of us was the Hollywood sign.
Kind of weird seeing it in three dimensions. After 38+ years of seeing it on screens of various sizes, just looking up and seeing it was really kind of surprising.
Christopher drove me around Hollywood a bit (Hollywood really is a dump�no doubt about it�especially Hollywood and Vine) and showed me several landmarks. We drove by the new Kodak theatre, which is where they now have the Oscars, for example. Then, on Sunset (I think) we were stuck in awful traffic. It was about 3pm and it turns out at 4pm they were having a premiere at some theatre there. The streets were lined with people�how exciting! A real Hollywood premiere!
Well, it was until we realized that it was the premiere of the Olsen Twins new movie. Ick. Then it just became a big pain in the ass traffic jam.
We finally got through it and went back to the hotel. C was thinking about taking a little swim, and I wanted to start getting ready. Suddenly it dawned on me�we forgot Christopher�s jacket. Damn! �No problem,� he said, �I�ll just go get a new one. I really needed a new one anyway.� And off he went while I bathed and cursed my stupidity.
I was all clean and half-ready when he got back, having obtained a nice jacket on mondo-sale at Robinson-May. Of course, this meant that he went to the mall closest to the Federal Building in LA. Most likely the mall they were referring to in the latest terror warning. More fun things to do in LA! But it was a nice jacket and a very good deal and no one blew anything up, so it all worked out. We looked faboo for the party.
When we got to the restaurant, there were indeed black t-shirted security guys hanging around out front. The guy with the clipboard politely asked our names, checked us off, and in we went. My friend was talking with guests relatively near the door. She looked up and immediately recognized me. We hugged, made girly squeaky noises at each other the way excited women do, then I introduced Christopher and we all headed to the bar to find the groom.
We chatted briefly, but the couple was the center of attention so we could only get a few questions out to each other before they were swept away by other friends. We got some drinks and started people watching.
The place got really loud very quickly. Neither Christopher nor I like that and he wanted to smoke, so we went out to the front patio to sit in the fresh air and quiet. Not long after we got comfy, a woman walked out, looking a bit wary and going into her purse for her Marlboro Lights. I recognized her immediately but didn�t want to make her more uncomfortable than she already looked, so I said something like �It�s so loud in there and nice and quiet out here�please make yourself comfy and have a smoke.� She smiled and sat down next to me and we started to chat. It was Peri Gilpin, who played Roz Doyle on Frasier.
I didn�t want to make a big deal out of her celebrity, and didn�t really mention it until she did in some subtle way. I just thought that she must get sick of people inundating her with the same questions all the time like �What�s Kelsey like� and �Can I have your autograph/take your picture?� so I avoided all of those. I mean it must get exhausting to not just be a person sometimes�and to worry that everyone you talk to might want something from you. So I just tried to treat her like any other human. And Christopher was a perfect gentleman�saying all the right things and offering to get drinks. We ended up speaking for a long time, and covering everything from my friend (hers too) to what an idiot Bush is, to her husband the artist (who was unable to attend that night), to earthquakes (she�s got a hilarious story on that subject), to drinking and growing up Baptist in Texas. She was lovely and gracious and really funny. I liked her. As they say, she’s good people.
She then had to leave and wanted to speak with the bride and groom again before going, so we said our goodbyes. Christopher finished yet another cig and we went inside ourselves to get some food. Afterwards, we made our excuses and left. We walked a bit around Brentwood�looking in shop windows and the like, then got in the Miata (top down) and Christopher decided to show me some more sights.
He took me to Mulholland Drive, which is an amazing road and one I would hate to have to drive in the rain! It goes around the top of this sheer hill (getting up to it was fun all by itself) with hairpin curves and no shoulders in places and tiny tinfoil guard-rails between the road and certain, spectacular death. The expansive view of LA you see all the time�especially the night shot? That�s Mulholland. It�s like a roller coaster ride with an amazing view.
I hate roller coasters.
The view was incredible though.
I was exhausted, so he took me back down off that cliff, and got me safely back to the hotel. It was a great night.
The next morning, I was up with the sun, as usual. The hotel provided complimentary copies of the LA Times, so I took the paper down to the non-pool courtyard and read it in the cool morning air. By the time I was done, they were serving breakfast, so I woke up Christopher and we had a nosh.
Packed up, we hit the road by about 8:30am. For the return trip, we decided to take the Pacific Coast Highway instead of the freeway. We took the 405 until we were near Long Beach, then cut over to the PCH.
You could see tankers lining up to come into the port of LA in the distance. And, you could clearly see the line of brown haze over the city. And, surprisingly for me, the off-shore drilling rigs. I didn�t know they had off-shore drilling in California and I didn�t know the rigs were ever so close to the shore. They�re real eyesores. But so are the refineries on the coast near the port.
Not long after we started down the PCH, we came across a classic car and hot rod show. We just had to stop. Amazing cars. The hot rods were impressive, but I loved the restored classics like the �38 Buick. Wow. What a gorgeous tank. We drooled, then got back into our tiny Miata and went on our way.
We stayed on the PCH the whole way until we reached Camp Pendleton. There, you have to get on the 5. It�s the only way to cross the base. In fact, it�s one of the few, if not the only, place where you will see bicycles (legally) on a freeway. Lots of bicyclists ride the PCH and they too have to take the 5 to cross the base. So, you get on the 5 until Oceanside, then you can get back on the PCH�which we did, all the way through Del Mar. Then the beach traffic got horrible (as it was over 90 in the city) so we got on the freeway and got home and out of the heat as quickly as we could.
Driving the PCH means that you have to deal with stop lights and some beach traffic, but the drive was so much prettier than the freeway that it was worth the extra time. And frankly, I don�t think it really took much more time because the traffic was generally lighter (until Del Mar).
It was a lovely trip. LA was interesting, but, as I told Christopher, unless I was paid an obscene amount of money, I don�t think I�d want to live there.