Trip to LA

I’m heading to Los Angeles to take a break from life in San Francisco, to see a play, some sights and a few friends.  No, I don’t want to go on a movie/tv studio tour.  There are actually cool things to do in LA.  I heard the Getty Museum is great and I have wanted to see the La Brea Tar Pits since I was a little kid.  An actress (Rachel Grate) who I follow on Twitter posted a notice of the play she is in and I told her I would go.  She’s really beautiful and energetic.  I watched a few videos on her website and she is very talented too.  Not just a pretty face.  I used to act; I respect good actors.

At the San Francisco Airport, at the x-ray machine, I saw those rectangular buckets that people dump their valuables in to go through.  They gross me out.  How many disgusting people had their grubby hands on them before me.  Who of those people were picking their noses in the previous 10 minutes.  Who amongst them had warts on their fingers (virally transmitted) or who were in their cars scratching something or picking their teeth or a scab or who knows what?  And you know those buckets never get washed.  That’s probably why the TSA agents wear latex gloves.  I went to the restroom immediately after and washed my hands.  And no joke, there was a little bit of blood on the wall of the sink.  Yuck.  I wonder if in the future, I would get pulled aside for wearing a hazmat suit?

Yes, I’m a bit of a germaphobe.  Its because I live in San Francisco where lots of homeless people ride the buses.  Also I took a lot of science classes in college and I read and I know whats out there.  If you talk to a lot of people in virology, etc, many of them dont even shake hands.  Yes, I need this vacation.

It’s about 45 minutes till boarding.  The plane hasn’t arrived yet.  The pilot is at the gate waiting for the plane and he looks tired.  They should require all airline personnel blow into a breathalyzer before boarding the plane.  Not that I don’t trust this guy, he looks ok, but who knows?

I have an idea to rid airports of flight delays and backups.  Instead of designating specific planes for specific routes, they should have us all line up in order of expected take off and the people to depart next takes whatever plane is available next.

Our plane just pulled up to the gate and is departing.  I am hoping the person who sat in the seat before me didn’t have an incontinence problem.  No, I’m not a germaphobe 🙂 and yes, I need this vacation.

Now the plane is about to board.  I am in group 1 so I can scoot on first.  The airline attendant picks up the microphone and says, “We are now pre-boarding all elderly and passengers with disabilities.”  Pre-boarding?  Technically, there is no such group as “pre-boarding.”  If they are getting on the plane, then they are boarding.  Well, it’s understandable that elderly and disabled passengers get on first.  I guess I am technically in group 2.

Eventually the airline attendant picks up the microphone and says, “We are now boarding the first class and executive class passengers.”  Ugh. Give me a break.  I guess they paid more and not a big deal.  So I am actually in the third group.

Eventually the airline attendant picks up the microphone and says, “We are now boarding the premier class passengers.”  WTF!  Why don’t they just tell me I am in group 4?

Eventually the airline attendant picks up the microphone and says, “We are now boarding the Ruby club passengers.”  Are you fricking kidding me?  How many pseudo-important levels will there be before group 1 is called?

Eventually the airline attendant picks up the microphone and says, “We are now boarding the passengers in group 1.”  Don’t they mean group 5?  I go to the gate and the attendant says to me, “Oh hello.  You were waiting up front a long time.”  I responded, “Well when my ticket stated Group 1, I thought you meant it.”  She laughed.

I get to my seat.  Its dry.  Whew!   I paid extra for an exit row seat because I’m tall and need the extra legroom.  The thing is, the seats are really narrow.  I don’t remember the seats being this narrow.  Did I gain that much weight since I flew last?  I couldn’t imagine being in a seat that was this narrow and without the legroom.  At least the flight is just an hour.  I need this vacation.

Got off the plane at LAX.  A sign pointed the way to car rentals.  Ended up at baggage claim.  Huh?   Did I miss something?  I asked a few people and one of them told me you have to take a bus to car rentals.  No signage stated that or even to go to an area to catch a bus for that; I guess the fine folks who run the airport thought I should know this instinctually.  I need this vacation.

Got the car, drove out onto interstate 405N and proceeded down one of the 6 lanes in my direction at 10 mph.  Apparently its always like that.

Checked into my hotel, took a shower (flying always makes me feel grungy) and headed off to the play.  It took 20 minutes to get to the exit off the freeway and it took another 30 minutes to get to the play thanks to a few thousand people going to a concert this nice summer evening at the Hollywood Bowl.  I love LA.

The play was great.  Everyone there seemed really charged and happy.  The vibe in the air was great.  Turns out, Rachel is an amazing stage actress too.  The play was in a very small space but it was so well done.  All the actors were real pros and the writing, the sound effects and even the lighting were all top notch.  People talk about how NYC has the best theater in the US but I don’t think that is a fair assessment.  I think LA has amazing talent and considering how many people there are working their craft in that high competitive environment, overall they are a force to be reckoned with.

Afterwards we talked and she invited me to drinks with the cast.  I really love talking to her.  She is smart too.  Also, she has this great self confidence about her that isn’t overpowering, its just there in the background and it makes her very pleasant to interact with.  I’ve always envied the very few and lucky people with that quality.  All the people in the cast, etc. were also really nice.

Rachel Grate and Me After Her Play

So, the drive back to the hotel.  I went up the same road I came in from to get to the highway.   10 blocks turned into 30 minutes as a concert at the Hollywood Bowl was getting out (I have great timing).  But that was the good part.  The highways around LA don’t give much warning for exits, especially considering how fast people drive there and how many people are on the roads.  Even more, at night the lighting is bad and the road lines are faded.  At one point, the traffic all seemed to be shifting lanes and I thought I was going to be killed in the shift.  The main highway that I wanted to stay on actually split off to the right but I was in the left lane thinking it was safe and because that is the way every other highway in the country works, so suddenly I was on the wrong road.  That was weird.  I called my hotel and the concierge gave me directions on how to get back.

I love my hotel (The Four Seasons, Westlake Village).  My room clean, nice and larger than my apartment .  Living in SF I have become a germaphobe so when I went to pick up the TV remote, I wondered if it had been cleaned normally.  I turned up the lights and looked.  Evidently it has never been cleaned.  OK, so the Four Seasons isn’t perfect.  I fear to think what was on peoples’ hands over the years that has accumulated on that remote in the hotel room.  And the phone next to the toilet?   Seems like a nice cute convenience, but there is no way I will ever touch that thing.

I had some alcohol wipes I got for the rental car (geeze my germaphobia is even starting to sound to me like an issue), I cleaned the remote, turned on the tv and drifted off to sleep.  I slept well.

The next day I decided to drive around Malibu.  This involved taking winding roads over the mountains between us.  The mountains were nice.  A lot of the exits have the word “canyon” in them.  Actually in many places I feel like I’m driving on a road cut into a canyon. LA has a lot more hills than I thought.  Malibu was very foggy that day.

Then I had lunch with my friend Tammie.  She is a stunt woman.  I think she spends at least four hours a day working out so she is less prone to getting hurt in the stunts.  She looks amazing.  It was great seeing her again.  She really loves her job / life.  Here is a picture of her getting hit by a car on a job.

Tammie Baird - stunt car hitTammie Baird

Next, I drove to The Getty Museum.  A tram takes everyone up the mountain from the parking garage to the museum.  Its beautiful everywhere.  I saw a dear in the woods from the tram too.  The architecture of the complex is amazing.  If I lived in LA, I would go to the Getty often. Not for the art, but to hang out by the fountains, in the courtyards and to look at the views.  It’s incredible.  I can’t do this place justice with words.  I took a few pictures but I highly recommend you go and see what I mean.

Getty Museum - 1 - Entrance Getty Museum - 2 Getty Museum - 3 Getty Museum - 4 Getty Museum - 5Getty Museum - 7 Getty Museum - 6

Back at my hotel.  The air here smells like flowers.  I was thinking of going to see a comedienne in Hollywood but it’s been a long hot day and I’m tired.  Staying at the hotel.

The next day I went to Pasadena to see a high school friend, Chris, who works at Caltech.  Wow, I love Pasadena.  Lots of trees, great warmth in the town’s look and feel.  A very very high mountain range is visible near by – the San Gabriel Mountains.  Chris showed me around Caltech.  Took a picture of a rectangular fountain with a helix painted in the floor; they call it the gene pool.  Caltech doesn’t look tech-y at all.  Its actually very charming.  Chris is working on experiments with 1mm long worms to see how they react to certain stimuli and also how they react to gene replacement therapy.  Yes, I said the worms are one millimeter in length.

Caltech campusThe Gene Pool at Cal Tech

After lunch, there wasn’t much time before my flight but I had to see the La Brea Tar Pits.  They were really cool, a natural pond of liquid tar with occasional bubbling.  The tar pits were fenced in of course…..otherwise some little kid fooling around would meet the same fate as a saber-toothed tiger did.  Little kid?  I could see an adult falling in too.  The signs there said they are still excavating animal bones out of the pits that got stuck in the tar 10,000 years ago.  And yeah, the area smells like tar.  A whole city block right in the middle of urban Los Angeles.

La Brea Tar Pit

The LACMA is next door – LA County Museum of Art. Had to stop in but only had about 15 minutes.  I went to the impressionist area.  It has a much larger collection than the Getty.  Really great paintings and lots of them.   I saw a few Rembrandts there too.  I definitely want to go back there one day.


Driving to LAX I went through downtown LA which I heard wasn’t much but I saw was actually quite modern and beautiful.

LAX hasn’t spent any money on updating their terminal waiting areas.  The only electrical outlets are floor level at structural pillars so people are sitting on the ground to keep their phones charged.  WTF LAX?   Also, I can’t believe they don’t have a burger place in the terminals.   With all the traffic that goes through there, they can afford to upgrade.

On the flight, feeling very relaxed for the first time in months.  Looking out the plane window, I never realized how mountainous so much of California is.  Must be from all the faults and earthquakes.

Wanted to end on this note.  While I was in the waiting area at LAX, I was sitting next to one of the flight attendants for my flight.  I mentioned the seats seeming narrower than I remember and she that it’s true, the seats are being made narrower so they can fit more people on a plane.  I also asked her if she knew why the tips of airplane wings all seem to now be bent up for the last few feet.  I was guessing it might have been to reduce wake turbulence (which is a strong turbulence that spirals off the edge of airplane wings as they take off or land. It especially affects smaller aircraft and can crash a small plane).  She didn’t know the answer but said she would ask the pilot and let me know when I was on the plane.  When I boarded she they bent the wing tips up to reduce drag but it inadvertently reduces wake turbulence too.  She gave me a set of airline wings upon request.  Yes, I’m in my late 40s.




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