The Vast Right Wing Conspiracy is stepping away from politics for a day to report on my trip to Los Angeles.
I lived in Southern California for twenty years. Ever since I was a kid growing up in the backwashes of Kentucky I wanted to see the golden west. When I was in high school I had a dirty grey UCLA t-shirt that I wore to in wasn’t fit to wipe the Turtle Wax off my ’59 Rambler American. I wanted to see the Hollywood sign. I wanted to check out the girls the Beach Boys were always singing about. I wanted to be in show business. Unfortunately, when you grow up in small towns in rural Kentucky and Ohio it usually isn’t one of the options they present on career day.
I finally got to see a little of California in 1975. I had graduated from college the previous years with a degree in Education. I was teaching at a university run elementary “lab” school and finishing my first year of graduate school. I was offered a job teaching in Australia and found myself in San Francisco a few weeks later on my way to the land down under. I only had a day and a night there but it was everything I had imagined and more. The motel had a bar with a window into the pool like in the movie “The Right Stuff.” I went to see Chinatown and the Golden Gate. I walked around the Haight and looked at the dying embers of the hippie generation all dirty faced and grimy hands, strung out on speed and heroin.
The next time I saw California was on my way back home two and a half years later. I had friends living in LA and I stopped to visit for a few days. They took me to the new hot club called “The Comedy Store.” David Letterman was the MC that night and I remember Jimmy Walker and Jay Leno performed. I went back the next night and stayed for four hours. I knew that I wanted to be a stand-up comic. I skip ahead a few pages and let you know I ended up living there for twenty years and have been doing stand-up for over thirty. I even managed to land a few acting gigs when all the real actors were busy.
Last night I was back in LA for the launch party of a web site that I am working for called “The Gloomers.” (www.thegloomers.com) I won’t bore you with a long explanation but it’s part animated cartoon, party comedy and part social networking website. We had our party at the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip. I was also supposed to be at a business meeting for the site in Orange County at 3:00 PM. That where our love/hate story begins.
If the weather is clear the flight into LA always gets me pumped. As you descend from the east across Palm Springs you see Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear off to the north. You then fly over an enormous sprawl of city that reaches from over seventy miles east to west from San Bernardino to the ocean and over a hundred miles from north to south from Ventura to San Clemente.
I landed at 1:20 and was supposed to be at a meeting in Santa Ana, which is 34 miles away in an hour in forty minutes. If you had never been in LA you might think. “Piece of cake.” You would be wrong. I avoid checking bags if possible when I fly to LA because the wait at baggage claim can be forty or fifty minutes. I sprint out to the curb to wait for my bus to the rental car lot and the first detail I had forgotten hits me. The loop through LAX is a mini third world of traffic. Every rental car company, hotel, parking lot, shuttle service, taxi company and tourist attraction within fifty miles has “courtesy” vehicles which circle the airport loop endlessly. You throw in several thousand private cars and limos and you have a perfect double decked oval of airport gridlock non-stop 24 hours a day. Of course, the bus I am looking for doesn’t show for ten minutes even though every other rental companies pass me by several times. I am standing there in the exhaust filled air thinking, “I should have renter from Budget.” “I should have rented from Hertz.” “I should have stayed home.”
I am in my car and driving at 2:20PM which isn’t bad for LAX, an hour from walking off the plane to driving off the rental car lot. Again, if you had lived your life is some normal place like Kansas or Wisconsin you might be thinking, you have 34 miles to drive and forty minutes to do it, no problem, But this isn’t a normal place, this is LA. I creep south on the freeway and arrive in Santa Ana an hour and fifty five minutes later.
the meeting I was supposed to be at is just wrapping up and I hop back in a car to drive back to LA for the launch party. Two hours later we have traveled the 43 miles to the Strip. I am totally engaged in my, “I remember why left here,” frame of mind as I help set a few of the final details for the party at the House of Blues. Folks start arriving and I relax a bit and soon I realize that I am hosting a party at a world famous night club for all of my old LA and Orange County friend and it’s not costing me a dime, “I love LA.”
At 9:30 it’s down to the Improv on Melrose where I have arranged for a comic friend from the Midwest to do a short set. I introduce her to the staff there and when I am sure things are set I jump back in the car for the seventy mile drive to south Orange County where I am staying.
At 11:45 I am pulling off of the freeway somewhere in the OC and into the greatest burger joint in the world, In and Out! My friend Jay and I wolf down a couple of Double Doubles animal style and then call it a night. A scene from the movie “Patton” comes into my mind where George C. Scott is looking over the death and destruction of a battlefield and in sad voice says, “God help me, I love it so.”