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Reunion

August 3, 2014

Well it winds from Chicago to L.A.

More than 2,000 miles all the way.

Get your kicks

On Route 66.

Friday morning we awoke in our tepee, and then we headed west on the Mother Road for the last time on this trip. About an hour later we were in Los Angeles, fighting traffic on the way to LAX. Why LAX? To pick up Mommy!

Friday has been the most anticipated day of the trip for all three of us. Sam and I have a great time bonding and playing around and exploring the country, but we miss Mommy terribly, and every year the most anticipated day of the trip is the day she comes to visit.

The reunion was great. Of course, getting three people in the car means reconfiguring the whole back seat and all of our stuff, but we’re happy to be a little squished if it means we’re closer to being a whole family again.

Getting to Los Angeles means a few other things, too. It means we have reached the West Coast and have thus officially crossed the country on our cross-country road trip. It means we’ve completed Route 66–not all 2,448 miles of it, as we cheated a little by taking a several-days-long detour to visit various national pars and other nearby sights, but still, we’ve now driven Route 66. It means we will soon be turning around and heading back home (or at least in the general direction of home). It means more easily accessible kosher food, not just for the weekend but for much of the rest of the trip, as there are kosher restaurants in L.A., Phoenix, Tuscon, Dallas, and Memphis. And it also means that we’ll be seeing my brother, who is the host of a new show on Fox called Laughs that premiers tonight!

From LAX we went to the Pico-Robertson neighborhood to get lunch and pick up food for Shabbos. For some reason this took three hours. I’m not exaggerating for effect–it actually took three hours.

I’m just going to come right out and say it: Los Angeles sucks. Sure, the weather is nice. We’ll put that in the “pro” column. But there are so many things in the “con” column, starting with the traffic. Complaints about the traffic in L.A. is a bit of a cliche but Sam and I haven’t seen traffic since Chicago so we had almost forgotten how annoying it can be. But L.A. traffic is far more annoying than traffic anywhere else. I mean, we’re from New York; we know a thing or two about traffic jams. The thing about traffic in L.A., though is that it’s everywhere, in every direction, at all times of day. There are 1,800 major highways running through this town (OK, this time I’m exaggerating a little) and most of them are at least four lanes wide in each direction, and yet they’re completely packed in both directions all the time. And it’s not just the highways–the side streets are packed and moving at a crawl at all times, too.

Also, in terms of driving, there’s no such thing as slowing down here. Traffic lightens up for a second and it goes from a dead stop to 70 mph for about 15 seconds. Then it goes right back down to zero. Immediately. I cannot tell you how many times I stopped short on Friday.

Making matters worse is that the city is so ridiculously spread out, and randomly so. Nothing is near anything else, so you have to drive everywhere, and you have no idea how long it will take because it’s 12 miles away but, you know, traffic.

Also, it’s really dirty here. And not just the ground, but the air. And again, this is coming from a New Yorker. In theory the weather is nice and the views are beautiful but the smog is so thick that it’s hard to be impressed with the weather because the sky is a hazy gray when it should be blue.

Also, I’m not loving the hypocrisy here. I’m referring specifically to the environmental activism. I had to pay for bags at the supermarket, and I was encouraged not to use bags at all. Meanwhile there’s no real public transportation and nobody’s driving in the HOV lanes, so the city used fossil fuels out the wazoo and the air quality rivals Beijing. But hey, they’re not using grocery bags, so they’re totally saving the planet.

Anyway, after some frustration with traffic and phony environmentalism, we finally started having some fun. We took a Warner Bros. Studio tour, which was pretty awesome. We drove through phony New York streets where all sorts of classic TV shows and movie scenes were filmed–Friends, Newsies, Annie, and the famous upside-down kiss in Spider-Man. (Insider fact: movie rain drops are bigger than actual rain drops and they were dripping into Toby Maguire’s nose and drowning him, so they stuffed cotton balls loaded wit Vaseline up his nose and that’s why Kirsten Dunst removed the mask only up to his nose.) Our tour guide, John, is a bit obsessed with Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, so he showed us the fake storefront where the fortuneteller told Pee-Wee that his bike was in the basement of the Alamo, and another fake storefront that was the burning pet store where Pee-Wee saved all the animals and then saved the snakes last and passed out. Apparently the fainting was not planned but Paul Reubens is actually terrified of snakes and passed out for real, and Tim Robbins left it in because he thought it was funny. I love that movie, so I really enjoyed this part of the tour and ended up bonding with the tour guide over it.

We also saw the jungle set (with real plants) where all sorts of stuff has been filmed, including Kermit singing “The Rainbow Connection” in The Muppet Movie, and we walked through the prop house and walked onto the set of Ellen. We even got to walk onto the preserved set of Friends Central Perk set and sit on the couch.

And this year is the 75th anniversary of Batman, so there was tons of Batman stuff on the tour, including a visit to a garage where they keep all the actual, fully-functioning vehicles from both the Michael Keaton/Val Kilmer/George Clooney movies and the Christian Bale movies. That part was pretty awesome, and I think my favorite part was when Sam and I each got to turn on the real Bat signal to summon Batman.

Shabbos was nice, too. Shabbos on the road trips tends to be very relaxing but also a bit boring. Not this time. With Mommy here, we had all sorts of catching up to do, peanut butter songs to sing, and the day passed by very quickly.

Now I’m off to the premier of Laughs, which was not originally on the schedule but is about as L.A. as it gets. I just hope the traffic isn’t too bad on the way there.

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