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Going Hollywood

August 4, 2014

Saturday night I did the most L.A. thing possible: I attended a premier. This wasn’t just any premier, though—it was the premier of a new show on Fox called Laughs, which airs Saturday nights and midnight and, more important, is both produced and hosted by my brother, Steve.

At the premier I got to meet comedians and TV execs, hang out with my sister-in-law, Sara, for the first time in forever, and watch the first episode of the show, which, as the name promises, is very funny. For me, the best moment of the show was when comedian Matty Litwack joked about bringing in an obituary for his third-grade current events assignment, which earned him a scolding from the teacher but inspired a psycho in his class to bring in obituaries for future assignments. The best moment of the night, though, was when we finished watching the premier and my brother interviewed a handful of comics, including Kim Coles from In Living Color and Living Single. I know my brother has his own show and everything, but he knows Sinclair from In Living Color, so now he’s really made it. And did I mention that Yakov Smirnoff was at the party? Yes, that Yakov Smirnoff.

The weirdest part about attending the premier was that it was too late at night for Sam, so he stayed back at the hotel with his mom while I went out. Which means that I drove somewhere by myself for the first time in three weeks. It was definitely a weird feeling not to have anyone riding shotgun.

Sunday morning things got back to normal, though. The three of us crammed into the car and met Steve and Sara at a vegan restaurant for brunch. I generally try to avoid vegan restaurants but these road trips are all about new experiences. Plus Steve picked the place and hey, it’s L.A.; if you’re going to eat vegan, this is the place to do it. I had fake scrambled eggs with fake chipotle sausage (or was it real chipotle fake sausage)? Sam had pancakes that were inexplicably made out of almond flour, with “bacon” that was more logically made out of tempeh. Sarah had some sort of fake burger on real bread. It was nice spending time with family we don’t get to see often, but the real fun for me was watching Sam deal with the vegan menu and his food. He’s a pretty open-minded eater for a 12-year-old boy, but he was even more skeptical than I was. In the end we all enjoyed our food and it was even pretty filling, and I was impressed with Sam’s culinary adventurousness.

After brunch it was time for Mommy to go, so we drove her to the airport and said our goodbyes. We were sad to see her go and we miss her already, but we’ll be back home in less than two weeks, and now the car seems so much roomier than it ever did before!

For the record, LAX is an awful, awful place. I don’t understand how an airport this big and this heavily used can be designed so terribly. Instead of having different roads to different terminals, there’s just one road that goes past every single terminal in numerical order. This means that everyone has to sit in horrible and unnecessary traffic before getting to the terminal they actually need. We were going to terminal 5, so we had to sit in traffic to get to terminal 1, then sit in traffic to get to terminal 2, etc. Ridiculous. Luckily Sarah made her flight but Sam and I were late for our next activity: a Dodgers game.

The stereotype is that Dodger fans arrive in the third inning and leave in the seventh. I have new-found sympathy for the latecomers, though, because most of them are probably trying to get there on time but get stuck in traffic. We ended up getting there just in time for the start of the second inning. The game was already tied 1-1 and looked to be an interesting one. Better yet, today was a giveaway—Sam got a pretty nice Dodgers backpack. Unfortunately the wonderful L.A. weather was far from wonderful. The temperature was only in the 80s but the humidity was almost 100%, and in the sun the heat was unbearable. Sam and I sat through just one inning and we were dripping with sweat. It was about this time that I noticed that the sunny seats (most of the ballpark) had largely emptied out and everyone was sitting in the bad seats at the back just to be in the shade. Eventually we left our seats, too, and watched the game while standing on the concourse behind our section. Thankfully, by the fourth inning the sky got cloudy and we were able to return to our seats for the rest of the game. Well, not quite the rest of the game—in the top of the eight the score was 3-2 Cubs when the Dodgers’ reliever, Brandon League, walked the first three batters on 14 pitches and then they all came around to score. The game was well past three hours old at this point so Sam and I cut out a little early. The Dodgers ended up losing 7-3.

While we were there we started counting up, and it turns out that Sam has been to games in 12 current ballparks and one defunct park (Shea Stadium, of course). He’s also toured 6 ballparks. We’re planning to see a game in Phoenix this week and possibly tour the ballpark in Dallas, so he’s still racking up ballparks. Honestly I was surprised that his total is that low, but he’s only 12; when I was his age I had only been to Shea. Then again, when I was his age the furthest I had been from home was Washington, D.C., and he’s been all over the country and all over the world.

But at this point he still hadn’t really seen L.A.—at least not the most typical touristy parts. So when we left the game we first headed to Santa Monica. Why Santa Monica? Well, you how the Route 66 song says it winds from Chicago to L.A.? Lie. The end of Route 66 is actually several miles west of Los Angeles, at the end of the pier in Santa Monica. And although we may be willing to leave a Dodgers game before the end, we’re not driving across the whole country to NOT finish the job.

At the very end there’s an odd-looking sign declaring “The End of the Road.” I say it’s odd-looking for a few reasons. First, it doesn’t resemble any of the official highway signs we’ve been seeing for the past three weeks; it looks more decorative and less official. Second, it’s actually a little bit past the end of the road. In other words, you can drive pretty close to the sign, but not all the way. It seems like it’s more of a tourist thing than a real highway designation. And sure enough, the sign was swarmed with tourists who most definitely did NOT just spend the last three weeks driving from the beginning to the end but were happily posing for photos anyway, and we had to wait a couple of minutes for our turn to pose.

Finding the sign, though, means that we are done with Route 66. Our journey, however, is far from over, and even though we are now headed east for the first time since we left home, we have much more to do and see before we’re back in our beds.

For starters, Sam wanted to see Hollywood. Specifically, he wanted to see the Walk of Fame and the famous Hollywood sign. Both of these are clichés, but I saw them both the first time I came to L.A. and I wasn’t going to deny Sam the privilege. We started with the Walk of Fame, parking in a lot just east of the corner of Hollywood and Vine and then making our way to the Chinese Theater, which is no longer called Grauman’s or Mann’s but is now named TCL Chinese Theater, after the company that now owns the place. Yuck. The whole experience was pretty gross. The area is filthy, it’s overcrowded with tourists, street hucksters, pot smokers, and homeless people. It’s exactly like a mile-long version of Times Square before Times Square got cleaned up. But Sam had fun looking for stars that he’s heard of, and I had fun watching him get excited to see the stars not just for The Muppets and J. Lo and Walt Diskey but also for Abbot and Costello, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and Larry King. And of course, since we’ve been listening to (and singing) his version of “Route 66” for the past few weeks, we were both pretty happy to see Nat King Cole.

From there we drove up winding, hilly roads in order to get close enough to get a good view of the Hollywood sign. Many years ago you could go right up to the sign but nowadays it’s fenced off and guarded and you can’t get closer than several blocks away. So rather than push to get as close as possible we got reasonably close, found a good vantage point, and took the requisite photos.

By this time it was getting late and we were hungry. This was our last chance to eat in a restaurant for a few days, so we took full advantage, going to a nice place called Pat’s and having fish and chips. We were going to order the famous bread pudding but we were told it takes 35 minutes, and by this point it was already almost 9:30. So we skipped dessert in favor of the desert.

Specifically, we hopped in the car and drove for an hour or so east—yes, east—toward Joshua Tree National Park so that we can get an earlier start there Tuesday morning.

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