At 10:15 AM yesterday morning I arrived at the Department of Motor Vehicles on Hollywood and Vine in Los Angeles. I had taken care of my registration and license on previous visits, and was only there yesterday to perform what I thought was the simple (and quick) task of "picking up my new plates." Turns out the task was as I had originally thought, quite simple. It was unfortunately about as far away from "quick" as one could ever imagine.
"I'm here to pick up my new license plates," I told a gruff looking woman sitting behind a gigantic sign labeled START HERE.
She looked over my paperwork. "Well you still have to wait in line," she remarked with disdain, as if she thought I was trying to infer differently. "Here is your number, please take a seat."
I glanced down at a slip of paper labeled #B163. "Excuse me," I said, "Could you let me know what the expected wait time is?"
She pointed up to a monitor that was flashing #B42. "Honey, she grinned at me, "your guess is as good as mine."
I looked out at the waiting area. It was filled with countless disgruntled DMV patrons, all of whom were wearing horribly pained expressions on their faces. I quickly calculated that B42 was 121 numbers away from B163 and immediately matched the pained expressions of my fellow DMV-goers with an equally, if not more, pained expression of my own. I sat down next to an old woman who was sleeping rather soundly. She was clutching in her liver-spotted hand a slip of paper bearing the number B61. In desperation, I briefly contemplated swapping her number with mine, but immediately abandoned the notion as I decided I'd rather avoid going STRAIGHT TO HELL.
Since I had wrongly assumed that my visit would be a quick one, I had neglected to bring with me a book or magazine with which to occupy my time. I did however bring my trusty journal, and kept a detailed account of my time at the DMV. I had to suffer through the experience, and now you do too.
10:30am (aka # B42): DMV is crowded, and the old woman sitting next to me smells very bad. Gross. Unfortunately, there are no other seats...Oh wait...There's one! Shit. Not fast enough. God she stinks.
10:45 am (aka #B63): Smelly woman has left. Good news too! It seems that the numbers are moving rather fast. I have hopes that I'll be out of here by noon...at the latest.
10:55 am (aka #B63): I was wrong about the fast moving thing. All but one of the DMV workers have gone on a break. Smelly woman has also returned. I think she forgot to fill something out. I just saw that she now has #B185. Ha. Sucker.
11:15 am (STILL MOTHERF*&KING #B63): What in god's name is #B63 STILL DOING AT THE COUNTER??? I hate B63. Hate him.
11:20 am (aka #B65): OK...he's gone, and some of the hard working employees have returned from their break. We are back in business.
11:27 am (aka #B73): I just witnessed a young child steal the pacifier out her baby sister's mouth, wipe it all over the dirty nasty DMV floor, and place the pacifier back into the baby's mouth. It was all over before I could wake the mother up to warn her what was happening. The mother is, incidentally, still asleep, and completely neglecting her young children.
12:15 pm (aka #B103): Finally some excitement to pass the time. In a scene right out of "America's Dumbest Criminals," a man with (what I deduced anyway) a warrant out for his arrest, just attempted to register his car under his real name. What an idiot. His name was apparently flagged, and the police were clandestinely alerted. The California Highway Patrol just chased him around the room for a bit before finally catching and arresting him. Hee Hee. The police looked funny running around like that.
Shit...I just realized it's after noon. I suppose being finished by noon was a lofty goal...1 pm. I'll definitely be out of here by 1 pm.
12:45 pm (aka #B124): I just got back from the restroom. Sort of like when you're at a restaurant and you go to the restroom, and then return to see that your food has arrived, I hoped that when returning from MY trip to the restroom the numbers would have miraculously advanced to somewhere a bit nearer to #B163. They did not. I did learn something very important as a result though: Never go to the bathroom at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Ever. It was so disgusting that I vow now to never speak of it again.
1:15 pm (aka #B143): There is a group of children conducting stroller races across the floor. Their parents seem to think that running over the toes of strangers is perfectly acceptable public behavior for young children. Actually, I am so bored at this point, that quite frankly I'm considering joining in. It slooks like they are having fun.
1:20 pm (aka #B149): Had to change seats. The frightening bearded man that was sitting next to me just wouldn't stop touching his leg to mine. I was sitting so close to the edge of my seat to avoid this that I fell out of my chair.
1: 45 pm (aka #B160): I just spent the past two minutes expressing my excitement about how close we were to #B163 to the stranger that was sitting next to me. After going on for quite some time, I asked her what number SHE had, and realized as a result of her response that she did not speak English, and quite likely did not understand a word that I was saying for the past several minutes. God I need to get out of here.
2:01 pm (aka #162): I'M NEXT. I'M NEXT. I'M....
2:15 pm (aka who the hell cares what number they are on): I'm sitting in my car preparing to drive back to the office. I'm going to try not to think about the fact that I just waited four hours to accomplish a procedure that took about four minutes. At least I succeeded in my task. I am now the proud owner of a shiny new set of California license plates. I am so excited to have them in my posession and be leaving the DMV, that one might think I just acquired something much more spectacular than two rectangular pieces of metal. Who cares...all that matters is that I am DONE.
Goodbye DMV...till next year anyway.
Posted by Jen at 07:37 PM
I’ve never been a huge No Doubt fan, in fact I used to despise them. I was too scarred by a sub-par live performance of “Just a Girl” on MTV to understand the irony in their first hit song. My disgust with the band’s undeserved fame was cemented during a television interview with Gwen Stefani. When asked about her reaction to the death of Sublime lead singer Brad Newell, the high priestess of SoCal pop replied, “Um, it’s like, really bad that Brad is dead. We, like, miss him sooo much.” From then on, any time I heard a No Doubt song I would express my displeasure with gagging and retching sounds. It would take six years, and one dance song, for me to change my tune.
Okay, so I liked “Don’t Speak”, but I hated Gwen and the boys too much to admit that to anyone at the time. It was “Hella Good”, the infectious dance groove on their late 2001 release Rock Steady that inspired me to purchase their album. Still, I listened in the privacy of my bedroom, too shamed to play it at full volume. It wasn’t until Jerry invited me to their performance in Continental Arena that I finally understood the hype behind the band. Bedecked in colorful outfits, they bounced and strutted without a moment’s rest during their entire two-hour performance. I felt as if a spaceship had landed on the stage and out tumbled No Doubt. Such limitless energy, such flawless skin… the only explanation was that they were aliens. That, or from Southern California. After the concert I felt as if I’d spent a fun-filled day at the beach.
Last night’s performance at the Hammerstein Ballroom was no different. Still dizzy from winning a Grammy on Sunday night, No Doubt delivered a high-energy show that left a room of New York curmudgeons feeling like kids again. Gwen’s thin athletic body twisted into inhuman contortions as she delivered each note through perfect red lips. Tony Kanal plucked his bass with vigor, grinning at the screaming fans at his feet. Drummer Adrian Young’s baby, in red and white striped footy pajamas and sequined earphones, bopped on his mother’s lap in the box seats to our right, where Gwen’s parents also sat, proudly watching the electric performance on stage.
As if this were not worth the price of admission, during the encore, Mike Einziger and BrandonthehottestmanaliveBoyd from Incubus joined the band for a surprise performance of the classic Police hit, “Message in a Bottle.” They covered it perfectly, although I think I reached some sort of altered state in Brandon’s presence, bruising Jerry’s arm with firm squeezes to contain my excitement. Seconds after Brandon left the stage, he was replaced by Gavin Rossdale of Bush, and it was Jerry’s turn to drool. As the British hunk joined his wife in the final song of the evening, it occurred to me that some of the sexiest people in pop music were in the room with us. It was as if the Hammerstien Ballroom had turned into a museum of impossibly good-looking people. They performed, they flashed perfect smiles, and they thanked us for being there. I love them all so very much.
So a few parting words to those of you who, like me, are quick to judge pop music: don’t knock it till you’ve seen it live. And if you’re going to see it live, try to go around Grammy time in New York City. You never know who’s going to turn up.
Posted by GxxP at 09:59 AM
Am I more offensive in LA, or is LA just offensive?
There are many reasons why I love living in Los Angeles. The sun, the laid-back lifestyle, and the cute surfer boys who walk around my neighborhood wearing no shirts, are just a few of those reasons. After last night however, I feel very strongly that "people you meet while enjoying the LA nightlife" will never be added to that list.
Don't get me wrong. I always have a good time when I go out. My friends are absolutely wonderful, and our nights out together never fail to be a blast. It also doesn't matter where we are, we always manage to have a great time. I've had equally fabulous nights at seedy bars as I've had at any trendy nightspot. (In fact I largely prefer the seedy bars to the trendy nightspots.) So obviously, my problem with the nightlife is certainly not due to the people I'm with, and not even necessarily the establishments that I'm in. The problem lies solely with some of the other bar patrons that I've had run-ins with. It shouldn't really surprise me - I knew what I was getting into when I moved to LA. I was completely aware that Los Angeleans are a very different breed of people than New Yorkers, but my GOD some of these people...WOW.
Now I know that I can be sarcastic, but then again, so is everyone else in my circle of friends. A considerable portion of our time together is spent making fun of one another, and more often, ourselves. Because of this, I tend to assume that all people surrounding me will have the same sort of mentality. My sarcasm, combined with the fact that many people in LA are quite simply just ridiculous, led to several situations last night where I was offensive to others for what I considered to be no good reason whatsoever.
Situation #1: Jen offends small man wearing ugly crocheted yellow hat
A young man sporting a horrible yellow hat sruck up a conversation with me and began telling me about the road trip he was about to take:
"We're headed down to Tijuana first, then we're off to Arizona to Lake Havisu, then to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, and we're ending up in Fort Lauderdale in time for Spring Break," he said with a lascivious grin on his face.
"So," I replied dryly, "You've basically chosen vacation spots based solely on whether or not MTV has hosted one of their spring break extravaganzas at that particular location."
"What exactly are you implying?" he asked nastily.
"Well," I responded, "It's either that, or you're actively in search of underage girls who will flash you their breasts if you give them a beer."
"What is your problem?" he asked me. "That was out of line, and offensive. I'm outta here."
He leaves with his road trip buddy, presumably to go locate some unsuspecting big-breasted women. If he had followed me to the bathroom, he wouldn't have had to look very far.
Situation #2: Jen offends a group of moronic girls with fake breasts.
While waiting in line for the ladies room, I overheard what I wrongly assumed was a discussion about George Orwell's 1984.
"....It's like, um, about this society that supposed to be set in this like, alternate future. Where the government like watches you all the time. Except they like call it Big Brother or something...." (giggles)
"Oh," I chimed in, " are you guys talking about Orwell's 1984?"
Silence. Eye rolling.
"Um, like NO," one of the girls responded with a toss of her poorly dyed hair. "We're talking about a, like, television show."
"Oh? Is it based on the book 1984?" I asked.
"Like what are you talking about? I said it's a TV show," she responded and sighed in exasperation at my apparent ignorance.
"Ok...well, just never mind, I thought you were discussing a book. It's really not important."
"What are you implying? That we don't know about books and stuff? Let's get out of here," she says to her posse of nitwits.
I shook my head and entered the stall.
Situation #3: I attempted to give someone a dollar.
"Does anyone have a dollar?" A blond pony-tailed surfer boy asked. "I ran out of cash and I need to pay for parking."
I happened to have a lone dollar bill in my pocket and offered it to him.
He looked at my dollar as if it was a big steaming pile of poop. "I'm not taking your money!!" he spat back at me, "I don't even know you, and you're a GIRL."
"Um, I'm sorry, if I'm not mistaken you just stated that you needed a dollar for parking. I was trying to be nice."
"I know what I said, but I'm not taking it from YOU! I don't want your fucking money."
He then stomped out of the bar in a huff. I put the dollar back into my pocket and returned to my game of Golden Tee.
Now I realize that PERHAPS situation #1 was my fault. Telling a stranger that he was chasing 18 year old drunken party girls around the country probably wasn't the nicest thing to say, but his hat was so ugly, and he seemed like such an asshole that I couldn't help myself. The other two situations though...come on...I'm pretty sure that I was perfectly polite to those big-boobed morons, and for christ's sake, I offered the angry surfer MONEY. Offering someone money is always nice. Isn't it? Isn't it?
Perhaps I just have to realize that I should keep my mouth shut and stick to having a good time with my existing friends, but I truly think it's worth the risk to put yourself out there and try to meet new people. It can't be possible that LA is completely void of interesting and intelligent strangers. I just know that they must exist. I will not lose hope. At least not yet...
Posted by Jen at 11:39 AM
My family lives on the outskirts of a very small, peculiar little town in northwest Washington State. Lynden, population 9200, was founded by Dutch farmers, and is now inhabited solely by whom I assume to be the descendants of those same Dutch farmers. My parents were aware of the town's wacky nature when they moved to Lynden nine years ago, but after years spent moving around to various military bases around the world, they craved the solitude and the strong roots that the northwest countryside could provide them. Since I had already gone off to college when my parents settled down there, I never got the chance to fully experience what day to day life was like in the sleepy little town of Lynden. My parents are aware of the humor I find in some of the odd characteristics of small town life, and routinely fill me in on some of the funnier anecdotes of life in Lynden. One of the funniest I've seen to date crossed my path this past weekend.
In a town with a non-existant crime rate, no movie theater, and a law that states that you can't consume alcohol and dance in the same establishment, you can imagine that the local newspaper reporters would be a bit starved for any actual news to report. For instance, the police report on any given day will contain accounts of "malicious mischeif heard at 9pm," detailed reports of tractors hitting parked cars, and mysterious accidents involving manure spreading machines. Often times, lengthy interviews with 4H and Future Farmers of America award winners take up a considerable portion of the front page. Due to this lack of anything AT ALL to report, it is not rare for the section entitled the "Farm Report," to completely dwarf the entire Lynden Tribune. It was in this "Farm Report" that my parents found what I consider one of the funniest, and most bizarre pieces of journalism that my eyes have ever seen:
My Father informed me that, while waiting in line at the hardware store, he overheard one of the local dairy farmers telling his buddy that Paradise the Cow lives in a fancy, well-equipped barn all by herself and is coddled and cared for all the day long. When my Dad told me this little fact, I immediately pictured Paradise the Cow lounging around on a plush bed covered in pink satin sheets, her owners feeding her gourmet hay on silver platters. What a charmed life for a cow to lead. If some twist of fate forces me to have to move to Lynden, my only wish is that I might have it as good as Paradise.
Posted by Jen at 03:44 PM
I don’t pretend to get along with everyone; after all, I am an Aries. Love me or hate me – it really doesn’t matter because true to my Aries spirit, I love me enough for both of us. Through the years I have learned that this “I’m greater than great” attitude (…I actually went through a period in my youth when I signed my name Yoda the Great) is quite offensive to some. And while there are many noble people out there who truly live by the “it’s not my place to judge” mentality, after years of therapy I am pretty comfortable with the fact that I can be one great, judgmental bitch. However, on my cattiest day, I don’t hold a candle to Clea*. Clea embodies judgment – she is highest reigning priestess on the Supreme Judgmental Court. This woman – and everything she stands for – is in my office. She fuels my Aries fire.
If you saw Clea in a bar, you’d think she’s cute - cute clothes, cute hair, cute bod – very cute. THIS MAKES HER ALL THE MORE DANGEROUS. Clea can wrap her cute little web around you faster than you can compliment her cute little handbag.
Clea has not just read the godforsaken dating advice book,“The Rules”, she actually abides by it. If Clea had a hotel, there would be a copy of this book in each and every nightstand. If Clea had a hotel chain, she’d put the Mormons out of business. And, since all creatures of evil must reproduce, Clea does not fly solo in this crusade. She preys on insecure women everywhere. She lures the innocent into her lair (usually the mall – preferably while trying on bathing suits) and divulges her secrets of the dating universe. Her cuteness foils the non-suspecting. Her venom spreads. She multiplies. There are now three Cleas in my office.
“The Rules” is just the tip of The Cleas’ iceberg. The Cleas have an itemized list of 100 personality traits that must be carefully reviewed before going to bed with any man. No shit. 100 items. (The Cleas are all frigid bitches who get laid even less than I do – if that’s humanly possible.) Every question has been weighed. Every answer has a point value. For example “He can’t watch football on Sundays (how middle class!)” is only slightly less important than “Doesn’t drive an economy car.” Any man who scores under 75% is stamped “Not Datable.” AND – The Cleas have fully admitted no man could possibly score over 90%. Now, to their credit, it is not an actual paper survey. They have the items memorized. (The Cleas are not “dumb broads.”) But with 100 qualities to get through, The Cleas realize it may take a few dates complete a profile. Who has time for such shenanigans? They have taken the next logical step and created an abbreviated version for the first date.
The abbreviated survey consists of five questions that are “casually” brought up on a first date. You know, casual first date questions like “Do you want children and if so, how soon?” The goal of The Cleas is to have a verdict on whether or not said fellow shall be granted a pass to a second date before dessert is served. No joke. The Cleas run a tight ship.
Now, all this said, I’m going to go ahead and go on record saying Cleas everywhere should be dragged out into the street, stripped to their bras and underwear, and forced to let male models circle their fat with big black magic markers.
Will someone please tell me what on Earth makes The Cleas think they’re all that? I hate The Cleas! I hate what these women do to poor unsuspecting men. While I feel badly for the innocent women caught like a deer in headlights in The Cleas web, I am FURIOUS about what these venomous bitches are doing to the male species. The Cleas of the world are mind-melding good men everywhere and they’re spitting out bitter, rejected, angry assholes who I will invariably end up dating. Assholes who may have otherwise been great men if they’re weren’t, oh I don’t know, human?!
No wonder men think we’re all a bunch of hypocrites and we’re only after money. The Goddamn Cleas have a Goddamn list of 100 traits and a Goddamn abbreviated version of it for a first date! I for one am tired of them giving a bad rap to REAL women. That’s right – REAL WOMEN!
Grown up women!
Women with curves!
Women who have aspirations beyond a big fat diamond ring!
The Cleas MUST BE STOPPED! I am officially starting an I HATE THE CLEAS CLUB and I am looking for members. You must be judgmental – cast aside the “it’s not right to hate” verbiage of your youth. You’re right - hate is a strong word - but it’s the right word. If you HATE The Cleas – tell me your thoughts on how they should be punished.
THE I HATE THE CLEAS CLUB IS NOW IN SESSION!
P.S. As of 2/19/03, all of The Cleas in my office are single.
P.P.S. Just as a side note, Clea herself has a photocopy of my favorite Rothko painting in her office. It’s hanging upside down. Goddamn poser.
*The name is actual to expose the guilty
Posted by Yoda at 12:37 PM
As I mentioned on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, my company does not have another official holiday until May. So while most people went to bed last night knowing they weren't going to work today, I set my alarm for 7 a.m. Imagine my joy when I awakened this morning to a blizzard in New York City! A quick phone call to the Bossman confirmed that the office is closed. Take THAT, you oppressive corporate holiday schedule. Yeeeeeehaw!
Delighted, I set out into my snow-covered neighborhood with the same excitement I felt as a kid when school was cancelled. My feet sank into snow up to my calves; in my normally bustling neighborhood, a few people were gingerly traipsing through the white. The Second Avenue Deli, which always has a line of people out the door, was empty. They were so happy to see a customer they gave me free pastries.
Don't heed the warnings to stay indoors -- it's absolutely gorgeous out there. I have a snowboard -- any takers for a trip to Central Park?
Posted by GxxP at 09:20 AM
We live in an interesting time. Television news programs and reality shows resemble Saturday Night Live sketches. The most trustworthy news source on my BBC-less cable lineup is Jon Stewart's Daily Show. When “real tv” reaches the surreal and Comedy Central produces the most thoughtful political commentary du jour, I can’t help but think something is amiss in media today. Frustrated with the world as I know it turning upside-down through the picture tube, I set out on Saturday to experience a media event through something other than my television.
I attended the peace demonstration at the UN, spawned by a combination of curiosity and idealism. I am not a political activist; I am merely a person who is disheartened by war. I realize, based on my limited knowledge of history, that war is probably inevitable. But that doesn’t stop me from holding onto the hope that the world’s problems could be solved without bloodshed. Clearly there are a few hundred thousand people in New York, and a few million people around the world who, at least on Saturday, shared my hope.
I arrived late, joined by three Brits who, like me, were nursing a hangover. My friend Beth was already on the scene, instructing us by cell phone which route to take to meet her. By 2 p.m. the demonstration area was teeming with people, who spilled into the streets and avenues far beyond 49th Street and 1st Avenue. Police had barricaded the streets as far up as 60th Street and Lexington Avenue, where we arrived. Latecomers like ourselves were denied access to the throng of people three avenues away. We wandered up to 66th Street, where we finally crossed eastward along with a growing crowd of fellow walkers. By the time we were midway down the street, my friends and I looked at each other with excitement and surprise. So many people were walking down the car-less block that we were, in fact, marching. Despite the fact that the city did not grant the organizers the right to march, that was precisely what we were doing.
At each avenue we gained more people, and although we were swept up with the chanting (“This is what democracy looks like!… Tell them what democracy looks like!”), we were a bit confused about where we going. With the speakers and main stage of the rally sixteen blocks south of us, our northward path seemed counter-intuitive. Harlem? La Guardia Airport? The Guggenheim? I couldn’t imagine what important political destination lie on the Upper East Side or beyond. Still, we eagerly followed the crowd.
As we arrived at 1st Avenue and turned southward, it was finally clear that we were joining the other demonstrators downtown. By this time it was 3 p.m. and the temperature had dropped to “I can’t feel my thighs”. Huddled in a mass of bodies, we tried to keep warm, entertained by the signs brandished by our fellow marchers.
Hippies, hipsters, and high school kids were among the diverse crowd. Regardless of everyone’s purpose for being there (anger towards Bush, disgust with war, picking up your morning bagel at the wrong time and getting swept up in the sea of people), it was empowering to take over the streets that were normally bustling with buses and cabs. On one street we passed two cars, their drivers and passengers looking at us with curiosity and some degree of impatience, but not with the fear that has permeated the city for the past “Code-Orange” week. A friend of mine was further uptown and witnessed a violent skirmish between police on horseback and the crowd, but downtown with the Glamericans (more on them later), the peace march was exactly that -- peaceful.
Although I hadn’t given much thought to what I was getting into on Saturday, once I was there it became clear. I was a small part of a greater whole, and came away with a profound respect for the drive of my fellow New Yorkers. When I could no longer feel my hands and my friends’ bellies ached for brunch, we left the demonstration. We walked away with a small feeling of accomplishment, and a short list of the most memorable signs we saw that day.
Even though I’m not a big fan of the Pres, it shocked me to see how many people chose anti-Bust sentiment for their signs. Ranging from unflattering cartoons to the more direct, here are the highlights of this category:
-Stop Mad Cowboy Disease
-Bomb Texas They Have Oil Too
-The Idiot of Mass Destruction
-Stop THESE Warheads (photo of heads of state)
and our favorite, Eat Another Pretzel, Asshole (raised high by a bearded 30-something in a mesh cap)
The Old Standards
Beth, while waiting for us to arrive, had encountered some guitar-strummers who lead a round of Kumbaya. This, she believed, was a little too much. For me this moment came when I heard the cracking voices of Caucasians singing We Shall Overcome. I suppose every war protest is going to have its share of the old standards. This trickled down to the following signs:
-Veterans Against War
-Not In My Name
-No Blood For Oil
with some timely newcomers, phrased as questions:
-Is the Media Pro-War?
-Would We Go To War if Iraq’s Export Was Broccoli?
Perhaps the highlight of our day was encountering the Glamericans, a posse of drag queens and their fashion-fabulous friends. Bedecked in feather boas and snakeskin cowboy hats, the Glamericans were chanting “Makeup, Not War”. Even their posters were adorned with feathers, and the following catchy slogans:
-Glam Not War
-Baby, I AM The Bomb
-War is So Last Century
-My Sign’s Peace, What’s Yours?
-Botox, Not Bombs
Los Angeles Checks In
When I returned to my apartment I landed on the CNN on Steroids channel, which was covering the demonstration in LA. Martin Sheen and Rob Reiner spoke in support of the US Troops, but with the hope of a peaceful resolution that will keep them safe. As the correspondent shouted to the camera over the din of the crowd, one left-coast rallier held a sign with Hollywood flair. I See Dead People, it read. Only in LA.
Who knows if any of this will make a difference. Even though millions of people gathered worldwide to voice their pleas to stave off war, I have a feeling it’s going to happen anyway. When and if it does, there will surely be more of these in the future. I should start thinking now about what my sign will say. There’s a lot of competition out there.
Posted by GxxP at 10:06 AM
Thanks to Glenda, our wildly talented web-designer...Bitch-Sessions has a brand-spankin' new look. Check it out, and let us know what you think!
Posted by Jen at 04:17 PM
I recently assisted my good friend Kristin with her application to get into the UCLA MBA program. It was a long and arduous five-essay process, and as a thank you present, she treated me to a fun-filled day at Universal Studios in Hollywood. I am a lover of all types of amusement parks, and was immediately thrilled by the prospect of spending the day learning about the “magic of the movies.” I had never been to a Universal Studios, and my knowledge of the park was limited to an episode of an 80’s sitcom where the cast visits the park. For the life of me I could not remember which 80’s sitcom this was, but did recall from the episode a montage of the cast traveling via tram all about the park, being frightened by movie monsters, flash floods, earthquakes, and JAWS. It was good enough for me.
In an effort to avoid crowds, Kristin and I arrived bright and early on Saturday morning, and avoid crowds we did. Apparently very few people found it necessary to get up at 7:30 am to get to the park when it opened, and the park’s visitors at that early hour were limited to foreign tour groups, a smattering of families with small children, one Tibetan monk, and us. We decided to take advantage of its emptiness, immediately nailed down our plan of attack for the morning, and headed off to the first activity:
Waterworld: A Tidal Wave of Explosive Action
What was a tragically horrific movie has been transformed by Universal Studios into a really cool live show. The action-packed fifteen minute performance was resplendent with loud explosions and burning buildings, ridiculously faux fight scenes, and daredevil jet-skiers who dove under the water, jumped through walls of fire, and continually soaked audience members who were sitting in the seats labeled “soak section.” Note to Universal Studios: You might want to label the “soak section” in several different languages, as there were many Japanese tourists who were shocked and somewhat frightened when the characters in the show “warmed up” the audience by dumping buckets of water on their heads.
After Waterworld was over, we saw that the line to "Back to the Future: The Ride" was a mere five minutes long, and decided it was time “to rip across the past and blast into the future with Doc Brown in his tricked-out, high-flying, time-traveling machine.” As with all rides in the park, they try (and not very hard) to make it seem like the ride is “real.” The gimmick on Back to the Future was that we were supposed to be participating in a scientific study of some kind, and they send you into individual examination rooms with several other people. The members of our study were a young blond couple who didn’t speak, and the aforementioned Tibetan monk. As Doc Brown explained that we were on a mission to save the future, I’m pretty sure the Tibetan monk didn’t understand that we were on a ride rather than participating in an actual experiment. He looked rather confused. As was promised to us, we zipped around Hill Valley in our tricked-out time machines, traveled to the past where we got swatted around by a dinosaur, and then fell into some sort of volcano. Naturally, we ended up saving the day. It was a rather rocky ride, but incredibly fun. As we climbed out of the car on unsteady legs, the Tibetan Monk was only able to muster the words, “That was scary!” He sounded weak and disoriented.
After pausing briefly to take a picture with my head inside of JAWS’ mouth, we headed to The Studio Tour that I remembered fondly from the unnamed 80’s sitcom. This was where things really took a turn for the better. We both agreed we were thirsty, and spied a cart selling refreshments. I was about to purchase a Spongebob Squarepants water bottle, when I noticed that there was beer on the menu. Actual beer. I jokingly asked if we could take a couple of Corona’s on the ride. I expected laughter, and a resounding “NO” as a response, but was startled to hear the woman behind the cart say, “Of course you can.” Despite the fact that it was only 10:30 am, we purchased two beers and, after almost accidentally joining a Spanish-only tour, finally settled down for a ride. The tour of the studios was great, my favorite ride of the day (and not just because of the beer). The facts about movie making were fascinating. For instance, did you know that in old westerns, they built doorways smaller than normal in an effort to make the cowboys look bigger and more imposing? Conversely, they would build other doorways on a smaller scale in an effort to make the women seem tiny and more like damsels-in-distress. Anyway…There’s something sort of cool about sitting just yards from the famous town where from The Mummy was filmed and seeing the lake where Showboat was shot. You would be looking right at The Bates Motel from Psycho, and notice in the background the set of Whoville from Jim Carry’s The Grinch. The special effects displays were also really amazing. We were caught in a flash flood, got stuck underground during an earthquake, were almost taken out by King Kong (who was breathing banana breath), and were nearly attacked by JAWS (who, incidentally, has been lit on fire to spice things up a bit).
The Studio Tour deposited us right in front of another refreshment stand, where we purchased two frozen margaritas and went on our way. That was pretty much how the rest of the day progressed. Margarita, ride, bathroom…Margarita, ride, bathroom. It was like Vegas, but without the gambling. For some reason, in this little pocket of Los Angeles, we were allowed to walk around consuming alcohol right out in the open. It was splendid. Perhaps it’s just the tequila talking, but never in my life have I been to an amusement park, or any performance or public event for that matter, where the staff was so accommodating and personable. The rides turned out to be pretty much as we had expected, but the lines were short, and, thanks to the staff, we bounced from ride to ride effortlessly:
ET’s Adventure: Sadly, this ride was a horrible disappointment. ET was one of the first movies I ever saw in the theater, and I was really excited to get to see him in the flesh, or the plastic, or whatever he is made of. Kristin had also promised me a crazy surprise at the end of the ride. After giving my name to an usher who programmed “Jennifer” into a computer, I hoped the surprise would be that ET would tell me in his halting Speak-N-Spell voice that he loved me and wanted to phone home or something like that. Unfortunately I was in for disappointment, as the ride turned out to be a shorter, less exciting version of “It’s a Small World.” Now, if you have ever been on “It’s a Small World,” you should know how hard it would be for something to be LESS exciting than that particular ride. The surprise at the end also turned out to be a bust. Somehow the girl taking names neglected to enter mine in properly, and everyone in our car got to have ET say goodbye to them except for me. I felt slightly rejected after the ET ride.
Backdraft: The Backdraft attraction’s tagline should actually be “A Pyromaniac’s Dream Come True.” Basically it’s 15 minutes of really cool special effects with fire. Lots and lots of fire. During the final scene it got so hot in the room, and the smell of fuel was so permeating, that I couldn’t help but wonder how setting off explosions a mere 10 feet from 100 people could possibly be legal. The best part of Backdraft however, was the staff working the line. We weren’t allowed to bring our margaritas into the building, and they let us sit on a lovely bench to the side of the line until we finished…then they just let us get back in the front of the line. It was as if our drinks were the equivalent of having VIP passes at a concert. It was wonderful.
The Special Effects Stage: Good experience and cool special effects, but unfortunately I had missed the restroom stop prior to the show, and spent the majority of the performance wishing that it would end. Note: If you are consuming alcoholic beverages at a rapid rate, DO NOT deviate from your schedule of Margarita, Ride, Bathroom, lest you ruin your good time.
Animal Planet Live: I came into this performance expecting ferocious crocodiles and roaring lions and tigers, and was slightly disappointed to find out that the most exotic animal appearing that day was a domesticated orangutan wearing a tutu. Ho Hum. Fortunately, the emcee, a gorgeous animal trainer from LA, was so engaging that I quickly forgot about my expectations and focused all my attention on his khaki-clad body.
We paused on our way to Terminator: 3D, to pose for pictures with Captain America, Spongebob Squarepants, and Curious George. I’m pretty sure Mr. Squarepants tried to grab my ass, but he could have just lost control of his strange swinging arms. I can’t figure that Spongebob guy out. We asked one of the park employees what his deal was, and after a lengthy explanation came away with the knowledge that he was A: Made of a kitchen sponge, B: Had square pants due to the fact that he was a square kitchen sponge, and C: Lived under the water with his friend who was a starfish. This explanation left me more confused than when I simply thought he was a square yellow man.
Terminator2: 3D: A fabulous way to end the day. This show is marvelous from the moment you step into the staging area. Upon entering the room, a hilarious announcer informed us that we were all supposed to be attending a presentation at “Cyberdyne Systems,” the evil company that we all remember fondly from the Terminator movies. The “presentation” is taken over by that scary guy from Terminator: 2 who is made of liquid metal, and Arnold comes to save the day. All of this is performed with combination of live stunts, and an intricate 3D movie. It was so good (and scary) that I screamed loudly several times.
After T2, we were wiped. The combination of a countless number of margaritas, several churros, and a long day of walking led to one thing, and one thing only: Bedtime. As we walked out of the park, we were stopped by The Blues Brothers. The Dan Akroyd character told us that he needed to stop us because, “Rumor had it that we’d been causing a whole heck of a lot of trouble.” “Is this true?” he asked us. “Absolutely,” we replied. “Fair enough,” he said, and sent us on our way. As I walked up to a refreshment cart outside of the studios and realized that margaritas were no longer an item on the menu, I became sad. After a day at Universal Studios, it’s easy to forget how oppressive the real world can be.
Posted by Jen at 02:51 PM
Me 'n My One Night Friends
Wednesday was a typical New York night. By typical I mean it was unpredictable – the people I was supposed to meet bailed on me, soon to be replaced by strangers. Beth and I met for a game of pool at Tribeca Tavern, a dark bar on a triangular block between three of Manhattan’s quietest downtown streets. The owner bears a strong resemblance to James Gandolfini of Soprano’s fame, and the bartender is a voluptuous blond who looks like she’s killing time before her late night shift at a strip club.
When we arrived, a small crowd of displaced 9 to 5’ers had already claimed the front room of the bar, giving the tavern an air of post-work boredom. We immediately fed the mediocre jukebox (filled mostly with songs you play at the end of a long night after all of your first choices have played twice) and sauntered to the back room. The back room was more our speed – it was home to the worn red felt-covered pool table, and devoid of any people. We played a couple of games, catching up on our day, our cramps, and our plan for the rest of the night.
Solitude in a New York bar rarely lasts, and soon we were joined by three men who looked more like thugs than Wall Street types. They introduced themselves as Leo, Jimmy, and Elliot, and challenged us to a game. In the years that I’ve played pool in this town, I’ve come to find that there are two types of players – nice people, and assholes. I prefer to play the first type, regardless of their skill level, although when forced to play opponents of the second variety I do take some pleasure in trying to beat them. There’s nothing better than knocking someone’s ego down a few notches, especially if he’s a misogynist ass whose name you only gathered from the list on the chalk board.
Leo, Jimmy, and Elliot were of the friendly sort, although they did indulge in some paternalistic “Here’s how you should have taken that shot, little lady”-type remarks. I didn’t let it bother me because they were chatty in between their bouts of advice-giving. Leo stood 6’5’, and was on call for his job as a bodyguard for a Dominican phone card mogul. His shots appeared effortless, and as he bent down over the table he looked like a giant in a dollhouse. Jimmy and Elliot were much smaller in stature, and once Leo was summoned to meet up with Phone Card Carlos, they joined us for a beer.
Elliot, sporting a red hooded sweatshirt and gold chains, proceeded to explain internet advertising to me. “When you type in a website the person who owns the website gets money every time,” he said. “I can’t really explain it but my brother told me how it works.” I was too bored to tell him I’d been in the industry for four years and it didn't work that way. I received no salvation from Beth, who was deep in conversation with Jimmy. When the room fell silent, I leapt from my seat to feed the juke and abandon the internet tutorial.
By the time I returned to our table, “Your Time Is Gonna Come” was playing at full volume. I was flooded with the memory of a six-hour drive to Southern Illinois to pick up a date that wasn’t my first choice. My first choice (and my first love) had cheated on me with my high school nemesis, leaving me dateless and heartbroken for my first college dance. Led Zeppelin I had played on a continual loop during that drive, and I used an entire box of Kleenex, my heart pouring out of my body in the form of tears and snot.
“This is the song that I played a million times after Chris broke my heart,” I said to Beth between lyrics. I left out the part about how it was the worst pain I’d ever experienced at that point in my life. It was the breakup that forever changed me, the one where I realized that love is not forever, that it ends, even when someone makes you a promise that it never will. I had meant every word of that song on that tearful drive, but never could have imagined how his time would actually come.
“Where is he now?” Elliot asked as the song drew to an end.
“He’s dead,” I said, offering no information other than how sad that made me.
“I know how you feel,” he replied, and while Elton John sang “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”, Elliot told me the tale of his sister, who died from AIDS in the days when Chris was still alive. “When her boyfriend got out of prison he gave her the disease,” he explained. “We told her not to go back with him but she didn’t listen.”
Jimmy joined in with his own tale of suffering. He, too, had lost a sister to AIDS in the ‘80s. She had contracted the disease from a deadbeat boyfriend, a man who Jimmy, an otherwise forgiving person, hated. “He’s probably dead now,” Jimmy said, “and I don’t care.” His kind face twisted into anger, then sadness, as he told his sister’s story. I realized that I’d never felt hatred like that, not even for an 18-year-old boy who introduced me to heartache. Not even close.
As the room filled with other drinkers, our conversation seemed out of place among the happy chatter surrounding us. A professionally-dressed man and his girlfriend started a game of pool, and I looked to Beth, who was frowning. “We’re late for our friend’s party,” she explained, and we all took a final swig of beer. Jimmy asked us for our phone numbers, in that fleeting moment when you think an evening could be repeated if only you have the right combination of ten digits. We settled on giving him our email addresses – Yahoo accounts, not our less anonymous work ones – and bid them goodbye. We then set off into the cold winter night, in search of people and music that would make us smile.
Posted by GxxP at 01:37 PM
LA LA LA LA Lovely – Diary of A Bitch-Sessions Vacation
Last week, while temperatures neared freezing in New York, my trip to Los Angeles could not have come at a more perfect time. Not only was the excursion funded by my company (I met with clients on Wednesday and Thursday), but Stevie's friend Jason Mraz was playing two shows in SoCal, and Jen was anxious to show off her new pad to her NYC friends. So Stevie, Jerry, and I bought tickets, hopped on JetBlue (the friendliest airline on the planet), and within six hours traveled from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific.
Two and a half years had passed since my last visit to La La Land, and upon arriving to 80 degree weather and sunny skies, I asked myself WHY HAS IT TAKEN ME SO FRIGGIN LONG TO GET BACK HERE? As my boss and I drove to our meeting in Santa Barbara, I was flooded with fond memories of past trips to Cali. While I should have been preparing for my presentation, all I could think about was how warm is the ocean this time of year?, and, how many hours stand between me and a frothy beachside drink?
The meeting went well – the clients were happy and attentive (must be the weather), and a relaxing and scenic drive lay ahead of us on our return to LA. We opted to take the Pacific Coast Highway, which offers a stunning oceanside view. The biggest decision we needed to make was whether to look left to ogle the mansions on the hill or look right to ogle the mansions on the beach. We carried on like this for over an hour, until the PCH turned local and we jumped onto the 405 to conserve time.
I cannot tell you what a mistake that was. At 5 pm, the last place a person in the Los Angeles area should go to save time is the 405. It's a five-lane freeway and we were at a standstill. NOT MOVING AT ALL. Suddenly my admiration for palm trees gave way to the reason I never considered moving to LA. I. HATE. TRAFFIC.
After several minutes of driving at the pace of a crippled snail, my boss veered onto the first available off-ramp. Our next route took us through countless intersections, but I agreed with my boss's methods. "I don't mind stopping for a stop light," he said. "It's stopping on the highway that I can't stand." Welcome to LA. Stopping on the highway is a way of life in these parts.
Eventually we made it to Hermosa Beach and met up with Jen. Or rather someone who looked like Jen and talked like Jen, but her life seemed so different than it was in New York that I felt I was visiting her in the witness protection program. She lives in a big bright apartment with two major features that are foreign to most Manhattan homes – carpeting and a balcony. She also drives a car and knows the best shortcuts to Hollywood, and has befriended a cast member of the upcoming Survivor series, who was a really cool guy, even if he is on a reality show (which makes Jen love him even more.)
The rest of the week was a blur. On Thursday we saw Jason’s sold out show at the House of Blues in Hollywood, and the performance was truly amazing. In an attempt to say hi to Stevie, who was cavorting in the balcony, I confidently (and ignorantly) lead eight people into the VIP section. We remained there for the entire show, enjoying service with a smile from a cocktail server who probably thought we were important (we weren’t.) I mean, it was Jason’s parents, industry people, Tony Kanal from No Doubt, and… us. There I discovered something else that’s great about LA – people are so damn nice! Again, it could be the weather factor at play, but I’m more inclined to think it’s the kiss-ass factor. Who cares? We didn’t have to wait for a single drink and had a phat view of the stage. Thanks, House of Blues.
Friday we recovered from Thursday by sipping frosty, umbrella-adorned beverages by the beach. By 2 pm we were bombed and spent the remainder of the afternoon and night watching the entire second season of Sex in the City in Jen’s apartment. Sure it was a lazy bastard thing to do but we were on vacation, and watching tv two feet from a balcony and swaying palm trees adds an element that you just don't get in NYC. We took breaks to smoke cloves and watch Jen’s tanned neighbors play basketball. Friday rocked.
Saturday we hit the highway again, destination San Diego, via a pit stop at Designer Shoe Warehouse (located dangerously close to Jen’s apartment.) The drive to San Diego was beautiful and fret-free, thanks to Jen finding a short cut on MapQuest, an invaluable tool for the novice LA driver. Once we arrived in the GasLamp district, we donned our new shoes and set off to play a game of pool. After trying six bars that either weren’t open or didn’t have a pool table, we found our way into this little gem:
Star Bar had all the qualities of a good dive bar, in fact it was nominated by Stuff Magazine as one of the top 20 dive bars in the country. They weren’t kidding. With a crew of patrons ranging from young Navy boys fresh off the boat to aged pool players in need of dental work and a shave, the Star Bar was warm and inviting. Stolis were $3, pool games were 50 cents, and the only thing missing from the kitschy, tinsely, Bud Light postered décor was a thick cloud of smoke (although there was a small crowd puffing away on the sidewalk outside.) The juke was superb, and we played everything from Boz Scaggs to Nirvana. It rejected dollars, thereby making it one of the few remaining jukes that I’ve seen where a quarter can still buy you a song.
Showtime arrived and we abandoned our people-watching and cheap drinking for Spreckel’s, where we were once again treated to excellent seats. Jason’s performance was flawless, and it was cool to see him play in San Diego, which he considers the birthplace of his musical life. His songs and tales were met with adoring cheers from his fans, who by virtue of living in warm weather, were very, very happy.
We wrapped up the evening with one last round at Star Bar and trekked back to LA, giddy from our experience. After a two hour disco nap, Jen chauffeured me to the airport, where I bid her, and my lovely mini-vacation, good bye. The trip was short but sweet, filled with good music, good bars, good weather, and good friends. We even brought the LA weather back with us – today I awakened to a balmy 40 degree day in New York. Although the traffic would make me homicidal if I lived there, the weather and the people will always make LA dear to my heart. And thanks to Jet Blue, it's always a cheap, friendly flight away.
Posted by GxxP at 05:42 PM