Adventures in Los Angeles: Day One

June 14, 2007

Warning – the following post is being written through bloodshot eyes.  I am amazingly jetlagged, and yet am completely unable to sleep.  It’s 11:30 PM where I am right now… which means that, according to my brain, it’s 2:30 AM.  I’m going on 23 hours without sleep.  I think I might die.

I woke up at 5 in the morning, New Jersey time, and shambled, zombie-like into my father’s car.  He and I chatted about politics a bit – even when roused from the dead, I’m still kvetching about politics – until the time came for me to pour out of the passenger door and ooze my way onto the airplane.

A word on air travel.  I hate it.  I hate airplanes more than cancer.  There are few things in life more daunting than being nailed into a plastic tube, breathing recycled air, and choking down micro-pretzels while painted mental patients scurry up and down the aisles, chirping friendly orders at you:

"Uh oh!  Honey, would you mind sliding your bag under the seat for me?"
Push bag with foot a grand total of 4 centimeters.
"Thank you!"
Scurry scurry scurry.

I cant stand airplane travel… and I blame it all on the seats.  There’s something about those fucking seats that just drive me batty.  I’ll tilt my chair back, stretch my legs out… I’ll get my head in the least painful position possible… and then after sleeping for about 15 minutes, I’ll awake from the compulsive desire to have to move my legs around.  I dont know why this is.  I’ve got the fucking jimmy-legs on airplanes.  Four and a half hours is a long time for me to sit still… especially when I’m bored, annoyed and tired.

So you can imagine how horrible it was when, moments after we had finished boarding the plane, the Captain (I use this term sparingly… for further information regarding the absurdity of such a title, I direct you to George Carlin.  He’s got that issue pretty much covered) – moments after boarding the plane, the Captain informs us that his "First Mate" was unable to be there because of an electrical storm… and so we’ll have to wait for an hour and a half.

This led me to ask three very simple questions:
1. Why would an electrical storm prevent a human being from getting in his car and driving to work… and if such an event were to take place, why wasn’t the problem solved before the flight was set to start?
2. Why, if we’re going to have to wait for an hour and a half (which ended up being two hours and change, by the way), would the Captain actually board the plane first?  What’s wrong with these people?  I can handle waiting.  I can handle not taking off on time… I’ve got nowhere to be.  What I cant understand is why Oh Captain My Captain would put 90 people into a PVC pipe with wings to wait for two hours, when there’s a perfectly good terminal just 20 yards away.  WHY WOULD THEY DO THAT?!?  I sat there for two hours.  I listened to two George Carlin shows on my iPod.  TWO!!!!  AAAAAAGH!!!
3. What the fuck is a "First Mate" on an airplane?  Why is that position necessary?  Is he there to help the Captain keep the crew in check?  Is he the only one who knows how to navigate the shoals of the sky?  Are we going to be attacked by corsairs over Nebraska?  What the fuck kindof job is a "First Mate" on a fucking airplane?

So… two diet cokes, three bags of pretzels, two George Carlin bits and about 32 pledges of murder/suicide later… we take off for LA.  I ended up watching "Breach," the Chris Cooper movie about a real FBI agent who spied for the Russians against our country.  He was caught via an elaborate sting operation in 2001.  I heard an interview with the operative who went undercover to catch him, and the director of the film on NPR a few months ago… and decided that I wouldn’t go out of my way to see the movie.  It ended up being pretty good actually… due mainly to the fact that the film was peppered with really good actors – Ryan Phillipe, notwithstanding.  Actually… he did a pretty good job.  It’s hard to not look like a schlub next to a guy as good as Chris Cooper… and Ryan Phillipe really did hold his own.  I should see that movie again. 

Anyway… I land.  I get off the plane and rent my car… a Champagne-colored, Hyundai Elantra, which I’ve decided to call the Golden Goose.  It is, without a doubt, the most boring car ever created.  In fact, the most exciting part of my first rental car (I’ve never been in a position to do so before) wasn’t the feeling of "wow, I’m a big boy now," or "check me out in my fancy rental car, driving around a city I’ve never been to before."  It came when I realized, halfway to my hotel, that I had been driving with the parking break on.  My car doesn’t have a parking break… I never even noticed it.

Is that bad for a car? 

Meh.

My hotel room is a vinyl box with a firm bed and an intimidatingly large TV set.  Usually, when staying in a hotel, I like to imagine who else had stayed in my room before me.  My hotel has been designed like every other non-ritzy hotel on the planet – scratchy, easily cleaned wallpaper and cheap carpeting.  Heavy plastic tarps on runners, which act as curtains.  A stiff, queen-sized bed, topped with a collection of leukocytic pillows which engulf your entire head, all the way to your nose, when you lay back.  The hallways are eerie and deserted, echoing the dull hum of the ice machine.  Everything is so utilitarian and spartan… so devoid of flourish that even the display of plastic apples they set up on the tables beside the elevators seem to suggest a mere consideration of decoration, without actually being decorative – as though, if you were to reach for one of them, the image before you would crackle into a flickering hologram, with the words "The Future Site of Real Apples" appearing in electric blue letters. 

It’s hard to date places like this… not because of any real renovation… but because no era would have consciously chosen such an aesthetic.  If you’ll forgive the pseudo-pun… it’s not aesthetic… it’s anesthetic.

As I was saying – whenever I’m in a hotel, I like to imagine who else had stayed in my room before me.  I’m not doing it this time.  Every time I’ve let my mind wander, it hasn’t been to some raucous frat boys, date raping a coed, or to a litter of apple-faced kids, jumping on the bed… the only kind of people who stay at a place like this are business men.  Suited older dudes named Roger or Bill who have two kids and two mortgages, who are in town to nab a big widget account.  I dont know how people can stand being so transient.  I dont like it here… I’m lonely and bored, and find myself thinking about my family and friends far more frequently than I ever have.  If I were here with a friend, or girlfriend, or even my Dad… we’d have gone out and gotten some dinner, had a few drinks at the bar… if Matt had been here, we’d have gone exploring and stolen some things from around the hotel, and ogled the waitresses.  One of us would have pushed the other into a housekeeping cart by now.  It’s the absence of these activities that are keeping me up… and the realization that I’m like one of those guys… one of those transient guys who I see, holed up at the bar, showing pictures of their kids to bored bartenders.  I miss everyone.  I’ve discovered something very important in my time here so far.  I don’t like being lonely. 

How gay is that?

I drove into Hollywood today… and I’d be happy to relate the story, but I’m now officially tired, and am shocked that I’ve managed to write as much as I have. 

I’ll update my shit tomorrow.

Until then… so long from Hell-A.

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