Prior to this vacation, my family had been united with a "long-lost cousin" who had reached out to my grandfather before his passing in order to get to know his branch of the family tree, and share what information she had gathered. I remember hearing about this woman at the time, but since she lived in California, I didnt have any interaction with her. Then along came Facebook. Sister had met our cousin a few times as they lived an hour apart and when Cousin joined Facebook, Sister suggested her as a friend to our side of the family. I immediately added her to my friend list as I thought she would be an interesting person to get to know - and truly, how often does one get to meet a long-lost cousin?
Over the past months, I've become friendly with Cousin through Facebook, and when I made plans to visit Sister in L.A. I thought it would be fun to finally meet face-to-face. I'll spare you the details of the onorous drive from L.A. to Long Beach, where Cosmo routed me through Lynwood and Compton ('nuff said), but even though I was an hour late for lunch, Cousin met me outside the Belmont Brewery with open arms. A petite woman, older than me but younger than Mom, she was very friendly with an infectious smile and kind eyes. I loved her right away. We chatted over soup and salad and afterwards walked along the pier, taking in the scenary and chatting some more. I found Cousin to be a very strong, inspirational person with a compassionate heart and tender soul. I'm so glad I had the opportunity to meet her, if only for a few fleeting hours.
I left our meeting feeling happy and content, and had another 3 hour commute to drive 20 miles to pick up Sister. I had planned on seeing a movie that afternoon, but it didnt quite work out that way. Ah well...such is life. I wasnt about to jinx my happy vacation buzz over missing "Inception".
On Friday afternoon, I hooked up with my friend J, who has worked behind-the-scenes on various WB shows for years. She invited me to the WB lot for a private tour. J pulled up in a golf cart after I parked Cosmo, and I jumped in and held on...believe it or not, that was my first ride in a golf cart! I dont know why that should be so surprising or even noteworthy, but it would seem that I should have had at least one ride in a golf cart before now, but maybe I'm just boring that way.
As we drove around the lot, J pointed out various points of interest, giving me a history of the lot and the inside scoop on some of the buildings and sets. She highlighted various features, particularly how most of the buildings on the lot can double as movie sets. In other words, the office workers could show up to work one day and discover their office building is suddenly serving double duty as a high school or a hospital!
Before you ask, I didnt see too many celebrities other than Simon Baker (quite the handsome fellow he was!)
I really loved this part of the trip...not just because I got a private tour by an insider, but I was able to spend some time getting to know J. I've actually blogged about her before; as a newer friend whom I had only chatted with online, and met briefly at Chris' show on Monday, it was a real pleasure getting to know the person behind the tweets. She is a wonderful human being and I am so glad to consider her a real friend!
That night, J, Chris and I went to Genghis Cohen for dinner. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to get to know both J and Chris on a more personal level and I feel that we really connected as friends. Dinner was pretty tasty too! Both of them said they considered Genghis to have the best Chinese food in L.A. and I can agree with that (albeit without having much to compare it to). The menu was diverse, with selections for just about every palette and dietary restriction. The service left a little to be desired, but they made up for it with a free drink for J (who apparently is a frequent visitor).
As we were finishing up dinner, Chris said "I think that's Don Rickles over there. Is Don Rickles still alive?" I said "Where is he sitting?" Chris informed me he was behind me, three tables to the right. I looked over my shoulder and sure enough...it was the legend himself! And he's OLD...very, very old. But very much alive. :)
My vacation was winding down, with the final weekend upon us, so it was important for me to spend as much time with Sister as possible. My relationship with my sister has historically been a loving and respectful one. Certainly we've had our differences, but I do consider her to be one of my best friends, someone whom I confide in when I cant confide in anyone else. She's always been there for me, and I try to always be there for her. We fight because we love each other. We each know what buttons to push to get the other going, but that's what sisters are for!
Saturday, as she headed to the gym, I headed to the beach...via Cafe Milan. In my humble opinion, this restaurant/cafe/local hippie watering hole is the best deal for brunch in the L.A. metro area. If you are in the neighborhood, I highly recommend you give it a try. It's a block from the beach, prices are cheap and the food is fresh and fast.
The local color makes Cafe Milan an interesting place indeed. While I was sitting there enjoying my veggie omelette, a disheveled looking older man walked up with a very young woman wearing a very, very short mini skirt. I'm normally not one to judge, but I did catch myself thinking "Why is she with him?" Ashamed, I quickly put all catty thoughts out of my head until I heard them speak: he in thickly accented Euro-English and she with a heavily-nasaled American Princess accent. I dont recall exactly what they said (other than it involved soy milk) but I do clearly remember her saying "I'm SORRY! I just dont understand what you are saying!". Now I had to wonder why HE was with HER!
After my morning repast, I headed to the beach and laid down in the sand with another book. Soon a woman dressed in yoga pants, a hoodie, and expensive shades walked up and handed me a postcard inviting me to a local woman's Bible study group. She thought I would be interested in attending. Why, I dont know...clearly, this woman has never met me before. But I accepted the card and used it as a bookmark.
Yes, I am going to hell.
That afternoon, Sister, her man and I headed to Malibu to the Getty Villa. A small museum dedicated to Greek and Roman artifacts, staged in an Italian Villa on the Malibu hillside, it was a glorious way to wile away the day. After spending the afternoon amongst the Antiquities, we headed back to Hollywood for Movie Night at the Hollywood Cemetary. As we were early, we stopped at Intelligentsia for coffee. In all honesty, my reasoning for wanting to stop for coffee at Intelligentsia was purely for "research purposes". I had been told that, in spite of the fact it is frequented by a certain young Hollywood actor, it was "damn good coffee". Being from Seattle, I was skeptical. Yes, I am a coffee snob, but not without cause! Everywhere I have traveled in the past 10 years have coffee houses that fall far short of my caffeinated expectations. I couldnt believe that this little coffeehouse in West Hollywood was going to have better coffee than my personal Seattle java haunt: Zeitgeist Coffee.
Walking into the place, the ambience brought me right back to Italy. It was a gorgeous venue with lovely blue and white tile and marble countertops. Ordering the coffee proved to be a bit clumsy as I have a certain way that I have become used to ordering my double-tall non-fat latte, and the coffee-speak is just different outside Seattle. Not to mention, Intelligentsia does not have nonfat milk and I had to settle for 2%. The horror!
Admittingly, the coffee was good although not *DAMN good*...and they get points for creating a very cool environment. But it just isnt Zeitgeist.
After our break, we headed to the Hollywood Cemetary for "High Noon". Some people would think it a bit creepy to watch movies in a cemetary within spitting distance of the the dearly departed. I thought it was pretty cool...knowing that Marilyn Monroe, Rudolph Valentino and Douglas Fairbanks were just steps away. The atmosphere was jovial and not in the least bit creepy. The ultimate Hollywood experience!
The final day - Sunday - came all too soon. We got up early and headed to brekkie at Swinger's. Tasty and filling, the whole grain banana pancakes were delicious...and I usually dont like banana pancakes and not entirely sure why I ordered them in the first place, but Im glad I did! :)
After hopping on the PCH, we headed North to Malibu Lagoon State Park so that J and bf could take a surfing lesson. There were so many surfers in the water, it looked like a gathering of seals! As I'm unable to partake in most water sports due to an unfortunate defect in my inner ear (my big disappointment in life), I watched from dry land while Sister and her bf surfed...or in Sister's case, attempted to surf. She did an awesome job though and actually made it up a few times! So proud of her!
Heading further north on the PCH, we hit Neptune's Net for lunch. Being from the East Coast I was a bit skeptical that this roadside seafood joint was going to measure up. I'd heard some pretty good reviews though and felt I had to give it a try. I was amazed at the number of bikers in attendance; Harleys parked on both sides of the road by the dozens. When you walk in and line up, you are routed by the refrigerators to grab your drinks before ordering at the counter. The fridges were stocked high with 40s and supersize bottles of soda, water and juice. God bless the U.S.A.!
Again - totally not disappointed. I had the lobster roll...the first lobster roll I've had outside New Hampshire in, I'm pretty sure, *EVER*. Very tasty, even if it was served on a sour dough roll!
At this point, the only thing left to do was to take me to the airport. The drive to Long Beach was pretty uneventful. Driving into the airport, Sister's guy asked me which airline I was flying so they could pull up to the right door. I assured him that wouldnt be a problem, seeing as how the terminal had only one door leading to the check-in stations. Pulling up to the white zone, I noted the time...two hours before take-off. At any other airport, this might be just enough time to make it through security and to the gate. At LGB, I had enough time to walk back to L.A. and return to the airport and still make it to the gate with an hour to spare.
No worries...I had some blogging to do... ;)