Three weeks ago I flew to LA. My objective: hang out with my friends and have a fun vacation away from work!
I've traveled to California (San Francisco) twice, but never Los Angeles. Thanks to hyperbole from television and talkies, I partly expected a martian landscape, red rocks, devoid of familiar terrestrial lifeforms, and perhaps covered in smog.
Well, let's back up. First, boarding my flight was delayed almost two hours because... drumroll, please... the pilot's windshield wiper was broken. No joke.
My delayed landing actually worked to my advantage, though. Originally, my friend Anne was going to pick me up, because her roommate Brooke (I would be staying at their apartment) was in meetings all day. But with the flight delay, Anne had to get to her night class and wouldn't have time to add in a round trip to the airport and back, so Brooke picked me up on her way to dinner with other filmmakers.
Which means, my very first night ever in LA, I...
- experienced freeway rush hour
- drove on a mountain (okay, Brooke was driving, but it's boring to say "I rode around a mountain")
- ate dinner at a deluxe, Harry Potter themed restaurant in Beverly Hills
- met a bunch of filmmakers / actors / writers, including the writer of Zombieland
- tried to wrap my mind around the florae
Seriously, it's not just the palm trees that caught me off-guard, they have legitimately entirely different species of trees in California. Which is weird to me.
What was also weird: nearly every day we drove by the WB and Disney backlots. That's a new "normal" to which I never quite acclimated.
And almost every day we saw grip trucks parked around town and production signs posted on street corners. Brooke always called out "look, they're shooting a movie there", and that's just part of normal LA life. I could get used to that.
On my second night, Brooke and Anne hosted "Bad Movie Night". A few months ago, I started this tradition in Minneapolis after an abysmally awful local independent film came out on DVD - I gathered my film friends, including a couple folks who'd worked on the movie, and we mocked it MST3K style. Anne and Brooke caught wind of this and insisted I bring the DVD with me to LA. We had a blast. In attendance were also Rachel (Brooke's business partner, whom I knew only vaguely previous to this trip; I think we worked on the Prairie Home extras casting team together a few years ago), Nathan (my lead actor in my "Harry Putter" movies), Matt ("Draco" in Putter 1), and Anne's new LA friend Bernadett (one of the sweetest, most humble people ever; meeting her is a story unto itself). Awesome night, with a group of truly awesome people.
Other miscellaneous stories:
It rained overnight one night. Otherwise, hardly ever a cloud in the sky, and stable temperature (cold at night, just right during the day). And aside from the tractor race outside my window Thursday morning (aka, a lawn mower and weed whacker), the city was quieter than I expected. Traffic was not as terrible as I'd feared. Nor were prices - Targét was more or less consistent with Minneapolis. Gas was about 30 cents more expensive.
How do you spot the tourist from Minnesota? I was the only one who always forgot to bring sunglasses. Thank goodness Brooke and Anne started reminding me.
Anne and Bernadett were in a Halloween one-act - Anne played a possessed girl who gnaws on her own leg, whom Bernadett wants to kill her in order to protect their other friend. And that was only the second one-act of six. Very uplifting evening.
Bernadett's birthday happened while I was in town, we took her out to breakfast to celebrate (and obviously didn't let her pay!).
One day Anne took me to Griffith Observatory, a space/science history type museum on top a hill. Awesome place. I want to go back when it's dark sometime, the view of the night sky must be breathtaking. The views of the surrounding valleys also were spectacular.
And while we were at Griffith, I glimpsed "the" Hollywood sign on a faraway hill. Surreal. And a bit smaller than I'd imagined :)
On November 1st we went to the beach, just for the sake of saying, "It's November 1st, we're at the beach!" Granted, the ocean was a bit cool for swimming, but we dipped our feet in and drew in the sand. Fun.
I didn't make it to an official church service during my stay, but I experienced some truly amazing late night worship and prayer time, just on my own, me and God, with an album from Jesus Culture playing softly on iTunes. It shouldn't surprise me that God was there, too, so many miles away from "home"; nevertheless, our conversations came as an unexpected and pleasant surprise, and I felt a closer connection with Her than I have for a long while. He and I had some really good conversations.
This spiritual high, along with constant and uplifting encouragement from my friends, allowed me to leave inspired, with some clear life goals to achieve in 2011. Those will be covered in part 2, coming in a couple days.