Up, down, all around

At the start of the flight back from L.A. it was cloudy. Fortunately, halfway through it cleared up. I was presented with a gorgeous view of the mountains. Especially with sunset happening; They lit up beautifully. I find that topography inspiring. That is probably why I’ve maintained interest in my mapping program for so long. (I just wish I could maintain a regular interest so I could finish it.)
However, I may not like topography in the future. Some running friends have decided (stupidly, even for us) to do the Death Race. The peer pressure is fairly intense. I can very well see myself getting dragged into what is probably the toughest race in North America, if not the world.

Distance gives you perspective

Let’s discuss California.
Now that I have finally been there, I think I can comment on it. (Actually I was in California twenty years ago on a family vacation, but I don’t think we ever went to a major metropolitan area.)
The people there were friendly. And, in a surprising difference from other places I’ve been, they were not fat. Healthy people were a common sight. Also, I didn’t see as many American flags as I’m used to. This state really is different from every other one in the union.
The problem with L.A. is that, to get anywhere, you need to drive. And the driving there is terrible. Very slow. A local told me that most people rarely leave an area of five miles from where they live. I can believe that. The city also makes driving feel threatening. In several places I saw those barbs that would sherd your car’s tires if you go through in the wrong direction. Are people there that ignorant of the rules that they need to threaten you with hundreds of dollars in damage? No forgiveness for driving here.
Palm trees were a common enough vegetation. In Canada, when the leaves fall from the trees, they are easy to sweep away. When a palm tree frond falls, it becomes a major traffic hazard.
My biggest regret was that I wasn’t busier there. Most of the time I was just flapping in the breeze and going along with whatever was happening. This was not an efficient use of my time. But now that I have knowledge, I think I could plan a much better trip. One where I am going non-stop. That is how my vacations should be.

And back again

I have returned safely. I left the Calgary airport parking lot at about 7:15. And I’ve arrived here at 9:45. I’ll need to figure out if driving instead of flying is better.
I haven’t eaten since this morning.

LAX Romana

They had better hurry up and discover me soon, they are running out of time. My plane leaves in half an hour, and it will be a lot more inconvenient for them once I’ve left the country.
As a pleasant change, I nearly got a decent night’s sleep last night. I wasn’t at the hotel anymore but was staying with friends. They have quite the party house and have had a lot of people staying with them over the long weekend. I was lucky to get any time there. But it was a fun group of people.
It was surprisingly easy to drop off the rental car. Hertz had asked me to be there an hour before I was due. I’m glad I ignored that and had time to have a home-cooked breakfast with friends. I showed up twenty minutes before the deadline. And all I really needed to do was park the car. A nice man waved a bar code reader and gave me a receipt. I suppose it would have been more difficult if I hadn’t picked up cheap American gas before arrival. However, it was also a gas guzzling American car, so it balances out.
My usual souvenir duty-free alcohol purchase had a little trouble. I wasn’t sure what local beverage to get. It can’t be wine (despite a Californian specialty), because that will spoil after opening, and this is something that I want to last. (At a Trader Joe’s yesterday I saw a good bottle of Merlot for $2. Curse you duty limit!) It can’t be beer because that is too… common. So I decided to splurge a bit and get a scotch, bottled in Scotland. But I can claim some locality because it was aged in American oak casks. I have a friend who is a Scotch connoisseur, and it would be nice to know what scotch distillery is his favored brand. He’s going to be drinking this more than I am.
I’ll be boarding soon. Los Angeles airport hasn’t been as bad as people have been telling me it would be. Things have been fairly efficient. I did help by checking in on-line yesterday. I even got to pick my seat on the plane so that I am in a window on the mountain side of the aircraft. (And they wanted to give me the window in the emergency exit row on the wrong side. Pft.)
Now I have a relaxing flight back and then a three hour drive home. Maybe I can cut that last part down a bit by driving like a maniac. How are the roads on the QE2?


Didn’t get discovered at the beach.
It took awhile for me to get functional. And I’m still seeing friends all over the place. But I finally got down to the beach. Unfortunately it was fairly late. I parked the car, got out and realized that the Santa Monica beach is very cold. I wandered through the pier a bit, and then noticed that south of it, the temperature was much nicer. So I went back to the car, changed, and started running to Venice Beach. Three miles away.
Venice Beach is much more of a destination than Santa Monica. If I had life to live over (and a better sense of how to commute in L.A.) I would have driven to Venice Beach and started the run there.
The area along the beach is full of kitsch stores. It’s like an army of hippies all descended on the place at once and made it their own. But a better mental image might be Whyte Avenue. Only more Whyte, in a non-supremacist way. And an outdoor weight training gym plunked in the middle. (Muscle Beach.)
It is nothing like Venice, Italy. Unless you replaced the road with canals, and upped the price and quality of everything by 1000. (Level of usefulness is about the same.) I found it more similar to Nice. But that was giving me flashbacks to my collision with bicycles there.
It wasn’t that nice to run in the shopping area. And I probably shouldn’t have, but the lane was separated into bicycle and pedestrian, and the pedestrian one went right into the mass of hippy shoppers. Still, I got the amount of the ambiance that I would care for. I am not that good at window shopping.
I did the run all the way out to the end of the pier. If this was a movie, inspirational music would have been playing. There was a nice view. I stopped and watched a surfer try to catch a wave. It took several minutes before he found one he liked, and then he wiped out in five seconds. Wasting my time.
On the way back, the sun set behind the clouds. I got a nice vibrant sunset. The Santa Monica pier lit up nicely, with the fairground on it. However, it was like running River Valley Road and seeing the High Level Bridge in the distance. It never seems to get closer.
But, as all things do, it came to an end. I wandered around Santa Monica pier. I was tempted to go into the Bubba Gump restaurant, but that is an event restaurant. And you can’t go there on your own. In the end, lunch (at 6:00 in the evening) was a hot dog.
This is why I would have preferred to start from the other end. Venice Beach looked like it had a lot nicer places to eat and things to look at.

L.A. story

Nope, not discovered.
I feel I haven’t been spending my time in L.A. as efficiently as possible. I haven’t been doing much of the really touristy stuff. But I have discovered that driving in this town is terrible. It takes forever to get anywhere by car. And the yin to that yang is that you need a car to get anywhere.
But I have been having a great time. I’m just spending it more with friends than civic monuments. I had thought about doing an official L.A. tour today, but I didn’t get back in time to make the start. On the other hand, you know you are having a wild and crazy time when you end up in the hospital. I wish I could say it was for an arm broken in a bar fight, but no, just a small ear problem. And the recovery is essentially to ignore it and it will go away.
I’ve been staying up way too late. Fun fun fun. I think I’m going on about 4-5 hours of sleep a night. It is a struggle to get up before 10:00 for the hotel’s free breakfast. I could splurge and go across the street and eat some of the local cuisine. But this isn’t Italy. This is California, and I don’t need to prove anything. Besides, the local cuisine is an IHOP.
Now I should figure what I am doing today. As mentioned, previous plans have failed.

Sister act

It was like my sister was here.
We were out late partying. Then a bunch of us went to an afterparty. And someone asked how I could have this much energy this late. That is what my sister is always wondering.
Still, I left before everyone had gone. Stone cold sober, I drove back to the hotel. And this time I didn’t have a navigator with me. When I had gone to the bar, I had one, using a printout of Google maps to give directions.
I really wish I had a map of L.A.
It was a confusing trip back. I wasn’t sure if I was on the right highway, and so a bunch of U-turns were involved. Eventually I ended up right back where I had started from, just so I could try again from scratch. Obviously, in the end, everything worked out.
I am a very nervous driver. I am in a strange city, driving a strange car. I am supposedly covered from my auto insurance in Edmonton. But the Hertz representative put the fear of god in me. There will be deductibles to pay, and I would be so much better if I used their coverage. I didn’t, so I’m even more nervous.


Day two. Still not discovered.
Wandering down the street I saw a man walking by dressed in a full Spider-man costume. In the night his reflective eyes looked eerie. No idea why he was dressed that way.
At dinner I had the perfect stereotype. My waitress had come here from New York to be an actress.

Gother than thou

I was tired. I really didn’t want to go out. I was halfway to sleep before I changed my mind. I pulled myself out of bed, got changed and went out to meet some friends at a bar.
It was Goth-er than I was led to believe.
Since I was wearing black I didn’t stick out too much.
There was a women on a pole playing a game of let’s-see-what-gravity-defying-position-I-can-pose-in. She was very good. And fairly high up. I always thought my legs were strong, but after seeing her do things, and then hold them for such a long time…
It was nice to see my friends. Especially one I hadn’t seen for over a year. She still remembered me, and was still thankful that I had sent her pictures from our vacation.
As near as I can tell, I’m only person in the world that send pictures to people.

Hollywood Blvd

I wandered along Hollywood Blvd., but as the sun went down, it became chilly. So I’ve retreated to my hotel to get some warmer clothes. I was expecting L.A. to be more pleasant. But then, it is winter.
The Walk of Fame is very long. And after awhile it gets sort of boring. Eventually, I stopped paying attention to it and just acted like a tourist. I wandered into any store that looked interesting. The high point was when a clerk asked if I was in the film industry.
Actually the stores on Hollywood Blvd are somewhat sketchy. The three main genres I saw were tattoo parlors, exotic dancer clothing, and Scientologists. The latter one was the oddest. Whereas in other places, the Church of Scientology is kept discreet, here there were three big Scientology places, with larger than life neon signs.

Close up to L.A.

The plane was full of little children. I think they are heading to Disneyland. Maybe I should check that place out.
My first act in L.A. was to pick up my rental car. I splurged a bit and got a Mustang. Unfortunately, it isn’t a convertible. That would have cost a LOT more money. However, with all that power under the hood (relative to my Honda Civic) I am not treating it right. I’m going slow and nervous. I’m in a completely different city that I don’t know my way around. (I’m lucky I found the hotel.)
And yet I feel I recognize it. I am seeing so many names that I have heard before. I travelled along La Brea avenue (Which was weird. None of the “La Brea” marked businesses were mentioning tar pits, which is what I associate the name with.) I crossed Melrose and Santa Monica. My hotel is on Sunset Boulevard. (And I am not ready for my close up.)
It is weird having a hotel with a roof and walls in the hallway, and yet is still open to the elements. The people here do not have to deal with real weather.
But now, I feel the need to eat. Next door is an In-N-Out Burger place. Which I recall hearing very good things about, and only available in California. I haven’t had a greasy burger since last August, but I’m on vacation now. (Mind you, the only month I haven’t been on vacation since then was January, so that isn’t a solid argument.)

Departure Lounge

So, the Calgary Airport. We meet again. (I prefer the Edmonton airport; It has free Wi-Fi.)
My initial plan was to drive down from Edmonton this morning and then fly out. However, my parents really wanted Edmonton Farmer’s market eggs, so I drove down last night, slept over, then drove an hour to the airport this morning. This was all so I could avoid a 2-3 hour layover in Calgary if I left from Edmonton. But I’ve been wondering about that. Because it is an international flight, I am supposed to be here two hours before the flight. So maybe the long layover was necessary, and a flight would have been more efficient…
I got through all the rigamarole in less than half an hour. So now is the time when we wait.
This is why I hate flying. At least I don’t fear it; Just hate.
But this afternoon I will be spending Valentine’s day in Lala land. It beats the usual plan of going to a restaurant and glaring at the happy couples. But since I need to eat out anyway, I might just be doing that as well.
I am going for a vacation. I’ve got some friends there that I will see. I have no illusions about being “discovered”. But there is still a part of me that would think it would be cool.

No one is hiring for evil overlords

I’ve been talking to two of my oldest friends, the ones I had while I was in high school. i.e. They are about the same age as me. The one thing I’ve noticed is that they are very ambitious. They both take charge of their occupation and are working to better themselves in it.
I’ve noticed that I am not that ambitious. I’d like to be, but it just doesn’t seem to be happening.
I saw a financial advisor today and she went over my portfolio. I’m ahead of a lot of people because my parents taught me to save for retirement at a very early age. I also have investments in non-retirement plans. But then she asked what I am saving for.
I couldn’t answer.
So far I’ve been saving money because I feel I should. But as near as I can tell, it is just a way to keep score. I own my home. I have all the toys I probably need. I don’t have a family, which both of the aforementioned friends have. (Maybe that is why they are ambitious? Future generations?) I have nothing I really want to spend money on. I’m financially secure.
Maybe I need to get some fear of god in me? That’ll perk me up.