Week Five – A Solo Trip to Los Angeles
I will admit, when I came up with New Thing #27 on the List – take a solo trip to a new place – I had envisioned a pleasant but simple day trip to nearby Annapolis or Colonial Williamsburg. I never imagined that this New Thing would take me almost 3,000 miles away to Los Angeles, California. When a last minute work trip presented itself, however, I decided to take advantage of a unique opportunity. Without further ado, some highlights of my trip:
Thursday, January 31st: After a meeting in Phoenix, Arizona on Wednesday, I woke with the sun on Thursday morning and hustled to finish my work. After a brief plane ride, I landed at LAX around 1:00pm PST. I checked into my hotel in Beverley Hills and shed my jeans and sweatshirt for an outfit befitting my first destination – Rodeo Drive! As I peeked in the windows of the glamorous shops, I walked past paparazzi with watchful eyes and their cameras ready. Because I have been a fan of Pretty Woman since I was too young to understand the nature of Viv’s profession, I made a beeline for the Regent Beverley Wilshire Hotel. After snapping a few photos, I took a seat at the bar and ordered a $19 cocktail. Normally, I’m much more frugal – but I figured when in Rome [or Beverley Hills] …
Ready for lunch, I then made my way to a nearby restaurant where paparazzi swarmed around a woman in a leopard print dress clutching a small dog. Apparently, I’ve now had my first encounter with a Real Housewife. Since I am less-than-trendy when it comes to reality TV, I will trust my sister on this one. Sadly, my lunch was unmemorable aside from the waiter’s scornful look when I asked for ketchup for my potatoes. Afterwards, I enjoyed several hours exploring Chanel, Dior, Dolce, and even Harry Winston. Whilst handing me a glass of champagne, a salesman in Dior said that he LOVED my dress. I fought the urge to reply, “Thanks, it only cost the price of 2 cocktails!”
As the light faded on Vida de Rodeo, I was scooped up by my friend Chloe – who unfortunately was headed to San Francisco the following day, and thus could not be my host for the weekend. We joined a friend of Chloe’s at the Bungalow – a beautiful open-air venue near the water in Santa Monica. As we discussed our love lives at the bar, a dapper elderly man leaned in. He said to us, “I am 75 years old and have been married to a wonderful woman for 44 years. Do you want to know the secret to a loving marriage that can last half a century?” Charmed, Chloe and I nodded enthusiastically. The man responded, “It is all about great conversation.” Gesturing with his martini, he repeated “great conversation … and good sex.” After a lively conversation about the finer details of “happily ever after,” Chloe and I thanked him and made our way home.
Friday, February 1st: After working from my firm’s Los Angeles office on Friday, I left my nice Beverley Hills hotel for decidedly more adventurous accommodations – a youth hostel near the Santa Monica Pier. I conversed briefly with some Brazilian men in their 20s before getting ready for dinner (See New Thing #27 – Take a solo trip and have a nice meal alone). I ventured just a few blocks before I saw the perfect destination. I found a spot at the bar at The Misfit – a name that seemed perfectly appropriate for someone dining alone. Sitting in the dimly-lit restaurant, I watched the crowd converse as I enjoyed my bacon wrapped dates, duck confit, and brussels sprouts. Stuffed, I pawned several of the stuffed dates off on some boys standing by the bar. As it turned out, I had just made friends with a group of Pepperdine law students. When they invited me to another bar a short distance away, I joined them and allowed them to trounce me at pool until close.
Saturday, February 2nd: Despite the rich meal the night before, I woke ravenous on Saturday morning. The hostel’s fare was limited to cornflakes, so I eschewed that option and walked to the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market. I wandered the fruit and food stands, enjoying a (delicious!) butternut squash and goat cheese muffin. With my stomach satisfied, I decided to explore the Santa Monica Pier. The pier features a carnival-like park, so I tried and failed to win the Callie-dog a stuffed prize. I listened to the musicians on the pier and asked one to play a favorite, haunting tune – Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley (originally Lenard Cohen). Afterwards, I paid a fortune teller to look into my past and future. The cheerful old woman told me that she saw me in a past life as a Native man in South America, paddling down a river in a hollowed-out tree trunk. In my future, she saw a trip to Boston and a new love in the warmer months. I can’t say I take much stock in these predictions, but it was certainly an interesting new experience.
I left the pier and started to walk along the shore in the direction of the Venice Beach Boardwalk. After returning to the street, I became frustrated by the apparent lack of cabs in Santa Monica. Minutes later, a young man riding past on a bike stopped and shouted my name. As fate would have it, a friend of mine from law school was also visiting Los Angeles that weekend! I joined him and his friends for lunch at Venice Ale House – a nearby restaurant overlooking the ocean. After lunch, the boys realized they had 20 minutes to return the bicycles they’d rented from a vendor located at the other end of the beach. Since I had no bike, this posed quite a predicament – with a rather hilarious solution. My friend and I awkwardly rode tandem along the Venice boardwalk. Although, considering the fact that the Venice boardwalk is filled with street artists, musicians, magicians, acrobats and and peddlers selling “guaranteed laughs” for $1, I don’t think anyone batted an eye.
With the bikes returned, we located another beach-side venue and made friends with the bouncer. During a casual conversation, he mentioned that he was 54 years old. Amazed by this (look at the picture), I demanded to see HIS identification. Lo’ and behold – it read D.O.B.: 1959! When we asked him for the secret to his longevity, he replied “Just don’t stress. Let it all the little things go.” With the sun setting – I then realized that I had forgotten to do one last New Thing – put my feet in the Pacific Ocean. Accordingly, a new friend and I stripped off our shoes and raced down to the shore. We shivered from the icy water and snapped several photos before deciding it was impossible to make a picture of feet look good.
Exhausted from the long day, I returned to the hostel soon after our arctic plunge. I sat by the fireplace and chatted with a British girl who had just moved to L.A. on a whim in order to pursue a singing career. I was humbled by her bravado. Here I thought that I was brave for making a weekend trip across the country, and this woman had moved alone to a foreign place to start a new life! After an hour or so of pleasant conversation, I went to bed.
I concluded my trip on Sunday morning and arrived – exhausted – in D.C. in time to watch the second half of the Super Bowl. In sum, this week’s New Thing made a lasting impression on me. Travelling alone no longer seems intimidating. In fact, it is rather empowering to know that I can enjoy my own company and use a new experience as an opportunity for introspection. When my own company becomes a bit stale, there are 6 billion interesting people in this world to share a story with. And, let’s face it – I have never been known to be short on stories.
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