My seat mate to the right has hair like Eddie Van Halen and is rock 'n' roll sloppy in faded jeans and a T-shirt. There are sunglasses and rings that have things dangling off them. His kicks are made of faux tiger fur and maybe it's overkill that there are tails twisted and jutting from the heels. Somewhere over Colorado he begins editing a music video starring himself. From the corner of my eye, I deduce this is hip-hop by the hand gestures. He's using vacation footage. His mom is a costar. Much of what I'm eaves-watching includes props that he currently has on his person: The sunglasses, a cell phone decorated with his signature American flag print.
I was close on almost everything I guessed about him -- I gave him a thorough Q&A when the plane landed -- except the genre of music. It's hippy-hop, or, happy hip-hop. Though I was surprised to find out he was from Bloomington.
On the bus from LAX to Union Station, we sat behind a woman reading a pamphlet entitled "Why I Must Have Sex with You." We ate Mexican food in Silver Lake and got swimmy on a single margarita.
We are repeat offenders at a vegan restaurant near Cath's apartment. They juice wicked combinations of foods found in nature and then a guy with finger-sized holes in the lobes of his ears, empty of gauges on this non-punky rocky morning, serves it. I have dense pancakes made with buckwheat and orange zest with my drink, which is zinging with ginger. The food here is great, the kind of breakfast you feel coursing through your body and giving you energy as opposed to, say, doubled over and moaning about stretched intestines and pores clogged with cheese. On the other hand, it's a little grimy. To touch the seat of the booth is to feel braille reminders of past customers all blissed out over a mound of quinoa and the absorbent nature of tofu.
A stray piece of leaf is baked into the lip of Chuck's water glass.
Cath's friend K is on driving duty for the week. He's super schooled in traffic laws and knows the city and its alternate routes. He prefers constant motion to sitting bumper to bumper. He performs near pedestrian-grazing antics, is quick-draw on the horn, and talks to other cars.
"Alright, gangsters," he says. "Let's see what we got here."
Sometimes I watch out the window in awe; Sometimes I plug face first into my phone when zipping along at 60 miles per hour through a residential area starts to feel dangerous. But he's always in control, knows what he's doing. He's got a background in taxi driving and the conversational cues that come from toting strangers. He tells us about landmarks as we zip past, Gene Autry's museum a blur out the back window as he tells us about what is inside.
We go to the Getty Museum, which has a Herb Ritts exhibit. The late photographer made portraits of the stars, much of it commercial work. Short-haired Madonna with her head thrown back, the image used on the cover of her album "True Blue," for instance. His subjects, sometimes male ballet dancers, pose in a sculpture-y way. This is my favorite. He also created the video for Chris Isaac's "Wicked Game."
Later, standing on a scenic overlook at the Getty, a museum-goer trundles up to the railing and surveys the cacti garden.
"It's so sexual," he says.
The rest of the museum is museum-y and Chuck and I spend a good part of it playing "Haunted or Not." We claim to be able to see the unsettled spirits tucked into the drawers of ancient dressers, rugs and beds.
We take Mulholland Drive back to Cath's neighborhood, whipping along the curves and ogling big houses with amazing vistas. Falafel at an Armenian restaurant that loads the table with a tray of starters that includes pickled beets, olives, carrots, cheese and pita.
We watch British comedy from the 1960s starring a baby-faced Dudley Moore.
Comic book store, a little shopping. I'm in the fitting room when Chuck sees Brenda from "Six Feet Under" wander into the store, talk to the shop owner, act like a normal person instead of "Charlotte Light and Dark." He freaks appropriately, like you would expect of a person who dabbles in gawking. This trumps seeing Craig, one of the secondary characters from "LA Ink," who we actually seem to see every time we are in Los Angeles.
Back in Minnesota, Chrissie claims Craig is not a celebrity sighting and that Brenda is.
"I don't want to quibble," I tell her. "But Craig pulled Kat Von D's greatest tattoo artist, which is kind of like winning a Golden Globe."
We wander around the museums at Forest Lawn cemetery, where a few famous people are buried, though they won't tell you where. Off to the Glendale mall.
The Jersey Shore musical is at a small cool theater near McArthur Park. The lobby smells like bodies. It's a plot-light, song-heavy production -- more of a revue than a musical. The character playing The Situation has mastered the eyebrow raises and ab-revealing shirt tugs. Even his walk is right. The character who plays Angelina and Deena is the funniest. There is a running duet between Ronnie and Sammi and the greek choir is referred to as "random sluts." There is a lot of fodder for a Jersey Shore musical, and they certainly missed a lot of ripe opportunities. All in all: Fun. Funny-ish. Most importantly, short.
"I found it a little trite," a guy gave his verbal review in the lobby.
Which makes me think he missed the point.
Up Next: Watts Towers and the worst house guests ever.