L.A. or bust

14 Aug

I can’t tell you how excited I was to rejoin my Act One family for a short reunion this summer.  It was a sunny Thursday when I flew out, but by the time I got in the air, there were some serious storm clouds gathering between me and my destination.  After a mechanical delay in Phoenix (on the same plane I’d already flown the distance from OKC on), I finally arrived in San Diego.

No typo.  I flew to San Diego to get to L.A.  That’s just how I roll.

I met up with one of my precious Act One pals, the gorgeous and talented Susie, to spend a few days seeing “America’s Finest City” before we headed to the reunion picnic together at Griffith Park on Saturday.  Susie’s amazing.  That day was her last day of school.  She’s a teacher and not only had regular responsibilities that day, but also graduation ceremonies and grades to get out before she picked me up to let me crash with her.  That girl can bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan.  I want to be like her when I grow up.

Friday kicked off with Susie going to work to wrap things up while I took a stroll to the beach.  The San Diego day was gray and so much colder than I would have expected.  Too cold to contemplate putting a toe in the Pacific. (That’s what they don’t tell us when we go there.  Sunny SoCal can be cold!)  But I never cease to be gripped by the overwhelming power of the ocean.

After I returned to Susie’s pad her parents picked me up and off we went to help her get moved out of her classroom.  I don’t normally believe everything I see on tv, but having been to an authentic SoCal high school now, I do believe what I saw on Veronica Mars is true.  High school there is better.  They live outside, Okies.  True story.  Patios, and patio tables, and open air hallways.  One word: jealous.

We got Susie moved, and she quizzed me on Broadway musical trivia on the way home.  She won.  We got all dolled up and took a stroll down to the pier where we ate THE BEST BURGER EVER at Ruby’s Diner.  No one can convince me that there are not sharks swimming under the pier.  Even though I was foolish enough to not take a sweater with me, the sheer volume of carbs I consumed kept me warm and toasty on the walk toward home, where we watched How I Met Your Mother and gorged on blueberries and Trader Joe’s dark chocolate covered peanut butter cups.  San Diego is “America’s Finest City”…because Susie is there, of course.

Saturday morning meant sleeping in.  We knew it was time to get up when we found each other posting on Facebook.  Susie treated me to an awesome hike at Torrey Pines State Park.  We went (what felt like) straight up the back of the mountain, which meant we got to come down on the ocean side.  Totally.  Awesome.  Pelicans were hunting in military formation, lizards and bees frolicked among the hikers, and dolphins played in the waves below us.  It got better with every step.  The mountain trail ended at the beach where we, of course, kicked off our walking shoes and cooled our heels in the water all the way back to the car.  Another awesome meal at Ki’s with a great view and then back to the pad.  Since there was still more eating to do, Susie and I went for froyo, and she showed me the Top Gun house.  I didn’t exactly get to stand on the front porch, but I certainly got to stand where Tom Cruise and his motorcycle did.  It’s condition is pretty sad now, but it’s still one of the most important pieces of 80’s history.  It’s nowhere near as solitary of an area as it looks in the movie.  At least not 25 years later.  Too soon it was time to pack and head north to LA.

The legendary traffic hit us sooner than expected, but nothing could have stopped us from getting to the reunion.  Or as I like to refer to it, Heaven on Earth.  I got to hug necks and see faces I’ve only seen on Facebook over the last two years.  I’ve missed them all and the precious community we have together.  Many of my classmates were not there, and the picnic was cut short by the park closing, but it was worth the trip halfway across the U.S.  Their genuine love for each other and their craft is such an amazing encouragement to me.

I reluctantly said goodbye to Susie and the lovely Mirachelle and I drove off for her shared apartment with our classmate Daireen and their pets.  It was fabulous to be reunited with Mirachelle and Daireen…and to finally meet the great Pele, Daireen’s handsome guard dog.  We got to spend a little time catching up before getting the z’s we needed for another full day of Act One family fun.

While Daireen headed off to her own family festivities on Sunday, Mirachelle and I went for a tasty brunch at Henri’s.  Yum.  Yum.  I like my eggs smothered in potatoes, please.  Cute atmosphere, too.

Later that afternoon Mirachelle and I hooked up with Jill and Liz, two other pals from Act One, at the Aroma Café.  More Heaven on Earth.  I sat in the full sun, sans sunscreen, and listened to their stories about where they’ve been and what they’ve done since we last met.  Hemingway never savored a Paris café the way I savored those moments with them.  And the chocolate truffle cookie.  Ahem.

Mirachelle and I wrapped up our day with a fabulous fresco dinner at Chipotle and Midnight in Paris at the Burbank AMC with another classmate Tara.  We caught up with Daireen in time to see Pele do some tricks before bedtime.

Daireen was absolutely precious to take Monday off to show me around the City of Angels.  We went to the Star Diner for breakfast and then headed off to a Metro park & ride.  I love the Metro subway.  Not sure why but it does bring back memories of riding the Tube in London.  And it’s kind of like being rocked in a really big cradle.  But the best part of all is there is NO traffic.  In downtown L.A., Daireen and I strolled past the Staples Center and through L.A. Live before heading to City Hall for lunch at the new Homeboy Diner.

Funny story: So we’re sitting in the middle of a hallway in City Hall, munching our tamales, when the lady from the only other occupied table comes over.  Turns out she’s on the board of Homeboy Industries and wants to see how we are enjoying our hot lunches.  Also turns out Daireen worked on the documentary that was done about HI for the Discovery Channel.  Small world getting smaller.  To tell you the truth, I’d seen a documentary about HI on PBS years ago and had put visiting them on my bucket list, but since our time was limited, Daireen suggested this diner, though she didn’t realize it had only just opened.  And now having been inside City Hall now, I’ll never look at L.A. crime shows, or TMZ, the same way again.

Daireen and I made our way on foot to see the Disney Hall and the Ahmundsen Theatre, and then rode to my favorite Metro stop in the city, Union Station, where we walked over to Olvera Street for some chocolate-filled churros and shopping.  I had a little birthday buying to do — a personalized pink-flowered mini-guitar for my niece and a silver & turquoise cross for my sis-in-law.  A girl can’t go home to Oklahoma empty-handed.

Back in the flow of L.A. traffic, our next stop was a brief tour of the suburb of Daireen’s dream homes.  That’s one of the things I love about her.  Not only does the girl have dreams, but she loves to share them with others.  That girl’s gonna get there someday.

Our final destination of the day was to meet up with Mirachelle and Tara and our other classmate Bethany for some muy delicioso Mexican food at Soy Y Luna.  It goes without saying that the fellowship was even better than the food.  I was so sad to say goodbye to Bethany and Tara that night because it meant I was one step closer to going home.  It was our last real chance to hang out.  As consolation, Mirachelle introduced me to the wonderful world of Drop Dead Diva.

First thing the next morning Daireen got me out the door to Bob Hope Airport.  Gotta say the woman knows L.A.  Her timing through traffic was perfect.  I got to the airport just ahead of a monster line of travelers.  Nevertheless, I was a hungry camper and trekked off in search of breakfast.  But if you’re looking for anything other than coffee for breakfast at that airport, you’re out of luck.  I got the boys at Chazz Burger to grill me a loaded cheeseburger and sat down to inhale it before my flight.  So I’m just going to admit it — I was really nervous being at that airport.  You never know when you’re going to run into someone that you’re a fan of, and here I was with mustard all over my face and without my Sharpie.  I did find a huge diamond ring in the ladies’ — and I sincerely hope it made its way back onto the hand of the lady it belonged to.  Even though they’re lacking in breakfast hospitality, I must say I’m a fan of the Burbank Airport because they do things the old-fashioned way.  You get to walk out onto the tarmac and climb up a ladder to get into your airplane.  How cool is that?  I haven’t seen that since I lived in Beaumont.

My flight home was good, but the last leg was brutal.  The people next to me were telling stories that got my stomach doing serious flip-flops.  Why do people tell strangers stories like that?  My earpods got a workout on that flight.

I’m so grateful to my Act One friends for hosting me and showing me such a great time while I was there.  But even more than that, I’m thankful for their friendship and shared love of all things Hollywood…for the way they open their hearts and use their pens to shape the voice of our culture.  They always ask me when I’m moving out there.  The answer is I don’t know.  But until I do, I plan to join them every year for our reunion or for as long as they can put up with me.  After all, I am the crazy Cousin Jenn who gets spinach in her teeth and wears more of her macaroni salad than she eats.  If you’re looking for a family like that, you really should join ours.  Check out Act One and get connected.

3 Responses to “L.A. or bust”

  1. Susie September 11, 2011 at 12:22 pm #

    Hey! I feel famous now that I’ve made it onto the blog of the lovely and talented Jennifer. I can’t wait until you come to California again. Thanks again for all your help moving me out of my classroom – I certainly could not have had everything out by the deadline without your help. Next time you come visit, I’ll try not to put you to work.

    • Jennifer White September 11, 2011 at 4:26 pm #

      You have arrived! But not because of me. Fame just happens when you’re awesome. You honored me by letting me help you…I hope you’ll always do so. And by the way, I held the best picture in reserve. 🙂 Say hi to the Pacific for me.


  1. My summer in review « In Which I Blog - September 11, 2011

    […] With summer approaching rapidly, I also started setting writing goals and planning a big L.A. reunion trip.  My writing goals may have flopped, but my trip did not. […]

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