California Adventure 2012

6 Jul

It’s that time of year again — time to reconnect with my Act One family at our annual reunion.  This year — gulp — flights with Southwest tripled in price, so the length of my stay in LA was hijacked by the airlines.  Lucky for me I got to stay almost a week this time.  But it also meant my Act One friends had to put up with me longer this time.

I was blessed, blessed I tell you, to fly non-stop into LAX…and even more blessed to have a friend who was willing to make the drive down there to pick me up!  Miss Susie saved the day again — I arrived at LAX around 10pm on Wednesday night, and there she was at baggage claim with one question on her lips: “So what should we do first?  The Sprinkles ATM or the beach?  Or both?”  Well, both, silly.

At the Sprinkles ATM I met the cupcake of my dreams.  I plan to pick out a ring and mail it in with a proposal.  Seriously.  The name “Chocolate Coconut Cupcake” does not do it justice.  More like Dark Chocolate Sweet Sweet Coconut Delight Brought to Earth in the Hands of an Angel.  Is that too long to go on the Sprinkles menu or something?

Then Susie took me to a beach-side gazebo at Santa Monica to dive in (to the cupcake).  We had hoped the ferris wheel would still be open, but alas…Santa Monica just doesn’t keep our kind of hours.  Even so, it was terribly romantic for us two couples (Susie & her cupcake, and I & mine).  You think I’m kidding.  Never question a woman’s devotion to her chocolate baked goods.

At the apartment she shares with Jill and the very handsome Bauer, Susie and I were up till 2:30am Pacific Time catching up.  That’s what I love about my Act One/Cali friends.  They live for each moment.  I can sleep when I get home.

While Susie went to work out on Thursday morning, I stayed home in bed watching Serenity.  I had rented the movie for the airplane, but the flight was so loud I couldn’t hear any of the dialogue, so I was determined to fill in the gaps before my rental expired.  When Susie, a.k.a. Queen of the Groupons, got back, she took me for a glorious patio lunch at Charlie’s Bakery on Ventura.  I had the most wonderful boiled salmon sandwich on sourdough, and Susie introduced me to coconut water.  I’ll never switch back.  She took me on the Fryman hike in Studio City, then we made the required pilgrimage to Trader Joe’s for reinforcements and were joined later by the beautimous, exceptionally talented Liz.  Those girls clean up real nice.  All dressed up, we had someplace to go.  Tender Greens for dinner, followed by the historic Pantages Theater in Hollywood for The Addams Family musical.  Such an entertaining musical and performance!  Afterward, the girls walked me in to the super posh lobby of the W Hotel full of the trendiest night life in Hollywood.  I’ve never felt so small.  We wrapped up the night by ordering a delectable chocolate peanut pie at Aroma Café five minutes till close from a beautiful and gracious server.  The pie was little consolation for an absent Nathan Fillion.  To think I went all the way to Hollywood to find him, only to find out on Twitter later that night that he was in London.  Bummer!

Thanks to Trader Joe’s, I was able to get back into my omelet routine on Friday morning.  Susie went off to work, and I sat down to do the same…on my blog.  I got My first film festival post written, and that’s it.  It takes me a loooong time to blog.  You may have noticed the big gap between the Friday I wrote it and the day I published it.  I have to sleep on stuff.  It’s kind of a cross between never wanting to publish anything willy-nilly and being too insecure to think it’s worth sharing.  Not sure if I’ll ever get over that or not, but that’s how I roll.

When Susie got back at noon, we got semi-dolled up again because Friday was another big day for us.  The Queen was back on her throne with a Groupon to a fabulous, wonderous place called Chado at the Dolby (formerly Kodak) Theatre in Hollywood.  High tea was on the menu.  The menu with 40 pages of teas to choose from.  It was heaven.  We sat next to the open door, and were joined at the table next to us by two Australian women who knew how tea really should be.  The waiter was having a good time, and so were we.  I’m only bummed I didn’t get any of it on video.  But video could not have told you how amazing the hot, fresh scones were, or how I felt when I took my first ever bite of clotted cream.  I had the blueberry tea.  Or maybe I should say one of the blueberry teas.  Divine.

God was good to make food.  And even better still to make precious people to share it with.  Thank you, Susie.

We were in a little bit of a hurry to finish high tea (though some things cannot be rushed) because we had another date to keep.  We had a date with Mirachelle and Tish…and with Jimmy Kimmel.

They sent us to the alley behind the theater to wait in line for the show.  Waiting in line is no chore when I’m with these girls.  We had a lot of fun just gabbing and catching up on each other while we waited…and then someone pointed out that inside the fence to the adjoining lot behind us was the outdoor set for Jimmy Kimmel.

After going through security, we were allowed inside.  They seated us in groups of four, and somehow we got lucky enough to end up on the second row stage left.  Being at the back of our group I ended up on the inside aisle seat…with no chairs in front of me but Jimmy’s…and his monologue spot to my left…and then the room started spinning and it all went dark.  No way was I going to sit there.  There’s practically a whole book written on this blog about the extent of the wallflower that I am.  No.  Way.  So after a quick audience break, I asked Susie to switch seats with me.  Amazing what having another human (shield) in front of me can do for me.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t shield enough.

During the warm-up act, the comedian asked where we were all from and really took the time to get around to everybody.  I debated on forgetting that I was from out of town, but I knew my friends wouldn’t let that happen, so I raised my hand.  And when he called on me, I completely lost my mind.

“Where are you from?”

“Oklahoma City — THUNDER UP!!!”

Next thing I remember, the musicians came in, and they were really good!  I could have just listened to them all night.  Then they rolled the big cameras in and the countdown began.  Jimmy was on stage in a flash.  I was struck how skinny he was.  He did the children’s choir singing NBA player tweets, Tracy Morgan came on the show and won us all Xboxes, and then we filmed another partial episode with two NBA players doing a Skype scavenger hunt.  And in between taping segments, Jimmy came out to shoot the breeze with us.

“So where are you guys from?”

All the sudden there’s a mic and camera in my face.  I could barely croak out…

“Oklahoma City…”

“Why are you here?  Shouldn’t you be in Miami?”

“Oh, no, LA’s a great place to be.” (or something equally lame)

“Where do you work?”

(Blinking–do I really want to say where on national tv???)

The only other thing I remember is him talking to Susie and something about screenwriting and wouldn’t my job make a great story for a script and how I was visiting her and then it all went dark again.  I have the impression that even though I was sitting down I was hanging on to Susie’s arm like it was a life raft.

But knowing what I know about the biz, I know that nothing’s ever an accident.  I was the last one the opening comedian talked to, but the first and only audience member Jimmy asked where I was from.  Fortunately none of this conversation made it into either of the shows we taped that night.  But the fact it’s out there somewhere makes me a little nervous.  I’m hoping that the reason it didn’t make it into the show was because I didn’t say or do anything dumb enough to make the cut.  Fingers crossed.

I was SO relieved to see the sunlight again.  My inner 13-year old takes over when I’m in situations like that, and it’s all I can do to snort and giggle coherently…and claw my way back out to the fresh air again when it’s over.  I can’t take myself anywhere.  No, really.

Susie drove me through West Hollywood on our way to dinner…gorgeous!  What a darling place!  Putting West Hollywood down on the list of places to explore better at a later date.  Then it was off to dinner at Du-Pars diner with the girls.  Bethany and Tara and Daireen joined us.  And there was pie.

Saturday brought the main event of the trip — the Act One reunion!  In the morning there was a showing and discussion of The Book of Eli.  And afterward…the reunion picnic!  I ate a new specialty which I believe will become all the rage.  I call it The Act One Burger.  It’s a hamburger on a hot dog bun.  Very trendy.  Only the coolest people can eat that and get away with it.  Right???

Attendance was great — the new class was there, fresh from their opening retreat.  I got to meet one of the two Oklahomans among them, and I was so excited to catch up with familiar faces and hear about their new adventures over the last year!  The weather was wonderful (of course), so we had no idea how sun-drained we were getting.  All too soon it was time to pack up and go.  Walking away was the saddest part of the trip.  But not to worry.  Susie always knows how to cheer me up!

We grabbed Chipotle to-go on the way home and tried to recuperate our strength before attacking the evening ahead.  Susie made the wise choice — she ordered the shredded beef and got it in manageable tacos.  I got the chopped beef in a gigantic burrito and proceeded to get it all over everywhere except in my mouth.  After cleaning up a bit (ahem), we checked the movie listings at Graumann’s, recruited Jill to join us, and headed back to Hollywood for another adventure.  Queen Susie’s Groupon got us admission to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel with popcorn and drink.  It was like movie heaven.  It was my first time in the non-historic section of Graumann’s, and it was so nice.  A little tricky to find, but really nice — modern furnishings in the huge lobby, huge, neat bathroom, theater with seats built at a good slope so every seat is a great one.  And the movie was full of my favorite British actors.  I admit, it was hard to watch Celia Imrie’s performance without giggling about her eating worms in Nanny McPhee.  And we had fun people- (and paparazzi-) watching while waiting in traffic on the way out of Hollywood.

Sunday morning we slept in and went to church at Ecclesia.  The Father’s Day lesson was terrific, and we ran into Act One pals Tish and Galen while we were there.  Susie and I dined at Sharky’s afterward so we’d have plenty of strength for shopping at Target in Hollywood for supplies for the 2009 class reunion shindig that Susie and Jill were so sweet to host that night.  We got games and goodies and almost everything I needed to make the now famous Sprinkles Chocolate Coconut Cupcake.  Did you know that Target carries refried black beans and Pillsbury Dark Chocolate Cake Mix?  I know!  Neither did I!

On the way out Susie let me jump out to say hi to my greenest girlie crush — Kermey the Frog at Jim Henson Studios.  (insert girlie scream here)  I heart The Muppets.

And on the drive back, Susie pulled off onto Mulholland Drive so I could see what the big deal was all about.  It really is a big deal.  At the Universal City Overlook we stopped and got out.  FABulous view of Studio City, North Hollywood and Burbank.  It’s amazing to me there are so many awesome residential views within such “easy” drives to the city.  So I decided that instead of a house in Malibu, I’d like one on Mulholland Drive.  Yes, please.

Back at the apartment, we turned on Pandora and got busy baking and getting everything ready.  I’ve never had so much fun baking cupcakes before!  Everything turned out so beautifully — you should have seen Susie’s gorgeous spread!  Fruits and candies and cuppies and sangria…all set up like a food stylist pro!  We turned on the NBA playoffs game to watch the Thunder and our first episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live that followed.  Before we knew it, ten friends were gathered and having a blast.  Ok, so I was wrong.  When my classmates left Sunday night was the saddest part of my trip.

Monday morning I fixed black bean omelets so I’d be ready to make the six mile round-trip hike up to the Hollywood sign with Susie.  I can promise you that I would have never found my way to the path if Susie had not been driving.  Something about you can only find it if you already know where it is.

If you’ve never been on a hike with Susie, you’re missing out.  She’s a fabulous hike-leader.  She knows just when to tell you “only a little bit further” or “there’s a shady spot to rest just around the bend” or “we’re almost past the hard part.”  The girl really should be a coach.  It’s a great hike because it’s challenging but scenic and up high enough to get plenty of breezes.  Susie had packed her backpack full of picnic snacks to munch on at the top.  That little mountain has simply amazing views.  You can pretty much see everything there is to see until the smog is too thick to see any further: Los Angeles, Century City, and beyond.  The big letters are fenced off, and big brother is watching to make sure you don’t try to get any closer.  It’s a shame some people have to ruin things for everybody else.  But I got as close to the Hollywood sign as is legally possible, and that’s what matters.  Thanks, Coach Susie!

Susie and I filmed part of our Amazing Race audition video on the way down and then checked out the original Bat Cave at the bottom of the hike before we left.  But the adventures of the day were not over yet.  We drove to Daireen & Mirachelle’s place to visit Pele and then head out to our now traditional dinner with friends at Sol Y Luna.  Pele was just as awesome as ever.  It was a treat to give him treats and have him let me pet him.  Score!  The food at Sol Y Luna was even better than I remembered.  If you go, be sure you have them make guacamole for you.  Yum, yum!  Back home for our last night hanging out, Susie shared one of her favorites with me — Music and Lyrics — and I had another cupcake.  Maybe it’s not a good thing that I learn how to bake these things.

One final black bean omelet Tuesday morning before packing up and heading to LAX for the nonstop home.  I was ready to snuggle with my puppies, but not ready to say goodbye.

I used the trip home not to watch soundless movies this time but to write.  I got down my notes about the trip and planned some blog posts and worked on my children’s story until I got too restless to write any more.  I want to be more deliberate about writing.  I want to be more proactive about my future and what I can do to shape it myself rather than having “forces of fate” shape it for me.  That’s part of the reason why making the annual reunion a major event in my life is so important to me.  It’s partly because I need to be reenergized and reinspired.  It’s also partly because my friends out there are in the trenches, fighting to live their own dreams, and it means a lot to me that I can be a crazy little cheerleader from Oklahoma for them — to encourage them and hold their arms up for a few days.  And it’s also because I listened to my teachers and I believed them when they said it’s all about networking — it’s all about people.  We are all we’ve got.  And I’m not just talking about Act One or about getting paying jobs.  I’d love for my little stories about vacationing in California to entertain you, yes, but I also want to share the message my friends there have taught me.  The world is so much bigger than we are, and we need each other, no matter where we are or what we dream of doing.

So praise God for Facebook, United Airlines, Act One, and Sprinkles cupcakes.  Amen.

2 Responses to “California Adventure 2012”

  1. Kristiana at 12:36 pm #

    So fun to see all the pictures from your visit! I’m glad I got to catch up with you on Saturday at the BBQ, especially since I had to leave before the festivities on Sunday.

    • Jennifer White at 2:54 pm #

      I wish I’d gotten a picture with you at the picnic!! 🙂

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