Monday, September 7, 2009

In which we meet a fellow blogger

... and finally get to meet a dog!
One of the really nice and interesting things about blogging is meeting other bloggers.  I met my first blogger in real life only two years ago and since then, I have had breakfasts with groups of Ottawa bloggers and even met a Brooklyn blogger in Paris!  Back in 2005-6, I kept a blog chronicling my raising of a puppy for Guide Dogs.  Other puppy raisers found me and we read each other's blogs and created a sort of online community.  One puppy raising blogger in particular stood out, in part because of the quality of her writing.  We became friends and when I announced I would be in California on a pilgrimage to see Cesar, we decided we had to meet.
Jenny knew of a restaurant near where she lived south of LA, which actually allowed dogs on the patio and we agreed (through an exchange of emails, mostly on Facebook) to meet there for lunch. 

We checked out of our motel in Santa Monica that morning and set out to find some free internet access.  Peter had looked up the address of the library (the branch nearest us, in any event) and we drove over there first.  He parked while I went to see if it was open, which it wasn't.  Then I spotted a man emptying the external book return box and asked him about the wifi.  Most people until then had faked knowing whether there was free wifi.  When asked, they would look around at the air and mumble something about how it should be over there, somewhere.  This fellow seemed to know what he was talking about.  He said that the library was actually going to be closed for renovations for some time, starting today!  But he then said that down the street was a restaurant that offered free wifi if you ordered something there.  I must have looked skeptical so he gave me directions and encouraged me to try.

We ended up having a perfectly decent breakfast at Panini Garden on Main Street, not that far from our motel or the library.  It was a little place with only two fellows running it.  We asked about the wifi and once we figured out something we had done wrong with our computer, we got on line and were able to read and respond to emails.  I think I had finally written one of these entries (I was probably still on day 2 of our trip!) and I uploaded it from there.  Peter had eggs with spinach and I had yogurt with fruit and granola and we both had coffee and relaxed.

After breakfast, we wanted to have a look at Venice Beach, and in particular "Muscle Beach", as we had heard about it and one of our friends back home wanted to know what it looked like, really. 


It was just down the road a piece and if we had been staying longer in the area, we would have walked there from our motel.  Instead, we drove down Main Street for a short while and then turned right toward the ocean, parked the car and got out for a short walk.  Not only were we running out of time to get to Torrance, but as usual, the morning was very cool and there was a lot of fog obscuring the sun and so not many people were out and about on the beach anyway.

We did run across a large bunch of people all gathered together, with someone talking to them.  They each had an empty plastic bag in one hand and as we watched, they dispersed and began to pick up litter from the beach!  We didn't find out for sure but they looked like volunteers.  Maybe they were from some social club?  We saluted them, took their picture and left. 


Then we set out to find the place where we were to meet Jenny.  We had looked up the street address of the restaurant but we also knew it was in a mall.  What we hadn't counted on was the mall being so HUGE.  Even our trusty GPS seemed flummoxed by where we wanted to go.  Eventually we did find the place and we knew it was the right place because we saw Jenny, sitting outside on a bench with Truman.  Even though I am now an old hand at meeting fellow bloggers, it is still a bit of a thrill to see them looking so much like they do in their posted pictures.  Truman in particular had reminded me so much of Rockwell that it was even more interesting to  meet him in real life.  He was quite the intense little yellow dog and focussed on Jenny, as she asked him to wait before he greeted us.  He is only 3 (2 and some) so we are pretty sure he will mellow as Labs are wont to do, as he gets older.

We had a lovely lunch, marred only by the fact that Jenny's husband had to be at work.  Truman sat obligingly under the table and only licked my toes when I asked him to.  As usual, there was too much food but this time, we were able to ask for a doggie bag, not because we had a dog but because Jenny could take it home with her, as we couldn't because we were driving and didn't really have a home.  Up until then, I had tried to only order just what I could eat, knowing leftovers would have to be thrown out, which I hate.  I had brought Jenny some Canadian souvenirs for fun and we talked about everything under the sun and it was a real pleasure to get to meet her.  Then it was time to go.

We had planned to drive back to San Luis Obispo for the night, because the next morning we were due at Hearst Castle at 10, plus we had read in the guide book that SLO had a big Thursday night street market that was worth seeing.  We drove on the infamous 405 north through LA and out the north end, connecting with the 101 heading to SLO.  Traffic wasn't bad but it was only about 1 pm and rush hour traffic hadn't started.  One thing we noted that we had never seen before were traffic lights on the on ramps.  Your GPS would tell you to take a particular on ramp to get on the freeway and when you got there, the car ahead would stop at a red light on the ramp and then when it turned green, that car would spurt ahead and you would find yourself facing a red light.  The sign even said "one car per green" or words to that effect, so it was for controlling access to the freeway.  It does seem to me that there has to be a better way of getting people around LA.

Don't forget - Peter is still putting up pix in sets at Flickr, so you can go and have a little slideshow of the things already written.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The rest of the day in LA with no dogs

After our wonderful visit with the 29s, and since we were on Wilshire Blvd., I thought we should visit the LaBrea Tar Pits. I don't know why but the concept of the place has fascinated me since I was a kid. The idea of an open pit, connecting with the centre of the earth (well, sort of), left open in the middle of the downtown of a large American city, just had to be experienced. Plus, it was featured in the fairly recent movie "Volcano", so we pootled up the street and smelled it before we saw it. Was that true, or was it our imagination? We found parking around the back and drove up to the booth to get our ticket. The booth guy said we had to leave nine dollars in cash and then, when we left, he would give us back the excess. We said, "we're only going in for 30 minutes!" but he said, "that's the way it works." We rooted around and only found a five and three singles. I said, "We're Canadian! We wouldn't lie to you." He smiled and shrugged and took our $8 and let us in.

We found parking in the shade and walked into the green space, with the museum on our left. We headed toward a fenced area near Wilshire and saw the life sized statues of mammoths and knew we were in the right place. I don't seem to recall that it smelled like tar when we were close to it, and in fact, it is not actually "tar" that fills the pits, but asphalt but it didn't smell strongly of road paving either. While we stared at the surface of the pond, we saw bubbles come up on a regular basis. It's an eerie feeling to think that it is the earth itself that is alive under these ponds.

When we got to the other side of the pond, I actually got choked up when I saw the sculptures of the mammoth family, with the mother mammoth struggling vainly in the pond and the baby watching helplessly from the shore.

After only a little while, we decided to hit the road again and availed ourselves of the public washrooms, as they wouldn't let us use the ones in the museum without paying to get in. I didn't need to see the whole museum. I am fan of museums but we had limited time and it had to be used judiciously. We went back to the car and as we drove out, I said the the booth guy, "See! We were only 30 minutes!". We were actually about 45 minutes but we got back $5 of our $8, so I didn't tell a lie.

We headed over to Hollywood Blvd next, to see the Walk of Fame. It was just as portrayed in any number of tourist articles and movies. Peter spotted Superman walking by and told me to go over so he could get my picture taken. Just as I was protesting I didn't want to, Superman came over for the picture. He said he worked for tips (of course) and when Peter stuck his hand in his pocket, he was unprepared to only find 4 quarters in there. I said, "Never mind!" and felt embarrassed but Superman posed anyway. I don't know why we didn't have any cash on us to speak of unless it was because we were paying for all this parking (we had to park underground at the Walk of Fame) but if you are reading this, Superman, sorry about it dude. Especially because you don't have pockets.

From there, we checked our now indispensable Lonely Planet Guide and it listed three different studio tours. The most expensive was Warner Brothers but the guide said it was the most fun so we went there. Even though we didn't have tickets in advance, it was no trouble to fit us into the next tour of about a dozen people, as there are tours leaving every 20 minutes. We started with a brief movie of what shows are made at WB (movies and tv shows) and then we got on the electric trolley and headed out onto the lot(s). We weren't allowed to have our cameras with us as we were driven around the lots but once or twice, we stopped and were allowed to take a few pix.


We had a very enthusiastic guide - it was his first summer doing this and he said it was the best job in the world. We saw outside sets where they were filming a new tv series with Christian Slater (the crew had just disappeared inside a building to film a scene so we didn't see anyone famous). We also saw some museums where they had an entire floor of the Harry Potter costumes. The lower floor had costumes from lots of other movies, including Casablanca, and there was Sam's piano. I was amazed to see that this little upright piano was almost half-sized. It didn't have a full 88 keys and it almost looked like a kid's piano. Coincidentally, "Casablanca" was on tv when we got home and I was amazed all over again to see that it really was a dinky little piano!


They also had a museum of some of the cars used in films, like the Batman cars, The Dukes of Hazzard Charger, Clint Eastwood's own Grand Torino (on loan), and the Nerd Herd car from the tv show "Chuck". We got to see the set where they film the tv show "The Big Bang Theory" and heard about what it was like to be a studio audience, even though we didn't get to be one.


Most shows are on hiatus in the summer, especially in August but they were filming a few things. They were just starting to dress the town square where many movies and tv shows had been filmed, for the new series "Eastwick" starring Paul Gross, who I pointed out to the tour guide was Canadian, eh.


And when the tv series “Friends” was over, they packed up all the props from the sets and put them away until they recreated the set from the Central Perk cafe scenes for an interview they were doing. When they were about to pack it all away again, apparently Jay Leno persuaded them to leave it set up and now it is on the tour.


It really was a fun tour. We bought some souvenirs and then asked the gal at the checkout where we could go to get a good view of the Hollywood sign up on the hill and she pulled out a photocopied piece of paper that had driving directions on it, for just such a request. Guess we weren't the first ones to ask. So we drove up into a suburb and got a pretty good look at the sign from a distance. The photos don't look that sharp because it was a bit foggy.

We packed a lot into this one day because we planned to hit the road the next.