Homeward bound

I'm sittin' in the airport terminal, got a ticket for my destination. Mmmm ...

I'm leaving Los Angeles this morning after what has been an amazing week of exploring the city and connecting with some really awesome university alumni doing some really awesome things. The Photographer and I caught up with people managing e-commerce at a popular shoe and accessories company, producing movie trailers - including the man responsible for the "Inception" trailer, producing apps and games for The Jim Henson Company and writing for Disney. All of them, inspiring.

And the city. It's interesting after spending several days in a place how the streets and sights become familiar and you begin to engrain yourself in the area. You begin to get comfortable and at times sort of forget it's not home. ... Beyond that, it's been amusing to drive the streets, see the signs and pass locations of places I grew up hearing about in Beach Boys songs and rock n' roll documentaries -- places like Doheny Drive, Santa Monica Boulevard, the Hollywood Bowl, Hawthorne, Pasadena and Laurel Canyon. 

After our long day Wednesday, we got a good night's sleep and a hardy hotel breakfast. Thursday morning, we made our first foray into Hollywood to visit a trailer production company, where we interviewed an alumnus - and got a neat preview of a few noteworthy films due out in the next year.

From there, we headed north to Santa Clarita, a Los Angeles suburb, to meet an alumnus who has had success in the radio business and now runs a company that produces promotional spots and sound effects. 

With our work complete for the day and a free Thursday night, The Photographer and I ventured to Anaheim. I wanted to capture one of my baseball dreams - seeing an Angels game at Angel Stadium. Better yet, the Angels were playing the Dodgers, the team I adored growing up. 

Like all of our destinations throughout the week, we were within 30 minutes of the stadium. But - against rush hour traffic - it took us about 90 minutes to get there. We found the game on the radio and listened to it until arriving at the parking garage sometime during the third inning. There, we got our first good view of the stadium and began the walk to find seats. Breath-taking ...

Unfortunately, the cheapest tickets available in the stadium were going for $42 and on the third deck of the stadium. The Photographer and I didn't like it but after the time it took us to get there, we decided to suck it up and make the best of.it. Besides I had some graduation gift money to spend, and I was chasing a dream.

The cost of the ticket pretty much knocked out my hope of purchasing a souvenir rally monkey - which by the way would have set me back another 30 bucks. I love my baseball, but the ridiculous prices make me want to scream, and these days that's limited my spending to buying the ticket and rarely anything else. In days past, I might have bought an Angels cap to add to my collection of hats representing Major League cities I've visited. This time I didn't even bother looking at the price tags on the caps. Aye.

We traveled three sets of escalators and found our seats behind the left field foul pole. Immediately I began taking in the stadium, gazing at all the features I've seen for years during Angels games on TV. I would have enjoyed the view no matter where we were sitting. ...

We settled into our seats in time to see Ramon Hernandez hit a home run over the left field wall and tie the game at 2-2 for the Dodgers. ... The Rally Monkey made his first appearance around the sixth inning, jumping around on the jumbotron to the roar of the crowd. There was a comical scene from The Bachelorette, too, in which the monkey hopped from a limousine and the latest bachelorette - I don't know their names - was babbling about how cute the monkey was while it jumped and clapped.

And, oh, the crowd. The upper decks were filled almost entirely with Hispanic families, couples and youth. I had known the Dodgers and Angels are quite a draw for that population, but seeing their enthusiasm for the game only enhanced the experience. The Angel red and Dodger blue in the stands were evenly split, and when one of the teams made a good play or took a base, that team's fans were quick to fire friendly jabs at the opposing fans.

After the seventh inning stretch, we took a walk to explore the stadium further and find a different view. We settled into a couple seats on the first base line for the final inning.

The Angels closed it out with a 3-2 win, and the fireworks blazed into the air behind center field.

As we left the stadium, we headed to the main entrance because we missed it on the way in. Outside, we took in more of the stadium features while a collection of fans made noise behind the Fox Sports set as a pair of analysts were doing the post game show.

Back at our car we sat in the parking garage for more than an hour, waiting for traffic to clear. Then it took us just 30 minutes to get back to our hotel.

By my count, Angel Stadium is the 11th baseball stadium I've visited. It's the 12th if you count Milwaukee County Stadium, which no longer exists (Click here. See No. 15.).
A good night.
* * *

Our Friday was packed with interviews, and none of them disappointed.

First, we hit the home of a young associate film producer. When he greeted us at the door and let us inside, The Photographer asked, "What fraternity did you kick out to get this place?" He hit the nail on the head. ... The home was decorated with dark wood paneling and wood floors. There was a pool table in the dining room, surrounded by bookshelves supporting vintage film equipment and other props. The living room had a piano and a built-in hutch filled with wine glasses. There was no doubt it was the home of a bunch of young artists. As he gave us the tour, the producer told us how the house had been passed down among grads of a certain film school, and his roommates now include several musicians, including a couple guys who play with Josh Radin. Pretty cool.

After the interview, with about an hour until our next meeting, we headed up the hill to the Griffith Observatory for a better view of the iconic Hollywood Sign, not to mention the city. Amazing.

Next up, The Jim Henson Company, where we met an alumna who produces apps and games for children's programming. She was another wonderful interview with an inspiring passion and energy for what she's doing. Adding to the fun, we graduated from the college at the same time and share some mutual friends to this day, but only knew of each other at the time we were going to school. As with all of our interview subjects throughout the trip, it was fantastic to establish that connection and hear about the great work my peers are doing.

We received a wonderful tour of the Jim Henson lot, which formerly was the home and work space of Charlie Chaplain. Many of the buildings where he worked and shot film are still standing and in use. We also got a peak inside the screening room, a green screen set. And it turned out some scenes from the latest Muppets movie were filmed on the lot. I need to see that again.

Finally, we headed over the hill from Hollywood to Disney Channel's offices in Burbank to see a writer/editor. This stop was made more fascinating for me by the fact that it was a home base for a lot of the TV shows Phoebe watches on an almost non-stop basis -- Phineas and Ferb, Sofia the First, and Jake and the Never Land Pirates, among them -- and the person we interviewed is responsible for promoting some of them. Had I interviewed him a few years ago, it would have been just another interview for me, and I would have had almost no idea about the show he was talking about. Show posters and illustrations dotted the walls, and a few youth bikes were parked in the hallways as remnants of a summer programming campaign.

* * *
With all of our interviews complete, we took the rest of the night to explore Hollywood. First, we headed for Hollywood Boulevard ...

In a nutshell, I thought it was overrated, but I enjoyed the experience nonetheless. I enjoyed seeing the Walk of Fame and reading the names of stars - from Tom Hanks to Fleetwood Mac to Winnie the Pooh to -- whaddaya know -- Alice Faye.

And I enjoyed seeing the theaters - the Chinese Theatre and the Dolby Theatre, formerly known as the Kodak Theatre. And, of course, the Capitol Records building.

The fronts of the theaters were crowded with impersonators and costumed people performing, getting their pictures taken and trying to earn some extra bucks. We saw Batman, Elvis, Jimi Hendrix, Spider-Man, Tinker Bell, Michael Jackson and Chewbacca, to name a few. ...

The rest of the strip was filled with guys pushing bus tours and storefronts of all varieties -- T-shirt and novelty shops, cigar shops and hookah lounges, and a handful of other outrageous things that are a blur to me now.

For dinner, on the recommendation of the young film producer we visited in the morning, we tried 25 Degrees at the Roosevelt Hotel. Our producer friend claimed they serve up the best burgers you've ever tasted. ... I ordered the No. 1 and it was glorious. If I've had a better burger, I can't recall it. 

And the fries. Without a doubt, those were the best fries I've ever tasted. Lightly fried in vegetable oil and sprinkled with salt and thyme. I'm not one to take photos of my food, but there was so much food beauty in front of me, I couldn't resist. ...

After dinner and after walking the remainder of the strip, the night was still young. The Photographer and I were eager to continue our exploration. So we hopped back in our car and drove up the hill, along the narrow and winding roads, through picturesque California neighborhoods, until we came to the Sunset Ranch.

We parked our car and hiked the trail for what seemed like miles and hours. Had I been wearing hiking shoes and not my loafers, we might have hiked further. As the sun began to set, we took in the breath-taking views of the city and the surrounding landscape once more.

We reunited with our car, and the sky was dark by the time we returned to the bottom of the hill. After stumbling upon and driving around a couple studio lots, The Photographer was intent on returning to Hollywood Boulevard, thinking there was going to be some outlandish nightlife. Though I had little interest in going back, I obliged ... But only after crossing one more stop off my list. 

The Troubadour. I've been fascinated with its place in pop culture history ever since Kates and I caught the "Troubadours" documentary last year. I discovered we had been in its vicinity for most of our time in L.A., and I was determined to make a drive-by at the least.

The Photographer parked the car at a Walgreens one block over, and I walked up the street and along the parkway to get a better look and soak in the scene for a few minutes. So much music history ...  

Eventually, we headed back to Hollywood Boulevard and parked the car in a seedy valet lot, trusting the car -- and our equipment -- would be there when we returned.

Hollywood Boulevard wasn't any more exciting to me the second time around. And the obnoxiousness The Photographer expected to find on a late Friday night was absent. But there was an impromptu bike parade that seemed to stretch for miles. ...  

As we head home now, I'm fulfilled. It was a fantastic trip.

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