To LA on my birthday

It may seem a bit outmoded, but I hit the road, this the second year in a row I left home to be away from Sacramento on my birthday.  I promised a Saturday dispatch from the field, and that’s what you’re getting . . . sort of.

You see, I started in the morning.  I wasn’t nervous, but I woke up, like every other day, at 5:45.  Not sure why, couldn’t get back to sleep, so I got up, grabbed my bag, took the change of clothes I wanted out of the bag and got in the car.

I took my tunes:

Necessary music for the road…

I had a picture of my girl…

An amazing pic of Ande I took for company

And I hit the road.

The picture is important.  I tried to find another way around this.  An amazing friend wanted to bring me to a music festival but plane tickets aren’t cheap on good days.  Let alone a day before travel.

The other is that I just can’t take being alone right now.  Not this weekend.  I would love nothing more than to be with my Hannah – my favorite birthday present – on this day.  I’m not, though.  For the same reasons the festival didn’t work, I cannot afford to go to Nebraska to see her.  So Skype and Facetime will have to do.

The reason for this?  I can’t take a month off and just disappear.  I so want to.  I’ve wanted to since the day Andrea died.  I have wanted nothing more than to get in a car or jump on a train or a plane and head somewhere I’ve never been, never seen, and never considered.  I should think the why would be obvious: I can’t face this day without her.  It’s really, really, hard.  I know I’m a writer and should be more prosaic about how to describe it but I can’t.

So last year I went to a comedy show that was baudy, funny, and Andrea would never have thought to do it: Hollywood Babble-On with Ralph Garmin and Kevin Smith.  I have to admit, it’s Garmin’s show, by the way, and he’s amazing.  Smith – he’s the modern day equivalent of Dean Martin but with weed instead of alcohol.  He’s the stoned out guy who leads you off the path and Garmin brings you back.

Garmin and Smith – last year

Then I drove to San Francisco and took the Pacific Coast Highway all the way down.  I barely made it in time for the show.

This year I drove I-5.  I stopped at historical sites:

A high meeting ground in SJ County

Then I stopped somewhere Andrea always talked about but would never stop.  Andrea, you see, always wanted to get there . . . get to where we’re going.  We never stopped.  So I stopped at Anderson’s, home of the world’s best split pea soup.

my lunch

If I’d never stopped I’d never have met the hard working, cute blonde waitress at the counter.  She told me she marveled at how many people came in and asked what other soups they have . . . when it clearly says split pea is their soup . . . their mainstay . . . and the cafe serves other food but no other soups.  It reminds me of home with the German decor and the feel of Omaha’s Bohemian Cafe.  I thank her, tip her soundly, though she won’t go on-camera while on duty, and head out the door.

Next stop . . . over the highway.  While I have no pictures – they didn’t want any – I met an amazing group of soldiers on maneuvers outside Bakersfield stopping to eat at an IHOP inside a gas station.  To a person they were respectful, a bit uncomfortable, but always polite and interesting.  They milled around the outside, buying water and coke and whatever they needed to sustain them the rest of their trip.

Then I saw more memories of home: dust devils in the fields between Bakersfield and the mountains.

Dust Devils

Then over the mountains and into Los Angeles.

heading into the mountains

This took me awhile and no other pictures.  You can see here that I parked on the median to take the photo.  Traffic necessitated going to LA sans camera.

But when I got here, I looked for my hotel, which I found just looking at a map and pointing.  Seriously.  Just that.  What I found, though very far from where my nighttime destination shall be, is amazing.  I’m staying at the Sunset Tower Hotel.  I had no idea until I read the history that I’m staying where Rita Hayward, John Wayne, Mae West . . . Hollywood’s elite stayed.  Truman Capote called it “where every scandal that ever happened, happened.”  I’m in a corner room, in the circular corner of the building.  I like to imagine that Carol Lombard was here . . . though it’s likely one of the rooms Howard Hughes kept for his mistresses.  But I don’t care.

The view from my room.

My end goal?  Going to see jazz great Kenny Burrell.  Kenny has played with Duke Ellington; John Coltrane; Jimi Hendrix said it’s what he desperately wanted to sound like.  SRV copied him and Wes Montgomery playing Burrell’s Chitlins con Carne . 

So Monday you’ll get my display of my hotel, Kenny, all of it.  But before you criticize or speak . . . I didn’t take this trip to forget Andrea.  She’s here in the car via photo.  It’s cheesy . . . I’ll take her with me to the club for dinner and the show.  I’ll put her by my bed.  I’m not ready to let her go.  You see, the amazing trip would have been with my friend because I miss sharing my birthday.  Even on that awful, horrible night I got in an argument that nearly ended in my divorce, I ended the night with the woman I love.  Now I’m in Los Angeles doing amazing things, seeing amazing things . . . and I’m sharing them with a computer screen.  No offense to you, my wonderful and talented, smart readers, but I’d trade this blog for tonight with Andrea . . . seeing an amazing musician in a storied club and sleeping in a hotel with such history.

But that’s not reality.  You are.  So I drive . . . and will drive back through the PCH again just to have stops and adventures.  This way, I can tell the story – as much to her as to you – and know I did something different. . . better with my birthday than I might have otherwise.

It’s the true mantra . . . and our story begins.

Until Monday.

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