Music Travel

Visions of L.A.

We recently went on a quick weekend trip down to Los Angeles to see our friends’ bands play a rare live gig and to soak up a bit of the sun and the haze.

Flying Is for the Byrds

I’m not sure who originally said that “getting there is half the fun,” but I don’t think they had flying in mind. Our journey began with awaking at the butt-crack of dawn, making our way to PDX, zipping through security, cooling our heels at the United Club, and realizing that our original adjacent seat reservations were tossed out the window for what looked like random seat assignments that put us 5 rows apart. In middle seats. What the actual hell? Apparently this is a fairly regular practice, which again brings me to ask, “United, why can’t I quit you?” Air miles and club passes. Derp.

No music from these spheres at San Francisco International Airport

One quick flight later, we landed in San Francisco (United doesn’t offer direct flights from PDX to LAX; other airlines (cough Alaska cough) do, but United came up the cheapest in the airfare lottery), again chilled out a tad in the United Club, then embarked on the second flight of the day.

Not quite a Blue Screen of Death (BSOD), but still a non-functioning PC at LAX.

Another quick flight later, we landed Los Angeles where ongoing tarmac construction has forced incoming passengers to use shuttle buses to get from the plane to the terminal. After being herded around on buses, we claimed our rental car, punched in our AirBnB address, and made our way through the LA sprawl.

Nobody Walks in L.A.

Having grown up in Houston, which is an urban sprawl in the guise of a gigantic concrete dish, I’m no stranger to (a) having to drive everywhere and (b) sharing the roads with the hordes of motor peers doing (a). Perhaps it’s having lived in Portland for a bit, but the density of traffic and the sheer concrete-ness of the city took a bit of acclimating (which I’m not sure I did in the 2-1/2 days we were there).

I dunno, L.A. just looks L.A.

I think one needs motorized transportation go get from point A to B in L.A. Whether it’s via your own set of wheels or a hired set (public transport or Uber/Lyft), the city is just too huge. And probably by extension of that, and by movies, songs, TV shows, etc. set in Los Angeles, the streets themselves become as ubiquitous as celebrities. Sunset, Melrose, Wilshire, Santa Monica, etc.

We drove past a playground that made me think of the scene in Terminator 2 where Sarah Connor has the dream about Judgment Day. I don’t think that was the actual playground where the scene was filmed, but again, it’s as if I’ve already known the city through images and sounds filtered through someone else’s lenses and soundtracks.

Drive, Eat, Repeat, Win

Vegan ruben sandwich with a side of potato salad at Flore.

Roughly an hour after leaving the rental car lot, we made our way to the Silver Lake neighborhood, grabbed some mighty fine lunch at Flore Vegan (including a fantastic pumpkin “cheese”cake), did a quick shopping stop at Ragg Mopp Vintage (where Nancy found a couple of Marimekko dresses – we got one of ’em), and checked in at our AirBnb, which incidentally is a bone’s throw from a huge dog park. That required us to go stretch our legs to ogle at floofers, borkers, and puppers (shush, you snickering speakers of Norwegian!).

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Reservoir. No dogs.

Later that evening, we met up with our friends and their bandmates at Hyperion Public for drinks and food, nerded out over Peter Hook, The Left Banke, The Mighty Lemon Drops, and Amazon Print-on-Demand. Wonderful conversation and great eats (their fried “rice” – cauliflower – is fantastic), and before yours truly turned into a pumpkin at midnight, we retired for a well-deserved snooze.

A Beach is Life

The next morning, we fortified ourselves with some caffeine and meal bars, and headed out west towards the coast. One amazing breakfast at Lily’s Malibu later, we were strolling along the beach at Point Dume.

It was a delightfully misty morning (not to be confused with the brownish gauze that hung around the hills the previous day) which eventually cleared to a hazy shade of sunny, but I was still inspired to grab these images in black and white. There’s something about southern California that lends one to view things in monochrome. Not sure what exactly it is, and maybe it’s just me.

Point Dume State Beach in black & white.
Same beach, more color.
Point Dume. Rhymes with “vroom vroom”.

Even more canine companions to be spotted here, and one of ’em gave us a knowing look. About what, I can’t begin to guess, but we did share a moment in that look.

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Pirate’s Cove

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Nancy hiked up to see Pirate’s Cove, while I hung out somewhere below, off-camera.
Point Duuuuuuume.
Looking back, you can see from where you’ve wandered.

When You’re a Tourist, Tour Like a Tourist

And what vacation/junket/jaunt would be complete without a bit of retail therapy? We made our way to the Santa Monica Uniqlo store, picked up a few wintry things (which felt a shade odd considering the balmy weather, but hey, fall is a bit cooler and way wetter in Oregon), and headed back into the city, specifically to Little Tokyo.

The view from the parking garage, Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, California, USA, Earth.
Art is everywhere in Los Angeles.

Our main objective was to visit the church where John Carpenter set his horror classic Prince of Darkness, which we’d just seen in 35mm at the Hollywood Theatre with soundtrack composer Alan Howarth performing a medley of his works afterwards.

And there it was:

The church from John Carpenter’s ‘Prince of Darkness.’ Now an art space

The space is now the LA Artcore Union Center for the Arts, but enough of the film-infused ambience is there.

The Alley of Darkness.

Remember the bit where Alice Cooper’s creepy vagrant skewers the graduate researcher with a bicycle? And the bit where the green goo zombies get tossed out the window? That’s the alley where the magic happened!

No, I didn’t have the nerve to ask if we could tour the basement. If they really had a basement. Sure, they have to have a basement, right? With the swirling container of satanic green goo?…

The spot where that guy turns into a pile of insects? It’s still a parking lot, but a paid one. Kinda like the spot in East London where Mary Kelly was murdered is now a car park (i.e., parking garage). I seem to recall that the Soviet NKVD had buried Hitler’s remains in an East German parking lot at some point. Death = parking? Anyway….

The plaque at the “Church of Darkness.”

I’m sure the Union Center folks see people like us skulk around the space on a regular basis, geeking out about John Carpenter, etc. I’m glad they don’t seem to mind.

Another view of the church in dramatic B&W

A bit of wandering around Little Tokyo afterwards…

The Challenger Shuttle Memorial.

…and made our way to the Echo Park neighborhood for a bit of delicious Thai food…

A bite-sized treat after a bite of lunch!

…and record shopping…

Permanent Records. Wall-to-wall and floor-to-mezzanine of vinyl.

…and back to the AirBnB, at which point Nancy went over to the Silver Lake Dog Park to witness the dressed-up and put-upon canines of the Howl-o-ween Costume Contest. I took a nap. Yes, I missed out.

Yeah, they had Edward Scissor-paws. And no, I didn’t go. Lame? Lame.

Rock Out with the Sox Out

It says a lot about how out of touch I am with the world sports in that I had no idea that (a) the World Series was happening and (b) was happening at Dodger Stadium, which is a long stone’s throw from the AirBnB, but is close enough to see wrecking astronomers’ views with light pollution (not that I saw too many telescope jockeys).

We headed back to Echo Park and witnessed a minor miracle of an open parking spot relatively close to Echoplex (the venue where our friends were playing). On a complete aside, the rear camera in the Kia Soul is a godsend when it comes to parallel parking.

The city lends itself to being captured black and white.
A slice of pie before the show.

The Ocean Blue and The Luxembourg Signal

Our friend Beth sings with The Luxembourg Signal, and our friend Oed plays guitar and keyboards (and sings) with The Ocean Blue. Both bands don’t play out much as their members are geographically scattered (across continents in case of The Luxembourg Signal). So shows by either band are pretty rare, requiring not a little bit of logistical heavy lifting to make them happen.

The bar at Echoplex, featuring The Ocean Blue.
The Luxembourg Signal. Photo by Nancy!
The Ocean Blue. Well, more like half of The Ocean Blue.
One quarter of the Ocean Blue.

It was a fabulous show with both bands in proverbial top form before a full house of enthusiastic fans, and my typically overanalytical brain stopped taking notes to simply enjoy the evening of music and friends.

I got to finally meet in person a music pen pal of sorts from the 90’s who recently relocated to southern California, at least two other social media friends and acquaintances, one very proud parent, and Beth’s beau Bobby whose Chuck Taylors are pictured below along with Nancy’s Fluevogs and my Bogs.

Shoes with friends. Friends with shoes.

We Had to Leave Los Angeles…

… but not before (a) doing some record shopping and (b) dropping a lame, sideways reference to the title track of X’s debut LP!

Amoeba Music. Wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling of… stuff. Just a tad overwhelming.

The Los Angeles location of Amoeba Music may be almost as large as the San Francisco one, which is pretty freakin’ huge. I suspect once upon a time I could have spent hours picking through the racks upon racks upon racks of CD’s (and emerged achy, but jubilant with a stack of deals, steals, and finds).

This time around, I found myself immediately overwhelmed by the volume of stuff, so I hung out in the parking garage, answering emails, jumping on conference calls, working on Jira tickets – basically the stuff I do normally, but not while parked under a gigantic record store.

Nancy, being more adventurous and tenacious than I, persevered through the record racks and emerged triumphant with a number of awesome finds, including the triple LP reissue of the Zweistein album.

And then, a drive to the airport, a hop on the rental car bus, a crawl through security screening, a couple of short flights that felt way longer than they were, and finally we returned home late that night.

Toot Sweet, Tout Suite

And the following day, being my birthday, we went over to Pip’s for a celebratory dozen donuts and mugs of chai! As that song went, “today was a good day,” and this trip was a good trip.

Back in PDX with birthday donuts and chai at Pip’s!
And with those birthday donuts, I got these goodies from Nancy! <3