The Rain Arrives in Los Angeles

Let me set the stage. Los Angeles has had a ridiculously rainy winter. If people haven’t been directly affected, they know someone who has, or are worried they might be the injured party the next time.

I’m not just talking about houses sliding down hills. There are lesser, nagging problems that come out when the winter is very rainy. Roofs leak. Poorly sealed doors and windows let in water. Trees and branches tumble. Drivers panic, because they’re not sure how to handle their cars on wet roads. It’s a mess.

The truth is, Los Angeles is not built for bad weather. Too much is outside. Too much is exposed to the elements.

So today, when the rain returned, you could see everyone clenching their teeth just a little. No one was anxious to repeat the hell of earlier this winter. Only 1/3″ more rain and this would go down as the 2nd rainiest ever!

We thought we’d take it in stride.

We started the morning with breakfast at the hotel. I had an omelet, which was stuffed full, but only OK for taste. On the other hand, the place we ate itself, Breezes, was excellent. It is tastefully underdone and expansive… and expensive. That’s a given here.

We headed out to a Disney’ish upscale, outdoor mall called The Grove. It is adjacent to The Farmer’s Market (which I remember Jack Benny talking about when I was a little kid) and CBS&#185.

The stores at The Grove are similar to those you’d see at a nice mall. While Steffie and Helaine looked around, I headed to Barnes and Noble. This is an especially nice B&N with a large collection of books on all matters show business, plus how-to’s on writing screenplays, teleplays and books.

As the showers continued, the Grove became less of a fun place to be. There’s little cover, so there’s no avoiding getting wet.

We ducked into the Farmer’s Market, where Steffie proceeded to by a t-shirt. The Farmer’s Market is the antithesis of The Grove.

Here all the stores are one of a kind. There are lots of food stands, plus produce and meats, and clothing. It’s an eclectic mix.

We tired of the Farmer’s Market quickly, especially since we had eaten already. Back to the car, we headed to the Beverly Center, not far down Beverly Blvd.

The Beverly Center is a huge mall. The parking is on the lower levels with the mall running on levels 6,7 and 8. The mall seemed too open and cold. Maybe that’s not a fair judgment for a mall. Something was missing.

I found the Sony and Bose stores interesting in that I wondered why things were so expensive? Sony espcially computers that seemingly doubled as works of domestic art. Call me crazy, but I really look at computers as commodities today… even though this blog entry is being written on my Sony laptop.

Dinner tonight was another notable restaurant, Spago, picked by Steffie. She had heard about it, and its appeal. Helaine and I had eaten there a long time ago. Back then, a busboy had spilled a carafe of coffee all over her white suit. No need to go on.

My friend Paul joined us for dinner. I met Paul back when I met Howard, at Emerson College. Paul is a producer, mostly concentrating of DVD compilations right now.

Back when we went the first time, Spago was a 2nd floor walkup, right on Sunset. Now it’s on Can&#245n, near Wilshire, in Beverly Hills.

It’s a large, dark restaurant. At the end of the dining room is the kitchen, behind a large expanse of glass. It is a very busy kitchen.

We all shared a smoked salmon pizza as an appetizer. For dinner I had a lamb dish. The lamb itself was excellent, but the sauce was a bit overwhelming and the potatoes were puny. My chocolate desert was very tasty.

We were told the menu was printed daily, meaning there was no reason to read specials. They were already on the menu.

If you’re reading this in the East, there is a West Coast practice that is somewhat unusual. All restaurants have valet parking – and the pricier the meal, the more expensive the parking. In the case of a meal like this, they’re really nickel and diming you to death!

We had been told not to expect any celebrities at Spago, and we heard right. It looks like an older crowd, mostly expense accounts , not at all Hollywood and splashy – at least not tonight.

We are going to one more LA restaurant Sunday, which does have a celeb reputation and where we’ve seen big time stars in the past.

Tomorrow, we head into the OC to see Cousin Michael and his family in Irvine. Rain is expected. California is much more fun in the sun.

&#185 – The CBS complex is usually identified by these words, “From Television City in Hollywood.” It is not in Hollywood.

Going to Boston

Stefanie is a senior in high school. I’m not sure I remember too much about that time, but whatever it was, Steffie is under much more pressure than I ever faced. As Helaine pointed out, every school seems to be selective. Every school has difficult criteria. It’s a sad part of our evolving society. Seventeen should be more carefree.

We are going through the process of looking at colleges. So, Friday we set off to Boston to visit Emerson.

I think it’s great that Steffie is interested in Emerson, because it means she thinks communications is something she might want to do and is an honorable profession. 35+ years ago, I attended Emerson. Though I never finished (hey – I would have stayed… they wanted me out), my time there shaped my life. I will always be grateful.

Many of the skills I still use today, and certainly the skills which got me to this point in my career, were first born at Emerson. I met two of my closest, dearest, best friends while there. To have friends for this long is a good thing.

We left the house at 10:00, got on I-91 and headed toward Hartford. From there it was I-84 to the Mass Pike and then straight into the city. Luckily for us the weather was perfect and the Red Sox decided to hold their parade the next day!

I still remember a little about the city and quickly found my way to the garage under the Boston Common. Back when I went to Emerson, it was against my moral code to pay for parking. I also didn’t have much cash. I think this was my first time down there.

We came up in the Common just off Charles Street. We though it would be smart to find where we were going and then kill some time. Good idea. Emerson has moved since I attended and the admissions office is in one of many scattered buildings in the Theater District.

We walked along the edge of the Public Gardens up to Boylston Street. Some of what I saw was familiar. Other things, including prominent buildings and streets had changed radically.

We walked past a tobacconist where I used to buy bulk tobacco. As stupid as it sounds now, I started smoking cigarettes while in college. In the beginning, I bought tobacco in bulk and then rolled my own, using a hand operated machine. I have been smoke free for about 20 years.

We popped into City Place with its fast food stands. Helaine and Steffie shared something and I decided to go off my diet and have a slice of pizza. I didn’t know it when I ordered it, but this slice was the size of a small home. Unreal.

We finally decided the time was right and went to the admissions office for a video program and a tour.

There were 7 or 8 families sitting in this “L” shaped room. On the wall were some flat screen TVs and a computer monitor. Our host, from Emerson’s admissions office, walked in and the program began.

The video portion was produced by students using equipment at the school. It was slickly done. Some of the humor was a little sophomoric, but it was done by students for potential students. It worked.

The host then began to tell us about the programs the school offers. It was incredibly impressive. Of course, as someone in the business, I know that a recent graduate isn’t going to have the practical experience it takes as soon as they graduate. But these courses certainly give a firm foundation.

The families were then split into two groups and we set out to visit the school. We visited the radio stations, WERS and WECB. I had been on both of them during my time at Emerson. Back then, they were basically thrown together in old buildings. Now it looked like there was some planning and foresight… and cleaning.

The equipment was top notch. That really impressed me. I remembered the hand-me-down stuff when I was there.

We continued on to some TV studios and a working newsroom and then into a small theater. Again, this was nothing like the school I remembered. Emerson has definitely raised the bar over the years.

Finally, we went and saw a dorm. The room we visited was on the 5th floor without much of a view. It was moderately sized by dorm standards. I wondered, if Steffie went, how she’d decide what small percentage of her possessions to take.

Along with everything else that Emerson offers is this intangible – they’re right in the heart of downtown Boston. The subway is across the street. The Statehouse is a few minutes walk away. There are theaters and movies and everything that goes with being in a city. It would seem a great place to live.

I could see Steffie was excited. If Emerson was selling, Steffie was buying.

I would later send a note to a few friends who went there telling them how much the school had changed, and how much better it seemed now than when we went.

We left the school and walked toward what had been the administration building and, across the street, my dorm. The dorms will be used for another year, but the administration building is in the process of being converted to condos. Back Bay real estate is just too valuable for a college.

Before we left, we thought we’d go to Legal Seafood for dinner. It’s very Boston and we wanted that experience. It was good and any thoughts I had about only cheating a little from my diet were soon dashed.

We had bumper to bumper traffic for the first hour. Other than that, the trip home was easy and effortless.

We had been gone for about 12 hours. It felt like we had been gone for days.

Blogger’s note: I took my camera along (as you can probably see). Click on any of the photos for a larger version or go to my gallery for a look at all the Boston pictures.