Tuesday, July 17
Alright, let me get out of my handwritten journal--all 110, handwritten pages of it, and see what I wrote down about what I did then. My handwriting is terrible, but I can read it.
Well, let me give you a bit of a backgrounder: First, I had spent months with planning and research for a trip that would include two trips to Los Angeles, of a bookends of a trip sort, with the bulk of the trip featuring a few days in national parks including Yosemite and Kings Canyon, along with a day-and-a-half or so in Mammoth Lakes in the Eastern Sierra, just outside of Yosemite. This was, however, a bit of a backup plan in itself.
Honestly, I had my heart set on going to New Mexico first, given a preoccupation with two things: First, the wide-angle landscape shots in "Better Call Saul" and its predecessor, "Breaking Bad," and then shots of White Sands National Monument. I did some research on what was in the immediate area, in the interim, and settled the idea of a tour of Southeastern New Mexico and parts of West Texas. I liked the idea of experiencing so much landscape variation there, going from desert climes to an alpine region, and then onto Carlsbad Caverns. I could enter and leave from El Paso, I thought, after getting there by train. It would be my own thing, and a different western experience than one I'd had before (including various trips to the Pacific Northwest in the United States and Canada, and then Canadian Rockies, Yellowstone and the Tetons, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco to San Luis Obispo and back).
Unfortunately, I had to scratch the New Mexico trip idea, given that I was was hired for a freelance writing project by a higher ed textbook publisher, and it looked after a time that it could take me well into mid-to-late June, or longer, to finish the job. I needed, it turned out, to go some place where it would be mostly cooler in July. I had long thought that I wanted to go to Yosemite at some point, so I would go there. Along the way, I discovered that flights to Los Angeles from New Orleans (with the most competitive airport near Jackson MS, my current residence) were far cheaper than ones to San Francisco, which I'd looked at first. And I thought, Well, I've never seen anything there but the inside of LAX, so let's maybe spend a wee bit of time there too.
A bit of research, finally, showed me that Kings Canyon National Park was as recommended by People in the Know, the Au Courant, as much as Yosemite. This would end up being crucial information. Finally, I had come to know about Mammoth Lakes and environs through the strangest of all possible sources: An elliptical machine video that showed video of Yosemite and environs and included long segments--all curiously backed by electronic dance music--from Mono Lake and Devils Postpile National Monument.
First, though, I had to settle upon how to handle a trip to Los Angeles. Maybe fit it in toward the end? Well, no, I thought, if I get an early flight, which would be the least likely to be late, maybe I should spend some time in the city first, just settle into things? I thought, Well, I could do the "sensible" thing and take off for Fresno first. But traveling always leaves me feeling funky, and what would I see in Fresno? I eventually settled on the seemingly harebrained idea of spending a day in Los Angeles, spending part of sleeping at a newfangled type hostel/hotel combo called the Freehand Los Angeles (which I'd read about in a 2016 NY Times piece on the changing face of hostels in America), and otherwise goofing off, before heading out in the wee hours for Fresno via Amtrak California. This was doable. Ended up, it worked out just fine for me.
First, though, highlights of the opening hours of brief first stay in Los Angeles, with the first stop being the jewel and inveterate shutterbug's catnip that is LA's Union Station.
After Union Station, the first major highlight was the Grand Central Market, where I had gigantic pork tacos from Tacos Tumbras a Tomas, along with pineapple and apricot beer, and pineapple ice cream. Need I mention that I'm a pineapple addict?
After lunch, it was naptime at the Freehand for me--as in, a three-hour nap. I didn't sleep as long as I thought I might, but I went on for a while. I had a drink on the rooftop, upon awaking. Yes, a drink. It was a vacation! Around 5-ish, in any case, I headed out to the Hollywood Bowl. First, however, I had to stop at Hollywood and Vine, in order to get a photo of the Capital Records building. (I had scouted a location to shoot via the Interweb. No one was there, turned out.)
Next, on to the Hollywood Bowl, via the LA Subway's Red Line, again. I should note that I tried to do the tourist thing at Grauman's Chinese Theatre before heading to the Bowl, but that the place was blocked off and teeming with crowds due to the premiere of a Denzel Washington movie, one for which Denzen was going to appear. (My journal included the following notation: I think the movie name was "The Exterminator 2," reminiscent of Chris Elliott's "Regulator Guy" series from '80s Letterman). Going from Hollywood Boulevard to the Bowl made me think of going from Bourbon Street yuck to the bourgeois and relaxing Royal Street, only it took a bit longer to get to the cleaner and classy-or-whatever part.
2018, Ray Mikell