Entering California Or Pt. 1, much-needed vacation, july 2018

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).

Essential Research, and Page 1 of My Journal: The Itinerary

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.

The Theme Building at LAX (As Seen on 7/17/18)

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.

Freehand Los Angeles, Base of Operations (Photos by Moi, Like All Here)

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.

Taken with an Olympus E-5
Taken with an Olympus E-5
Taken with an Olympus E-5
Taken with an Olympus E-5
Taken with a Google Pixel (1st Gen)

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?

Pork Tacos from Tacos Tumbras a Tomas

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.

I won't get into the whole Bourdieu-ian nature of what is classy or not. I liked the Hollywood Bowl, though, even with the wildly overpriced hamburger. I loved the whole picnic scene, the making the whole scrubby hills environment look lovely via landscaping and presentation, the meeting of floodlights at dark, and such. Then I could hear crickets in between songs, and during softer interludes. The music was spectacular.

I had to get going, however, and could not stay for the final number, after the intermission. From there, it was back to the Freehand, where I napped a bit longer, then awoke to have a great conversation about U.S. and China relations and the tariffs and whatnot with a young woman from Hong Kong via Shanghai, with family still in the latter city. I won't divulge details, but suffice it to say that she was up on things, knew the whole back-story of the WTO and the Bretton-Woods conference, knew all about U.S. manufacturers' beefs with China over patents and such. (She was in LA, however, strictly for fun, after some work and play combo in Vancouver BC. I said goodbye to her as excitedly she picked up a bottle of wine, a shirt over her bikini top, with the bottom showing, as she headed to the rooftop pool).

Now THAT is why I enjoy hostels, that sort of conversation with international visitors. I would stay in a regular, full room on the trip back, but I loved that conversation on the first leg of my LA trip. Otherwise, my best conversations in Los Angeles were with Lyft drivers. Seriously. I have accounts of these in my journals, but here's an excerpt from an account of the same that I gave to a friend via FB Messenger. (Oh, but I'll add: One of these mentioned, upon hearing that I was from MS, traveling to Greenville MS as a child, and also "Rulesville," which is actually just Ruleville. Said, Well, THAT was the country. Remembered her mom getting upset with her for getting into picking cotton. On the same drive around Hollywood, we ran into a convoy of giant black SUVs. Had to be Denzel, she was thinking. I said that maybe it was his "people.")

Real-Time Conversation!

Next, I was off to Fresno and, I thought, maybe Yosemite, but maybe Kings Canyon. I would decide on the way. Yes, I forgot to mention that there was a wildfire to the east of Yosemite, the Ferguson Fire, that I'd been anxiously keeping tabs on for the past two days. I finally decided to stop incessantly checking on things, just thought I'd make a decision when I got further north. Here's a preview of what was to come the next day.

Created By
Ray Mikell


2018, Ray Mikell

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