Monday, February 11, 2008

The Promised Land

(my travelogue resumes)

Day 3

Time to hit the beach, frigid weather be damned. My brother is obviously following the principles of Sun Tzu by lulling me into a false sense of security, because his directions to Zuma Beach do not get me lost. Hmm. I immediately notice the heavy shark activity in the water: but no matter – I’m on a mission. I looked up the water temp at several beaches, including this one, and it’s supposed to be between 51-54 degrees. Ha, I scoff at such balminess! I laugh! I walk up to the water’s edge, and wait with anticipation as the waves come crashing towards me…..

(2 minutes later)

(cell phone rings)

My brother, Andrew: Hey, what’s up? The whole office from out here in Burbank, 45 miles away, heard your shriek of horror.
Me: Oh, it’s nothing, the water’s a bit chilly, that’s all. I have little electric blankets over my feet; I’m sure they’ll thaw out eventually. Someone just went to look for a chisel since they’re encased in blocks of ice.
A: You mean you actually found the beach?
Me: Yeah, it was surprisingly easy. - Hey! Hey! Mister! My blocks-of-ice feet are not for keeping your iced latte cool, sir! – Sorry about that. People have no manners these days.
A: Hmm. That’s interesting, that you found the beach…..Well, gotta run, I’m mapping out your run route for tomorrow!

So the whole experience was a bit akin to torture, to put it bluntly. I wonder if anyone will notice that I’ll be using a jetski for my Alcatraz swim??

Day 4

So many Meccas, so little time. Who knew? Today dawned cold and gloomy (again), but my soul was shiny and happy nevertheless. The pictures tell the tale: a tale of two Meccas. First, Tomatomania. Then, as if life could get any better than a huge inflatable tomato hovering in the sky, like a big rosy Sputnik, we went to Big Boy, the oldest remaining one in the U.S. Where they serve real burgers, all while one is ensconced in an old-timey diner-like setting (but better), under the protective eye of Mr. Happy himself, Big Boy.

And in case the cops show up at my door sometime soon, the answer is YES, I admit it, I DID take the Big Boy “special seasoning” shaker from our table – but it was fated to be, I swear! I looked around at the other tables and none of them had the coveted shaker. And they didn’t sell them up front. So what choice did I have? The Big Boy establishment forces people to become criminals, fugitives running from the law. But I did leave extra money on the table to make up for it, so maybe I won’t totally burn in hell. Only partially. That’s a comfort.

Day 5

Discussion with my brother after my Grapes-of-Wrath-esque run the other day:

Me: So how did I get lost? I went zig-zagging to the end of your street, then went left down that little alley-like road….
Andrew: Left? Oops. You were supposed to go right.
Me: Right?? You definitely said left!
A: No, go right, and then just keep going left and right until you get to the national forest.
Me: Aha. Okay, I can handle that.

So today I dither over whether I should tackle the scenic mountain path again, or try the zig-zaggy route, even though I hate doing the same old routine. I almost go with the mountain, but my stubborn nature refuses to let go of the ignominy of not finding the forest the other day. And I’m still puzzled as to how I could have not found it. Off I go.

(After following the same route as before to the end of my brother’s street.)

What the hell? I can’t go right – there’s a driveway that ends in a tall fence. I gaze at the fence with steely determination, calculating how high it is and how much precious glycogen stores it would take to scale it. I see a vision of myself being beaten with truncheons by LA Police. I go left down the alley, again, then decide to give my brother a jingle.

Me: So what’s the deal? I can’t go right – there’s no alley!
A: Are you sure you went the right way? Where are you at? What kind of house is at the end of my street?
Me: I don’t know, some….. square house with, umm, a tree of some sort. You know.
A: (proceeds to describe some obscure architectural style, and various tropical trees that grow only in California) Is that where you are?
Me: I HAVE NO IDEA! They’re all just houses and trees to me – you know I don’t notice the minutiae of buildings unless they have interesting flowers in front of them. I’m… the house with the star jasmine plants. Yeah, that’s it!
A: (overcome by silence) … Okay then. So let’s just assume you’re at the end of my street. You went left, yes?
A: No, of course you can’t go right. You go left.
Me: Last night! Don’t you remember our discussion?! I said I went left last time, you told me I should have gone right! Here I am, trying to go right! Who’s on first?! ARRRGHHHH! (my HRM has spiked alarmingly at this point)
A: Oops, sorry. No, see, you need to go left, and THEN go right.
Me: And then what? I did that the other day and got nowhere!
A: Oh, well, to get to the national forest is really complicated – you have to make a lot of turns, then ford a stream, rappel over a canyon – what, I didn’t mention this the first time? I think there’s a portage point too that you have to climb over. It’s really better to just run around the neighborhoods. Hello? Hello……??

Day 6

Running along the coast seems like a splendid idea, no? Just long stretches of beach, no turns, no zigzagging, just……sand. Beach. A straight path. So I head to the beaches again, where my brother has given me directions to get to a nice, off-the-beaten-path beach called “El Toro.” According to him. You can probably see where THIS is going.

I’m driving along Highway 101, enjoying the view, and I see the small beach sign he told me to look out for signifying several beaches up ahead. One of them is……El Matador? Hmm. Either Andrew meant El Matador and told me the wrong end of the red hankie, so to speak, or there’s also an El Toro Beach, which seems realistic given the Matador moniker. I keep driving.

(1 hour later)

So after a scenic drive up and down the coast, I’m now back at El Matador Beach, where I discover that the good people of California assume I’m going to park my lazy self here all day, and so they’re insisting I put $7 in a tiny envelope and put it in a box, to pay for my car. My frugal Midwestern sensibilities are offended by the notion that I should pay for more than I need to, since I’ll probably only be here an hour or so. What to do. Yet again, the state of CA forces me to go into fugitive-on-the-lam mode, as I take the little envelope with me to ponder my options.

As I head down to the beach, I encounter one obstacle after another: a sandy ladder. Hills. Sand bunkers.

I’ve posted a little pictorial here so that you can all be amazed at the physical trials I put myself through. Where there was no obstacle or other exercise tool, I created one. Behold the log: I must have stepped up on this puppy at least 10 or 12 times. Whew! Thus exhausted, I never actually got around to running on the beach, but you can’t have everything. Besides, I had to dash back to my car before my criminal ways caught up with me in the form of a ticket. I can see as I'm coming up a hill to the parking lot that there's a guy in an official-looking uniform lollygagging industriously near the cars, so I pick up my pace to look like I'm jogging rather than bolting back to the car to avoid The Law. FYI, trying to look nonchalant while gasping for air is not an easy look to pull off.

I then head back to Burbank to meet my brother at Nickelodeon, his workplace. Whereupon I discover that Andrew works in WillyWonkaLand. Making this the third Mecca of my trip – a place where Spongebob reigns supreme, and even “the suits” are smiley happy people. Life is just not fair sometimes. It’s all very laidback, people have all kinds of toys decorating their offices, and the talented folks who work on Avatar, the show my brother works on, have cute little doodles and character sketches on their office doors that I wouldn’t be able to create if Michelangelo himself were guiding my hand. Sigh. Here's my brother hard at work, thinking up diabolical plots designed to have me hopelessly lost, day after day:

And the people Andrew works with are beyond nice and cool. Hey, can’t you guys hire me to do….something? I regularly draw tens of readers here – my writing must be worth something. Maybe? At the very least, I hope Miken, the lovely woman I met who’s doing the Bay to Breakers Race in SF in May, finds some useful training tips here in our little blog. To sum:

Hill running: Sucks. To be avoided.
Biking: Hills suck. Avoid.
Swim: Eek! Are you people nuts? That water is too damn cold! Avoid.
Nutrition: Swedish Fish and LemonHeads – then transition to Sharkies and Clif Bloks as race day approaches.

I think that pretty well sums it up. Oh, and the MOST important thing: look the part. If you look good, i.e. all tricked out in fancy gear and/or clothes, it doesn’t matter how you do. People will be tripping over themselves to hand you ready-made excuses: “Oh, you wound up last. You must have had what, 3 flats? Attacked by rabid turtles? That’s terrible, to have such calamities befall a finely honed athlete such as yourself.” Your response should of course be noncommittal but applicable, since you certainly wouldn’t want to lie: “Oh yeah, well, you know how it goes. Things happen.” And shrug modestly as if to say, "the world’s against me, but I soldier on" – the little people always like those kinds of touches.

Unable to pull myself away from this little slice of fun-ness, I decide that it would be just peachy to take the huge Leggo Spongebob from the lobby on a little roadtrip with me. No one will notice, right? Here I am right before I make my totally unobtrusive escape with the big yellow sea sponge himself. Spongebob and me – ah, the memories. And best of all, we get to ride in the carpool lane. Sweet!

Tomorrow: my last day in CA, aka Schleprock Returns.

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