I’m going to tell you about one of the greatest trips of my life: Los Angeles, Fall 2017.
My epic trip started off chaotic, like all trips do. The first plane I was supposed to catch out of Oklahoma City experienced a “parts malfunction” and was therefore inoperable, throwing off everyone’s schedule. Instead of freaking the fuck out like everyone else around me did, I stayed calm and believed the universe would work itself out. To my surprise, it did! My carrier, American Airlines, purchased me a direct flight to L.A. on United Arlines, their competitor, and I arrived at L.A. around my original planned time since I didn’t have to make any flight connections, so thank you, universe! 😉
Anyways, I was in Los Angeles riding shotgun in a white Dodge Ram (my Lyft) leaving LAX. My driver, Elliott was telling me about how he used to live in Italy and how dinner over there is seen as an “event”. Say you wanted to go out to a simple dinner and movie, well you’d need to allocate a lot of time just for dinner alone because the Italians take their time drinking and catching up, long before they ever order dinner. I think this is an awesome concept and told Elliott we need more that here in the States since we’re so connected to our phones and computers.
Which is funny for me to say because I was constantly checking my phone at that time BUT only because I hadn’t heard back from my Airbnb host yet on how to check in. (Actually, my Airbnb host was out of town for the weekend and left his buddy, Alessandro, in charge, so I hadn’t heard back from him.) The sun had set by that point and we were hitting many streetlights, illuminated by red taillights from the traffic. I stopped checking my phone and just assumed that Alessandro would be waiting for me when I arrived.
We eventually made our way into the Fairfax Village area where my Airbnb was located. For those of you that don’t know, this is a cool part of town where you’ll find CBS’s “Television City” (where they film The Late Late Show w/James Corden and The Price Is Right among many other shows), the Original Farmer’s Market (which has been around since the ’30s), and The Grove (an outdoor, upscale mall that was once controversial to build in the ’90s ).
I was dropped off in front of an old, white Spanish-style apartment complex which had 2 apartments on top and 2 on bottom (mine was on the bottom right). As I walked up to the front door I noticed the lights were off inside and when I rang the doorbell I heard these dogs run up to the door and bark at me. I waited but no one ever came to greet me. Hmm… I called Alessandro and got no answer. Hmm... Unsure what to do, I decided to grab dinner. I figured that when I returned Alessandro would be there.
So I headed down Genesse street towards the Farmer’s Market wearing just a hoody and a backpack (my only piece of luggage). When I arrived I did a lap around the Market – more lively than I expected for a Thursday evening – and after checking out all the restaurants settled on the least gluten-y option possible: The Gumbo Pot. I grabbed an empty table and enjoyed my steamy bowl of gumbo and piece of cornbread, Mmm… Just what I needed after a day of eating very little.
–Oh! –Hey! I should probably tell you what I was in L.A. in the first place. So I’ve been writing screenplays for some time now, and 2 years ago I wrote this short film about two deaf characters meeting and falling in love and decided to enter that script into writing contests. It did really well at the Slamdance Screenwriting Competition – one of the biggest competitions in the nation, if not the biggest – having advanced all the way to the semi-finals, the top 8, but it never made it to the finals, the top 3. This achievement however did grant me an invitation to come out attend the writer’s ceremony in L.A. So I did just that and networked with writers and independent filmmakers at the party, where I met one judge who informed me that over 3,600 total scripts were entered that year.
The following year I wrote a short film about ballet (something I knew nothing about and had to research from scratch – I enjoy challenging myself and writing about cultures I’m unacquainted with). That screenplay didn’t do anywhere as well as my predecessor but Slamdance invited me out since they considered me an alumni, just the excuse I needed to #adventure! Instead of coming out for a day like I did last year I decided I’d make this a 5-day trip.
Back to me at the Farmer’s Market, sitting at my table. I was beginning to worry since I reached out to Airbnb Support but hadn’t heard back from them, nor had I heard back from Alessandro. I conjured up a contingency plan in my head: I could stay at the cheap-ass looking motel I saw down the street till I got things figured out with Airbnb.
The Market was closing so I left and wandered around The Grove and killed some time before heading back to my house. I decided that I’d sit by the door and wait anywhere from 30 – 45 mins and if I didn’t hear back from Alessandro I’d get a hotel room. The lights were still off as I approached the apartment and instead of crouching beside the door I heard a little voice inside my head that told me to try for the door. So I pulled back the mint colored, antique-y screen door and turned the front door handle and it was unlocked! As in, unlocked in L.A.!!!
I pushed the front door open and of course I’m greeted by the dogs I heard earlier – there’s two of them, medium sized, barking at me like crazy, ready to attack yet keeping some distance. I closed the door behind me and had no idea what to do, then my next thought told me to treat this like I was in forest: those are two grizzly bears and if I just play dead they’ll go away. So I slid my backpack off and turned my body limp and fell to the wooden floor and played the most convincing deadest muthafucka you’ve ever seen. It didn’t work – at least not at first. The dogs barked for a few more minutes before they stopped and retreated somewhere into the apartment. I was shocked it worked!
I picked myself up and turned on the lights and took a look around at the sophisticated decorated apartment, my favorite piece being the antique brass bar cart in the dining room. I walked around and found a long narrow hallway that led to 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom. As I approached the first bedroom the dogs came out into the doorway and growled at me with their slimy, shiny fangs. This was obviously the owner’s bedroom and I didn’t want to push my luck so I tiptoed backwards and decided that I’d be sleeping on the couch tonight.
I moved two pillows to one side of the couch and left one light on in the kitchen and fell on the couch and made myself comfortable. I stared out the large bay window in the living room and realized there were no blinds or curtains to block the view so anybody passing by on the street could look in and watch me sleep. But I didn’t care, I was just glad to have a roof over my head tonight. And just like that, I drifted into ZZZ’s…
I awoke hours later, or what felt like hours later, to see that it was still dark outside, and there was a helicopter roaring by (there will always be a helicopter flying overhead). I checked my phone to see that only 20 minutes had passed – WHAT THA! – and I had 5 missed calls and a missed text from Alessandro – FINALLY!!!
I called him back, half-awake with a groggy voice, and he immediately apologized about everything and said he was on the way to the house. He was curious to know how I got in and when I told him that the front door was unlocked he was shocked. He had no idea it was unlocked this entire time. Then Alessandro arrived minutes later entering through a door in the kitchen. After apologizing again he showed me to my room in the back and the once ferocious dogs were now my best friends. I dropped my backpack off in my room and collapsed into my king-sized Ikea bed, never more thankful to have a bed.
For my 2nd day in L.A., I had 4 things planned:
1.) Explore some organic community gardens in Venice Beach (something I purchased as an “Experience” on Airbnb).
2.) Take surfing lessons (another Airbnb Experience).
3.) Attend the writer’s award ceremony that evening.
4.) Pick up my rental car that I was going to drive out to Malibu the next day to go hiking and do a wine tasting (another Airbnb Experience, see a pattern here?).
So, big day! It started out when I had a Lyft pick me up from Whole Foods, where I had breakfast. My driver was this old Asian man named Wei, born and raised in China, moved to NYC for some time before moving finally moving to Angels City. Even though he had very little formal education Wei was actually very smart, and we talked about the Hyperloop and how technology and infrastructure won’t be its main limitations – it’ll be the airline industry since H-Loop will steal its business.
Wei dropped me off at Groundworks, an organic coffee shop in Venice Beach, a cool looking place where my Airbnb Experience was supposed to meet.
A woman named Nicole was leading our group and said on the main event page that she’d arrive half an hour early (8:30 in this case) and to look for her sitting on a bench outside. When I arrived it was getting close to 9 but I didn’t see her nor anyone gathered around the bench, just an old man who I couldn’t tell if he was homeless or enjoyed wearing old track suits.
I went inside and didn’t find any people gathering together, just individuals and couples. I subtly checked out the women around me and kept comparing them to the pics of Nicole on my phone (who resembled the current/older Jennifer Aniston) but none of the thin, ethnic women even came close. Shit! Did these healthy, douchy people already leave without me?!
I checked the event details and saw that it was happening next Friday, NOT THIS FRIDAY! Fuuuuuuck meeeeee. I signed up for this event in such a hurry that I overlooked this important detail. Aaaaggghhh. Then I just giggled and shook my head. Apparently these mishappenings are my life now. But if life went according to plan then it’d be pretty boring, right?
So I bought a drip coffee and sat there for the next 2 hours reading the Scientific American magazine I had in my backpack, something I picked up from the airport, and eavesdropping on people’s conversations. Then I headed over to Venice Beach and was excited to see everything, taking it all in like a newborn: the mile long Boardwalk, the various shops and restaurants, some blasting music, people walking, riding bicycles, hanging out with their pets, waves crashing along the coast. I smiled, glad to be here on this warm and beautiful day.
My surfing instructor’s name was Stephen and he messaged me a few days prior of where to meet him, at the Venice Pier parking lot, at his blue van, pictured attached. I found that bright blue van parked in front of the beach with a cute, thin Russian girl sitting behind it (I knew she was Russian because she looked and sounded exactly like one of my Russian friends). I told her I was here for the 12 o’clock class and she said Stephen was finishing up with his other class but I could go ahead and change. I think she was Stephen’s girlfriend.
She reached into the van and found me a wetsuit. I asked where to change and she said wherever. There were public bathrooms nearby but I didn’t feel like walking all the way over there so I just changed right there, stripping down to my sport performance boxers, pulling my wetsuit over my body, fitting for the most part except a little loose in the knees.
The previous class arrived and I finally met Stephen, who was very much the cliched surfer type: had a “brah” voice, newly applied sunscreen on his nose, a boonie hat and shades. I was the only person in his 12 o’clock class so we went and found a spot on the beach and did a quick 5-minute surfing lesson, me fake paddling and jumping up on my board, then jumped into the cold Pacific ocean.
This was how it was going to go every time: we would paddle out a little ways from the coast, turn around, then Stephen would watch for the next wave and yell for me to go, I’d quickly paddle towards the coast and as soon as the wave picked me up I’d spring onto my feet and ride out the wave. Sounds easy, right? HELLLL TO DA NAAAAA!
I fell into the water every single time (minus the time I surfed on my knees, but that doesn’t count, and I couldn’t even tell you how I managed that). I could never get my balance right! If every part of your body isn’t aligned and balanced then you’re gonna fall. Period. My feet were either too far forward or too far back. Even though surfing was more difficult than I ever imagined I was glad I did it, because I believe in challenging yourself and doing something outside your comfort zone.
Our 2 hour session flew by in the blink of an eye. I changed back into my normal ppl clothes and went off in search of food, getting away from the Boardwalk, walking down Rose Ave. There were many restaurants to choose from but they all seemed too pricey and too bougie for me (I actually walked past Café Gratitude but didn’t know what it was at the time! Read my Kansas City post for more info). I settled on Whole Foods for the second time that day and refueled on random veggies and protein from the hot bar.
I chilled there for a bit, allowing my body to relax and recover, constantly burping out a horrible salty taste from the gallon of seawater that I swallowed while surfing. After finding the right Instagram filter for my surfing pic, I called a Lyft, which would be a Toyota Corolla with a driver named Mostafa, a modest, average looking Indian man. He found it interesting that he picked me up at Whole Foods because it was his dream to manage one someday; he worked his way up at 7-11 and was managing a local grocery supermarket and was looking for his next big break at WFoods. I admired his dreams.
We had to pick up another passenger since I chose that Lyft option where you’re subjected to picking up multiple passengers but this’ll save you money (I did this on every ride in L.A.). We picked up this older woman at her house, she actually owned a car but refused to drive anywhere on the weekends – a strict rule of hers, and a smart one since it was getting close to rush hour.
The three of us hopped onto the I-10, which was filled with slow-moving traffic but our new passenger made this enjoyable. She was sophisticated and very outgoing and spoke about her experiences with anxiety and trying to transform to meditation and positive thinking. When I told her why I was in town she told me a story about her daughter hustling her way into the interior design business and how she failed many times before succeeding. She showered us with “it really is about who you know” and “you can’t give up”.
We dropped off our lively passenger at an auto shop of all places, then Mostafa dropped me off at my place. I walked inside and found Alessandro at the kitchen table sprinkling weed from a tin box onto cigarette paper. He offered me some good ol’ Cali cannabis but I politely declined and thanked him for being ever-so-generous. I told him about my surfing lessons and he swapped with his more experienced surfing stories.
It was getting late and I didn’t have time to shower, so I threw on a dress shirt and headed out to the party with sand in my hair and a red sunburn on my face. The party was taking place at the Writer’s Guild of America building, which if you don’t know, the WGA is the union that all Hollywood screenwriters belong to. Independent films work outside of this, but if you’re contracted to write a blockbuster or the next Marvel film then you have to belong to this union, and it’s not easy to get in. So the awards ceremony was taking place here at their headquarters, it’s a nice building and all – built in the late ’80s or early ’90s – but I find the location more fascinating than the building itself.
I walked into the WGA lobby and the security guard let me through and told me where to go (I already knew where it was at). I pressed and waited for an elevator and saw a curly hair blonde girl enter the lobby. I held the elevator for her, and after confirming that she was going to the party we introduced ourselves. Her name was Rebekah, she wasn’t a writer – at least not publicly, and she was there because her boyfriend’s entertainment law firm was sponsoring the event. I recognized the name as the same firm that sponsored the event last year.
We stepped off the elevator and I led her to the party. I was glad we had to make name tags because I already forgotten her name and I’m sure she forgot mine. Then we grabbed some food and chatted a bit before her boyfriend, Will, found her. She introduced us and I immediately liked this guy, as a matter of fact he was so hilarious that I couldn’t stop laughing and never finished my caprese salad kabob (everything there mostly had gluten). But man, I really loved their energy, and we all became instant friends.
As the ceremony progressed, I received a text message from Darya, the guy who was renting me his Mazda 3 through an app called Turo. We spoke on the phone Wednesday night, I told him I wanted to pick up the car on Saturday morning but he said Friday night worked better for him so we settled on a time of 10 p.m. PST. Now he was asking if I could come earlier at 8:30 to pick up the car. I told him I was at an event but that I’d leave as soon as it was over. That was my nice, blunt way of saying “hey, remember that time we agreed on together…”
After they announced all the winners I said bye-bye to my new friends and told Darya I was OMW. Google Maps led me on the most efficient route to Santa Monica Blvd but I made a spontaneous turn on Beverly Blvd and decided to take my own route. I’m glad I did this because I found an amazing supermarket called Erewhon that would become my all-time favorite place in L.A.
After walking some 1.7 miles through residential streets in West Hollywood, I arrived at the location Darya sent me: a small, gated house. I told him I was here and he sent out one of his boys, Alex, who looked Persian and somewhere between 19-21. Alex told me to meet him across the street at the ARCO gas station where he’d deliver the car. I went there, and Alex drove up in a sporty, silver 2017 Mazda 3 with tinted windows. He stepped out and ignited the flashlight on his iPhone and inspected the inside and outside of the vehicle. After taking some “before” pics he handed me the car.
I fell into the driver’s seat and took in the new car smell… Then I gripped the leather covered steering wheel and felt liberated. I couldn’t wait to explore Los Angeles in style. 😎
Stayed tuned for Part II…