It’s 7 in the morning and I’m sitting in my rental car Googling “how to start a Mazda 3” because there’s nowhere for me to insert my key into the ignition. Turns out, I have to press the Start Stop Engine button. I do. And the car comes alive. I’m an idiot. I backed out of a narrow alleyway and headed off for my adventure filled day where I’d be hiking and doing a wine tasting in Malibu.
My first stop was Groundworks in Hollywood – this was this coffee shop that I visited yesterday in Venice Beach, and after seeing that they had a breakfast menu I decided I had to try out their food.
I ordered 3 gluten-free breakfast tacos + an organic coffee and really liked it. The Hollywood Walk of Fame was actually 2 blocks up and over from me, which I had always wanted to visit but now that I was here, I don’t know, I just wasn’t feeling it… (Shrugs.) I felt like there was more to life than staring down at people’s names.
I jumped onto the 101 freeway, which had lite traffic, and drove out west for ’bout half an hour-ish until I arrived in Malibu. I pulled off the highway and snaked my way up into the mountains on an asphalt road and drove for some time until I arrived at my destination: Malibu Wine Safari.
The large parking lot was empty save for a few employees’ cars. I was super early and I sat on a bench and enjoyed my coffee till people arrived. The first humans I met was this young, college-aged couple named Matt and Ashley. They were smart people and sooo in love. This is us climbing a tree later on our hike as encouraged by our tour guide.
I can’t remember our tour guide’s name but she was suuuper outgoing and studying botany in grad school. She confessed to either hungover or on DayQuil since she hadn’t been feeling, I can’t remember, but either way you couldn’t tell.
The last of our group strolled in, 4 rowdy hipsters: Craig, Elizabeth, Frankie (a girl, and sisters with Elizabeth), & Grayson. I didn’t like them at first but we all became good friends once we sat down and drank some wine.
We took off hiking, and upon our first stop we got to take in this green and beautiful 1,000 acre estate. Gorgeous, ya?
We learned that many animals live on this estate for those who can afford it, like this guy: Gandolf the White’s horse from Lord of the Rings!
But the biggest animal celebrity was Stanley the giraffe who recently starred in The Hangover Part III as Alan’s giraffe before retiring (in the film Alan yells to other drivers that he just bought a giraffe, screaming with excitement, then he drives under an overpass and accidentally kills his giraffe, which is ironically why Stanley had to retire because he’s too tall to be transported on the highway). Now Stanley lives on the estate entertaining guests at weddings and other such events. We didn’t get to see him, but we learned that Stanley will soon be getting a girlfriend – hey hey – though he has to wait a few years for her to grow up because she’s not even an adolescent yet… But don’t worry, he’ll soon have his fun. 😉
For any Bachelor/-ette fans out there, I got to see the mansion seen in every first episode. I know it’s hard to see here but I could see it much better in person.
My favorite part of the hike was going to the organic farm called Saddle Ranch where they let us pick and keep any food from the garden, including:
- carrots 🥕
- corn 🌽
- baby watermelon 🍉
- tomatoes 🍅
- serrano peppers
- kale 🌿
I really liked the serrano peppers, they were so juicy and fresh that I couldn’t stop eating them which left my lips on fire. I also couldn’t get enough of the arugula and kale.
And I left as much dirt on my food as possible because there’s actually good bacteria embedded in dirt that our stomachs need to help us break down and absorb nutrients from the food we eat. However, our current agriculture and food processing methods strips away this bacteria and we’re left to compensate by taking probiotic capsules that have good bacteria embedded in it or by eating more fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt, and kefir.
Simply put, this experience was rejuvenating. I’m certain that the food at the most expensive L.A. restaurants could never come close to the quality that I had here.
A bus whisked us away to a place called Malibu Wines for our wine tasting. We sat around a table and sipped on wine and got to know everyone a little better.
The couple Matt and Ashley had met at Stanford and now Matt was applying to grad school for engineering while Ashley was working at Disney. She couldn’t tell us what her job was, at least not at first, but it later slipped out that she was working on the CGI for the latest Star Wars film! We tried to get more out of her but she was sworn to secrecy and said no more, regretting having said anything in the first place. Even her boyfriend had no idea she was on that film and was just as shocked as we were!
The hipsters were originally from San Antonio then moved out here and worked their way into the biz. One of the girls was a voice casting director and gave us a breakdown of how it sometimes works: A casting director will narrow it down to a few actors and the producers will look at which actor has the most followers on social media and use that as the deciding factor for casting since more followers could equal more revenue. Remember, this is a business and if your movie isn’t making money then you’re out of the game.
We got some inside scoop about the Emjoi Movie which was one of the worst movies of all time (9% on Rotten Tomatoes) and filled with major movie stars such as T. J. Miller, Christina Aguilera, Sofía Vergara, and Patrick Stewart (who played the Poop emoji). This was a well-funded movie because Facebook paid the company $50 million dollars just to have their app shown in the film one time. No one ever said “Facebook,” it was just shown on a character’s smartphone and that’s it! $50 million dollars! Smh… I guess Facebook was trying to play to a younger tech-savvy audience which paid off for the studio.
Their artist friend Matt Sharack was having an art gallery opening that night and invited us out. I actually kept my evening free for such a spontaneous occasion and said yes!
I went home, relaxed for a bit, snacked on my hand picked veggies, then headed out. The hipsters invited me to a bar beforehand but I didn’t want to deal with traffic and parking so I told them I’d meet them there. I arrived at Castelli Art Space a little after they opened so the crowd was small but it would grow quite large.
I assumed the guy in the blazer that everyone kept talking to was Matt the artist. I mustered up some courage and introduced myself and told him about our mutual friends. He was nice to me and showed me around and talked about his work. We took a pic in front of one of his favorite pieces then he had to excuse himself to go entertain more guests.
When I first arrived, the gallery gave me a magnifying glass so that I could see all the detail in Matt’s work and they told me I could keep it. I whipped out my magnifying glass and walked around like a Sherlock Holmes, viewing all of Matt’s work with a meticulous eye.
I circled the gallery consistently, waiting on the hipsters to arrive but they were at the bar getting shwasted I’m sure. I eventually got tired of waiting and told them via text that I had to drop off my car and they said they were on their way but I couldn’t wait another second and bounced.
I detoured through Koreatown then made my way to the ARCO station from last night. Alex appeared from out nowhere and I noticed he had a bruise under his eye. I wanted to ask what happened but didn’t. He inspected the car and said everything was okay, then I gave him the keys and walked back home.
It was quiet outside, especially for a Saturday night. There were a few people roaming the streets but otherwise it was just me and the sound of rubber soles patting the sidewalk. I admired the various styles of residential houses, then decided that walking in L.A. at night was probably my favorite activity.
I woke up to a cool and crisp air as I left my jalousie windows opened last night since the weather had been nice and there were bars and a wire screen to keep intruders from reaching in and tickling my feet – kuchi kuchi koo.
I grabbed coffee at Hyperslow, a coffee + yoga studio. I walked by this place a year ago but wasn’t brave enough to check it out, but now here I was taking full advantage of this opportunity.
I was the only person there so I struck up a conversation with the barista (a young kid with a ponytail) and learned that this coffee shop opened up a year ago – how crazy?! Then I told him about all the things I did in L.A. and his jaw dropped, “Dude. You’ve done more in L.A than I’ve done in an entire year.” I just laughed because it sure felt like it. I was pretty beat by that point.
For lunch, I grabbed food at Erewhon. This was my 3rd visit in 2 days and the same cashier from yesterday recognized me. I told him how much I loved this place and to keep up the great work! Some of the things I purchased included sugar-free chocolate mousse, loaves of paleo bread, and lettuce wrapped sandwiches. I found this place to be much healthier than Whole Foods and just as affordable and I really wished they had locations outside of Cali.
I only had one thing planned for the day: mediate on the beach in the evening – my last Airbnb experience, otherwise I was going to lie around all day BUT my wanderlustin’ spirit kicked in and I spontaneously decided to go to the Getty Center, a free museum.
The Getty is a beautiful and well kept museum that sits on top of a “hill” (they said hill but I say mountain), and you have to take their free monorail to get up there. Now I’m not a museum-y kind of guy but I highly recommend this place for any museum goers or anybody looking to do something free, which is always me.
It was late in the afternoon when I left the museum. I grabbed a Lyft and arrived at the beach and found the spot where we were supposed to meet. Our host Melanie greeted me, she was a super nice person and naturally pretty, with short blonde hair, wearing a sundress and fedora. She had a wagon full of supplies that we’d be using, and she already set up pillows and blankets for us to sit on.
After our last person arrived, a group of 10, we got started. Melanie had us go around and say our names, where we were from, and what we hoped to gain in the next 2 hours. Half the people were from Europe – two guys were road tripping across the country, one couple just got off the plane from Britain and were jet lagged – and for those of us who were from the states, everyone except me lived in L.A. We all agreed that we needed more meditation in our fast-paced lives.
We were then given a stick and tasked to go down to the shore and write down any unfavorable words or thoughts we have about ourselves that we wanted to get rid of and watch as the water washed this away. This was actually hard for me to do, not because I’m a “man” and “don’t have feelings” but because I’ve spent the last 4 years of my life volunteering as a camp counselor for kids who have muscular dystrophy and I’ve come to realize that my imperfect, normal, and boring life is actually a fortunate one to have – when looking at it through their eyes – and I’ve become VERY grateful for it.
I feel guilty for not writing anything down, so I think hard and write down the word “insecurity” since I do feel that sometimes (probably something most people feel it since it’s a natural human emotion).
We returned to our circle and were given sample sized cups then Melanie passed around a few bottles of pressed juices, saving some for later. Then she led us in our first meditation session where she had us close our eyes and count to 10 or 20 with each breath or we could count our breaths by saying “in & out”, and we did this repeatedly until we got into a calm state of mind and if we ever had any distracting thoughts we could say “not here” or “present” to get back to the present. After doing this for about 10 minutes and clearing my head, she chimed the bell and I opened my eyes feeling refreshed.
Then we were given supplies to draw our own mandala in the sand – a mandala is an elaborate, circular geometric design used to represent the universe in Eastern religions.
We did one more meditation session which was better than the first because Melanie introduced a “body scan” where we mentally scanned every part of our body. After awakening, she gave us each of us a gratitude journal that was ours to keep. On the inside she wrote:
What you practice grows stronger…
She had us write down things we were grateful for then we shared the thing we were most grateful for and everybody basically said the same thing: we were grateful for being there.
We did one last round of pressed juices and a kombachi tea, then sat there in silence and watched as the sun set. We all felt the same mixed emotions, it was an amazing connection… And just like that, the sun was gone.
We thanked Melanie for an UNFORGETTABLE experience and went our separate ways but not before I had her give me a recommendation of a good place to eat at nearby: Urth Caffé. I walked there and of course it was packed. I determined that it wasn’t worth it for me to stand in line just for soup, so I’ll go to Erewhon instead!
I called a Lyft and waited outside by one of those fancy patio heaters till an old, red Hyundai Elantra arrived. I slung my backpack off and hopped shotgun. Derek was this cool driver who resembled Pharrell Williams, but with a little ‘fro (I know, hard to image), and had a very loud voice.
In the back was a passenger holding a skateboard across his lap. I don’t remember his name but he reminded me of this average, sorta chubby kid from my middle school gym class that went by the name Pigeon. Anyways, this guy’s goal in life was to hit up major skate parks across the country and he worked at Bdubs as an assistant manger and took advantage of his time off to board, and just earlier that day he saw Johnny Knoxville skating with his son!
Derek and “Pigeon” talked about skater stuff, then Derek got a call to pick up a passenger named Sydney. When we arrived at her location she was standing on the other side of the street, some distance back, that we almost didn’t see her till Derek glanced back and pointed at some girl and shouted, “Ay! You Sydney?” She responded then he said, “SYDNEYYY! HANG ON, GIRL, I’M COMING!” Then this crazy mofo pulled a screeching U-turn in the middle of the street without any warning and I braced myself against the dashboard and said, “Shhhit.”
After Derek braked, Sydney hopped in the back. She looked 19 and was mostly wearing black, and was quite a rebellious kid as she bragged about getting kicked out of Santa Monica High and doing some juvie time, so she naturally fit in with the guys and they talked about their first skateboard, their favorite skater, the tricks that defied them, etc. When Derek asked me who my favorite boarder was I told him I didn’t know anyone except for Ryan Sheckler (I still don’t know if he’s a thing).
Then Derek skipped a song playing on his Pandora, broadcasting on his car’s speakers, and Sydney flipped out. He apologized and went back to the song and admitted he likes the song but has heard it a lot recently. That started up this whole entire conversation about who the best musician is and the three spat out all these names I’ve never heard of – all mostly underground – until they agreed on one name: HOMESHAKE. I later looked him up and loved with his voice, it’s mellow and soulful, with very few synthesized recordings added. Check him out sometime.
By this point we were driving on the I-10 driving with our windows down. I looked out to my left and saw Los Angeles flickering brightly against a thin and wide mountain range. I smiled and appreciated my last night here, spending it with a bunch of West Coast kids of all people.
I woke up around 5:20 a.m. to make a half hour trip to Santa Monica to check out this sugar & gluten-free restaurant called Bulletproof (you might’ve heard of their coffee or collagen protein products) which opened at 6, and my flight was leaving at 8 so time was of the essence! After stuffing my mouth with a gigantic burrito, I purchased a scone as a snack for my layover, then I caught a Lyft to LAX and made it there right on time. Whew, buddy!
I got on my airplane and took my seat, finally able to catch my breath. WHAT. A. WEEK. Then our plane backed out from the airport and our pilot drove it around like a car, along with all the other pilots who were driving their planes around like cars. We found our place in line to take off and I glanced out my window and stared at what I could see left of Los Angeles, and I thought to myself, What did I do to deserve such an amazing trip? …
Then I suddenly became overwhelmed with emotions, feeling both sad and grateful, and I was holding back tears.
Our turbines revved up…
We accelerated down the tarmac…
Thrown back into our seats, we lifted off from Earth…
And I headed back home, back to my normal life.