My wife and I have several friends in the Los Angeles area, but when we went there last week to celebrate her retirement, we didn’t tell any of them we’d be in town. Instead, we stayed a twosome the whole time, except when she had to recharge her shopping batteries with a 20-minute visit to Marshall’s, and confirmed what we’ve known for almost 36 years — we still like spending time together. Good thing, since there will be a lot more of that now.
Highlights of our trip:
- Riding bikes along the oceanfront in Santa Monica and Venice Beach.
- Dipping our toes in the Pacific Ocean just ten days after I had done the same in the Atlantic Ocean in Florida (a concept I doubt my grandparents could have dreamed of a hundred years ago).
- Hearing a young woman on the beach ask a lifeguard, “Is it legal to go topless here?” She was thrilled when he said yes, but I was surprised he didn’t say, “Legal? Hell, it’s encouraged!”
- Visiting the Getty Center for the first time and taking an architectural tour of the grounds, which are magnificent, and strolling through the equally-pretty gardens. Nice to know that some portion of the money that came from the sale of climate-destroying fossil fuels has been used to create something so damned beautiful.
- Taking the VIP Tour of Paramount Studios, which included extra behind-the-scenes access and chats with people who work in departments like the Sign Shop, the Archives, and the Wardrobe and Jewelry Collections. We also got to see the filming of a stunt for an upcoming episode of one of the “NCIS” franchises, which we’ll never see on TV because we don’t watch that show (or any of its CBS siblings).
- Staying in a hotel across the street from the Ocean Lodge Hotel and Chez Jay, which we didn’t know were real businesses when we saw Billy Bob Thornton frequent them on the Amazon Prime series “Goliath.”
- Eating at two of my favorite places in West Hollywood (which Martha had never been to): Canter’s Deli and the Farmer’s Market. I’ve never had a bad meal at either.
I also dragged my wife to Largo at the Coronet to see Nick Kroll and Friends. When I told my daughter of the plan ahead of time, she warned her mother that she would probably not enjoy it because it was going to be really raunchy. She was absolutely right, and I spent those two hours next to a very unhappy woman. Frankly, I wasn’t all that thrilled myself — not because of the scatological and reproductive biology content, but on account of Kroll and the other two comics (Jacqueline Novak and Joe Mande) not being all that funny that night. They were very openly just trying out new material most of the time, often starting on a setup but then never delivering a punchline (and admitting they still had to work on it). That might have been okay if we’d gone to someplace like the Comedy Store, where a dozen or more comedians each get 15 minutes, and most use the time to work on new bits. But this was a show we’d paid more money to see, in a theatrical setting, so I expected fully-formed routines and acts, which the three did not deliver. Disappointing.
Fortunately, we ended the week on a very high note — and I’m not talking about a visit to one of the omnipresent weed stores around Los Angeles. No, we spent our final night at the Magic Castle. That’s a treat which is normally reserved for members and their guests, but since we stayed next door at the Magic Castle Hotel, we were granted access and Martha got to say “Open Sesame!” to the sliding bookcase that marks the entrance. We not only had dinner there, but also saw six different magicians (none of whom I’d heard of before) performing in intimate venues, doing everything from close-up magic to stage illusions. The proceedings were made even more rare by the Castle’s dress code, which required me to wear a tie, which I don’t think I’ve done since my nephew Daniel’s bar mitzvah five years ago. It took some sleight-of-hand to remember how to tie the thing properly, but that was nothing compared to the tricks we saw with cards, balls, and other props over the course of six hours. A truly memorable night, and a fun way to finish our time on the west coast.