Back to a Group

        Shortly after having become just about entirely comfortable traveling alone, I'm back in a group. I'm joined by Brian jumping in from Wilkes-Barre while Mud, his girlfriend Liz, Riad, and Erik come from Tahiti. Mike left Tahiti early to begin his career as a corporate tool. It's a welcome change to be traveling with others again, and I'm sure we'll have a great time.
        We begin to do so right away. In our rented pimping minivan, we cruise Rodeo Drive. It's impossible to even approximate fitting in, weathered travelers among the nipped, tucked, botoxed, and name-branded beautiful people.
        The contrasts between L.A. and New York City are striking. Put simply, this place just feels much more relaxed. NYC's busy hustle and bustle seems silly compared with L.A.'s chilled pace and effortless cool. Even construction signs are drastically different. NYC typically has industrial, serious notices of works in progress, dark blue or black lettering announcing the contractor's company name and little else. A site in L.A. is all pastels, including something like "ch-ch-ch-changes... are coming soon. Please bear with us during the improvements." Even the building projects catch the relaxed vibe.
        Last stop before a long rush-hour drive is Ye Coach and Horses, a Hollywood hole-in-the-wall that Alfred Hitchcock supposedly frequented. I definitely believe he would have liked this place; with dim red lights and antique decorations, it's a welcome contrast with the plastic shiny sunny world outside and could have come right out of one of his films. Groovy are cheap local beer, a waitress who was a child actress, and a fellow drinker who appeared on "Malcolm in the Middle (he buys the tree from Hal in the Christmas special, for Malcolm connoisseurs)" but got in trouble for racing his Porsche against Frankie Muniz's across the studio lot. This town is a strange and wonderful place.
        It's late when we hit the one Travelodge room all 6 of us will share in San Diego, so we do little more than eat. After I eat some of the best Mexican food I've ever had to the point that I'm almost painfully full but still haven't spent double digit dollars, I think to myself for the many-ieth time that I could definitely live in southern California.

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