I came back from Los Angeles with Melanie on Monday night, and though I’ve been doing my thing in Queens for the past three days, I thought I’d jot some moments from the trip before I forget. While I do appreciate thematic journeys/vacations laced with life lessons and “insightful” perspectives, I’ve found myself moving away from overt sentimentalism to a more matter-of-fact reporting style accompanied by one or two personal notes. It’s a more mechanical way of writing, but I think it saves me from wincing too much with embarassment when I re-read my entries later on. If you’d like to skip reading my thoughts, please feel free to check out photos from the trip.
Before our 5-day trip to LA, I distinctly remember hearing Death Cab for Cutie’s Why You’d Want To Live Here on my iPod Shuffle at the gym. There’s a mix of contempt and fascination for LA in the lyrics – “I can almost see a skyline through a thickening shroud of egos. / Is this the city of angels or demons?” – and this song kept turning in my head throughout the trip.
The trip highlights:
Reunion with Jay Mung – sporting a hipster haircut and hipster lifestyle, Jay, currently pursuing a masters at USC, played the role of graceful host, constantly entertaining and spicing up the nightlife with Mung-esque activities. He even provided me a mattress (albeit from a stack of abandoned mattresses) to sleep on during my stay. A large towel was used as a cover for sanitary purposes.
The Getty Museum – having read about Robert Irwin in his biography, I was excited to check out his Central Garden at The Getty. While I was uninterested in the exhibitions, there was plenty to see in the architecture of the museum itself.
Fast food – In&Out, Carl’s Jr., and Del Taco. I let myself go and indulged in the “higher-quality” fast foods of California. The In&Out burger was reminiscent of Shake Shack in New York, the pastrami burger at Carl’s Jr. was decadent (and mad good), and Del Taco seemed a notch or two above Taco Bell.
K-town – I didn’t have the opportunity to explore much of Koreatown. I biked there once with Mung for a naeng-myun lunch, stopped at BCD for late-night after-clubbing MSG soondubu jigae, and one last time at Hodori for after-concert eats. It’s huge, and I hope someone will take me to more “in” spots the next time around. It was also tough to visualize the vibrant place as the stomping ground during the LA Riots more than 15 years ago.
weather and traffic – the weather was great while I was there with temperatures in the low seventies. The nights do get chilly, and there is absolutely no humidity. It’s nice, but my New York pride wouldn’t permit me to say that I’d love to have such weather all the time. Traffic wasn’t too bad while I was there – we did get stuck from time to time, but finding parking seems to be just as bad of an issue.
TV Show Taping – Mike Lee hooked me and Melanie up with VIP seats at a taping of Fox’s new show ‘Til Death, starring Brad Garrett, the tall goofy brother of Everybody Loves Raymond. It was really interesting and fun to see the actual taping process and the elaborate sets at Sony Studios. The studio put a great deal of effort in having the audience involved – they had an emcee (a fat bald guy with Michael Moore’s voice) whose job was to rally the audience and keep us entertained in between scenes. We even had free pizza. The taping was a bit too long (scheduled to last 5+ hours), so Mel and I left after a couple of hours.
Hollywood Bowl – my last night in LA was well spent at the outdoor amphitheater, the Hollywood Bowl. We – Mung, Mung’s friend Ana, and myself – watched TV on the Radio and Massive Attack from the nosebleed seats in section Q while sipping pinot noir from plastic wine glasses. We also munched on cheeses, crackers, grapes, and Mung’s favorite pecan pie. A wonderful time and very reminiscent of Mung’s Weekender outing for Shakespeare in the Park four summers earlier.
The Other Pae – I met up with Brandon’s cousin Jason, who is currently a senior at UCLA. Mung, Mike, and I went over to his apartment in Westwood and hung out with him and his roommate Paul (a sublet for the summer). Paul, a tall guy with blond, flowing (yet thinning) hair, was a set designer who worked on the sets of music videos and movies. The five of us chatted in the living room before going to Westwood Brewery for a few drinks. A very chill and relaxing time – and it was good to see Jason again.
The ‘Burbs – I spent a night out in Walnut, where Mung’s parents currently live. It is like any other suburban community you’d see across America except that it’s overwhelmingly Asian. Think of Main Street Flushing stretched out for dozens of miles (and cleaned up) with cul-de-sacs of very nice homes in every side street. I met Mung’s neighbor and buddy Max – a super-laid back and friendly dude – and did suburban things like hitting up the driving range (a most unsatisfying time due to our inadequacy as golfers) and going to a local bar, which happened to be a Korean joint called Good Time. Mel came out with her buddies Maggie and Alice and we did a few rounds of Sam Adams pitchers before calling it a night. I really liked Mung’s parents’ home, the way it had a large area in the back to entertain guests, and the way it was situated on a sloping hill with clear views of the sprawling Asian American suburb.
I really admired the culture of outdoor activity in California – the restless desire to go outside and bike, run, and/or swim. Mung and I engaged in some physical activities as we played tennis, biked, and even played some hoops. The idea of outdoor exercise in LA seemed different than in New York. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it felt like people there were willed by the constant good weather to be active while in New York, outdoor activities seem like just another outlet for Type A personalities to release their competitive angst. Maybe it’s not so different in LA, but here, the unpredictable weather and excellent public transportation spoil us.
I hope to spend more time outdoors, especially now that it’s lovely autumn weather in New York. And perhaps learn to lose the anxious feeling of being away from the computer at midday. Parting words, courtesy of Death Cab:
And I can’t see why you’d want to live here,
Billboards reach past the tallest buildings,
“We are not perfect
but we sure try” as UV rays “degradate” our youth with time.