First Trip to Los Angeles Amid Skewed Expectations

26 02 2010

It all started with a simple e-mail from my wife

Des Moines to Los Angeles. $126 round-trip.

Like a pimple before prom, it just stuck out and we had to pay real attention. The moment of truth was approaching. Wait a day and that price could shoot up to $417. (Isn’t travel in 2010 just delightful?)

In a few weeks, that means the four of us will fly west for a few days of, we hope, lots of warmth and none of the worries.

This guy had no trouble having fun in L.A., provided his hot tub worked.

Yet I must confess I know next to nothing about Los Angeles — and what I do know comes from 90210, The Naked Gun, The O.J. Chase, Pat Riley’s Showtime Lakers, White Men Can’t Jump, Falling Down and Every Which Way But Loose.

I’ve never been there.

Wait. I have been to Los Angeles, technically, but I cannot refer to a three-hour layover when flying to Honolulu as truly having been to Los Angeles.

Any advice from the gentle readers about what to see and do? Especially with two small children.

Sure, we already have some of the trip already set up. Near a beach? Check. Disneyland? That’s Day 2. LEGOland? Day 3.

Yet I’m fairly quirky. I want to see a little bit more than just that. I just don’t hold much interest for seeing the Pitt-Aniston House (in happier days) or checking out all of the stars on the Walk of Fame.

I also realize Randy Newman’s epic salute to Los Angeles (from 1983) is gone forever. Each time I hear this, I can envision Pat Riley screaming at his world-class Laker basketball team, Kareem pulling down the goggles and Magic looking up and down the court, watching for double-teams for both during the game and after.

Even 18 years later, it's pretty...it's SO pretty.

My own “must do” list, if time and the possibility of whiny children were no object:

  • Dodger Stadium.
  • Venice Beach. Just to see the courts where Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes battled in only the greatest basketball movie ever produced. As long as you don’t count Teen Wolf.
  • The Back to the Future set. My buddy Raji often spoke of wanting to break into the downtown block of Hill Valley and just ride around. A couple years back, I spotted the movie set on Google Earth. Yeah, it could be worth a $300 trespassing citation and a few hours in the clink, right?
  • The Rose Bowl.
  • The L.A. County Courthouse. Again, if I had no minors counting on me to be a role model, I would even aim to walk into the courthouse and re-create my favorite parts of the O.J. Trial. You’re weird, I hear you murmur. Yeah, well recognize people who re-enact Civil War battles and even give them airtime. Why not for the trial people my age would often skip class to watch on Court TV? I could bring even different suits and act out the parts of Lance Ito, Gil Garcetti and Johnnie Cochran. More people watched the O.J. Trial than watched the Civil War. The fact there was no TV in 1863 will not dissuade me.
  • The Falling Down Tour. This would not require the presence of children as Michael Douglas created mayhem (is that a formal charge in California? It is in Wisconsin) all over the city. Sometimes hilarious. Sometimes disturbing.

A vacation all changes the moment you have children, especially if you have two. Couples without kids go to Wine Country in Northern California. Couples with young kids go to places that end in the word LAND.

A beer-drinking orangutan equals smiles all around. Will I see him AND Philo Beddoe fighting for money in the streets?

Even packing and flying with young children can be terribly stressful…if you let it. Amid our New Travel World of baggage fees and seat fares, the push to show up at Gate 17 in Des Moines with four backpacks could be a reality. My wife has executed these flights before with minimal expense and I’m putting my trust in her skills once again.

If not for her eagle eye on spotting the $126 flight, the only way we would be going to Los Angeles would be Griswold-style. Station wagon with wood trim.

That’s probably not entirely awful either.

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