Ok, so the first sign of trouble was when Jerome changed his flight from arriving Sunday at 1 to Friday at 4, displaying either a stunning ignorance of, or a callous disregard for, our traffic patterns.
But I was ok with it. Truly. It's not like there's hourly flights from Paris. He was traveling halfway around the world, for goodness sakes. The LEAST I could do was brave the 405 at Friday rush hour. So I just informed him I'd leave really early and that if the road back was real bad, we'd sit out traffic at dinner somewhere and resume the trip around 7.
I kept telling him, like you do ROUTINELY in L.A., that if some weird thing happened and I was late, to not panic. He kept telling me that I better be there. On time. No matter what. So, basically, I'm pretty sure he cursed me because I left in plenty of time, way early, and then for the first time ever, my tire blew out on the freeway.
So I spent an hour and a half, dawdling in the valley outside the Budweiser Plant in 105 degree weather, then sat in this:
Long story not quite so long -- I think the LA gods are smiling on Jerome. I arrived at the airport completely traumatized, he strolled out of the air-conditioned lounge where he'd spent the time checking his email, and we hit the road back right before 7. He was all pleased with how clear the traffic was and baffled by my warnings of Friday rush hour.
This is where things start to go horribly awry. Where he starts to get a tad, shall we say, dismissive. Most importantly, where he starts offering advice on when and how to change lanes.
But you know what? Maybe it's me I think -- I'm tired. I'm overheated. I'm frazzled. I'm driving on a spare tire with a yellow hub cap. I'll just get him home. Tomorrow is another day. We have In 'n Out burgers for dinner. He goes to bed at, like, 9 or something.
So the morning dawns. Except long before that, Jerome's been awake. Champing at the bit evidently. I thought he was supposed to be jet-lagged? He PROMISED he'd be jet-lagged! And I only have limited time because my partner's band is playing that night. I'm the manager. I have to be to be there. And I have to stay late, really late, to make sure everyone gets paid.
I'd told Jerome this weeks in advance. He'd even assured me it was no problem, that he'd be in no condition to go and would happily stay at the house because he'd be too jet-lagged to do anything that day.
Which was perfect for me since I was going to be, y'know, busy. And also because I'd sort of exhausted myself cleaning and trying to get some of my work done in advance so I could have time to enjoy his visit. Neither of which I really got done, since it had been scheduled for... well, Friday.
So anyway, perhaps jet-lag means something different in France. Or it affects them differently. Perhaps it's a condition that manifests in some sort of restless, manic energy that requires miles of walking to burn it off.
In any case, as I groggily schlepped to the coffee pot that morning, I was greeted with the sight of a fully dressed Jerome, fairly radiating health and well-being and exuding that sort of "let's get-going make-hay-while-the-sun-shines no-time-like-the-present" vibe. He had his shoes on. He'd already eaten cereal. He may or may not have had his sunglasses perched on his head. I can't remember that clearly, but if he didn't, he gave that impression.
Over coffee, I'm frantically trying to think of what I had planned that can be squeezed in to this limited time-slot. Clearly, anything on the Westside, the beaches, etc., is out of the question. Walking around downtown is also going to be time-consuming, not to mention strenuous. Hollywood is close, but he sorta scoffed when I brought it up.
So I suggest Hollyhock House, one of the few Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in LA that is open to the public. That should be doable. Neither too far nor too time-consuming. Plus, it's just a house -- how much walking can there be? I walk around houses all the time no problem. Even better, it'd be indoors out of the sun. I'd gotten enough of that at the Budweiser plant. I was sorta burned.
Except I sorta hadn't been thinking about parking. I guess if I'd had time to consider, and enough coffee, it would have been obvious we couldn't drive right up to the front porch. And that rich people like building shit on the tops of hills. And that they wouldn't want anything like a parking lot ruining the view.
This was all clear the moment we got there, but before I could articulate any sort of plan, my guest was striding up to the house to check it out, then down to the museum where the tickets were, then over to the art center while we waited, then back to the house to firmly establish the tour meeting spot, then out around the perimeter to take in the views, then back to the house again to await the tour.
I sorta bobbed along in his wake, a bit preoccupied by trying to surreptitiously scope out if there was anywhere to sneak off for a cigarette and wondering how far I'd have to walk to be out of smelling distance.
So we finally start the tour and it was great -- I'm pretty sure we both enjoyed it --
... but while waiting for it, we'd only been joined by one woman, obviously smart and extremely interested in Frank Lloyd Wright, until the very last second when a group of 4 strolled up. At first glance, I was thinking 'oh great, LA stereotypes on display. Especially the one type, just like those spoiled people on that horrible reality tv show my sister-in-law made me watch... wait! She's not just that TYPE, she's that ONE!"
So I don't know which was more embarrassing -- that she was there, or that I actually knew who she was. In any case, I have no shame and made J take her picture for evidentiary purposes (she's the further, blonde one):
Ok, and then admittedly, I did force him to watch the show the next night, but ONLY so he'd appreciate how mind-bogglingly ludicrous it was to have her on our Hollyhock House tour. I'm pretty sure he was fully cognizant by the end credits.
Oh, and also to confirm to him for positive that he'd seen a celebrity. Because that's what I said to him immediately following the tour when he asked "what next?" I'd replied "what do you mean next? You've seen a rare house and a celebrity! What more do you want?" Being the clear-thinking sort, he questioned my definition of celebrity.
In desperation, I dragged him to the Hollywood and Highland complex (just down the hill, really), down the Walk of Fame (surely there'd be a group of smokers I could meld into whilst he read the sidewalk), and to Mann's Chinese Theatre to see the footprints -- "See? Celebrities! Celebrities you haven't even HEARD of! I have a VAST celebrity-trivia knowledge-base! You need to trust me on these matters!"
You've probably already seen the one that impressed him.... (for the lazy clickers, it's the Jerry Lewis star).
By this time, I'm running late for my other thing. I've already ditched soundcheck and am starting to worry about traffic. But NO WORRIES! Jerome whips out his iPhone GPS and navigates us home on clear roads, technology thus rendering useless the last bit of cultural capital I had, my native knowledge of surface street workarounds. I am suddenly, and without warning, utterly obsolete. Which leaves my actual driving as the only topic at hand.
To the prior driving advice, J adds in a spot of musing over technique and my possible motivations/psychological make up -- "you must not be so timid. You are afraid of zee other drivers. Perhaps because of your accident." (and, no, he doesn't actually say 'zee' but I need to keep you aware that he's French) which leads to our first actual exchange of testy words -- "No, it is NOT timidity or fear. It is common sense and courtesy, not to mention SAFETY. And not being an asshole."
His 'advice' gives me my first glimmer of fear for the day he acquires his rental car.
Which, bear in mind, is two days away. Two days that were a blur of... walking. Walking and... just moving... relentlessly moving... I'll spare you the gory details at this point -- I want to get the LA segment of this story behind us in one post -- but here it all is in photos.
And, honestly, I couldn't tell you about it anyway, given that 1. the show ran late due to technical difficulties related to a lack of a soundcheck and 2. I lost my ability to form a coherent narrative in my head due to 3. lack of sleep and nicotine deprivation compounded by 4. TOO MUCH WALKING which lead to 5. exhaustion, defeat and, I'm guessing, some mild form of Stockholm Syndrome.
So if it looks sorta fun, that's because it was...
We started day 2 at Union Station:
Then on to Olvera Street:
Then across to the Civic center area.
Jerome waiting for me to catch up (I have a ton just like this!):
Next, Disney Hall, which he insisted was called The Gehry (I got this close cuz he was deciding where to go next).
Then through the downtownhistoric core:
...to the Bradbury Building where I finally managed to catch my breath enough to yell -- "look! a SIGN! can't you just... STOP! read the SIGN! REALLY ABSORB IT! It's HISTORIC AND SHIT! I'm POSITIVE it requires AT LEAST a reflective PAUSE" finally desperately resorting to a personal appeal "ME AND THIS BUILDING WERE IN THE SAME MOVIE -- This building is a CELEBRITY in its own right! I need a PERSONAL BladeRunner moment to... COMMUNE... or... remember... or something..."
Honestly, I'm not sure exactly what I said, but I tried to make it sound like some personal private time was required between me and the building and that he needed to show some due respect by at least reading the sign, at which point he hesitated long enough for me to snap this:
Finally, we reached Angel's Flight where I collapsed onto a handy concrete bench across the street and BLATANTLY lit a cigarette (like they don't smoke in France?!?), and suggested J might want to, y'know, run up the steps to see what was up there.... maybe a couple of times....
Feeling more benevolent after my nicotine boost, we actually rode the thing up. After which, we ended the day at The Pantry, which is famous for this sort of thing:
Jerome ordered a hamburger. No one was expecting that -- the Pantry didn't even have buns:
But I think he liked it -- he bought a hat and indulged me for a time-wasting but obligatory shoe photo whilst standing in front of the worn spot at the cash register:
Suffused with energy from the copious amounts of roast beef and heartened by the disappearance of the setting sun, I FINALLY start feeling enthusiastic and ready to be a proper tour guide! Where to? Mullholland Drive? Sunset Strip? The city lights beckon! On that note, we drive home and tuck J into bed. Or, more accurately, the couch. Whatever. It's a minor distinction, right?
So day 3 we drive all the way down Sunset, through Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Brentwood, and Pacific Palisades, and down Pacific Coast Highway along the beaches. Our intention was to make it to Santa Monica and Venice. This did not happen. I had to use a bathroom. I had to get out of the car. I had to not hear another bit of driving advice.
We stopped at Will Rogers State Beach and, omg -- Jerome was happy! and still! he dug a moat and settled in... all was beautiful and calm...
... until I saw what time it was. We were still in my car. I had to pick up my partner from work. And here we were on THE WESTSIDE! We had to leave SOON or be marooned here till early evening. I couldn't do that to my partner -- he had no way to get home! Despite whatever misleading impression Angel's Flight might have given, there's no real public transportation here! Or not anywhere we needed to be or go. And he had to take this traffic thing SERIOUSLY! OMG - why won't he MOVE?!? Why's he just SITTING THERE! Rush hour is upon us!
Besides, he'd have the rental car tomorrow -- we could come back! Stay all day! Stay till nighttime! The beach is GORGEOUS at night! And remember the traffic! At which point I found myself arguing with both him AND his iPhone. I finally convinced him to leave the water's edge at the very last stress-inducing minute.
And we do hit traffic. Which his phone then navigates us out of. I'm really starting to hate that fucking phone. I mean, sure, I don't want to sit in traffic. Obviously. And the phone is handy. But... isn't all this Apple iStuff kinda... smug? Or irritating? Or maybe it's the sun... or the fact that I'm fucking exhausted and... AND OMG - I am NOT A TIMID DRIVER!!!!! YOU CAN'T KEEP UP A RUNNING COMMENTARY ON MY DRIVING! You just... CAN'T! I don't CARE if you and your phone are both COMPLETELY RIGHT! And...
... omg... am I seriously yelling at my friend? Who's sitting there calmly in wounded silence, staring at the GPS coordinates on his cute little phone? What kind of horrible monster am I? I swear I'm not like this. I never yell! Or... ok, not 'never,' but rarely. Very rarely. Usually only during divorces. That's hardly ever.
I apologize immediately. He graciously accepts. He advises which exit to take. We make it to the office with 10 minutes to spare and have a nice dinner and spend the evening at home.
The next morning, I take him to rent the car. He drives off to his friend's house on the beach and I go to my office to get my ebay done. I then go home and clean my house to a condition fit for having visitors. I then collapse in front of the tv and chain-smoke (outside! Don't worry! I did not harm Jerome!) until I'm ready to pass out. Not as early as I should -- we have an early day tomorrow. The road trip. The convention. Vegas. I'm pretty sure I need to rest up for this. I decide to pack in the morning....
(...to be continued!)