Day 2, Los Angeles — December 2, 2003

We started off the day with a hearty breakfast at IHOP. The waitress laughed at us when we all ordered nearly the same breakfast – a western skillet with sausage (bacon for me) and eggs over easy.
Since we skipped Santa Monica yesterday we decided to make it our first stop of the day. We took a long drive north and west until we finally reached the city. We passed by 3rd street, which someone recommended to me as a good place to stop, but the glimpse of the great blue sea had caught our eyes. We pulled over next to a park that overlooked the pier and took some pictures. There were quite a few homeless people in the park. I suppose if I were to live on the streets I would pick a warm spot, too. The homeless of Los Angeles that we saw were rather subdued compared to other large cities I’ve been in (Chicago and San Francisco come to mind). The only odd moment was when I saw two men sitting on benches around an artillery gun in the park passing a homemade pipe back and forth.
We were getting bored with seeing the ocean from a distance so we jumped back in the truck and drove down to the pier. I’ve seen pictures of Santa Monica Pier before, mostly on TV or in the movies. It was the middle of the day (noon by my watch; ten in the morning local time) on a weekday so there were no crowds to be seen. It was nice to see the pier while things were slow. There were old men standing or sitting around the railing with fishing poles at hand and a few kids hanging around the arcade. The rest of the people there were tourists like us, shooting pictures of things that are no doubt mundane to the locals but fascinating to use visitors.
Back down the pier and on to the beach we went. Groups of children ran around – part of a school group learning about the oceanfront. Dena and Annie were smart and wore sandals and dabbled their toes in the cold Pacific waters. There was a pretty good tide coming in and they both got splashed. It was fun.
Back to the truck and we were off again. After about two hours of driving we decided that it would have been a really good idea to pick up a decent map. We finally got lucky and found our next destination, Mann’s Chinese Theatre. We parked and ran out in front of the theatre and joined the crowd of tourists taking in the sights. Next time we come to LA we know where to get tickets to TV tapings. We were offered seats to three different shows while walking around that block. Unfortunately we were running low on time or we would have grabbed the tickets to the Jimmy Kimbel Show. It was neat seeing the stars on the sidewalk that lined that block and the hand and foot prints in the concrete in front of the theatre. None of that was as cool as what happened next. We were across the street, walking towards the theatre so we could get a good shot from a distance. We noticed a slight commotion ahead in front of a restaurant and a limo pull up in front of it. We walk up to see what’s going on and Alice Cooper walks out of the burger joint. Apparently he only signs one autograph per public sighting so by the time I got my camera ready he was already climbing into the car. I think I managed to capture a frame or two of him, but I’ll need to dig out the video camera to find out (and I’m in the airport now). As I was standing there trying to catch a glimpse a scraggly man who could have easily been mistaken for a homeless guy stepped up to the open door and leaned in to talk to Alice. They talked for a few minutes and it was only as he was walking away down the sidewalk that I caught his name – Rob Zombie. My first thought was, “Jorge isn’t going to believe this!” (Jorge being a fellow brother of all things Metal). I snapped a few photos of him. It was hard to tell if it really was the famed rocker or not. He looked…normal. Wearing old jeans and a ball cap, I would have passed him on the street and never taken a second look. I guess that’s one advantage to costume and makeup when in the public eye. Take it all off and it’s not quite so easy to recognize you.
We spent a good forty minutes or so walking around Hollywood Blvd., but finally it was time to go. We still needed to grab some lunch and drop off the rental.
Now, it’s just after ten at night (eight local) and we’re sitting in the terminal at gate 27, counting the minutes (one hundred and eleven, the same number as Bilbo when he left the Shire) until our plane departs. Our fourth traveling companion, Melanie, has just arrived and is up at the service counter getting her boarding pass printed. We managed to arrange for the four of us to sit together on the twelve-hour flight across the Pacific.
Because of the way the time change works, we’ll leave here on Tuesday evening and arrive just after seven in the morning on Thursday. It’s going to be a little weird keeping our days straight at first but I’m sure we’ll manage it alright. On the return flight we’ll actually touch down in Los Angeles before we leave New Zealand. Pretty nifty, eh?
I’d been told by a few people that getting wireless internet access in Los Angeles Airport is a piece of cake but apparently they’ve never been to this international terminal. In order to get online I would need to walk back through security and down two or three terminals. Thanks, but no thanks. I even fired up MacStumbler and walked around the terminal in hopes of finding a signal but again I was denied. Once we reach Wellington I’ll be able to find some way of getting online and posting this.
The first short leg of our journey is complete. We’ve made it from Chicago to Los Angeles and just like Sam and Frodo as they left the shire, our small fellowship is about to take another step and be farther from home than we’ve ever been before. Onward we go.

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