Published: December 25th 2008December 17th 2008
Thursday 4th December to Wednesday 24th December, 2008
With Jerry gone it was time for a much needed recharging of the batteries and by the time the weekend came around again following his departure his visit seemed like eons ago, the memories of little things such as his his beer influenced giggle, his exaggerated Scouseness and his low voiced growled greeting of "Pig-geeeey, ya little shit" seeming like dots on the horizon. It's perplexing how just a couple of days 'back at the office' can cajole you into slipping quickly back into a familiar groove after something out of the ordinary has thrown you out of kilter but that's exactly what had happened. Other than a handful of photographs and a few fuzzy memories it was as though he'd never been here. November had been a month of hectic social whirl with visits to the City That Never Sleeps and Sin City twice but my ill made plans to now take the foot off the gas and 'slow down' had unfortunately seen two very large spanners thrown into the works. Christmas and Rock'n'Roll !
Before all that could be considered though there was a little bit of neighbourhood excitement
Cheeky. Dancer at Tiesto.
to chew over. The front doorstep of Yankee Doodles, the scruffy pool hall cum bar situated less than a mile from my front door where just days earlier Jerry, Phil and I had partaken of a few cold ones watching the Sunday NFL games had, on Tuesday night witnessed the cold blooded shooting of a local man, apparently in a dispute over of all things football and whilst Long Beach, or at least the inland 'hooded reaches of the City where gangs abound is no stranger to shootings my particular residential neighbourhood of Belmont Shore is so news of the slaying set the tongue's wagging for all of the best part of a day to the point where it astonishingly made local rag headlines over arrangements for the upcoming Christmas parade.!
After three days of much needed rest and recouperation Thursday signalled a return to the norm and the hurling of the first of the spanners which came with the F & E Christmas Party, being held in a swanky upmarket Santa Monica Hotel. Lisa 2, who fortunately for me was reneging from drink due to the medication she was taking thankfully negating the need for a very expensive
Sushi in Hollywood
taxi ride home drove us straight from work to the Santa Monica apartment of colleague Linda to change for the party. Linda, Lisa 2's friend and the glamorous and attractive 44 year old designer gear only wearing real estate director thinks of herself, as I was quickly finding out as something of a comedian. Not only had she turned my shirt that was hanging in Lisa 's car inside out when they'd gone for lunch that afternoon sending me into a five minute bout of confused puzzlement wondering how and why I had no recollection of the external labels and pronounced stitching that had suddenly adorned my new garment whilst she struggled to disguise her laughter bent double on the other side of the bathroom door but she also shouted through as I was in the process of puzzling out what had happened to my clothes no doubt in an attempt to embarass me "Matt, be a love and pass me a tampon out please"!
As if to display her liking for life's finer things Linda's fridge contained nothing but two bottles of Dom Perignon Champagne which, when we were joined by three other colleagues were swiftly emptied before
F & E Xmas party.
departure. This fact went some way to explaining not only the appearance of my trustee air guitar a few hours later but also my assurances to Lisa 2 when she dropped me outside my door in the early hours that I didn't need my laptop bag and that it could wait until the next day. Alas, the keys to my front door were in it so I unfortunately had to wake a sleeping Baz and spend an uncomfortable and restless night on his cold leather couch.
F & E had grown over the last twelve months to the extent that there was just my adopted department present at the party, twenty four people in a third floor hotel function room without windows, with a long table set for dinner at one end and a DJ waiting patiently for the meal to end before playing typical wedding style crap at the other. The evening, reluctantly for him who expressed his hatred of public speaking started with a speech of thanks from the gov'nor, Londoner Tony who thanked the staff for their efforts throughout the year and who welcomed the two new F & E staff members to the team. There
Lisa 2 and Linda. Lovely girls.
was no mention of yours truly and for a short while I felt wholly invisible and terribly unloved.
"Is there anything or anyone I've forgotten ?" he asked between large nervous slugs on his red wine but head shakes, blank looks and silence from the herd followed and it was all I could do to stop myself shouting "what about me !". As soon as he'd finished his address he returned to the huddle and upon setting eyes on yours truly dropped his jaw to his chest and apologised profusely, "I'm so sorry I completely forgot about you" his explanation. I accepted his apology relieved in the knowledge that maybe, just maybe I wasn't so insignificant after all !
Nonetheless I was still feeling a bit like the outsider I clearly was and probably only spoke to half of those present throughout the evening but made doubly sure I took full advantage of the hospitality that was afforded us all in the form of filet mignon dinner and plentifully stocked complimentary bar.
The following night saw the first of the rock'n'roll spanners. The Blue Cafe in Huntington Beach is effectively a large characterless room with a bar
Dave Lee Roth and friend.
at one end, a stage at the other and a solitary gents toilet that caused panic and and leg crossing amongst customers and staff alike half way through the evening when it decided to block thus sending it's contents spewing under the door into the bar area. It is situated behind a solitary door in a shopping arcade that reminded me very much of the Hope Farm Precinct and was hosting performances by tribute bands Fan Halen and Bonfire, the very same AC/DC act that we'd seen earlier in the summer and unsurprisingly both were remarkable in their likenesses.
I have often wondered how much and to what extent the persona's of the stars they are mimicking takes over the lives of these look-a-like entertainers. Does the David Lee Roth impersonator cook breakfast in nothing but his silver bottomless chaps's ? Does Angus Young nip to the shops in his school uniform ? DLR's stage presence was uncannily like the real thing right down to the star jumps, the between song spiel and the pulling of an attractive blonde from the audience to dance with him and Bon Scott's likeness was eerie to the point of scariness.
Me, Tiffany, The Aussie Impaler and Phil.
least it was until I was chatting to him after the show. Still dressed in his stage gear of jeans and denim waistcoat exposing his door mat chest he was in the process of explaining his total admiration for the his hero and how his band had played at the Wrexham AC/DC Convention I had very nearly attended a couple of years ago when he shattered any illusions I might have been having by reaching up and removing his hair in one clenched fisted swoop, placing it neatly on the bar top alongside him and smoothing back the seven or eight long hairs that graced the top of his almost totally bald dome at the same time wiping away any misconceptions I may have been having that this was perhaps a spiritual reincarnation of the great man himself !.
During the night I'd chatted to Tiffany, a recently seperated woman who bore more than a passing resemblance to Courtney Love. She was from nearby Huntington Beach and had gone to the bar alone to check out the bands and at the end of the evening we stopped to chat once more. Since the bands had finished she'd been talking
to a big, bandana wearing man at the bar whose face somehow told me he'd been in more than his fair share of bar room bust ups over the years and she wasted no time in excitedly and almost proudly informing us that he was a genuine porno star. She waved him over and she was right. He was a larger than life Australian man in his mid thirties who told us in his coarse Aussie twang straight off the set of Crocodile Dundee that his adopted screen name was Eddie Charisma, that he'd been in the States for a handful of years, made dozens of movies the titles of which are perhaps not appropriate to appear in this blog and that he was otherwise known as 'The Aussie Impaler"!!!!
Following a disappointing Saturday night spent on Hollywood Boulevard which included a stop over in a Comfort Inn and a visit to a trendy and ridiculously expensive sushi bar with Paparazzi camped outside it was another dose of rock'n'roll for Monday, this time in the form of the real thing, the real AC/DC, eight years since they'd last toured performing at The 17,500 seat LA Forum. On the drive
Phil sticks one on Humphrey!
home to pick Phil up I was excited, like a sixteen year old about to go to his first ever concert and my excitement proved totally justified. The Forum, a perfect ampitheatre was packed to the rafters as the band played a two hour set full of classics of which every word was sung along to by every member of the audience.
As we returned to the Jeep we came across yet another ludicrous case of American beurocracy and pointless rule making. As you could probably imagine for a venue that holds seventeen and a half thousand people and which shares car parking space with its neighbour, the Hollywood Park Race Track, the asphalted space in between the buildings stretched for miles. We'd arrived at The Forum with barely minutes to go until the concerts' 9pm start time and were consequently parked in the far reaches of the lot and once the show was over followed the crowd along the left side of a crescent shaped line of foot high traffic cones that bisected the car park at five metre spacings, positioned one presumed solely to guide the exiting cars safely from the car park. On the other 'out
of bounds' side of the cones was acres and acres of tarmac totally unoccupied except for a couple of parked security vehicles and their occupants stood chatting idly alongside.
The punters, Phil and I included were for some reason following the route of the cones like lemmings headed for the nearest hill top not only ensuring we were all walking amongst live traffic but also that they were on a much longer route back to our vehicles than was actually necessary. After after a handful of seconds we eventually caught on to this and simply cut through making a direct bee line for our vehicle across the empty and wide open space. Why not ? It was empty with no vehicles nor danger of being caught in the hastily departing traffic. We were 20 metres into the void when a voice from behind called us back with an urgency that told us we may well have strayed onto some unchecked minefield thus endangering the lives of ourselves and those around us.
"Whoa buddy, you can't walk there, that's a no go zone". We glanced over our shoulders to see a lone security guard helplessly and half heartedly attempting
Half way through Sharam
to wave us back to the other 'correct' side of the cones. It was as though even he realised the ridiculousness of what he was saying so we simply ignored him and kept walking laughing at the stupidity of it all and at the same time igniting panic and an arm and torch waving excercise from the handful of guards that populated the coned area as well as causing an avalanche of people to follow us. For the moment we were the Pied Pipers of Inglewood.
Hollywood Park Race Track was the very same venue that Jamie and I had walked to on my very first night in America over twenty one years earlier. Within minutes of finding a motel close to the airport we'd left Dave and Phil in the bar and excitedly set out on foot to explore, thrilled at the prospect of being in a new lunexplored and and totally oblivious to the gangs of coloured men gathered on each street corner who eyed us with as much surprise as threat. When we eventually came across the race track we paid and entered, more out of curiosity than any desire to win our fortunes only to
Hollywood's 'Museum of Death'.
be told by two white guys we chatted to that Inglewood was not the sort of neighbourhood to stroll around aimlessly in. Needless to say we got a cab back and as Phil and I headed back to the 405 along Century Boulevard we both simultaneously recognised a landmark on the side of the street. That very same motel.
There was no let up in the frivolities in the build up to the 25th. Another weekend, admittedly with a Friday night spent 'babysitting'
the girls, who would have thought that, certainly not me, a Monday night out to see DJ Tiesto at a super cool lounge near Disneyland which unfortunately didn't see the Dutchman take to the stage until 11pm and leave it until 2am and a Thursday night trek back to The Forum to see Metallica.
The Metallica show was unique in two ways. Firstly that the stage was situated smack bang in the centre of the auditorium and completely surrounded on all four sides by brawling, headbanging, spinning mosh pits leaving us wondering exactly how the four band members actually made it on and off the stage and secondly that with the ticket purchase came not
only a copy of the new album but also a free download of the concert for which we were purchasing the ticket. The sound inside The Forum that night was a poor as I've heard at a major concert but thankfully the download, recorded directly from the mixing desk was crystal clear and our seats above the swirling sweaty masses allowed us a grandstand view of it all.
Amongst all these various liesure activities I'd started to pay my penance for my transgressions against the State. I've already explained in previous blogs the theory behind Traffic School. Traffic School is effectively a pointless waste of eight hours that sees adults treated like naughty children in an unsuccessful attempt to make them see the error of their ways when they've been 'nabbed' breaking the speed limit and which half heartedly attempts to disguise the real reason for its existence, to successfully generate another fifty bucks in enrolment fees in addition to the already insanely high fine for the City coffers. I really would like to meet face to face the person who devised this one.
Thankfully, technological advancements dictate Traffic School can now be attended 'on line'. Yes, you
still have to pay the same enrolment fee and yes, you still have to spend the same eight hours in attendance (the computer tells you if you have read a page too quickly !) but at least you can do it from the comfort of your own home or office. The idea is to spend a set time, forty five minutes reading a chapter and then to answer twelve often ludicrous multiple choice questions based on that chapter. Thankfully however it seems the powers that be have yet to become familiarised with the functions known as 'cut and paste' !!. Consequently, the process now involves copying the chapter and pasting into a Word Document, leaving your PC to fester for 45 minutes and then returning and simply checking and inserting the answers. Simple.
This last week or so has also finally seen the arrival of Winter which unfortunately coincided with the realisation that the heater in my Apartment is kapput forcing four shivering nights of sleeping under my wafer thin summer duvet dressed in sweat shirt, long shorts and woolly socks pulled Pippy Longstocking style up to the knees. Heaven forbid any knocks at the door like Thanksgiving morning.
The final event on the social calendar other than the weekend was Christmas Party number two, the Faithful & Gould bash held on Friday night. F & G are my 'real' employers with 'real' people and as such it was a party at which I felt much comfortable and at home in.
As I write this it's approximately 3pm on Christmas Eve and I'm waiting, as I seem to spend a lot of time doing, for Bazil to finish phaffing around so we can go out for a Xmas Eve beverage. Christmas is a time for being with friends and family. Unfortunately my family are all a million miles away but one Godsend is that I at least have some good friends to spend my day with.
Best wishes to everyone for Xmas and the New Year. To be continued......
There are more photos below