We loaded up the rental in Phoenix and headed out on highway 10. A straight shot through the desert, past the Joshua Tree and the crazy wind farm that marks the spot where Palm Springs rests. My son Josh and I were still a hundred miles out when L.A. started. Locals would correct me but it was continuous city, building after building, sidewalk after sidewalk, neighbourhood after neighbourhood for a hundred miles until we were welcomed into L.A. proper.
First time in L.A. for both of us. First time on the west coast. My son Josh and I had come for a visit. A road trip. A repeat performance of our trip to Chicago from a few years ago. This time Josh is in first year university and a whole bunch of life circumstances made this the perfect time for a road trip. Our goal for L.A. was pretty simple. Surf lessons.
There are a lot of reasons a lot of people land in L.A. I’d been talking surfing up for quite a while to Josh. I was the veteran surfer with one whole lesson in the experience column. That lesson had occurred in the frigid waters of Nova Scotia’s Lawrencetown Beach. Now we’d come to L.A., me the Big Kahuna, to share the “Big Wednesday” experience with my little minnow.
Josh was navigating us through L.A. and out to Santa Monica where we’d stay and have our lesson close to the Santa Monica pier and the end of the old Route 66. I was gripping the wheel, white knuckled, wishing I’d paid for the next level of insurance they’d offered at the rental office. We were stopping in downtown L.A. to take care of an immigration issue. My paperwork for re-entry into Canada needed a stamp from the L.A. Canadian consulate. Long story. Josh spotted the exit he was confident we needed and we pulled off the highway and down into one of those quaint neighbourhoods where the streets are lined with the husks of burned out automobiles and the only people out on the sidewalks are small groups of young men who watch you intently as you pass by. “Don’t show fear,” I thought to myself, “they can smell if you’re afraid…” then I realized that was advice my mom gave me as a child about the neighbourhood dogs and probably wouldn’t work here in L.A. “Just keep driving.” I decided.
After the seventh or eighth tattoo parlour we finally hit a road that was on our google map. A few minutes later and several trips around the block we pulled into an underground garage. And here was my first faux pas in L.A. We stopped and a valet approached my window. I rolled it down. He said he’d park the car for us. I told him thanks, but no thanks, I’d park the car myself. I wasn’t born yesterday and I knew how these big city guys operated. I’d be in to him for a tip plus the parking fee. I steeled myself to resist his attempts to convince me to let him park the car for me. That’s when he said, awkwardly, “um…no sir, we, um, you, um, you’re not ALLOWED to park your own car sir…” Ah, right, I knew that.
…to be continued…