Monday, February 15, 2010

Highway 1 Revisited ...

Posted By on Mon, Feb 15, 2010 at 3:11 PM

... In which I continue my travelogue from my recent expedition to L.A. and San Francisco.

On Tuesday morning, Tatine and I bid farewell to the rest of our party, which scattered to the far corners of the country: Mary to Utah, Frances to Santa Fe, Ricki and Dan to Memphis, Andrew and his bandmates back to Brooklyn.

We had another five glorious days in California to spend. The plan was to drive Highway 1 up the coast for a couple of days, then spend three days in San Francisco, where I lived for a while in the 1970s. Back in those days, I hitchhiked Highway 1 numerous times. This was the era when you'd seldom stand more than 15 minutes on the side of the road before somebody would pull over, open the car door, and hand you a joint as you climbed in. I have many wonderful memories of camping and hiking along the California coast. (I'd probably have many more memories if I'd smoked fewer joints. But I digress ...)

Tatine, who was born and raised in France, had never been to California, so I was looking forward to watching her reactions to the spectacular beauty that lay ahead. For the first few hours out of L.A., Highway 1 rolls through farmland, more specifically, vegetable-growing land. We saw acres and acres of broccoli, artichokes, cauliflower, and other produce items. Finally, at Morro Bay (with its famous rock) we hit the coast.

Morro Bay
  • Morro Bay

Further north, we saw a beach turnout with several people taking pictures, so we pulled off to see what the fuss was about. It was elephant seal mating season, and they were everywhere. See if you can find four animals in this picture, including a seal:

A little wildlife.
  • A little wildlife.

And if you looked south from that last picture, you can't even count the seals, they're so thick. A few babies were dead, but many were alive and suckling. The few mating encounters we saw were, well, rather laid back. They seem to prefer to cuddle and spoon for a while before getting the "action" started. This was probably more a function of the enormous energy required to move such massive amounts of blubber than romantic foreplay.


As the day wore on, we began discussing where we might spend the night. I was holding out for somewhere in Big Sur, where I'd spent many nights and days three decades before. Using my trusty iPhone, I googled "lodging" and came up with a number of options, including Ventana, which I knew to be a very pricey spa resort. I wasn't ready to spend the $400-$500 a night cited on the website, but I figured it was off-season and mid-week, so why not call and make like William Shatner, the Negotiator? We got a fireplace room, with spa access and breakfast included for about half the stated price. Check this place out.

Ventana is spectacular, by any measure, nestled 2,000 feet above the Pacific in a redwood grove. We had a splendid dinner, then hit the "clothing-optional" Japanese baths and pool. We're not shy people, but we were apparently among the only guests there and were the only people using the baths and pool, so it didn't really matter. Put swimming naked under the stars in Big Sur on your life's bucket list, my friends.

The next morning, the sun came over the mountain, giving us this view from our room.

We ate yogurt, granola, and fruit in the serene lodge, then took off for a hike on the trail above the resort. The views were glorious.

Afterwards, we hit the pool once again, and once again had the whole place to ourselves.

It was with great reluctance that we drove down the mountain back to Highway 1 after lunch.

Next: San Francisco ...

Friday, February 12, 2010

California Beamin'

Posted By on Fri, Feb 12, 2010 at 2:21 PM

A blog, almost by definition, is a personal indulgence. A blogger assumes that his or her readers care about the blogger's life, his thoughts, his ideas. Even his vacations. Yeah, I'm going to indulge myself and write about my recent trip to California, complete with accompanying pictures. I justify this because so many folks have asked me what it was like to go to the Grammys. So, get ready. Or find another part of the Internets to inhabit while I tell you "what I did on my vacation."

As I said, the initial purpose of the trip was to go to the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. My son Andrew's band, MGMT, was up for Best New Artist, so of course, many of his family and friends wanted to be there to see the action. Included in our group were me and my wife Tatine, Andrew's mother, Frances; his sister, Mary; his high school pal Dan Treharne, and family friend, Ricki Eagle. Also hanging out in our hotel entourage in L.A. were Andrew and his girlfriend, MGMT band-mates, and assorted managers and record label folks.

We stayed at the Sofitel in Beverly Hills, a lovely joint. Beverly Hills is a lot like Memphis, except for the perfect weather and celebrities hanging around everywhere. Oh, and the stores are a little different — like this one, which Tatine and I discovered on a morning walk.

Trashy Lingerie
  • Trashy Lingerie

Just down the street from the hotel was a little restaurant called Kings Road, where we had a few meals. Sidewalk dining, nice coffee, good lunches. Good celeb watching, too. Mary Louis Parker getting takeout was a highlight. And there was that bald guy from Lost. And lots of other hottie types who either were celebs or should be. And lots of little dogs on leashes.

We had a nice dinner at "Robert DeNiro's restaurant" Friday night and there was a Harry Dean Stanton sighting. All the waiters spoke with thick Italian accents. Had to be fake, I said, though others at the table disagreed. I look at it this way: What's easier to find in Los Angeles — a dozen guys who genuinely speak phony-sounding Italian English or a dozen "actors" wanting to work on their Italian accents? I'm saying it's the latter. But whatever. The food was good, though the place was insanely crowded.

The next night, Saturday, the Sony-Columbia folks threw a nice dinner party for all of us at a joint called Cecconi's. I passed the menu around so everyone could sign it. Most of the band guys signed fake names, because that's how they roll. Still, it was a great souvenir.


On Sunday, Grammy Day, Tatine and I spent the morning walking around Santa Monica, watching the skaters and volleyball players and exercise freaks.


The architecture was also cool.


And then it was time for the big night, or in our case, the big afternoon. The Grammys started at 5:00 p.m. L.A. time. Here's what we looked like in our Grammy finery.

Left to right: Tatine, me, Ricki, Mary, Frances, Dan

MGMT didn't win, but we stayed for most of the show, which did not lack for spectacle. As someone said afterwards, "Apparently, one of the requisites to performing on the Grammys is to bring a robot army." Back at the hotel, we had a drink in the bar and were waited on by one of Tiger Woods' mistresses. So we had that goin' for us.

Then it was off to the after-parties. Celeb watching got kicked up a notch at the Sony-Columbia party with Tony Bennett, Usher, John Legend, Al Jardine, Imogen Heap, Rosanna Arquette, Ron Jeremy(!), Jay-Z and Beyonce, etc. etc. And Weird Al Yankovic, who took a liking to Tatine.


Then we headed into the LA night to the Voyeur Club for the Kings of Leon party. We had to walk through paparazzi. I kept stopping and posing, but no one fell for it. Inside, there were more celebs and nude girls in netting on the ceiling, and in glass cages. It was pretty weird. I can report that Matt Dillon's brother, the one who plays the dull-witted thug on Entourage, is not acting. He is a dull-witted thug who tried to pick a fight with a couple people, including me, for accidentally nudging him as I reached for a drink being handed to me by the bartender. Total dipshit.

Dancing and champagne kept the evening alive for a couple more hours. Exhausted, we headed to bed around 3 a.m.

The next day was Andrew's 27th birthday. The two of us somehow managed to get up early and go hike around Point Dume in Malibu. Beautiful day. Beautiful trip. And it was only half over.


Next: Up the coast to San Francisco ...

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