Road Trip LA: apartment hunting, celebrity staring contests, mind-boggling traffic

So I spent the weekend in LA looking for apartments and doing a general tour of the city.  It seemed like a good idea considering I’m moving to LA on June 1st and have only been there twice.  The first time I was there, it was for a total of 10 hours.  Five of those hours were spent inside a bar, and the other five were spent inside the Staples Center watching Game 5 of the Celtics/Lakers NBA Finals.  The second time I actually stayed over night, but all the waking hours I was there were spent in a parking lot competing in a grilled cheese cooking competition.  Safe to say this trip was needed to actually learn a little bit about the city.

Here are some random thoughts, observations and lessons learned from the weekend:

-It dawned on me that many of my friends and most of my family have probably never been to LA, or at least haven’t spent any significant time in that city.  I called my mom on Sunday to update her about apartment hunting, and I told her there were a few apartments we didn’t even bother going into because just driving around the neighborhood convinced us we would never live in that particular area.  When I told her this, I could hear the overwhelming concern for my safety in her voice as she responded, “Oh good, that’s great.  Yeah, don’t even think of living in those places.”  It seems a little backwards that your mom would be rooting for you not to find an apartment, but that’s the way it goes.  And then I realized that when my mom pictures LA, this is what she sees:

-A word of advice if you’re in LA and your girlfriend is convinced she sees a celebrity: don’t tell her she’s wrong, even if you’re 100% sure it’s not who she thinks it is.  This will save you from the embarrassment of your girlfriend having a 15-minute staring contest with that celebrity as she tries to convince you that it’s her.  We were at a comedy show on Sunday night and moments before the show started, a few people walked in and took the remaining seats.  My girlfriend immediately says, “That’s Mandy Moore.”  My instinct is to laugh because there’s no way Mandy Moore is coming to this no-name comedy show.  My girlfriend says it’s gotta be Mandy because she’s looking back at us, knowing we’ve figured it out.  I was convinced this random girl was just uncomfortable with the fact that two strangers were staring at her.  For the rest of the show, I made jokes about Fake Mandy, and nearly had my girlfriend convinced that it probably wasn’t her.  When the show ended, of course we had to stand around right outside the entrance to wait for Maybe-Mandy, and when she walked out and I heard another couple behind me say, “Yep, that’s her,” I knew I was screwed.  Turns out Mandy Moore likes free comedy shows on Easter Sunday.  Now my girlfriend will be checking Mandy’s twitter posts for the next 10 days to see if she mentions the “girl that was staring at her nonstop at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade show.”  I also realize anytime we see Mandy Moore on TV for the rest of our lives, I will get the whole, “remember when you couldn’t spot Mandy Moore from 30 feet away” treatment.

-I’m sure LA didn’t invent this, but it was the first time I’ve ever seen anything like it so LA’s getting the credit.  We found a wine bar on Saturday night where you purchase a credit card-like device, load money onto it and insert it into a machine that automatically pours tastings of different wines into your glass.  Each tasting costs $1.50-$4.00 depending on the wine, and you load $15, $20 or $50 onto your card.  The four of us that went to this place blew through $60 before we each got a full glass for another $9-12 each.  If it had been a normal bar, we probably would have spent a total of $40.  Great idea for the bar; great unique experience for the alcoholics patrons.

These devices make it even easier to spend $50 on wine over a 20-minute period

-The strangest thing that happened on the trip: when we were walking to the car on Sunday night after the comedy show, a passerby asked us if we wanted to buy a Taser.  I brushed it off as a random guy asking us a very random question, but the girlfriend immediately went into minor-panic mode.  “Why does he think we need a Taser?  Is this area dangerous?  How far away is the car?”  Luckily I was able to do an ocular scan of the area, assessed it as clear to pass, and we moved on without a problem.

-If there’s one common criticism that I heard about LA before this trip, I think you can all guess what it was: the traffic.  After spending a long weekend down there–a weekend that included Easter where you’d expect less traffic on Sunday–I can tell you that the traffic is absurd, outrageous, disastrous and mind-boggling.  In fairness, I currently spend an average of seven minutes in my car per week so any amount of traffic or being stuck in a car seems awful to me.  On this trip, we spent nine hours in the car on Friday (driving from SF to LA and driving around the city once we got there), seven hours in the car on Saturday (apartment hunting), another nine hours driving around on Sunday (apartment hunting and site seeing), and finally 11 more hours on Monday (a few hours driving around in the morning and then a sanity-testing eight hour drive back to SF).  Never has it seemed so important to make sure my new apartment is going to be walking distance to where I work.

-The drive from LA back to SF was just crazy.  And if being stuck in traffic for eight hours isn’t enough, I had to endure the maddening signs on route 5 that count down how many miles away  San Francisco is.  I don’t mind these signs every now and then when I’m driving, but I swear to god that freeway has a sign every six miles.  “San Francisco 282 miles…San Francisco 276 miles…San Francisco 270 miles…San Francisco, you’re six miles closer than the last time you saw this sign.”  It’s enough to make someone go on a killing spree.  Who is it helping that you taunt us with mile markers every few miles for 300 miles??

-I don’t know if anyone else does this, but in order to pass the time on this drive, I started creating fake rivalries with other drivers.  So my girlfriend was rightfully confused as she’s on the computer, doing some work, and she hears me going, “Haha, not this time white Toyota, get back in line behind me.”  I tried to convince her that there were three other cars near me and all of us were having a friendly competition to pass the time.  I was only able to convince her that I had lost my mind.

So there you go…my first trip to LA caused me to lose my mind.  June 1st can’t get here quick enough.

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