Travel Thursday Snapshot: My Favorite Island

Or at least my favorite-shaped island, somewhere between Vancouver Island and the Canadian mainland.

;o)

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Travel Thursday: Lindsey Stirling on Jimmy Kimmel

I always give myself 15 minutes to walk to the bus stop for the ride downtown, even though it takes less than ten. (If you’ve followed this blog for a while—yeah right, welcome—you’ll know my fave Shakespeare quote is “Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.”) But thanks to my favorite app, I see that the bus that runs on my street and takes me to the light-rail station is coming in 5, so I do that instead, and thankfully there was enough of a break in the traffic to let me run across while it was about a block away. I do so love living on the edge. . .
The great thing about the light-rail, besides everything, is that it has a perfectly moderated air conditioning setting, whereas most buses will put it on freezing in the mistaken impression this is the way to go when it’s searing outside. And no matter how many times I’ve told them they don’t need to do that, some people are just allergic to logic.
Since I took the rules spelled out on the Jimmy Kimmel ticket email a lot more seriously than most people, as I saw when I got there later, I took as little as possible with me: no backpack, no water bottle, and definitely no headphones, so no music on the long rides on the train and subway. And they said no shorts! In this 95-degree heat my legs were very confused. (And there were a lot of people in shorts that were allowed in, dammit!) Stopped off at Olvera Street for my usual bean and cheese burrito, followed by a softie vanilla; after that I was ready for anything, including the boring non-musical subway ride that left me at Hollywood and Highland.
The irony did not elude me that I was in the place where I first saw Lindsey Stirling—The Dolby Theater—and I’m about to watch her again right across the street. I hope she plays her Christmas show somewhere else, though not too far away.

Finally I find the right line on the sidewalk and stand between an older couple from Texas and a younger couple from North Carolina; kinda felt weird being the local. It was at this point that one of the employees came by and said we might not get in if enough of the “special” people in the other line came and filled up all the seats. My back was already hurting and I truly felt like giving up, but stuck through another half hour until they moved us up and in; many people after me made it, so thanks a lot for the drama, dude! I regret giving you that fist bump.
You don’t get to put your phone on silent or airplane mode; nope, if you don’t turn it completely off you don’t get in. Then we waited on the stairs leading into the studio, moving another step every time the people in front were slowly told where to sit, off in pairs like we were heading into Noah’s Ark. Turns out the only other person there not in a couple was a girl from China standing next to me, so after a cheery “Hello!” to me—I shoulda remembered to say “Ni Hao!”—she led the way as we were escorted to the very back row. I didn’t mind, though my knees would have preferred not to do all the stairs. The guy doing the talking, a rugged lumberjack type named Linc, then came to the front to run the rules by us, and did a pretty good job with the humor, enough that I thought he might be the warmup. When he said, “Don’t do the El Lay thing, where nothing impresses you,” I realized I’d have to act excited after all, dammit. After he was done everyone rushed to the restroom, which is downstairs—great, more stairs—and are right next to the green rooms. I looked for Kit or Drew for a quick hello, but the glaring security guards kept me from lingering.
Once I climbed the damned stairs back up to the studio, the actual warmup guy was there, a balding big guy who thought he was Rickles, and was almost as good. Being from Michigan, he couldn’t stop heckling the guy from Ohio, and was all gaga for the girl from Virginia who was in the clip about finding North Korea on a map; he named her Queen of the Day and gave her a crown, in fact.
On to the show. Since I don’t watch the series he’s in, had no idea who Milo Ventimiglia was. Have to disagree about his name winning Scrabble, as it has too many vowels. And I didn’t know he was a fellow Bruin until I just now looked up how to spell his name. BTW, after Kimmel’s monologue, while the crew was setting up the desk and chairs behind him, he talked to one guy in the audience who just moved here from Massachusetts to attend UCLA, so it was a beautiful non-Trojan day.
After him was another celeb stranger to me, Jenny Slate, who turned out to be a pretty funny comedian, in that offbeat-sorta-weird coocoo cloudlander kinda way; she’s like a wannabe Zoe Deschanel. Her love for chicken fingers and beer ruins any potential romance with this guy, though.
Okay, on to the important part. Because I was in the last row, I had to wait for everyone else to stream out back toward where we entered, because on the west side of the old lobby was the stage where Lindsey would play. Those in front got to stand right in front of the stage, whereas by the time I got there I was in the very back, behind a pillar, plus there was a camera rig in front of me. I got occasional glimpses of Lindsey and Rooty, could see Kit most of the time, but didn’t glimpse the drum set at all. I did spot Adina once, if that makes up for it.
So there goes “Love’s Just A Feeling,” with all the musicians playing extraordinarily well; they brought it, for sure. Unfortunately the audience didn’t seem to know what to make of it; they were faking it as well as they could, but seemed confused as to whether they liked it or not, or were possibly stunned to see a violinist dancing. Because the crowd energy wasn’t at the level needed, the stage manager informed everyone that the song would be done again, which was fine with me. And then we got the bonus of the full version of “The Arena,” with the same video stuff as the concert playing behind her, and that seemed to be a bigger crowd pleaser. For once I forgot to notice which violin she was using, though I was too far away to tell if it was Excalibur or Bushwhacker anyway.
There were two guys standing in front of me, and during the first try they just stood there like they’d rather be anywhere else, even though everyone around them was at least faking the enjoyment. But when “Love’s” played again they were feeling it, clapping along, tapping their feet. By the time “The Arena” came along they were fully into it, as was most of the crowd around me; whereas before they might have faked the woo-hoos for the camera, this time it was totally genuine. And with Kimmel’s close-to-two-million-viewers nightly average, it’ll be interesting to see if Lindsey gets an uptick in sales and social media follows.
I got to say hi to Drew after, but he was too busy breaking down the skins to hang out.
Looking back, I was surprised at how quickly and smoothly the show went, especially in comparison to other shows. Sitcoms that film in front of a live studio audience take at least four hours for 20 minutes of screen time, while dramas sometimes need eight days! We were done in less than two hours—no idea as to exact times, as my phone was off—almost real time, and it’s a testament that only a few hours later it was airing on the East Coast; they must have been editing as they went along. I know there’s a ton of work that needs to be done beforehand, but they made it look so easy, so kudos to everyone. It felt like we spent more time in line than in the actual show, which for all I know is entirely possible.
With all that done, I debated where to eat. The McD’s fries are always there, and In-N-Out isn’t far away, though always full. I haven’t eaten at Mel’s in a long time, mostly because the price doesn’t equal the flavor, but then I remembered how much I love the Orange Freeze there and set out eagerly. As is my wont in this place, I sat at the counter, ignoring the mini juke boxes while I caught up on the world via my phone. It took longer to be served than for them to make my delicious treat, and they added more whipped cream than I remember, but no complaints here. As usual I took the cherry off and placed it on the napkin, this time leaving it there, not daring to ask anyone if they wanted it, not since the infamous “taking my cherry” debacle of 2009.
Uneventful ride home, the best kind.
And now as I write this I’m watching the show on TV, and now I understand why they put me in the back row (on the other hand, the guy sitting next to me was much better looking). It’s pretty intriguing to see the differences. I remember everything that was shown, but there were also some parts that were edited out. The concert was actually better on TV; as I mentioned, I was stuck in the back behind a pillar. (I promised Drew I’d yell out his name, but he couldn’t hear me from back there.) So while it was nowhere near as good as a full concert, especially one where I sat in the fifth row, it was a pretty interesting experience to see Lindsey with my eyes instead of a TV or computer monitor. It was my day off, and nothing is sore or achy the next day, so no downsides at all.
Now point me to where I can get tickets for the Christmas show, Lindsey. . .

;o)

Travel Thursday Snapshot: Time to Rostock Up

Northern Germany was not known for heat, most of the time anyway. Perhaps being on the water, humidity and such, made it feel so much past balmy today, except the breeze coming in from the north was cool.
Or maybe it was the long bike ride. . .
Rostock’s port was basically like all others, only older, with the centerpiece—not literally—being the lighthouse. It didn’t have the same old-brick charm as the Campanile in Venice, but in a way was more fun to photograph. The wondering if people were allowed up there so I could take some photos was quickly tempered by my knees shouting for my brain to shut up, so I got back on my bike once I’d had my fill of the tall scenery and made my way to the next destination the gorgeous blonde at the tourism office had recommended.
On the way I looked at the surroundings as much as I could while also keeping an eye on cars and pedestrians, thinking this was a kinda strange city when compared to its Baltic neighbors but not able to say why. Language differences were always fun, and right now as I waited at the red light and perused a billboard, it occurred to me that the double dot accent, which I’d always thought was more Scandinavian, looked a bit funny. In fact, when on the Ö, they kinda looked like eyebrows, making the letter look surprised. . .
The Kröpeliner Straße had a bit of a fairy tale vibe to it, with its tall old skinny buildings that looked like something out of animation. With all the photos I stopped to take—it is my job, after all—it took a lot longer than expected to get to the Fountain of Happiness, or Zest for Life, depending on who was doing the translating, where soon enough other tourists were wondering just how many angles one guy could shoot. This being University Square, in what the beautiful tourism blonde had told me was the oldest university in Northern Europe—take that, Sweden—I indulged my hobby of exploring bastions of higher education, and not for checking out the lovely female students, as vicious tongues have wagged in the past. The red and yellow buildings were the most fun to shoot, nothing like my education stomping grounds at UCLA.
After a while I stopped to examine a wall that the gorgeous tourism blonde had told me about; part of me was wondering if it was the right wall, while the other part thought about going back to the tourism office to thank her. Having photographed every inch of the temples at Khajuraho, I considered myself an expert at walls, so it didn’t take me long to find what she’d been hinting at: while it really wasn’t all that different than most little demons seen carved into buildings all over Europe—helluva lot of them in Paris, for example—this little imp was squatting, arms folded in his lap, head down on his arms, looking remarkably bored with the view. You could almost hear him sighing as I wondered who he’d ticked off to get this guard duty for eternity.

;o)

Travel Thursday Snapshot: La Plaza Mexican-American Museum

Today’s travel only took me an hour from home, but since I went after visiting my mother at the nursing home, it felt like a lot longer.
This museum is located across the street from the Plaza in downtown Los Angeles—itself across the street from Union Station—which is most famous for containing Olvera Street. If any of you bothered to read my one and only food review, you’d know that place was Juanita’s, right here on Olvera Street, so that had to be the first stop. It’s easy to tell when you’ve been to a restaurant a lot when the moment they see you they yell to the kitchen, “Bean and cheese burrito!” I had to straighten them out: “That’s just my nickname, not my real name.”
After some talk with the owner about missing Comic-Con, I set off for my usual after-burrito soft serve, then on to the museum, which is across the street from the gazebo, almost next to the church, if you count the open area between them. The first thing I found out was that it’s free, though there is a donation box. The young lady behind the desk smiled and told me what I could expect and to make sure not to use a flash if I took photos. Sounded a little rehearsed, but I wasn’t going to hold that against her.
So on to the many displays on the first floor, reminiscent of the museum style of the Autry Museum of the West in Griffith Park. The first part deals with social issues, like racism in the 40s and school segregation.

After that it’s more about the history of the area, including videos and sound bites. Also on the ground floor is a space for art exhibits, the current one concerning art works from those who refer to themselves as Latinx artists, which is a term I’m unfamiliar with but apparently stands as either gender-neutral form of “Latin” or LGBT for Hispanics. . . or possibly both. There were a couple of particularly intriguing works, as well as quotes; the one that really made me laugh was the guy calling Frieda Kahlo the original Queen of Selfies.


On the second floor is a space, again reminiscent of the Autry, made up of store fronts, the most popular for me of course being the photo studio; now I know what my professional life would have been like 100 years ago. The other favorite was the book store—remember, kiddies, in Spanish Liberia does not mean Library; that’s Biblioteca—which also sold music. The grocery store was fun too, as I looked for things I might like and had to settle for vanilla—spelled differently here—chamomile, and cinnamon.


So, overall not a bad way to spend a couple of hours, especially in the heat of summer. I might have to cross the street and get another soft serve from the lady that’s always reading. . .

;o)

Travel Thursday Snapshots: Madonna Inn

“Wow, the fun starts in the parking lot. . .”
Looking around, I thought that, if forced to go somewhere with it, I’d call this a German or Swiss fairy lodge, the difference being that instead of following just one motif, it included too many. Right in front of me was a round brown-thatched structure seemingly made out of rocks, with a similar wing flowing to the right. Extending the wing, though going above the road in a way I’d seen in small German towns, was a mouth-watering representation of what the house of the witch in the Hansel und Gretel story musta looked like. In the other direction from the lobby there was more of an English Tutor feel to the building, complimented by the small garden in front of it.
Taking out the tiny digital camera and setting it for wide angle, I tried my best to encompass the whole thing but failed, so I reminded myself to do it before I left tomorrow, then concentrated on the juxtaposition of the cobbled-together-rock chimney and the cupola on top of the main building. Remembering how I’d always wanted to visit this place, I couldn’t help but grin as I made my way inside.
Just from simply seeing the exterior and the lobby, I wished I could look in on all one hundred and nineteen rooms, if the sign in the corridor was up to date, even though I’d checked every single one out on the website before choosing. . . or, you know, grabbing the one not already reserved. There were some obvious ones, like Cloud Nine, Just Heaven, Hearts & Flowers, and Bridal Falls, plus overly cute sets like Ren, Dez, and Vous, and Merry, Go and Round. Other names weren’t as interesting, but the décor sure was: Caveman, Jungle Rock, Highway Suite, Utility Room. . .
Of course it would have been a lot more fun had Katie not been forced to cancel at the last moment. She could have easily passed for a Suthin’ blonde “Daisy Mae,” and no doubt could pull off an “Austrian” mountain beauty, but neither room was really suggestive of their names; Daisy Mae, as a matter of fact, was a cave. “Romance” would have been good, but not so early in the relationship. Of course that had been back when I’d made the reservation, and things had certainly changed since, but she didn’t need to know that.
In the end I’d gone with “Swiss Belle.”
During all the signing-in nonsense someone had taken my bags up to said Swiss room, so the walk through the corridors was quick and easy, and just a few minutes later I was getting my first glimpse of my one-night abode. I spent the next ten minutes gaping, first going over to one of the rock walls and carefully banging a fist against it, wincing as I scraped my knuckles; yep, that’s the real thing. Next I moved to the window, which in this place was of course no ordinary transparent viewing device. I wasn’t sure it could be called stained glass, because it looked damn thick, and didn’t have bright colors, but quickly I left that alone and concentrated on the scene, which depicted Swiss-looking cows and a flower that I thought I might have seen in those same Alps. Next to my leg was a rock outcropping jutting out of the wall which served as a small table, looking appropriately weird but also fun-funky. I followed that up to the roof, where I saw wooden beams the likes of which might have been spawned in a beerhouse, leading to a seemingly sparse-looking chandelier. Not as fun to shoot, I mused, but then I had no model to work with anyway.
The bathroom wasn’t rock, instead decorated in pretty floral wallpaper, so I left that alone for now. The next thing that caught my eye was the headboard, a surprising shade of green that looked to be cut in the shape of a cactus, of all things. Not very Swiss there, I sighed, counting it as a miss despite liking it.
Tossing myself on the bed for a rest before dinner, I grabbed the brochures on the table on the way down. “The motel is a monument of unremitting, flamboyant kitsch: Alp exterior, Swiss country with a gingerbread fairy motif, lavish pink rooms. . .” A twenty-eight-foot fake gold tree! I need to find that! Then I came to most likely the place’s most famous attraction: “The rock waterfall urinal is a fixture along California’s Central Coast. Many tourists come to visit the urinal, to the embarrassment of males who genuinely need to use the facilities.”
I reminded myself to hit the floral-wallpaper head here before finding the restaurant, then persevered in my reading. “Anybody can build one room and a thousand like it. I want people to come in with a smile and leave with a smile. It’s fun. What fun do you think Paul Getty got out of his life? Hard to argue with that kind of logic.
After making a mental note to be on the lookout for the thirty-three-foot-long sofa, I let my stomach do the talking—or just grumbling—and headed back the way I’d arrived, looking straight ahead so I wouldn’t be distracted by the trademarked—really!—Pepto-Bismol-like-pink color scheme. Compared to that, the pomegranate décor of the restaurant—for lack of a better word—was a thin slice of heaven, although the prices were not. On the other hand, I’d never forgive myself if I didn’t try the bacon-wrapped filet mignon, and that was that.
Not in the mood to go back to my room after dinner, I nosied around and quickly found the entrance to the coffeeshop, known in these here parts as the Copper Café, featuring a wooden door set in a rock wall; I took a photo of it while imagining my six-foot-blonde almost-date sniffing the shrubbery hanging above the door. Then I sat by a huge window etched in what she would have called a Wild Rose pattern. Grinning, I pretended she was here, hearing her dulcet tones describing the table tops, then focus on the chairs, which had a huge cushiony seat but only skinny piping in a heart shape for back support, which would no doubt have my back aching before long.
Once Katie-in-my-mind got started on the wall displays I sighed and went up to my room, hoping for a fresh attitude in the morning to explore the rest of this palace of kitsch. . .

;o)

Travel Thursday Snapshots: Tunisia after Djerba

(The Story of Djerba is in a previous blog.)
The ferry back to the mainland took only twenty minutes and wasn’t at all crowded, like most ferries on this sea. A call yesterday had nabbed me a car and driver, who grinned for some reason when told our destination would be Matmata. Commonly known as a Berber troglodyte settlement—which makes it sound worse than it was, considering how elegantly decorated some of the caves were—it had been a port founded by the Phoenicians, full of temples, the forum, baths, and a market, the kind of historical site where I could spend hours photographing and playing archaeologist.
Which I did, of course, but that wasn’t the actual reason for being here. Lunch wasn’t usually a highlight in my itineraries, except when it took place in a famous movie locale, in this case the interior of the Skywalker home in the first Star Wars movie. {The propaganda said it was the home of Luke Skywalker’s parents, which I promptly called them on; the English-speaking tour guide rolled his eyes and said new brochures were on the way, from a different printing company, that said “Luke’s aunt and uncle” in large print. Don’t know if that was truth.}
Despite its formal name of Sidi Driss Hotel, it was known locally as the Star Wars hotel, for obvious reasons, considering all the visitors it received. Since I can never get used to spicy food, I brought along my own provisions, but pretended to eat up as the owner regaled me with stories about the filming of the first movie, particularly how everything had been returned to normal after shooting, because no one figured it would be such a gigantic smash, but lucking out in that the crews came back and restored it to shoot Attack of the Clones.
As soon as lunch was over I smiled to myself, ready to immerse my photographic soul into shooting every inch of this place. The exteriors of this set were pretty far away, and best left for last, but the Mos Eisley exteriors, especially the cantina, from the first movie were a lot closer, and somewhere in between was the castle from Monty Python’s Life of Brian. And though it took a lot of slogging and I never had a chance to verify it was the right spot, the top of the dune where Luke watches the binary sunset was a bucket list moment.

;o)