Before the Flood
My sister Susan and her son John came to visit two weeks ago. I had been thinking about their visit for a long time, planning things we could do together, places to take them, things to show them. The weekend before they arrived, I gave my apartment a real good cleaning. That's one of the side benefits of having guests -- besides getting the chance to see some of the sights that you never get to see in your own town -- you also get a lot of cleaning done that you've been putting off. At least that's the way it is for me. It's a great excuse to do things that you want to do but never make the time for. Plus it's fun to have my family around.
Susan had no particular agenda, she was content to see and do whatever seemed interesting at the time. I had several events planned and a few optional activities. I think she really just wanted to relax. I especially wanted John to have a good time -- I still remember the trip my family took to Los Angeles back in the early Seventies. We went to Disneyland and Universal Studios, visited Tijuana Mexico and swam in the Pacific. It was one of those ideal childhood adventures. Ever since then California has always had a kind of magical aura. The type of place where childhood dreams become real.
The first event I had planned for Susan and John was a trip to Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank. We lucked out and got in a small group and were able to go all over the lot and see where the magic happens; the exterior sets for ER, the West Wing and the Gilmore Girls set and we even got to go inside one soundstage and poke around the set of the Drew Carey Show. They gave John a copy of the shooting script from the most recent episode. I think the thing that impressed me most was seeing the original Maltese Falcon in the studio museum. I couldn't believe that it was an actual physical thing right there in the same room as I was. After all, it is the stuff that dreams are made of.
That night we went to Santa Monica and visited with John's cousin Jesse who works at a video game company. He spends half the night in this big underground room with about two dozen other young guys testing the latest video games. And he gets paid for it. Is that a cool job or what?
The next couple of days we wandered around Hollywood seeing some of the favorite sights: Farmer's Market, Grauman's Theater, Sunset Strip, Beverly Hills, etc. John wanted to see some cool cars so I took him to a car dealer up the street from me where they have the most amazing collection of vintage Jaguars, Bentleys, Aston Martins, Ferraris, Maseratis, and the like. At one point the dapper salesman approached me and with an upper-clas British accent, asked if I was interested in "older cars." I told him that I had promised to buy one for John on his sixteenth birthday and was just letting him pick one out. The salesman smiled. "I like your style," he said.
John also enjoyed looking at vintage guitars, so I took him to Black Market Music where a lot of bands sell their old gear. There were some real beauties there, including a classic old "Flying V" like the one played by Pete Townshend. John has been playing bass lately, and had his eye on a nice looking fretless number. We stayed in there longer than the Warner Bros. museum.
At one point while John was looking in another guitar store, I took Susan over to the Chateau Marmont Hotel on the strip. It's one of the few places that still retains that mixture of elegance and decadence that truly captures the spirit of old Hollywood. It's been home to the likes of Clark Gable and Jim Morrison. Garbo lived there. John Belushi died there. I know of a side entrance that takes you directly into the courtyard where guests can relax in privacy and luxury. Susan and I slipped in and looked around, soaking up the history and the style. As we stepped back out into the street, we were nearly bowled over by a very serious-looking woman carrying a portfolio. Obviously a very important woman on her way to a very important engagement. We both recognized her at the same time, but I don't think Susan was really sure she was who she looked like. She looked at me, eyes wide in amazement. I nodded, yep -- that was Jodie Foster.
I think the high point of the visit for me was when Susan and John came to see me play with Jimmy and Will at our regular gig in North Hollywood. We tried out a few new songs mixed in with the tried-and-true chestnuts. It was great fun as always and even better to have my family in the audience. John even said it was "awesome." You can hardly get higher praise than that.
We spent a fun night at our cousin's, the Norelius's, playing world championship darts. John really held his own with the big boys. I mean those guys play some serious darts. I bought a dartboard just to practice up before I go over there to visit. Cousin Clay Sr. claims to have beaten the guy who is ranked 30th in the world, and from the way he throws, I believe him.
The last day they were here, Susan and I left John alone with his internet rotisserie baseball league and we took a walk around my neighborhood. We ended up back at the Chateau Marmont and enjoyed some beverages on the patio with the rest of the well-heeled gentry. All in all a pretty nice time. It was great to be able to share some of the things I love about this place with the people that I love. It makes me feel pretty damn lucky. After they left, I found a "Best Uncle" award on my kitchen table. It's one of the best awards I could ever receive.
I'm not sure what's going to happen in the next couple of days. I guess nobody is. I know there are a lot of people who are working very hard to keep things from getting worse for all of us. I sure hope they know what they're doing. At this point it's kind of hard to tell. But I don't want to assume the worst. I want to believe that cooler heads will prevail.
Let's keep our fingers crossed.
[editor's note: the U.S. invaded Iraq on March 21st, 2003]