“everything is 45 minutes away”

OUR THIRD ANNIVERSARY

After witnessing a robbery that was brushed aside, I got a beer and stayed up later than I planned. We left late for Los Angeles. Renée drove in because we were curious about traffic and an adage that New York people hate Los Angeles.

Because I was tired from the day before, I dozed off a few times we as traveled through the vast emptiness the 15 cuts through. When I was awake, I was struck at how the road stretched into the horizon and drank in the beauty of the San Gabriel Mountains.

I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t a sign noting the San Andreas Fault.

Traffic was atrocious. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Renée as angry as she was as we tried to exit into downtown LA when getting to Rodeo Drive seemed out of the question. We were going to visit El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula to wait out rush hour. Taking the exit was arduous in itself.

We were getting hungry, and I suggested eating at Musso & Frank. There wasn’t any (cheap) parking nearby, so that was right out. We reached a point where I was certain Renée was going to start mowing down Californians when a cursory search for restaurants noted that The Stinking Rose had a parking lot.

We got to Beverly Hills after all.

After we ate, we shopped at Beverly Center — where I replaced my Vegas-ruined shoes — and met up with Ben, a fraternity brother from our George Mason University chapter.

We managed to see him because we left so late and because we got stuck in traffic heading to the Santa Monica Pier.

We had no idea there was a concert going on, and it let out as soon as we arrived. It was pure pedestrian chaos. Luckily, I was driving at this point. We missed sunset from the pier, but we made it to the Pacific Ocean.

Before we met up with Ben, he mentioned that he was 45 minutes away from where we were. I apologized, saying I hoped it wasn’t too out of his way.

He said it wasn’t a big deal because, in Los Angeles, “everything is 45 minutes away” and everyone is chill about traffic because it’s a given.

I also couldn’t handle the relentless traffic. Be said he likes it more than DC traffic. I hate DC traffic. Los Angeles is my third least favorite place to drive after Boston. At least it didn’t make me fly into a blind rage like Washington and Boston. (New York isn’t even in my top 10; I actually like driving around New York.)

Afterward, it was time to head back. I didn’t want to drive through the night through the desert, but that’s what happened. There were a few traffic jams on the way back, but driving through the night through the desert as our anniversary turned into my birthday was an amazing gift. So was the sunrise over Las Vegas.

MY 34TH BIRTHDAY

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Four days in, we finally saw Las Vegas.

We had to take a glorified nap because we had to return the Esportage. Originally, we planned on not driving on the second half of the trip. Then we decided to rent a convertible. Then the price shot up for the convertible because it was Friday. Then we got an Altima.

That made me happy because I drive an Altima. I named her Giovanna because that’s the name of Nicole Cobb’s sister in my novel (the Cobb sisters’ parents are Italian and Irish from New Jersey).

After going back to sleep, we prepared to go to Circus Circus to get steak at THE Steak House with my fraternity brother PaulAnthony and Linda. If you’ve been following this blog since the early years, or are a friend from my college/early journalism days, you remember those names.

I dressed formally. I was told twice that I looked like a hitman. One man appeared to hope I would say I was.

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Tonight, he sleeps with the fishes. I promise.

I had the best steak of my life and it was very, very good to see PA after all these years. Additionally, I discovered that day that another brother, Brandon, was visiting from Virginia. I made plans to see him the following day. I hadn’t seen him since going to Maryland to see The Revolution.

After dinner, I wasn’t ready to end the night. Because it was my birthday. We drove around the Strip and eventually ended up in the actual city of Las Vegas. I have more photos, video and a video I was going to use to get stills. It would have been too much effort to do that and post these entries in a timely fashion. Perhaps later this month.

Also, the following photos do not have captions.

The Fremont Street Experience truly is an experience. The canopy created a humid microclimate. Passersby smelled of booze, cigarettes, weed, sweat, desperation. We entered a souvenir shop where a woman was perched on a wheeled platform ladder to scan for shoplifters. We pushed through the crowds to get inside the Golden Nugget to go to the bathroom. We lingered for a while. I got three glasses of Makers, neat. I wanted a bottle. I got one.

On the way back, I got McNuggets. Because Tipsy Elliott loves McNuggets. Being able to get, for the same price, 20 McNuggets nearly 3,000 miles from home is all that is good and bad about America.

We took some city streets. Having a familiar feeling so far from home also is what is good and bad about America. If you had told me I was actually in Virginia Beach, I would have believed you.

I completed my birthday by downing more bourbon and watching Bosch, an Amazon series based on a series of crime novels I’ve been obsessed with since 1996. It is superb.

Still exhausted from driving through the night, I slept for a very long time.

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