Los Angeles
2/14/08 -2/18/08
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I always need my annual lost weekend in L.A. every February. Sometimes I'm lucky enough to have one two or three
times a year, but I'm happy with one. This year was no different other than the fact that I have waited over a month
to write about it (this write-up will inevitably be incomplete). I always so look forward to seeing Gary in L.A. that I
often literally dream of it completely out of season. Thank God for a good friend like Gary who can provide me with
an ongoing outlet for my inner college boy.

Gary has lived in and loved the city of L.A. for over 20 years now, and has provided me shelter from this wicked and
wonderful city. He has also provided me with a personal insight, network, and avenue into this town that has
allowed me to make L.A. a very significant destination within the realm of my years of travel. Thanks always Gary!

Last year Delta Airlines had lost my golf clubs merely coming in from Salt Lake. I was a bit paranoid this year about
my bags, but despite having to wait almost an hour they did arrive this time. Gary parked and came into the baggae
claim, but we got out of the airport quickly. Next thing you know, we're talking and laughing as Gary drove back into
the  city.

I arrived on a Thursday as usual, but this Thursday happened to be, for whatever reason, a day when Gary's skins
group was playing a 9 hole round, followed by a little poker tournament. I passed on the golf but told Gary that after
a couple of beers at his place I would be interested in playing cards. After a few hours at Gary's apartment I was
starving. Gary suggested we get some tacos at a Honduran taco stand just below where we play golf/cards at Griffith
Park. We packed a variety of tacos in some brown paper bags and took them up to the Rosevelt Golf Course and
waited for the guys in the skins group to come off the course.  

Just as we arrived at the course the guys began gathering at the tables next to the pro shop/grille. The wind was up
and the temperature was quite chilly. The first familiar face I spotted was Tommy, the "host" of the ongoing party at
Roosevelt "Rosie." Tommy is a black guy, maybe about 60, who is an employee of the golf course, the pit boss of all
gambling activities at Rosie, and a fun guy I've had the pleasure of knowing for several years now. There were other
familiar faces there that day including Steve, Ralph, Jamie, and Louie. Everyone was looking forward to a game of
poker, but things turned out to be not as satisfying than we had thought. With the wind up, the temperature down,
and the sun hiding, we cut a hurried and sloppy path to the end of our poker game. I didn't win.

Although the wind and cool temperatures kept us from having the kind of poker game we were hoping for, our
spirits were kept high by the thought of the dinner we had planned for that night. Our dinner plan was to go to one
of the most well known and highly regarded sushi bars in the L.A. area, Sushi Nozawa. Sushi Nozawa, located on
Ventura Blvd. in Studio City is known as home of Chef Nozawa, "the sushi Nazi," who runs an incredibly tight ship.
If you don't know sushi protocol or aren't open to eating most any type of fish you best not go to Sushi Nozawa.
Legend has it that anyone who orders California Rolls or puts ginger in their wasabi will be immediately kicked out.

I was surprised to find that Sushi Nozawa is a very nondescript little shop located within an equally nondescript
little strip mall. There was absolutely nothing that might distinguish it from any number of forgettable sushi places
in any number of cities. Even after I got a look at the interior (think 1980s tacky) I couldn't quite get my head
around the fact that this was the famous Sushi Nozawa. Although there were a couple of empty tables we were more
than willing to wait our time for a place at the sushi bar to open up. While hanging out near the front door as we
waited I had a small celebrity encounter (something that seems to happen at least once every time I visit L.A.). A
couple left their table and headed for the door. As I went to hold the door open for them I realized that the pretty,
petite girl with the hipster guy was Nicole Richie, daughter of Lionel Richie, and best friend of Paris Hilton. She was
tiny. Built like a bird. She and her husband then climbed into their Bentley which was parked directly out front.

After about 20 minutes we were shown to a spot at the sushi bar on the far left side, which worked well as it allowed
Gary plenty of room for his long legs. The menu here is limited, and you basically eat what Chef Nozawa decides to
serve you. Do not ask for seconds! We were served a variety of fish, including albacore tuna, maguro, hamachi, taco,
and uni. There was unfortunately no toro that night because it was Chinese New Year and the Asian markets had
snatched up all available toro that week. The fish was good, not great, and the presentation simple yet unique. I
noticed right away that the rice was very warm, something not normally "kosher," but later found that this was one
of the unique takes Chef Nozawa has on his sushi. All in all the meal was satisfying but hardly worthy of the hype
this restaurant enjoys. It was also slightly more expensive than it should be, especially without the toro.

Gary and I decided to head straight back to his place after since we had an early start to the next day. We had a
couple of beers and hung out a bit before calling it a night.

At 8:30 the next morning Jamie and Ralph came over to Gary's place for breakfast before we headed out for a day
watching the L.A. Open (currently called the Northern Trust Open) at Riviera Country Club. Gary made a great
breakfast of eggs, bacon, toast, hash browns, coffee, and orange juice. It was a great way to start the day. We headed
out for the Open from Gary's just after 9:00 in Ralph's car. Unlike years before we didn't use the shuttle system
from the Veterans Hospital to Riviera, which can be a nightmare, but instead decided to drive right into one of the
quiet neighborhoods adjacent to the course and park on the street. This turned out to be a great idea. Although it
took us a while to find a parking spot, when we did it turned out to be a very reasonable distance from which to walk.

The day at the tournament was fabulous as always. The weather was somewhat cool, but far more comfortable than
the day before. I love Riviera Country Club. It's a fantastic venue to walk and view the golf. It also has a deep history
and is a favorite among the PGA's best players. The field this year contained 18 of the top 20 players in the world.
The only exceptions being Tiger Woods and Hendrik Stenson. I've seen Tiger play here a couple of times before but
actually prefer it when he isn't in the field because it keeps the crowds down and keeps many of the less serious golf
fans away.

Jamie and Ralph were great to hang out with. We watched play on most every hole. and saw most of the players we
were hoping to see. We drank beer and ate hotdogs, walked the length of the course, laid out in sun for a while, and
spent an hour or so in a very comfortable section of the bleachers on No. 16. I even bought Tee a white sweater and
white jacket at the proshop (for Valentines). We all were very happy about how the day had gone. That is until...the
drive back to Hollywood. We initially started due east from Riviera, moving just north of UCLA, but immediately
realized it was a standstill. So we turned around and headed for the coast and down through Malibu/Santa Monica
to the freeway. While this was certainly a quicker route than the alternative, the traffic eastbound on the freeway
was a disaster, and it took us a VERY long time to finally get back to Gary's. I just couldn't believe that no one had to
pee that whole time stuck on the freeway!
Gary, Jamie, and Ralph at Riviera Country Club
Ralph and Jamie dropped us at Gary's and all we could think of was where to eat. Gary suggested going down the
street to a Spanish place he had always been curious about called La Paella. His suggestion turned out to be a
stroke of genius. La Paella is a truly authentic Spanish tapas place that is smallish, intimate, and staffed entirely by
folks from Spain. Gary has spent many years in Spain; as a missionary, as a student, and as a regular visitor, so he
knows his stuff when it comes to things of Spain. His Spanish is also flawless, and within a few minutes of taking
our seats at the small bar up front, he was holding conversations with several of the staff members. I let him do all
the ordering, and in the end we had sampled every tapas item on the menu! In fact, by the time the last dish came
out from the kitchen, the waiter said "I want to hang out with YOU guys! You know how to eat!" The dishes included
everything from spicy potatoes to beautifully fresh calamari in lemon and butter to shrimp and croquettes. We also
were able to drink a variety of beer imported directly from Spain. EVERY dish was delicious! Gary had now officially
found his new home! Viva La Paella!
Signboard at La Paella
A sampling of tapas at La Paella
Imported Spanish beer at La Paella
We were able to sleep in and lounge around a bit the next morning before heading to Roosevelt to play Gary's
regular Saturday skins game. The weather was beautiful and we arrived early enough to putt around for quite a
while. Many of the same guys I've known for years now were there and it was good to see some familiar faces. I
played a typical round of good and bad holes, but had a great time just being out on the course and hanging with
the boys. Gary even took a couple of skins.

It was then time for the traditional post-game poker tournament. We started this time with about 10 guys. It's fun
for me to play in this game because it's just similar enough to my poker game at Lumpys that I feel comfortable, yet
just different enough to keep it interesting. I'm not nearly as aware of how these guys play compared to my regular
crew at home so I have to just "play my game" and stay focused. I definitely get the feeling that these guys aren't
used to having a player quite as aggressive as myself in the game. That is to say that I like to do a lot of raising, thus
putting pressure on guys early. I was fortunate to win the tournament last year and was a bit surprised when I won
again this day.
With Gary on the first tee at Rosie
Waiting to tee off on No. 5 at Rosie
With some extra money in our pockets, Gary and I left the golf course and headed to the nearby watering hole of Ye
Rustic Inn. This dark, worn, and comfortable bar is a staple of this Hollywood neighborhood, and while putting away
a couple pints of Stella Artois draft and a plate of hot wings I was struck by the thought that it is precisely these
moments that represent the reason I most enjoy being able to regularly visit Gary in L.A.. Hanging with Gary at the
bar inside Ye Rustic Inn is "real" Hollywood, and Gary is a "real" Hollywood guy. This is the kind of place where
you'll find all the same types of people you would find in most any other middle class neighborhood bar around the
country. The vibe is comfortable, relaxed, and fun. There are small sports monitors throughout, a mix of leather
booths, small tables, and bar stools, along with a friendly staff and modest selection of draft beer and cocktails.
Gary and I spent a fun couple of hours in this great atmosphere, then headed off to hang out with Bruce at his
place not too far away in the hills.
Ralph and Louie at Rosie
Gary at Roosevelt G.C.
Front entrance of Ye Rustic Inn
One of the things I always look forward to doing whenever I visit L.A. is spending an evening at Bruce's house.
Bruce has been one of Gary's best friends for almost 15 years, and I in turn now also have the pleasure of having
Bruce as a friend. Bruce has been in his current pad for several years and I must admit to being jealous. It's a
fabulous place located just below the "Hollywood" sign in the neighborhood once known as "Hollywoodland." While
the place is relatively small, it is decked out in a beautifully modern and functional interior. And while Bruce is
unmarried and without kids it works perfectly for him.

Bruce was his typically happy, fun, and inviting self as we were greeted at the door. His girlfriend of the last year or
so, Erin, was also there that night. We talked, drank, and ordered in some pizza. After a while some other friends
came over and we started up a card game. I was just fine as long as we stuck to poker, but as soon as the game
turned to hearts, despite my protests, I was cooked. I don't know what it is but I've never been able to grasp the
concept of this game and I inevitably floundered throughout. Despite this I really enjoyed the night, and it was great
to spend some time with Bruce again.
Bruce ready to break out some new poker chips
Admittedly the following day was all a bit of a blur, not because of excessive indulgences, but merely because I
failed to jot down any notes on this trip and also waited until now (3/30/08) to do the writeup. I'm sure we slept in,
and I also distinctly remember watching the Open on T.V. most of the day (Phil Mickelson won it this year after
giving it away in a playoff to Charles Howell III last year). We originally planned on going out to the movies, but in
the end got thirsty for a draft beer and headed out to another "local" bar, Molly Malone's, late in the afternoon.
Molly Malone's isn't exactly a "dive" bar, but rather an old school, Irish pub, most well known for featuring live
music; Irish and otherwise. On this particular Sunday afternoon the place was sparsely populated and comfortable.
The main room is spacious and simple. Our bartender was friendly and we drank a couple of pints of Black and Tan
as we talked and half-watched the NBA All Star Game. I found the jukebox to be a particularly good one, and I
plugged a few dollars in so as to play selections from The Arcade Fire's "Neon Bible," Blonde Redhead's "Misery Is A
Butterfly," and Radiohead's  "In Rainbows."

We stayed a couple of hours, then went back to Gary's place. I can't really remember exactly what we did for the
rest of the evening, but it probably wasn't anything more exciting that sitting around talking and watching T.V.. We
had given up on trying to see "No Country For Old Men" at the local theater.
Gary in front of Molly Malone's
Molly Malone's signboard
Being that the following day was President's Day, Gary's Saturday skins group had scheduled a special round of
golf. So once again we made our way up to Roosevelt in the late morning to play 9 holes with the boys. The Satuday
before Gary had purchased a new Taylormade Burner driver from Ralph for $200. I had half jokingly said to Ralph
that I'd like to get one for that price as well. He told me he could easily get another for me, and sure enough, when
we showed up to play this morning he had just the club I had asked for (regular shaft/9.5 degree loft). I was thrilled
to have this new driver. I have been in need of a new driver for several years now and just haven't found the deal I
was looking for. Well, this was that deal! I only pulled it out 4 or 5 times during the round, but hit it beautifully each
time. Plus, everyone in the skins group told me what a great driver this new Burner is.
My score was nothing to speak of, but I again had a great time playing. Again there was a poker tournament held
after the round, although there were only about 8 guys that stuck around to play. It's almost embarrassing to admit,
but once again I won the poker tournament in my role as "carpet bagger!" That after winning the tournament last
year and the tournament two days prior. I'm making it harder and harder to make friends in this game!

Gary's good friend Andy came by to watch us play poker and to have a chance to visit with me a bit before I had to
jet home. It was great to see Andy again after not seeing him for a couple of years now. Andy was always one of our
friends that I made sure to see each time I was in L.A., but for whatever reason I hadn't seen him that last several
times I had visited Gary. After poker I rode back to Gary's with Andy in his car and it gave us a good chance to catch
up. Andy is still much the same; laid back, smart, and very funny.

Once back at Gary's place there was only enough time for me to pack up my things and wash up before I had to
head out to the airport. Gary drove me to LAX and I had an easy flight back to SLC. Thanks again Gary for a great
time! Look to see you again in L.A. in November (?)!