Los Angeles
I originally thought that I wouldn't do any write up, but after coming across the photo above the other day I realized that I had some very
specific memories of this trip (taken 5 months ago) that I wanted to document briefly. Brevity is the defining characteristic of this write
up in that most of the details I often include in other travel entries, mainly because I can only remember so much from 5 months ago.
The reason I initially thought I would skip making an entry about this trip (and the reason I left my regular camera at home) is that this is
a trip I do once or twice a year (and have been doing for 20 years now!). While every trip is obviously unique, they are also quite
similar; chill with Gary, play/watch golf, hang at Bruce's place, eat and drink our way around town... No wonder I do this trip often eh?!
So, what happened on this trip? Chilled with Gary, played/watched golf, hung at Bruce's place, ate and drank our way around town. Go
figure. But, I still feel obligated to document those things in some detail. So here we go.

I flew in on a Wednesday (I normally fly in on a Thursday) because Gary had an extra day off work. Although baggage took FOREVER
to come off I at least received my golf clubs safely. Gary picked me up and we went directly back to his apartment. We eventually
made our way over to Bruce's house to take part in that particular group of friends weekly "family night," which they do each
Wednesday night. Bruce had renovated his backyard since I had last been over. The backyard area now consisted of a great little
patio area replete with gas grill, large dinning table, outdoor chairs, and (in this case particularly) a well needed outdoor space heater.
Within the hour we had about a dozen people on the patio talking, drinking, and playing dice (the most recent recreational attraction at
Bruce's house). People there other than Gary, Bruce, and myself included Sasha, Suzanne, Thomas, Erin (Bruce's girlfriend), Erin's
brother and his friend, Erin's sister, and her husband. It was Suzanne's turn to cook this particular week and she came through with
flying colors. She made a great "comfort" meal of meatloaf and potatoes, and I ate at least two helpings. The night went as usual. That
is to say it was a blast! Thanks again Bruce!

We played golf the next day with the regular skins crew at Rosevelt (Griffith Park). It was nice to see everyone again but very sad at the
same time since Tommy "The Mayor" had just died a week earlier. There was definitely a somber tone because of that and I had a
distinct pain in my heart as well. Tommy was a great guy and a real cohesive factor amongst everyone in the group (and at the course
for that matter!) You'll truly be missed Tommy!

Here's a glimpse of Tommy (on the right) from my trip to L.A. last year

I played a very forgettable round of golf though I did make a few good shots and even won a skin (knocked it stiff with a 5 iron on
number 7). We always play a big poker tournament on the course patio after the round, but now with having Tommy gone (he always
ran the card game) and with having the game busted by L.A. County Sheriffs a month or so before, we now relied on going to Steve's
place just down the street to play. It's a real shame that the tradition of sitting up to the patio picnic tables and playing poker after each
round has now evaporated after so many years of great times. We are lucky however to have Steve willing to make his place available
to all of us for the poker. In fact, Steve is the president of the condo association for his complex and therefore has ready access to the
big social room next to the pool. It makes for a very comfy spot to play even though we had to pack in our own beer and food. I usually
do well at the poker tournament (I've actually won it the last two times) but was put out early by Steve this year (I had two pair to his
trips). Luckily there is an enthusiastic cash game on the side for those who get bumped out of the tourny, and I made about $20 there.

The next day, Friday, was our day to go to the L.A. Open (now called the "Northern Trust Open") golf tournament at Riviera Country
Club. This event is a blast, and I've been lucky enough to have gone for about 5 of the last 6 years. We met with the group of friends we
were going with (Jim, Ralph, and Jamie) for breakfast at a nice little place down the street from Gary's called "Quality." The weather
was great, and although it had been quite chilly the previous couple of days, this morning's temps hinted at a much more pleasant day
to come. I had the Eggs Benedict and large O.J., then it was off to the tournament.

Parking is always a major issue at Riviera and it's always a question as to how to best make our way to and from the course. We've
tried a number of options over the years and actually had good success last year in parking in a nearby residential neighborhood and
walking to the course. However, this year's options seemed even better. Lucky for us Jim had secured a press pass for the tournament
which allowed us to use a parking lot located only a couple of blocks from the course entrance. Very nice! We spent the day just
roaming from hole to hole. There is nothing like attending a PGA event in person. You can never have the experience of standing 4 or
5 feet from Albert Puhouls as he hits a home run against the Cubs. Nor can you stand next to Sydney Crosby as he slaps a one-timer
past Chris Osgood. You CAN however stand a matter of a few feet from the PGA player of your choice as he hits a 300 yard drive or
make the miraculous recovery shot from out of the woods! It's truly thrilling!

We also spent some good time at the 'Grey Goose' tent drinking Cape Cods and mingling with the people there, as well as kicking
back in the grandstands for an hour or so at a time on a couple of holes. In fact, we had a funny experience while in one of the
grandstands. The seats were less than half full and we were leisurely watching a couple of groups come through when Jim turned and
said in a whisper: "This lady in front of me is reading my article." Sure enough there was a 60-something year old women sitting
directly in front of him reading a local golf magazine for which Jim occasionally writes articles (hence the press pass he had). He was
too shy to say anything to her so Ralph spoke up and let her know. That sparked a long conversation amongst Jim, the lady, and her
husband. They were nice people and the husband was quite a talker. They told Jim that their son-in-law was playing in the tournament
(can't remember the name) and was coming through with the next group. I'll never forget when after several minutes went by and Gary
turned to Jamie and asked: "What was their son-in-laws' name again?" and without missing a beat Jamie says: "Fuzzy Zoeller."
Typical Jamie! Hilarious!

After the day at Riviera Gary and I decided we wanted to relive what we had done after the tournament last year, and that was to have
dinner at a fabulous Spanish restaurant named "La Paella." While Jamie had to go home, we were successful in talking both Ralph
and Jim into coming with us. Just as we did last year we ordered at least one of everything from the tapas menus and drank Estrella
beer. Ralph is not the most adventurous eater, and although Spanish food is rarely exotic to the American palate I could tell that Ralph
wasn't particularly enthralled by some of the dishes. Gary, Jim, and I on the other hand wolfed down so much that I think we were all a
bit surprised by just how much we had rung up once the bill came. It was worth every penny in my book!

First thing Gary and I did Saturday morning was to go to the USC campus where Gary had to register for some extracurricular classes
in conjunction with his job as a public school teacher. As he was doing his thing I roamed around the famous USC football stadium,
formally called The USC and Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. It was my first time to see this legendary sporting site and seeing it hit
me with some surprising strength. Immediately I was struck with many memories of seeing The Coliseum throughout my childhood on
T.V., especially memories of the many NFL games I had seen broadcast from here in the '70s. Can you say "Merlin Olsen"?

We eventually went back to Rosevelt G.C. and played another round of golf with the skins group. Afterwards Gary, Jamie, and I went to
have a couple of beers at what's becoming my newest favorite Hollywood locals bar, Ye Rustic Inn. What a comfortable, affordable,
diverse, and unpretentious spot! We resisted diving into their delicious chicken wings knowing that we had an izakaya dinner planned
for that night. The beers went down easily though, and I'll always remember laughing until I was crying because of a particularly
hilarious conversation between Gary and Jamie. The conversations details are undoubtedly best left from being discussed here, but I
can't remember laughing that hard since my LAST visit to L.A. when Gary was discussing his kindergarten class! (See my write up
from my L.A. trip 2/08).

For dinner we met up with Andy, Bruce, and Thomas at a casual izakaya (Japanese pub-style restaurant) in Little Tokyo called "East." I
had been to this particular izakaya a couple of times before. It's mediocre in quality, but still provides a fairly authentic menu and
atmosphere. This time was even a bit less satisfactory than I had expected and I don't think I will ever be tempted to go back. Everyone
seemed to have a good time however, and this is a good fun group to hang with. Both Bruce and Andy are old friends and two of the
greatest guys I could think of to spend a night out with. Thomas is a more recent friend of the group and I had a good opportunity at
dinner to get to know him. I had been told that he was a successful actor, but I didn't recognize him by name or face. Turns out he is
quite famous, having starred as "Greg" in "Dharma and Greg," and currently the star of CBS's top rated "Criminal Minds." (Click
for some good info on him). Well you would never take Thomas for any kind of hot-shot Hollywood type because he is genuinely
friendly, self effacing, and humble. I liked the guy right away, and had already established a bit of a connection at Bruce's place a
couple of nights before when we found that we had kids the same age.

After dinner Thomas invited us over to his place which is in one of the new condo high-rise building adjacent the Staples Center. Andy
and I rode with Thomas in his new Toyota Prius. As we pulled into the underground parking lot of his building I quickly observed the fact
that most of the cars in the lot were of the Bentley, Mercedes, BMW type. No surprise. But that observation became ironic to me when
the Prius-driving Thomas Gibson hit the "Penthouse" button once we were in the elevator. Again, this guy hardly wears his Hollywood
status on his sleeve.

He may drive a Prius but his penthouse-level condo is nothing short of spectacular! It serves as his part time pad when in L.A.,
because he actually spends most of his time with his wife and kids in San Antonio, Texas. But for a part time apartment for one guy,
this place is very impressive. The five of us spent the next couple of hours hanging out on the enormous balcony talking, drinking, and
listening to music. Thomas even offered me some Kirshwasser (cherry brandy) without realizing what a fan I am of it. In fact, Gary is
one of the only people who will drink it with me when he comes to Salt Lake. Another great day in L.A. comes to an end.

Sunday played out in a way that so many Sundays in L.A. have played out for me over the years. The morning started with an extra
hour or so of sleep. Then Gary prepares one of his very satisfying breakfasts of eggs, hash browns, bacon, toast, coffee, and O.J.. We
then watched a couple of hours of the golf tournament, and eventually walk down to the Farmer's Market and drink a few cold ones at
the outdoor bar in the center courtyard. While we usually have tacos from Loteria with our beer, this time we decided to switch it up and
grabbed an authentic corned beef sandwich at a stall next to the bar. Before leaving I searched through a large deli at the market for
something to bring home to Tee. I finally settled on a couple of different types of truffle oil.

After returning from the Farmer's Market I packed all my things into Gary's Explorer and we spent an hour or so driving around
downtown L.A. and Chinatown. I had never been to L.A.'s Chinatown, but it looked inviting. I told Gary that the next time I was in town
that I wanted to make it a priority to walk Chinatown and seek out some authentic Chinese food. He seemed to like that idea.

It was then off to the airport. After a quick goodbye to Gary I was off to return to normal life. Thanks again for a great time Gary!
Breakfast with the boys
R to L: Jim, Ralph, Jamie, and Gary