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11/17/05-11/21/05:
Just returned from a long weekend spent with my friend Gary Bennett in Los Angeles. Gary has been living in L.A.
(West Hollywood) for 18 years now, and I've been visiting him there regularly for most of that time. I've been lucky
enough to become friends with his friends and try and catch up with some of them each time I visit.

This last visit was a typically fun and relaxed affair. I flew in at noon on Thursday and we headed directly to Korea
Town for some Vietnamese "Pho" noodles. Most all of the Pho restaurants in L.A. outside of Little Saigon in Orange
County are within a couple of blocks of each other in Korea Town. The Pho in these places tend to be only slightly
modified from the truly Vietnamese versions, with a slightly weaker broth and far more onions. It was a great
lunch, and a great way to start the long weekend.

After a few hours of relaxing at Gary's place, we headed out with our friends Bruce and Kelly to
Tom Bergin's Irish
Pub for some food and Guinness. I had never been to Tom Bergin's before, and found it to be much more effective
as a pub than a restaurant. They have a very comfortable bar area occupying the front, and a good sized two-room
area at the back serving as the restaurant. For being the oldest Irish establishment in L.A., Tom Bergin's has quite
a bit to answer for. Firstly, our Guinness were not properly poured, with a large head of foam on top. Next, no
vinegar was served with the chips/fries nor placed on the tables. The food was also below average, with the
Shepard's Pie being a large slice of meatloaf served on a plate with mashed potatoes and peas atop. At least the
beer went down easy and the company was good.

The following morning (Friday) Gary and I headed out for a round of golf at
The Links at Victoria. The course is
located in Carson, next to the field from which the Goodyear Blimp launches throughout the day. We were paired
with some great guys and enjoyed a day of perfect weather. Our playing partners were two Indian guys originally
from Fiji (neither being VJ Sing), one being an 83 year old man who had owned one of the oldest Indian
restaurants in California. His name is Ram and hit the ball like a guy 30 years younger. It gives me hope. The
course is pretty straight forward, well maintained and very affordable. I played quite poorly, but wasn't surprised
given that I hadn't played for a couple of months.  So, any day of golf is a good day for me.

That night we got together a group of friends (Me, Gary, Bruce, Kelly, Sasha, and Suzanne) and made our way to
Little Tokyo for a night of eating and drinking at an Izakaya (Japanese Pub) restaurant Gary and I know called East
Japanese Restaurant. A request was made that I do most of the ordering and was happy to do it. We ordered Orion
Beer, Sapporo Beer, a nigori sake, a couple of small bottles of Kikusui Ginjo sake, and some o-kan (warm sake) to
drink. The food included Tako sashimi, a sashimi platter, shishamo, agedashi tofu, yakitori, unagi/avacado rolls,
edamame, tamago nigiri, miso soup and salad. Everyone left happy! We made our way back to Bruce's great house
in Hollywoodland (foot of the Hollywood sign) and spent a couple of hours talking, listening to country music, and
looking through Bruce's wonderful little collection of coffee table books. It was a really good time, and just what I
was hoping the night would be.

Saturday morning was a lazy one spent sleeping in and lounging around Gary's place. Gary made a nice little
breakfast and then we headed out to play in his regular Saturday Skins game. I've been lucky enough to play with
this group a couple of times and now feel I'm really getting to know several of the guys. Gary's Skins group has
been getting together for years now every Saturday at Roosevelt Golf Course at Griffith Park. The round is 9 holes
and averages about 4 or 5 foursomes. It's a really good time, despite the odd nature of the course and the
commonly slow play it generates. Not only is the golf a good time, but after the round several of the guys get
together on the outdoor tables at the pro shop and play poker. I lost some money this time, but Gary made some.

My personal highlight was when one of the guys offered us tickets to that night's L.A. Kings game. We happily
accepted the tickets and only noticed that the opponent was The Avalanche (
my team!) when we read the tickets. I
was very excited! I have actually tried to talk Gary (unsuccessfully) into going to a Kings game when I've been in
town before. The game was an especially good one despite The Avs loosing in the last couple of minutes. Gary had
never been to an NHL game before, but it was obvious he was sold by the end of the game. I'll bet I can even get
him to go to another some time!

Sunday was another chance to wake up slowly and ease into the day. Gary and I eventually walked up to the
Farmer's Market (a regular spot for us) and had a bunch of great California-style tacos from Loteria and a couple of
beers from the bar that sits just to the right. It's one of my favorite spots to hang out and drink in Los Angeles. It's
casual, friendly, and diverse. In fact, the whole area of the Farmer's Market is a fun and comfortable place to spend
some time when in L.A.. Gary was patient as I spent a couple of hours shopping for Tee. It was a successful couple
of hours and I ended up with some nice gifts.

After a very needed stopover at the In and Out Burger, Gary dropped me at the airport and we said our goodbyes.
My bags were delivered to the house 24 hours later!