I drove out here with no expectations of what L.A. would be like in January 2004. Me and my buddy Justin got in my Toyota and drove from ocean to ocean. It’s a strange feeling moving to any new place without having any bearing of what’s what. It’s even stranger when your first place of residence is the Oakwood Apartments, an unusual borderline Hollywood complex overrun with wannabe child stars, touring bands and college interns.
The thing is, once you manage to get past all the big bright lights and find your grove, L.A. is just like any other place. You’ll find your circle of friends, a couple of places you like to hang out and realize that it’s not such a scary place after all. Now that I’m packing up and heading back to the east coast, I thought I’d share some of my favorite memories of my time in the city of angels.
Lingo - February 2006
It’s a pretty good day when you call in sick from work to compete on a game show with one of your good friends and leave $5,000 richer. My friend Matt Green agreed to come in and be my partner when I saw the ad on Craigslist one afternoon. We were the last team to try out and we got up there and got all the answers right. They called us in for the last show of the season, which in fact was a science fiction themed episode. We made shirts with space shapes on them and they painted our faces like aliens, which looked stupid, but it didn’t matter. After sitting in the waiting room for several hours, we were taken on the stage and proceeded to wipe the floor with our two trekkie opponents. For some reason it was science fiction week on the show. The make up ladies drew atoms on our foreheads matching the ones on our shirts, despite our asking them not to. It was still better than wearing full Star Trek uniforms (that they brought from home) and getting your butt kicked. We were one ball away from walking away with $17,000 but it was not to be. I'd feel bad if I didn't thank Chuck Woolery for the cash, his eerie orange tan and his incredibly awkward banter with co-host Shandi.
Minnie’s Moonlit Madness - May 2006 & 2007
This event was catered to me. For those who don’t know, it’s a late night scavenger hunt through Disneyland where entrants had to rely on their puzzle solving abilities and knowledge of Disney trivia. The best (or worst) part is that the four members of the team are tethered together with a rope and clips. Alicia, Becca, and myself teamed along with Disney employee Heather for two of the most fun and well organized eventsthat I've ever taken part in. It was great to see what people would do to prepare for the event. A lot of people came in costume, and as you can see, we had our matching red t-shirt. It was never totally about the competition; the prep nights were always fun. I enjoyed making the shirts with the girls. Even the prep night for year #2 was alright, despite having to watching High School Musical (the nights theme) to know trivia answers. Through a lot of team work and some dragging people by a rope, we finished in the top 10% of over 300 teams both years, setting a high mark for Heathers work department.
Kickball - January 2007 to Present
There really are no words to describe the impact on my life that this silly kid’s game has made. I walked into the North Hollywood division last February as a nervous loner. At the end of the championship game only a few days ago, I walked off the field surrounded by my closest friends, fighting back the sadness of knowing that was my last game. I can’t recall any group of people that was so warm and welcoming of a newcomer, a group of people that shared so many similar interests and ideas, a group of people that quickly became like family. Sure, they have plenty of kickball divisions in Massachusetts, but I doubt any of them will compare to the fun, silliness and good times I’ve had during my tenure in my beloved Studio Division (and my lesser loved but equally fun Junction Division).
The Office at Paleyfest - March 2007
The MTR Paleyfest was one of the biggest debacles of my time out here. The way it was handled before the show was the most outrageous situation I’ve ever been a part of. Tickets were issues and then taken back, there was a never ending chain of e-mails that finally resulted in two tickets in my name. All of the agony of attempting to get into the show was instantly erased once it began. My friend Orli, one of the biggest Office fans I know flew in from Florida and we were so excited to be there. Just getting in the door felt like such a triumph, but winning a trivia contest was the icing on the cake. For those interested, the question was "What did Dwight give Michael for his birthday?" And the answer was "a hockey jersey that said "From Dwight" on the back where the player name usually goes. I ended up with a pretty awesome swag bag, including Season 1 and 2 on DVD, a hat and a computer mouse that had a built in snow globe. After the show ended, the rabid-fans bum rushed the stage (us included) in hopes to get a picture or autograph with the cast. When we told B.J. Novak that Orli had come all the way from Florida, he said in a confused voice "for this?" Every cast member was there except for John Krasinski, who was filming Leatherheads (unforgivable, especially after seeing the movie).
Foo Fighters at the Forum - March 2008
The best concert I’ve ever been to in my life, thanks to my friend Becca who had an extra ticket the day before the show. I saw lots of great shows in a lot of famous venues while out here in Los Angeles, but it will take a truly amazing show to unseat this performance from the top of my list. I don't know that I've been to any other hugh arena rock shows like that, aside from the Aerosmith show at Hollywood Bowl. Here the building was literally shaking because it was so loud. Grohl worked the crowd all night up and down the runway and from the smaller stage at the end. I even liked Serj Tankien as the opener, and I've had mixed feelings about his music for a while. Seeing him in person, he was quite the showman. The Foo Fighters are a great band that knows exactly what to do during a live show to make it supremely memorable.
Muddy Buddy Race - November 2007
The Muddy Buddy was a 7 mile race in five alternating legs of biking and running. Between each leg is an obstacle like a balance beam or a cargo net. The last obstacle was a 30 yard mud pit that you had to crawl through. There was so much mud that almost everyone had to throws out their shoes and socks afterwards, if you even made it out of the pit still wearing them. In retrospect, we probably didn't have the right kind of bike for that kind of off-road, outdoors hilly turrain. My roommate Alicia lent me her bike which was likely designed for traveling on the smooth sidewalks of a city and not through the dirt of a park. Ernest and I knew about the race for months and as the date crept closer and closer we both knew we should have probably been training more than we did. I rode the bike occasionally, but rarely ran. Ernest said he ran but had not been on a bicycle in a couple of years. We eventually ran out of prep time and just bit the bullet and went to the race. It was a real fun environment, lots of people in costumes, raffles, free stuff and a bunch of people ready to get muddy. I'd like to mention that almost every time Ernest had the bike there seemed to be a nice paved road for him during part of his leg, including a smooth downhill road, where I had to take the bike over a beach through the water and down steep hills. I'm not complaining; I wouldn't trade the experience for anything in the world. It truly showed me that I could accomplish a lot more than I thought I could.
Reno 911 (Feb. 2007) & Tenacious D (Nov. 2006)
The small town kid in me came out in full force for these two movie premieres. I had been to advance screenings before, but I never knew that in Hollywood they gave out extra tickets to the actual premieres at the famous Groman's Chinese Theater. Sure, I may have shown up over cautiously early just to guarantee I got in, but I did and was able to sneak in my camera. I took the camera out of my pocket and held it in my hands with my keys as they wanded my pocket area which was horribly stupid and brilliant at the same time. One of the strangest aspects might have been that the stars were intersperced among the regular ticket holders. There were special reserved sections for the movie, but nothing was to stop you from being at the urinal next to Seth Rogen or waiting for popcorn along side John C. Reilly. A lot of them even hung around after to take pictures and even to just talk with the fans. At the time of these events I would consider myself a true resident of L.A. Celebrity sightings would rarely phase me, I would see a lot of famous people at work visiting the park, or sometimes just randomly out at the store. It's just a part of living in southern California. Everyone who comes to L.A. has the same first celebrity sighting: Dennis "Mr Belding" Haskins at Dimples Karaoke in Burbank.
Sidebar: Top 5 Random Celebrity Sightings
- Neil Flynn (Janitor on Scrubs) at Dennys, reading the newspaper
- Norm McDonald at the Sunset 5, seeing Broken Flowers
- Andre Benjamin from Outkast at LAX, waiting to go to Atlanta
- Jessica Alba at Costco, buying baby supplies
- Mike Tyson at Studio Yogurt, eating only toppings
Quite possibly one of the hardest things to get into that I actually ended up being barely able to get in. I heard about the show after it was already sold out, which wasn't hard, because the small theater apparently sold out in under 30 minutes. When I heard there was going to be a small amount of people let in on a stand by list I knew I would go there incredibly early in order to try and be one of the lucky few. I ended up getting lucky, barely. We were standing along the side of the aisle near the back of the theater, but it didn't matter. We were in for the second show added due to demand. The rumors were that these shows were in preparation for a special they are making for comedy central this fall. It focused on an interesting view of United States history. The show was very funny, and getting to see such a rare show is something that could have only happened in L.A. I even made friends with the people in line based on our common interests, so the long outside rainy wait was worth it. It was also a big event in terms of my quest to have every member of the State sign their book. I’m now only missing Michael Showalter, who I hope will be easier to get now that I’ll be living on the east coast.
Red Sox vs. Angels ALDS Game 3 - October 2007
I saw games in all six west-coast baseball stadiums (including Seattle), but this one stood out among great experiences at a visiting park. It was one of many Red Sox games I’ve seen from the visitor stadium in the past four years – and only a tiny bit better than the L.A. Coliseum exhibition game against the Dodgers. It was great to drive down with all my Boston guys. The stadium and surrounding areas were overrun with Red Sox fans for this deciding game 3 of the series. Even the bar around the corner from the park was crowded with Boston fans watching the Patriots game at 10:00 am. Things started looking good as from the beginning - as we walked in, the Pats scored a touchdown and the building erupted with cheers. One lonely Anaheim fan yelled "Boston Sucks" but was instantly drowned out by boo's in his own town. In the game, the Sox prevailed 9-1 on a brilliant pitching day from Schilling and back to back homers from Papi and Manny. Aside from the game working out in our favor, we made friends with the other Sox fans in our row and even saw other people we knew who had driven down for the game.
There were a lot of other great things that I’ll always remember. Hiking up to the Hollywood sign, building a house for habitat for humanity after Hurricane Katrina, being on the last ever ride for Back to the Future, working out of a talk show green room, and many others. I will always remember being able to take advantage of living in close proximity to Disneyland (as my facebook albums will attest to) and can't understand why other people don't go as much as I did. Working at a theme park gave me super human park navigation skills which I often put to use with people who had never seen them before.
The people out here have made such a difference in my life. I know that the ones who matter the most are also the ones who I'll never lose touch with. It will take some adjustment but I'm very excited for this change and know it's the best thing for me right now. Living in the city I love with the woman I love, closer to my family and being able to experience seasons changing once again are all things that let me believe that this is going to be great.
I'm excited to leave but I'm sad to go. Los Angeles, you've been great to me. I'll truly miss you.