Monday, November 05, 2007

That LA Blog

So, um, hi.

It's kinda been 11 days or some shit. Sorry. I was on vacay.

In the sunny city of angels herself, Los Angeles! (pronounced: Loth Angeleth, for reasons that will become all too clear as this blog treks on...)

Here's a day-by-day recount of how the shit went down:


Best idea ever? Getting a 6:30 PM flight following the out-and-out debauchery that was Saturday night's Hocus Poke-us Hallowe'en fete. Boy-O it was a good time - a good time whose goodness will be detailed in its own hearty-albeit-belated blog sometime this week.

Anyballs, I haven't flown in a very long time - like the last time I flew would have been for a Johnston family vacay and in a pre-9/11 world at that, so this was going to be a very foreign experience for me. I cautiously check in, go through customs where they bombard you with all these questions like "where are you staying" and I'm all "A Ramada Inn." and they're all "where?" and I'm all "okay... y'busted me... I'm staying at Ron Jeremy's house..." and then I'm all "kidding".

I had a bunch of bananas with me as I either took them with me in hopes that I could bring them on board or they would rot in my apartment for a week. I didn't know if they would be classified as material that could be a bomb, but to my pleasant surprise, customs lady let me bring them through.

That day, I scrambled to fill my iPod with music that I hadn't heard in a while that would keep my interest as piqued as it could be for the 5 hour flight. This scrounging resulted in me stumbling across a Journey's greatest hits album that I COMPLETELY forgot I had... so Journey's lesser known hits were happily filling m'ear canals for most of the wait... "Faithfully", "I'll Be Alright Without You", "Separate Ways"... the list goes on...

The only piece of literature I had with me - looking back, a VERY ambitious assumption that this would be all the in flight entertainment I'd need - was Rosie O'Donnell's "Celebrity Detox" on gracious loan by one Miss Dini Dimakos.

What did I think of it? TUNE IN LATER THIS WEEK for the first every installment of Andrew's Book Club, in which I review it. I can already anticipate it being the best blog ever. Yeah.

Anyway - I basically crap myself as we take off... it's been so long I totally forget what it feels like... taking off, that is. Not crapping myself. I know that feeling faaaar too well. It's like rapidly ascending a roller coaster only there's clearly no tracks beneath you. I start sort-of-dangling my feet in recognition that there's 0.0 ground beneath me and feel myself settle into that "I wanna get off, I wanna get down, Ehn! Ehn!" reflex... and that lasted like 2 minutes then I was golden.

I read some of Rosie's latest tome, which again I will review later this week, listened to some Journey and in little-to-no time we was there. This is what I saw out m'winda...

It just doesn't end. Just this never ending, sprawling field of lights... and I think I actually said to myself out loud, "wow... so it is real".

I get to LAX, get my luggage without very much incident at all, then make m'way out to the shuttle station. I'm astoundingly pleased that the first person I meet there, the shuttle attendant, is a sassy Comptonite named LaQuesta (well, I don't actually know what her name was, but it might as well have been)... She had gold teeth, a ring with her name on it that spanned her entire knuckle and a ghetto dialect that I only thought existed in Tyler Perry movies...

I must have mentioned that I was from Canada at some point, which she found very amusing - as most people I met there did... there's some adorable novelty that American's have developed with Canadians and automatically their tone becomes different. Like "Really? You is? Cool!" - anyway, she says to me "yeah, I gots some Canadian money. I gots a fi' dolla bill... who dat up on it? (points to picture of Wilfred Laurier on the front)... is dat one of yo priiime ministers?" --- Yeah, I think you can imagine, right now I'm dying. DYING. DDDDYYYYYINNNNG!!!

She then asks - or rather, AKS'S - me if it's my first time here. Which it totally is. And she recommends that I go to a place up on Sunset called "Saddle Ranch". They've got a mechanical bull. She was there the other night and got so drunk she fell off it and "bruised up [her] shoulda". Then she showed me. It was a pretty nasty bruise. I said that I'd make it my business to get there at some point.

So this shuttle zips me from LAX down in Inglewood-up-to-no-good-HEEEY! (where Tyra Banks is from... which is why I know that it's called Inglewood-up-to-no-good-HEEEY! because she pronounces it so every chance she gets), through downtown LA (which is like 10 skyscrapers comprised of mostly banks and law firms), finally up to where I'm staying, at a quaint l'il Rrramada Inn at Santa Monica & Vermont.

I get there and my friend Mike, whom I'm staying with, immediately hands me a margarita made of some Jose Cuervo that he's purchased for THIRTEEN DOLLARS. Yes. A litre of Cuervo costs some shit like 40 dollars at the LCBO. Yes. It does cost 13 fucking dollars in L.A. More startling liquor price comparisons to follow. I think you'll find yourself shocked and/or appalled.

Our room is on the first floor, o'erlooking a courtyard not unlike the one from "Melrose Place"... so it's already SO L.A. But the terlet's leaking and the tub is clogged, so we'ze gotta move. We move up to the second floor, with a balcony giving view to a hardly majestic side street off of Vermont St. and 0.0 wireless reception... which is squarely why you didn't hear from me for the week. For realz... if we wanted Internet access, we needed to go and sit in the hall and have the Mexican maids look at us all cockeyed.


After getting to bed somewhere around 1 AM L.A. time, so 4 AM Toronto time, I get up sometime around 10 AM L.A. time, so 1 PM Toronto time. We go downstairs to check out our complimentary continental breakfast. Not so continental... egg paddies, damp sausages, a waffle bar facilitated by some Scandinavian woman (the lone non-Mexican member of the hotel's custodial staff, I'd wager) and some shitty cereal and toast. We have some, Mike goes off to check out the UCLA campus and I watch 'The View' for the first time in like 2 weeks as my VCR has been on the fritz.

After a workout in the perfectly serviceable fitness centre, I venture up Vermont to get some lunch and some liquor. What I find astounds me:

I march into a Jon's Marketplace. Y'all - I had only heard about this, and in dead seriousness, thought it was a myth, but no, t'isn't... You can buy liquor in grocery stores... There it fucking is... right across from the Michelina's in the frozen foods section...

And the prices. Don't get me started about the prices DON'T EVEN GET ME STARTED. Pictured to the right - a bewildered/perplexed/roaringly pissed off Andrew Johnston crouching next to a 60 OF SMIRNOFF VODKA PRICED AT $15.99. FIFTEEN DOLLARS AND NINETY-NINE CENTS.

I immediately tell the Mexicali checkout personnel that in my country, Canada, the same thing goes for a cool $52.50. To which they yelled "Aiaiaiaiaia Papi!", flung off their sombreros, fired several shots into them and then Charo appeared to sing us out with "Felize Navidad". No. But they were very surprised.

Not near as surprised as I was, but still. It really makes me want to lead a probing inquisition into what exactly our liquor tax goes to. 'Cuz y'all, it must result in billions per day. FIFTEEN FUCKING DOLLAZ!!! FIFTEEN!!!

On my way back to the hotel, I now feel comfortable making three sweeping generalizations about this place:

I.) If you see 3 people at any given time in this neighborhood (which I later discovered would be classified as a bit of a no man's land bordering Hollywood, Los Feliz and Silverlake), 2 of them will be Mexican. That's the ratio. Or rather, the HoRatio, as it would be. Tee Hee.
II.) If you see 3 buildings at any given time, 1 of them will be a fast food restaurant. The amount of fast food restaurants in this city is staggering. Staggering.
III.) Out of those fast food restaurants, out of 3 at any given time, 1 of them is appropriated Mexican cuisine for white people named shit like "El Pollo Loco!" or something... loosely translated, the crazy chicken.

I get back to the hotel and Mike and I decide to do some sightseeing before I need to get back to the hotel and prepare for my first show... navigating through L.A. will be incredibly easy now, thanks to Mike's tasty new toy, a freshly unlocked iPhone. This thing is crazy. It's like something not even the creators of The Jetsons and Inspector Gadget combined could have dreamed up... you can do anything with it, I swear... anyways, we tour around Silverlake - which is like The Williamsburg/hot new spot for artistes... for real... artistes... we pulled up next to a cafe that had three 20-something dudes with John Waters' moustaches... lookin' good, pretentious douchebags - and go get a confectionery that has now changed my life... PINKBERRY...





Pictured to the left, to the left: Me upon the first tongue-to-PinkBerry contact. Wow. I can't even describe it... but I can try.

It's kind of like a lemon gelato or mayhaps, sorbet, crossed with the taste of a dense frozen yogurt, only not the calories because it was something like 70 calories a serving and fat-free.

Whatever it was, it was fucking delicious. It was something where I'd purposely drink something extra-fizzy before having it so I could burp up the flavour for hours afterwards-AKA-make it the gift that keeps on giving... Wow... it was good... if it ever becomes super-franchised, it'll be the Starbucks of ice-cream... woo-howdy...

Pressing on: I go to my first show and am RIDICULOUSLY early for it. Like 45 minutes. Which, anyone who knows me can tell you, is unheard of. I'm never early. I'm either on time by the skin of my teeth or unfashionably-nay-challengingly late... so we take off again and ogle the Roosevelt, Grohmans, drive past about 18 more El Pollo Loco's, and come back at quarter to. I go in and meet some of the other comics. Two other Canadian comics were on this particular bill: Rebecca Kohler and Jay Malone. Kohler I know from 'the scene'... but Jay Malone I had never met before. He's now based in L.A. and recently booked a pilot. I imagine it's probably been squashed now what with the writer's strike, but the accomplishment certainly deserves some huzzah's.

Anyballs, Monday night's show went GREAT! GREAT! About 25 people, but super-rowdy and generous. I was just happy that my material was working... I have this stupid phobia that the success of my material is life-or-death conditional on my surroundings and that it will ONLY work in Toronto/Canada but NO --- killed it! Yay!

I'm sure I had some help, however, in the form of one Miss April Macie, whom I'm pictured with to the right. She's the vivacious redhead from Last Comic Standing Season 4 and has a very aggressively sexual-yet-suuuper likable act. Anyway - we hit it off immediately and took to the alley behind the theatre where we proceeded to be assholes and talk amongst ourselves for the rest of the show. Whoops.

Anyway - LOVE HER. If I can somehow bring myself to change my myspace top friends one of these days, she'll TOTALLY be in them.

Following the show, Mike and I went to famed Hollywood Hotspot, the Chateau Marmont. It's a super-swanky and famous hotel up on Sunset in West Hollywood whose bar has been the catalyst for many a Young Hollywood DUI. My verdict: Meh. It wasn't any nicer than the Drake, per se. Like if any Los Angeleno asked me where to go in Toronto that was akin to the Marmont, I'd say the Drake, and I doubt they'd be disappointed.

Anyway, Mike savoured a Manhattan, I slung back a vodka soda, and we remarked that no one was that attractive. Isn't L.A. supposed to be the beautiful people Olympics? Yeah, not so much. Maybe they were all partaking in some week long convention in some emerald knoll behind a waterfall that was off-limits to pedestrians and tourists, and if that's the case, BOY IS MY FACE RED. But no... anyballs...


Mike went off to Burbank in the morning to tape an audition that he had to send back to Vancouver for a TV Movie he was up for, which meant another leisurely morning of a not-so-Continental breakfast, "The View" and a workout in the serviceable fitness centre.

That afternoon we set out for the beach - SANTA MONICA Y'ALL. Looking back, I really, really, really regret not having the Village People's "Go West" blaring in our car, because that's exactly what we were doing/where we were going.

It was just lovely. The smell of fish innards and seaweed took some getting used to, but after that, t'was fine. We went down to Venice Beach - where Romy & Michele lived in the movie that chronicled their respective high-school reunion.

It was quite something. I had never walked a warf as such. Every second stand was hocking henna tattoos, that I can remember. And there was a row where the vender's dissipated and it was homeless dude's instead - each with their own unique sales pitch on why you should give them money.

Props to the ones who just wanted it for booze. I guess I'm just of the mindset of supporting local bums before giving it away out of town... call me patriotic, but...

Following the Santa Monica excursion, we set out upon the Pacific Coast Highway - the very one where the likes of Mel Gibson and Nicole Richie have been busted on DUI's - and headed to the 'Bu. Malibu, that is. As Mike made us a reservation at Malibu's famed sushi establishment, Nobu.

We were early once again, so we pulled into the Malibu Starbucks in the heart of "downtown Malibu". I put that in quotations because there's not really a downtown. It's just kind of three adjoining strip malls. Anyballs - this Starbucks is the one that Britney is usually photographed at, so that was exciting/filthy. GET A LOAD OF THIS: There's no bathroom in it. Can you believe that? "But where does Britney do coke?" I wondered.

Nobu was lovely - not this terrifying, world-class dining experience that we expected, but very elegant and high-fallutin' just the same. The Miso Cod was basically the best thing I've ever had. And I'd never been hammered on Saki before, so I've got that going for me, too. As we left, we noticed two things: A.) IT GETS FUCKING COLD HERE! For realz... it was freezing! It cools right down at night, y'all! and B.) Paparazzi. Which means someone of importance was inside, but we didn't notice anyone... we thought we saw Helen Mirren, but it was just another well put-together older lady... ahhh well...

Following that, we ventured into West Hollywood to do gay stuff. West Hollywood - this supposed former gay mecca. Not so much. We went to the Abbey... which is like Woody's meets the Playboy gratto. The L.A. gays were nothing to shake a stick at. And by stick... well, it's not a very far fetched analogy to decipher...

The singularly greatest thing that happened was a rose seller came by - as every gayborhood has one... in Toronto there's a 3 foot Asian woman and a man who looks exactly like George W. Bush - and she was a very boisterous Mexican lady who would abruptly come up to you and yell "RRRRRRRRotheth!" ("Roses" with an 'r' rolled so sharply it sounded like a lawnmower motor and requisite Spanish pronunciation of 's' sounds so they're instead a 'th'). Apparently she's legendary around those parts.

And then we went to the Mel's diner at Hollywood & Highland and called it a night...

Fade out-

Fade in-

WEDNESDAY (Hallowe'en)

Early start to Wednesday as we decided to trek up to the Griffith Park observatory - the Planetarium/Planetorium where Rebel Without A Cause was filmed - which is waaaay up yonder in the Hollywood Hills and gives a majestic panorama of beautiful, sunny, barely-visible-through-the-toxic-haze Los Angeles.

For serious - that's it. And I fucked with that picture's exposure somethin' fierce.

The planetarium is still a functioning planetarium, but also an aerospace museum of sorts/tribute to itself. Inside there was a bunch of historical shit about Gallileo and the invention of the telescope and information about how stars are made and black holes and a whole whack of shit that was of 0.0 interest to our materialistic homo souls that just wanted to go down to Robertson and see if Lohan was anywhere to be seen.

So after getting tasty, tasty photos taken in front of the Hollywood sign - SCORE! - we headed out... and got a taste of L.A. traffic along the freeway on our way back.

L.A. is such a driving culture it just makes my head spin. There are buses, but it's not public transportation - it's private transportation. In that they're all privately owned companies that you need to pay for each time you use. And the only people who do use them are the lower classes - it's not a mixed bag like any East Coast city's transportation system.

There's an assload of radio stations in L.A., 18 of which feature Ryan Seacrest at the helm. Everyone drives with their window down in what I presume to be an effort to not only attract cancer, but actually romance it. If you can drive in the carpool lane in L.A., you're so fucking golden. EVERY CAR HAS ONE PERSON TO IT! It's nuts! I think half an hour went by in one sitting before I saw two people in a car! And this car issue gets nuttier...

That night, we decide to take part in the Hallow e'en festivities - it said something like 400,000 people descend on Santa Monica boulevard in West Hollywood bedecked in their Hallow's eve garb. We thought this was a gross overestimation - a classic case of "LA Spin". I can't tell you how wrong we were.

Here's something: THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS A CAB IN L.A. I think we tried for a solid 40 minutes before flagging down a cab. $25 later we were in WeHo smack dab in the middle of an Agoraphobic's worst nightmare. Holy fuck. This crowd was insane. Jam packed. For those of you in Toronto: picture the Church & Wellesley festivites on Hallow e'en. The street is shut off for one city block from Wellesley to Alexander along Church, and reasonably populated with about a half-and-half mix of people in costume and people not. Now picture Church St. three times as wide, and that crowd times about 30. That was Santa Monica. It was a nightmare.

BUT OUR NIGHTMARE HAD JUST BEGUN!!! Around Robertson, we decide to bail and go get food or something. Simple enough. We'll go up to Sunset and grab a cab. Yeah, no dice losers. It was impossible. We were basically the distance between Keele and Yonge on Bloor from our Hotel. And every cab we saw was in vein. Another thing: they don't turn their lights off when they're in use, so it's just maddening. We had no idea what the fuck we were going to do so we just kept walking...

We didn't pass all the signs you see to your right, I just felt like A.) it would illustrate that sort of image of walking aimlessly through a city at night, B.) I had all these pictures of signs of places we'd been and there was no particularly appropriate time to post them, so meh.

We thought we were going to need to walk to Sunset and Highland and take the subway - yes, there is a subway in L.A. And I'd wager it's worse and less efficient than the TTC, so score, TTC. Somehow - an act of both our guardian angel is the only way I can reconcile it - we managed to catch a cab. It was the 50th cab we tried to get, and he was A.) free and B.) willing to take us to the far reaches of Hollywood-meets-Los Feliz-meets-Silverlake where we were staying.

The kicker: it was parked outside of SADDLE RANCH. Where LaQuesta told me I gosts'ta go! GIRRRRL! Talk about serendipity.

So we got in that cab and pledged to ourselves that we would never, ever, EEEVER do Santa Monica boulevard on H-Ween again, got home, by this time Mike had sobered up considerably, so we decided to drown our sorrows at a local Denny's.

THIS is why everyone drives drunk in L.A. Because there is honestly no other choice unless you have a driver. There's no such thing as going to a party, having a few too many and hoppin' in a cab. Nuts. I have a renewed sympathy for those busted on a DUI. Well, that is to say that I don't equate them to Nazi's anymore. Now they're more Klansmen in my eyes. So yeah, it's softened.


We decided to say 'fuck it' and sleep in after our very late night the evening prior. At around 3 PM we headed out to get a gander of Beverley Hills during the daylight. Oooh-Wee. It's pretty. It's like the Bridal Path meets Rosedale. In that it's huge fucking mansions in really high density. It was kind of surreal, I must say.

Of note: There's a prominent street named after Chevy Chase. WTF?!

Following that, we decided to take a leisurely put up Mulholland Drive. I wanna barf just thinking of it. It is a fucking crazy-straw of a road. It twists and turns so obnoxiously, it's like being on a really shallow roller-coaster for kids at 50 mph and for 45 minutes. Oy. I got super-sick. The view was great, though.

We came back to the hotel, Mike had a nap, and I worked out to the "Hairspray" soundtrack, so I was in a very happy place. We went to the show, I showed up at usual Andrew Johnston time - so 7 minutes before the show. We had a full house that night, apparently, full of suits who weren't so into it, but it still went great!

The best part? Two words: Cocoa Brown. Brilliant. BRILLIANT. Words can not describe. Picture everything I want to be when I immitate a black woman in my act/in general.

She actually IS.

Holy fuck. I told her about Bitch Salad and how desperately I want her to do it and she was like "yeah baby, I gots air miles." Oh my GOD. Amazing. Anyway - that's us to the left, to the left, suffice to say...

So after that, I chatted to some other comedians who weren't on the show, said bye-bye to the producer of the festival, Lawrin, and of course April and Cocoa, and Mike and I headed back to We-Ho for a last hurrah. We just ended up going back to the Abbey. And this girl dressed in a white trench coat and sporting a Rihanna haircut came up to us and gave us both coupons for Camel cigarettes - 2 for 1. Wow, again. You could never do that shit in Canada. Smokers are pariahs and cigarette companies have no rights at all. But yeah - they can just give the shit away in the states. Anyway, we spoke to her for a while, she left, RRROTHETH lady came back, I cackled at her uncontrollably, Mike and I spoke about the state of gays in Hollywood and we went back to the hotel. Pardon me: we actually went to a Carl's Jr. for some grotesque mutant burgers that were bigger than any burger every dreamt of being, THEN back to the hotel.

The flight out was entirely uneventful, and I mean that in the most positive way possible. I had to change over in Charlotte, North Carolina... which means that all the stewardesses were Nancy mother fucking Grace wearing a pantsuit with wings on it. The in flight movie was "Hairspray", so that was cool.

And that's pretty much it.

One word to sum up the trip: Demystifying. L.A. is now without the mystique that it used to have... it's no longer this sort of untouchable holy land where the big fishes are. It's just a town that industry happens to reside in. I'm certainly in no rush to move down there, I can tell ya that... but I'm sure I'll eventually have to. Blah. It won't be before I learn to drive, I can definitively tell ya that much...

Anyway - GOOD TO BE BACK!!!

Talk to you tomorrow... early and often!
--- Aj