California Blogging

So, I spent last week on vacation in Southern California with my wife and kids, visiting family and seeing all the touristy sights we could squeeze into a week. It was the first time I’d been to California – in fact, until this year I’d never been west of Chicago. It’s not hard to see why people fall in love with the place the first time they see it. Thoughts and impressions:
*We stayed in Newport Beach, which is something like 50 miles south of downtown LA and thus turned out to be ideally strategically located to hit the sights ranging from the hills north of LA down to Seaworld in San Diego. It’s also a very nice town with a beautiful public beach, and wasn’t as expensive as some of the surrounding towns as far as hotel rooms. Highly recommended.
*We hit Dodger Stadium and four theme parks – Disneyland, Legoland, Seaworld, and Universal Studios (if we’d had more time, I’d have liked to see the Angels and Padres as well). All of them were fun, although there was a limit to how much the kids could do at Universal. The theme parks were all extremely expensive (especially Legoland and Universal), although in our case we were able to get, through family and other sources, a variety of free tickets, discounts, coupons, and even (in the case of Seaworld) half-priced scalped tickets outside the entrance. Seaworld probably had the best food and, by far, the most reasonably priced souvenirs. Disney, of course, had the worst parking situation (the exits to the trams to different parking areas are very badly marked at night). I was very impressed with Dodger Stadium, which is every bit as beautiful and peaceful a place to see a game as it looks on TV, although my one gripe was the difficulty of locating an exit (at Shea, this is never a problem, as there are ramps heading out everywhere you look), and the Dodger Dog is not up to the standards of a New York ballpark hot dog. Legoland, of course, is a geek’s paradise, with miniature models of several American cities (go there now while they still have the original design of the Freedom Tower, the design that will now never be created in the actual Manhattan). At Universal, we saw the “Waterworld” show, which was billed, with a straight face, as “based on the hit movie.” While the plot was really too thin even for an outdoor theme park show, the show was definitely worth seeing for the live special effects, which included a lot of things blowing up, catching fire, and plunging into the water (on the other hand, the actors in the show couldn’t even meet minimal action-movie standards of realism in handling firearms). I hadn’t realized that Seaworld is owned by Anheuser-Busch, which is why along with whales and dolphins you get a Clydesdale display and “beer school.”
*We saw an awful lot of the freeways, putting over 900 miles on the rental car in 8 days. An observation: Californians refer to their highways as “the 405,” “the 5,” etc., which sounded strange to me – in New York, you would just say, “95,” not “the 95.” Also, the concept of “free” is so ingrained that when you get on a toll road, there are warnings after warnings for miles before you hit a single toll booth. Coming from Queens, the traffic did not seem nearly as bad as we’d heard; we hit some momentary traffic heading to San Diego and did get stuck a little going from Universal to the Dodger game, but nothing like an ordinary trip on the Cross-Bronx Expressway. Even from the highways – especially the Pacific Coast Highway – the natural beauty of California is staggering, and the manmade views aren’t bad either. There was one view we saw a few times at night, on 73 heading north into Newport Beach, where you pass over a ridge and suddenly have the whole of LA laid out below you, not bunched in a Manhattan-ish skyline but with the lights of modern civilization at nighttime stretching as far in every direction as the eye can see. It looked like George Lucas’ vision of the city-planet of Coruscant from space.
*We encountered, especially with the (very friendly) guys sitting behind us at Dodger Stadium, a number of people in LA who use the word “dude” as if it were a required form of punctuation, without which one can’t conclude a sentence fragment, let alone a complete sentence. Another thing that surprised me: wine for sale everywhere, in supermarkets and convenience stores, and not just a bottle or two but rows and rows of the stuff.
*As to the Dodger game, we saw Tuesday night’s game against the Phillies; all the better to miss the Mets, so we could root for the home team. The Dodgers were, once again, leading off Cesar Izturis, who has a .222 on base percentage since June 1, the worst in baseball by a margin of 42 points. And people wonder why they don’t score any runs. The Phillies were pitching Robinson Tejeda, who may have a good arm – he struck out Jeff Kent three times with men on base – but just could not find the plate, which is borne out by his walk rate this season. Brad Penny was masterful for the Dodgers before the bullpen imploded.
*We saw a few more Bush bumperstickers than Kerry ones, although this may mean little enough nine months after the election (here in NY, the number of Kerry-Edwards stickers dropped off rapidly after the election), plus Newport Beach, at least, is in what used to be the heart of Republican territory. The hotel and the theme parks were also plagued with a ridiculous proliferation of state-law-mandated warnings and disclaimers, nearly none of which made much sense (did you know that Disney may contain tobacco and other potentially cancer-causing agents?). At Seaworld, they asked the people in the audience at the Shamu show who were military or military families to stand for applause, and quite a lot of people stood up – that’s San Diego for you.
*Yes, we managed to see endless TV replays of the Beltran-Cameron collision in what was otherwise the all-Terrell-Owens sports networks. The only two OF collisions that scary that I can remember are (1) Johnny Damon and Damian Jackson in the 2003 ALDS and (2) the Mookie Wilson-Lenny Dykstra collision that ended with Mookie’s teeth marks across Lenny’s nose.
Anyway, a fine time was had by all. Regular blogging to resume tomorrow.

13 thoughts on “California Blogging”

  1. Crank,
    Glad you had a good trip. We went down to Disney World in March and completely agree with the comment about price. What a waste. For what we spent in one day there we were able to buy season tickets (including parking) for Kings Island here in Cincinnati. And unlike Disney’s hour long waits for decent rides it’s about 10-15 minutes here.
    As far as TO goes, I wonder if ESPN ever gets customer feedback to see how annoying it is when they overkill a relatively minor story like TO? Same goes with FOX and that missing blond. Sorry, she’s missing but give it a rest already.

  2. I haven’t been to Disney in California in many years, but Disney in Orlando is impossible at the wrong time of the year but great at the right time. If you can go in late January, you won’t have to wait on a single line.

  3. I did not get to see Simmons, or anyone else outside of family. As you can tell from the theme park itinerary, it was a heavily scheduled week.
    I agree on DisneyWorld in Florida – you should definitely take the kids there before they get locked into a school schedule, because the summer and school vacations the lines are unbearable.

  4. Actually it’s just southern Californians who add the “the” to the highway number. When I was a kid in the SF Bay Area I never heard of “the 680” or “the 24.”

  5. In addition to using “the” in front of the number of the freeway people in Southern California also refer to the freeways by their place names as well. As in “take the Santa Monica freeway (the 10) and then go north on the Harbor freeway (the 110)” or “I took the Ventura (the 134) to the Golden State (the 5) to get to Dodger Stadium”.
    It becomes more confusing because the freeways change names as they go through different parts of Southern California even though the numbers are the same. The 10 freeway changes from being called “the San Bernardino” to being called “the Santa Monica”, the 5 is called Golden State or Santa Ana, the 110 is the Harbor and the Pasadena, etc…

  6. And, of course, a couple of freeways change numbers but keep the same name – the Hollywood Fwy (170, 101) and the Ventura Fwy (101, 134). Just more fun in the big city. It’s been a while since I lived in LA but I believe more people use freeway names rather than numbers when giving directions.

  7. I’m very glad that you and your family had a great time, as Southern California will always be home to me and my wife.
    Some more pointed responses:
    * Dodger Stadium is indeed a beautiful park. I’d rank it second to Wrigley, and just slightly ahead of Fenway (with the two New York stadiums far behind, I’m afraid). Hotdogs have declined in quality, as you noted. They used to be grilled, but that practice has long been abandoned. Overall, while our sound system could be vastly improved, we have a very wonderful facility in Chavez Ravine.
    * Newport is a great place to stay, especially for families such as yours that want to catch both LA and SD: culturally, I’d say that it falls somewhere in the middle. It’s got great residences, too, as the likes of Dennis Rodman and Kobe Bryant can attest.
    * Good for you for driving up the Pacific Coast Highway. If you have more time in your next visit, you should try to go further north. My wife and I have driven it from LA to San Francisco, and we can say that it’s much nicer than the OC-SD route. You can catch Monterey, Pebble Beach, Hearst Castle, and other great sights. It’s wonderful to see the landscape change from desert to vineyard — a true taste for the diversity of the Golden State.
    Also, if you’re a history or Catholic buff, as we are, you can visit the California missions along the way. And you’ll get a flavor for the way Spanish mission architecture is adapted in accordance with different environments.

  8. I’ve lived in San diego for 35 years, and I’ve never heard “the 5” and such. There are names for San Diego freeways, such as the Cabrillo Freeway through Balboa Park (you missed the zoo?) but that’s “163” or “route 163”. What you experienced is strictly L.A. practice.
    I’m sorry you didn’t make it to Petco for a Padres game. I’m betting you’d have noticed the loud incessant music and helped us purists shame the Padres into turning the damn volume down. The marketing geniuses think they’re selling excitement with all that noise. Somebody needs to tell them the game can sell itself once the fans are inside the gates.

  9. I’ve lived in San Diego for 35 years and never heard “the 5” or “the 15”. San Diego freeways have names too, but Cabrillo Freeway through Balboa Park (you missed the zoo?) is called 163 or route 163. What you heard is strictly an L.A. practice.
    I’m really sorry you missed visiting Petco Park. A major feature of the experience is continuous music and announcements at high volume, and I’m sure you would have noticed and panned it. The marketing geniuses think they’re selling excitement. The game sells itself once the fans are inside the gates.

  10. The music at Dodger Stadium is incessant enough to keep me out of the ballpark. We lived sort of a charmed life there during the O’Malley era where all the crappy canned music and other modern ballpark vulgarities were held at bay, but during the Fox era it was as if they opened up The Big Book of Ballpark Cliches and incorporated all of them. What I hate the most are the idiot music cues for walks: “Walk This Way”, “These Boots are Made for Walking”, “I’m Walking” — it could drive you mad. The absolute law should be that it’s the crowd that supplies the commentary on the action, not the public address system.
    I would think that the freeway is so integrally associated with Los Angeles that our nomenclature ought to be considered official.

  11. I’ve lived in SD since 86 and hear “the 5” or “the 805” all the time.
    The thing that always bugged me about LA is “the 405” aka “the san diego freeway” doesn’t actually go to san diego. it merges into the 5 and disappears in orange county.

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