Looking California, Feeling Minnesota

Funny thing happened when I got to L.A. I got robbed.

I was less than an hour in town. I’d I landed around 10 a.m., grabbed my Hertz, pointed it north on the 405, dropped my things at Le Duble Tres (The Doubletree). I headed over to my buddy James’ in Santa Monica. We spent a few minutes catching up — he and I went to high school together and have remained really close since — then stepped out to find me a bike to rent for the Malibu Triathlon, leaving his lovely wife Melissa to hold down the fort. When we got home an hour later, the door was ajar, and my bag was gone. We thought we’d lost our noggins, and retraced our steps and checked every garbage can between Fourth and Ocean, but alas, it was gone. Melis was beside herself that she had been home the whole time. But sure enough, it was lifted. Luckily, not much was in it — my cool new glasses, my digital camera, the Fred Perry jacked She gave me, and a coupla’ folders for work — so no major loss. Except those cool new glasses. They were two days old!

So we called the cops, went to dinner, and when we got back they showed up to take statements and fingerprint and such. They weren’t too surprised (“And you’re the victim?” she said smiling). I took off to get some shut eye as they were dusting, which is when they casually tipped off James and Melis that Britney was getting married just down the street. Had I stayed a few minutes more and heard that, I’d have had the Scoop of the Century. Or the weekend anyway. But I was fast asleep at Le Duble Tres.

I woke at 4:30. It’s (duh) still dark. I walk through the empty hotel, wet suit over my shoulder, wondering, ‘I’m doing what now? And why?’ The drive to Zuma Beach is harrowing. There’s crap on the radio. PCH1 winds up the coast, and all I can see is SUVs with bikes on the back. ‘I’m in trouble.’

I’m in my westsuit, swim cap and goggles. There’s sand in my toes. The sky has gone from black to blue. The sun peeks over the Santa Monica mountains. I’m in the first wave: open mountain bike. And the canon goes off…

The 2:01:40 I swam, rode, and ran were at times impossible, beautiful, harrowing, exhausting, and exhilarating. The swim was eternal. It was the f’in’ Pacific, yo’. Dudes were surfing just down the beach. There were waves. Like, big waves. A half a mile worth of big waves. I sang a little bit on the bike — Frou Frou’s “Let Go” — and talked myself through the run. Some of my run was alongside a blind dude who was running with a buddy who was coaching him through the terrain — very inspiring. But it ends up Duchovny beat me anyway. He crossed the finish just before me (and I thought the cameras were for me!). But I beat him in the NYC Tri, so I guess it’s Home Team Rules.

James, Melis and I did brunch. My cell phone was absolutely blowing up. Yeah: the Britney thing. James had to do the Emmys, and what with his hangover and all, was most un-psyched. (Good news is, his show — he’s a UTA agent for TV writers — won a few. I called him each time I saw ’em win, and he just called me back to thank me. “Good things happen to good men,” I said.)

The whole day was so L.A. Coupla’ things: vanity license plates. Who thinks these are a good idea? C N SKY? Not cool. I FILM 4 U? I swear to God, we saw it! So lame. And why is it that everyone in this town just reaks of L.A. You know what I mean. Like, totally dressed to the nines… for Sunday brunch? And these fifty-year-old guys on the beach who look like they could buy and sell you in a heartbeat? I dunno’ what it is. I think it’s because L.A. is such a one-note town: Hollywood. And Hollywood’s all about The Deal, The Opening Weekend, and The Major, Major Dough. Heck, I’ve seen more Ferraris in the last twenty-four hours than I’ve seen in two years. At the same time, the transients and freaks in L.A. leave New York’s in shame. These dudes are wack! It’s not just that they’re deranged and delirious, you know, talking to themselves and all — it’s that they’re agendad! They have MOs! Poster boards and speeches and such. Ok, final observation: I saw a Kurt Cobain sticker on the back of a huge black Cadillac Escalade. It looked like one of those Che Guavera t-shirts. It was kind of startling, kinda’ creepy.

Standing here on my seventh floor balcony here at Les Duble Tres as the sun falls over the Pacific, I’m not really sure whether to smile or cry. I’m not sure whether to wrap my arms around this city, this country, this time, or to hunker down and wait out The Big One. This much I know: if it all comes crashing down, at least I’ll have one hell of a view.

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