Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Harry-ed Evening in L.A.

Ever since I was young, my father always impressed upon me the importance of being punctual.  "On time is late, early is on time" was among his favorite sayings.  Once I asked him, "Uh, dad, if on time is late, and early is on time, then what would 'late' be?"  His reply?


Because of this, whenever I'm going somewhere -- a baseball game, work, the opera (not that I have any intention of going to the opera, but if I did, this point would be just as applicable) -- I make sure to leave early enough so that if an emergency strikes en route, I will still arrive at my destination in time for the first pitch (or the beginning of my work day, or whatever comes first at an opera).  Ninety-nine percent of the time, nothing goes wrong and I get where I'm going with plenty of time to spare.  This, however, drives my fiance Theresa nuts because for some reason she can't seem to understand the advantage of getting to the stadium two hours before the game starts.

I know.  Women.

So anyway, last night I took Theresa to the Hollywood Bowl to see Harry Connick, Jr.  The concert was scheduled for 8:30, and the Bowl is about 75 miles from our home.  I factored in the time variables like stopping for dinner, getting gas (for the car, not from the dinner), and Friday traffic in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area.  Next, I added extra time in the event of, let's say, a monsoon suddenly sweeping through Alhambra. Using the "Real Time to Dad Time" conversion chart, I determined that we should leave our house at 4:00.

"Four o'clock?" asked Theresa.  "So we'll get to the Bowl with about three hours to kill.  Why do we have to leave so early?"

"You still don't get this, do you?"

"Yeah, yeah, early is late, on time is early, allow time in case a giant Acme anvil falls on our heads, whatever."

"It's on time is late, early is . . . forget it, just get in the car."


(editor's note: When a woman says "fine", it doesn't mean she agrees with you.  All it means is that she's now going to spend the entire car ride plotting how she's going to bug the shit out of you when you're sitting around at the Hollywood Bowl for three hours waiting for the show to start).

So we left the house, swung by a gas station, and about halfway through our journey, we stopped at Marie Callender's in West Covina for dinner.  I had built in to our schedule a 27-minute wait for a table, but as it turns out the wait was only five minutes.  We picked up some extra time . . . awesome.  (In case you're interested in such things, I had the chicken pot pie, Theresa had . . . to be honest, I don't remember what the hell she ordered.  Guys don't pay attention to stuff like that.  Well that's not entirely true, if she'd ordered something really expensive like the filet mignon or duck l'orange, I'm sure I'd have noticed.  But since that wasn't the case, she probably had a burger or something.  On another note, I'm currently attempting to set a literary record for the world's longest parenthetical comment that in no way relates to the main point of the article).

A "light traffic day" on the Hollywood Freeway
We hit the transition from the San Bernardino Freeway (I-10) to the Hollywood Freeway (CA-101) at about 6:30.  For those of you unfamiliar with Southern California geography in general or the freeway system in particular, this left us with about ten miles to go before the Hollywood Bowl exit.  Since the Hollywood Freeway is a bumper-to-bumper clusterfuck even at two o'clock on a Wednesday morning, you can imagine the absolute joy we had sitting there during the Friday commute.

It was at this point that my car stalled.

Due to the threat of potential litigation, I am not at liberty to tell you the make and model of my piece of shit car which crapped out on the Hollywood Freeway.  Let's just say that the first part is also the last name of an actor who starred in the Indiana Jones movies, and the second part is the zodiac sign represented by a male cow.

Recently I have had a bit of difficulty with the Indy Male Cow, specifically, it's been leaking some sort of fluid from the undercarriage.  I took it in to my mechanic Roger a few weeks ago and explained the situation.  He asked, "well, what's it leaking?"  I have to be honest here.  I am about as schooled in automotive maintenance and repair as Paris Hilton is in particle physics.  This being the case, for all I knew my car was leaking maple syrup.  Recognizing the befuddled look on my face, Roger changed the question from "fill in the blank" to "multiple choice."

"It's probably oil or transmission fluid," he said.

"Oh, it's oil," I replied, not because I knew that to be the case, but because I don't have the foggiest clue what transmission fluid is.  If I'd guessed "transmission fluid" and then Roger asked me a follow up question like, "do you usually use regular or low-fat transmission fluid?" I would've looked like a complete idiot.

When I picked up the car, Roger told me that it had been leaking, you guessed it, transmission fluid and that he replaced the gasket head valve socket (or something like that) and that should take care of the problem.  Well, a week ago, I noticed that the car was still leaking something (it's GOTTA be oil this time, right?) but I haven't had the chance to take it back to Roger yet.

Hmm.  What could that mean?
Okay, so there we were, stalled out on the Hollywood Freeway.  I restarted the car without a problem, but I noticed that there was a red light on my dashboard in the shape of a magic genie lamp with a little raindrop coming out of the tip.  I assumed this was a sign that I should put more oil in the car.  We got off at the next exit and started looking for a gas station, or maybe a convenience store.  Once again, for those of you who may have a mental image of Hollywood that includes movie studios, palatial theaters and glistening beaches, I have to tell you that it's not all like that.  It's not even mostly like that.  A significant portion of the Hollywood area is basically, and here I'm understating it a bit, a filthy, gang-infested, poverty-stricken, stench-ridden hive of scumbags and freakazoids that isn't a fit for cockroaches, much less innocent out-of-towners with car trouble.

That's the part we were in.

We turned off the exit ramp and made a left on Run For Your Life Blvd., hoping to find a gas station that didn't look like the U.S. Air Force had used it for bomb practice.  We couldn't find any.  A few blocks later, though, we came across a CVS Pharmacy.  I parked the car which, thank God, hadn't stalled since we'd left the freeway.  Walking to the drug store, Theresa and I gave two dollars to a rough-looking, shelter-impaired individual because we thought it was very considerate of him to have actually asked for the money as opposed to beating the shit out of us and taking it, which was probably Plan B.

I bought two quarts of oil, returned to the car, and opened the hood.  You're probably thinking, "there's no way in hell he's going to know where to pour the oil," but as it turns out there's a screw-off cap in the engine that has the exact same picture as the light that was blinking on my dashboard.  Using the same picture-matching strategy that I employed with my Grrrr-Animals outfits in kindergarten, I completed the oil-replacement procedure and we were on our way.

We made it to the Hollywood Bowl without further incident, at which point the parking nightmare began.  The Bowl uses a "stacked parking" system that was invented in 1939 by Heinz Von Karzarkramden, an alcoholic German with a raging case of syphilis and an IQ of 63.  In this parking arrangement, cars are parked bumper to bumper, row after row, resembling, well, the Hollywood Freeway.  What this means, simply, is that you're boxed in for the night and when the show's over, you don't leave until everyone next to, behind, and in front of you has already departed.  We pulled in to our spot at 7:50.

That's right, even with all the problems, we were still in time to get snacks and find our seats with time to spare.

Dad 1, Theresa, 0.

The Hollywood Bowl is a great concert venue with beautiful scenery, excellent acoustics and, most nights, gorgeous weather.  The only complaint I have is that the seating is less than comfortable.  I'm sure that the fancy-schmancy boxes down front are much better, but we were out in the cheaper sections.  There aren't individual seats, just benches with your "seat" number carved into the back.  Apparently, these bleachers were built and labeled during the pre-fast food era of American history, because there were six of us crammed into "seats" 1-10.  Suffice it to say, it was a cozy evening at the Bowl.

Harry Connick was outstanding, by the way.  His on-stage banter alone was worth the price of admission.  He told hilarious stories about show business (including his involvement with When Harry Met Sally...) and put on one hell of a show.  The music of course was incredible, using both Harry's own jazz band and the string section of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.  When you stop to think about it, the music business is incredibly unfair.  You look at pop stars with next to no talent making bazillions of dollars (I'm looking at YOU, Justin Bieber), and then you see relative nobodies like Harry's lead trumpet player Kevin Bryan playing their asses off just to make a decent living, well, it's pretty sad.

Harry himself, though, earns every dollar of his multi-millions.  He did several jazz standards like "It Had to Be You" and "For Once in My Life," along with more contemporary songs including the Beatles' "And I Love Her".  Harry didn't ask me to do this, but I'm going to plug his new CD for him anyway.  It's called "Your Songs" and it's a nice balance of the genres I mentioned above.  Of particular interest to non-jazz fans would be his covers of Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are" and Elton John's "Your Song".  It's a truly fabulous collection.

I should know.  Theresa and I listened to the entire CD four times while we were waiting to get out of the parking lot.


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Eva Gallant said...

Glad you finally made it and enjoyed the concer! I'm with you--early is on time. Hubby differs.

LegalMist said...

Did you resist the urge to say "I told you so"? Or did she argue that you rigged the car to leak oil just so you'd be right? If neither of these things happened, I'd say you have a pretty solid relationship there - way to go!

Tex said...

My wife doesn't understand the "On time is late, early is on time" rule, either.
So I simply tell her the 7:00 pm show starts at 6:00, or whatever appropriate time is needed.
We get there late (on time, barely) anyway because she has to 'do her hair'.
What is it with taking an hour to do your hair?

CatLadyLarew said...

I would do the same thing, Chris... leave three days early for a special event just to be sure I get there on time. But for regular, everyday things like going to work? Well, I confess I'm often in the unacceptable category. *said while waiting for the ACME anvil to fall on my head*

Mariann Simms said...

Yeah, I'm in the "on time is late" club, too. I seriously hate this when I get to doctors' offices early and I have to wait an hour or so. I think they should have the decency to phone you up to tell you that he's running late.

My car died once ON the Delaware Memorial Bridge or was it the Benjamin Franklin one...either way, it died on a bridge and I hate being on bridges to start with. I'll never forget that. Well, at least the part about it being a bridge.

Quirkyloon said...

Hee hee. You reminded me of the classic movie The Out of Towners with Sandy Dennis and.... darn! I can't remember the male actor!

It was a hoot and sounds like your evening was as well.

Harry's not my cuppa, but I'd pay to see him before Justin Booberhead! ANY day!

MikeWJ at Too Many Mornings said...

FORD = Found On Road Dead.

I'm glad you got there on time. My wife is perpetually late and would have made us late for the concert, and then informed me that it was my fault. As far as she's concerned, she's always on time. It's other people's problems that make her fall behind.

J.J. said...

You should've stayed in West Covina. ; )

My dad is the opposite of yours, he's never been on time for anything in his life. Therefore, I'm totally anal about being on time.

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