It had been months since I last took a trip by myself. Also since the last time I had been on a plane. Usually we pile into our car – or a rental to be more precise – and load it up with the essentials for a day- or two-day-long road trip. In our case that means everything from snacks and luggage, to medical kits, pillows and blankets, a few rusted tools in my trusty little toolbox, earphones and car chargers for everyone, and our camera, microphone and lenses to capture everything along the way. Or as much as we can actually remember to record.
It usually ends up being a lot less than we intended, but I guess that’s the thing when you’re enjoying the moment.
On this occasion I’m headed to West Hollywood in Los Angeles for a media event. I had tried to get Edgar in on the travel too, but things didn’t quite work out the way we had hoped. It was just as well though, because it turned out the days I was traveling he was actually starting his first year as a high school student. Still, he could not avoid reminding me every chance he got that he could not believe I was traveling without him. Especially to an Old Spice media event. I mean hadn’t we just had the drawn out conversation about why he thought this was the best product on the market for “suavage” young boys like himself a couple of weeks ago?
The nerve, I could almost hear him thinking in his head.
This time it would only be me taking the almost four-hour flight to LA and back to Houston in less than 48 hours. I had been to Los Angeles twice before. Once with my youngest brother on another quickie trip like this one where I dragged him around on the LA train system visiting Little Tokyo, the Mariachi Plaza, and the Hollywood Walk of Fame, before he all but yelled at me to stop for a moment so we could grab something to eat. We did and then of course we ended up overindulging. We finished one large pizza together and then ordered a second one to devour almost entirely too. The two slices that were left we took to go and ate them in our hotel room later that night. On that trip we were visiting the city for a musical concert that I had been invited to cover. He got to go as my plus one.
Then in the summer of 2016, my wife Anjelica and I made the 24-hour drive to Los Angeles from Houston. We had quite a fun reason to make this trip then. The two of us together were invited to participate in our very first online commercial for a major brand. We were almost flabbergasted when they first reached out and invited us, but after picking up our jaws from the floor we immediately said yes and began to make plans for the cross country trek. It would ultimately take us three days to get there and three days to come back because we never ever just drive straight through. We can’t actually. As soon as it gets dark or there’s a lull in the conversation my eyes get heavy and I have the hardest time staying awake. I tell Anjelica this also has to do with my age. When I was in my twenties I could drive all night and not get sleepy at all. That is definitely not the case anymore.
On this trip we didn’t stay in the Los Angeles area very long at all because we had heard terrible things about the traffic in the city and didn’t want to stick around to confirm if any of it was actually true. As soon as our day of filming was done we drove out of the city and headed back to Texas. Luckily it was a Saturday and the little traffic we did experience wasn’t all that awful after all. We even decided to stop and grab a bite to eat before exiting LA all together. I still remember the salad I had that day. It was so huge and extremely fresh. It was as if all of the ingredients had been freshly cut and delivered in a bowl to me. I tell you, it was so good.
But back to the driving. Now no matter how much sugar I consume, or coffee, after a very short-lived energy boost I’m right back at shaking my head and forcing my eyes to stay open.
It is right about then that Anjelica insists we stop somewhere to rest for the night, and we almost always do.
On this trip, however, I am unsupervised and will end up staying up way past the time I should. The thing is it is Pacific Time and that’s two hours ahead of Central Time in Texas. I was totally confused about the time by the time I made it back to Houston on Thursday night.
That first day I arrived at about 10 a.m. Los Angeles time – 12 p.m. Houston time – and was met in the baggage claim area of LAX by my very friendly driver Sam. He had already texted me as soon as my flight arrived to let me know he was going to be waiting for me there. I was still on the taxiway and was quite impressed with his hospitality. The drive to the hotel was pretty pleasant, with Sam telling me all about the city and the area where I was staying, as well as all of the celebrities he has driven around since he left his job in sales to be a chauffeur instead. We did disagree about the weather though. It was in the high seventies in LA and he insisted that was hot. Having just left the 100-degree humidity of Houston I had to point out this temperature and the cool breeze in the air were actually quite ideal for a Texan.
We parted ways and told each other we would hope to cross paths on the next day when I would be driven back to the airport.
Since I had taken an early flight and because it was even earlier in LA my hotel room wasn’t yet available, so I decided to venture out and explore a little bit. By now I have learned to pack super light for two day trips and my backpack pretty much held all of my possessions at that moment. My laptop, my camera and mic, my toothbrush, shaver, a pair of nicer shoes than the ones I was wearing, and my clothes of course. With everything in tow I boarded an Uber Share vehicle and headed over to Venice Beach. Sam had told me it was pretty close and that it was worth the trip since I only had a couple of hours before I would need to be dressed and ready to meet the rest of my group for dinner that night.
What I didn’t pack were swim trunks. They would have definitely come in handy for taking a nice swim once I made it over to Venice Beach. Sam had been right about the beach and the ambient. It was a little hectic, but a lot of fun. I remembered the salad I had eaten last year and walked around a few blocks to see if I could see any more formal sit-down restaurants around where they might serve such a nice salad. Nothing fit the bill so I settled on Peruvian food at a local little diner by the beach before jumping back on another Uber Share.
This time I was heading back to Little Tokyo, or so I thought. During my conversation with Sam I had mentioned that on one of my previous trips I had visited Chinatown in LA. He was confused and asked me if I meant Koreatown. Without thinking I shook my head in agreement and just assumed it was the same place as Little Tokyo. Well as soon as I got off my Uber Share ride and walked around for a couple of blocks I realized it wasn’t at all. It was then that I remembered the name Little Tokyo and Googled it to confirm I was in fact in the wrong place.
A couple of blocks back I had seen several Oaxacan shops along the road on my ride to Koreatown. I decided to walk back to check them out. There was actually only one and it was more of a grocery store than anything else, so I picked up a few snacks for later and some deodorant since I had left mine in Houston. Just as I was going to call for my next Uber Share back to the hotel I spotted Creperie Le Terrace and decided to go in for a coffee and to connect to the WiFi service inside. Low and behold this was like walking into a whole other world.
One in which antique furniture and quirky little art paintings and other oddities brought to life an ambience that my wife would have truly loved. I recorded a few short videos and sent them to her immediately. The owner Lily Kim was so nice and told me she has family in Houston too. I ordered a latte and an acai bowl that was delicious before settling in for a few minutes of email correspondence. On my way out I asked Lily if I could snap her picture and she said yes.
It was the perfect way to satisfy my desire to explore something new and pretty great.
That night, the rest of the group and I that were there as guests of Old Spice had a wonderful dinner overlooking the West Hollywood hills. It was very low key and casual, an evening meant for us to get to know each other and our hosts a little better.
Once back in my hotel room, which was pretty amazing at the Mondrian, I unpacked all my clothes and pulled out my laptop for a little late night work session. It was here that my time clock began to wreak havoc on my physical exhaustion. I was tired, but I wasn’t tired and by the time I went to bed at 2 a.m. LA time – 4 a.m. Houston time – my body was just totally confused. Four hours later I was wide awake and ready for a new day. It was way too early to head down for breakfast so I decided to work instead. Only after answering a few emails and typing a few notes my head began to throb and I knew it was time to sit back and try to relax.
I tried a cold shower. That didn’t help. I ate a nutritional bar and had some water. That didn’t help. I called and asked room services if they had Advil. They did not. Finally, I just closed my eyes and hoped it would go away. It didn’t and then it was time for breakfast.
The coffee and the two servings of a hearty breakfast seemed to do the trick, and after the morning presentations were over I was back to my old self. We snapped a group picture before heading over to the hotel next door for the media event itself.
Let me just say the Old Spice team did an incredible job of hosting us and making us feel very much a part of the major announcement they were revealing that morning. Actor Isaiah Mustafa who plays Mr. Old Spice himself in all of the company’s advertisements greeted us at the newly inaugurated School of Swagger and proceeded to tell us all about the importance of a healthy dialogue between moms and sons when young boys are making the transition into young men. I can totally see why Edgar is a major fan of the brand now. Their humor and approach to young men is pretty fun and kind of superb. Check out these new spots featuring moms and young boys. If you don’t particularly enjoy them, I’m sure your teen sons will.
I think my favorite part of the School of Swagger was the setup itself. The team basically converted a meeting room into a classroom fit for just something as hip as the School of Swagger, complete with a blackboard, teacher and student’s desks, and a photo booth area too. Isaiah brought his mom with him, which I thought was pretty awesome. He and I were the only men in the room besides the photographer who was there capturing images of the event.
That was actually quite interesting considering the topic of conversation was mainly adolescent puberty in boys, but it really did make for some great dialogue among all of us as parents. The consensus, as you might imagine, is that boys need a little more pushing when it comes to taking care of their personal hygiene. Especially in those early teen years before they fully discover physical attraction. After that, they’re pretty good about taking care of themselves.
As one mom put it: “when my son began to shower without me having to remind him I knew he was becoming a man.” That’s the thing about having a conversation like this so openly, it really puts into perspective how universal these things are. At the end of the day, all of our young boys are headed into manhood and they need more than just a health and wellness class to understand what it means to understand their own bodies.
Anyway, that was the gist of the subject matter at the School of Swagger.
We finished up our day with one-on-one interviews with Isaiah before heading back to the Mondrian to pick up our belongings. Everyone had different flight times so we sat in the lobby chit chatting and working until our rides back to the airport showed up. When it came time for me to leave, wouldn’t you know it, it was Sam who called me to tell me he was pulling into the driveway for me. This time it was me that was telling him all about my experiences in the Los Angeles area since the day before.
Oh yes, here is when I also confirmed that what I had been told about Los Angeles traffic was true. It was pretty horrifying… but luckily Sam knew how to avoid the freeways to get me to LAX on time for my Houston flight.
I made it home at about midnight and onto my bed at around 1 a.m.
I did sleep like a baby that night.