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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Prairie Home Campanion; B Day in San Juan Capistrano

On Orange, near Highland Ave. and Hollywood Blvd.; bright lights, LA craziness

     It was Friday afternoon: Kathie drove all the way over here (to Trabuco Canyon), and then the five of us—Annie, Ma, Pa, Kathie, and I—drove north in my Chrysler 300 for the Hollywood Bowl. We were off to see Garrison Keillor and A Prairie Home Companion, a real favorite among most of us (least of all me, but I do enjoy the live show, especially the live music).
     The drive was pretty easy and we made good time—until, that is, we realized that, after the 405, we went north on the 101 when we should have gone south! Dang! We'd gone about twenty miles in the wrong direction and, unfortunately, though the northbound traffic was light, the southbound traffic was heavy.
     Our plan had been to park near one of the places where we could catch a shuttle to the Bowl. We figured we'd get to our spot—near the corner of Highland Ave. and Hollywood Blvd.—at about 5:30 p.m.; then, we'd buy our shuttle tickets, dine at an Italian restaurant in the mall there (near Grauman's Chinese), and then finally take the shuttle for the show, which was to start at 8:00.
     We didn't get to the parking garage (on Orange) until some time after 6:00. (It was a valet service garage.) Then we encountered trouble with the elevator—it was supposed to take us to the second level of the mall, but nope. Eventually, we realized that the mall we wanted was a bit further down toward Highland, past Grauman's.
     When we got there, we had trouble accessing the second level—where, we had been informed, the shuttle tickets were sold. We ended up at some level (I've already forgotten the misadventures that brought us there), where Ma and Pa decided to seek a restroom while Kathie and I sought the sales office for the tickets. Annie had recently broken a toe, and she was having great difficulty walking, so she stayed on a bench, immobile.
     Kathie and I never found the sales office—it doesn't exist, contrary to our info—but we did find the shuttle buses just outside, where the tickets were sold by drivers. We bought 'em and then went back to collect the rest of our crew, but that wasn't easy and, anyway, the clock was ticking and it seemed that the sensible thing was to just take the shuttle asap and then look for something to eat at the Bowl. The Italian restaurant plan was kaput!
     After a few minutes, our bus left: it was a plain affair, with the usual lack of air conditioning or anything else beyond the usual Naugahyde and bad air. Unfortunately, the weather of the last day or two had been the muggiest and hottest in a while, and so sitting in that crowded bus was miserable. I managed to open the window a crack (I seemed to be the only one who did that; I expected to be arrested). The trip didn't take long, but the bus spent a good deal of time rolling into a queue. The driver finally let us out and we headed for the gate.
     It was hot, crowded.
     By then, it was 7:30 p.m. Once inside the gate, I headed for the first food place while the gals went to the restroom, as they must, at regular intervals. By the time Kathie and the others returned (not in one gaggle, naturally), it was time to order: Kathie insisted on paying. We bought a couple of bottles of wine and five orders of garlic fries (we didn't have much choice). It was something like $110 without the tip.
     The food workers were none too bright or efficient, and so, by the time we had our entire order (I had to ask for salt; that came in a cup filled to the bottom with a pinch or two), the fries were cold, but, never mind, we forged on. It was now about 8:00, so we joined one of the entry queues, where, as it turns out, every goddam bag was checked for "professional cameras," a big no-no. (They didn't care about the point-and-shoots.) Naturally, I had no way of knowing that my camera, a D70, would be a problem. We had Annie stuff it at the bottom of her bag (I'm sure some of our colleagues were sure we were hiding drugs), but it was inevitable that they would find it, which they did. I was told to check my camera with "operations," around the corner.
     Drat! With a look of consternation, I headed there.
     Meanwhile, Annie, Kathie, Ma and Pa proceeded to the show. I guess they found their box without difficulty. My camera detour didn't take long, but by the time I entered the bowl—which, oddly, looked to me exactly like the Greek Theatre!—the show had started, it was kinda dark, and so it wasn't easy finding my seat in terrace 6. Along the way, I saw the gang of four—who had the original four tickets for terrace 2 (I bought the fifth when we learned that Kathie could join us, but that seat was a hundred yards to port). I finally got to my "box," which was filled with three pleasant but uncommunicative strangers, including a couple who didn't seem to want me breathing down their necks. I tried not to breath.
     I had some cold garlic fries, which in truth were quite bad. I stoically chewed on those and started to take in the show.
     It was pretty terrific. There was a little country gal—a Miss Watkins—who played a mean fiddle and had a great and powerful voice. The band was terrific, as always, and the usual troupe of players were present (the old sounds effects guy died maybe a year ago). Martin Sheen appeared, as always (for LA shows), and so did a nice gal from Minnesota who has made a name for herself in opera. She was pretty terrific, and kinda purdy too, though she was as sturdy as a tree stump.
     It really did seem to be an especially good show. We had heard that Keillor was about to retire, but there was no evidence of that, even though this was the last show of the season.
     During intermission, I hotfooted it to terrace 2, and it was clear before I got there that the Bauer crew were having a good time. No doubt the wine helped. They were very pleased with the show. Kathie said something like, "Wow, it's all worth it! Isn't it?"
     Yep. I joined in the good cheer. We joked and took pics with Annie's little camera. We were pleased as punch.
     The second half of the show was pretty good too. The "cowboy" routine was funny—it featured a shootout involving, not six-shooters, but vocabulary and spelling at twenty paces; the two soul sisters were marvelous; the fiddling duel between young Watkins and the band's fiddle guy was great. It really was a great show.
     When it closed, I ran over to our crew and then explained that I had to get my camera but I'd meet everyone down by bus 671. We'd look for each other, not leave without everybody accounted for.
     I got to the 671 line but, despite waiting there for fifteen minutes, there was no sign of the others. And so I wandered up and down the queues of buses, looking for signs of Bauers. Nope. Eventually, having acquired assurances that my 671 line was the only one in existence, I stood at the back of that long line and waited. After maybe ten minutes, I spotted Annie from afar—her haystack top stood outand boy was I glad. Whew!
     Luckily, one of the 671 buses soon showed up and we boarded, despite the necessity of standing, not sitting. (Earlier, I had been assured by the shuttle queue gal that it would likely take less time to simply walk back to Highland and Hollywood. But that was out of the question owing to Annie's messed up toe.)
     After twenty or so minutes on the sweathog express, we were dumped onto Orange street (just off of Highland). Then we headed up to Grauman's. It was a wild scenelots of people, lots of LA craziness, especially in front of Grauman's. Plus all those stars in the sidewalk: Anthony Hopkins, Michael Jackson, et al. We didn't linger over any of that; we walked past all the tourists who did.
     The trip home was uneventful. Lots of yappin' by the gals in back. I'm sure that Kathie, and I suspect that Ma and Pa, were somewhat lubricated. (I didn't drink.) Annie was as sober as a judge—or as sober as she is, naturally. The middle seat in back was pretty awful, I guess. Ma had sat there on the way north. Kathie sat in front (owing to her tendency to get car sick). On the way back, Kathie sat in the dreaded middle spot, but the general good cheer seemed to compensate. There weren't no pukin'.
     It took us about an hour to get back home. TigerAnn was glad to see us.
     The  Chrysler, as always, ran like a champ and looked like a thug.

Annie and Kathie in the garage.

Ma is relentless; always giving me money. This money was for a tip for the valet

Level 2, maybe, of a mall near Grauman's Chinese Theatre.

On the shuttle to the Hollywood Bowl

On the way back to the Chrysler
     The next morning, we all got a late start. It was Saturday, and, for once, Pa wasn't working, since Luis was busy with a wedding. (He had been invited.) We all got together somehow by about 10:00 for a substantial brunch, which made little sense, since we had hatched the plan the night before to "do lunch" instead of Friday night dinner, and this brunch seemed to push any sensible lunch well into the afternoon.
     Nevertheless, just before 1:00, we were off in the Chrysler again for a favorite restaurant: Sarducci's in San Juan Capistrano, which is charming and right next to the train tracks—and the crossing to Old Towne.
     Lunch was pretty terrific. "A good time was had by all," as Pa likes to say. We then headed to Old Towne, but Kathie got the itch for one of her antique haunts over on Camino Capistrano, next to the Swallow Inn. To make a long story short, the group got split up a bit and I eventually managed to get everyone together and we headed back up to Trabuco Canyon.
     The family—and the former Kathie/Roy duo—have a long history with San Juan Capistrano, spanning over fifty years! The town's pretty nice these days (despite the dang Tea People), if you know your way around.
     By late Saturday, the weather had much improved and our crew ended up singing (harmony included) over a lemon meringue pie that Ma topped with whipped cream. (Sheesh.) It was my 57th. Kathie gave me a terrific clock in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright. (See pic.)
     Then, by about 6:30, off she went back to her bratty brats in Beaumont.
     These photos are mine, I think. I'll add Annie's when I get 'em. Naturally, she has the only shots of the PHC show. She takes good pics.

Along the tracks, behind Sarducci's, San Juan Capistrano

At Sarducci's

Some black 'n' white action


Frank Lloyd Wright-style clock