California: Part I

Attempted to take the opportunity on a 3-hour train ride from L.A. to San Diego to post a quick update a couple days ago, but it was an absolutely gorgeous day in SoCal and the scenery out my window became increasingly picturesque as the train hugged the coast. I very quickly began focusing my attention elsewhere.

Cliff notes from the beginning, I suppose: Arrived in L.A. on Thursday at noon and spent a solid hour and a half on a shuttle operated by a rather crazy driver with a thick accent to my hostel in Hollywood. The skies were gray and not all that encouraging to go out exploring, so a German traveller from my room and I set out for a snack at In-N-Out Burger on Sunset Blvd. Now, for those back home not familiar with the chain, this fast food joint has an especially limited menu (read: 4 items) on the wall, so customers have to be well-versed in the unadvertised “Secret Menu” to get the good stuff. (For the curious.) I felt somewhat awkward requesting “animal fries,” assuming I’d been tricked into ordering off-menu, but out they came, drenched in cheese, grilled onions, and mayo sauce in their 650-cal-40g-of-fat glory. My first and last time – they can’t hold a candle to poutine!

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Weeks ago, I requested 2 free tickets for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and my wish was granted. Friday morning, the extraordinarily lovely Couchsurfer Elaine who responded to my post seeking accompaniment on the L.A. message board picked me up and off we went to Burbank.  Like most tapings, however, they dole out signficantly more tickets than seats so admission is not guaranteed. We waited outside in chilly weather for about 2.5 hours before being seated by NBC pages front and centre in the studio. Jay came out a few minutes early clad in denim and explained the process of the taping – there are no cuts and no do-overs, so any and all mistakes make it into the final product later the same day. This makes for a pleasant, strictly one-hour process. He then asked if anyone had any questions and, having read reviews written by other audience members, I knew this was an opportunity to request a photo…and thus enthusiastically leaped out of my seat, arms a-flailin’. He called us down and chatted with us about where we were from and what we do, though I’m positive the audience cared very little.

Jay (to me): Are you studying as well?
Me: I just graduated, actually!
Jay: So what did you study?
Me: Occupational therapy!
Jay: Oh, so then you’re going to be….?
Me: …an occupational therapist.
Jay: …Alright, that’s cleared up!

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This is a photo of a polaroid as cameras were strictly forbidden. Guest Jim Parsons (Big Bang Theory) was a hoot, and not so unlike the character he plays. In general, the experience was a great one and definitely worth the effort. After the taping, Elaine drove us up past the Greek Theatre to the Griffith Observatory just in time for sunset over the city of L.A. This was also my first proper view of the Hollywood sign.

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Friday night, the hostel had an organized pub crawl through Hollywood which, though not my scene “per se,” was a great time getting to know some awesome travellers in my room: Audrey and Fredérique from Quebec (funnily enough), Russell from the U.S., and the two Joes from England. The night ended on the patio of the hostel long after the bars had closed as we all looked forward to a rather rough morning to come.

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