Tuesday, June 01, 2010

What Went Down (Hollywood Edition)

David and I got tickets to Flight of the Conchords at the Hollywood Bowl, the last night of their international tour. I booked a hotel about two blocks away so we wouldn't be trapped by the infamous parking. When my friend Robin from high school (who I reconnected with at the camp reunion last October) invited me to a Sex in the City MNO the night before in Orange County, I decided to make a whole weekend of it.

Saturday 2-ish

It's smooth sailing up to the OC--all the traffic is heading in the other way. I've booked a hotel on the Santa Ana/Tustin border that is very cheap, so I'm hoping it won't be a scary dump. It's on a winding lane off the main road with four other hotels, a kind of hotel village, if you will. Turns out to be very nice--just renovated last year.

Once in my room, I sigh with anticipatory delight. There's something about staying alone in a hotel room that I couldn't imagine liking until I was a mom. The room is actually a suite--one room with desk and couch and TV, and a bedroom with a king bed and another TV. Wow, two TVs--all to myself! I settle on the couch with some Double-Stuf Oreos and click on the remote. Afternoon showing of St. Elmo's Fire--sweet! I'm so engrossed I'm a little late to meet the girls.

Saturday 5:00

Driving to a place called The District in Tustin. Lot of open fields out here. It's close by and I spot the meeting place--a brewery called J.T. Schmids--right away. It takes me a few minutes to find the gang, but I'm the fourth one there, out of 10. We make the intros and I order a chocolate martini that arrives dripping with Godiva goo. Several hands summon the waiter for same. Ohhhhh. I guess I can have a salad to balance out this drink and all the Oreos. By now, everyone is here, and I'm feeling no pain. As a totally cheap date, I can tell I'm talking a lot, in a really loud voice, but everyone seems to be laughing so I don't reign it in. Suddenly everyone seems totally, totally awesome, like they are all my best friends. By the time the food comes, I'm confessing that I dated Robin's brother when I was 14, and cheated on him at camp. Robin reminds me that she knows that, since she was at camp with me. Oh, yeah. I tell her how her brother, who broke up with me right after that, approached me at a Kol Nidre service the following month, placed a hand on my shoulder and said "I just wanted to let you know that I forgive you." Because I was 14, I was super-super grateful to hear that.

Saturday 7:00

Thank goodness we are walking to the movie. More like staggering. I'm grilling someone's 14-year-old daughter about her life. "What do 14-year-old girls care about?" I ask. "Texting. Boys. Couture. (Couture???) Not school." she tells me. We manage to find 10 seats together, and I settle in with my Raisinets (uh-oh, more chocolate) and a drunken, whispered conversation with my seatmate, whose name already escapes me. The movie starts. I know it's getting bad reviews but I don't care. The outfits are awesome, and the footage of Abu Dhabi (really Morocco) is like watching a really great travel show. I hardly notice two and a half hours (!) going by.

Saturday 10:00

Dessert with some of the girls from the movie. (Don't freak out--I just have tea.) We tell stories, mainly about our parents and children. We laugh a lot. Finally, they turn up the music and kick us out. As I head back to my car in the ginormous parking lot, I realize that the mall is pumping Madonna across acres of asphalt through some giant speakers. There's something fun about it, and something kind of 1984 at the same time.

Saturday midnight

I can't find parking at the hotel. I end up way too close to a band of teenage hooligans drinking beer in the parking lot. I sort of run up the stairs. As I do, I spot dozens of under-shirted men (and some women) hanging out over balconies, smoking cigarettes. Which is pretty icky because I had to sign a contract saying I wouldn't smoke anywhere on the property. Oh well, the place was cheap, and the room is very nice inside. I'm happy once I've dead-bolted my door.

Sunday 12:30

Saturday Night Live in my pajamas. Free wi-fi for my netbook. More Oreos. Somebody stop me.

Sunday 4:00 a.m.

What is that @#$%&* banging right next to my head? Oh, it's gone now. Zzzzzz.

Sunday 7:00 a.m.

@#$%&* noise again. Oh, I'm up--I should go get my free breakfast. It's kind of nice--you order at a counter and they cook whatever you want, for free. I eat my eggs, toast and potatoes by the pool with a magazine. It's very peaceful. By the time I'm done, I can see there's a line around the corner. I head back to bed.

Sunday 9:00 a.m.

Text from my sister wakes me. We are meeting for brunch on Monday, but she's currently in New Jersey on vacation and wonders if we have a reservation. Um, no. But I'm up now. I shower and--because I can--do 30 minutes of yoga on a towel in front of the TV. I never like to check out until they make me.

Sunday noon

On my way back to the mall, since I know where it is. I end up chilling in Borders, reading magazines. This is the two hours I haven't accounted for, when I wait for David to come up on the train. He misses the train. Make that three hours. Ugh.

Sunday 2:40

At the Santa Ana train station, waiting for David's train to come in. It's a beautiful old Spanish-style building, and the afternoon is breezy and warm. When I hear the "ding-ding-ding" in the distance, I get strangely excited. It's sort of romantic, waiting for your lover's train to arrive. When I see him, I wave and jump up and down like I haven't seen him in weeks. I run into his arms, and he looks amused.

Sunday 3:00

Hollywood-bound! When we arrive, the hotel looks nice but parking is going to cost $20. Ergh. The desk clerk tries to pull a fast one and give us a room with two double beds. David sits back and waits for me to do my thing. And I do. It's less than five minutes before the "misunderstanding" is fixed. Our room is really pretty. Suddenly I'm so tired I can't even stand. We pass out under the cool, white duvet. And are awakened 20 minutes later by the hotel phone. "Who the @#$%&* was that?" I moan when he hangs up. "The hotel. They wanted to welcome us." When I get my bearings, I say "Didn't they just welcome us, in person?" David says "There was such a kerfuffle about the beds, they probably thought they needed to do it again and do it properly." Something about the way David talks often cracks me up, and this time I laugh hysterically for about 10 minutes. Okay, I'm up. We get dressed--warmly--for the Bowl, and head out to find ourselves a picnic.

Sunday 5:30

Our car is wedged into the hotel parking lot by a tour bus that can't turn around. Looks like we won't be driving to Gelson's after all. We ask if there's anywhere we can walk for a picnic, but the front desk is stymied. We decide to chance it with the Bowl food. Missing out on our picnic is the only sad part of the night.

Sunday 6:30

It's exciting but chaotic up at the Bowl. The grounds are packed with picnickers, drinking wine and eating sushi. We discover that you can't bring in glass or cans. Snaking through the crowds, we find a sort of general store that sells prepared foods we're allowed to bring to our seats. Fifty-six dollars later (!) we have a piece of chicken, a salad, two sodas and a cookie for our trouble. Yowza. We find our seats, and they're pretty amazing, down in the Garden boxes. An usher appears almost immediately and offers to set up a table for us. Nice. I'm a bit disconcerted to see we will be in the box with two other people, since that seems unnecessarily intimate, but our companions don't show until much later. When they do, they are a friendly young couple in baseball caps all the way from Waltham, MA. And the couple in the box to our right offers us their gorgeous food. Enjoying their caprese salad and curry chicken, I wonder if there's something about Flight of the Conchords that encourages such a congenial crowd, or if it's the Bowl itself.

Sunday 7:30

As the sun goes down, the opening acts rev up. I haven't been to a concert in so long I've forgotten about opening acts. We have three, all of them from the TV show. The first is Kristen Schaal--"number one fan" Mel. I have to say, I don't find her funny at all. The fact that she arrives dressed as a whoopie cushion tells you all you need to know about her humor, and it's not my thing. Next up is Arj Barker, who plays Dave. He is intermittently funny, but it's fairly standard stand-up. Last is Eugene Mirman, who is supposedly the landlord on the show, but I don't remember him. However, he is pretty hilarious, so I don't mind. I don't even realize how long the opening acts have been there until Eugene says there will now be a twenty minute intermission. It's a gorgeous evening and the light is just fading from the hills and trees that surround us. I snuggle down under the blanket and don't feel at all silly that I brought my woolly hat.

Sunday 9:00

Whee! FOTC open with a robot song that David can't believe I don't know, and follow with "The Most Beautiful Girl in the Room." Even though I know it well, it's a thrill and a crack-up to see them doing it in person. There are so many instruments on stage even though it's just the two of them. Eventually, they are joined by Nigel, whom they introduce as "the New Zealand National Symphony Orchestra." Nigel also plays a lot of instruments. The boys even bust out the glockenspiel and that teeny-tiny piano for "I Got Hurt Feelings."

My favorite songs are long, impressionistic rambles that I don't recognize, like "To Woo a Lady," and "Jenny," in which Bret plays Jenny and Jemaine is a guy she is trying to goose into remembering their time together (which he doesn't.) But of course it's a major thrill when I recognize the opening chords of something, and I can't stop myself from screaming "I need my Casio electric DG-20 set to...mandolin!!!" when they launch into "Boom! (She's Hot)" and it's a special bonding moment when our box-mate (who reminds me of James Franco) turns around and fist-bumps me after that.

Overall, I'm surprised I don't recognize about a third of their material, though I like the new stuff just as much, and even the classics have improv-y additions. In between songs, the boys crack us up with patter about their tour, including an extended riff on muffins gifted by a hotel. They also ask "Should we tell a story about the time we did drugs?" and when everyone screams, they chat about Jemaine's hay fever pills and how Bret "doesn't even have hay fever, but I took one anyway, because that's how I roll. Of course, then I needed a bit of a nap."

By the end, they've stripped down to some crazy shimmering catsuits to shriek out "Demon Woman," followed by an encore that includes three of my faves, "Girl with the Lazy Eye, "Too Many Dicks on the Dance Floor," and (shree!) "Sugalumps," a kooky, slow, unplugged version during which both boys dance around in the audience, hotly pursued by the security guards, whom Jemaine says "want to touch Bret's sugalumps."

The boys from New Zealand know how to leave an audience satisfied, that's for sure. There is a palpable glee in the air as we all shuffle out. Am feeling a bit hungry from our spartan supper, but not quite hungry enough to succumb to the thirty million "All Meat!" sausage vendors lining Highland Ave. all the way back to the hotel, though David notes that they smell good. Back in our room, I am suddenly so tired that I almost fall asleep with my clothes on.

Monday 11:00 a.m.

Big thanks to Mary and Paul--because of them, we sleep in! What an amazing anniversary gift! We head to what seems like a rather swanky neighborhood (at any rate, I recognize some of the shops where stars are "spotted" in US Weekly) to meet my sister Lindsey, her husband Thomas, and our childhood friend Bryan, for brunch at a cute, casual place called The Newsroom. It's not crowded, and we hang out and eat off each others' plates for a long time.


Caroline said...

I want to book a weekend just like yours, please. But the hotel suite and blissful solitude -- not to mention double stuff Oreos!!! -- sounds like heaven. I'm really jealous. :)

Glad you had such a great time!

Stephanie said...

I'm pretty sure Shaun would think I've gone mad if ever I jumped up and down and ran into his arms! I don't care if it were in a train station--that's a helluva anniversary gift. Nice.

Also, how did you fix the 2 double bed misunderstanding? We had the same misunderstanding there but were not so successful at correcting it. Do tell.

erin said...

I'm super duper jealous! My weekend consisted of kids, more kids (my ex didn't take the girls last weekend, soccer tournament), sunburn, bug bites, giant fish and too many chips, cole slaw and fruit.

Cheri @ Blog This Mom!® said...

Happy Anniversary!

What an amazing weekend. Reading about it, I feel like I just had a wonderful weekend escape and it's only 6:30 AM on Friday for me.

"Godiva goo" and "I never like to check out until they make me." Classic Sam. I love classic Sam.

Logical Libby said...

I like to wait until the last minute to check out too. And I make sure I have all the little shampoos and coffee packets in my suitcase.

Sounds like a great weekend.

The Wades said...

"As a totally cheap date, I can tell I'm talking a lot, in a really loud voice, but everyone seems to be laughing so I don't reign it in." This brought me joy. What an amazing weekend! Now I really want to hotel by myself. Well, maybe my hunky husband may join as well.

So happy for you. Don't think anniversary weekends get much better than that.

Mary said...

I feel like I was there!

Great photos!