I had big plans for the spring of 2020. After nine years of screenwriting, this was going to be the time I finally bit the bicoastal bullet and tried to get steady work in Hollywood. I had talked to a fellow Massachusetts native about renting a room in her Santa Monica apartment for a number of weeks in March, April, and May so I’d have a crash pad when I flew in for interviews to be staffed as a writer on TV shows. And I had bought three sets of airplane tickets, including one during my older daughter’s April vacation so we could do an early celebration of her 16th birthday. It was all ever so perfectly planned, and then. . .
But airline miles, like time, proved to be infinitely elastic during lockdown, and eventually the opportunity came to take that LA trip just in time for my older daughter’s 17th birthday. And so, after the end of remote schooling, some time on the Cape, and wrapping a first draft of my latest script over the 4th, my daughters and I headed off to the City of Delayed Angels.
I can’t claim it was an unmitigated joy to put the mask back on for more than six hours, barely get out from Boston in front of a thunderstorm, endure bountiful bouts of turbulence, and listen to the pilot lie about an early arrival while we waited 20 minutes on the tarmac for another plane to vacate our gate, but, whatever. . .the point was we were back in LA, and after a quick crash at an airport hotel and acquiring our rental car for the week, my daughters and I set out for the ultra modern Emerson LA campus, where we had lunch with my professor friend Jim and his adorable puppy, followed by a campus tour for my daughters that Jim had arranged while I talked to Emerson LA’s academic director about teaching opportunities there. Then we headed off to meet my friend Sanyee at my favorite ice cream spot (https://vanleeuwenicecream.com) — it was great to see her and savor Van Leeuwen’s sweet treats again!
Other than a birthday celebration, one of the key purposes of the trip was for my daughters, both extraordinary creatives with more talent as teenagers than I currently posses, to meet those women in Hollywood who have inspired me and would, I was sure, inspire them too. Sanyee, whose praises I already sang back in April, continued to amaze, as did Elizabeth, my dear friend whom I met back at a pitchfest in 2013 (ironically, the same one where I met my mate Jonny, who was also praised in the April blog). I hadn’t been able to see Elizabeth in April, but she is a dear friend with my favorite motto: “Work hard and be nice to people.” I was touched that she was able to meet in person this time, and my daughters and I had a wonderful time chatting. Then it was time to head off to our accommodations for the next three nights, which were about as far from an airport hotel as humanly imaginable.
When I say we stayed at a Westwood villa just steps from the UCLA campus, I’m sure you are tempted to roll your eyes at my screenwriters’ penchant for imagination. And you’re right, I am exaggerating. . .it was more like a five minute walk. But about the villa part, not one bit. Our host was an Italian-American producer for whom I had been working (and communicating frequently via phone and Zoom) but had never met in person. When he heard that I was bringing my daughters to LA, he said, in his charming Old World way, “you must stay in my guest house.” It was not a question, but a declaration, and one which I was happy to accept. Though he was drawn away by an emergency to New York and therefore remained unmet, and such sundries as bed sheets proved surprisingly hard to find, the rest of the experience was just magical, and also inspirational for both my creative daughters and their dad. As a thank you, my youngest drew her version of the watermelon portrait above, and later in the week, I had the pleasure of a team meeting on the front patio (about a TV series we’re developing) while my daughters enjoyed tasty tacos out back. Just wonderful.
But on this particular evening, after getting settled we headed down to the happy place for my daughters and me: the Santa Monica Pier. And we hearted it as much as ever, though our plans to eat at Bubba Gump’s were stymied by the late hour and the long line. The place we eventually ate, across the street, er, pier from there, https://thealbright.com, is also a favorite and proves that tourist traps ain’t always the tastiest.
But no matter where we eat or what we do, the Pier always does it for me, especially at sunset. It’s cramped, overpriced, and slightly seedy, but the mix of people coming there from across the country or just down the street reminds me of what the United States at its best can be: not a melting pot, but a beautiful bouquet. And so, renewed in my optimistic spirit (and with my daughters well fortified by seafood), we ended the night, and I end the first part of this blog entry.