California, 2016

March 13 – Buffalo, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco

We got up super early to get to the Buffalo airport for our 7 am-ish flight. I remember running through the parking lot with our suitcases while it was still dark out.

We had to catch a connecting flight in Chicago. I think I remember running across the airport to catch our next flight, and I remember seeing a Toews jersey.

It was pretty cool flying over the Rocky Mountains and the Grand Canyon.

My photos tell me we arrived in California around 2 pm, but I’m not sure what timezone that is.

The rest of the day was driving from L.A. up to San Francisco. It was kind of a grey day. I was really surprised how hilly the place was. I didn’t really picture California as being all hilly and mountainy. It kind of almost seemed like something you would see in Lord of the Rings. There was this place with cows as far as you could see; I’m guessing this was Harris Ranch. I love my cheeseburgers, but it was kind of sad.

March 14 – San Francisco

Traffic. So much traffic. I’ll have to ask my dad and see if he preferred not driving in San Francisco or driving in Quebec. So many people were like doing their make-up in their car. Lots of people on these little motorbikes zooming in between the cars.

Our first stop was Alcatraz, but because of all the traffic, we missed the time we had on our tickets. I’m guessing that happens a lot there. They had a stand-by line, so we got on the next trip. Looking at my pictures now, I’m thinking it seems a little weird to have a prison in the middle of this really nice view, but, uh, America, I guess?

When you get the island, there’s a guy standing there who will yell for your group to come over, and he tells you a bit about the island and where to go for the tours and things. Damn, I forget what the guy said, but I have this feeling he was really funny. We went and watched a short film about Alcatraz. One of the facts that I found really interesting was that the employees’ families lived on the island, so you had kids like playing in the gardens right near where all these criminals were hanging out.

The tour was one of those go-at-your-own-pace tours with headphones playing a pre-recorded script. My family and I all kept getting out of sync with each other, so every once in a while, we stopped and were like “okay, mine just said ‘and then he stabbed her'” or whatever and wait for everyone else to catch up.

Some of the cells were decorated with books and blankets and shaving cream and stuff prisoners would have in their cells. I’m not sure if they were real or not. One had a collections of paintings a prisoner had made, which struck me as interesting.

There was one room where the prisoners go to see visitors, where you’ve got a pane of glass and a phone and everything. I remember running around to the other side and trying to get my families’ attention so I could take a picture of one of them through the glass, but they were all oblivious, listening to their headphones.

There were lots of neat plants for me to take pictures of. Lots of birds, but mostly seagulls, and even some Canadian geese. There are some black birds that look sort of like cormorants, but not like the kind we have at home. The waves crashing up against the island could get pretty big.

I don’t think we went down all the paths outside, and we could have stayed there a lot longer if we weren’t so hungry.

We went to Appleby’s for lunch. They were taking a really long time to get our bill, and my mom, brother, and I were all confused as to why my dad seemed cool about it. Turned out he had ordered some like brownie explosion cake pie thing as a surprise.

Next up was a bus tour. There was some building that had a giant The Room poster that we saw at the last second. I think that was my brother’s favourite part of the whole trip. I’m sure the tour took us by some of the filming locations; we just didn’t know where they were. I took a picture of a place called the Marina Motel because I though it looked a lot like the outside of the apartment, but comparing them now, I know that’s not it.

The bus tour was one of those hop-on-hop-off deals. I think a lot of it was like: “you guys remember Full House? Well, the house is just down that street over there”. Haight-Ashbury was pretty neat though, lots of murals. We drove across the Golden Gate Bridge. My mom and I stayed out on the open top of the bus, but I think almost everyone else went down inside. It was very windy and very cold, and we weren’t dressed for it at all. I was taking pictures the whole time, but had no idea if they’d turned out or not, because I couldn’t see the screen. We stopped over at a little park for a bit. The next day, I saw on Twitter or Instagram Andrew Ference had been there like that day or the day before or something. We got back on the bus and back across the Golden Gate Bridge.

At one point, the driver was like okay, this is the end of my route. Wait here and another bus will be by in a few minutes. And we waited and waited and waited. We ended up getting on a different tour bus after explaining what happened, and they were kind enough to let us on their tour so we could get back to the pier.

I guess one of the tours had mentioned these sea lions at pier 39, so we went to see them. I was picturing like one or two sea lions who would hang out there every once in a while, but there were tons of them lying out on these floating docks sunbathing. They were very cute and very noisy.

I wanted to see the Painted Ladies from the opening to Full House. My dad had an address in the GPS, and so we drove around to find them. His address had been for the house used in establishing shots throughout the series, and I didn’t really remember what it looked like, and I think at the time, it was painted to not resemble the house in the series so fans wouldn’t bother the owners. So we may have seen the real house, I don’t know. We tried again to find the Painted Ladies. We eventually did, but my dad was very grumpy, and my brother, who is probably the biggest Full House fan of all of us, was in a bad mood too and so didn’t even get out of the car. My mom and I went up on the hill across the street, took some pictures, and left.

We also went back to Haight-Ashbury to go to some records stores. Most were closed by that time, but we did stop into Amoeba Music. I never imagined foreign Monkees records were something I would see in a record store. There was like a German single I think, but I didn’t buy it. I don’t remember which records I did get there versus at a different record store we found somewhere else, but at the end of the trip, I ended up with:

  • The Wichita Train Whistle Sings
  • Magnetic South
  • Loose Salute
  • Tantamount to Treason
  • 20th Anniversary Tour
  • Davy Jones (1971)
  • the new cereal box singles
  • “That Was Then, This is Now” single
  • “That Was Then, This is Now” promo single
  • “D.W. Washburn” single
  • a Japanese greatest hits album

The cashier guy commented on my records, he said something about “Mary, Mary” being a good song I think.

March 15 – San Jose

First up was the Winchester Mystery House. I remember reading about this place a long long time ago, and I’ve always thought it sounded very neat. I had started listening to 99% Invisible not too long ago, and there was an episode about the house that I listened to. That kind of ruined it, because they sort of explained all the mystery away. You weren’t allowed to take pictures in the house, and most of it wasn’t furnished. The furniture that was there wasn’t original.

You were allowed to take pictures outside, so my mom and I wandered around the gardens taking pictures. We went inside this open door, and then some dude told us we weren’t allowed in there because they were doing construction. Oops. I felt really guilty the whole rest of the time walking around.

One of the reasons we planned our vacation for when we did was because the Bruins were on their California road trip. So, off to see the Bruins at the San Jose Sharks. The arena was quite nice. We walked around a bit before the game, and people were super friendly. There was a drawing to win a nice fuzzy Sharks blanket I think, and we were going to enter, but we said we were from Canada and so we couldn’t enter, but they were very nice about it. Almost like Canadians. At our seats, during the intermission, the guy behind us started talking to us, asking where we were from. He was very friendly. I think he said he goes to all the games.

We went down to the ice to take pictures during the pre-game skate. I think the lighting in the arena was really good.

It was neat to see the players skate out of the shark head… except we were in the corner where the head was, so we only saw it from behind.

If they didn’t play so late, the Sharks would definitely be my second team. Mostly because of “Holiday Sweater”.

The Bruins lost. At least it was only 3-2. It turned out to be the best game of the three for the Bruins.

March 16 – San Simeon

Driving back down to L.A. Stopped at a few beachy areas. Thought we saw some animal in the water, but it was a dude with a surfboard. Saw an otter, some interesting birds.

Driving down highway 1 was just beautiful. We stopped a lot to take pictures. A shame I didn’t know it at the time that we were “driving south through Monterey”, or else I would have been playing “Me & Magdalena” on a loop in my head. We went through Carmel, where Mike lives. I don’t remember if it was during the trip or when we were home, but I was talking to my dad, and he was convinced if we found Mike’s house and just showed up and were like sup, he would be cool with it and invite us in for dinner. I think my dad wanted to drive around and look for his house but I was like hell no, that’s creepy. Instead, I took a picture of a street sign: Cabrillo Hwy and Rio Rd.

There was a cool bridge that I’m sure has been in movies. There was a really neat looking house in the side of the cliff. There were caves in beaches. There was this really old looking stone like short tunnel we drove through, but I didn’t get a picture. There were these two things off in the distance in the water that we thought maybe were islands, but I took some pictures and pretty sure they were boats. Just standing there for a very long time.

Okay, so after a while, driving down highway 1 was sickening. Like, I think my mom or dad or brother mentioned they were starting to feel sick, with all the twisting and turning and I was like damn, now I feel sick too. We were all super glad to be out of there. It’s a really long highway.

We stopped in San Simeon to see the Hearst Castle. First, we stopped to see some elephant seals my parents had discovered when they went to California previously. They were very cute, sunbathing in the sand. Some of them would throw sand on themselves and roll around in it or stick their noses in the sand; they reminded me of our dog, Rocky. Some chased the seagulls, other slept while the seagulls sat on them.

We took a bus up to the Hearst Castle. The bus trip was narrated by Alex Trebek. The views were beautiful. The castle was not bad either, but the views were just amazing. Lots more flowers to take pictures of and some interesting woodpeckers. There’s a big pool that, at the time, had no water due to the drought. The tour guide was like “you guys are seeing something special” because it’s always filled, but we were just like me.

I think the tour we went on was called the Great Rooms Tour, so we only got to see four or so rooms in the house. It’s pretty dark inside though, not great for pictures, so I wasn’t disappointed at all. Kinda crazy inside, all these giant tapestries and things. I remember reading about the Hearst Castle when my parents were in California; someone wrote about it on Reddit and said it was a great place to visit and it had the biggest collection of ceilings in the world or something like that. I was picturing like ceilings just sitting outside like in a car junkyard. I was kind of disappointed that the ceilings were all parts of actual rooms.

I remember driving very late into the night. It was dark when we got to L.A., and the route we took was another very windy mountainy place, and I’m sure it would have been very pretty, but we couldn’t tell. We listened to Nez on Gilbert Gottfried’s podcast. We stopped in at an Outback very late. I think I just ate bread, because I’ve not been into steak lately.

Our hotel in L.A. was right next to LAX. It was kind of cool to see the planes taking off out our window, but it was really noisy at night.

March 17 – Malibu

We stopped and walked at Santa Monica Pier. There’s a sign there saying “66 / End of the Trail”, so I guess it’s the end of route 66. I only know where the other end is thanks to Coco Dolenz, who sang “Route 66” when I saw Micky in Aurora, IL. I wanted to buy a sun hat, but they were all pretty expensive. We stopped in a store later, like a Burlington Coat Factory or something (do they have those California?) and they had like three hats and they were all super ugly. So I went the whole trip without a proper hat.

One of the places I really wanted to visit was Westward Beach in Malibu. I don’t know how many times I’ve written about why I believe this to be the Monkees beach, so I won’t do it again, but yes, this for me is the Monkees beach. We parked really far away from Point Dume, probably up somewhere near Zuma. It was a really long, hot walk to Point Dume.

But first, we stopped in at the bathroom. The nightmare bathroom. You’ve had those dreams where you go to a public bathroom, but the stall walls are very short? That was exactly this bathroom. I’d have a taken a picture if there wasn’t someone else in there. My god. I can’t even believe this exists.

Anyway, a long, hot walk. I didn’t go in the water until we got down near Point Dume. I had my dad take my camera and film me running towards the water then away from it, like they do in one of the romps (at a different beach) and later in the 1997 TV special (in that very spot). Except, I did it totally wrong. I actually ran into the water, but they never actually do. Also, the water was much rougher than it was when they were filming, so I ended up getting soaked. I also tried to film a 360-degree-ish upside-down shot like in “Royal Flush”, but yeah, kinda hard to do with a handheld camera.

I was hoping I could climb around to the other side of Point Dume, to Pirate’s Cove, where Planet of the Apes was filmed, but it was a bit of a treacherous hike, so I didn’t get very far. I did see a sea lion lying on one of the rocks, and he wasn’t moving, and I thought he might be dead, but then he moved, so I guess he was okay.

I picked up a bunch of rocks, but I don’t think I found any nice shells. Is it wrong to take rocks from beaches? Like, I mean, I understand not taking rocks from Moonstone Beach (where I really wanted to go, but was too out of our way), but Westward Beach is not really a famous beach or anything. I doubt many people want souvenirs from there. Is it more illegal or less illegal than stealing a fallen blossom petal among thousands of fallen blossom petals from Elvis’ house? Because I totally would never do that. But if someone did, I mean, they were just helping to keep the grounds clean.

Anyway, we saw some finned creatures way out in the water, but couldn’t tell for sure what they were.

March 18 – Los Angeles

We drove on down to Hollywood Boulevard to go on a bus tour. We had tried signing up online to get tickets to Jimmy Kimmel Live, but we weren’t successful. One of the nights before we were in L.A., when we were in the hotel, I was checking my Facebook/Twitter/etc, and suddenly went “oh my god!”. My family thought I had got tickets. Actually, Nez had accepted my friend request. They were all super disappointed, and I just laughed and eeeed.

Anyway, we took a picture of the outside of the Jimmy Kimmel building. As we were waiting for the bus, a woman with a microphone came over to me and started asking me questions about how I felt about Hillary Clinton. I was kind of worried this was one of those Jimmy Kimmel segments where they get people to stay stupid things, but it wasn’t that, and I have no idea what it was. There was another girl filming her talking to me. I was so confused and awkward. Like, so I look at the camera, or at the girl interviewing me? It would have been hilarious to see that footage. Anyway, she’s asking me stuff and I’m like well I’m Canadian so, and she was like oh, you don’t look Canadian. And I’m thinking like I don’t know if that’s a compliment or not. And even if it was (or not), she was just saying it because that’s what Hollywood people do? But she’s like well Canadians still follow American politics and I’m thinking like yeah typical America, think we all care about you. Yeah, I think I dunno maybe she was anti-Hillary, because she was talking about the emails, and I’m like I really don’t know a lot about that. And she’s like would you vote for her and I’m like well I like that she’s a woman (which sounds really dumb, but it’s like the same way I like that Obama was black — it’s cool having minorities in positions like that). And then she asked would I vote from Trump and I was like noooo. And the whole thing was just very awkward and I’m like uh I have to go on my bus and she’s all fake like oh no. And then my mom meanwhile is trying to tell me no, no, the bus isn’t leaving, keep talking, but I was like get me away from people. I don’t know who this lady was, I’ve got a picture of her, but I don’t recognize her. I think my dad said he figures she was probably shooting a demo reel or something. Just her whole demeanour seemed like she wasn’t a real reporter, like I felt like it was a joke thing.

We got off the bus at a Guitar Center because it had this Rock Walk thing. I thought it was going to be a rock ‘n’ roll themed walking tour, but it was just like the Walk of Fame but with musicians. I took pictures of the ones I could vaguely connect to the Monkees: Carole King, The Wrecking Crew (Hal Blaine, Glen Campbell, Don Bandi, and Carol Kaye were the only ones with hand prints/name plaques, and a bunch of others just had their names listed.), Frank Zappa, Leiber & Stoller, Run DMC.

Back on the bus tour. There’s apparently a law or something in Beverly Hills that each street only has one type of tree. Interesting.

Something about a Euclid Street. This was the only other thing on the trip my brother liked.

We couldn’t actually go down Rodeo Drive because… construction? Something?

I don’t know if the tour guide was like “That Bristol Farms building over there used to be a famous restaurant named Chasen’s” or if I knew it was Chasen’s or I just took a picture for no reason of this random building, but I have a picture of the ex-Chasen’s building. We also went by the Troubadour building, which actually said Troubadour on it, and I wondered huh I wonder if that’s the same Troubadour but I didn’t take a picture.

Back to Hollywood Blvd so we’d have time to get to the Ducks game, which we only decided to go to at the last minute. I thought we would be coming back to Hollywood Blvd again, but apparently not, so we made a quick run down the street to find The Monkees’ star. Which has a TV symbol on it! They need another one with a music symbol.

Traffic was horrible getting to Anaheim, and we missed the first period. I had chicken fingers in the arena for supper, but I was in a rush and poured way too much ketchup on them, so they were soaked in ketchup and tasted horrible. The Bruins lost 4-0. Owwwch.

March 19 – Los Angeles

Bright and early to go to the Warner Brothers Backlot Tour. First, we watched a movie showing a bunch of clips from movies/shows that were filmed there. They were all new movies and I was like ehhh. Because we were the first tour of the day, there weren’t very many people. It was just my family and two foreign dudes on our tour. The tour guide asked us what movies/shows we liked. My mom immediately said Gilmore Girls, which we were currently in the middle of watching. In fact, we watched it on the plane. The tour guide was like well, that’s great because Stars Hollow is here… but… it’s closed today because they are filming. So that was pretty disappointing, but I mean, you can’t be too disappointed because they are filming new episodes to a series that ended like a decade ago. But he said he’d try to point out some Gilmore Girls stuff.

Most of the tour was being driven around in a golf cart type thing and then stopping at some of the sound stages. The tour guide asked if we had seen Grease Live!, which my dad and I had (my mom apparently doesn’t Grease which I didn’t know was possible?). I don’t remember if he said he was one of the people in the big scene at the end, but probably. He said it wasn’t one of the tour guides who drove the golf cart that went up on the curb, which was funny, because I remembered seeing that little goof at the time.

He pointed out where Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here album photo was shot.

Since mostly the cart was moving fast, I took a bunch of pictures of random buildings, hoping I might come home and find something good in them. There were parking spaces with people’s names on them. There was a “T. Burrell”, which, I dunno, Ty Burrell?  There was also a spot marked Conan VIP. My family said they saw ones for the Fuller House cast, but I didn’t get a picture.

I got the Black & White & Read book store and Westin’s Bakery off in the distance. Next to Westin’s is a Sadie’s Hardware and a Granny’s Trunks. There are some guys outside on ladders painting the trees for “Fall”. I also have a picture of the horse statute and some fall trees across from Luke’s. The tour guide told us to look left at the end of the tour, because we’ll drive behind Lorelei’s house. It was pretty hidden, but I guess we saw it? I also have a picture of the top of the steeple.

I have a picture of fancy looking building that we walked by that appeared in a Gilmore Girls episode. I want to say it was night time, and like Emily was outside pulling up in a car? Was she dating another guy? I don’t know if we had seen that episode at the time, probably not. I think we saw it later, and I recognized it as a place we had seen.

While we were walking around, the tour guide pointed out Rory’s reading tree. We were like ooh, ahh. Pretty sure we had only just recently started the season where Rory goes to college, so we had only seen the reading tree once. Unbeknownst to us, you only see the reading tree once in the entire series. The way the guy was talking about it, and the way it was portrayed in the show, it seemed like it was going to be way more important. I only took one picture of the reading tree, because I was trying to play it cool. The tour guide told us there was a very Gilmore Girls proposal there last week, which I somehow took as a spoiler, because I thought he meant they filmed a proposal there for the show. When we got home and I mentioned it to my mom, she was like no, it was fans of the show getting engaged there.

We weren’t allowed to take any pictures inside the sound stages. We went inside one stage where there was a cave set for Supergirl. I think we also went through The Fosters house. We saw The Ellen Show set, and the tour guide invited us to stand on the star on the ground where Ellen stands, but we were all kinda like eh no that’s alright. We saw The Big Bang Theory Set. Uh, I’m pretty sure the hallway set was there. I would assume the apartment set(s) was there. The comic book store set was definitely there. It would have been really cool if we watched any of these shows.

They were really pushing Batman v. Superman, because it had just come out or was just about to. There was a room full of like Batmobiles and Bat vehicles and the Bat signal. There was one room that had like costumes and displays and stuff and you could take pictures there, but it wasn’t really anything I was interested in, and there are a million pictures of this stuff online anyway. They had a bunch of Harry Potter stuff and a Sorting Hat which everyone stood in line to get sorted while some poor gal had to hold the hat above our heads. I got Hufflepuff. I think. Maybe Gryffindor? Probably Hufflepuff though, because I remember feeling like that’s the worst one. I figure if it was realistic at all, I’d be Slytherin, but anyone who knows me would say Ravenclaw.

We went through a big prop house. My head was on a swivel, looking for something, anything, that could have come from The Monkees. Because like Columbia Ranch is now owned by Warner Brothers so like maybe? I took a picture of the Maltese Falcon because that’s vaguely related. I took a picture of a suit of armor because I was like maybe? There were shelves upon shelves of phones of every style. And shelves and shelves of old radios and clocks. I want them all.

Then there was another building with other random exhibits. There was a Lord of the Rings forced perspective thing where you could sit and see in the camera how they made Gandalf so big and the hobbits small. I have a picture of “Michelle’s Honey Bee Uniform” from Full House. They had the Friends couch where you could get your picture taken for free and then pay an exorbitant price to purchase it. I’m kinda like mehh because I never watched Friends.

Next, we headed up to the Griffith Observatory to see the Hollywood sign. It was not a very clear day, but I’m not sure if it ever is. My dad and brother waited in the car. There was this George Harrison Tree that I took a picture of. My parents had been there before when they visited California, but I guess the actual observatory was closed, because they didn’t know you could go inside. My mom and I went in quickly. I am so pleased we went there, because if we hadn’t I never would have realized some Monkees romp footage was filmed there. It’s a shame I didn’t know it at the time, or else I would’ve taken a picture of me tiptoeing down the stairs, but whatever.

We went to the Staples Center to watch the Bruins lose to the Kings 2-1. Outside, before the game, they were having a party. Or something. there was this booth where you could spin a wheel and win a dinky prize, like some sunglasses or a foam king hat or some other stuff. We of course all went and got our dinky prizes. The booth was to promote trips to Canada. We were all wearing our Bruins jerseys. I seem to remember someone patting me on the back and saying something like “Thanks for Looch!”

March 20 – Los Angeles, Chicago, Buffalo

Another early flight out, leaving around 6 am, after we had got back from the game very late, had showers, and packed and probably only got to sleep a few hours earlier. I tried very hard to stay awake on the flight to take pictures of the sunrise, but all I really remember is a flight attendant reaching over me to close my window while my eyes were fluttering open/closed. It’s pretty loud on airplanes, so I think I tried to listen to a podcast, but I was falling asleep and not hearing much of it. I think we watched some more Gilmore Girls.