Visitor.

(This may seem like a post with a ton of photos, but if you read it, you'll be surprised by how many things I didn't get pictures of)

I felt restless a few weeks ago so I flew out to Los Angeles, as I sometimes do.

I arrived the same time that our friend Cher was getting in from Shanghai or Singapore and caught a ride with her to Los Feliz. A few hours later we got dinner at Mexicali with Greg and he drove me to Grandma's. That's a good way to get home! Mexicali was just delicious, probably the best new thing I ate on the trip. Excellent use of grilled meats and melty cheeses.

My first morning in San Marino there were a bunch of praying manti on the screen of Grandma's living room windows. I was taking their pictures through the window when she said "You know they're not scary" so we went around back and Grandma picked the biggest one up with a screwdriver and then things got real.

For my first lunch of the trip, Grandma took me down to the edge of Skid Row to eat at the headquarters of Homeboys Industries, a charity that helps LA gang members become ex-gang members. The restaurant's food was very good and you couldn't imagine a staff more ready to bend over backwards for you. I was tickled to see my grandma interact with so many people with face tattoos.

That afternoon I helped get Greg and Becky to LAX and then and a very nice time hanging out with the Paugh's, but didn't get any photos. But I'm sure you believe me when I say it was great? I mean, had beef noodle soup and fried chicken! And then Collin turned up and we went over to his house to hang out with Mallory for a bit.

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The next day a bunch of balloons had landed in Grandma's backyard. Sometimes it's peacocks in the backyard, sometimes coyotes, and sometimes it's a bunch of mylar balloons. Although, with her birthday just a few days away, I wonder if it was just a very clever delivery. 

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That night I went with Katie to Jitlada for dinner. It's an infamously spicy Thai restaurant in Hollywood. We didn't even order from the "spicy" section of the menu but you see that curry? It was an extremely cruel face melter! I was in heaven. It's so great to find a restaurant where the spicy food is spicy. Also note the wall of Matt Groenig originals. Not Pictured: Becky, from the final two seasons of FNL, was in the house.

After dinner we went to Chris Black's birthday party on the roof of the Downtown Ace Hotel where Jason Stewart was dj'ing. It was a good hang and I was so glad no one was dancing to all the great dance music.

The next day I got lunch at Pepe's with Grandma.

And then, something you might find quite unexpected: I doubled down on my California trip and drove up to San Francisco. Greg and Becky had generously let me borrow their Prius for the trip as, between their two automobiles and Grandma's two, it was the car most likely to survive the trip. Plus it was the only one with Bluetooth connectivity and keyless driving, so it really felt like I was living in 2015 driving that thing.

That first evening I hung out with our friend Kim who had just taken a job at Google two weeks before. And it's very odd, but I didn't take a single photo? I must have been real worn out from the drive. But imagine me admiring her suburban neighborhood, her spacious and well-appointed apartment and then us eating Hawaiian meats just a few blocks from her home.

The next day I drove into the city where Diana was in town on business and we went to the Walt Disney Museum at the Presidio, a great museum about the life and work of Walt Disney. Man. What a great museum, if you visit it, set aside a LOT more time than we did to be able to read every single bit of wall text...and I mean, we were there for probably more than 3 hours. There's a lot to see and learn! One of the most impressive sites is a model of pre-1980 Disneyland build by the people at Lucasfilm. That's something you can stare at for a long long time.

Oh, and that's not my Mickey sandwich but I wish it was.

Then we went to Golden Gate Park to see the bison paddock. While we were there, looking at all the bison off in the distance, some maniac hopped the fence and went out and tried to make friends. For a few minutes it got a little tense as the bison appeared to be ready to rush him, but he made it out. THEN we went to the Mission and ate burritos at El Farolito and my eyes have begun to open to what all the fuss is about. I am glad my palate has developed the sophistication to appreciate the intricacies of a giant burrito.

I'd like to note that we also saw these droids:

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Good visit to SF. I'll catch you next time, Derek and Rebecca, when everyone is in the country and off their death beds.

Back in San Marino, Grandma reminded me of the value of Southern California with a lunch at Twohey's. She had a coupon for a birthday sundae with I got to help her out with.

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I'm not the glutton I used to be and my clam chowder, cheeseburger, onion rings and portion of the sundae nearly did me in. I tried to work it off (and re-vitalize myself) with a late afternoon walk to the CalTech turtle ponds and through San Marino/Pasadena. I counted 24 turtles in the lower pond that afternoon! It looked like if I fell in the pond I wouldn't have gotten wet, I would've just landed on turtles.

The next morning I drove Grandma and Louise to LAX so they could fly to Chicago. I avoided the empty home I'd be returning to by grabbing lunch with Collin at Disney and taking advantage of the opportunity to disparage Zootopia. During our meal the directors of Zootopia actually walked past our table but Collin didn't say anything because he was worried I'd throw my lunch at them. 
What a garbage movie. Worse than Lego Batman!

That night I caught a comedy show at the UCB with Cher and then we went to the Pacific Dining Car to take advantage of their late night menu. I could not have been more satisfied with my meal, the service, the space or the ambiance and couldn't be more more excited to return.

I'd like to add that by now I had a VERY bad cold, maybe it was the flu? I blew my nose through a roll and a half of toilet paper and spent my sleeping hours in stuffed up misery. It affected my activities a little. 

Still, I did my best to enjoy the presence of the Kogi truck in Pasadena the next day and grabbing dinner at DogHaus with Collin that night.

The next day the only picture I took was of this otter fountain by Pasadena City Hall. Clear that I had squeezed all the juice from this trip and catching wind of visitors coming to New York, I made my way back to the City and discovered that sometimes you DO still get food on domestic flights. For better or worse.

Coming Soon (once I see all of them): Visitors!!