8 a.m. and it was raining. Damn. I stopped at Brian's house to pick up Bill and Cesar before picking up Brian at an auto repair shop where the Minivan of Magic was getting some work done.
Those who know me know how much I hate the rain, especially when I have to drive in it. And "hate" is not a term I use lightly.
Per Bill's suggestion we started the day at Flappy Jack's in Glendora.
By sheer coincidence Brian wore a Big Lebowski shirt the same day Bill brought his Bunny Lebowski toe along with him.
That's right, a Bunny Lebowski toe. Apparently Bill got a Big Lebowski gift set for Christmas.
Ha ha, Bill got me a toe by 8:30 a.m.
Not to be outdone, Cesar showed his shirt that was only not racist because he was wearing it.
Then look who showed up 30 minutes late: D-Rob! I had already told him we were running on White Time, but dude wouldn't abide.
And just to add a little more to stereotypes, Dominick showed his t-shirt.
Then there was Bill's Yo Gabba Gabba attire to go with his chocolate chip waffles.
Cesar and Brian showed off their breakfast choices.
I had the deeee-licious German pancakes with bananas, strawberries and blueberries, with a dusting of powdered sugar (plus a touch of my Butt-Numb-A-Thon 12 shirt).
Then I finished off Cesar's cream cheese-filling strawberry pancakes.
And topped it all of with the remainder of Dominick's strawberry waffles. Yes, it was a satisfying breakfast.
From there it was time for a dramatic change in setting.
Watts, to be exact.
We wanted to see the Watts Towers. Too bad D-Rob chose to sit this one out. I guess he was afraid of the Black people.
With this formidable band of Boyz n the Hood rolling up he had nothing to be scared of.
Bill (protecting his camera from the elements) and Cesar.
The Arts Center exterior was made up of all kinds of bits and pieces.
The view of the towers from the front of the arts center.
And from across the street.
Bill and I hang out with Simon Rodia, the Watts Towers' creator.
We took a tour of the arts center.
These handcrafted glass mosaic hearts were inspired by the Towers by R. Judson Powell, one of the three artists who established the The Heart of Watts Project that opened the Watts Towers Arts Center as a local "Teen Post."
The featured artist at this time was Varnette P. Honeywood.
Cesar was mesmerized.
We spent a about 15 minutes checking out the exhibits.
Then it was time to brave the rain for the star of the show, the Towers of Simon Rodia.
According to the Watts Towers website, "Construction worker by day and artist by night, Rodia adorned his towers with a diverse mosaic of broken glass, sea shells, generic pottery and tile, a rare piece of 19th-century, hand painted Canton ware and many pieces of 20th-century American ceramics."
"The heights of the towers from left to right are 30, 29.5 and 16.76 m."
"For 34 years, Rodia worked single-handedly to build his towers without benefit of machine equipment, scaffolding, bolts, rivets, welds or drawing board designs. Besides his own ingenuity, he used simple tools, pipe fitter pliers and a window-washer's belt and buckle."
A very informative 12-minute video on the Watts Towers.
On our way out Bill lifted a fist of triumph. According to him it was an homage to Judd Nelson from The Breakfast Club not to Tommie Smith's ode to the Black Power movement as the rest of us thought. I was just hoping the neighbors were fans of John Hughes not Bobby Seale.
Like Ice Cube said, "Nobody I know got killed in South Central L.A. Today was a good day."
An example of the scourge of the inner-city.
Hit the 110 North, still raining.
Getting closer to Downtown L.A.
Hollywood or Pasadena? Hmmm, the choices.
Or maybe just Downtown.
Hollyweird it is!
What could be so interesting in Hollywood? Could it be the Seventh-Day Adventist Church?
Not according to the parking space (although this all depends on your personal view of religion).
Cesar headed for a scurvy, black-spray painted trailer in the parking lot to buy tickets to...
...the Museum of Death! A Yelper wrote, "Definitely not for pussies or jerks. If you aren't intrigued by death and gore or serial killers then you should probably keep walking to the L. Ron Hubbard Life Exhibition instead. Then keep walking." Word.
Where else can you find letters and actual paintings from Pogo the Clown himself, serial killer John Wayne Gacy?
Or an electric chair.
I didn't realize it was actually plugged in.
The room included the ABCs of serial killers: D is for Dahmer.
X is the Mark of Charlie's Crew. More on Charles Manson upcoming.
One of the doors was rusty prison bars.
This is the mummified head of French serial killer Henri Desire Landru. Arrested in 1919 in France for the murder of 10 women, he professed his love for them and promised to marry them. Instead he would kill, dismember and torch the ladies. He was guillotined in 1922 without ever admitting his crimes.
He was nicknamed "The Bluebeard of Paris."
The Heaven's Gate display included the cover cloth from one of the actual victims and the bunkbed and items in the room came from the actual house where the mass suicide occurred.
Newspaper accounts wallpaper the room of the Heaven's Gate Away Team.
Penn and Teller made a visit to the Museum of Death.
The Charlie Manson room.
It included actual photos of the grisly crime scene.
Next to the Manson Family murders the Black Dahlia ranks as L.A.'s most infamous crime.
A headstone rubbing of Edward Gein, the man whose crimes influenced the creation of several fictional serial killers, including Norman Bates from Psycho, Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs.
There was even a room of taxidermed (is that even a word?) animals.
Not the way we want to remember Marilyn.
This is what Lee Harvey Oswald's bullet did to JFK's head.
The last room has a continuous-running video of Traces of Death if one felt the need for more gore.
Death is an everyday part of life.
Before we left the owner busted out his two-headed turtle for us as a bonus.
They weren't kidding.
This was in the parking lot concrete.
As we headed down Hollywood Blvd. this Lamborghini kept revving its engine, then hauling ass down the street when each light turned green. The funny part was my 104 horsepower, 50 mpg Prius kept catching up to him at the next red light. This went on for about five blocks. Poor guy and his small penis.
Fat Elvis was entertaining the crowds on the Walk of Fame.
We parked at Hollywood and Highland and hit the escalators.
Let's see what Hollywood offers today.
The last couple of times we've been in Hollywood Brian has tried to get us on a Starline Tours but we didn't want to take the time or spend the money. This time he even talked the lady down from the pamphlet price of a $39 one-hour tour to $30 plus she would throw in tickets to Madame Tussaud's wax museum. Tempting but no dice.
Bill found the Filipino Johnny Cochran.
Exhibit A: If the face appears to stick, with your camera you must click.
I joined in to advertise a fashionable sale.
Farther down Hollywood Blvd. we not only encountered fat Elvis again ...
...but some German tourists handed Cesar and Brian their cameras to take their photos. Naturally I jumped into the background of the shots.
How do you say "photobomb" in German?
Yes, a dwarf Yoda is. Makes sense it does.
Brian snaked a picture with the hot chick cops but when they saw me doing it the one of the right waved her handcuffs at me and tried to get me to take one with them. It wasn't going to happen.
I got a shot of the Roosevelt Hotel when we went to the Graumann 6 for parking validation.
I fit nicely into the shoeprints of Clark Gable on the Graumann's Chinese forecourt. To those who don't think he was a great actor, frankly, I don't give a damn.
This is how we want to remember Marilyn (sans Bill trying to smooch her, of course).
You better check yourself...
...before you Shrek yourself.
Cesar and the Chinese.
As we left the parking structure Brian had an idea that began with me driving up the entrance of the Magic Castle.
Then still up on a nameless narrow road.
Still up until we were facing the Hollywood Hills.
And overlooking the city.
Finally we found what we were looking for:
...the best view in Los Angeles (even with the rain clouds).
A mass of humanity. (photo courtesy of Bill)
The L.A. skyline. (photo courtesy of Bill)
The Capitol Records building. (photo courtesy of Bill)
The backside of the Hollywood Bowl. (photo courtesy of Bill)
A plaque. (photo courtesy of Bill)
The Mulholland Scenic Corridor. (photo courtesy of Bill)
Photo op. (photo courtesy of Bill)
HI! (photo courtesy of Bill)
The moment before Cesar and Brian mysteriously fell to their deaths. (photo courtesy of Bill)
A panoramic view.
Bill getting the shot.
The shot. (photo courtesy of Bill)
The Icon. (photo courtesy of Bill)
A Starline Tours van pulled up while we here. Bill showed how much we paid for this Hollywood journey.
Back to flat land we got a more traditional view of the Hollywood Bowl.
While waiting to get on the 101...
...Brian received a phone call from his credit union agent to confirm the decisions of the sandstone interior and the Bronze Package. Yes, Brian was buying a car without ever setting foot on a lot. His guy took care of all the haggling. Laziness or genius? I leave that judgment to you.
While at a red light in downtown L.A. I snapped a picture of this group of people waiting on the corner to cross. Why?
Because that group included Brian, Bill and Cesar. Once Brian realized our lunch destination was across the street he got the other lemmings to suddenly hop out of my car, leaving me to fend for myself when it came to finding affordable parking. Bastards.
Screw you, Brian, and your thumbs up.
But that was okay, because if I've learned anything about this vast and mystifying universe it's that everything eventually balances out. See, I found an open spot just about 30 yards or so past the restaurant. Too good to be true? I wasn't questioning it. But as I tried to put money into the parking meter it would only go up to 15 minutes. Dammit! I tried three times, and each time it reset. A broken meter. And then it began to rain again. I finally decided to just go inside and let my three "friends" decide who was going outside every 15 minutes to refill the meter. I recorded Bill first.
Then it was Brian's turn, then Cesar after. On Brian's return he explained the mystery: I had parked in a 15-minute only loading zone. The meter was even green to designate loading. Ha ha, but I'm color blind and since there was no one with me to point out the difference between my meter and the others I parked there. Today's lunch special? Karma.
Other than that drama, lunch at Pete's Cafe was great.
As expected all three ordered the same thing, the Hellman Burger, though Bill and Brian opted for the blue cheese fries (more on this later). I, however, went with the Ahi Tuna Sandwich with chipotle fries. And it was delicious.
We were all satisfied with Pete's.
The infamous green meter.
Our next stop was right around the corner. No, not the Skid Row homeless camp...
...but the place Bill called the Poetry Wall.
This nearly-block long mural is located at 5th and Crocker.
Bill hopped out long enough to pose but not long enough to get shot.
The irony of defacing art with art is clearly lost on Argon and his band of merry graffitists.
It's just disrespectful.
Ok, I got Prince, Bob Marley and MLK, but who is the guy on top? Michael Jordan?
And yet amid all the artistic beauty, it's still Skid Row.
I went back around the block just to make this video.
I had to take this picture because nobody in the car had faith that the Bunny Museum would actually show up in my navigation as a point of destination. Prius, baby!
From Skid Row to Downtown.
I blasted the Christian music for Brian's third conversation with his credit union guy. This precipitated an apology for his "idiot friends."
We stopped at Vons and called the Bunny Museum lady to see what types of food are bunny favorites. Apples? Nope.
This spiky vegetable/fruit thing? Certainly not.
Parsley and kale? Yep.
The Bunny Museum. Just a house in Pasadena. I bet the neighbors love having this place in the neighborhood. (Yes, Brian is giving himself bunny ears.)
So I guess it all started years ago when Steve called Candace "honey bunny" and started bringing her a bunny-related item each day.
The rest is Bunny Museum history.
They own the Guinness World Record for most bunny-themed collectibles: 8,437. But that was back in 1999. Only the Great Bunny in the Sky knows how many they have now.
Let's be honest, there are only so many cute bunnies in the world.
Brian took another new car-related phone call, this time in the Bunny Museum. Blasphemy!
Bunnies as far as the eye could see.
And then there was this creepy little guy. I didn't ask.
The King lives.
This is the TV room (with real cat, poor thing).
Haha, rabbit ears.
Bill's smile could not mask his deep-seated fear.
A punny bunny.
Now for the weird part (I know, as if it wasn't already weird): They had some of their pet bunnies freeze died (Not stuffed, Candace was quick to point out) after they died. Only the eyes were replaced. See, weird.
Not weird enough for you? Ok, Candace apparently is also an author and follower of Swedenborgianism, the teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg, a Swedish scientist, philosopher, Christian mystic and theologian. A little about him: He claimed he was appointed by the Lord to write a heavenly doctrine to reform Christianity. He claimed that the Lord had opened his eyes, so that from then on he could freely visit heaven and hell, and talk with angels, demons and other spirits. When did he begin to experience these dreams and visions? April 6, 1744... Easter weekend.
"Easter?!" screams the Trix Rabbit. Now it all became clear.
That's a lot of bunny magnets.
Cesar shares the secret in the back yard.
That's a big bunny head.
They even had the paw prints of pet bunnies in the driveway concrete. This is creepier than the Museum of Death parking lot concrete.
It's like the bunnies are trying to escape.
Rabbits for Crazies would be more appropriate.
So the place they call the Bunny Museum only had two live bunnies... and those were hiding from the people in the pantry.
Poor little guys.
There was a twenty pound chocolate bunny. Sadly it had been varnished to preserve it. Such a waste of chocolate.
Considering there were only two actual bunnies I suspect Candace and Steve are vegetarians who don't have much of a grocery bill thanks to the admission donations.
As Candace walked us out she suggested we bring our students on a field trip, pointing out that L.A. County even brought a group of juvenile offenders on a tour. That was about when I took a picture of Brian's face.
Candace bragged about this "commercial" for the Bunny Museum starring Elijah Wood. It's clear Candace has little concept of irony.
It was around 4 p.m. now and the blue skies finally made their appearance.
We made a stop at the Alhambra Acura dealer not to buy a car (after all, we could just call Brian's credit union guy for that) but...
...to use the dealership's restroom. This is where Brian sprayed us with Lysol while we were doing our business. Bill did it back with Brian desperately protesting, "You can't pull the same joke twice." While I would normally agree with him, there is a little known corollary that allows the re-prank if you record it. Google it if you don't believe me.
Then down the block to Fosselman's.
That's right, son.
I went with the triple scoop while Bill and Brian opted for doubles.
Cesar had none (his choice, let the record show).
Then to Ultrazone for some laser tag.
The place was packed.
Bill tested his shirt in the black light (the playing field is illuminated by black lights) and realized he was a dead man.
So he went back to car for his hoodie.
The playing field map.
Take special note not of Brian's totally inappropriate use of his laser gun (although that is noteworthy) but Bill's very excited face.
Let's smoke some fools.
Back to Bill's face, which is not quite as animated as earlier. That might have to do with the fact that his gun did not work. Even after pointing out this fact to the attendant twice before the game even started. He was told it would work once we began. It didn't and Bill got thoroughly tooled by the numerous teenagers whose guns evidently did work. Bill was not alone in his technological problems. Throughout the game my vest continuously registered hits even when I was alone in a corner waiting for my sensors to stop flashing. After reading Yelp reviews it became apparent that non-working guns and vests are not a rarity at Ultrazone. Oh well, live and learn.
On Atlantic Blvd. we found a store that sells just a box.
We wandered into an Alhambra strip mall because Bill had heard that there was a bakery that had a sweet photo booth in it. While there was nothing in the place the Asian girl gave us directions to a place she knew right down Valley Blvd.
And she was right. We found Cue! Studio. Please ignore Brian's racism.
Instead, focus on Bill's girlish glee.
So after much contemplation we chose our photobooth. That is, until Brian... how should I say... contaminated it with a noxious combination of blue cheese fries and Fosselman's toffee chips. And, boy, did he know it by the bewildering look of shock and awe on his face. Seeing as Bill is a first-born son, and there was no lamb's blood painted over the booth's doorway, he was quite fortunate he heard it before he smelled it so he was able to escape the apocalyptic wave of Creeping Death that descended upon that enclosed space.
So off we went on a search for a "clean" machine.
Because all the instructions are written in Japanese the Asian attendant had to help us. Then we turned it into a dance party.
After we took six pictures we decorated them with bizarre graphics.
We had to hurry because there was a timer counting down.
Cesar patiently waited his turn.
Then he went to work.
All that was left was the printing.
Why would someone pay ten bucks for one sheet of stickers?
Exhibit C (my favorite).
Exhibit F. I rest my case.
Then it was back on the 101 freeway, past a beautifully illuminated L.A. City Hall.
Dinner was at Thai Palms with entertainment by Kevee Thongprecha, a.k.a Thai Elvis.
When we got there he was preparing for his act by watching a kung fu movie.
(photo courtesy of Bill)
This bizarre morphing of Dubya and Obama was posted in the restroom.
Cesar ordered some vegetable thing and Brian had the beef Pad Thai for the first time (and probably the last, as it turned out).
I had the chicken Pad Thai and Bill had the broccoli beef (both were delicious).
Then Thai Elvis took the stage with "That's All Right, Mama."
Smooth. (photo courtesy of Bill)
The spirit of Elvis inspires him. (photo courtesy of Bill)
Straight up shot. (photo courtesy of Bill)
Vogue, Thai Elvis. (photo courtesy of Bill)
Surprisingly we seemed to be the only people there that enjoyed the show. Just about everyone else just ate and talked, barely acknowledging him. After a couple songs he began to sing more in our direction because we were one of the few who gave him the applause he deserved. Philistines.
Bill and Brian played "Rock, Paper, Scissors" to see who would pay. Poor Bill.
I actually waited outside the restroom for Thai Elvis to finish his pee break so I could get this photo.
This picture makes me laugh because it was supposed to be just Bill and Thai Elvis. But Brian, who had actually gone into the restroom before Thai Elvis, came out without ever knowing the King had been in there at the same time. So Brian saw a photo op and jumped in, not knowing Bill was looking for something more intimate with Elvis. Once Brian was in Cesar figured he'd get in. As I was about to take the shot a lady came over and offered to take the picture so I could also be in it. Long story short, poor Bill. Again.
Then it was back toward home with a stop for our traditional adventure-ending $15 foot massage. We even made sure Brian didn't get a dude this time because his back was sore. Yes, I took one for the team and volunteered to be massaged by a gentleman. I'm comfortable enough with my masculinity (just as long as he doesn't kiss my bum).
We dropped off Brian at his auto repair place because the Minivan of Magic is having problems... and this isn't even the car being replaced by the credit union guy. Go figure.