Just As I Thought

This Week in Southern California

Sticky Petals
This past weekend, with my mom, stepfather and aunt, was devoted to the Rose Parade. First, we spent a little time volunteering to build a Rose float — or rather, they did the volunteering and I did the picture taking. But we had to cut it short because the overpowering fumes from the glue were rapidly eating away at our brain tissue. The glue is used to adhere plant material to the float, which is mostly made of a sort of styrofoam and plaster. Mom and Susie were applying pieces of moss to the float, even though they wore latex gloves, their hands were sticky hours later.

The float in question was entitled “Bollywood Dreams,” the entry of the Sierra Madre Rose Float Association (http://www.sierramadrerosefloat.com) and one of only six floats that are self-built. All the others are produced by float decorating companies and funded by corporate sponsors. The Sierra Madre float is entirely a volunteer production, down to the various seeds and plant matter used to decorate it. Floats like this are a year-round project — Sierra Madre will select their next float design at the beginning of February; the preliminary designs are already being drawn up.

Look for “Bollywood Dreams” in the first third of the parade, float number 15. You can’t miss the huge elephant and the waterfalls!

The next day, we travelled up and down the foothills viewing dozens of other floats under construction; our first stop was the Rose Bowl itself where something like 14 floats are being built.

Later, we made our way to Irwindale to a large warehouse housing another dozen or so floats. The smell of the flowers was amazing as teams began to prepare them for mounting on the floats by inserting them into small vials of water.

A DC Yankee in Judge Bone’s Court
For no good reason other than being there, I wandered by the filming location for “Picket Fences” in the city of Monrovia. Those in the know will recognize the Hogan County Courthouse (actually a church), Jill Brock’s office, and the Rome Sheriff’s Department.

Yeah, being in Los Angeles I could have visited no end of filming locations, but I’m nothing if not esoteric.

The Most Crowded Place on Earth
When it took longer than a half hour to make it from the street to the parking garage, I knew it would be a crowded day at Disneyland. Little did I realize that it would be crowded enough to close the park, which happened shortly after we spent an hour in line to buy the tickets. We luckily made it it just in the nick of time, even though the ticket agent tried to convince us to go to that “other” park, California Adventure, until 4:30pm. We had a reserved place in a tour at 4:15, so we couldn’t take her up on that offer… besides, there’s a reason that Disneyland is full while California Adventure is empty.

I wholeheartedly recommend the guided tours at Disneyland — not only are they interesting and fun, but you’re treated like a VIP, a convenience when the park is so crowded. As part of our holiday tour, we got priority boarding for Haunted Mansion Holiday and its a small world, along with front-row reserved seats (real seats, not curbs!) for the parade.

We didn’t get into the park until nearly 1pm, and then immediately spent an hour or so waiting in line then eating lunch, so we didn’t do much. We rode Pirates of the Caribbean after snaking through a line that stretched to the Haunted Mansion and back THREE TIMES; then started our tour with Kimberlie, who was a fantastic tour guide. The Haunted Mansion Holiday was a fun makeover of the original, but I wish it was a bit longer and lighter — both this attraction and Pirates seemed more dimly lit than I remembered and it was difficult to see the highlights. it’s a small world holiday was charming and fun! I’m amazed at how this childlike show manages to entertain as much as it does considering the fact that it’s a bunch of little dolls with limited animation and a repetitive song, but heck — I enjoyed it immensely.

I’m not a big fan of parades generally, and the holiday parade was mostly uninteresting (except for the cute guys who were over the top and into character). There’s something a little creepy about interacting with cast members acting out a character on the street, it’s almost as unnerving as meeting a mime.

The night was getting cold, dogs were locked up waiting for our return, and we were a bit weary of the crowd so we decided to make our way toward the entrance. Still, we managed to stop at the Plaza Inn for a very nice dinner (with portions so big that we got 2 meals for 4 people) and then made our way to Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room on the off chance that the wait wasn’t too long… it wasn’t! We walked right in and enjoyed the show that I remembered loving as a kid.

Feeling about as excited about fireworks as I am about parades, we decided to leg it before the record crowd jammed up the exits. Turns out I didn’t miss anything as the fireworks were canceled due to “atmospheric conditions.”

We didn’t see much (we didn’t even enter Tomorrowland at all), but the good news is that I made a big purchase: an annual passport. I’ve been out here for nearly 4 years vowing to go to Disneyland and this was the first time I made it; I intend to force myself to go at least 3 times in 2009 and the outlay of funds will, I hope, guilt me into it.

I Live Here
Coming back north alone, I decided to fulfill another plan I’d hatched when I bought my little Audi TT — a drive along Route 1, the Pacific Coast Highway. For a good distance, I kept looking to my left at the amazing view of the Pacific ocean and the gorgeous coast, thinking to myself, “wow! I live here! This is NOTHING like DC!”

Then, as the hours ticked by, I started to think that I’d made a definite mistake in choosing this route. Going to LA from San Jose using route 101 took 6 hours. Coming back via Route 1 took more than 9 hours and involved windy cliff-side roads and heavy traffic backups in the fog. Yikes. And while it would have been better in the little roadster — and with someone special to stop and watch the sunset with — I can now say I’ve done it.

Back to Reality
Nice to be home, nice to have my little house to myself after two weeks of togetherness with family… but yeah, miss them already. Especially as New Year’s Eve ticks down to midnight and it’s just me and Diego, as usual.

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