Actual Real-Life Palm Trees and Other Strange and Magical Things


I think the only thing that could’ve prepared me for leaving LAX was my experience going through Heathrow.

Back when I was in Heathrow, London was getting ready for the Olympics, so the whole city was buzzing.  I’m sure Heathrow’s normally really busy, but it was unbelievably crowded then, what with all the people flying in and all the vehicles necessary to transport them.  LAX was about that busy.  Cars and noise and people absolutely everywhere.  I’m a city girl at heart, but even I was a little overwhelmed.  I was surprised I didn’t almost get hit by a bus.

We (meaning Mom, Dad, Claire, and me – Angie hadn’t arrived yet) had to take a shuttle to get to the car rental place.  Between silly selfies with Claire and Mom, I gawped at the first actual real-life palm trees I’d ever seen.

Palm trees

Yeah, bad lighting, I know.

Before this, the only palm trees I’d ever seen were the probably-fake ones in Woodland Hills Mall.  I was a little floored.

Once we got to the car rental place and picked out our vehicle of choice, we started out for the Hilton Universal, the hotel where Jeopardy! was putting me up (and where my family had insisted on staying along with me, bless them).  Early into the journey, I saw this.

Randy's Donuts

Did anyone else recognize it instantly, or am I just weird like that?

But yes, that’s the same Randy’s Donuts that appears in Iron Man 2 and prompts this line from Nick Fury:  “Sir, I’m gonna have to ask you to exit the donut.”  Naturally, I freaked out a bit.

For some reason, I’d never imagined there would be actual mountains in California.  I guess I’d imagined it would be all beach, all the time.  It can’t have helped that the closest things we have to mountains in Tulsa are the Ozark Hills, and even those are on the complete opposite end of town from where I live.


“They’re so… so BIG!”

Then we actually got to the Hilton Universal.  After finally figuring out where the parking garage was, we entered the hotel.

I have never felt like so much of a country hick in my life.

This was easily the swankiest hotel I’ve ever been in.  It smelled like glamour and Benjamins.  I literally had to force myself to close my mouth so I wasn’t just wandering around agape.  They had those water coolers with thin slices of citrus fruit floating at the top, too.  I hadn’t seen one of those since staying at a hotel just outside London, a year and a half ago.  (“I’m going to go get some of that water so I can feel more cultured,” I said to my mother as I trotted across the lobby for a drink.)

I was on the 18th floor out of 20-something, which was absolutely fine by me.  I love heights and scenic views.  (I hate the idea of falling from heights, but whatever.)  I got to my room just in time to get a decent picture of a great view.

Tail-end of a sunset

The bed was so soft, I’m surprised I was even able to get up again.


Eventually, though, I did get up, and we (minus Angie, who still wasn’t due to get in till later) went to dinner at the Saddle Ranch Chop House.  We ate on the heated patio, I definitely didn’t finish my burger and fries, and there were complimentary s’mores.

Making s'mores by an open fire pit

Claire and Dad both like their marshmallows well-done. I was too leery of the flames to make mine anything more than rare.

So basically, I was having a hard time believing this whole thing was even real.  I felt like I was in Narnia.  “This is very important,” I said to my family.  “Does anyone else remember a wardrobe?”  Sadly, I’m the only one who thought that joke was funny.

Next time:  the first of two posts about Monday, the sightseeing day.  Highlights include Mulholland Drive, Bel-Air, and smoked salmon.


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