Tag Archives: travel

Doing Things in L.A. – Griffith Observatory

When I was living in Seoul, I made a list of 50 things I wanted to do or see in the city before I left.  My students (all adults) always loved looking at that list and asking me why I put certain things on it.  It was a great conversation starter.  Most of those things on that list were just the usual tourist attractions I read about in guide books.  But at the end of my year in Korea, I had checked off almost all of them.  The only things I never accomplished were “Swim across the Han River,” (my students told me I’d die trying) “visit the Blue House,” and “eat Beondegi.”  Beondegi is silkworm larvae.  It had a very distinct smell and was sold everywhere.  I don’t know how I missed out on trying it.

Anyway, the reason I brought up the list is because I was surprised how many of my students had never done many of the things on it either.  Seoul is a giant city, yes, but I couldn’t comprehend how someone could live in a city for most of their life and not go to the most popular attractions.

Then I moved to L.A. and I began turning into the students I criticized.  At first, I went to all the places any tourist would: Hollywood and Sunset Blvd, the Hollywood sign, Santa Monica Pier, Beverly Hills, etc.  As I began to feel more and more like a resident though, I stopped exploring and stayed at the places I was familiar with around my apartment.  Recently, I realized that when you live in a big city, you feel like you have all the time in the world to explore.  You’re not a tourist rushing to see all the sites in a few days.  You can visit them whenever you want, as many times as you want.  So you put them off, and do lazy things like watch TV and go to your usual bars instead.  You’ll get to it later.  Although, like many others, you never do.

So this month, I decided to go to one place I’ve been putting off for over a year- Griffith Observatory.  Considering it’s practically in my backyard, it’s amazing that I’ve never been there until now.  I took these pictures with my new GoPro Hero 4, which I’m very impressed with.  Check this place out!

I have no problem exploring places outside of LA, but maybe it’s time I do some exploring inside the city too.  I practically write “I Hate LA” in all of my posts, but I’m clearly missing out on a few things here.  Perhaps I should make another “50 things to do/see” list.  If I do, swimming across (or down) the L.A. river will be one of them!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!  See you next year.

The Perks of Being a Production Assistant in Hollywood

Since my life currently consists of spending 12-14 hours a day at a studio,  I thought I’d take a few minutes to write about my life as a production assistant in Hollywood.  Yes, production assistants (PAs) are the lowest on the entertainment industry totem pole, and yes, you’ll see a lot of articles floating around about how terrible it is to be one.  But being a PA isn’t that bad, and it certainly has some great perks.

I’ve been a set and office PA (working for the team that films the show/movie/commercial) and a Post PA (working for the team that edits and finalizes the show/movie/commercial) on many different projects since moving out here.  The PA duties vary from project to project, but essentially, you’re the assistant to everyone you work with.  You do whatever they ask, with a smile on your face.  Sometimes it’s getting lunch for the team, setting up chairs, printing out documents, and making DVD copies.  Other times it’s driving two hours away to get a producer their favorite salad.  As a PA, you have to expect you’ll be asked to do anything.  But here are the perks:

Getting to go on all the studio lots and sets for free

As a PA, you’ll either work on or be asked to drive to any of the major studios around Hollywood.  You just have to flash your drive-on pass at the gate and go right in.  It’s fun to see the general public waiting in line for a tour or sitting on the tram, knowing they paid a small fortune to see something you get to see every day.  Also, you pretty much have free roam of the entire lot.  On any given day you might see your favorite actor walking around or your favorite show being filmed.

Look, a fake street corner! And yes, even I paid for a studio tour one time.  Anyone recognize the show/town?
Look, a fake street corner! And yes, even I paid for a studio tour one time. Anyone recognize the show/town?

Working with major talent (celebrities)

Even better than just seeing, you might get to directly work with major talent, too.  They’re certainly just normal people, but it’s still fun to interact with them, if allowed.  As a PA, you might be in charge of keeping their trailer tidy or walking/driving them to the stage.  Sure, you may get a few divas, but most of the actors are very professional and nice.

Catered lunches and unlimited crafty

Many times lunch will be paid for by the production.  Sometimes, as a PA, you’ll be the one running out to get it, but a free meal is a free meal.  It gets even better when lunch is catered.  They spare no expense to feed top-level talent and crew.  Health nuts, vegans, and junk-food enthusiasts will all be pleased.

Crafty, or unlimited snacks, is another perk.  If someone can’t wait for lunch, there’s usually a whole kitchen, room, or table filled with candy, chips, fruit, cereal, desserts, etc, that’s available for anyone to eat at any time of the day.

Getting to watch your TV show/film on the big screen in a private theater

This is a perk that would mostly only apply to Post PAs.  Once an episode/movie is close to being finished, it gets played in a huge, private theater for important people to make notes and to finalize sound.  The producers and editors will sometimes bring along a PA just in case anyone needs anything.  Many times you just get to sit back, relax, and watch an advance screening of a TV show that everyone else will have to wait another two months to see.

Wrap Parties

Wrap, which means the production has finished filming, usually follows with a wrap party.  If you worked on the production, you’re invited to the party with all the cast and crew.  Unfortunately, when you’re a Post PA, and they film in another state, you can’t go.  You sometimes get the invite, but sadly you just have to throw it away.  As a set/office PA, you can definitely go.  I’ve heard the wrap parties can be quite a blast, but unfortunately, I’ve never been to one.  All of the productions I’ve worked on so far either didn’t have one or I was a Post PA working in another state.  Someday I’ll get to take advantage of this perk!

Wrap Gifts

When a show finishes, the producers or director (or people way more important than you) may give the crew a gift as a way of saying thanks for all of their hard work.  This can be anything from a shirt, to a watch, to amusement park tickets.

Being privy to show information before the public

Many times PAs have access to scripts and early cuts.  It’s always funny to see the public’s reaction to things you knew about months ago.  I love reading reviews, fan theories, and incorrect spoilers about shows I worked on.  Of course, you’re not allowed to share any of the information you know, so no one knows that you know, and therefore, you’re not special. But at least you know you know.  8)

So the next time you hear a PA complaining about their job, remind them how good they have it -unless they just drove two hours for a salad.  That’s just cruel!

Is that New York City?!?!
Is that New York City?!?!                                                     No.

Road Trip Randy Blog Update

Hello! I feel like it’s been awhile.

I also feel like this how every undisciplined, cliche writer on WordPress starts a post.  And then repeats the routine every three months.  See you in January?

Personal Updates

I just wanted to take some time to let you know Hollywood is eating me alive.  I’m currently PAing on a gig that usually goes 12-16 hours a day, six to seven days a week.  I’m not complaining.  This is actually quite common in my industry.  And it’s fun at times.  But it’s a big change from my last show which was only 11 hours a day, five days a week.  I had so much free time!!  Anyway, my current gig will take me through mid-December.  The good news is I’m making lots of money (GoPro Hero4, anyone?). The bad news is I don’t see how I’ll have time for road trips anytime soon.  Maybe I’ll try to do a Sunday day trip if I’m not too exhausted.  Or maybe I’ll write a post about my job.

I also bought a new night stand.  And black socks.

Blog Update

I’ve made a few changes to the blog. If you didn’t notice, I don’t blame you, but just pretend you did.  I added a nice new “Video” tab on the top navigation bar with some videos you probably haven’t seen yet. Check ’em out.

I’ve also added a Facebook Page (see right column).  If you like reading my stuff, please show me some love by following me on there or one of my other social media pages:

I have 60 WordPress readers, which means 54 are probably spammers. So there are at least six of you who are real.  Let’s connect.

Palm Springs Road Trip – Don’t Visit in September

coachella nature

Update: Check out my Palm Springs road trip video above.

If you’re thinking about taking a vacation in Palm Springs, I have one piece of advice for you: Don’t visit in September.  I made the non-SoCal native mistake of assuming September would be cool in temperature like most normal places.  Apparently, September is California’s hottest month of the year.  The weekend I went to Palm Springs seemed to verify that.  And being in a desert only made it worse.

Basic Info

For those of you, like me, who know nothing about California (except that its residents believe it’s the greatest place on earth) Palm Springs is a small town located in the middle of the desert.  It’s about a two hour drive east of LA, right outside Joshua Tree.  The drive there is interesting because at first you look around and just see mountains, sand, and dirt everywhere.  Then all of a sudden, everything turns bright green and you see a welcome sign for Palm Springs.  Every road is lined with perfectly straight palm trees and well-groomed plants.  Shops, streets, and restaurants are up-to-date yet still have a lot of character.  It’s hard to believe such a clean, wealthy, and modern city sits in the middle of a desolate desert.

One great thing about Palm Springs is that the city can act as a central hub to all the other sites and attractions on your road trip or vacation.  the Coachella Valley, Joshua Tree, and Salton Sea are all easy day trips from Palm Springs.  People go to Palm Springs to get away for a weekend.  Golf, bars, pools, and casinos become their relaxation.  Many people move there to retire.  It’s not exactly a city to go do and see stuff.  But don’t let that stop you from making a visit there!  Spend an afternoon exploring the city and then spend the rest of your time outside it.

Let’s get back to why you shouldn’t visit in September:

  • It will be a scorching 115 at any time of the day.
  • You won’t see other people (This might be a positive thing depending who you ask).
  • The people you will see are mostly old.  Although this has nothing to do with September, I’m sure.
  • The #1 attraction is closed.  The tram/cable car up to Mt. San Jacinto was closed for two weeks when we visited. 😦

coachella oasis

This makes it sound like a really depressing place, but I want to make it clear that I did have a good time.  Here’s what I enjoyed:

The people are very friendly- probably because they never see anyone in September and get lonely. Pam, our dinner waitress, would strike up a five minute conversation with us every time she came to bring our food or drinks.  The single woman (probably age 65) behind us joined in too.

Cheap prices.  Did I mention I bought a beer for $4 dollars?

Abundant streets signs that said: “Free Unlimited Parking”.  It was almost like they were trying to taunt people from LA.

So if you’re visiting Palm Springs, what should you see?

Cabazon Dinosaurs. If you’re coming from LA, stop in Cabazon and see the giant dinosaurs.  There’s also an exhibit you can pay for, but the giant dinosaurs in front are completely free.

Wind turbines.  You can’t miss them.

Downtown.  Plenty of parking, nice shops, and a “Hollywood Walk of Fame” sidewalk.  Unfortunately, I have to admit the one in LA is a little better.

Mt. San Jacino tram.  I’m sure it’s open now.   About $25 to take a ride to the top.  #1 attraction on TripAdvisor.

Coachella Nature Preserve.  Palm trees, lizards, oasis, and a view of the San Andreas fault.  I highly recommend it.  I’d also highly recommend bringing water and staying on the trails…

Any lake, pond, or swimming pool you can find.

Tip: Don’t ask your hotel concierge what to do because ours just said this: “Oh, the tram is closed? Then, there’s nothing to do here.”

IMG_3491

Interesting Facts:

The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians of the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation (that’s how you have to say their name every time) owns most of the land in Palm Springs. $$$

Apparently, there aren’t street lights on most of the main roads (truth) because the citizens want to be able to admire the stars at night (questionable).  How does star gazing trump common safety practices??

Most restaurants and bars close around 9PM.  Although they do have some clubs and a casino.

Premium beers in many of the bars are Heineken and Corona. We went to one place and they only had four kinds of beer.

They got rid of the giant Marilyn Monroe statue earlier this year.  Now, it seems, the city really has nothing to attract tourists.  Seeing giant dinosaurs and a giant Marilyn on the same trip would have made my day!

mt san jacinto

Who should visit:

  • Old people who just want to relax.
  • People who like taking trams up mountains.
  • People who like nice, wealthy cities in the middle of deserts.
  • People who don’t mind driving without street lights at night.
  • People who like wind turbines.

Palm Springs Road Trip Preview

I went to Palm Springs this weekend.  September is the wrong month to go (unless you enjoy 115 degree temperatures and closed mountains).  More on that in a later post.  Here’s a 7-second time lapse I made of Palm Springs at night with Mt. San Jacinto in the background.

HD. Full Screen. HD. Full Screen.

EDIT: I just realized you can’t see any of the stars in the video 😦 I’m going back to YouTube.

Big Bear, California – Cabins, Lakes, and Free Parking

road trip randy

Everyone I know speaks highly of Big Bear.  If you live in LA, it’s where you go to get away.  Church goers attend retreats there.  Big time television producers have their second and third homes there.  Some athletes even rent cabins and go there to train.  Me? I just wanted to stop choking on polluted air in Los Angeles and get away for a weekend.

You know that saying that goes something like, Los Angeles is the only place where you can go snowboarding and surfing in the same day?  It’s a lie.  First, you can’t go snowboarding in LA.  The nearest “real” mountain is two hours away.  Second, what about the rest of California?  Surely there are other beautiful places with mountains and the Pacific in close proximity of each other.  Typical Los Angeles arrogance, thinking they’re so unique.  Anyway, that’s how I learned about Big Bear- as one of the few snowboarding mountains only two hours away.  Then I learned it’s a great place to visit in the summer too.

big bear drive

The drive there is actually really enjoyable.  Once you get about an hour out into the San Bernardino area, the scenery really changes.  The road starts to wind and get really steep as you drive into the mountains. Palm trees turn into pine trees, and you only see a house or building every mile or so.  The higher you go, the better the view becomes.  You hug some of these turns and realize that feet away from you are giant cliffs that lead into valley down below, or giant cliffs that could lead to your death with one wrong move.  Either one.

road trip randy

Once you get into Big Bear, you don’t really feel like you’re high up in the mountains, but you definitely feel like you’re away from the city- less annoying people and more space.  For me, it reminded me so much of northern Michigan.  The air is clean, the giant lake sparkles, and nature greets you everywhere you look.

What I especially liked about Big Bear was how diverse the different areas of the lake were.  On one side you have the city, with the touristy village.  Then on another side you have your public beaches.  Then on the other side is the residential road with houses and cabins that takes you right next to the calm water.  It’s a nice drive around the lake.  I would know.  I got lost looking for a hiking trail and had to drive around it three times.

THE VILLAGE

It probably wins awards for village you’d most likely see in a snow globe.  Or in a propaganda video.  It’s beautiful.  Meticulously taken care of, clean, and it has lots of parking.  If you’re going to Big Bear, you have to check out the village. The main area is a small street that’s ideal for spending a few hours in.  There’s basically only one building for everything you need – ice cream, post office, theater, souvenirs, etc.  However, there are a handful of restaurants in the front.  Grab an ice cream cone and take a walk down its perfect sidewalk.

road trip randy

THE HIKING

I went hiking on the Castle Rock trail.  It’s tough to find, but well worth it if you do.  Big trees, giant boulders, and one hell of a view at the top!  Once you get close to the top, the trail stops being a trail and turns into a boulder climb. It gets kind of dangerous if you don’t have good balance.  There was a family in front of me that wasn’t too athletic (think multiple Augustus Gloops from Willy Wonka), but they were leaping from rock to rock and climbing over one another as though they wouldn’t die if they missed a step.  Crazy.

road trip randy

road trip randy

road trip randy

road trip randy

THE FOOD AND DRINKS

I’m a big fan of dive bars.  If I’m in a fancy bar or restaurant I usually don’t know what to do with myself and end up punching someone. The great thing about small towns, like Big Bear, is they usually have plenty of dive bars.  It’s fun to see who are the locals are and who are the tourists.  I went to a small one not too far away from the village.  It was the perfect dive bar.  Dollar bills on the wall, license plates on the ceiling, and business cards in the bathroom with the faces of the people currently sitting at the bar.  It couldn’t have been better!

THE BEACH

I can’t be certain because it was my first time at Big Bear, but it looked like there were only a few big public beaches around the lake and then a lot of smaller “private” ones.  The public ones were nice- people were paddle boarding, swimming, and kayaking.  But what I really liked was that you could stop off on the side of the road, almost anywhere, and make your own private beach.  No one was around.  Just you and your thoughts… and a random pirate ship passing by.

road trip randy

road trip randy

road trip randy

I didn’t spend a lot of time at Big Bear, but I definitely see why people love it.  Angelinos go crazy if they see real, green grass and a tree that isn’t a palm tree.  I think that’s the appeal of Big Bear for them.  It’s real life. No billboards, no glamorous parties, no chronic traffic problems (you can park for free on the side of the road at Big Bear!!!), no rat race.   For a few days everyone is just living.  And relaxing.  And enjoying.  And appreciating the good things in real life.  And then not too long after, they drive back to LA… and turn back into their miserable, narcissistic-selves.

Big Bear, you were great!

road trip randy

I made this short video when I was there.  If you like it, please consider subscribing to my channel.  I just created a YouTube account and would love your support!

 

 

 

Road Tripping Down Memory Lane

(If you just want to see pictures and ignore all the text, scroll to the bottom.)

A few weeks ago, I took a road trip that I’ve been taking for years – 24 to be exact.  Every year in July my family has packed up our van and drove up north to a little town in Michigan called Oscoda.  My grandparents have a condo right on Lake Huron and we get our own private beach.  It’s incredible.  There are so many great memories on that beach.  Some include puking and knocking out teeth, but most are quite enjoyable.

If you follow my blog religiously (please always tell me you do), you remember from my first post that I work in television.  Initially, I was worried I wasn’t going to be able to take time off to fly home.  In the television world, you usually can’t just book a week of vacation whenever you want.  You have to wait until you have a break between shows.  We were right in the middle of production, but since I have an awesome boss, she told me I should take the week off.  Sweet!

Just hearing the word Oscoda is one of the few things in life that can bring me instant joy.  The association is that strong.  Another would be Cinnamon Toast Crunch.  Because my family has been going to Oscoda for so many years, we’ve made a lot of great memories and traditions.

Some of my favorites:

  • Playing in the waves that were nearly two feet over my head.
  • Playing capture the flag on the beach after dinner.
  • Riding bikes into town to buy candy (and then always being reprimanded by my dad for buying too much).
  • Not being able to control the paddle boat and drifting out way too far from shore (not sure why this is a fond memory).
  • Spending hours in a small attic with six other kids (again, not sure why this is a fond memory).
  • Hitting golf balls on the beach.
  • Seagull chasing in our speed boat.
  • Late night swimming.
  • A huge storm flooding our parking lot.
  • Being able to see millions of stars in the sky at night.
  • Drinking around the bon fire for the first time (legally, of course).
  • Driving to Harrisville just for the ridiculously large ice cream cones they used to serve at The Cove.

My least favorite:

  • Knocking a girl’s tooth out with a golf club when I was four.  Her tooth is still messed up to this day.
  • Looking at a porcupine through binoculars and not being allowed to go pet it.
  • Getting small frogs thrown down my shirt after the big flood.
  • Getting grounded (probably for throwing bread) and missing one of our nightly bon fire.
  • Going to the 4th of July parade, standing at the end, and never getting candy because the people in the parade ran out. EVERY YEAR.  Why didn’t we move up to the front?!

road trip randy

Every year since 1990, a group of us kids shared these memories together.  This year we can add two more to the list.

In May, a Piping Plover decided to lay eggs in the middle of our beach.  For those of you who don’t know (I sure didn’t), a Piping Plover is an endangered bird in North America.  Apparently there are only three left in Michigan.  Because of this, officials closed off half our beach until September!  I was pretty mad.  And they gave that bird way more room than it needed, in my opinion! Think of roping off half of a football field for a potato.  Oh well, I guess if it keeps the bird alive, it’s all good.  And we still had plenty of room for our bon fires.

The other change this year was the addition of babies to our group.  What is it about babies that makes grown men and women change their personalities and act completely unlike themselves?  It was very bizarre to watch everyone talk like babies.  The oldest in my group of friends, Michelle, was the one who had twins recently.  They’re cool and all, but now I see why people say parenting is a full time job.  The twins didn’t let Michelle relax for one minute. Babies are so selfish.

I’ve noticed that within the past few years, we’ve been doing less and less of our yearly traditions in Oscoda.  We still go to the sub-par 4th of July parade, play on the beach, and have nightly bon fires, but something has changed.  Now we argue about politics, relax on couches after dinner, and complain about how much we just ate.  Don’t get me wrong, I still have a blast every year, but I think a big part of the appeal now is the nostalgia the place brings.

I guess I don’t like change and I don’t like growing up.  I’m a traditions guy.  I love traditions.  Last Christmas, my mom tried to put the presents under the tree a few days early because she thought they would look nice and wanted to enjoy them for longer than a couple hours.  I refused to let her do this.  Presents don’t appear under the tree until Christmas morning!  It’s tradition.

I think what I’m trying to say is that traditions seem to make activities better because of the memories attached to them.  The activity itself might not be that great.  Sitting in a hot attic?  Not that amazing.  But it was tradition (and we were weird).  Now that we have endangered birds and babies and politics changing our traditions in Oscoda, I guess it’s time to make new ones.  And maybe that’s a good thing.  But it might take me awhile to accept.

What does this have to do with road tripping?! Absolutely nothing.

Anyway, Oscoda taught me a couple things:

  1. Making new traditions can be a good.
  2. I’m not having babies until I’m 50.

 

Here’s a time lapse I made of the beach at night looking down towards the pier.  Turn on HD!

And here are a few more pictures I took with my new camera that I bought with my new money.

road trip randy

road trip randy

road trip randy

road trip randy

road trip randy

road trip randy

IMG_1646

Get ready for my next post to actually be about a road trip, in California, like my blog actually suggests.  Enough with the pointless, deep talks, Randy!