Posts Tagged With: Judy Garland

Choo, Choo, Here Go I.

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I am trying hard to fight the romanticism of what I am about to embark on. I’m going on a train ride. A very long one. 16 hours (and 10 minutes). On Amtrak, which isn’t the Orient Express or anything close to it. Before that I have to take a commuter train (Metrolink),  for an hour and a half. And before that a 45-minute car ride to Riverside, CA train station. In between, a 5 1/2 layover in Los Angeles. Oh, and then a 3-hour car drive from El Paso, TX Depot Station to Carlsbad, New Mexico, my final destination. All in all, about 27 hours of travel. Is it crazy that my enthusiasm and gushiness have not subsided?

After the 45 minute car drive I arrive at the Riverside Amtrak Station. I buy my ticket at the machine on the platform since on the Metrolink commuter train you can only purchase it on the day of.

As I approach Los Angeles the old bridge studded with graffiti seems to ask if I really want to leave. The answer is a rotund yes. I’m due for a road trip even if it is on a train!

At one of my very favorite old train stations, Union Station, I take a seat in their waiting lounge where a friend I haven’t seen in a while agreed to meet with me to make the wait before my next train shorter. It’s 5:00 pm and the rush hour commute is full on as well as a sea of blue that arrives to go to a Dodgers game.

A while back I toured a space in Union Station that housed the Harvey House which closed in the late 60’s. It was a stop to men returning home from war and those going off. It was also famous for its “Harvey Girls” which were the subject of a 1946 Judy Garland film of the same name. I often wondered why such a magnificent space hadn’t been used. Well, about a year ago the Imperial Brewing Company went in and it is there where my friend Jon and I head to. There truly isn’t anything better than a friend to the rescue, good conversation, oysters and beer.

My friend leaves and left alone I walk through “my” station. Union Station is the largest railroad passenger terminal in the Western United States and is widely regarded as “the last of the great train stations.” Inaugurated in 1939 I consider it a Grand Dame and give it the respect that entails. I love everything about it, including the characters in it. This group was singing loudly as they traversed it.

An Amtrak employee befriends me and chats with me until my time to board. Such a nice man, the kind that saves Amtrak from any criticism. He has been with the company for over 20 years. I think his name was Cyro or something like it. Thank you sir. And before I know it the time comes. I’m boarding!

I’m really glad that I checked my baggage because not having had to lug anything through the 5 1/2 hour layover was such a relief. And the storage on the train is minimal. Besides, the stairs going to the second floor on the train are so narrow people with any luggage or disability were having a rough time. I started helping people going up. As a result I was on a first-name basis with a lot of them in my wagon. I became fast friends with a retired gentleman going to Louisiana that was seated in front of me and another young man who had never been on a train, also going to Louisiana (I think they both had about a 2 day ride). The older one takes this trip 3 times a year and knows the train very well. He takes us on a tour. We settled in the observation car and chatted non-stop for hours. I now know what a lot of expressions in Louisiana mean and how to make gumbo from scratch. They were both great cooks.

We stop in Palm Springs and, with the lights, the landscape is eerie.

It’s around 2 am and we all head back to sleep a bit. I sleep soundly and quite comfortably. At 6:30 am Steve is up and looking my way. Want to go to breakfast? I say yes and off we go. He with a steady step, I bumping into the sides of the aisles. My equilibrium has never been good. At breakfast I forget my Keto diet and eat pancakes with syrup. The seating is cafeteria style and I smile inwardly when I think there’s a sense of intimacy to breakfast which I am now sharing with strangers. Train rides have a tendency to make total strangers into friends that tell you their life story.

Then to the observation car again where we claim the same seats we had last night.

As we cross Arizona we can observe the Cochise Head in the Chiricahua Mountains. If you look closely you’ll see his head, nose and chin. He’s face up.

Then we cross New Mexico (where I will backtrack to, once I “land” in Texas).

Train tracks all the way. The landscape is arid but I am most enjoying it.

I can’t believe almost 16 hours have passed since I boarded this train… 27 hours since I left home, but it must be because the conductor announces that our next stop is El Paso. I’m excited to see my friends at the station but I also am sad leaving the train. I kind of want this trip to continue on. Maybe forever. My friend tells me that I should buy burritos from this lady on the platform. They are tasty, really big, he says, and cheap at $2 each. But my friends will be picking me up and I’m sure we will eat on the way, which turns out so. We stop at a local mom and pop restaurant with fantastic service and that has their last name. I have a menudo. No. I am not keeping to a Keto lifestyle.

We have 3 hours to get to Carlsbad and as we drive we pass a checkpoint that brings back memories of 9 years ago when doing a cross country from Los Angeles to Orlando I was stopped and was questioned about my nationality and status. But that’s a long story that will be told another time.

We pass Diablo Rock where it is said that people have died on its trail from heat exhaustion. It does look quite imposing.

The sun sets, my eyes can barely stay open. Guess it was a long trip after all.

I have said that I would end my blogs with a song. One that reminded me of something or one that touches my heart in some way. I haven’t done so but I do want to, so this one ends with a video of a forever friend that just happened to have written a “little” song that Pat Benatar made famous and that forms part of many lives: We Belong. This song is one of my favorites of his, Arrows, of maybe a relationship lost but friendship gained. Dan Navarro is truly a folk legend.

Categories: California, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The Road to Hollywood Forever is a Lifetime

I walk, drawn to side streets by colors of street art. I have stopped often but as Bill Murray’s character would say “It just doesn’t matter!” I am in Hollywood.  p1480001

Continuing on the color theme (not for long, I promise) there’s a building that just can’t help but catch my attention. It’s pink and garish and pretentious to call itself Hollywood Dream Suites. I suspect that they are not. I later find out that it’s a hotel and from the reviews I read, I may have been right.

I pass Raleigh Studios where I once filmed an episode of Castle.

Across the street is Paramount Studios.

I wasn’t specifically meaning to go to where it all ends for some, but the end of the year was approaching and there was some poetry into visiting a cemetery.  I had visited before but it was at night and my attention was held by a projection of an old movie on one of its mausoleums. A bit heretical perhaps but in Hollywood there is little that seems inappropriate.

I am greeted by a creature that is very much alive and quite interested in the chips I’m chomping down on.

 

p1480004 Near the entrance here is a little section that seems straight out of Southeast Asia. Possibly Thailand. I reminisce and long to be back.

p1480005  The niches of some are still decorated for Christmas. Very much a Latino/Mexican culture tradition.

I walk into some mausoleums. It is peaceful but cold inside. They draw you to whisper rather than hear your voice bounce back to you in an loud echo.

It is in one of them, a smaller one, where Judy Garland rests.

I go outside and enjoy the day and the greenery and flowers which abound.

This cemetery, dare I say, amuses me. There are people with sense of humor recorded forever in the engravings they commission on their tombs.

A graphic artist has his tomb shaped as a rocket. I believed that it was his way to ensure a direct flight to heaven. But engraved is “The atlas, pioneer in space, symbolizes the lifetime activities of Carl Morgan Bigsby, a recognized leader in many phases of the graphic arts, he too was a pioneer.”  The atlas, an exact scale of the original missile The Pioneer Atlas.  His tomb reads Carl Morgan Bigsby 1898 – 1959… RETIRED BY GOD.  Sad that he would not be able to see the smiles generated from that line.

And of course, it’s Hollywood so a film camera portrayed in granite adorns the tomb of a foreign director. p1480016

And what is film without music? Johnny Ramone still plays on his grave next to the film director.

Hatie McDaniels has a surprisingly humble tombstone. She was the “mammy” figure in the film Gone with the Wind.  In 1940 she got an Academy Award for best supporting actress. She was the first African American to receive an Oscar. p1480020

The grave of Irene Guadagno “Mama Irene” caught my attention because she had my middle name -which I never liked so please forget I mentioned it- and because it was pretty cool to me the posture with raised arms with which she was immortalized. Since then I learned that was an Italian entrepreneur mother of Pasquale Rotella (who was married to Holly Madison of Playboy fame). p1480022

Anton Yelchin, an actor, who was killed at 27, in a freak accident when his car crushed him against a security fence is looking on to the cemetery lake. His grave is marked 3-11-89 – Forever. p1480025

And then there’s Toto, who is not buried here but has a granite statue of him in remembrance.

Mickey Rooney is here.

Entering another mausoleum before they close all at 5:00 pm. It almost feels like going into a European museum hall.

More smiles as I exit and encounter another tombstone of an English actor that only has the date of death and not of birth. So like an actor to never reveal his/her age.p1480039

Marzie Harris was a Loving Mother, Sister, Daughter… and occasional wife. I wonder if that engraving was her idea. p1480052

There’s a lake that has a small island with a huge mausoleum. It belongs to William Andrews Clark Jr. a philanthropist and a lawyer who founded the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

The lake is tranquil and full of life.

On the peripheral of the cemetery there is more life. There’s a group of cats, all white and black, that consider this their home as well as some peacocks that make any visiting car wait for long minutes until they cross the path.

On the way out an angel makes me sad. p1480059

I leave and roam the streets some more, searching for color. I don’t walk long before encountering it.

Can’t resist the urge to end the day with a sweet treat. A YumYum Donut with fresh icing on it. Life continues. p1480072

 

 

Categories: Hollywood Forever, Los Angeles, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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