Stories from my past, along with whatever random musings I feel compelled to write. Updates Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Escape from Los Angeles

This last summer, three of my friends and I went up to Anime Expo, a giant anime convention in Los Angeles. I had managed to secure use of my parents’ giant blue Honda Odyssey, which has been affectionately dubbed the Land Whale, so we all piled in, filled a cooler with four dozen cans of soda (net worth at the time: nine dollars), and went north. When we got there, we proceeded to have two days filled with madcap hijinks and nerdy good times, which all went off with nary a hitch, until it came time to leave.

I had a few friends from school who were at the convention selling their art, and one of them was supposed to come stay with my family for a few days. The plan as I had conceived it (admittedly without checking for a long time) was that we’d simply leave the convention with him as a part of our group at the end of the con on the fourth of July, pile into the Land Whale, and head back down to San Diego.

When I actually ran this idea by him, I was informed that this wouldn’t work. First of all, he’d brought too much stuff for him to take it from another friend of his’s house where he’d been staying to the con for the day, and furthermore, he’d made plans to get dinner with some people. The new plan was that the group I had driven up with would get dinner elsewhere, and then pick him up when he was done and head down. In my head, I imagined that we’d be getting back at around 8 o’clock, or 9 at the latest, and then he’d stay with me until his flight out of LAX that Friday.

We went to In-n-Out for dinner, stuffed our faces for a bit, and then I began waiting for a call. As the sun went down a little before seven, I called and asked how to get to the house he’d been staying in. He gave me an address, and couldn’t really give any further directions aside from the major road it was just off of.

Not being a native of the Los Angeles area, I ended up taking a wrong turn or eight, and soon we found ourselves driving down the street as people set off fireworks at what I thought was a rather unsafe distance from traffic. I tend to be a bit of a nervous driver when I’m not familiar with the area, so the knowledge that we were lost as it was getting dark, and the constant stream of sudden explosions that seemed to be mere feet above where I was driving were starting to make me a little crazy. It also didn’t help that, given that we did very little actual sleeping during our trip, I was a little tired.

Add to this the fact that, as I mentioned in my last post, I have an almost-pathological need to be seen as someone to be relied upon, and now I was driving cluelessly around the city while undergoing the initial stages of a panic attack as three of my closest friends watched. I’d already taken waaaaay too long finding an In-n-Out for dinner, and now I was dragging everyone around the city on a fruitless search for someone they’d only met briefly the day before. We tried calling several more times for further directions, but my friend’s phone must have died, because I kept getting punted directly to voicemail.

I knew the friend lived in Venice, so I’d become hell-bent on at least getting that close. This led to around an hour of me slowly collapsing into madness as we all cruised down the street, shouting “FUCK THIS CITY!!!!” at the top of our lungs. Finally, at around 8:30 or so, he called back on his friend’s phone. We described where we were, relieved that he’d be able to ask someone who knew the region.

He proceeded to inform us that his friend had no idea where we were.

After around fifteen minutes more driving, I’d managed to get myself to an intersection she recognized the name of. She gave us pretty helpful directions, saying we needed to take a nearby street until it ran into a major boulevard, which was (naturally) a block away from the In-n-Out we’d eaten at hours beforehand.

Once we reached that street, we needed to keep going until we hit Washington, which would be distinguishable by the Staples and 7-11 that sat across from each other. We followed the road north, until we did indeed see a Washington Blvd with a staples and a 7-11 facing off across it. Relieved, but still cursing and defaming the city at the top of our lungs, we turned onto the street, excitedly telling Ground Control at our goal that we’d found the street. “So, we just keep going, right?”

“Yeah, just keep following that road and you’ll get to us.”

“So, which way do we go when the road splits here?”


“The road splits into two here. Which fork do we take?”

“...the road splits?”

As we discovered after I pulled over to let out a rather diverse string of profanities, this was a different Washington Boulevard, one which also had the identifying stores where it intersected the main road. We returned to the main drag, determined to either get to our destination or go on a murder spree, although the latter idea may only have occurred to me.

Finally, we found the second Washington Blvd, with the SAME stores marking it, and shortly thereafter, I was ringing the doorbell. My friend was waiting inside with a cadre of his artist friends he’d been staying with. When he reflexively asked if we’d had any trouble, I’m sure the way all four of us glowered at him didn’t make the best first impression, but we were beyond the point of caring. We piled back into the Land Whale, and I finally got home at 1:30 in the morning.

A few days later, I found myself driving back up to LA early, because something had come up and he’d decided it would be easier for him to spend his last night at that friend’s house before leaving for his home in Virginia. Unlike the initial group we’d had, he had a smart phone, and he kindly offered to look up directions for me.

I, of course, declined, as it wasn’t necessary. The route to that house has been burned indelibly into my memory thanks to that harrowing night, and I made it there without a single missed turn. Five months later, one of my fellow survivors would call me out of the blue to share that, as she’d been driving home from school with a few of her peers, they’d found themselves in the same neighborhood. Once she’d recovered from the horrible flashbacks, she was able to direct them straight through the region, warning them about the decoy Washington Blvd and the horrors that could ensue should they let their guard down in this tame, suburban labyrinth.

1 comment:

  1. This is easily one of your most entertaining, so far! LA is evillll.