During my last stretch of time in L.A. I started to feel a sense of finality about my time out west. winter break was rapidly approaching, I would soon be finding out my second half assignment and I was painfully aware that after break I would have less than two weeks before turning around and heading right back to Wisconsin to switch teams. I often have a “seize the day” mentality on this job, but knowing my westward adventure was coming to a close really had me thinking “What do I have to do here before I leave?”
The first thing that came to mind was visit more beaches. Growing up, I’ve always heard about famed Cali beaches like Newport or Santa Monica, and I was disappointed in myself that after all my time in SoCal I had only made it to one. So I ended up visiting Santa Monica and Laguna Beach, both of which were amazing in their own way. Santa Monica has a famous pier that gives you a great view of the whole shore and Laguna Beach, my personal favorite, is absolutely stunning with great waves, endless palm trees and giant rocks to climb. I’ve always been the type of person that can happily spend endless days amidst the sand and calming beach waves, and I was happy to check a few more Pacific beaches off my list.
Another thing I had yet to do was truly experience Hollywood. In order to achieve this, Conner and I signed up for a tour of Warner Brothers Studio. The tour taught us a lot about how shows and movies are filmed and we got to see tons of artifacts – costumes, props and Batmobiles – as well as the sets of Friends, Shameless, and buildings used in countless shows and movies. The craziest part of the tour was that at the end of it, they asked if anyone wanted to be part of Conan’s live audience. Conner and I of course jumped at the chance. Even though I’d already seen James Corden’s taping, I liked Conan’s a lot better because he interacted with the audience and made us feel like a part of the show.
Another thing that was missing from my west coast journey, even though it was mostly out of my control, was having the NUTmobile participate in a parade. We went six months utterly parade-less and then Bam! Two parades in one weekend. No other event quite matches up to a parade because all you have to do is drive the NUTmobile through the route and watch the crowd lose their minds over Mr. Peanut dabbing away while standing out of the sun roof. Not that I would know, because Mr. Peanut is himself, but I would imagine that few feelings compare to gallantly riding through the streets via NUTmobile while 1000’s scream, wave and dance for your attention.
While the parades were awesome, the best event of the week was one we got to find and schedule ourselves: Orange County Autism’s Breakfast with Santa. Throughout our westward journey, we have had the pleasure of meeting several autistic children and adults, and I was surprised to learn that many people with autism love mascots and characters. This definitely proved true at our breakfast with Santa as we paraded Mr. Peanut around to take hundreds of pictures (including with Santa!) and to play games with the kids and their families.
We were having a shell of a time, but the event got even better when we met Julie, the Founder of OC Autism. All three of us were shocked to learn that Julie operates and funds the organization completely by herself and that all of its amazing benefits come to families of children with autism totally free. Julie told us she had planned to shut down the organization because it was so hard to sustain, but that people in the community begged her not to because of how much it had helped them. Despite being in charge of a huge, packed event with many moving details, Julie seemed to be having a blast and I could tell how much she meant to the people in attendance. She was definitely one of the people out west that I’ll never forget.
Near the end of our last stay together, we planned a big Christmas dinner with our Hotdogger pals, Jackie and Alex. When you’re living in a hotel, “big Christmas dinner” can really mean mac n’ cheese grilled cheese, but if you know anything about me you know that I had zero complaints about this cheesy meal. Jacandra had agreed to host, and when I arrived in their room they had set up a little Christmas tree with presents for each of us. As we snuggled up in our brand new blankets, ate our weight in cheese and watched funny Youtube videos, I knew that it didn’t matter how much time I had out west, I would always want more with the four unique people that I’m lucky to call my travel buddies.
And just like that, my fourth and final week in L.A. was up and I was headed back to Wisconsin for the holidays. Cashew at my next blog to find out if I was nutty or nice this year. (Spoiler: I was mostly nutty.)