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November 10th, 2002

Hollywood Tours...

We got up around 9:30, showered, and packed so we could check out right at noon. We went up to the third floor cafe and ordered breakfast to be delivered on the rooftop. Steve took pictures, while I did some writing. Steve's strawberry crepes and orange juice, and my bagel and cream cheese, orange juice, and coffee arrived, and we enjoyed our breakfast in the sun.

The rain has finally ended and the skies are just magnificent.

We checked out at noon, and headed to Beverly Blvd where we were to check in for our tours. Part way down Beverly Blvd, the street was blocked off due to a movie shooting. It was pretty cool with one of those crane-like director chairs up over the road, and a car sitting in the middle of the intersection, presumably part of the set. We took a detour right, and found a parking spot along a side street near there.

We walked up to Beverly and found out they were filming a new movie called "Swat," and they were setting up a scene where that car in the middle of the intersection was going to be in a crash. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to stay and watch.

We got down to the place where you check in for the tours, and got our "slips" for each of the three tours: at 1:00, the "Sign Tour," at 2:00, the "Hollywood Tour," and at 3:00, the "Beverly Hills Tour." The last one was two hours. We had a little time, and knew we wouldn't have a chance to eat again until around 6:00, so we had a hot dog at a little shop right next to the tour place. It was Nathan's hot dogs, and they were killer. Steve had never eaten at a Nathan's before. I had, but only in an airport. It was a good dog.

We had the same tour guide for the first two tours. She was great, and you could tell she loved her job. We rode in this campy "safari" open top multi-seat jeep type vehicle, and it was perfect for picture taking. As it turns out, after two days of rain, this was the "best, picture postcard perfect" day to go on the sign tour. The rain clears out all the smog, and the skies are beautiful and clear afterward. We could see the ocean from atop the hill we climbed to view the sign. It was just beautiful up there. Surprisingly, there was a lake in that area, and a "doggy park." The doggy park was cool, a place for dogs to go and play with other dogs. It's just for the dogs. There are even little water fountains, close to the ground, that the dogs can drink out of. There were three or four very happy dogs running with abandon, and each other, there.

The Hollywood Tour took us around the city of Hollywood pointing out such things as the Capitol Records building, several of the movie studios, and other famous Hollywood landmarks. On both the Sign Tour and the Hollywood Tour, we met some nice people. On the Hollywood Tour, two black girls sat in the seat in front of us, and when the tour guide asked where everyone was from, they said, "North Carolina." I said, "No you're not! Where from exactly?" The one said, "Burgaw." I replied, "I'm from Jacksonville! Our schools played each other in sports in that area! The other girl was from Fayetteville.

For the Beverly Hills, two-hour tour, we had to change vehicles, and we got a new tour guide. This tour guide was a man, and he was a little awkward. He seemed uncomfortable with silence, yet didn't have something to say the entire time. We had to drive a ways, in traffic, to get out of Hollywood and into Beverly Hills before he really started the tour. He did do some commentary along the way, though. He really tried to be dramatic in his presentation, but it seemed a little too forced.

He really got into it, though, when we got up in Beverly Hills. He had made a (cassette) tape, and he would turn it on and off as he got to certain houses. For instance, when we got to a house that the original Tarzan (Johnny Weissmuller) used to own, he described the swimming pool that we could only see a portion of as we approached the house. Then he said, "Imagine now, Tarzan swinging from the trees in that yard, and dropping into the pool. Then he started the tape, which played an excerpt from a Tarzan movie with him doing the famous Tarzan yell. You then actually heard him, on the tape, drop into water. The driver started moving around the corner of the house then saying, "And imagine him starting to swim up that long narrow pool," and as we turned the corner we saw how the pool was built as a thin channel that was over 150 feet long. He seemed pretty pleased with himself and that campy tape. :-) He did a similar thing when we turned down the road that was used to film The Beverly Hillbillies when they first arrive in Beverly Hills, riding down that palm tree lined road. He started up the theme from the Beverly Hillbillies.

We saw some beautiful homes in the Beverly Hills, Holmsby Hills, and Bel-air neighborhoods. The highlight was Aaron Spelling's $175 million, 55-room house on 7 acres. Quite impressive. Other names that come to mind of peoples' houses we saw were: Peter Falk, Rosemary Clooney, the Ozbournes (now being aired in that show about their lives), Sylvester Stalone, John Travolta, The Reagan's, Brittany Spears, and Leonardo DiCaprio.

It got dark toward the end of the tour, and it finished up with a ride down Rodeo Drive, which started in a residential section of that street, and then moved into the famous part, with all the designers and couturiers.

When we got back to where we had picked up the tour, we walked up Beverly Blvd. back to the Mann's Chinese Theater. We wanted to see that area. The filming of "Swat" had closed down for the night, so nothing interesting on the way with regards to that. We stopped by our car, which was on the way, and Steve got his jacket. We stopped in a few souvenir shops on the way, and I bought a few more postcards.

The Mann's Theater was cool. I took a picture of a few of the star's stars (how redundant is that): Michael Jackson, Mickey Mouse, and Barbra Streisand. The inscriptions in the cement were cool. I bent down over Richard Gere's block, put my hand in his hand impression, and Steve took a picture of me. We ate at a California Kitchen in a mall in that area. I had the Thai Chicken Pizza. Yum. Yum!

We walked back to the car, and then stopped at Hard Rock Cafe Los Angeles, where Steve purchased some shirts for his nieces and nephew for Christmas.

Hard rocks...

We took Interstate 110W to 105W to the airport. On 105W, I was crossing from one of the left lanes over to one of the right ones, and all of a sudden this loud noise and shaking of the windshield happened, with a huge crack in the glass following. Steve and I were both stunned.

It really was much more of an impact than either of us imagined would happen with a rock bouncing into the windshield. We didn't see anything. The crack was circular and about the size of a large cantaloupe. Small slivers of glass were on the windshield, and one piece even landed down in the gearshift area on the floor between the seats. Shortly thereafter a crack extended from the circle straight up in a line to the top of the windshield. Bizarre.

We reached the Sheraton Four Points at LAX without further incident. Steve cleared out the car while I checked in. "Mr. Martin, we're out of the room you reserved, one room with two queen-size beds. Since you're a Preferred Starwood member, we've upgraded you to an executive suite. In fact, it's a double upgrade. You'll find a basket of fruit in the room. All that's complimentary."

We got the luggage from the car, went up to room 733, and found a room with two queen-size beds, and no bigger than any other room. The "fruit basket" turned out to be a little wicker basket the size you get your sandwich in at a fast-food place, and it contained a strawberry fruit bar (was that the fruit?), a bag of Planter's peanuts, a bag of Lay's potato chips, and a package of six Oreos.

The room did have a broadband Internet connection in it, though, so I immediately hopped on that. I called the front desk first to find out if it was free. (You would think it would be in my big, bad double upgrade room!) They said it was. Connecting, it asked me to enter my Starwood Points account number and password. I tried what I know it is (I verified in my Palm Pilot), and it didn't work. I called the front desk and asked if all I was supposed to do was enter that information. He said, "Yes. It's activated." I tried again and it failed again. There was a drop-down menu, which I clicked on, and the option other than "Starwood Registration" said "Charge to the Room." I selected that entry, and it let me on. The connection was half as fast (if that) as the 49KB connection I get at the hotel back in Irvine dialing in.

In the morning, under the door, was a bill for $9.95 for "Internet Usage." I had to go into "Mary mode" in the morning at the front desk. Ah, technology!

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