The Trip — Day 1
Today at 4pm I picked Stephen and Dylan up from LAX. They had flown together from Roanoke to Atlanta, and then Atlanta to Los Angeles. I found them curbside:
We made our way with the bags to the parking garage, and along the way ran into my friend Eleanor, a musician who was here with her band to play a festival in LA this weekend. A good omen, I thought.
Neither Stephen or Dylan have been to California before so I wanted to begin the trip dramatically: by driving up the Pacific Coast Highway to Venice. We crawled through traffic blasting music, finally making our way to Venice, the Pacific Ocean a flash at the end of a street.
We parked the car, took off our shoes and socks, and walked down to the beach. “We need to start this trip by putting our feet into the Pacific,” I explained. And so we did. Pants legs rolled up, dancing around in the waves, all of us shooting iPhone videos of each other shooting iPhone videos of each other.
"I was just in the Atlantic Ocean yesterday," Dylan said. We all agreed this was cool.
We made our way back to the car and kept driving north. I wanted to take them to Malibu, that stretch where the foothills, road, and ocean are one. We swung around curves, the road almost disappearing into the surf like the beach levels in “Super Mario Kart,” tires skidding along the sand and surf.
My friend Stacey had texted earlier in the day to invite us to the set of a movie she’s producing: “Wish I Was Here,” the new Zach Braff movie that was funded on Kickstarter. They were filming on the beach in Santa Monica. We turned around and headed that way.
We found them in a parking lot under tents. Stacey and Zach gave me big hugs, and I introduced them to Stephen and Dylan. Standing around were people who had backed the project for the reward of visiting the set. I introduced myself and amazingly two of the people had lived in Floyd, Virginia (a tiny town not far from where I grew up and Dylan and Stephen live), and knew Haden, my best friend since I was 15. The smallest of small worlds.
That night they were shooting a scene where Zach and Kate Hudson sat and talked on a lifeguard tower by the Santa Monica Pier. Behind them a ferris wheel and roller coaster flashed.
We stood in the director’s tent (Zach is also the director, so in the tent were Renetta, the script supervisor, Adam, Zach’s brother and the movie’s screenwriter, and Stacey, the producer) and watched the monitor while wearing headphones that carried the sound from the boom mic nearby.
The experience was amazing. It was an open mic, and we got to hear Zach directing Kate, and commenting on the shot. “It’s amazing when you picture something and then it’s actually like you imagined it,” he said. I knew exactly what he meant.
The sun fell fast, and soon it was freezing cold and we were three idiots in T-shirts and shorts. Before we knew it the crew brought us coats and someone gave Dylan a huge blanket that he wrapped himself in like an Afghani villager:
Dylan plans to be a filmmaker, and Stacey took the time to introduce him to members of the crew and explain what they all did. The key grip, first assistant director, gaffer, hair, makeup, the whole works. Dylan took it in with a big grin. Soon he was standing with another of the movie’s producers, a man named Michael who made “The Big Chill” and a bunch of other movies. They were sharing their love for “Lawrence of Arabia.” Michael was impressed that Dylan knew what it was.
It was getting late and the boys were hungry. Before leaving Kate Hudson wanted to say hi, so we stayed and talked with her and Zach for a while. I told them about the trip we were about to take, and it made them wistful for the roadtrips they’d taken before. Interminable drives through Texas. The amazingness of Sedona. Everyone wished us a safe journey.
The night ended with dinner at a place called Jones Cafe in West Hollywood, a crowded room of leather booths, loud music, and people making the scene. After our dinner I drove us along the Sunset Strip, the billboards, signs, and crowds lighting our way.