Sunday, October 26, 2003

Welcome to Hell - L.A.

I flew out to Los Angeles this morning for the PDC. As I left, the region was experiencing quite a few fires out in the Ontario area, where I'd flown out of just a week before. Unlike that flight, however, this one was quite pleasant. There were a few families with children seated near me, but everyone was being nice, friendly, and chatty with one another.

When we were about an hour from LAX, the pilot let us know that the San Diego tracon, the ATC site that tracks where planes are in the air, had been evacuated because of new fires and that Southern California was pretty much closed down. We were pushing through anyway. As we were on our final approach, you could see about a dozen fires on either side of the plane, huge plumes of smoke rizing up into the general yellow haze. The cabin started to smell like fire, and not just because I was flying on American this time. Somehow, we managed to make it in half an hour early.

It was 95 degrees, with an orange-yellow hazy sky and a choking aroma of forest fire hanging in the air. Just add the palm trees and Los Angeles looked like a report from Iraq during the war. I find it interesting that California elects the Terminator, and a couple of weeks later Los Angeles looks like it's been nuked.

When I got to the hotel, I found out that dozens and dozens of flights had been cancelled already, with more to come. The conference floor was almost deserted when I went over to register. A couple thousand attendees were delayed in arriving for at least a day, and it seemed like flights from Seattle were hit the worst.

Kerry (our publisher) and I went to Mr. Chow in Beverly Hills for dinner. I got a bit turned around while driving out there, and ended up in the ass end of Rodeo Drive in South Central, trying to scoot around drug deals and cops and some really unpleasant-looking hookers who were just looking for a ride back to the Westin Bonaventure.

The dining crowd at Mr. Chow was separated into two groups - wannabe celebs and other wannabe celebs. Fred Durst was there with some non-Limp band. Bill Maher walked in with some arm candy, about 6" taller than he was (she was 5'4"). There was a man talking to a PI who looked like he REALLY needed the job. There was a porn baron with his lovely family. There was a table of elderly screenwriters. The food was pretty good too. Next time I make sweet and sour sauce, I need to remember to put white wine in it.

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