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by Lenny Hughes
Rollin' Down Imperial Highway-I Love L.A.!
I was singing Randy Newman's song all weekend.
Cruising in Thursday night over the galactic lights over Los Angeles was exhiliarating after a five-hour flight. Here it was, past rush-hour, and the streams of headlights on the highways looked like those medical films of corpuscles crowding along a patient's arteries.
I strained to see Disneyland or the Hollywood sign, but maybe I was on the wrong side of the plane. Still, you know it's all down there: Griffith Park, Warner Bros. "entertainment capital of the world," the white city hall on the "Dragnet" badge, La Brea Tar Pits, the L.A. River....
I think all those headlights were heading to LAX, the famed airport to the stars, because cars, cabs and buses never stopped jamming along the departure lanes, and their horns blared contantly. Made New York City look like Mayberry.
In all the excitement, it was so good to see those familiar faces-Ben and Frank at the Bus, and Lew and John when they drove in together from their flight. But it was a bittersweet reunion, because this was Jeff Costa's last hurrah. He's been Lew's sound guy for almost 10 years, and my predecessor on the Merch table-taught me everything I needed (and everything else I chose to ignore-hahaha)--and I was usually closer to him than anyone on the tour.
But flying to every gig gets tiring after a month-let alone 10 years-so it does seem like a good time for a change. Especially while he's still young enough to take advantage of it (I believe I'll be on the Road til I'm 95, which is about the time Lew will probably decide to retire). Besides, Jeff will get to spend more time with his beloved cat, and that's reason enough for me.
We spent the first night in Irvine, at a nice hotel ensnared by freeways and interstates. The first show was in Anaheim, after a traffic-snarled commute to the City Grove theater. "Grove"? It was an overgrown quonset hut smack in the middle of a vast asphalt parking lot, shared by the Anaheim Stadium, home to the California Angels.
But it turned out to be a very cool theater, and the traffic to the Merch table was as heavy as the stuff out on those freeways. It was a good night.
We didn't have time for a nice meet-n-greet, because we had to head north to Chico, California, that very night. I don't know how he does it (I don't want to know), but Frank fired up the Bus at midnight, and hauled our circus all night long, while the rest of us slept.
I rolled out at 8 the next morning, and everyone was up front watching the approach to Chico, as I serenaded them with the theme to "Chico and the Man."
The hotel was in a city of shopping malls and fast-food joints-all brand-names; no mom-and-pops, but Lew was thrilled to spot an In-N-Out Burger, and committed to having lunch there.
"This is probably a mistake," he said later that day as he hesitatingly ordered the double cheeseburger meal. But it was goooood. (He told me that night, "I went up to the room after that lunch and passed out.")
We chatted with Henry, a young fan with piercings, tatoos and a mohawk, who said he couldn't wait for the show tonight.
That was in the town proper. Very nice place. Two used bookstores, tons of local restaurants, older architecture, and the place was teeming with foot traffic and revellers.
One woman came to the Merch table and said, "The whole town is excited that Lewis is coming."
Another perfect day, as Randy Newman sang.
Too bad we couldn't hang around, but we had another late-night bus ride, further north, to rainy Medford, Oregon.
The Medford show, at the Craterian Theatre (also called the Ginger Rogers Theater), was another sellout, and big hoot. Despite the rain. Lewis told the crowd that it was Jeff's last show, a pretty choked-upping experience.
We all said our good-byes that night, and flew out of the tiny Medford Airport the next morning.
I had a stop-over at the San Francisco Airport where I took in their Japanese Toy Exhibit, including a genuine Ultra Man costume.
Lewis will be doing a couple of solo shows in California this month, then the tour resumes in April in Scranton, Pennsylvania, home of the Dunder Miflin Paper Company.
Hope to see you then!