Assault on California

Updated June 11, 2005. Still incomplete, but log continues here

Time in country (excluding flight): 6 days, 1 hours
Miles driven: 2627
Spent on gas: $255.50
Spent on coffee: $32.77
New stores visited: 91
Coffee consumed: (91 - 28) * 4 = 252 oz coffee + 40 oz iced coffee + 4 oz French press + 5 solo + 11 DoubleShot + tall mint mocha chip Frappuccino
Encounters with police: 2

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

On top of all the things I had to worry about as the clock ticked down towards my flight, it looked like Jodi and I were breaking up, yet again, and perhaps for good this time. My talk wasn't until Friday night, and I was indeed nervous that I only had an estimate 30 minutes of material so far, but I think the knot in my stomach was more due to the Jodi situation. I thought back to my trip to Europe, and I wondered why things had to get difficult with her during these important trips. Was she doing it on purpose? Was she an agent sent by Starbucks to destroy me?

I suspect it was due to the hour, between 5:00 and 6:00 PM, right after the work day, that the security line at BWI was so long. I was a little relieved that the flight had not been at 10:40, like I originally thought, in which case I would have tried to watch as much of the season finale of Lost as possible before heading to the airport, and I probably would have missed my flight.

My discovery that my flight to LAX was scheduled for Wednesday night and would cause me to miss the 2-hour cliffhanger I'd been anticipating since I fell in love with the show (which was immediately) had caused me a great deal of anxiety that the news or radio, or an errant comment from a passerby, would spoil the cliffhanger for me. So I set about making plans and backup plans. Of course I had the VCR set back at the town house. And I had Bill bringing a tape with him on Thursday night, even though the hostel where were were staying had no VCR. I also posted a message to Craig's List asking to buy or rent a used VCR, to buy a DVD of the show, or to pay for someone to allow me to watch the show at her home. I also posted the same message to the Starbucks barista community on LiveJournal, just in case I had a fan on their who was willing to help me out in exchange for an autograph. Finally, someone suggested, what was probably my best plan, that I download the show. My friend Howard was almost certain someone would upload the show within 90 minutes, and so the only question was whether the download would go fast enough. Because of the three-hour time difference I'd be tired by the time I left LAX in the rental car, and I doubted I'd have to energy to sit at Kinko's for more than a couple of hours downloading the show. Oh, and two hours would be a fast download given the show would be twice as long, or about 88 minutes without commericals.

This was only the second time I had flown coast-to-coast, and my first direct flight. After dinner, I booted up my computer and saw that we still had 3 1/2 hours to go. At a length of more than five hours, I was going to be on that plane for almost as long as a flight to London. I was slightly surprised. Why had I imagined that one could fly from any two points in the continental U.S. in just a couple of hours?

The flight ended up being pretty uncomfortable. I worked on my talk until my lame-ass Dell battery ran out, and then I read more of Revenge of the Sith before trying to sleep. Didn't ever manage to doze off, which was regrettable, because even a little sleep could have helped me stay up later. One thing good about the flight was that I actually made use of the in-flight movies for once. By coincidence, they happened to be Sideways and In Good Company, films that I had missed parts of when I saw them at the theater. I arrived late for the former, and the latter I saw in two parts and did not synchronize the second part well and missed about 15 minutes.

We touched down early, by about five minutes. It was 9:14 when I noticed the time on the video screens as I left the gates. It was about 9:28 when the Enterprise shuttle arrived, and we were at the lot less than 10 minutes later. It was 9:46 when I left the parking lot, and even though I took an indirect route, I still made it to Centinela and La Brea before they closed at 10!!!

Once it was clear I was going to made it, a glow started to come over me, from being back in L.A. I love L.A.!!!

I walked in, arms raised, and proclaimed, "I made it!" I got my coffee, and a bonus to boot, for, oh, oh, oh! They had the T-Mizzie, must have been open for months. Checked my mail--did I get that torrent file for "Lost" from Howard? Nope, and in fact it had not been uploaded yet, so there was nothing I could do about Lost for the moment.

Indie 103.1, yeah, baby! Where else can you hear Napalm Death???

I called up a Starbucks barista, Idyl, who had e-mailed me her number and an offer of a place to stay. I hadn't heard from her in a while and chatted for a few minutes. Then I headed towards Gage and Compton. On the way, I realized that when I had been told a closing time of midnight, I had asked about Saturday. I called again to learn the lobby had already closed. Rats! I'd driven a few miles out of my way for nothing. I turned north on Western, pulled to the side, and wondered what to do? Drive to Bakersfield? Palmdale/Lancaster? Get some sleep right there? Continue trying to download Lost? I considered calling L back and driving to Pasadena, but I felt more like just sleeping where I was, so tired was I, and I wanted to be near the Kinko's to download Lost. Lost was paramount!!!

It occurred to me that if I wasn't in South Central L.A., I was nearby, and I decided it would be more prudent to drive over to the Kinko's and try to sleep there, in Culver City. Before pulling into the Kinko's I continued up Sepulveda to find some grub. I spotted a Pollo Loco, and then a cop that passed me in the opposite direction. The cop pulled a quick u-turn, and I wondered what the speed limit was. Without hesitation, I signaled and pulled into the Pollo Loco. I'll never know if he would have pulled me over otherwise, or if he had turned around for a different reason altogether.

I finally got an e-mail from Howard, with a link to the first part. I was torn. Work on my talk while I downloaded it, tired as I was, or get some sleep and try in the morning, even if it cut into some Starbucks. Or, drive to a location where I could park and still receive the Wi-Fi signal, but then there was the risk of getting hassled by these crazy California cops.

While downloading, a third option of which direction to head in. I was researching Spearmint Rhio, a local strip club chain where I hoped to get management to agree to let us film in the club. I stumbled upon a page of reviews of clubs out in City of Industry, and I discovered that a newly opened branch of Deja Vu out there offered lap dances for $10!!! That's an unheard of price in Southern California. I think the reviewer wrote something like, "run, do not walk, to [the club]" before the prices changed. And I wanted to believe me. The kind of freaky these California dancers got just couldn't be had up in the Northeast or Mid-Atlantic, at least not under ordinary circumstances. The club closed at 3:00, was only 30 miles away, and I'd still have an hour to spare after my download. But I also had this haze in my thought process from fatigue, and I decided it just wasn't going to happen that night, no matter how low the price.

Nearly two hours later, my download was at 77%, and I wanted to stick it out, but it was past 4:00 AM on the East Coast, and I needed to sleep. I pulled the car between two vans towards the back of the lot and was undisturbed through the night. Like I had discovered two weeks earlier in a rental car in Orlando, if I pulled the drivers seat up all the way I could stretch out by putting my feet on the front door handle. It wasn't as comfortable as my Civic, but, in no small part because the weather was mercifully cool, I slepted well enough. I was glad I'd thought to stuff a light blanket into my duffel bag, but I needed to find a cheap pillow--I used the bag, but it was far from comfortable.

May 26

I didn't sleep nearly enough, however. And this despite the fact that by 6:00 AM, the sky was overcast. I could have slept for another few hours, I figured, but when I returned to the car after a finding a suitable whiz dumpster not being scavenged by a homeless person, I couldn't fall back asleep. Thankfully, I had the power of caffeine on my side. After a few Starbucks that morning, I'd be okay.

First I went back into Kinko's to download some more of the show while I checked my mail and figure out where to go next. I faced a dilemma, because I needed to leave a large enough cluster of stores in LA County, Orange County, Riverside County, and San Bernardino county that I would able to visit 30+ on Saturday. I also wanted to be in El Cajon (outside San Diego) on Friday morning at 5:00 AM to be the first customer when the store opened for the first time. But there were only nine other new stores for me to visit down that way, which meant I needed to visit around 10 other stores somewhere to meet my goal of 130 for the six days. But where?

Meanwhile, an older lady went up to one of the desks behind me, seemingly normal at first. Then she went up to the counter and started telling the poor attendant a story about how she was trying to file a restraining order against some agency cutting her power and following her around, or something like that. She mentioned Judge Judy, and I started to get suspicious. I looked behind me, and, sure enough, a little wheel-cart with a box and other belongings. A homeless person, and a little wacky based on the snippets of conversation I heard, like how they had put her to sleep with gas and taken her DNA, how Bill Gates is dating Sharon Stone, how she (the lady) has a trust account with millions, etc. She continued to talk as the attendant went back about his business, and so did a customer, who would occasionally say "I don't think so" in respond to some absurdity. She eventually returned back to the computer section, and I hoped she wouldn't start talking to me.

With the download up to 88% at 6:50, I started to worry about traffic and decided I need to get a move on. Too late. I-405 north was already heavy, but I hoped it would clear once we cleared L.A. and reached the point of moving outbound. It did.

Fuck! This Neon handles like a brick, especially with one or zero hands on the wheel. And the suspension sucks ass too. It's hard to keep my laptop from bouncing up and down on my lap.

My first destination was Simi Valley, not on the route planned for the Big Day. From the 405 I headed west on 118, and I was surprised to see heavy traffic. That direction seemed outbound to me. Didn't make sense.

7:28, I'd been awake for almost 90 minutes, and I started to feel the haze, and pressure in my forehead. I needed that first coffee of the morning real bad.

Sycamore & Cochran had both T-Mobile and a morning rush line, allowing me to get some more downloading done. A customer at the condiment bar told me of a bagel shop across the street, Bagel Works. With a CHP patrol car outside, I decided it was safe to leave the laptop there while I sprinted across the seven lanes of traffic. Bagel Works did not fry the egg the way I like, but the girl behind the counter was really cute. Back across the street, my download had hardly moved. Now that everybody had woken up and started downloading one of the most popular shows of the season, the last 10% could take forever. I regretted not having stuck it out the night before, when downloading was quicker.

I crossed the street to take a photo. An older bearded man passed behind me, and it sounded like he was saying "cabrones" as he called out to a group of Hispanic-looking guys in a small car at the light. Racial tension in SoCal, perhaps?

While continuing to download, I decided that getting the second hour was going to be impossible, and I set about trying to find a motel with a VCR. After calling five, it looked like it was going to be impossible. When I complained to one guy, he asked if motels had ever had VCRs. I seem to remember being in at least one motel with a VCR in the past 8 years.

Meanwhile, skimpily clad honeys continued to stream in and out of the store, and from where I was sitting I good views aplenty.

Next was another new store, just a mile away, in Simi Valley, and then a slow, winding drive through hills to Fillmore, where the manager was exceptionally nice and exceptionally cute!

I finished at the new Santa Clarita store around 10:45, and as I got on the freeway I decided it was time to lose the shirt. I drove all the way to the Antelope Valley (Palmdale and Lancaster) before I remembered that the rental car had air conditioning!

At the new Palmdale store, I was recognized by the shift supervisor sitting outside from a visit to a Valencia store. Then outside, while taking a photo, a partner arriving for her shift had seen me on the Food Network and said she had been fascinated.

As I drove from Palmdale to Lancaster, I noticed something freaky. The avenues were designated alphabetically--that's normal. But in between the major roads were smaller streets with names like Avenue K-8 or Avenue L-15, numbered sequentially. That's really strange--never seen it before.

After visiting the two Lancaster stores, I grabbed some vittles and set off for Bakersfield, 86 miles away. That was time enough to watch the first hour of Lost, so... son of a bitch!!! It was the wrong episode!!! The previous weeks! Man, I gave two hours of sleep and the possibility of visiting several more Starbucks for nothing!!!

But finally, like Quin-gon said, a solution presented itself. I'd watch it at L's apartment that night, and finally get to meet her. Unfortunately, I wouldn't be able to make much use of her offer to stay the night, because I'd have leave around 2:00 AM to reach El Cajon by 4:30 at the latest. Crap, I was going to be soooo tired!!!

Oh, well, that plan had to be scratched. When I called Bill to confirm what time he'd be arriving at LAX, it wasn't 'til past 11:00. I figured he wouldn't hit Altadena 'til 12:30 or 1:00,

It took me longer than I expected to get through the six new Bakersfield stores, including a stop at a comic book shop, and then updating my and getting numbers of massage places I could call during the drive down. But I made much better than than I imagined down 99 and I-5 back to L.A. Traffic moved 90+ most of the time, or even faster. I remember that for the first 10-20 miles or so, I was going 90 and then 95 and only barely catching up to the cars ahead of me!

Two more stores, and then I had to stop with that area lest I cut into my big day. The second, in Eagle Rock, happened to be just up the street from a cluster of Asian massage places. I needed a break, so I gave one a try. Decent, but not great.

Finally I had a chance to drop by Deja Vu and try those $10 lap dances. It was amazing, what I got for $10 compared to the mediocrity to be head back East for $20 or more. Had I not been so tired, I would have stayed longer with a dancer who kinda looked like Ashley Olsen in the dark. She'd never gotten that comparison before--Mariah Carey instead. Why does every girl who is white/black mixed get compared with Mariah??? Anyway, I forced myself away before I had too much fun and went off in search of vittles.

Once again it was El Pollo Loco, and when I left I discovered two things that dismayed me. One, she gave me pinto beans instead of black. Two, I went through the drive through again, forgetting to go inside and see if they had eliminated that stupid spokesperson, El Caliente, that I hated so much.

I started my drive down to El Cajon, and at first it seemed that my detours might have ruined my plan to be the first customer, because it started to get difficult to maintain consciousness. Bill had arrived at the airport, and we had planned to get a double room down near the store. I called him back and told him I wasn't gonna make it, that I was going to have to pull into a rest area and sleep for a couple of hours. But I didn't see one. Ten miles passed, then another ten, and I looked like there wasn't going to be one. So I resorted to the "nuclear option", the porn on my computer. Some people my think sorting through nudie pics while driving 90 MPH is a dangerous activity, but I'm certain that in this case, the pics saved my life by keeping my mind active and my blood flowing.

May 27

Around 4:00 AM I woke up and drove up to the Starbucks. No cars there yet, except Bill's, towards the back of the lot. I parked nearby and reset my alarm for 4:33. Around 4:25 I woke and saw one car near the store, presumably a partner, and another pulling up. I quickly changed, parked in front of the store, and took my position just in case it was a customer. 15 minutes later, a customer actually did show up, with half a thought of being the 1st. Too late, sucka!!!

After buying a DoubleShot from the store a few minutes past 5:00, I promptly went back to the car to sleep. At 7:00 I awoke and went into the score for a scone, hoping some food would help me sleep 'til 8:00. No luck. Around 7:30 I decided that I might as well get a move on.

At the next store, the manager remembered me, but I drew a complete blank. What is happening to my memory???

Outside, I got the call from that station in Pullman/Moscow. They had me on the air for a good long time while Bill filmed.

AARRGHH!!! Bill hit my car!!! I had to do a hard stop at a right turn, and he tapped me. Barely visible scuff and impression of the bolt from his license plate screw. I hoped Enterprise wouldn't notice.

Things went a little sour at the next store, because of fucking busybody. I waited in the car before going inside to finish listening to a Kelly Clarkson song, and Bill came over with the camera and started asking me questions. Some heavyset (and probably insecure, thus the busybody thing) lady passed by. When I went inside, I headed straight to the bathroom to wash out a couple of cups, and I overheard her her describing what she had seen, the questions and my answers, to the baristas. Of course that was going to put them in a suspicious mindset. I don't like being regarded with suspicion, so I didn't even want to explain my project. I just got a DoubleShot and went on my way, cursing that bitch as I left. Granted, I was probably a little cranky for my level of fatigue.

After a couple more stores, I backtracked a few miles to the Hillcrest neighborhood, for an appointment with the first message therapist that had returned my message. Bill started to follow me up to the door with his camera, but I had to stop him. Later I explained that if the therapist happened to be looking out a window for me and saw the camera, she might become wary and suspicious, and I might end up wasting $80 for lack of any positive energy. Heck, if she was a therapist that offered more than just massage, she might even cancel the appointment for fear of ending up on the nightly news.

The massage was good, but I never managed to doze off like I had hoped. Additionally, between arriving later than expecting and getting started a little late because I had forgotten my money, I figure I lost 45 minutes more than I expected. This put our schedule in danger, and I had to alter the plan. I decided that after the final two stores in San Diego, Bill would head straight up to the hotel so he could shower, leaving me free to visit the two new Escondido-area stores more quickly and then speed like demon without putting Bill at risk of a ticket.

Except for a wrong turn and Bill's taking a sabbatical in the bathroom, the next one went quickly. But then at Regent and La Jolla Village everything went wrong. I popped into Einstein Bros. first for some much-needed footstuffs. When I got back out to the car, I promptly spilled my orange juice. I went back for some more and had to wait for a lady who had fallen right in the doorway. She seemed a little loopy. Then, when leaving the parking lot, the attendant wanted to charge me even though there was no sign saying there was a charge for parking. He must have sensed that I was about to go off on him, so he let me go. But maybe due to the distraction, I forgot to take the photo, and I lost at least 15 minutes pulling a u-turn at the freeway to go back.

I should have expected it, but it still surprised and frustrated me, how bad the traffic was up to Escondido. Kwiller, just kwiller. And it wasn't even the rush hour yet. I was already hearing on the radio of heavy traffic up in Orange County. I called Bill, and he said the delay only lasted about 20 minutes. It did clear, but then slowed down again. Ah, a collision already moved to the shoulder. Why, why, why can't rubbernecking be a capital crime???

I figured a 15 minute detour to the Escondido stores wouldn't make a difference given the overall distance and expected delays. Actually took 30 minutes, though. But what really got me was a major screwup. I guess it was out of habit, because most of the new stores in SoCal go up along I-405, that I exited I-5. Big, big mistake, and I probably lost 30-60 minutes stuck on that horrid, horrid freeway. And it was totally unnecessary--I-5 was the better route!

At least I had Jack FM to keep me company.

After all the delays, I was only about 20 minutes late for dinner with Mike and Al and Bill, so it didn't turn out too bad. A place called Pascucci, in downtown Santa Barbara. I ordered my usual, spaghetti and meatballs, but what I was served was most unusual. The meatballs were very small, the size of grapes. I could not remember ever having seen meatballs that small, and I wondered how rare or widespread the practice is.

I surprised Bill by breaking with tradition and putting on the new movie t-shirt he had made up, even though I didn't like the photo he chose because I look stupid in it.

I left dinner first to ensure I could sprint down to a new Starbucks conveniently located a couple of blocks down State Street, and then stop at a relatively new Goleta store roughly in the direction of the Francisco Torres residence hall that was the venue for my talk. Before I went inside, I popped some preemptive pain pills and a vitamin tablet, and I grabbed all my deferred DoubleShots, figuring I might need a few to get me through. It took me a few minutes of circling to find the parking lot, and I arrived a few minutes late, but Mike was still fiddling with the A/V equipment, so I had time to settle down, and even for Al the coordinator to print me out a copy of what I had written.

I had been expecting a podium, but instead I had to hold the printed pages in my hand. An outline on notecards would have been much better. As a result, I deviated from my outline fairly quickly, and I ended up jumping around one students started asking questions. When a group of three or four girls got up and left early on, and I thought to myself, "crap, I'm losing them". But most of the student stuck around 'til the end. For a first time, I don't think it went horrible, though at least half-a-dozen improvements occurred to me during and immediately after the speech: notecards; more maps, photos, and other visuals (timelines, statistics), and a PowerPoint presentation to organize them; playing the music I reference; starting off by asking who knows about these places I've been to; focusing each section with a thesis, not just facts.

Mike said I could have spoken longer, but I really couldn't have, because not a minute after we finished cleaning up and I finished planning the start of the Big Day, with Bill, my bowels gave the signal that they were about to explode and "restore balance to the Force", if you will. I'd had two DoubleShots during the talk, and it was time to deal with the consequences.

I drove down to Ventura and parked on a residential street across from the shopping center where a new store was located. During the night, when I got out to kiwi, I spotted a cop rolling through the shopping center with his bright light, and I was glad I'd not parked on the property.

May 28

The Big Day


trip meter 923

5:30, Telephone & Portola, Ventura

$2.29 gas, 43 cents cheaper than Goleta

6:00, Saviers & Channel Islands, Oxnard, 933.7, COULD HAVE BEEN THE 1st CUSTOMER!!!, #2 b/c I stopped 4 gas

6:26, Newbury & Kelly, Newbury Park, 953.1

Stopped at Vons for apple, banana, yogurt, donut, and 2 power bars. As I walked around I felt queasy and flush and became a little worried--it was still really early and I had a long day and a lot of coffee to consume.

Ate the yogurt on the drive towards L.A., felt better.

Called Bill to wake him up and have him meet me in Huntington Park. Figured he wasn't going to make it.

On the 101 south, doing 90, Silver Carrera passes at 100 MPH+. I tried to follow, but the Neon handled too poorly on the curvy 101 for me to keep up.

7:27, Gage & Compton, Huntington Park, 1006, South Central L.A.

sample cake from Starbucks

Found $10 bill

Called Bill to see where he was, and he had just left Venice Beach and gotten on I-10, so I had him meet me in Alhambra instead.

1 whiz, output 5.5

While leaping up to a stone ledge to take the photo, I ripped my jeans on one side from the crotch to just midway down my thigh. I asked a CHP sitting in the parking lot about an outlet mall, and he said there was one at Del Amo, but it was out of my way, and it was too early for mall stores to be open anyway.

An NPR report on Henry Fonda clued me into the fact that Tom Joad is a character from The Grapes of Wrath. I wondered how the Springsteen album related, and I decided I need to read the novel, watch the Fonda movie, and listen to the album.

I noticed that my allergies weren't bothering me at all. A few days later, when I returned to Maryland, my nose got stuff up within minutes, and I longed to get myself a job out in California, Arizona, New Mexico, or even (gasp) Nevada.

8:07, Fremont Ave & Mission Rd, 1017.2

input 16 oz coffee, 6 oz water, 2 whiz output 9 oz, total 14.5, 3 whiz output 8 oz, total 22.5

1st hint of a headache

donut While I waited for Bill, Jodi called--amazing. After 5-10 minutes, Bill arrived, and our next step was to figure out what to do with his rental car, which was included in his flight package from Nebraska through Hotwired. The car made things easier early on, because I didn't have to detour to LAX before heading down to San Diego, and because I was able to visit those Escondido stores while he went on to the hostel and then Santa Barbara. But on the Big Day, it would mean an inevitable detour no matter where we left the car. A nearby residental street seemed just as good as any, but I noticed a sign prohibiting parking between 2:00 AM and 6:00 AM, which ruled out heading straight to Vegas. I considered convoluted plans like having Bill leave the key with Lidi and having her move it, but it just seemed to complicated to deal with, and I was already going to lose time finding new jeans. The tear was big enough that I was feeling downright drafty.

9:09, Valley & Garvey, El Monte, 1026

9:33, Beverly & Norwalk, Whittier, 1033

4 whiz output 8, total 30.5

9:53, Washington & Lambert, Whittier, 1035.9

I got amazingly lucky at Washington & Lambert as we pulled up to find an empty parking lot. I hurried frantically to get the shots I wanted before we went inside. But after the hurrying came the waiting, because the manager wanted to be on my web site. I had to oblige, despite the rush of the Big Day. As we waited, the parking spaces in front of the store slowly filled up. I marveled at my good fortune, to have arrived just in time for a good photo.

While online, I had found a page listing Levi's Outlet stores, and one at Ontario Mills. From Whittier we made the jump to lightspeed on I-10 and sped east, all the way to Ontario. After visiting one store just west of the mall, I went to buy my jeans. I tried to reduce the delay by sprinting from the parking lot into the mall, leaving Bill behind. I hoped he would find his way to the Levi's Outlet, and that our paths would intersect. After buying the 501s, I went into the changing room and put them on. As I left the store, I full expected Bill to have caught up with me, be he was nowhere to be seen. I retraced my route and looked around as I crossed through the Virgin Megastore--still no Bill. I went over to the mall directory to ponder a course of action, and then I spotted him. Whew! I had had visions of losing an hour in the mall trying to find each other.

10:54, Archibald & Inland Empire, 1071.7

16 oz water total, 5 whiz output 12, 42.5

11:54, Victoria Gardens, Rancho Cucamonga, 1079.3

At the Victoria Gardens store, this amazingly cute girl was blazing a new trail in fashion by wearing on her arm a pink band-aid matching her top. Had she injured her arm? No... her tummy, actually. But a friend had told her the band-aid on her bare midriff didn't look good, so she moved it to her arm instead. Brilliant. I tried to make conversation, but my witty remarks were just sailing over her head, and I lost her. She walked out, and I eagerly followed her shaking and jiggling as far as I could until she ducked into a store. I hoped Bill had gotten some good footage of her!

12:20, #10 Summit & I-15, Fontana, 1085.3

After Fontana, I had to change my plan to visit the new San Bernardino store because of heavy traffic on I-15 north. I wondered if it was people driving up to Vegas, but regardless I wasn't about to waste time sitting in traffic when there were plenty of stores to be had back west.

12:39, Campus & 19th, Upland, 1095.5

Pissed off a couple of guys who didn't appreciate where I left my car while I photographed the Upland store. The relayed their dissatisfaction to Bill, who relayed it to me.

24 oz water total, 6 whiz output 10, 52.5

1:15, Bonita & San Dimas, San Dimas, 1106.5

HUNGRY!!! It was Pollo Loco for the third time in four days, as we found one conveniently located near the new La Verne store. I was becoming a Pollo Loco fiend!

1:52, Foothill & D Street, La Verne, 1110.9, solo

2:19, Indian Hill & I-10, Claremont, 1115.5, solo

12 oz Coke, 7 whiz output 10, 62.5

2:51, Citrus & College, Covina, 1126.8

3:14, Arrow Hwy & 4th, Irwindale, 1131

3:55, Firestone & Pioneer, Norwalk, 1150.4

32 oz water total + 12 Coke, 8 whiz output 10, 72.5

4:30, Del Amo & Pioneer, Cerritos, 1155.2, iced

While I waited for the light to change so I could take a photo of the new Cerritos store, some punk kids in a car started leering at me. I wondered if I might be forced to put the smack down, but then my photo rang. It was Frank from the OvernightScape, over 30 minutes late for our interview. I had to shoot one handed, then rush across the street and through the store to the other side where it was quieter. No Julie this time, and Bill got his two cents in.

5:20, Orangethorpe & Brookhurst,Fullerton, 1165.2

9 whiz output 14, 76.5

5:40, Imperial & Harbor, Fullerton, 1171.4, iced

6:11, Valencia & Imperial, Brea, 1176.4, solo

13 oz Schlotzky's beef vegetable soup

10 whiz output 14, 90.5

6:27, Yorba Linda & Bradford, Fullerton, 1178.6,

43 oz water total

6:55, Chapman & The City Drive, Orange, 1187.4, iced

7:15, 17th & Grand, Santa Ana, 1191.3, iced

7:30, Bristol & Memory Lane, Santa Ana, 1194.1, iced

7:51, Haster & Garden Grove Blvd., Garden, 1199.2, iced

The itching began. It had happened on several occasions in the past, that consuming large quantities of caffeine caused me to itch. I scratched and rubbed my arms, and Bill said I looked like a meth addict.

40 oz water total + 12 Coke + 13 soup, 11 whiz output 16, 88.5

I felt nauseated and bloated, like I was going to throw up. I wasn't sure if the weak donut I'd bought down the street helped or hurt. I felt like I was this close to hurling. I sat at the store for a good 10-15 minutes trying to steel myself before I downed the sample coffee. Outside in the car, I started squirming in my seat and rubbing myself all over. Bill said I ended up in something of a fetal position, and that the two guys in the next car were staring.

8:20, Beach & Westminster, 1205.9, iced

12 whiz output 10, 98.5

8:53, Warner & Beach, Huntington Beach, 1209.3, iced

feeling a little better, #28 ties the record

9:24, Alton & Culver, Irvine, 1221.1, iced, #29, BREAKS RECORD!!!

I was feeling better, and I could have gone for #30, but it would have been further to the south, and in an area I'd have to revisit to pick up the stores that had closed earlier, like 8:30, 9:00, 9:30. 29 was fine with me, and so I sped back up I-5, as fast as traffic would allow, 40 miles back to Alhambra and Bill's car.

Final input (before sleep) + 9 water, output + 19.5

Near the neighborhood where we had stashed the car was an industrial area. I pulled into one lot, but while I hid next to a dumpster to make some measurements someone came out of the door and I scooted away. Down another street I pulled into another lot, a very dark one, so dark that I didn't notice the cop car sitting there until I had already pulled in. As soon as I was back out on the street his lights were on. I explained that I just needed a place to sleep, and that I couldn't see if there were any signs prohibiting parking until I was actually in the lot. He seemed more concerned with promoting local motels, because he suggested several times that I found one. When I told him my car was free, he said that no, it wasn't , because parking was prohibited from 2:00-6:00 AM on any street in Alhambra without a permit. I told him I'd just drive outside the city limits, and that was fine with him.

During the night + 33 output, +34 water input

I was so exhausted that I actually fell asleep, even with the light in my face. I had to drink lots and lots of water to replace all the output I was producing, and even still I could barely keep myself hydrated enough to avoid a headache. The caffeine also played with my mind, and around 3:30 I woke and lifted my head, which put the beam from the street light right in my face. In my half-asleep and altered state, I thought a cop or someone was shining a flashlight in my eyes and half freaked out. It took me a goodly number of seconds to realize what was going on.

I had trouble getting back to sleep, and I was running out of water, so I started driving and found a 7-11. I felt that a restroom would soon become critical, but the 7-11 had none, so I drove east aways. I stopped at a Chevron in Pomona, and it had a working bathroom. I probably made the attendant wonder because of how much time I spent in their, twice--I had to go back.

I finished up my sleep in an parking lot now being used to display used cars, for a few hours.

May 29

When it became hard to sleep again I headed down to Corona. I called Bill and woke him up and told him to call me when he was on the way to the Ontario airport. I figured he'd stay in bed a while and take his time checking out, which would give me time to visit several Starbucks. I only got to three though. I spent some time at the first shaving and washing, and then I lost more time in Riverside dealing with network problems trying to upload photos.

My father called while I was on the way to the Ontario airport to ask for the URL to Bill's site so he could see the second trailer. I wondered what he would think of the sexy nature of that first scene, and I wished that Bill had put it towards the back and made it shorter, taken away some of the emphasis.

I picked up Bill at the airport, where he left his car, and we headed north on I-15. First stop was Hesperia, and after visiting the Starbucks a couple of cute girls caught up with us outside and seemed very curious about my project. Excellent--the more cute girl footage, the better.

Next stop was breakfast, and though a Burger King breakfast biscuit is not the best, nor the healthiest, I had not had one in a long time and had a craving. But, but, but... it was after 11:00 AM!!! D'oh!!! No biscuit for you!!! On the way back to the highway we passed all of zero bagel shops, I guess that's not Hesperia's thing, but we did stop at a market with bagels on the sign. But inside--NO BAGELS!!! I abandoned thoughts of breakfast and went for some nasty-ass Popeye's.

Popeye's was about to screw me by not providing a spoon for my beans and rice, but I remembered to ask. But somewhere between the store and the car the spoon disappeared, and I had to get creative. This was made trickier by the fact that I was trying to drive 80+ MPH, and later by the presence of some type of patrol car behind us which meant I couldn't weave across the road with my usual aplomb. I first tried the container's lid, but that was too awkward. So I hit upon another solution that Bill found just too amusing, using my Starbucks card as a spoon. Worked well enough, but my creativity ended up costing me. At the next stop I forgot about the car and threw it away with the trash. Probably had close to $10 on it. Crap.

Traffic continued smoothly and we made good time to Vegas and arrived at the Starbucks where Karl was meeting us just as he pulled up. I was pleased to learn that the magazine, Coffee Magazine, was supposed to have a national presence and be available in places like Barnes & Noble and Borders. I hoped that it would be a success, and good publicity for the movie.

We sped from Starbucks to Starbucks--I introduced myself at some and got a shot when I didn't feel like talking.

I pulled out of a Starbucks while Bill filmed, and then he started cracking up. I heard a scraping sound. I traveled to the other end of the parking lot and pulled into a space and looked behind the car. There was some bumper-looking thing hanging there! Did it come from the Neon? I hoped not, because Enterprise would surely charge me. Yes, I'd kept pulling forward too closely when parking and kept scraping the front, but could I really had ripped it off? Or was it already on the ground there? Or was Bill playing a little jokey-joke on me. Hmmm...

From that store, I screwed up. I traveled south to Tropicana before I realized I had not verified that the Fashion Show Mall was plotted correctly, which it wasn't. I went two major streets too far, and I ended up stuck in heavy Memorial Day and in general Las Vegas strip traffic. Many of the new stores closed at 8:00, and it looked like I would not be able to visit them all. To make matters worse, Bill's flight was at noon, meaning he needed to be at the airport at 10:00, and down in the L.A. area sooner rather than later in case traffic inbound was still heavy despite the holiday. Oh, and I was craving Cuban food, and the Cuban restaurant closed at 10:00. Dilemma!!!

I abandoned the Fashion Show Mall store and sped to the ones that closed at 8:00 and 8:30. At the Chinatown store, I raced in and out of there so frenetically that the barista actually suggested I switch to decaf. Hah! Little did she know.

A couple of stores later I realized I had failed to solve this iteration of the traveling salesman problem. I had chosen the wrong route, and I risked missed one or two stores besides Fashion Show. On the way to the new North Las Vegas store I had my choice of exits off I-15, and I picked the wrong one. Street closed due to construction. AARRGH!!! Back on the freeway to the next exit, and speeding even faster. On the way back south we got a good view of the nighttime Vegas lights. Bill was into them, but I was more focused on getting to those two final stores (excluding Fashion Show Mall). We made it with minutes to spare.

Then we ran into another glitch when the Neon's trunk refused to close. After several attempts and jiggling with the latch, I got on the phone with Enterprise about swapping out the car. Meanwhile, Bill did something with a pen, and he got the trunk to close. I still thought about a swap-out, because I worried that it wouldn't shut the next time around. Bill thought it would take too long, and finally I agreed.

Next stop, dinner at the Florida Cafe, a Cuban place I had spotted on a billboard. A TV played music videos, and I got to hear J-Lo's new song. Yay! Bill and I debated which we wanted her to do more--stop singing or stop acting.

The next stop on my list was to do a scientific assessment of how Treasures in Las Vegas compared to the Houston operation. Karl, who used to manage those type of places, said it was no good, and nothing like Houston, but I felt determined to find out for myself--all in the name of science. Unfortunately, the girl on the phone gave me incomplete information. She said cover was free for customers who drove themselves, but she neglected to mention it was only up 'til 8:00. My dedication to science didn't extend to paying a $20 cover, and the pressure in my bowels was subsiding, so we left.

Finally both Bill and I wanted to check out the new Wynn Hotel and Casino. Unfortunately, the self-park lots were full, there was a long wait for valet parking, and traffic in the area was so crazy that even if there was street parking somewhere it would take us a long time to find. We decided we could wait to see the Wynn, and after a stop for gas, we were on the road back to Cali.

Bill was in better shape than me, and I decided that it wouldn't be a corruption of my project to let him take the wheel. After all, if he hadn't been with me, I would have simply pulled over somewhere and slept.

I leaned the seat back and tried to sleep, but I had to grab a blanket because my side of the car seemed awful chilly. I couldn't figure out why, even though there was a whistling sound coming from the door, and no matter how hard to shut it the sound wouldn't go away. Bill thought it was hilarious.

Besides sleep, another good thing about giving over the wheel was that I got to look at the stars above that were brightly visible out in the middle of the desert, just as they were invisible in L.A. because of the light pollution.

As we approached the I-215 split I woke up and asked Bill how he was doing. I was feeling fine, and I still had DoubleShots to drink, so I took over the wheel and drove us in to the airport. Bill went on his way, and I headed back to that bathroom in Pomona that was becoming my second home. By the time I got to sleep, it was nearly 5:00.

May 30

A little after 8:00 I noticed the sun starting to peek out. I flipped myself around in the car, but soon I could feel the sun on my pajama pants. Despite my accumulated fatigue, I couldn't fall back asleep, so I headed to San Bernardino. During the 31 mile drive the hint of the headache I had began to get stronger, prompting two more pills for a total of 16 over the 4 1/2 days.

There was a BK next to the Starbucks and Mobil, and I finally got my breakfast biscuit. I hoped the food would help my headache, so I started eating right away, even while walking up to the store, and then I did something that, to the best of my knowledge, I had never done in my life, something I actually consider a little gross.

Whoa, big horsefly.

Had a good long chat with the partners in San Bernardino, but that was okay because I wanted to ease myself into the day's stores and avoid worsening my headache.

I headed east, first to Redlands and then Beaumont. On the way back out to the interstate I finally figured out what the whistling noise was coming from the rear passenger-side door. It had been driving me crazy as I tried to sleep the previous night while Bill drove, then all morning. It wasn't the door. It was the window, not quite shut. The window that I had assumed didn't open. Despite their being a handle righ there in plain sight. It would have been obvious to anyone thinking straight, which I clearly had not been.

Bill had been laughing like a maniac while I complained about the noise, the chill, and the general crappiness of the Neon I was driving. He had also been laughing as I backed out of a Las Vegas Starbucks with some bumper under my car. Add to that my missing headphones and my missing toothbrush, and I had to wonder if he wasn't getting me back for the April Fool's gag I pulled on him.

After Beaumont, I took the opportunity of having available time plus the need to ease up on the caffeine to make the 50-mile detour to the store in Yucca Valley that had been open for a few years.

On the way back, I pick up an older lady who needs a ride down to Desert Hot Springs. She said she only needed a ride to the edge of town and would catch a ride the rest of the way, but when we get there she keeps saying "it's not far" "it's not far", and I ended up going out of my way. On top of that, she keeps taking swigs of King Cobra, and only later, based on her nervous reaction to a state trooper, does she reveal that it's illegal for even the passenger to have an open container.

I figure out that if I head all the way east, to the Indio store first, and then work my way back, I don't really have to backtrack. On the way I have to play cat and mouse with a carful of Arizonian skanks in a beat-up hooptie. I saw the car weave over into my lane shortly after getting on I-10, and I didn't want them anywhere near me so I could concentrate on labeling my photos from the previous day.

At Indio, as I'm setting up a shot of the store, a truck filled with gangbanger-looking types drives by, and one of them yellows out "don't take a picture of me or I'll fuck you up". I suspect yelling back would have been ill-advised, but the truck was gone just as quickly. Then I got back in my car, and a fly was buzzing around.

At the new Rancho Mirage store, I came under the spell of an Amazon, standing in line ahead of me. I kept looking down at her feet, to see if her footwear accounted for her height, but she wore sandals. And I looked straight at here, trying to convince myself that she was not, in fact taller than me, but of course I knew she was. I resisted the urge to ask her just how tall she was, figuring she got that question a lot. I did not, however, even attempt to resist the urge to imagine what those legs that went on forever looked like under those jeans.

At the entrance of the shopping center where the new Palm Springs store is, a woman sat on the curb asking for money. She was heavyset. Later, a cop passed through the lot, and the woman disappeared. While I waited for a silver car to get out of the way of my shot, the woman walked passed, and I heard her shout, "I just don't like cops." I could relate.

A local free paper had contained an ad for a massage place not too far from that Palm Springs store. I didn't need a massage, but I did need a shower. I wanted to drop by The Vu again, and after five days of merely washing in the bathroom, I was afraid that the dancers would find me radioactive. A shower was also a necessity before my flight, lest the passengers on either side of me pass out or complain.

The massage went on my list of one of the worst. The lady answered her phone, made a call, left the room for a few minutes to answer the doorbell, and not only did she not tack on a few minutes to my time, she cut the massage short. Besides how good it felt to shower, the only redeeming factor was that she was wise enough not to ask for a tip.

The massage place was on a road named Indian Canyon, and from ther I thought I could get on I-10, but I was wrong, and I had to wander a round a bit. I wasn't the only one. Gassing up was also a difficulty--at the AM/PM (which doesn't take credit and charges extra for debit) the bill acceptor was broken, and I didn't feel like putting on my shirt to go inside. I was willing to pay 16 more per gallon across the street, but the pay-at-the-pump was broken. So I made for the freeway, figuring there would be gas there, if a bit more expensive. Gene Autry Trail got me to I-10, but there was strangeness on the way, in the form of shifting/drifting sands across the road.

The sand was quickly forgotten as I approached I-10 and say the it was at a near-standstill. Earlier, when I headed east from Beaumont, I saw delays, but I figured a collison was the reason. It didn't occur to me that it might be holiday traffic because I couldn't imagine what destination all the people might have been returning from. At the AM/PM across the freeway, another drive said it was Palm Springs return traffic, and he added that he wasn't expecting it to be that bad. Poor bastards didn't have a choice but to waste precious life-hours in traffic, but I did. There happened to be a state highway, 74, that went from Palm Desert to Hemet. The going was slow at first because of how curvy and hilly the road was, but at least I got some scenery, the San Bernardino National Forest--this view from the Cahuilla Tewanet Vista Point.

Thinking 74 would continue to curve, I changed my mind before Hemet and took SR-371 down to SR-79 instead, to Temecula.

Once more, POLLO LOCO!!!

After Temecula I could have detoured to Hemet, but I was feeling extremely exhausted and decided to leave it for another time. So I just hit two Moreno Valley stores, and then Corona, and then I had to decide about Monday. After much thought, I decided that it would be too straining to drive all the way up to Fresno, complete all the stores early Tuesday, and then rush back to LAX. Also, I expected I might have a lot of work back at the office, and I didn't want to arrive completely exhausted. Finally, I'd been wanting to meet Idyl for years, and Tuesday would be my final opportunity. So I decided to just finish up those OC stores and then chill for the rest of the day, head up to L.A., and get some good food at Versailles.

I found a nearby neighborhood still mostly under construction and settled in to sleep for a few hours, hoping to hit the Vu one more time before heading back to the strip club wasteland that is the east coast. I woke up shortly after 1:30, maybe 1:40. I debated whether to make the detour to the club, and I finally decided against it. But then, as I drove towards OC, the need for a buxom beauty in my lap took over and I altered direction and increased my speed. Just a couple of miles before my exit, my anxiousness to reach the club caused me to get careless, and I sped around a car ahead of me. Next thing I knew, flashing lights behind me. Finally, after seven years of speeding madly in SoCal, I got pulled over. Well, the truth is I had it coming. To his credit, the officer is very polite and a little amused when I say I was in a hurry to get to Deja Vu. But he still wrote me a ticket and gives some explanation about how he wrote it for 88 instead of 90 because their radar was off.

I might still have made the club, except that when I turned onto Gale and started finishing around for my money and license, I couldn't find it. I was sure the officer had handed it back to me with the ticket, but I couldn't find it. I quickly turned around and drove around the corner in the hope that the patrol car was still there. It was. I stopped across the street from it and waved over to the cops about my license. The officer yelled back that he was 1000% sure he had returned it. I began to tear the car apart, and after a few minutes the patrol car pulled up behind me. The officers asked me where I might have put it, and they finally, with my permission, started poking around with their flashlights. On a second pass, finally, one of them found it, in a compartment under the radio. How obvious. I felt silly.

I pulled into the parking lot of the club at 2:53, but they were of course closed. But sometimes things happen for a reason, and it ended up working better for me. From City of Industry I decided to take surface streets down towards OC. My traveling experience had tought me that all sorts of interesting things can happen in the hours between 3:00 and 5:00 AM, and in Southern California especially. After five days in SoCal, I had not yet had a chance to drive around in the wee hours because I'd been too exhausted since arriving.

I spotted a girl walking down Hacienda as I approached a gas station. I pulled in for gas and shouted out to her asking if she wanted a ride. She said no, as I expected--it's dangerous accepting rides from strangers in the middle of the night. But instead of walking on, as I expected, she asked how far it was to Orange County. An odd question, but then she looked a little dazed. I replied that I could figure it out and pulled out my laptop. Anaheim is where she wanted to go--22 miles along the absurd freeway route plotted by Streets & Trips, or 13 along the surface. I asked if she was planning to walk that distance, and she said yes. I said that was ridiculous and again offered to take her, and she accepted. I pumped my gas and then asked her for a specific location--Beach and Orange.

Naomi was her name, and during the drive she told me her story, some of which seemed rather dubious. She was walking because her car had been taken by CHP because of multiple violations. She seemed to think they were going to crush the car. She had only been in California for a few days, having moved in with her mother in Anaheim from Detroit because of her job, which was a gospel singer. She was married, but she had only had sex once, because she had gotten pregnant from that first time and was scared of getting pregnant again, even though she was on birth control pills to regulate her bleeding or something. And, that even when her husband, in the Army, returned from Iraq, that she would not have sex with him. No way could I believe that. Despite being a gospel singer, she claimed she used to sing at Deja Vu--I've never heard of a strip club employing a singer. She seemed to be making up whatever came to mind. Like I made some claim about Deja Vu, and she countered by saying her brother worked there and knew otherwise. She mentioned her husband would be stationed in Germany after Iraq, and that she would move, but that wouldn't be a problem with her singing career because she was "full German". When I asked if she was hungry from walking and offered a Power Bar, she immediately said that they were bad for me. It's like she blurted out anything that popped into her mind. Heck, many everything she said was true, but I just had the feeling that she had a very active imagination. I mean, it's kind of odd that even though she had only been in town three days, she knew the way from where we were on Hacienda to Beach & Orange, but that she didn't know how far it was. Or maybe not, maybe it makes sense.

Despite her apparent flakiness and "shyness", with a little encouragement, she turned out to be very friendly. Very friendly indeed, and she added to support to the general principle of always offering a cute girl a ride, as long as she doesn't have any places where she might be hiding a weapon.

As we approach Beach and Orange I start to get anxious to drop her off before I had to have a "bathroom moment". As soon as she hopped out I was back on the street and trying not to speed too much down Beach in search of a bathroom. The gas stations were useless, which surprised me, because I didn't think I was in a "bad" part of town. I searched for a 24-hour donut shop, like the ones Bill had seemed to spot everywhere when we were in OC--no dice. Finally, I gave up and decide to go for the Denny's biscuit solution that I had employed a few times before.

I pulled into a spot in front of the Denny's at Beach and Garden Grove and this heavy-set chick with piercings and colored hair shouted at me, I think, not to hit her car. I ignored her and proceeded to nearly freak out when I thought Naomi had taken my last DoubleShot. That would have meant a return trip to that Starbucks. But it was there.

The waitress that took my biscuit order was exceedingly cute, with a Cameron Diaz-like mole. She was interacting with inside a muscular man with a glazed looked in his eyes who turned to me, asked if I worked there, and thrust a bill and some money at me. Then the lady with him, older and looking like she was trying to hard to be attractive, said "you better take the money so I can get him home. He's horny." They walked outside, and I asked the cute waitress with the beauty mark what that was all about. The guy comes back inside, and a busboy hands him one of those money pouches that go around the waist. The guy's demeanor changes, and he goes outside and says to someone, probably the lady, that if he had left the pouch he would have fucked her up. Back inside, he's all smiles again with the waitress and then starts hopping up and down. I have to remember not to assume that their is necessarily something wrong with the guy, because I myself had been doing a fair share of hopping, dancing, and other strange behaviour while on my caffeine binge, and I'm sure other people thought I was on drugs.

I ordered my biscuits and went into the bathroom. I went to the sink first, and before I could react some guy who walked in went into the single stall. Unpleasant sounds emanated, and I grumbled, not looking forward to experiencing the aftereffects of his "performance". I mean, you always know that gross stuff has gone on in the toilet stall before you, but it's different when you actually hear it happening.

I finally get into the stall, and while I sit there someone comes to the bathroom, and when he opens the door to leave I think I hear a girl's voice say "...there's a football player out there." I might have wondered what a football player was doing at a Denny's, except that back in Plano a group of us saw Dion Sanders hanging at our local Denny's in Plano. When I left the bathroom I asked the waitress about the football player. The girl sitting next to the waitress piped up--she's the one I had heard, and what she had actually said was " lighter."

The girl was cute, so I sat and wrote in front of the Denny's in the hopes that she would come over and ask what I was working on. She did come outside, and I got my hopes up, but then she went to the back of the building to smoke.

The warm water was making the biscuits taste worse than usual, so I walked over to the Shell station for some OJ. Back in the car, after opening the juice and taking a swig, I shook the bottle and got juice everywhere. The stupid cap wouldn't seal correctly. I had to hold the juice out the window to shake it, and this got me a queer look from the waitress inside. My hands were sticky from the juice, so I went back inside to ask the waitress to put some soap from the women's bathroom on a towel so I could wash the juice off my hands, and it took a while for me to get my meaning across. She ended up putting some from under the counter into a little bowl.

By the time I finished jotting down some ideas, it was 4:44, and well past time for more sleep. The lot in front of the Food 4 Less had plenty of cars, and I could have stayed there, but I drove into the residential neighboord instead hoping to find a dark part of the street. I spotted something unusual, as full-sized bus, free of any markings, parked on the residential street.

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