Trip to LA

I recently did a solo trip to LA which included movies, museums, music, poker, food, and more. Let’s start from the beginning.

Getting there

My flight to LA was about 3 hours delayed. They needed to de-ice the plane, which took a while, but was interesting to watch. They poured some sort of orange substance over the plane. The de-icing process produced some interesting sights, sounds, and smells. 

On the plane, I watched two movies.

The first was a rewatch of “Lost in Translation,” a movie that had a big impact on me when I first watched it 5 or 6 years ago. I had been meaning to give it a re-watch. It’s about travel, so I thought watching it on a plane was quite appropriate. I found it to hold up well in some parts but not so much in others. For example, on my first watch, I didn’t catch the fact that at times it’s kind of racist, or at the very least tone deaf. Japanese people as a whole are the butt of quite a few jokes in this movie, which was disappointing to discover. And although I’m aware that Bill Murray’s character is meant to be imperfect, the part where he pines for Scarlett Johansen’s sympathy in the same breath as saying he’s getting paid 2 million dollars for a commercial still irked me. Additionally, the relationship’s progression occasionally feels unnatural, such as when all of the sudden he’s carrying her to her room and tucking her in bed when they realistically shouldn’t have been that close yet. All that aside, the sequence where they go out and explore Tokyo is still incredibly beautiful – in fact it’s probably one of my favorite sequences in any movie, period. The ending, when the two characters needed to part, still made me teary. Even if the building of the relationship is uneven in the first and second acts, their bond ultimately ends up feeling genuinely strong by the end. And so despite a couple newly discovered flaws, I’ve decided that I still love this movie.

The second movie I watched was “Decision to Leave.” I think I was only about 75% engaged on my watch. I was occasionally confused by the plot, which was probably due to my lack of engagement and not the movie’s fault. I appreciate that the writing doesn’t hold your hand and I don’t expect a movie from the director of Oldboy and The Handmaiden to do any such thing. I enjoyed the movie, but not quite as much as the other movies I have seen from this director. It was emotionally hard-hitting and intelligent. I need to give it a rewatch in the future with the level of engagement that I’m sure it deserves. 

When the plane finally arrived in LA, I was exhausted, but still needed to get through the logistical hoops necessary to get settled. I took a shuttle to Hertz to pick up the rental car I had reserved. It’s the first time I had rented a car, and the process was surprisingly quick and smooth. I was driving out of the gate within about 30 minutes of arriving at Hertz. 

I picked up some McDonalds and drove straight to my airbnb in Jefferson Park, putting on Samia’s Honey for entertainment. It’s good, but ugh, that album was so last month. I definitely needed to find another set of anthems for this trip. 

When I got to the area, I struggled immensely to find a spot. There were some spaces, but they were reserved for people with the ability to parallel park. After eventually finding a spot a few streets away, I was able to enter the Airbnb without incident. Right off the bat there were a couple issues with the place: first, save for 2 extremely dim lights, it was dark. There would be no reading in bed here. Second, the heat unit’s “auto” functionality didn’t work, and it was very loud. There would be another significant problem later on, but I’ll get to that later. I did some unpacking and retired for the night. 

What followed was three full days in LA: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Sunday afternoon through early evening was reserved for the Hustler Casino Live poker meetup game. For everything else, I was just going to wing it. I had some ideas floating around in my head from Googling the various tourist attractions and such, but I didn’t really have a plan.


I woke up late Friday morning. Consistent with the forecast, it was already pouring. It was going to be like that Friday and Saturday. I knew in the days preceding that weather-wise, I had chosen the absolute worst weekend to visit Los Angeles. But my reservations had already been booked and I was going to have to make the best of it. 

I decided that my first move was going to be to check out the Getty. It’s #1 on practically every list out there, and I may or may not have been there before when I was a kid, but if I have I don’t remember it. 

On the way there I stopped at a Mexican restaurant called Madre where I got some mole chicken. It was satisfactory, but the chicken was a tad overcooked. I was grateful that the portion was as large as it was, because it was already lunchtime and I hadn’t eaten yet that day. 

I arrived at The Getty and took the tram up. The tram plays this very mystical and anticipatory music when it ascends, which I got a kick out of. I went inside and explored the exhibits for a brief period. The exhibits I saw contained a lot of ancient historical paintings of people. I explored the east pavillion, the north pavillion, the south pavilion… all of the paintings in these pavilions were so incredibly samey to me. The style of art in this museum just isn’t for me. The one painting there that stuck out to me was Van Gough’s Irises. It seemed to garner the most attention from fellow guests, which likely influenced my conclusion that it’s probably a good painting. But the color palette of the piece is undeniably pleasant to look at. 

I’m pretty sure I actually missed a good portion of the exhibits on the plaza level. For some reason I didn’t take enough care to thoroughly go through the entire museum, which I regret to some extent. I’ll have to go back at some point regardless, because the inner garden and at least one or two of the other areas were closed, presumably due to the weather.  The outside views were completely white due to the weather. It was ironic seeing the signs describing the mountains and cityscape below when all that was visible were clouds. 

I returned to my car and started driving back toward the general direction of the city, not entirely sure where I would end up next. After stopping for a bit and consulting with maps, I decided my next move would be Downtown LA. The city part of the city. I’d never been. 

When I entered the area and saw the first of the skyscrapers, I started feeling intimidated. Like “oh shit, I’m in the actual city.” The rain was still coming down at full force, there was a lot more traffic, and I saw an increased number of homeless people and seedy-looking characters. I’m not sure, but I may have accidentally driven through Skid Row, which is obviously not recommended, although as long as I’m in a car I assume it can’t be that dangerous. I circled round and round the area, struggling to find parking. DTLA isn’t exactly a tourist destination with nice men and women with traffic cones telling you where to go. It’s quite the opposite. 

I finally discovered the garage beneath Pershing Square and parked there. The Pershing Square garage features sparse, flickering lights, broken escalators, silence, and fear. It is easily a top contender for the sketchiest parking garage I have ever parked in, and I’m amazed that I survived.  

Upon escaping from the garage, I trudged through the storm to The Last Bookstore. The journey was about two blocks. It was a relief to finally get inside when I did. I felt safer. I was impressed by how gigantic this shop was. It’s two full floors and the tour through it seems to go on forever. And it’s not just a bookstore: there are a few semi-hidden small art studios on the second floor. A terrifying closet of dismembered dolls. An impressive tunnel that you can walk through, constructed purely of books. And the actual book selection is massive. I overheard a conversation between two apparent history fanatics, searching for some niche topic in a faraway corner of the store. The Last Bookstore seemed to be the real deal, attracting serious readers and not just people like myself looking for cool or interesting places to meander around. Although the shop felt safe, the lighting and layout choices of a lot of the rooms on the second floor had a similar grimy vibe to the streets outside, which was pretty cool. 

Before I left, I browsed around the modern fiction section and settled on purchasing a novel called “Tinkers.” I picked it mainly because it was only 100-something pages and its cover looked inoffensive. 

I went back outside to go to Cole’s French Dip another 2 blocks away. I’m just realizing now that this is considered, albeit only by half a block, inside the unofficial limits of Skid Row – so in hindsight maybe it wasn’t the safest idea. But I did go down there, sat at the bar and ordered a french dip sandwich with coleslaw and a Manhattan. It was probably around 5:30, so people were only starting to trickle in for food and drinks. It was relatively quiet and the place had a warm, cozy atmosphere. While I waited for my order I started reading Tinkers. Despite the relatively accommodating reading conditions, I was only able to get about 1 and a half pages through. Reading at a bar always sounds like a cool idea, but for some reason in my experience it just doesn’t often work out well. Anyway, my order came and the sandwich was incredible. The meat was extremely flavorful, the bread was just the right amount of softness, and the cheese was perfectly melted. It came with a bottle of spicy mustard, which I used liberally, and it brought the sandwich to an even higher level. My Manhattan was excellent as well. 

After finishing my meal, I stalled in the restaurant for a bit, knowing that my next stop would have to be back to the parking lot. I felt it was probably best to leave the area sooner rather than later. I consulted maps again, dragging my finger around aimlessly. I saw a few entertainment icons on the map and one that caught my attention was a music venue called The Moroccan Lounge. There was apparently a show starting in the next hour or so, headlined by an artist I hadn’t heard of named Miss Grit. I didn’t have any better ideas; it was still violently pouring, so I certainly didn’t want to do any more exploring outside. So I went back to my car and did the short drive over there. On my walk from the car to the venue, I had to take a half-block long detour because the street crossing had turned into a 6-inch pond. 

The Moroccan was a neat little hole in the wall. When I arrived, there were only about 10 people there, sitting around the lounge area in the front. The stage was in a small room in the back and the show hadn’t started yet. I stood around awkwardly as one does when going to a show solo before it starts. After a short while, the opener could be heard starting their first song and everyone migrated to the back room. It was an intimate experience with them playing for all of about 10 of us at the start. They were a pop rock band which I thought sounded pretty solid. 

By the time Miss Grit came on, the room had mostly filled up. It sounded like rock music with a mildly interesting electronic twist. At some points of the performance I thought it sounded a bit lethargic and insipid. I thought it was alright, but overall it wasn’t my cup of tea. Miss Grit announced that they had released an album that night. I’m not sure if she’s going to become the next big indie artist, but hey, if she does, then I can say that I saw her on the night of her debut album release. 

I drove back to Jefferson Park. When I started approaching the airbnb, I noticed that I couldn’t see a single light on in any of the houses in the neighborhood. The hosts had texted me earlier that the power was out, but followed up a few hours later saying it was back on. I entered the studio and sure enough, there was no power. This was a problem, because the only heat available was from an electrical wall unit. It was cold. But it was already around 11pm at that point. I wasn’t going to start looking for other places to stay at such a late hour. I managed to make it through the night by sleeping in my hat and jacket. The cold was annoying, but probably not dangerous. 


On Friday morning I had booked a massage for 12:30PM Saturday, so I was going to need to plan the early part of the day around that. The massage place was in the Miracle Mile neighborhood, home to several museums. I drove to the area. By this time, I had comfortably settled on the new Paramore for most of my rides in that rental car. The album is really solid.

I decided to eat at a cafe called “Met Her At A Bar.” I got some eggs benedict, potatoes, and mixed fruit. And coffee, obviously. Everything really hit the spot! There is nothing quite like eating delicious breakfast food at a hip cafe. 

When I got done with breakfast, there was about 2 hours until I needed to be at the massage place. I drove over to near the museum row and walked to the La Brea Tar Pits to take a quick look around the park. It was mildly interesting to read a couple of the signs on what these pits are, but they certainly weren’t very scenic. 

I decided that it was worth checking out LACMA. Even though there wasn’t a whole lot of time, it was so close by and I was curious if I would like it better than the art at The Getty. Sure enough, I turned out to enjoy LACMA a lot more than The Getty. I liked how varied the subject matter of each exhibit was. There were so many different styles of art and cultures represented, and walking through the museum never stopped being interesting. My favorite exhibit was probably one called “Another World: The Transcendental Painting Group, 1938–1945.” I love the art style from this Transcendental Painting Group. The paintings had spiritual themes and were abstract but not in a simple or lazy way. A lot of creative geometric shapes and pleasing color choices. Separately, the large, electronically powered city model, “Metropolis II,” was also quite entertaining.

I had to speedrun some of the museum, but I was okay with that. When it was 12:15 I booked it back to my car and went to the massage place.

I had never gotten a massage before, and it was incredibly nice! The room was dimly lit and there was some relaxing music playing. The massage therapist did an amazing job. I want to get a massage like every month now. I walked out of the massage place feeling calm and euphoric. 

I had gotten some tickets to see one of those IMAX nature shows at the California Science Center, so I headed over there. I got a quick lunch at the cafeteria, which was bad and I wish I had chosen the weiner stand outside instead because it smelled delicious. I took a quick tour through the science center, which really seemed to be more geared toward kids, so I didn’t bother to look at much. I saw the Space Shuttle Endeavor, which was large. The IMAX show, Amazon Adventure 3D, was also clearly geared towards kids, in fact I felt kind of weird because everyone except me was there with their kid(s), but regardless it was a fairly entertaining story and not a bad way to spend 45 minutes.

It was still a little early for dinner, so I decided to go back to home base for a bit before getting food in Koreatown. My plan was to uber to and from there so that I could let loose and drink as much as I want. 

Unfortunately, that plan quickly got foiled when I got back to the airbnb and realized that there was somehow still no power. It was even colder than the day before, and it dawned on me that there was no way in hell I could sleep there again with no heat. I messaged the hosts to ask if there was an update available on when it would be restored, but there was nothing but radio silence from them. Because of this unresolved situation, I begrudgingly decided that I would just drive to Koreatown, figure it out during dinner, and not get drunk. 

My original idea was to get some Korean BBQ. I stopped by a KBBQ place called Quarters, but even for one person the wait was going to be very long. Quarters is an incredibly lively plaza called Chapman Plaza. There are a few different restaurants in this plaza so I decided on a place called Tokki. It was an upscale, expensive Korean restaurant, which I was totally down for. I got an order of sweet potatoes, an order of hot and sweet chicken, and a glass of wine. It was all excellent. While there, I booked a hotel in El Segundo for the next 2 nights. I didn’t know if the power would be restored for the final night, so I guess I could have just booked one night, but the airbnb was kind of a dump anyway and at that point I just wanted to be done with it.

I had to go back to the airbnb one last time to gather my things and check out. The whole neighborhood was still pitch black. It was still pouring. There wasn’t a single soul around, for obvious reasons. It was spooky as hell and I couldn’t have gotten out of there fast enough. I was relieved when I finally got in my car and could be on my way to a hotel, where there would be warmth, light, and people. 

I got checked into my new hotel room without incident and just chilled, reflecting on the day and watching some YouTube before retiring for the night. 


Breakfast was included with the hotel room. It was pretty damn good for a hotel breakfast. I had some eggs, sausage, potatoes, and fruit. And coffee, obviously. 

The Hustler game started at 1pm, so I still had a few hours to do something. I decided to check out the nearby Manhattan Beach. I stepped outside and was excited to learn that after 2 days of apocalypse, it was finally a beautiful day outside.

Manhattan Beach was the perfect place to walk around with a few hours to spare. It was really nice to get some fresh air, in beautiful weather, in such a beautiful area. The houses around there were all incredibly fancy. There was an endless selection of nice restaurants and shops. I went down to the pier, which has a mini 2-floor aquarium at the end of it. How cool is that? I toured the aquarium and then hung out on the pier for a bit, watching some surfers and trying to snap some good pictures of them riding the waves. Then I walked along the boardwalk above the beach. 

For lunch, I decided on a taco place called Tacolicious. They had a really pleasant outside area which is where I sat. I got 4 different tacos and a side of guacamole. The food was amazing and I really enjoyed sitting in that area. It was truly an ideal lunch experience and I was buzzing with contentment the entire time.

It was just before 1pm when I settled up with the restaurant, so I was pretty much just in time to go straight to the Hustler Casino Live meetup game. I got in my car and put on the new Caroline Polachek album, because I was finally in a good enough mood for it. I don’t know what it is about Caroline Polachek, but I’m only able to enjoy her music when I’m in an exceptionally good mood. 

The Hustler game was essentially the driving force behind me taking this trip. I vaguely had been wanting to go on some sort of nice little solo vacation anyway, but it’s what actually prompted me to buy a plane ticket to LA for this particular weekend. 

Hustler Casino Live is a poker livestream show that airs 5 nights a week, and since its inception I’ve been a huge fan. When the right mix of characters are playing on the show, I find that it can be incredibly entertaining. It’s a quirky fusion between a reality TV show and a sports show, insomuch as poker can be considered a sport. Sunday afternoon they were hosting a “meetup game,” where you get the opportunity to play with some of the characters from the show. I know this probably sounds like some pretty nerdy shit, but hey, I was absolutely pumped for it. I’d be meeting and playing with a bunch of celebrities in the poker world!

I stopped at the ATM to withdraw $1000, two buy-ins for the game, which was $2/$3 no limit holdem with a $500 cap.

I arrived at the Hustler to try to get a seat at the meetup game, which had apparently already filled up. There were a bunch of people besides me trying to get a seat at the game, and the floor people seemed incredibly disorganized. There was a list on the PokerAtlas app for the game, which I and the other people in the same situation as me had signed up for, but that list turned out to have no bearing on when people could and couldn’t get a seat. Fortunately, a seat for me became available after about 20 minutes or so, so not too bad. I sat down and proceeded to play about 6 hours of poker. 

Now, how the game was advertised was essentially that there would be one person who’s in or involved in the show at each table and they would rotate through tables every 30 minutes. They had said there were like 30+ people including players from the show, commentators, and other staff. The number of tables was probably at most around equal to that, so you would think that at all times, or at least at most times, there would be at least one notable person playing at each table. Well, at my table, this wasn’t the case. In the 6 hours I was at that table, there was one regular from the show, who sat with us for maybe 20 minutes. There were also a couple nice guys from the production team who sat with us for a while. But there were zero of the big-name players who I was actually interested in meeting. I mean, I saw a lot of them around, but they were playing at the other tables. I didn’t get to play with any of the commentators either, which I was especially excited for, because I had been pretty prolific in the YouTube chat and I’m sure they’d have recognized my alias when I told them who I was. But the floor continually allowed random people not from the show to fill up all the vacant seats at our table. Multiple of us had complained to the floor that this entire time, almost nobody significant from the show had sat at our table for hours, but we were dismissed; they basically said they couldn’t do anything about it. I was incredibly frustrated and disappointed. 

In terms of the actual poker, well, almost the entire time I was significantly on tilt, which mainly stemmed from how disappointing the “meetup” portion of the game had been. I played pretty damn bad, and I ran pretty damn bad. A classic recipe for losing at poker. 

I can recall exactly one value hand I was dealt for the entire 6 hours, pretty early in the session, where I had a set and got some value from none other than Big John, a player from the show. I definitely didn’t get max value in the hand, because I played it in a pretty weird and nonsensical way. But it’s still cool that the one good hand I got turned out to be against the one semi-notable person I had played with that day.

Pretty soon after taking Big John to value town, I performed the most epic punt of my poker career thus far, and as a result got stacked for about $800. I’ll save the nitty gritty details of the hand for a separate post, but I will say that it was quite a doozy, and somehow, looking back, I’m oddly proud of it.

After I got stacked, I still had the second buy-in, so I bought in again, and it didn’t go much better. I lost a bunch of small to medium pots until I was down to under 300. I was knowingly at maximum tilt levels by this point, but I had flown across the damn country to play in this game, so I was in no mood to quit early. Given this, there was realistically no possible scenario other than losing the rest of those chips. So, naturally, I waited for an appropriate opportunity to punt the rest of it off, which came in the form of a flop check-jam in a 3-bet pot with complete air. I got snap-called by 2-pair, got stacked again, and that was that. 

Defeated, I drove to In n Out to grab a quick and easy dinner. I’d had it before – it’s decent. Undeniably a step up from a McDonalds or a Wendy’s. 

It was probably around 8 when I finished dinner. I just went back to my hotel at that point. I wasn’t really in the mood to do anything notable for the rest of the night, and so I didn’t. 

The end

In the morning I got another helping of that surprisingly good hotel breakfast, checked out, returned the rental car, went back to the airport, and flew back without incident. 

That’s pretty much it! Given that aside from the meetup game I had next to no concrete plans or expectations for how the trip would go, I’m quite surprised at how well it all came together overall. The trip didn’t go “perfectly,” but I’m happy to have both the good and the bad parts of this story as memories now. That’s it, thanks for reading. 

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