I was stopped at a light in Burbank when I heard a radio DJ say that The Tonight Show with Jay Leno had gone into reruns because writers are striking and I remembered the first time I came in LA, my senior year of high school. In 1993, Joanna and I flew to Burbank for spring break with her aunts who'd moved here from England. I was impressed to see the The Wonder Years street. I was impressed that Joanna's cousin who was way older - like 21 - had a dolphin tattoo and had dated a boy from either House of Pain or Red Hot Chili Peppers.
I felt sorry for the aunts' pilot boyfriends who flew into town and took us all out to dinner at a fancy restaurant in the hills. I'm sure the pilots were thrilled that their double date suddenly included two awkward 17-year-old girls from Ohio. I dutifully ran laps around a high school track in Burbank while Joanna timed my splits in preparation for my upcoming track season back home.
One of the aunts got us audience tickets for a taping of Jay Leno. We giggled in our seats at CBS studio when the camera panned to a person seated behind us. We were on NATIONAL TELEVISION, OH MY GOD.
While in California we were also surprised to see someone freak out when she broke a nail. Incapacitated, she whisked herself off to the nail salon before she could get on with the day and we made fun of her because that was not very Ohio of her.
It was a good week overall, new and sunny and agreeable. Her aunts were lovely and welcoming. But Joanna and I both felt a strange relief when our plane made it home and banked low over the Ohio River before landing in Kentucky. The rolling green hills seemed so much more grounded and solid than we'd left them.
I'd mostly forgotten about that trip fifteen years ago until the radio DJ today mentioned Jay Leno. California was so foreign to me then. I spent hours last week talking to studios and finding a sound stage for Spice Girls dance rehearsals. Not that I necessarily knew what I was talking about but it's my job and I did it and it didn't feel that foreign. I may live in California at the moment but I don't flip out when I break a nail. That may be because my fingers have what someone recently called "nubs" on the end of them, but still. I wouldn't. I just don't care enough. So I'm somewhere in between.
Which I think I proved when, in the middle of this whole red light reverie, I saw Jay Leno himself come barreling down the street in one of his cars. It was a vintage roadster that I'd guess was a 1930s Bentley or Duesenberg. Or maybe I looked that up on Jay Leno's Garage since I don't know a thing about cars.
Jay Leno was in plain view since there were no real doors or roof on the car and he looked like an aviator or German spy headed to the border with a damning message. The car spat puffs of steam or smoke that kicked up behind the spy/Jay Leno so the overall effect was not subtle. Though it WAS somewhat cheapened by the Burbank backdrop - I saw him in front of a CVS pharmacy - and total lack of war zone urgency.
And I couldn't decide whether to think it was interesting or just be over it already.