L.A. is fun to visit – even on a budget

betty ming liu Travel 13 Comments

This morning, my daughter and I caught the red-eye flight from Los Angeles back to JFK Airport. We landed around 5:30 a.m. and stumbled into our house for a nice, long nap.

Right now, I have an hour before I head down to Manhattan to teach my evening New School class. And I will use it to do this post. Let’s practice what I preach about deadline writing!

Every semester, I drill students in the nerve-wracking journalistic art of writing under pressure. To make an on-deadline writing exercise work in the classroom, I usually bring in a speaker for us to interview. When our guest leaves, each student has about an hour to bang out a coherent story about the speaker’s visit, right then, at a class computer.

Sooo, now let’s see if I can do a version of that by blogging about our week in L.A….

My daughter and I had a blast exploring the sights and catching up with dear friends who live there. This vacation also helped me to get over the past. I was last in L.A. more than a decade ago, when I was the wife of an executive, traveling on expense account, enjoying the best hotels and restaurants. A divorce in 2000 took care of that. So at  first, it was a tad sad to be in this glamour-obsessed town minus the champagne life. But I’m relieved to report that we still had fun, even on a budget.

This wonderful, six-day trip began last Thursday morning when we boarded our LAX-bound Virgin America flight. We got into tourist mode the second we spotted reality-show-Playboy-bunny Kendra Leigh Baskett in first class. (She wasn’t much to look at.) During our stay, our friends took us around Hollywood, Rodeo Drive, Melrose Avenue, 3rd Street stores, the University of Southern California and the Getty Museum.

Our major expense was eating. Still, it was relatively affordable because Southern Cali cuisine has gone crazy for L.A.’s bustling food truck culture, hole-in-the-wall ethnic restaurants at strip malls and local farmers’ markets. Sticking close to the street kept our meals in the range of $10-$18 per head.

Buying clothes took a bite out of our budget too. But we mostly window-shopped the fancy retail emporiums, saving our cash for the two Goodwill thrift stores on Santa Monica Boulevard, the Guess outpost on Rodeo Drive and Forever 21 at the 3rd Street Promenade. Although, I do confess to an impulsive detour to Fred Segal. During the marriage, my then-husband liked to shop there. For old times’ sake, I blew nearly $500 on four tops (three for me, one for Princess). It felt good.

Last night found us on the 9:45 p.m. Virgin flight back to JFK, with Joan Rivers sitting in first class. (She didn’t look as bad as I expected.)

P.S. — I’m out of time. Will post this now and get ready for class. Be back later to add photos.  :-)

July 17, Saturday: Update

What you just read is a 482-word post. That’s plenty long enough, don’t you think?

I’m always bugging my students to be fearless and ruthless in editing down their material. Writers love to read their own words. But sometimes, it’s too much blah-blah. That’s how I felt about my initial post here. So yesterday, I went back and hacked out 100 words. I just edited out another 130 to reach the 482 word count.

Also, here are the pix. The Princess took the last three shots. The final photo of the hands and foot are of me working on Jeff’s feet. (I know how to do Chinese reflexology, a form of therapeutic massage that believes you can address the entire body’s issues by simply working on the feet.)

Before you get excited about me mentioning a man (no, I’m still not dating), I should explain that Jeff and I were in high school together and he married Judy. She’s been my best buddy since we were 7th graders in Chinatown. The two of them are godparents to my daughter and the reason we vacationed in California. Jeff — a Western, modern medicine kind of guy — said he found the reflexology helpful. Now he’s interested in exploring a holistic approach to health with Chinese herbs and acupuncture. And that made Judy very happy!

P.S. — Okay, I’ll admit that I just cheated. With this update, the post is up to 709 words. Too long? Hmmm. I guess the real lesson here is that when you have a blog, you can break the rules and do whatever you want.     ;-)

CLICK on each photo to ZOOM-IN:

Comments 13

  1. Post

    Well so much for completing this post in record time. After writing the initial thing in an hour, I’ve spent at least 90 minutes on editing it down, and probably another two hours on loading and labeling the photos. Can’t remember where I read this, but someone once mentioned that it normally takes about three hours or more to do a decent post. I think that sounds right.

    Now I want to challenge myself to post more often with shorter items and fewer photos. This one was hard because I was compressing a week’s worth of very special memories (always good to have an excuse handy).

    Hopefully I did okay. Um, did I do okay here?

  2. Post

    ahhh, little betty, happy at last. just re-read everything and it works for me now. in the end, this post was about the “so what?” test. I always remind my students that whatever they write will be scrutinized by their readers. if people read something and shrug it off with a “yeah, so what?” — that’s not good.

    which is why i omitted the most important personal element of our vacation because it didn’t pass the “so what?” test. we flew to l.a. to meet judy and jeff’s five-week-old grandchild, their first. but since they didn’t want the baby’s face plastered all over the internet (i don’t blame them), it made no sense to focus this post around this cute little person. after all, would you want to read about the baby without pix?

    so all i needed to say about this angle in the post was that we were in california to visit friends. period.

    summarizing material effectively is really challenging!

  3. Hi! Betty, Glad to know you have a wonderful trip. ^^

    “Take a bite out of the Getty Museum” is my favorite photo of your trip photo collection.
    I have to say the zoom-in option took much longer time to get close up of your pix.
    I will suggest you may include a separate photo album for more L.A. photos.

    I was about to ask about the baby photos about your L.A. Trip and I got the answer by reading the end.

    However, do u have baby hands or baby feet photo you took? I know some grandparents concern their baby safety or privacy.

    One time I remember I took a photo of my best friend’s toddler son. The toddler’s back looking out the window from the blind. By then, that was NO blog yet. You cannot even see the toddler face. She loved that photo very much.

  4. Post

    thanks for the feedback, shirley! are you saying that my gallery of photos took a long time to load on the actual post? or, that zooming in takes time? if loading the gallery takes a lot of time, that would be another reason to post fewer photos. i just get so carried away!

    i didn’t even ask about posting a discreet shot of the baby. if it was my newborn, i would want complete privacy. but i’m glad your friends like your photogragh!

  5. I mean taking a long time re: “zooming in.”

    It is strange that by viewing other blogs, I don’t encounter the same zooming in problem like your? You may check it out and keep me posted. Thanks!

  6. By the way, how come our comment time zone was a.m. instead of p.m.
    This is another puzzle I want to find out from your blog or just from your computer setting when you do the blog? My computer clock is 4:57 p.m. right now.

  7. Betty! Love your post and happy that you liked Los Angeles, though it’s a place I still can’t wrap my mind around. And I’m thrilled that you said it takes so much time to create a post (photos, text, etc.) because I thought I was simply a slow-poke (not counting the time it takes me to bake). But hearing that even a professional has a pretty hefty time investment, well that’s very comforting.

  8. hi there betty,

    nice to read your post and i see that you too seem to be putting more and more photos in your blog. you know that i’ve been trying to do that too…when the opportunity presents itself. as for LA, i love to visit and i’ve probably been there at least 50 times in the last decade. but i wouldn’t want to live there. there’s just something i find so depressing when i walk around. it’s just not a walking city and it retains a ‘day of the locust’ feeling about it, at least for me.

    maybe we’ll see each other soon….finally back from a long road trip.


  9. Post

    shirley, you’re so good with details. i will have to figure out where to reset the clock on the comments box so that we’re in the right time zone. thank you, i didn’t even notice! will also check into the zoom feature too.

    and susan, i KNOW your posts take a lot of time. everyone, susan’s blog is “a cake bakes in brooklyn.” she only bakes recipes that are forgotten treasures from earlier times. here’s the link: http://acakebakesinbrooklyn.blogspot.com/

    and paul, i used to feel the same way about l.a., even when i was traveling on expense account. i was SHOCKED to find myself liking l.a. this time. the difference was being with people who were locals. santa monica suddenly became a neighborhood. but i still prefer nyc. and btw, after seeing all your blog post of babes in pasties at the coney island parade, i got really interested in doing more pix. weird to say, but that post was inspirational!

    oh, and one last thing…if y’all subscribe to my blog, you don’t have to type in your info every time you want to comment. your personal info just pops up and your comments appear immediately. :)

  10. Your summary and the photos captured our wonderful visit, and all in 709 words! Jeff’s feet looks pretty good.

  11. Sounds like you had a blast in LA. Fun reading about your trip with “the princess.” I’ve been to LA a few times, and it is a quirky mix of make believe, homeless folks, and interesting characters. Also for me, fun to visit, but don’t think it would be a place for me to live. Glad you had fun!

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