Riding down the (six lane freeway) blasting out The Beach Boys and Jan & Dean on the way to Venice Beach. What a moment. What a dream.
Venice Beach was just like in the movies. Cyclists pedalled at leisure around the compact grid of boutiques, coffee bars, and frozen yoghurt concessions.
We had a browse round a flea market flogging vintage t-shirts and the kind of blanket dads used to keep in their car boots in the 70s. A DJ spun a dance version of Tom Petty's Free Fallin' to cement the bohemian vibe.
We popped into the Butcher's Daughter juice bar for brunch. Ever so chi-chi. Bit upmarket for me perhaps. The surfer's breakfast was tasty though and I'll miss those super fresh avocados when I get back to the UK.
Annasivia persuaded me to take a verde Mary. A bloody Mary full of green stuff. It was the only bad suggestion she made re:food/drink during my stay in LA but it was worth it for the experience alone.
It was a brief walk to the promenade and then to the beach itself. It was everything I had hoped. The water was colder than I'd have thought but as the sun dappled across the Pacific surf, yachts sailed on the horizon, and weekenders jumped the waves I knew I was in some kind of gilded paradise and I appreciated it too.
We walked barefoot in the shallows towards the funfair rides on Santa Monica pier. I'd be lying if I said I didn't notice some of the bronzed and beautiful people on Baywatch territory. The guy wearing nothing but a posing pouch with a tuxedo motif kicking around a hackysack was unlikely ever to make an appearance as C.J's love interest, though.
Anna took me to Chez Jay for a couple of cold ones. Essentially a beach shack that predated the development of the area it dripped with understated character. I could see why The Beach Boys, particularly Dennis Wilson, frequented it back in the day. There were signed photos on the wall of Burt Bacharach and, er, Betty Boop.
A couple of blocks inland from Ocean Avenue stood The Huntley. Anna suggested the hotel bar. She had an eggplant salad and an Arnold Palmer while I sucked on a Corona but it was the views we came for. 360 degrees of them. Even the gent's afforded a breathtaking vista. Marvin Gaye's Got To Give It Up a more than adequate soundtrack.
Up to the Pacific palisades and across to Malibu I observed Los Angeles county beach life in its very element. Strictly speaking Santa Monica, like Beverly Hills, is a separate city to Los Angeles. It's got its own high street and its own distinct vibe. It was a vibe I liked.
On Santa Monica's lively, and pedestrianised (in America!?), main shopping street Anna popped into Old Navy to buy a pair of socks while a busking band knocked out a passable rendition of Blur's Boys & Girls.
An Uber took us back to Venice Beach and on the drive back to pick up Owen downtown Carl the car had his radio set to LA Woman by The Doors. Followed by a blast of Mexrissey and our regular session of KCRW. Think Six Music LA style.
I had an ice cream from Van Leeuwen's van. A Brooklyn concern doing good trade on the West.
The plan was to eat dinner at Pizza Rev in Koreatown but when we arrived there there were about 10 cop cars (with more still arriving) parked facing all angles. Armed police were running up stairs at some speed while keeping their heads low. No idea what was afoot and common sense told us it might be an idea to move on.
So we did. To Desano. Still pizza. Proudly Italian with scarfs from Serie A clubs draped on the walls.
After pizza and cops what could be more American than a night at the bowling alley. 39 lanes in K-Town. 24hr opening. Banging out tunes from Justin Timberlake and Foster the People. Skidding around on my bowling shoes I was in hog heaven. So happy I was almost dancing but bittersweet that it was the last night of an epic trip.
Owen won the first game and I squeaked the second. We went back to Silverlake, I ate my Mexican chocolate donut, and went to bed.
The result of the bowling went my way but, far more importantly, the holiday was an absolute 'result'. I knew I'd be returning to London with new perspectives, new stories, and new confidences for which I can only say to those who shared and shaped this wonderful experience:- Thankyou. Thankyou. Thankyou.