Los Angeles — a rollercoaster ride (Part 2: 26.02.-20.03.2018)

The time passed by quickly and now I’m already in Vancouver and think about the last weeks in Los Angeles. After coming back from the road trip around California I tried to pack some more activities and new things into the remaining days which felt suddenly so few.

So what is my résumé after spending so much time in Los Angeles? (Song for reading the blog: Hollywood Hills – Sunrise Avenue)

It was the first time I’ve been to a city that has light and shadow so close to each other. It was the first time that I didn’t feel well waiting for a transfer bus during the day in a sketchy area or getting through a ticket control at Union Station with heavy weaponed guys. It was the first time I was on high alert as a guy mumbling to himself and holding an open jack knife walked up to me on the same walkway in Hollywood.

But. I met so many kind people filled with motivation, joy and creativity. I had such a good time with the Improv classes and the wonderful people there. Taking classes at the Upright Citizen Brigade Training Center in Los Angeles was one of the best things so far on my travel. I learned a lot a out me. How much I enjoyed being just me. How much I still held back, mostly because of struggles with English. And how much I miss them right now.

I went to numerous improv shows, a comedy stand up, cinema, studios and museums – as much as I would normally do in 6 months or even a year. I connected with people from Instagram to get some rad new photos and an awesome tattoo. And I really enjoyed reconnecting with people from traveling and staying at the house with Bridget, Jess and the three critters.

So, Los Angeles’ charm – and I feel confident enough to call it that – was a lot about connecting and sharing moments. And with this in mind I will recommend going to LA if I’ve been asked. I mean I’m right now sitting in Vancouver – a great city! – and I actually miss LA. I didn’t think this could happen.

But LA gave me the feeling I could achieve anything there. And, well, the knowledge that I’m actually a Gryffindor after all.

The fine print

If you wanna see and read a bit more concerning what happened in part 2 of my time in LA here are some of the highlights. Some with more, some with less text. If you have any questions feel free to ask.

Laughing at the Comedy club and in many Improv shows

If it was the comedy show of Kathleen Madigan in the Comedy & Magic Club in Hermosa, the improv musical group “Baby wants candy” who made a full hour of an improvised musical after the suggested title from the audience “Never dance without grandma” or about 8 more improv shows that I went to, I think I’ve never been to theatre so many times in such a short time. And they were all incredibly good.

Have you been to improv yet? It’s a great concept and an awesome variety to our mostly scripted theatre, movie or tv shows. From an audience’s suggestion you create funny scenes with your partner which develop at that moment unscripted between these unique people. The improv musical group took it even further to improvised songs and a whole story which made me want to do exactly that – the combination of things I love: singing, dancing, acting and all improvised. Where else can you have songs like “There’s no fun without FU” or “The Sex Duplex”?

When you go to Los Angeles, New York or Chicago think about going to one of the great shows of the Upright Citizen Brigade or The Second City.

Following a celebrity

First day back from the road trip I started the second improv class which meant a reunion with Griffin, more inspiration and a short reunion with Pepper who started in a different class. Pepper and I had from the first day at the UCB this strange feeling that we know each other from somewhere. Various coffee breaks and a great afternoon going to Santa Monica with taking the scooters to Venice beach didn’t help to solve the mystery so we just decided it has happened.

Pepper and I agreed for the evening to see two improv shows together and having dinner before. That dinner was supposed to be a good but cheap option from the supermarket close to the theatre.

And there the next scene takes place.

  • Pepper (runs up to Leon, breathes in excitement): Oh my god, oh my god…
  • Leon (stands in front of ready-to-it food, looks up from the sushi box he holds in his hand): Pepper, what’s wrong?
  • Pepper (plays with her phone, speaks very excited and loud): Oh my god, I was just walking down the aisle, looking for food and… and… then there was suddenly this super famous actress.
  • Leon (looks around, tries to calm Pepper down): Breathe, Pepper, who did you see?
  • P (still very excited and a bit too loud): This super famous actress! I can’t remember her name right now but she was in lots of tv shows and films and she is really popular. Maybe she’s still in here.
  • L: Ok, show me. But you have to calm down a bit.
  • P: She’s my first celebrity in LA! It’s so exciting!
  • L: If we want to get close to her and pass her by you need to calm down. We have to be uninterested and normal.
  • P: Okay. I think she’s in the next aisle.
  • L (muttering to himself): If she didn’t hear us and fled the supermarket…
  • P: What?
  • L: Nothing. Let’s go and find her.
  • P and L walk through the supermarket, the way they look unsuspiciously into the aisles is very suspicious.
  • P (whispering as they pass by one aisle): There she issss…
  • L (whispering back, tries to lean towards Pepper which is difficult as she is one head taller than him): Okay, we do it like this: We go around this corner, enter the aisle from the other side and then start a conversation about buying something that is in that aisle. Can you do that?
  • P (fumbles with her phone which is still in camera mode, ready to take a picture): Okay, okay. We’re improvisers, we can do this.
  • P and L walk along the parallel aisle, go around the corner and stroll slowly into the targeted row.
  • L (looks at the sign that tells what’s in the row): Uuh… pet food…
  • P (looks straight at the woman in the end of the aisle, whispers): Do you recognize her?
  • L (takes a glimpse over his shoulder, whispers back): I’m short sighted. I have to get closer.
  • L (louder): So, I want to buy some dog treats for the dog of my friends I’m staying with.
  • P (tries to not look at her, while they approach): Aha.
  • L (still so loud, that everyone can hear the conversation): But it’s difficult to choose. There are so many brands that have added sugars inside. And I want a healthy treat.
  • P (looks at L): Oh, really? Why do you know that?
  • L (takes a short look at the woman, continues with looking for dog food): I read about it. So much industrial sugar…
  • The woman leaves the aisle.
  • P (again very excited): Did you recognize her???
  • L (thinking): Hm, well, she looks kind of familiar. But she has somewhat that standard face, brown long hair and loads of makeup. She could be anyone.
  • P (shakes her head): No no no, I’m sure it’s her. That’s so exciting!
  • L (looks after the woman who just entered a waiting line at the checkout): I get in line after her and try to get another glimpse.
  • P (irritated): You can just stand behind her calmly?? And you don’t want to buy any more dog treats?
  • L (looks at her confused): Wait, what? No. You get yourself some dinner as well and join me at the waiting line.
  • P: okay!
  • L joins the waiting line behind the woman. He looks pretentious bored and leans a bit forward to look at her credit card for her name. She just stares bored at the cashier although her body language shows that she’s aware of what is happening around. P joins L, smiling broadly and making “look at her” moves with raising her eyebrows. Leon tries to get another look. Totally random and unsuspicious of course. The woman leaves the supermarket. Pepper and Leon pay and grab their food, walk after her and get a last glimpse as she leaves in a dark sports car.
  • L (looks where they lost sight of the car): So, who was she?
  • P: I can’t remember her name. She normally plays these annoying roles and I don’t like her.
  • L: You don’t like her?
  • P: No.
  • L (Irritated): Ok… In which movies or shows?
  • P: I can’t remember the names. It was on Netflix and about millennials in suburbs. But not the popular show.
  • L (unwrapping his dinner, starts to eat): On Netflix? I though she was super famous?
  • P: She is!
  • L: Okay okay. Pepper, then let’s google her. I can’t sleep without knowing it.
  • P (sits down next to L, unwraps her food as well and starts tipping on her phone one handed): Hm. I can’t find the Netflix series. I try google for her.
  • L (munches on his sushi, looks over at her screen): What do you google for if you don’t know the names of series or her?
  • P (looks at him): “annoying famous brown haired actress”?
  • L: This is gonna be a long night.
      • Two weeks later. Leon’s phone buzzes. He looks at the screen and sees a text message from Pepper. He unlocks the screen. The text message without any comment just shows a picture of a kind of familiar woman and a name.
      • Leon (laughs out loud, his phone in his hands): Aubrey Plaza. Hahaha, thank you, Pepper!

      Pepper, I will miss you a lot! Hope to see you again somewhere on this planet!

      Inking my arm and getting new headshots – The Instagram connection

      Ever since I knew I would finally travel to Hawaii I started to plan for getting a reminder. I wanted to go to Hawaii since I was 20. Not just for a summer holiday, not just for hotel and beaches but to really explore the different islands. Since then – for over 15 years – every time I saw a hibiscus flower it reminded me that one day I would fulfill that dream. I didn’t know when or how but I never forgot about it.

      I remember that I sat in a nice coffee shop in Taupo, New Zealand, when I had my Skype consultation with Jane, a tattoo artist in Los Angeles, to talk about my idea and the placement of the tattoo. “I want a hibiscus flower, maybe in a circle, partly breaking it, something lively and colored that stands for following my dreams.” Jane’s specialty are botanical and floral tattoos.

      “How did you pick a tattoo artist in LA?” someone asked me. Well, I tend to get inspiration via Instagram. If it is places to travel to, coffee shops to try out, outdoor adventures and gear or anything else visual I tend to go to Instagram. So for a tattoo where you’d like to see a lot of work of the artist in advance to pick the right one it was my place to go. And the Skype consultation made the choice safe. “I’m excited, this will be a great tattoo!” Jane said.

      I remember that I was filled with anxiety on my flight to Hawaii out of different reason. What if it was totally different than what I imagined it? What if I was disappointed? Would I still get the tattoo? Lucky it was not. It was even more than I had hoped for.

      Jane (instagram.com/janechocho) sent me sketches in advance to discuss and I added few remarks. And what can I say? On the appointment day I was not nervous at all when I sat in my Lyft to take me down to Costa Mesa, the 4 hours of pain flew by and I can’t tell how happy I am.

      “You have to follow your dreams to make them real, even if it is in baby steps. Don’t wait until it is too late.”

      I also felt like it was time for a photo update on LinkedIn and Xing as I’m slowly starting to reach out for the next job again. In LA I had time and a proper look so why not try to get this done here as well? Instagram was my friend again and I surprisingly had already a photographer in my timeline – did I add her or is this a google-Siri-Instagram conspiracy?

      The details were quickly settled via dm (direct message) and the backgrounds in North Hollywood made a perfect meeting place for Sandra and me. I look so neat and trimmed again. (instagram.com/sandraemmeline)

      Where do you get your inspiration from? And what did you lately arrange/order via a communication channel that would make your parents shake their heads?

      Losing against a Royal Flush

      No more words needed. I salute you and sip on a couple of good beers at the Three Weavers Brewery

      All the rides in Universal Studios and butterbeer

      With having improv classes every weekday except Wednesday I decided to treat myself with an one day early birthday present: a day at the Universal Studios. I didn’t want to head there alone but deciding on the perfect partner in crime wasn’t difficult at all. “Griffin, you’re in?” “Of course, man!”

      Little did I know that I had a Universal Studios expert and butterbeer lover with him joining me. And maybe the one companion with the best lines to make you feel safe:

      • “Don’t worry they are not allowed to touch you. But they come close. Very close.” (Griffin in the Walking Dead walk through.)
      • “Last time I got very wet. I guess we will get very wet.” (Griffin at the The Jurassic Park ride.)
      • “When I got stuck in that ride…” (Griffin at every ride in the park.)

      Griffin is also maybe the only living person who loves Taco Bell so much that he got a Taco Bell gift card from his family for Christmas. And I was more than happy to share my first – and maybe only – Taco Bell experience with him.

      Griffin, you’re great! Hope to see you in Seattle, Vancouver or a Bear costume in some Egyptian music video!

      A cookie dough and German sausage & beer birthday

      My birthday started with a whole lot of candles and cookie dough. Everyone who knows me is aware of the fact that I don’t really care about cakes or cookies but dough is on a totally different page. In December when everyone bakes cookies back home I generally get a limit on how much dough I’m allowed to eat by my friends. I even got dough for my birthday and for Christmas present before. These lovely friends must know me well. That face down there is a “I just woke up and I’m a bit freaked out about the whole lot of candles but look at that dough!” face.

      “So many candles!” “There is one additional because I have read that it is German tradition to have one more for the starting new year of living.” Wow, I totally forgot about that ritual. The last cake I had with candles according to my age… I must have been a teenager still. And yes, my mum put always one more candle on it. I had to smile in memory of that. How sweet to be reminded of forgotten traditions.

      Reminder: I had cookie dough now in three different places in the states now and none tasted close to our German cookie dough. I guess I have to investigate this.

      And then I had to make a damn hard decision: join the last improv class and saying goodbye to the guys or going to the reveal of Mark Hamill’s star on the walk of fame in attendance of Harrison Ford and maybe George Lucas. That’s so unfair. And difficult. “Something good will happen in class that you’ll be glad you didn’t miss it. I’m sure.” Bridget texted. And so I joined class and trusted the universe.

      Bridget suggested to go in the evening for the LA version of German cuisine. Wurstküche. After we practiced the correct pronunciation to annoy her co-workers in future, ordering a rattlesnake & rabbit sausage definitely sounded like the perfect birthday dinner for me. But you can’t imagine my overwhelming excitement when I looked at the drinking menu and found Schneider Weiße on it! The Club Mate I had spotted on the counter made me already think of all these wonderful creativity workshops I was thankful of facilitating with my amazing co-workers. But Schneider, my favorite (wheat) beer and somehow our family beer, on my birthday in LA that was a jackpot of instant happiness.

      Even the closed rooftop bar afterwards couldn’t take the vibe away so the secret basement bar with an experimental gin drink closed my only second ever birthday not celebrated in Germany.

      St. Patrick’s day with my first ever game of beer pong and cornhole

      To make it short: I suck at the first game, but corn hole could be my thing. A keg with about 30 liters of beer but just 5 guests drinking it is a bit too much even when you have a German present who gives his best with starting already at 2pm. Very tasty self-made food by Jess helps to drink more. And to survive a handful of Irish Car Bombs: Chug a small Guiness with a shot of Jameson and Bailey’ inside.

      Baseball Sunday

      I love baseball. I can’t even explain why because it’s nearly invisible in Germany. But I love it and try to get friends to play in the park or throw some balls since I was 13. So I had to go to a game while I was in LA and surprisingly I found two tickets for a UCLA game on my birthday morning. For recovery from St. Patty’s a relaxed Sunday with 3 hours at the ballpark sounded amazing.

      Code in the Brewery

      A free crash course in HTML & CSS and a couple of beers in the Angel City Brewery – that was the first time I was happy about Facebook making a “your friends liked xxx” suggestion for an event. Understanding the basics of coding was another item on my “I like to know about it” list and so I joined the evening event, created a basic cat website and sipped on pretty good craft beer on my last Monday evening. Los Angeles is good to me.

      A tour around the Warner Bros. Studios

      Just one day before leaving Los Angeles I made it to a typical studio tour. Not that I had about 6 weeks to do it, it had to be last day. 3 hours through the Warner Bros. and it was worth all the money.

      While Universal was mostly attractions and rides these were active front and back lots – like the backlot street which appeared in multiple films from Blade Runner to The Big Bang Theory – and sound stages full of stories over decades of being in use, like technical facts about not having ceilings to put sound and lighting up there, fun facts like the use of frozen celery for making the sound of breaking bones in The Walking Dead, a walk through the huge props lot with wax figures of Mr. Smiths being used in Matrix or nice entertainment like the Harry Potter sorting hat (my surprised face in the picture in the beginning of this blog post after being sorted into Gryffindor).

      And the question who wants to sit down with me on that couch?

      Goodbye, America, for now. 🇺🇸


      1. What a fun blog! Amazing experiences, so varied and interesting. You certainly packed a lot into your stay there!

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