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Back at home, reflecting on coffee beans and friends...

I walk in the door and you're already hopping up and down, all, "What did you bring me, what did you bring me?"

And I settle myself down, but you're already digging in my bags, and you pull something out and say, "What's THIS?"

I have to yell, "Put that back! That's airport porn! You'll get your present in a minute. Just SETTLE. DOWN!"

And really all I brought back was a few stories and pictures, and I know that may not be exactly what you were expecting. But, really, Los Angeles has some of the worst airport tchotchkes in the world. Little miniature Oscars? Keychains with a star from the Walk of Fame? And don't look at me like that because I've bought them before.

Wouldn't you rather we just hung out and talked? Isn't that better than some little lame trinket?

Fine. Okay. Here's your Hollywood sign snow globe. Enjoy.



The first time I went to Los Angeles in my life, two years ago, I absolutely hated it.

I only knew a few friends in the city, so most of the time there I spent alone, going to the big Electronic Entertainment Expo and spending the evenings wandering alone wherever I happened to end up after the parties and events surrounding that conference.

I hated that everyone wore black.

I hated that people were so concerned with their appearance that they drove around in expensive cars that they obviously (based on the fact that many of them were working as waiters and waitresses) could barely afford to put gas in those vehicles.

I hated the slick feeling of exclusion and knew that I could never ever fit in because it was an entire city of pretty popular people (at least in their own minds). I couldn't wait to get back home.

Last year, I visited for a wedding and got to spend more time with friends and see more of the sights. The city began to grow on me. I knew I still could never ever live there, but it went from a base of evil in my mind to simply another city where other people lived.

This time, after spending four days almost entirely in the company of friends who've moved there in the last year, I was for the first time enchanted.

Part of it is that Pamie has a fantastic place. I was able to stay at Pamie and Ray's house and it's just this amazing gorgeous place nestled right at the foot of the Hollywood Hills looking out over the city like a highway scenic outlook. The road up to and past her place is this incredibly narrow, winding street that's straight out of a movie. Which is appropriate because it's a place where a lot of the builders of our collective dreamscape — from record producers to actors and writers like Pamie — live.

It was the first time since a long-ago visit to San Francisco that I felt I'd found another place where I might be comfortable enough to live outside of Austin.

It didn't hurt that Heather was there. It didn't hurt that I had friends from MightyBigTV who either live in L.A. or were visiting for the E3 expo. It didn't hurt that Pamie herself was a great host, introducing me to the crack-like addiction that is Coffee Bean. It didn't hurt that Stee made me laugh about 3.4 million times in the course of the weekend. It didn't hurt that I ate at cool restaurants. It didn't hurt that I had a rental car and didn't feel hindered by cab rides the way I usually do when I'm in L.A. It didn't hurt that I badly needed a break from Austin and that the surface plasticity of L.A. was actually a refreshing change – I'd see beautiful people everywhere puffing their chests out (whether they were buff male ones or improbably inflated starlet ones), trying to be noticed. Ordinarily, I'd be turned off. This time, I enjoyed the sport of people watching and seeing people living out the edge of their dreams, waking up every morning wondering if that would be the day of the Big Break.

I felt, for a few fleeting moments throughout the weekend, that I might want to be there, grasping at dreams that were slightly different than the norm and maybe more attainable than I give myself credit for.

I wondered if this was a place where I could dream and work at the same time.



Coffee Beaning

As soon as I got off the plane, I picked up Pamie and took her to the Electronic Entertainment Expo. Overall, the conference was a little disappointing. This is the biggest video game expo in the world, the place where Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft and hundreds of small companies put on huge, noisy displays to try to crack the short attention spans of not just video game fans, but those wizened, cynical members of the gaming press and other video game producers. It's the toughest audience in the world for video games, and $10 million of development can yield a deadly, "Well, THAT sucks," from somebody checking out a game's booth for the first time.

"Welcome to L.A. Here's your drink."

There weren't that many surprises. PlayStation2 had more interesting games than last year. The X-Box from Microsoft wasn't nearly as good as I had been expecting and developers from other companies didn't seem very jazzed about it. On the other hand, Nintendo's upcoming Game Cube was a nice surprise. The games for it are much more colorful and different than the stuff coming out on other platforms. The system won't have DVD playback like the PS2 and X-Box, but it will only cost $200, cheaper than the other next-gen consoles.

Okay, so eough geek speak. The show itself was, as always, a huge, loud, spectacle of excess. Noisy booths, a few celebrities, not nearly as many booth babes as in years past and lots and lots of video games. After about two hours of the show, Pamie looked like she was going to pass out from sensory overload.

We left the show and made our way back toward her place, but not before we made a fateful pit stop.

The Coffee Bean. This place is like Willy Wonka's Starbucks. They have these incredibly sugary and good coffee drinks. Pamie treated me to an Ultimate Chocolate, which is just that. An orgiastic frenzy of espresso beans, chocolate, milk and like maybe 12 other narcotics. I scarfed it down and ended up having Coffee Bean every day I was in L.A. Now I'm going through withdrawl. For me, Coffee Bean is this year's Krispy Kreme. Please, please, somebody, build one in Austin. I promise I'll go every day.

More L.A. adventures ==>


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