This week we continue my two-part tribute to myself in honor of my twentieth birthday. Last week I began the story of my birthday present - a trip out to Los Angeles to stay with my brother, Greg. Some of you may think that it's incredibly egotistical of me to devote two straight weeks to writing about my birthday present. Those of you who think that are absolutely right. The rest of you really need to look up the word "egotistical." But I've got a story to tell, and what a story it is!
The homey exterior hides a deadly secret (ninjas).
Now, when we left off, I had been nearly crushed by an elevator, broken a toilet, and changed the weather patterns of one of the most predictable meteorological systems in the country, all within the first hour of touching down in LA. Clearly, I was never meant to set foot in the City of Angels, as my presence brought about nothing but chaos and devastation. I decided to spare the city an untimely armageddon by destroying myself. I had my brother take me to Denny's. While the Denny's chain is hardly confined to the west coast, there aren't any of them in my area. In fact, I had only been to a Denny's once before in my life, and that was all of a couple weeks earlier. That experience had not been what I would call a culinary delight. I had the new mini cheeseburgers, which are advertised as six tiny, yet proportionally delicious cheeseburgers positioned attractively around a pile of onion rings. The actual thing consisted of six meat-like wafers that were obviously all cut from the same sheet of pre-perforated beef substitute, crammed between two torn chunks of compressed yeast, with a disproportionately massive helping of raw, torn onion and enough mustard to keep a New York street vendor supplied for a month, thrown haphazardly at three and a half onion rings. I managed to get them down, but almost as soon as I did, they wanted to come right out the other end. I made a mad dash for the bathroom, but the only stall in there was already overflowing with a black, frothy goop that could only be the end result of a hundred or more unhappy customers who thought they would try the mini cheeseburgers. There was no way I could relieve myself there without plopping my ass into at least six inches of poorly-digested imitation beef and mustard, so I actually had to hold it until I could drive down the road to someplace with a public restroom. Suffice it to say, I was not impressed by my first visit to Denny's.
Since the mini cheeseburgers failed to finish me off, I decided to try sizing up to the real thing. To my surprise, the softspoken Mexican waiter actually brought me a real burger. It wasn't half bad. Little did I know that it was only the beginning of what would end up being a tour of the myriad burgers LA has to offer. But I'm getting ahead of myself. And since I'm already there, let me just take a look behind me and see... yep, I'm one sexy piece of Jew. Anyway, we then went back to my brother's place in Woodland Hills. On the way to his apartment, we passed a street by the name of "Oxnard" and I burst out laughing. If you're wondering why, you need to shout "Oxnard" at the top of your lungs. Believe me, it will become very clear. Especially if you do it at work. It's just a ridiculous name for a street. Later on I saw a car with "Oxnard Motors" on the back. Since this was in LA, where a Corvette is considered to be a degrading, silly-looking clown car that no one in their right mind would be caught dead so much as washing, this particular car was quite nice. And even though it was a better car than I am likely to ever own in my entire life, I still wouldn't drive it, because I just couldn't take myself seriously in a car with the word "Oxnard" on the back. And taking myself seriously is a very important matter to me. After all, I am an internet writer. See, I come from New England, where the streets and towns are named in one of two ways. Either they have weird, nearly unpronounceable Native American names like Squammasattesmattaport, Massaquattahermaphropotta Road, and Jamiroquai Circle, or they have the incredibly uncreative names given to them by the white settlers, such as the Connecticut towns of Westfield, Middlefield, Newfield, Weston, Middletown, and Newtown, and streets that all describe their relation to Main Street, such as East Main Street, Southeast Main Street, East Main Street South, Left Main Street, One Mile From Main Street, and You Can See Main Street From Here If You Squint Really Hard Avenue, which is where the rich folk live. And yet, the name "Oxnard" is really funny to me. My brother and I agreed on this point, and two Platts are never wrong. I just can't imagine what would ever possess someone to name their street Oxnard. I guess "Prairie Oyster Lane" and "Bull Ball Boulevard" were taken.
Run away! Run away! I don't care that's it's just a payphone! Run away! Run away!
On Saturday, we went into Hollywood to see the free sights. While sitting in the shade of the historic TV Guide building, we had lunch at the famous In-N-Out Burger - the very same noteworthy chain that Steve Buscemi speaks so highly of in "The Big Lebowski." I don't know why this chain hasn't made it out to the East, but it's never anything short of packed out in LA. The menu consists of maybe five items. I picked up a Double Double - the In-N-Out equivalent of a Big Mac, and chowed down. That was a darn good burger, I have to say. LA does fast food right. Or so I thought. That night I had my first, and hopefully last taste of the disturbingly nasty ground evil known as Del Taco. Now, a lot of people ride Taco Bell for being disgusting. Personally, I love Taco Bell. I'll wolf down three, four, five of their tacos in one sitting and beat myself up for not getting more. I'm not saying that I - as well as anyone in a one hundred foot radius - don't pay for it later, but it's worth it. California is full of Mexicans, and if there's one thing I can say about the Mexican people, it's that they're the most trustworthy demographic you could ever want to meet or be stabbed by. I wholly expected that a Mexican fast food chain based in California would beat the pants off of Taco Bell. And I learned something! I barely managed to force down the taco, continually telling myself that my next bite would reveal just how much better this was than Taco Bell. That revelation never became clear to me. I then started in on the cheddar quesadilla, which my cousin and her roommate asserted was a quality product. I couldn't finish it, although Lord knows I tried. I ate McDonalds at least six out of seven days of every week last summer. When I can't finish my fast food, something is very, very wrong. The tongue-wrenching unpleasantness of the quesadilla made me long for the subtle, muted crappiness of the taco. I knew then that when it came to fast food in LA, my best bet was to stick with the burgers.
On the next episode of Hollywood High, Travis finds out Dakota is cheating on him with Principal McMartin!
As for my day in Hollywood, I got to see all of the landmarks that make it the celebrated center of the film industry that it sort of is. I saw the famous Hollywood sign, compared my hands to the handprints of Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger outside Grauman's Chinese Theater, walked along the very pavement that the red carpet would be on if it was Oscar time at the Kodak Theater, collided with dozens of people as I tried to walk down the street and read the names on the stars on the ground at the same time, and posed for photos for a group of very confused Japanese tourists who thought I was Bruce Willis. However, the most memorable sight was not a monument to filmmaking or television, but rather Hollywood High School, home of the Hollywood Sheiks. Even more impressive than the fact that a school would name its team after a bunch of fat Middle Eastern rulers who make their obscene fortunes by maintaining a stranglehold on the world's oil resources was the mural on the back of the school, which pointed out that this was, in fact, HOLLYWOOD HIGH in the sort of flashy, gigantic letters that made me fully expect to see the words "AN AARON SPELLING PRODUCTION" just below. Although my brother assured me that this was an actual high school, I remained convinced that it absolutely had to be a set for some new teen comedy, or worse, a teen soap opera like Boston Public. Greg tried to prove that it was really a school by pointing out that there were even kids playing soccer on the field, but upon closer inspection, those kids turned out to be guys in their thirties - just like on TV. Point, Ben. Thanks for coming out.
Seeing as how we were out in LA, where the mysterious fog had lifted without turning more than a handful of people inside out and it was now seventy-six and sunny, as opposed to four degrees below zero back in Boston, we made the most of the fabulous warmth by spending that night inside a hockey rink. We joined in on a huge game of broomball - game of a thousand bruised asses. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the sport of broomball, which is to say, those of you with survival instincts of any kind, let me fill you in on how it's played. It's basically like hockey, except it's less organized and the equipment is a bit different. Instead of the curve of a hockey stick, broomball sticks end in this thick, spatula-like head, and whereas hockey has a puck, broomball has a bright orange ball. This made it a lot easier to follow the action, which was good since there was enough general confusion as it was. There is no real checking, but you end up colliding with other players on the opposing team as well as your own more than enough since, unlike hockey, the players are not wearing skates. Broomball is played in sneakers. We packed at least twenty-five, if not thirty people onto the ice, all running around in sneakers and trying to smack a little orange ball with large, hard sticks. This was a record turnout for this particular game, which meets every few weeks. Apparently the large number of participants was big news, as the fact that this game would actually have two goalies was met with great celebration. The teams were picked like they used to be back in high school - two captains pick from the pool of available players until they get down to the last few and fight over who gets the losers. The system still works. Of course, there are no team jerseys or colors or anything of that nature to help you determine who is on what team, and the game began the moment teams were picked, so once the action began, it was pretty much trial-and-error to figure out who was playing for what side.
Two seconds after this picture was taken, every single player simultaneously fell on their asses.
Now, as in any sport, some people are better than others, but in broomball, the best players are the ones who can fall without seriously injuring themselves. It's impossible to stay vertical in this game. If you try to run, you fall. If you try to stop, you fall. If you try to make a big slapshot, the momentum of your swing throws you off balance and you fall. If you try to pass, you fall. Even if you can manage to stay on your feet for more than a few seconds, someone else is going to end up falling, sliding, and crashing into you, so you fall. Luckily, the game is sped up by the fact that other than doing your best not to deliberately hurt anyone else, there are no rules. There are also no periods, so each game is one straight hour of slipping, sliding, crashing, tripping, and stumbling while simultaneously trying to hit, kick, punt, grab, throw, or otherwise move the ball vaguely in the direction of that one guy who you're almost positive is actually on your team and who might be able to sustain verticality long enough to get the ball close enough to the goal to take a shot before he falls on his ass. There's no way to avoid getting hurt. You can avoid the other players for the entire hour and still come away with a few dozen bruises. And if you do manage to summon the courage to enter the fray, it's pretty much guaranteed that you're going to take a stick to the shin, or the knee, or even the oxnards. It was a fucking blast. Tired as hell, we made our way back to my brother's apartment, where we found that the doorknob to the staircase was missing. He only lives one flight up, so we usually just took the stairs, but with the doorknob missing, we simply didn't have the energy to get the door open. So we called down the elevator and wearily shambled inside, which is when the door promptly tried to crush me and refused to open. The elevators in LA had it in for me. It's like the Don Elevator sent this elevator to finish the hit that the airport elevator screwed up. I'm sure I could have opened the newspaper and found the headline "LAX Elevator Door Found In Ocean Attached To Cement Block."
I hate to leave you in suspense, especially without delivering all of the goods I promised last week, but if I finish off the entire story today, this article will go on forever and Lowtax will reach through my computer screen and rip out my eyes. And I need those. For seeing. So come on back next week for the exciting conclusion (I swear) of Greasnin Goes to California!
The Frontpage Intro: A Behind the Scenes Look
Hello friends, Zachary "Spokker Jones" Gutierrez here. Have you ever wondered what kind of work goes into this little front page blurb that serves to introduce and entice you to read the day's feature? I know I have. It's a simple process that begins in the bathroom. While sitting on the toilet I think of some stupid thing to say in this general area. I then scribble it on a piece of toilet paper and send it along with Weekend Web by way of carrier pigeon to Ben "Greasnin" Platt. Old Ben will then etch my blurb onto his granite stone that contains his already completed front page update. Greasnin sends his update and mine to Lowtax by way of USPS Priority Mail. The stone is inevitably lost and Lowtax wonders why he never got it. Greasnin blames it on Livestock who has nothing to do with the whole thing. Or does he? Greasnin and I have to send our updates a second time so Lowtax can post them on his website and make the big internet bucks. Greasnin and I each get a package of crackers for our trouble. The first granite stone shows up in Lowtax's mailbox four months later.
I hope you learned a little bit about the process that makes Something Awful possible. Next week I'll teach you how yelling at his computer helped Lowtax become the king of dot-comedy. In the mean time enjoy this week's Weekend Web.
Are you concerned that you may be a character trapped in a Tom Waits song? Be smart and learn the warning signs before it's too late. Also, it's too late. It has always been too late.
I'm haunted by a recurring vision of a skeleton flipping me off. To avoid seeing this terrifying image in bumper sticker form, I pay someone with a blank bumper to drive in front of me at all times.
The Something Awful front page news tackles anything both off and on the Internet. Mostly "on" though, as we're all incredible nerds.