>Hello and welcome to the third edition of my ongoing narration of my trip to San Francisco along with my friends. In the last chapter we looked at our first day in the Frisco and how we went about exploring some of the best tourist sites that ‘ the City by the Bay’ had to offer. In this chapter we travel down south to the city of Los-Angeles where I and the rest of the travel party had an exceptional day.
Sunday:May 25 The Supremacy
The day ended on Friday in a rather dull way as we checked into our rooms in what I would like to call not-the-most-welcoming-motel in LA. It was located just adjacent to a bar and its parking space was about the size of basket ball court. Like a miniature paint artist going about his work on a grain of rice, we manured our full size mini-van in the only available spot cheekily avoiding the other cars that were crammed in alongside. Meeting a fellow Indian may not always be a delightful experience. The phrase most definitely summed up the situation as we entered the hotel lobby. As customary of our travel band, we always book hotel rooms in such a way that more people stay in a room than that is allowed by the management. The reason is purely financial. We were 6 and we had 2 rooms and 2 per room was the stipulation and mathematically 2 more too many. The plan, as always, was to sneak the extra people inside, while the legitimate four were doing the paperwork. But on that particular night, it was not to be. A middle-aged Indian guy was at the front desk and apparently he was good with maths and sight. He made us pay (In dollars) an extra fee for the extra humans and let us spend the night in a hotel which, in all fairness, must be offering boarding for free. The carpet smelled with old dampness and elevator squeaked like a haunted house. Unlike I mentioned in the chapters earlier, my luck turned its back on me this time. You get a very different sensation when you inhale stale air, while thinking about the fact that it will be dark when the lights go out at night. The fact that I had most recently experienced severe bug problems in my house was making the phobia progressively worse for me. After connecting our cell phone and camera chargers to oddly placed power sockets, I told myself that I was too tired and thankfully it was true. I remembered closing my eyes doubtfully, almost certain that the bed bugs have already started their feast, and the next thing I knew it was morning.
And morning means good news. Apart from the fact that I was not carried out of the place by night crawlers, a more important reason to be excited was that were headed towards the ‘entertainment capital of LA’ – The UNIVERSAL STUDIOS. We got ready and to my delight, the hotel served my favorite brand of morning cereals-‘Honey Nut Cheerios’ (not affiliated in any way) at least there was one thing sensible about that place. After a hearty breakfast we headed out into the famous and seriously polluted LA streets. Throughout the drive I noticed that LA, at least the part we were traveling through, did not resemble any thing like a metropolitan city. The freeway way was bordered by simple housings and there weren’t any high rise offices either. Anyhow, when we arrived at the Universal studios I was not exactly sure of how I was feeling right then. The reviews for the place were out of the roof, but then again, I am not really a fan of reviews. Also, I have never been a big supporter freaky roller coasters either and for some reason my vision of theme park has always been crazy rides and expensive souvenirs. What I did not know was that I was about to be entertained in the right way and proved wrong at the same time.
Thanks to the VIP tickets we had bought earlier, parking was hassle free. I noticed that the there was big crowd that day and given that it was a Sunday and that too in the middle of a long weekend, I guess it wasn’t a surprise. The studio greeted us with red carpet, literally. The huge circling metal globe with the marquee ‘Universal Studios’ was placed in the center of a concrete cavity with water fountains surrounding it sprayed needles of water on people trying to get too close to it, sometimes with the help of some wind on their cameras. Then the red carpet and then the huge metal gates that resemble some of the gates from Lord of the Rings and once you enter it, you have officially set foot on a moviegoers fantasy land. some of the best movies to come out of the studio were captured once again with props, hydraulics, pyrotechnics and some fantastic live characters to bring them to life. The adventure started with ‘the Studio tour’- a trip in a mid-size cab on tracks which went rolling down various sets and locations in which many movies and prime time TV shows were being shot. It was hard to believe that all those buildings and fountains and streets were simple cardboard and metal props. I have never been to a movie set and to be in the one of Hollywood’s major factories it was just amazing. There was a simulated flood- huge amounts of water just rush through a make believe street as it inundates everything in its path including the cab in which we were seated (only up to feet level, of course). Then there was the earthquake simulation. Here is the scenario. Our cab gets stuck inside a typical city rail-tunnel and without warning a Richter-9 scale earthquake hits the location. Things explode around us as the train cabs in the nearby tracks tumble; electric cables snap and create massive fires and somewhere a major water line breaks flooding the whole area. Just when you thought its over, the roof breaks open and the rescue helicopter falls down into the tunnel before exploding; the interesting part- the whole thing takes place in a matter of minutes. If such a complex scenario can be executed everyday for tourists, no wonder Hollywood is able to make spectacular movies. We were even shown the set in the movie ‘War of the Worlds’ which involves a crashed Boeing 747 with its various parts strewn in the middle of a suburban neighborhood, which looked exactly the way it was shown on the movie. After that, we were off to the movie rides. The attractions included a daring boat drive through the Jurassic Park, then a thrilling roller coaster with the Mummy, a gut wrenching Terminator 4D ride, and a live fear-factor show- you know the show in which people are asked to eat goat testicles (yuk) for prize (why didn’t say so).
Everywhere there were artifacts, performers and actors in costumes. One thing that definitely made the day more pleasurable was that we were spared from the agony of waiting in the line for hours for each ride, because we had bought VIP tickets(extra fee of course) and hence we were given a separate entrance, front row seats and the best of all perks, multiple rides. Thats right- while others had to wait for their turn in ‘The Simpson Ride’- the studios newest attraction and my personal favorite, for about 45 minutes, we took the ride twice in a matter 10 minutes and the same for all the attractions. I have to admit, being treated special was pretty cool. No wonder why many people go crazy after becoming famous. It was an absolutely spectacular experience. We immensely enjoyed the magical world (note: world, not kingdom) and wrapped up the day with some hotties. As we left the studios for our car, I couldn’t help but think that it has been proved yet again that when it comes to entertainment, these guys are pros.
Back to the car, and our long drive back to San Francisco begins.
Coming up.. Our Final day of the trip – a walk through the SFO city streets and prison halls.