Ive started this entry , then erased it and thought about it for the past week as to how Id like to take it all down and express in detail my most recent trip out to Los Angeles. I try to keep this blog mostly client based but I felt this "vacation" was a bit too monumental to not post. I left Fort Wayne with a backpack and a rented FijiFilm x100s rangefinder and had the most awesome time.
Wednesday, December 10th. I drove down to Carmel, Indiana to be transported to the IND airport by Jenna's mother Debbie. We shared stories from out west where she grew up and 50s culture. I arrived early which I really prefer to do, uncertainty of long lines and finding gates. It just so happens that folks departing the plane I was about to fly out on consisted of some heavy hitters in the Hot Rod and Modified car world, that being said I saw and shook hands with Vic Edelbrock which would be the start to a good trip. I arrived at LAX around 9:15pm PST by my good friend and someone I consider a brother Ian with some honking and yelling from the car and off we went. The weather was comfortable. It was nice to put the window down and take it all in. Something about palm trees. We went to a 50s inspired little diner that has vegetarian options on the menu and. I was told to come hungry. I had been to this place before, granted that was 6 years ago and in my mind had been way too long of a lull period from LA. My previous trips out there I had always stayed in the city of Gardena, in the South Bay area. Ian has since moved to down town LA which I had never been. Full of night time city lights and the proverbial hustle and bustle of city life was ever more present. Ian's apartment was what appeared to be an old factory converted into studio apartments. That night, although tired due to the time difference we made plans to drive north to Santa Cruz to visit NHS Inc or better known as Santa Cruz skateboards, Independent trucks and more. Once the plan was set we got some sleep to wake up early the next morning to attempt to avoid morning traffic.
Thursday, December 11th. Leaving Ian's apartment we had to walk about half a block to a parking garage, up six floors and arrive out of breath to the car Ian rented for our travels. According to Google maps we were instructed to head north on highway 5. Traffic was fairly mild but the traffic going south was pretty backed up so in a since we were happy to be getting away from it. The journey was pleasant. It went from scenic to rather desolate in the span of about 30 minutes. I'm accustomed to farm land but the views of the mountains was a nice change. I knew the further north we go that the chance of rain was a for sure possibility but we pushed on. Ever see the beginning of a rainbow? We did, it was almost surreal. The lame iPhone images I took didn't do it justice and sorry kids, no pot of gold at the end! The winds really began to pick up as did the tumbleweeds that darted across the freeway in front of us. Ian said it was as if the car was being picked up. Granted we were driving a Nissan Versa. A small compact car but reports of winds being in the 60-80mph range didn't seem to matter what we were driving. Due to freeway closings we were routed down some sketchy roads with standing waters, freeway traffic shut down due to accidents but hell or high water we made it to NHS.
Once we enter the facility I spot 3 other guys in the lobby area, I walk up the receptions desk and tell them I'd like to take a tour of the NHS museum. I was told that the actual receptionist was at lunch and would be back shortly so we hung out. The receptionist comes back and I told her we were looking for a tour. She tells me that the tours have to be scheduled and did I sent an email? I explain to her yes, I sent the email and gave her the email address I sent it to but alas no reply back. She asked "well we have a tour around 2:00 tomorrow but I can't just take anyone back" I felt the blood drain from my face. I explain to her that we drove 6 hours up from LA, I just flew in from Indiana and I know so and so through skateboard deck collecting but that person was in Europe at the time for sales. She told me to hang out a bit and she will schedule the other guys for the following day because they're local and she'll take us back. I was so stoked! I asked if there would be any way to get to tour the whole facility? She says normally that doesn't happen but she called a sales rep named Brooke who was stoked to give Ian and I the tour. He came down and mentioned he is the Midwest sales rep and was familiar with my local shop and or shops I brought up and up the stairs to the offices we went. From there I saw so many amazing things from the company I've held so high in the skateboard world and collected the most from. So many original Jim Phillips inked pieces and paintings. As a kid he was the most influential artist to me and I'm staring at his original ink drawings of the boards I collect. We got to meet people on the sales team, artists etc. All the while elated at the rarity of the art and skateboards I'm seeing. He took us through the production room floor so see the rare one off / rare decks, the processes, the screens. I was just in awe. We finished up going through the NHS museum. So much history and rare things that otherwise I'd never see. I owe them a large THANK YOU for going above and beyond to get this done and make this trip what it was.
The journey home started with seeing the size of the swells on the water from the ocean which I'd never seen that size in person. We stopped off at a Chinese place called Canton which was good and made us pretty much forget the drive up as we discussed the rad stuff from NHS. The drive home was nothing short of white knuckle. I say this due to the extreme rain and wind. In the Midwest we have some bad storms but this was different. I did a small leg of the driving and was fighting the wind the whole time and boom! I collided with a tumbleweed that took up the whole front of the car but there was really no avoiding it. We laugh about it now but damn, it was scary at the time and for sure kept me awake. Once we got back in the greater LA area the rain had calmed down and back to Ian's apartment I was ready to pass out. I flipped through my images on the x100s and slept like a log.
Friday December 12th. The day started with a search for breakfast. We ended up at this little spot called "Toast & Coffee" which I made jokes about hoping they have more than just that. I wasn't looking for anything big so I ordered a Braeburn apple juice. Some of the best apple juice I've ever had. We went to a local mall to find a White Elephant gift for a party we were to attend the next night. We end up buying a Misfits LP and a Death LP(A band called Death doc is a must see) We were both booked to get tattoo'd at Midtown Tattoo by Santa Cruz rider and tattoo artist Eric Dressen. Before we did we stopped off at Gus's Lunch Box for burritos. Now, granted if you know me you know I don't handle spice well so I ordered a mild veggie burrito. Ian on the other hand ordered the extra hot which comes with a disclaimer. I took a few bites to see if I could handle it...needless to say I hated my life at that point! but really it wasn't terrible but nothing I could handle. We found our way down Pico blvd to Midtown Tattoo. Met up with Eric. Such a good dude. Talking about life and the "old days" of skateboarding and most things inbetween but to meet a guy I've respected for so long was super rad. I was stoked the whole time. His work is clean and traditional. The shop had the same vibe and the shop was full of traditional flash and custom works. They had a shop dog was super friendly and just wanted pets. Such a great experience. From there we went to a store called Wacko. I picked up a few kustom car zines and a gift for Jenna. Store was pretty rad. We later went to a vegan spot called Shojin in little Tokyo. Ian, his friend Hannah and myself. I've been vegetarian for a long time but this place Id rank right up there. We ordered a sushi roll called "Pirates of the Crunchy" which is fried Tempeh and Tempura flakes, and for the entree I ordered marinated Seitan Steak. Again, Ive had a lot of veggie dishes that mimic a meat texture but this was one of the best I've ever had. Ian ordered the Sweet Orange Seitan which was good but a little too sweet for my liking. All in all an end to an otherwise great day.
Saturday, December 13th I woke up feeling refreshed and getting used to the busy everyday life that is downtown Los Angeles. That morning we went to return the rental car in Gardena to borrow Ian's mom Tosh's car for the weekend. So good to see the people that have treated my family like one of theirs since day one was heartwarming. I'll get to that more below. Gardena is the "essential" California for me cause that is where the basis of everything has been for me. From there we met up with our good friend Kenny. He has always been a good friend to me. It's kind of amazing who you meet through the car world who to this day remains good friends or even family. We headed to Irwindale California to the speedway for the Mooneyes Xmas Party and vintage drags. This was the main reason for wanting to book this trip. Personally being knee deep in the 50s style, culture and cars for what feels to be several years it was a must. Ian and I went to this show in 2004 or 2005 around the time he introduced me to rat rods and traditional rods and I've had a love for them ever since. I knew that Powell Peralta skater and car builder / artist Steve Caballero would be there so I was super stoked to meet him. I had the x100s in hand the whole time and the cars, sights, vendors were next level from the norm in my opinion. I happen to run into Steve early into the show while he was walking around with his Japanese friends the Nash and Mr.G. He was such a nice guy and very humbled to meet new people. I asked him if we could meet up later cause I didn't want to take away from his day. Ian, Kenny and myself went over to watch the vintage gassers run 1/8th mile. I have as of late gotten into the gasser cars but have never seen them run. I think we watched them for hours. So awesome and the weather was a plus, 70s and little cloud cover. It was as if someone took a scene straight from the 50s at Irwindale. I made my rounds to photograph what I could and met back up with Steve who signed a zine he did the cover art for and we took a pic together and shook hands again. We drove away hours later having good discussions about car culture and who fits what mold and why. Such a good time.
The evening pressed on as we walked around the arts district of Los Angeles. We stopped off at a German titled bar that serves vegan sausages. We continued our discussion from earlier which really is pretty deep in the grand scheme of things. We went over to a friend of Kenny and Ian's, her name is Dani. She liked to offer my water knowing I wasn't going to take the shots of Jamison they were doing. We laughed about it now but it was good times. Later on we would head over to Chubby Boob, or CBNC is what they're known as now. Its an small local clothing brand catering to bicycle riders. I have quite a few pieces of their clothing in my closet. I wasn't sure what to expect from the party. There facility was in a weird enclosed courtyard full of loft style apartments. Inside was full of old taxidermy and a lot of people. It was pretty packed. I spent a lot of my time out in the courtyard on a concrete bench. I didn't know many people and it really wasn't my scene but it was nice to meet some new people and the creator of the clothing line. I was overcome with the sense of not belonging and kind of wanted to leave. I know that makes me sound like a "party pooper" but eventually the night end and by the time we left it was almost 6am Indiana time, I was dead tired at the time. Fast to sleep.
Sunday December 14th. I woke up salty and really couldn't explain it, maybe it was the night before, maybe it was being home sick and at the moment consciousness set in, I heard what was a loud car crash in front of Ian's apartment. From the skidding of the tires, to the impact and the horn was blowing for a good 10-15 minutes. I thought to myself this day has to get better! We headed out a few hours later to find donuts. It's a bit of a tradition between Ian and myself to get Maple Bars or "Mapo-Bahhs" when I'm out there. We found a small place not too far from his place called KCs. Donuts were still warm. Good stuff. We were on our way to Ventura California for the David Mann Chopperfest. This show sounded promising cause it was vintage motorcycles and not the cake decorating kind that became popular in the early 2000s. I was looking forward to it, as was Ian considering his current Chopper build. The weather was perfect. Sunny and upper 60s just like the day before at Mooneyes. I ended up seeing a few vendors and people from Mooneyes at this show, but that's just par for the course. Ian and I make our rounds. Saw some amazing bikes and stuff from vendors...and then the a brawl broke out. It's really the last thing you want to see at a large event. Then it broke out again. The police showed up and it broke out again. At this point they were barring people from coming in and anyone who had a cut or colors on were asked to remove them or leave. I promptly took my Jacobs Jalopies hoodie off. Its nothing more than a two man car club between my brother and I but I wasn't going to ruin the show for myself or Ian. Not long after I spot Santa Cruz skater and bike builder Jason Jessee! Unbeknownst to me he'd be there with his company Hard Luck. I saw him and then he seemed to disappear into the crowd. I thought about trying to find him and gave up on the notion but I knew if I didn't at least try to meet him with everyone else from the skating world Id kick myself. We eventually found him. He was a super nice guy and happened to sell a deck of his to me and sign it. "hey Jeremy, what's your name again?" We shortly left and I felt as if my day was made just with that encounter.
From there Ian asked me if there was anywhere I'd like to go cause we had some time to kill before dinner. I told him being a fan of the show Californication I'd love to see the Venice canals. Off to Venice we went. I make it a point to see the ocean and stand on the beach whenever I'm there. It makes me feel small when sometimes the world doesn't. It takes me away for a minute. Something about the push/pull of the water. I went on the boardwalk, checked out the skate park and the now filled in graffiti spot from so many early skate videos. We walked along the canals which was rad to see. Off to Gardena. Now when I say I have family in California I am always welcomed with open arms by Ian's Mom Tosh and his grandmother Aiko who we call "Obaachan" which basically means "grandmother" in Japanese. She made us a feast consisting of Fried Tofu(best I've had ever) Gyoza(dumplings) Curry, sticky rice, pumpkin and some egg plant and mushrooms. She has the family picture Xmas card we sent a few years ago hanging in the kitchen and told me she looks at it every day. There were no other family pictures in the kitchen. She gave my daughter Heaven a traditional Japanese card for starting high school. Now, she did refuse to take a pic with me, even though she knew her hair looked good! haha. Her and Tosh are such amazing people so it's no wonder Ian has been so kind, hospitable and over all a brother to me over the last 12 years. Things like that you just don't find in every day society and I am humbled and fortunate to be a part of it all.
Monday, December 15th The conclusion Monday started early as Ian paid to get a shuttle for me to get back to LAX. Once at the airport I sat there waiting to board the plane with a back pack full of clothes and hot rod memorabilia and a Jason Jessie "Guadalupe" in tow but my heart was filled with so much love. This trip out west trumps all others I've had. It's amazing how so much can come together in such a short amount of time for me. Granted, it was about 5 years too long since Id been there but I'd call it my home away from home. The flight home was smooth and I was excited to get back to Jenna and the house. I can't thank those who made this happen enough. I saw and met just some amazing people, People I've looked up to since I was 9 years old. I left inspired, loved and overall elated. I know this was long but I didn't want to miss anything. Thank you for reading. Enjoy.