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Great day in Los Angeles

For the most part, Kathryn and I slept pretty well the first night in L.A. I was woken up by a bit of noise around the pool area at midnight, but I got back to sleep pretty quickly. What woke me up was the sound of a beer bottle hitting the ground. Luckily it didn’t break. The managers must have given the folks a talking to, because they drank from cans the following night.

We woke relatively early Saturday, around 6:30 or so, knowing we had a big day in front of us. We had a light, early breakfast at the hotel, mindful of the fact we’d be attending Mass later. The breakfast served was what a lot of hotels now refer to as deluxe continental, which means continental plus a waffle iron. Kathryn and I shared a waffle and each had some cereal and something to drink. After heading back to the room to shower and dress, we got in the car and headed over to St. Francis.

The Mass started at 10 am, but I really wanted to get us there early, thinking that parking and seating might be at a premium. Good thing we did. We arrived around 9:30 and got one of the last few spaces in the parking lot. Most folks were milling outside the church, and we said some hellos to people we knew. We then went in and took a seat. The church filled quickly, and it was 10 before we knew it.

This was the first time we’d been to a profession of solemn vows, and I really didn’t know much about what was going to happen. Four brothers were professing, including the one from our parish, Br. Jeff. The church was full of Franciscan friars, including the associate pastor of our parish, Fr. Alonso, and the pastor, Fr. Vince, who was leading the choir. From my own experience, the closest thing I could compare it to is a wedding. Instead of a bride and groom professing fidelity to one another, these new brothers were professing fidelity to the order.

The liturgy was beautiful. The readings and the solemn vows were in three different languages — English, Spanish, and Vietnamese — reflecting the diverse cultural backgrounds of the new friars. This diversity was also reflected in the community in attendance. One of the most touching moments came at the end of the Mass, after communion, when the assembly of friars all sang a hymn to their newest brothers.

A reception followed the Mass, and although the food looked great, we didn’t stay long. We congratulated Br. Jeff, chatted with a few people we knew, waited for the blessing, and headed for the exit.

Back at the hotel, our minds turned to lunch. Before leaving for L.A., I did a search on Yelp and printed out a list of the top ten rated inexpensive restaurants in the neighborhood around our hotel. We passed one of them on the way back to the hotel, a Jewish delicatessen called Langer’s, so we decided to walk there for a bite. We shared a No. 19 sandwich, which is pastrami, Swiss cheese, cole slaw, and Russian dressing on rye bread. (In case you’re wondering, yes, Kathryn and I share our meals a lot. That’s why we both have such stunning figures.) The sandwich was absolutely perfect. It was one of those special moments where you realize your meal is at an equilibrium point such that changing any one thing would make it something less than what it was. Perhaps it’s not a surprise that Langer’s has been in the same spot doing the same thing for over 50 years. And it was a good thing we went when we did. The restaurant closes at 4 pm every day and is closed Sundays. Our late lunch Saturday was our last chance for this visit.

After lunch, we decided to walk across the street to MacArthur Park, just to say we were there. It looks nicer from a distance. When you’re close enough to see how bare the grass is and how strung out the visitors are, it’s hard to find it pretty. That said, the streets around the park were all quite lively during the day, and we didn’t feel particularly unsafe. People were walking everywhere. Shops all had business. I made a conscious observation of how few vacant storefronts there were. At home in the Valley, it seems like every other storefront is vacant in the typical suburban strip mall, yet in the middle of the urban ghetto in L.A., business was booming everywhere. I’m sure there’s a lesson to be learned here.

Our bellies full, we went back to the hotel to rest for a while, but not for too long. We still had more to do.

We decided the best way to see the ocean would be to take a drive up the Pacific Coast Highway. There was a lot of traffic in the late afternoon, but that just meant we were able to slow down and enjoy the view. We started the drive in Santa Monica and continued north and west to Malibu. We drove for about an hour, and then came back the same way, stopping in Malibu for a stroll on the pier. The air was so humid we could actually see the moisture. It felt like it could turn to fog at any moment, but it didn’t while we were there.

After the drive along the coast, it was time to head to another iconic restaurant, Bob’s Big Boy in Burbank. We arrived there around 7 pm, and we expected to wait a while for a table, but in fact we only waited about 15 minutes, which gave us time to get photos of the Big Boy statue out front. We each ordered an Original Big Boy Combo, which is a double-decker burger with fries and a house salad, and we shared an hot fudge ice cream brownie dessert. We definitely enjoyed the food, but I think what we enjoyed even more was the old-school coffee shop atmosphere.

Before heading back to the hotel, we took a detour to find a pharmacy to fill a prescription we forgot to take care of before we left Phoenix. Our GPS dutifully found the nearest CVS for us, which was luckily a 24-hour location. However, when we got inside, the pharmacy was closed! We asked the staff at the front counter what the story was, and they said only the store was 24 hours, but the pharmacy closed at 8 pm. Huh? It seems to us the only reason to keep a pharmacy open 24 hours is for the pharmacy. The rest of the crap they sell there you can get at a convenience store or wait until morning. Whatever. It wasn’t an emergency, and we decided to wait until the next morning.

So back to the hotel we went. Another cold beer from the sketchy liquor store down the street. I think the clerk recognized us.