Just outside Universal Studios in Universal City, California, there is a place called the Citywalk. This is an awful place. Don't ever go there.
I went there last week on a mission. I had to go to the Dodger Store for birthday present shopping. I had some time in the late afternoon, and I figured the traffic wouldn't be so bad, so off I went to the Citywalk.
I missed the exit but got off at the next one and drove up a very steep hill. When I got to the parking booth, I saw that parking cost ten dollars.
‘Ten dollars! I just need to go to the Dodger store.' I told the parking booth girl who turned out to be both extremely friendly and helpful. She explained that I could valet park and get an hour free if I get food at one of the restaurants or snack stands.
I turned around and headed toward the Frankenstein parking lot. Even though the idea of parking in a lot named after a monster with an abnormal brain made me question the whole mission, I decided to carry on.
I valeted and alighted from my vehicle. The valet guy gave me a ticket and a list of places where I can get my ticket stamped. Seeing that there were coffee and juice places on the city walk, I felt confident that I would be able to get in and out of the citywalk and it would only cost me a juice or coffee to park.
As I headed to the citywalk, video screens were showing us how we could live the magic of the movies at Universal Studios as brassy epic sounding music blared down on me. Yes, I was in the land of tourists. So this is what they face when they come to Los Angeles. I started feeling grumpy and depressed.
When I was in high school, my family had done the So. Cal vacation trip one Christmas. We had gone to Universal Studios. It wasn't like this. We just got on one of those open air buses and drove around the lot. We pretended to make a movie in a big open air auditorium. I had to jump into a big tank of water. My Mom twisted her ankle. It was fun.
What was before me was sparkly and expensive. Tourists were sitting in the sun, and I realized that it was rather warm on this side of the hills. Universal Studios ought to provide more shade in their entrance area. Some of the tourists looked a bit toasty.
I found the Citywalk and proceeded to walk down what is probably called a pedestrian promenade. On either side of me were LIGHTS! BRIGHT COLORS! BIG WORDS! Music was blaring out of the different shops and clubs and restaurants. It was pounding into me from both sides. I walked on and spotted the Dodgers shop. It had DODGERS in big blue letters written down the side of it.
Unfortunately, the Dodger shop ended up being useless to me. Their selection was not that good. A true blue Dodger fan does not need a baseball cap, and they didn't have anything unique or interesting like a vial of dirt from the infield of Dodger Stadium. I left the store Dodgerless.
Having no interest in anything else on the Citywalk, I went further into the heart of darkness and found a juice place. Yes, juice---or yogurt mixed with ice and fruit and pureed down to nothing. The juice girl was super helpful and stamped my parking ticket which I had been clutching the whole time.
I was starting to feel good. The Dodgers Shop had been a bust, but I had a smoothie. Hopefully, the traffic would still be favorable. With a spring in my step and a deaf ear to all the Universal noise, I retraced my steps back to the Frankenstein.
I handed my parking ticket to the clerk behind the glass window. He scanned it and told me I owed him fifteen bucks. I told him no way. I had bought a smoothie. He said I had been there three and half hours. I said I had only been there twenty minutes. He called his supervisor.
I saw my car. It was maybe fifty yards away. I saw my keys hanging on the wall on the other side of the glass. I could be all action and adventure, grab my keys, bolt to my car, and drive out of the Frankenstein with tires squealing. Oh yeah, I'll live my own magical action movie.
The clerk put down his phone and told me not to worry about it. The valet guys got my car just as a lady in a mini van had decided to park her van right in front of the exit lane. She looked at me and smiled that ‘don't hate me' smile that is so common in LA. I flashed her a ‘you gotta be kidding, bitch' look and made sure to rev my engine loud when I started my car. I maneuvered around her and went out the entrance lane. No, my tires did not squeal.
I cruised down the hill and onto the freeway. I cruised across the Valley and over the Sepulveda Pass. I slurped down the last of my smoothie as the traffic on the 405 became a parking lot, and I resolved that I would never ever go to the Citywalk again. . .unless there was a very large sum of cash payable to me involved.