Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Despite us giving all the low blows to how amazing the weather is out here, we do care about everybody back in Ithaca.
For us Parkies, being creatures of habit and constantly checking the news, it’s hard not to miss the developing story about the blizzard that’s barreling down on the northeast.
*SPOILER ALERT – SINCERITY AHEAD*
So, on behalf of everybody here in LA, we send our well wishes to our friends and family in Ithaca and in all other parts of the country being affected by the storm.
I’ve posted a picture of an LA sunset from last week not to make you sad, but to give you a glimmer of hope that scenics like that will be making appearances in Ithaca just a few long, dark, cold months.
Now if that doesn’t make you feel better, which it probably doesn’t, the possibility of having a snow day tomorrow should!
Monday, January 31, 2011
The following is part one of a two part installment truly explaining how awesome it is to spend a semester in Los Angeles. (Ok, the other posts have definitely done this, but these upcoming stories are totally epic).
I have a couple of quick housekeeping things before we continue with the storytelling. Well, it’s more of a quick rant, but something must be said.
For 22 days we were jubilant, relaxed and thoroughly enjoying every second of the glorious California sunshine. Then the unthinkable happened. I woke up yesterday morning and looked out my window to see what might have very well been the apocalypse. The sky was grey and little drops of water were falling from the sky. Panicked, I rushed out into the living room to find my roommates having breakfast. “It’s raining,” they said. And that’s when the memories of “real winters” started to come back to me. I had indeed seen this so-called rain before, but it had been on such a hiatus that it seemed as if it was gone for good. Ah, in a perfect world … Anyway, it obviously was a bit surprising to see a wet, overcast day on our four month vacation, but I didn’t react as nearly dramatically as I said I did. Come on now. Our home campus is Ithaca. Do you think we could REALLY forget what overcast skies and rain looked like?
Ok, now for the good stuff. A few more quick stories to tell and then you will be all caught up on what was probably the most fun I’ve ever had in one week. On Friday, a group of us started the day off with a VIP tour of Warner Bros. Studios. IF YOU EVER COME TO LOS ANGELES, SET ASIDE TIME TO TAKE THIS TOUR. It’s well worth the forty-something dollars because the groups are small, the tour guides are very knowledgeable and you just see so many cool things. To quickly recap, on some famous back lot streets, we saw crews setting up sets for tapings of the TV show Chuck and Harry’s Law, we saw Jim Carrey’s apartment building from The Mask, the balconies used in the famous opening scene from Rent, and an alley that our guide said was used in pretty much every crime drama episode in which a body is found in an alley. This alley is also home to a particularly famous wall from Spiderman. You know the upside down kissing scene in the rain between Toby Maguire and Kirsten Dunst? Well if you don’t you’ve been living under a rock, or simply haven’t seen the movie. Either way, we saw that wall. It’s just a plain brick façade. Nothing fancy. But hey, that’s most movie sets for you ... they’re not the way they seem, which segues nicely into our next stop on the tour. We were standing right in the middle of a traffic circle and in front of a façade of a three story building. Back in 1962, this “town square” is where Robert Preston famously paraded around singing “Ya got trouble! Right here in River City!” Decades later, this patch of grass and building façade was completely transformed into the set of Ocean’s 13. The façade actually supported the front face of the Bank’s Casino and the town square was surrounded by green screens. In the middle of the screens was a large diamond statue, used in one of the film’s final scenes in which Matt Damon’s character goes on the roof of the casino to help a helicopter fly off with the diamonds. I’m a huge fan of the Ocean’s movies, so I was pretty stoked to be there.
Later on in the tour, we stopped at the Warner Bros. museum to see movie history up close and personal. Virtually every famous prop from the Harry Potter films, including the sorting hat that can “actually” sort you into one of Hogwart’s four houses, Harry’s Nimbus 2000 broomstick, and a huge assortment of robes. There’s even a scale model of Aragog, the giant spider from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Downstairs, we saw costumes and the dream machine from Inception, costumes and props from The Matrix and more costumes, odds and ends from countless other films. Super cool. Our next stop was a garage containing a whole bunch of famous movie vehicles, including the original Batmobile from Batman and Batman Returns and the Tumbler from Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. We learned that the Tumbler will soon be returning to Chicago, as filming is set to begin on Christopher Nolan’s next Batman masterpiece. We also saw the ’65 Lincoln from The Matrix, The General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard and the Weasley’s flying car from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. No big deal.
We finished up the tour actually getting to go inside a few soundstages. The first of which, Stage 7, was a special treat for some of our good friends because they are huge fans of Pretty Little Liars. Our tour guide learned that the show wasn’t taping that day, so he was nice enough to take us onto the set of the show. Even for us guys in the group, who don’t follow the show closely, it was really cool to be behind the scenes seeing how on one side of a wall there’s a school cafeteria, and on the other side, there’s a bedroom. Our last stop was on the set of Ellen, which wasn’t shooting either … a plus for us! This was really cool because let’s be honest, most television fans have at least seen a few clips of the show, even if you’re not an avid viewer. The show’s popular enough to attract attention from everywhere, so this time, even the guys in the group were pretty wide-eyed. Overall, a one sentence recap: It was absolutely awesome and I want to do it again.
That night my roommate TJ, four of our good friends and I decided to go to Hollywood. And yes, to answer your question ahead of time, we were the cliché tourists who stopped right in the middle of the Walk of Fame to take pictures of stars and who put our hands in celebrities’ impressions in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Doing touristy things in Hollywood is a total given and we were more than ready to be “those people”. For me, this was completely surreal. I explained in previous posts about how I have never seen LA landmarks in person, so I was taking in every single sight with my own eyes and with my camera. I don’t want to get into too much detail about what handprints we touched and how cool the Hollywood and Highland complex is, but one moment stands out. On our way back to the Kodak Theatre after checking out the Roosevelt Hotel, (famous for being the death place of Marilyn Monroe), we came across a very familiar and respected name to Ithacans and specifically Parkies. Rod Serling was a professor at Ithaca College for a number of years, passing onto students his expertise that created “a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind.” In Hollywood, we weren’t crossing over into the Twlight Zone, but we were entering a state of humility. While it was so insane to see so many celebrities forever enshrined along the flanks of Hollywood Boulevard, we paused at Rod Serling’s star to remember a great member of the families of Ithaca College and Hollywood. For me, seeing his star among the hundreds of others showed me that although IC and the Park School are thousands of miles away from Hollywood, there will always be a connection. Rod Serling, along with other professors and alumni over the years, undoubtedly helped pave the road for future students to take advantage of incredible opportunities available to them at Ithaca College and the Park School. The six of us who stood there on the Walk of Fame that night are just a fraction of those students. Now I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty freaking sweet. Thanks, Rod.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
I know for many dedicated TV viewers, Thursday night is the night to stop everything in the midst of three hours of hilarity on NBC. I mean come on, it really is comedy night done right. But, if you maybe, just maybe want to switch it up a bit, might I recommend that you head over to CBS tonight at 8:30 to watch the new episode of $#*! My Dad Says. Why? Well, there’s a good chance you might hear some original and very hearty Ithaca laughter coming from the audience. Tonight. CBS. 8:30. Be there … or … err … enjoy NBC.
Sunday, January 23, 2011
So it’s been about a week and-a-half since all this happened, but the experiences are too great to pass up the opportunity for some storytelling.
We left off after the hike to the Hollywood sign. And I’ll say again, it officially felt like we were here, but there’s still so much to explore. Cue Thursday. My roommate TJ and I were bored, so we went for a drive. I know what you’re thinking: “who just goes for a joyride in LA?” Well, -usually nobody unless it’s one of two occasions: you’re either one, being chased by the CHP down a freeway or two, going out in the middle of the day. I mean, seriously, you would be crazy to go out for a drive in the morning or afternoon.
TJ was driving and I was navigating and taking photos. I know it seems unfair that only one of us could pay all attention to the sights, but I promised we would do this again another time this semester and switch roles. Our destination? We didn’t know either. We just wanted to explore. We ended up taking the 101 south to Highland Avenue. Yes, THE Highland Avenue. The first thing we learned during our drive: if we ever got lost, just look for Highland. It’s the perfect road for our purposes. It intersects all the other major boulevards (Hollywood, Sunset, etc.) and runs right into the 101. Once you’re on the 101, all you have to do is get off the Barham exit and voila! You’re at the Oakwoods.
Our first big sight of this drive was the Kodak Theatre, home of the Academy Awards. Granted we literally drove past it in a few seconds, but it wasn’t one bit difficult to pick out it’s famed entrance from among the surrounding buildings. We then hung a right and headed west down Sunset Boulevard. It was just how I pictured it: palms trees, convertibles, restaurants and stores. I know, “that’s it?” Just the fact that we were driving down such a famous street was good enough for us.
We eventually found our way to Beverly Hills. And let me start out by saying all the stereotypes appear to be true. The gas is absurdly expensive, the houses are huge and have gates, and a Mercedes-Benz is definitely a nonchalant sight in the midst of Lamborghinis, Bentleys and Aston Martins. Yes, we saw about a dozen of those cars in the matter of an hour. Crazy.
The highlight of the trip was the aimless route we took up and down the hills. We were on the lookout for celebrities and just wanted to admire the kinds of houses we wish to live in one day. Honestly, for us middle class Americans, this was pretty fun. Our last big landmark sight of the trip was Rodeo Drive, in all its ritzy and uncomfortably expensive glory. The stereotypes are true about this road, too (from what I could see from the car at least). I promise, once I get the chance to actually walk around and take some good mental notes, I’ll be sure to pass them on.
TJ and I were having a lot of fun, but the setting sun persuaded us to begin our journey back before rush hour. On the way back, TJ spotted Oscar Martinez, who plays Oscar Nunez on The Office, one of his favorite shows and the home of one of his internships this semester. Don’t worry, I successfully drew his eyes back to the road ahead.
Later that night, we got our first taste of In-N-Out Burger and Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt. Yes, In-N-Out is as good as they say it is. For us first-timers we fell in love. But, we’re being smart about this. You can only have a Double Double Animal Style with cheese fries every month or so … but we’ll see if we stick to that. Menchie’s was also fantastic. There’s tons of flavors and toppings to choose from, which are just calling for us to return.
I apologize for being behind, but we seriously have been up to so much! There’s still a few more days to recap until we’re back up to date, but I’m pushing through, and I appreciate you hanging with me. For all Ithaca College students starting classes tomorrow, ::pause for anxiety attack/fit of anger and/or crying:: good luck. And enjoy the single-digit weather. It’s 75 degrees here.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
Thanks for waiting. Now, where were we? Right, the sitcom. What impressed me most about the taping was how many changes were made to the script right on the spot. Although we saw a few scenes that were wrapped after only one take, there were a few that were shot three or four times. As an audience member, the laughter wasn’t as genuine because we had already heard the punch lines. But here’s the beauty of television writing. With all of the show’s writers present at the taping, if something didn’t work, they would all converse in between scenes and talk about what to fix. William Shatner explained that in changing lines around, the writers either one, used their own discretion or two, used the audience’s reaction. If the audience didn’t laugh at a new joke as much as they did to an old one, the original would probably be kept in the script. Overall, it was a great experience and something I would love to do again. Also, in addition to the regular cast, we got to see Jean Smart and Tila Tequila. I know, you’re probably just as shocked as we were to picture Tila Tequila on the set of a sitcom.
On Wednesday my roommate TJ and I picked up our rental car: a 2010 Hyundai Accent, a small car perfect for navigating this SoCal traffic. Plus, we’ve found that is has AWESOME mileage. We’re out here and on a budget, so we’ll definitely take it. After our first driving experience that brought us down Ventura Boulevard and back to the Oakwoods, we walked over to Pendleton to finish up orientation. The RAs worked with Jon to put together “name games” to help us learn about other students attending the program this semester. It brought me back to my public school days, but hey, it was all in good fun.
Later that afternoon, we caravanned down the freeway en route to hike up to the Hollywood sign. Oddly enough, the sign revealed itself in the same fashion as the Warner Bros. water tower. After getting off the freeway, I found myself driving a non discrete residential street and then out of the blue … BAM! The big, bold, white letters were looming right in front of us. I can’t tell you how hard it was to keep my eyes on the road and not on the sign. It was quite the sight and another indicator of “we’re definitely not in Ithaca anymore.”
The hike provided amazing views all the way to the top of the mountain. For the first part of the hike, we trekked the trail along the south face, often pausing for pictures of LA’s sprawling cityscape. We could literally see for miles, all the way from downtown, to Century City and even to the Pacific Ocean. As we went higher, the view became even more incredible and just when you thought that was it for the picture taking until we got to the top, we rounded a corner and came face to face with the San Fernando Valley … all of it: Burbank, Glendale, Pasadena, Bob Hope Airport and all the studios. Being on this mountain that literally divides metropolitan Los Angeles was a really crazy experience. It showed me and many others just how much this city has to offer … actually no. A better way to phrase it: just how many opportunities we have to take advantage of through this program. Television taping and hike to the Hollywood sign? Check. Now on to the next one.