Why I love LA–well I might not love LA, but I do consider LA a friend with benefits

la graduateLatest Herald column by Scott Saalman.

****

I went to Los Angeles to find my daughter. She wasn’t abducted. She wasn’t a runaway. Nothing like that.

Let me explain.

Though there is seldom a day that Delaney and I don’t coexist under the same roof, I seldom see her. She stays in her bedroom, for which the secret password is … well … a secret. If music plays from her side of the closed door, that means she’s home, safe — incommunicado, but contented. I live for her muffled music.

Delaney is just shy of 17, and while I’d like to say she has grown up before my very eyes, in reality she has grown up behind the very bedroom door between us. One day, she stepped out of her room wearing braces. How did that happen? Do orthodontists make house calls? Another day, she came out standing taller than me (albeit in high heels … but still). Then, she came out without braces, her teeth perfectly straight. Huh? Last month, she exited her room wearing a prom dress, the throwback threads resembling something her hero Jackie O might’ve worn. Delaney has become a beautiful young lady. Delaney O.

My daughter chooses not to hang out with her old man. She’s a teen. I get it. But I don’t like it. Worried we might never do anything together again before she’s old enough to leave the nest, I bribed her with a trip. “Anywhere in the world you want to go,” I said. Months passed. No answer. Then a text: LA.

She would only go to LA, though, if her friend, Britt, could join us. I agreed. After all, both girls were only 16 and neither possessed a driver’s license. A dependency on dad was inevitable. They would be my hostages.

I was texted an extensive itinerary. I willingly became their chauffeur, tour guide and bodyguard. OK, so I was the hostage.

Now by virtue of reading this, you are the hostage. Let the family vacation slide show begin.

• Breakfast at the iconic Chateau Marmont Hotel in West Hollywood. Fitzgerald wrote here. Jim Morrison stayed here. Lana Del Ray recently made a music video here. Belushi overdosed here. Scott Saalman paid $130 for breakfast here. Excuse me, waiter, is that syrup on my pancake? — or molten gold? Toto, we’re not in Denny’s anymore. Still, we left on a rich note. For the girls, I asked the front-desk clerk if we could tour the grounds. He put his forefinger to his lips as if to shush us and then secretly presented a brass key for the inner jungle-like sanctum of the posh property’s cottages, bungalows and swimming pool. Suddenly, I was the king of dads!

Murder and mayhem at the morbid Museum of Death on Hollywood Boulevard. Apparently, my traveling companions are into serial killers: Manson, Ramirez, Dahmer. The John Wayne Gacy room contained his actual “Pogo the Clown” shoes, self-portraits and unsettling details of the 33 murders that led to his execution. But nothing seemed more ghastly (and timely) than a questionnaire Gacy filled out in prison. When asked to list his heroes, one of his answers: Donald Trump. I kid you not.

• We visited Westwood Village Memorial Park and found burial plots for dozens of famous people, including Roy Orbison, Farrah Fawcett, Dean Martin, Don Knotts, Truman Capote and Natalie Wood. Marilyn Monroe’s crypt was marked by the lipstick kisses of past visitors. The most memorable headstone belonged to Rodney Dangerfield, with the words, “There Goes the Neighborhood.”

• While the girls indulged in surprise facials at our hotel spa (the king of dads strikes again), I treated myself to a deep body massage. An LA freeway left me knotted. My Asian masseuse, Kim, narrated with a whispery chant over and over: “Muscle knots don’t like Kim. Knots hide from Kim. But Kim find knots!” Eventually, I felt her feet up and down my backside. Many women have walked all over me, but Kim was the first to literally do so.

We playfully posed with wax figures at Madame Tussauds.

• On the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a hip-hop artist successfully hawked a $10 CD to me after telling me he was going to be on “Kimmy Jimmel Live” next week. He was already gone before it dawned on me that he said “Kimmy Jimmel” not “Jimmy Kimmel.” P.T. Barnum was right.

• We saw the iconic Hollywood Sign.

• We heard the pounding of Pacific surf from atop Palace Verdes’ breathtaking coastal cliffs.

• We were bedazzled by the Friday night lights of LA way below us from our high perch at the Griffith Observatory.
We saw a Santa Monica sunset.

• A slime ball at Venice Beach invited my jailbait daughter to his “beach house,” making me imagine a future room dedicated to me at the Museum of Death.

• In Long Beach, Delaney hugged me as Britt took our picture by the Queen Mary, the first time I could recall her arms being around me since she was a toddler. For this alone, I will always love LA.

Once home, Delaney disappeared into her bedroom, but that did not rob me of my newfound contentedness. I smiled when I heard the sweet birdsong of Joni Mitchell play behind the bedroom door: “California I’m coming home.”

I had done what I had set out to do: I found my daughter in LA, before it was too late.

****

Will Read and Sing For Food’s next public benefit show is Saturday, June 4, at Jasper Engines and Transmissions’ Power Drive Facility. 7 p.m. Cash bar. Special musical guest: Channing and Quinn. Also with Saalman, Stan Levco, Abbie Rumbach, Kyle Lueken, The Gatwoods and The Bolins.

Will Read and Sing For Food's photo.

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