IMR: 1998: October: 17 -- Saturday, 10:49 p.m. (PST)
Century Plaza Hotel and Tower, Los Angeles, California

I'm so beat, my spine is tingling. Can't be a good sign.

Yes, I'm still in the City of Angels (though I've yet to spot a one). My big presentation was this morning, and it went remarkably well, actually, netting lots of questions and participation and a number of compliments. This despite turning in after 2 a.m. and waking up at 5 a.m. to prepare.

But as soon as I was finished, it was off to snap digital pictures of a dozen or so different meetings in conference rooms scattered all over the hotel. (The problem with L.A. is that everything is designed far too horizontally.) And at each, one or two people who heard of my presentation wanted to meet with me later in the office for a "quick tour" of their own. Then I had to get the pictures from yesterday's proceedings — the captions finally finished — up on the website in Honolulu.

Then there was a luncheon, more photos, more meetings, more photos, more computer problems, more requests for a repeat of my presentation... and it seemed pretty clear that if I did everything I was expected to do, I'd miss my plane.

(I was still taking pictures when, technically, I should have been in a taxi on the way to the airport.)

The general consensus was that, despite coming out here to work on a single, focused project, I'd also been a bit too useful in the general administration of the meeting. Primarily, of course, my work focused on getting the four crappy Pentiums we'd rented from some backalley local company to work properly, but it was no small task. I'd also somehow adopted the role of photocopier wrangler for our two very finicky machines.

So with a single call (made one hour before my plane would have started boarding), my return was postponed until after the meeting. Or rather, the meetings, as my services would be required for the supplementary conference on Monday.

Suffice it to say, Jen was sorely disappointed. But, bless her soul, she adapted very quickly, and after some mushy talk, came to share in my excitement in staying on through the remainder of the program. (Or at least she pretended very well.)

Of course a promised dinner at a fancy restaurant probably cushioned the blow.

It's only fair, though. The way I've been eating here is positively scandalous. Just tonight there was a reception in one of this hotels classiest venues, and the food was so good, I couldn't pronounce the names of most of the dishes. (Last night's dinner at an outside Italian restaurant was an equally tongue-twisting affair.) The dessert — like all the desserts that have been served — was difficult to eat, presented like a priceless work of art.

(They've been so fancy, one of the interns has me taking pictures of each to send to her sister to make her jealous.)

Heck, the appetizers tonight alone were worth writing home about. There was salmon and brie on mini bagels (the salmon presented in its entirety, curved around the bowl with its side slit open), pepper steak and onion kabobs, marinated mushrooms, and some kind of specially-prepared, thinly sliced steak that seemed to be the Western equivalent of sushi. After the delegates had moved into the main dining room, the staff and I lingered like vultures to finish it all up.

Dinner was capped off by a live (and loud) mariachi band. I've still got the melodies ringing in my ears.

All in all, a long, busy day. Click, flash, beep, click, flash, beep. I've resigned myself to using the office's Sony Mavica camera, which — while incapable of high-resolution imaging — is a breeze to "unload" since it uses standard 3.5" floppies. (I filled four today, amounting to about 70 pictures, only 15 of which will probably make it onto the site.)

Weird. It feels as if my morning presentation happened on some entirely different day. Definitely a sign of having gotten a lot done.

[ Ballroom ]Boy howdy, this hotel is one happening place.

Tonight its hosting a $4,000-a-plate (yes, three zeroes) charity dinner for the Mount Cedar Sinai Hospital. It's an "old Hollywood" celebrity affair, with names like Steve Martin and Sally Fields figuring prominently in the program.

During a break between meetings, a couple of staff and I managed to sneak down to the ballroom while they were setting up. Although the security was considerable, we walked confidently enough to be ignored, and got inside to look around. The fact that we were the only people not wearing Gucci evening gowns and Giorgio Armani suits barely registered on anyone's face.

(Most of the attention, admittedly, was going to an table full of animated photographers, where the discussion centered around which celebrities were the biggest pains to shoot.)

The setup was elaborate, on an Emmy-esque scale, with dozens of cameras, wall monitors, and expensive centerpieces. They were doing a dry run, the director going, " the video cuts, and Steve comes out from here, and I want a spotlight on him at least until this point..."

A ten-piece orchestra was playing Mozart, and outside the hotel doors, dozens of people were huddled with their tattered autograph books. A woman who looked remarkably like the wife on "Home Improvement" brushed past me to get to the bathroom. In a nearby room, a silent auction was taking place, where everything from celebrity-packed cruises to a 1998 Camaro were on display.

Meanwhile — perhaps as an apt contrast — the banquet hall opposite the one in which we'd set up our office was home to a gargantuan bar mitzvah this evening. We're talking 600 seats, nightclub light and sound, ice sculptures and four studio photographers. This was a family that clearly wanted to be noticed.

"Probably some plastic surgeon's daughter," Jen hypothesized when I told her about it.

As a result, unfortunately, the halls were ringing with the brash chatter and occasional ear-splitting squeals of affluent adolescents. The boys looked stiff and itchy in their tuxedos, and the girls looked just a little... underdone in their wobbly heels and slinky, low-cut designer dresses. The generous application of make up didn't help.

Fourteen going on 47. That's this town for you.

(One of the women at my table tonight grew up here and said that at her school, a common "Sweet Sixteen" present was a choice between a nose job or a Camaro.)

Just as I was leaving to come up to my room, I was nearly bowled over by a pack of girls racing for the bathroom. "Fight, fight!" a guy was yelling, and sure enough, there seemed to be some sort of pubescent catfight going on in the marble-and-brass lounge. It might have been my imagination, but it looked like one of the parents was off to the side just videotaping the whole thing.

I just shook my head and caught the elevator up with a woman who was a dead-ringer for Eva Gabor.

The smog tonight is unusually light. For once I can go out onto the balcony and see the lights of downtown Los Angeles, and even some of the "mountains" off in the distance.

Pretty, as nighttime cityscapes go. They probably don't get much bigger.

I've still yet to see L.A. during the day. But on the other hand, something tells me I won't be horribly impressed.

Much as I've enjoyed this trip, it's further affirmed my lifelong vow to never live in southern California. I think "L.A. Story" (starring Steve Martin, come to think of it) will usually be the closest I'll ever want to get.

I just realized Daylight Savings Time switches over tonight. I've never had to deal with it before.

I guess it means the 6:15 a.m. wake-up call will actually come at 5:15. (Well, not "actually," actually, but it will feel like it.)

I also realized I only packed enough clothes for two days.


© Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: · Created: 17 October 1998 · Last Modified: 18 October 1998