For the first part of our stay in LA we stayed with my friend and old roommate Rachel White and her family in Agoura Hills. They were great hosts and so kind for letting us stay with them. Thanks again to the White family if you’re reading this!
The first thing we did when we got to Rachel’s house was sleep, before we even unpacked the car. After the much needed rest I gave the boys a tour of my old stomping grounds. Agoura Hills is just on the other side of the canyon from Malibu. Kanan road is the road that takes you through the canyon to Malibu from Agoura Hills and I used to live off of that road at Calamigos Ranch when I went to school at Pepperdine. I drove the boys what was essentially my old route to school everyday along Kanan and PCH, and gave them a quick tour of Pepperdine.
Pepperdine University is regularly voted one of the most beautiful college campuses in the world, with its stunning views of the Pacific. However, it’s easy to take its beauty for granted when you spend four years there, so it was cool to go with the boys and see it from their perspective. Suffice to say they were pretty impressed. They joked about how I had been living the life, and what had they been doing with theirs? They said they were ready to move out here, but I think after a couple weeks under Pepperdine’s strict alcohol policies (you can be over 21, off-campus, and still get expelled for being drunk) they might change their minds. Still, Malibu is a gorgeous place and seeing it through their eyes reminded me of why I fell in love with the area and the campus in the first place.
While wandering around campus we ran into my friend Gathenji and it almost felt like I was still in school. It was great getting to see him and catch up a bit. Unfortunately, since we were there later in the day and it was a Saturday in summer, the campus was pretty empty and most of the buildings were closed. I wasn’t able to take them into the bookstore or the newly remodeled library, where I spent all my time this past year.
We couldn’t stay for long because we had plans to meet my friend Tierney for dinner at Malibu Seafood. Malibu Seafood is one of those classic Malibu spots that everyone at Pepperdine goes to, but surprisingly I had never been (I’m not a big fan of seafood). There was a big line out the door into the parking lot when we got there. We noticed there was a big fancy black SUV with what appeared to be a driver or some sort of bodyguard standing outside it. We figured there had to be someone famous there but we didn’t know who. After a couple minutes Tierney found us and joined us in line. We were talking and catching up when an older man and his wife came out of the restaurant. The boys started nudging each other and go “It’s James Bond! It’s James Bond! Pierce Brosnan!”
Upon hearing this Tierney turned around and in the most casual manner went up to Pierce and said hello and hugged him and his wife. The boys were shocked. Their minds were blown. Tierney, it turns out, worked as an intern for Pierce Brosnan for a year and knew him quite well. She would have introduced us to him if we hadn’t been in such a public place with so many people watching. So while we didn’t get a picture with him the boys did manage to get a picture of him. You haven’t truly been to Malibu until you run into a celebrity and the boys were lucky enough to have it happen on their first day there.
After dinner (which was delicious and lived up to the hype) we decided to go watch the sunset from the beach, another classic Malibu right of passage. We wanted a nice quiet beach, unlike the one just across PCH from Malibu Seafood, and so we went to the secret favorite of most Pepperdine students: Ralph’s Beach. It’s the closest to the school and is on the road just behind the grocery store Ralph’s, which is how it got the name, although that’s probably not its official title. The boys were worried about missing it but we got there with plenty of time to see all the changing colors in the sky.
The next morning we got up early and headed to Zuma Beach, which is one of Malibu’s larger and more popular beaches. There we met up with a surf instructor from Malibu Makos. Our instructor was awesome, we took turns going out with him one at a time to catch a couple waves. The hardest part is always getting out there and standing up, but our instructor made it so we didn’t have to worry about that. He helped us get out there and pushed the back of the board down when we got to a big wave so we didn’t get tossed off. He also told us when to go and held on the back of the board for us to stabilize it while we stood up. The easy part is riding the wave once you’re up, and it’s a lot of fun too. It can be pretty exhilarating when you get a good run in, and we all got several.
I think the boys all did slightly better than me despite the fact that I was the only one who had done it before, but none of us were going to be mistaken for pro or even amateur surfers any time soon. When our lesson came to an end we returned our wetsuits and went to pay. They gave us a really good discount since I had taken lessons with them before while I was at Pepperdine. We asked them if we could rent some boogie boards and they let us use them for free! If you’re ever in the Malibu area and looking to do some surfing I can’t recommend Malibu Makos enough. They’re fun and laid back and clearly love the sport.
We had fun boogie boarding for a while but James wasn’t able to stay in the water for long without a wetsuit. He has a condition called cold urticaria where his body breaks out in a rash when it’s exposed to the cold. It’s almost like being allergic to the cold. James had a really bad reaction that day and was still feeling sick hours later. We decided it was probably about time to leave the beach and get dried off and warmed up. I took the boys to get Lily’s Burritos and Sunlife (a sort of health food and smoothie place known for it’s açai bowls) which are both Malibu favorites and extremely popular with Pepperdine students.
After we satisfied our hunger we headed up to Calamigos Ranch, where I used to live. I sneaked them into the spa bathrooms by the pool at the guest ranch. The bathrooms are huge and really nice, with multiple showers so we could all wash off the sea salt and sand at the same time, instead of taking turns at Rachel’s house. I think the heat also helped James get back to normal. Once we were all feeling fresh I gave the boys a tour of the ranch. I showed them my old room at the guest ranch, the gyms where they used to film The Biggest Loser, the ferris wheel, and the various wedding venues and pools. We also grabbed a couple beers at the Malibu Cafe, before heading back to Rachel’s.
That night we met up with my Pepperdine friends Brian, Alex, and Dennis for dinner. We had all gone our various ways since graduation, but by chance we all happened to be back in LA that day. I loved getting to see them again. We went to Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles for dinner. It’s a popular chain in LA and serves up classic southern fried chicken on waffles. The boys and I decided to take the scenic route into LA and drove PCH all the way down to Santa Monica before turning east toward LA. Dinner was fun, and the boys enjoyed meeting my friends. They were impressed by Dennis’s knowledge of soccer so we made plans to hang out with him again later when we were in San Diego.
The next day we went to Six Flags Magic Mountain. SoCal happened to be going through another heat wave while we were there and the day we were at Six Flags might have been the worst of it. It was over 100 degrees the whole time we were there (about 40 degrees Celsius) and it was miserable. The lines were long, not always fully shaded, and pure hell. We even gave up on one or two of them. But the rides themselves were fun. They gave us a brief respite from the heat and got our adrenaline pumping so we would have energy to wait through the next line.
The Manchester United team was in LA at the same time as us, and as soon as Glenn got off the plane he had been begging to go to UCLA or wherever else social media informed him that the team was at. As it turned out, we didn’t need to go looking for the team. In line for our last ride of the day at Six Flags the boys ran into Man U player Romelu Lukaku, who was waiting to get on the same ride as them. Glenn even got a picture with him.
We went to Wendy’s for dinner that night and the boys figured out that Manchester United was playing A.C. Milan later that week in LA. James and Glenn bought tickets to see the match, but Sean and I opted out.
The next day we went to Universal Studios. The first thing we did there was the studio tour, which is the best part of the park. They take you on a tram and show you a bunch of old movie sets, including ones from Jaws and Psycho. The Psycho set had a live actor playing Norman Bates as he puts a body-shaped bundle in the trunk of a car. They also had a lot of special effects to make it seem as though you were in the middle of a fight between King Kong and a T-Rex, or in the middle of a car chase with the Fast and the Furious gang.
We went on most of the big rides there like the Mummy, Jurassic Park, Transformers, Harry Potter, and the Simpsons. The lines were much better than at Six Flags, all of them were shaded with fan misters to keep us cool, and some of them were even inside with air conditioning. While we were in line for Jurassic Park Glenn and James befriended a group of boys from China. They were there on some kind of school trip, and although they didn’t speak any English they managed to communicate to us that if they taught us a Chinese word they would give us a small trinket. It must have been some kind of school assignment. After a lot of confusion, they finally taught Glenn to say Nǐ hǎo (hello) and gave him a little stuffed Chinese dragon and James a small stuffed panda. They videotaped the whole thing as well and each of the boys gave Glenn a hug. It was all a bit random and hilarious, but that line wait was definitely the most fun of any of them.
Since it was a Tuesday, we decided to go to Duke’s in Malibu for Taco Tuesday. I was worried about how busy it would be so I made a reservation as we left the park. As it turned out, Duke’s Taco Tuesday deal is only in their bar, and since we had made a reservation at their actual restaurant we missed out. But Duke’s is good no matter what so we just rolled with it. We shared their famous dessert, Hula Pie: a giant wedge of ice cream with a cookie base and fudge and peanuts on top. It was delicious.
The next day was supposed to be the hottest of the week, so we had planned on going to a water park. We went to Knott’s Soak City, but didn’t end up staying for too long since we decided it was a bit too kid-oriented for us. We got lunch nearby at a Chicago themed burger place called Portillo’s while we decided what to do with the rest of our day, since the water park was a bust.
That night was the Manchester United versus A.C. Milan match, but we had a lot of time to kill before then. Glenn suggested that we go to Compton. He’s a big fan of gangster rap and wanted to see the infamously dangerous and gang-ridden city, or at least get a picture with its sign. I said this was a terrible idea, but we had nothing better to do, and even I figured it couldn’t be as bad as its reputation. We read online the best place to go for a picture was city hall. We figured it was the middle of the day and we were just going to stop really quickly for a picture, what could go wrong?
Well, we never made it to city hall, and ended up settling for the public library. I made an illegal U-turn and pulled over outside the library. Glenn and James got out for the photo, while Sean and I stayed inside car. Glenn and James were outside the car for no longer than a few seconds before we started hearing sirens. At first we just joked—”Typical Compton.” “They must be coming after you for that illegal U-turn.” But more and more sirens started going off, and then we saw the cop cars. They weren’t going past us but stopping all around us. One pulled up directly behind me.
At this point James already knew something was up and started speed-walking back to the car. Glenn was a little slower to catch on, still focused on trying to get that picture, which they never did. They booked it back to the car and dove in, crawling over everything in the back seat in their urgency. On their way back they had passed by a man who it turned out was the guy the cops were after. We had a front row view as about twenty cops, guns out, surrounded the man. We were terrified we were about to watch someone get shot, but luckily the man didn’t appear to be armed and he surrendered to the cops. Sean yelled at me to get the f**k out of there and I somehow managed to pull out without hitting the cop car behind me. I asked where to go, but the boys didn’t care, they just wanted to get straight outta Compton. 😉
We drove for almost an hour to the stadium where the soccer game was that night and the whole time we were just high on adrenaline and reeling from what had just happened. There was a lot of nervous laughter and jokes about how we had had the true Compton experience and what a story to tell!
We looked for a bar to kill some time in before the game. The first few we looked up were a bust, we couldn’t find them. We ended up at a place called AJ’s Sports Bar. It was a tiny little run-down place and looked super sketchy. We all had a moment of apprehension, not sure what we were getting ourselves into. But as soon as we walked through those doors we were welcomed as if we were distant relatives come home. Everyone was immediately friendly to us and the bartender was the sweetest lady imaginable. She gave me a beer for free just because they were changing the kegs and we had to wait. She also gave me a Michelada for free just because I was willing to try out the weird drink. It’s a mixture of beer and clamato juice, as well as lime and some spices. The boys tried it and they were not fans, but I thought it was alright.
James was in his kilt and was forced to show off and do a twirl for the older ladies at the bar. One of them (a bit drunk) even felt up his hairy legs, which surprisingly wasn’t the first time it had happened on the trip. I guess something about the combination of hairy legs in kilts and alcohol just makes Americans lose their minds. There was no impulse control, they just had to touch. Even Glenn got felt up, and he was in normal clothes. I was thoroughly amused by the role reversal, with the boys receiving unwanted physical contact instead of the girls for once.
They had a pool table in the back and we started playing a few games. After a while a couple of Mexican guys came in and asked to play with us. Sean and Glenn paired up and took on one of them. He was thoroughly beating the whole game and probably tried to go easy on them, which was a mistake because out of nowhere Sean and Glenn managed to make a comeback and win the game. The other Mexican guy was shocked and kept going on about how we had beat a Mexican at pool. Apparently that never happens. We quickly befriended the Mexican guys and played several games with them. They each bought us a round of beers—I never paid for a single drink all night!
The whole experience was incredible and we couldn’t believe we had found the place just by chance. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun in a bar or felt so welcomed. To show our appreciation we each left the bartender a ten dollar tip—forty dollars total!
Once we dropped off James and Glenn at the match, Sean and I decided to kill time by going to Long Beach. I had an old gift card for Ruby’s Diner I had never used and so we went there for dinner. It’s a classic 50’s themed diner, just like Johnny Rockets. Once again our luck prevailed and we happened to be there on Ruby’s birthday. They had a special birthday deal going, and since I had a gift card we decided to pig out. We each got a burger and fries and split a thing of calamari and a milkshake between the two of us. We ate way too much and Sean actually ended up puking later that night from overeating.
After eating we went to the beach. It was dark out by then but we headed down onto the sand anyway. Sean had to pee but the public restrooms were all locked. It was dark and no one was around so we picked the next best option: peeing in the ocean. Super classy, I know, but anyone who says they haven’t done it is a liar.
We had joked before the trip about going skinny dipping, and looking back on it now that was probably our best chance to do it, but it never crossed my mind at the time. It’s just as well because I doubt Sean would have done it anyway. The water was so cold he didn’t even want to wade out very far into it to pee. I’m not even sure I would have done it myself. We laid out in the sand for a while, or at least I laid in the sand while Sean stood over me because he didn’t want to get sandy (again, probably not the spontaneous skinny dipping type), but by that point the game was already getting close to finishing and we had to head back.
The game ended 1-1 and went to a penalty shootout. Sean and I found a strip mall parking lot to wait in, as they went through thirteen rounds of penalties. Manchester United finally won and Glenn and James managed to find us. Our waiting spot wasn’t as easy to get to as we had hoped it would be and they even had to climb a fence at one point to get there, which isn’t easy to do in a kilt. The day wasn’t exactly what we had planned and it took a lot of random twists and turns but it ended up being one of the most fun and memorable days of the trip.
Be sure to check out Los Angeles Part Two to hear about the rest of our time in the City of Angels.