LA Story

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 11:02 pm

My trip to Los Angeles was quite informative and productive from a work standpoint, but as a cultural or travel adventure, it really wasn’t. No big deal, really: I was down there to work, and that’s what I did. It would have been nice to spend more time touring the wide and wily wilds of the City of Angels, but frankly, I was happier to get home.

I met up with the owner of our printer—an energetic, avuncular fellow named Mark—at LAX, and from that moment on he treated me like an honored guest. As you may or may not recall this trip was necessitated by the fact that the special paper we had ordered for our upcoming Fall catalog had not made it up to Oregon on time, through no fault of the printer. Mark pulled some strings with a company he works with from time to time down in the Los Angeles area, and arranged to have our press run done on their machines. He then flew me down at the company’s expense to oversee the press check.

The place down in Los Angeles does massive amounts of printing for customers nationwide, and their facility was just to die for. The press floor is absolutely gargantuan, running everything from DVD jackets to hundred-foot vinyl banners 24/7. Even their prepress department is open around the clock. I was suitably impressed with their facilities, and the quality of the output was equal to or better than anything I’ve yet seen. I was particularly enamored of the self-correcting registration system, which kept even the tiny slips that often happen on older presses from occurring in the first place. Our catalog looked great.

Mark took it upon himself to ferry me about, saving my employer the cost of a rental car, and my insurance company the cost of my cardiac bypass after trying to navigate my way around LA streets in a—swarm? horde? murder?—of LA drivers. He not only shuttled me to and from the press checks every twelve or so hours, but gave me the condensed Lost Angeles newbie tour: down the Pacific Coast Highway, up Sunset Boulevard, up around Bel Air and into Hollywood. We stopped for a pleasant dinner at some little bistro at the foot of the Hollywood Hills, then headed on back to the hotel.

(This for my brother-in-law YakBoy: during our dinner Mark and I chatted on a variety of topics. At one point he was discussing his business philosophy, describing the need to trim jobs at certain operations he had consolidated. He made a good case for eliminating a small percentage of his total workforce in order to secure the jobs of the remaining. At one point he said something to the effect of, “If my back is against the wall and I know I have to get rid of some people in order to save everyone else, well, I’m like those guys that got stranded when their plane crashed in the mountains. If some folks have to be eaten to save the majority, then I’ll do it.” Amused, I then brought up my brother-in-law, who has a theory that any conversation that is allowed to go on long enough will eventually turn to the subject of cannibalism. Both Mark and I marveled at this serendipitous, real-world example of his hypothesis in action.)

As Mark drove me around describing the sights as we went, I got the strangest feeling of deja vu. I would see an instersection of two winding, hilly streets, or a certain storefront, or a particular sculpture nestled in an alcove in the face of a building, and I would think to myself, “I’ve seen these before, I know I’ve seen these before.” It took a while before it hit me: I had seen these places playing Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. I had always suspected that Rockstar’s designers had put a lot of on-site work into the look and feel of the game, but the similarities were absolutely uncanny. For some reason this made me feel like a total choad, but Mark got a kick out of it.

I was originally supposed to stay through Wednesday evening, the assumption being that the entire press run would take about sixty hours. However, the company had a spare press available the morning of the first run, so they ran two forms at once, which knocked one press check off the total. It appeared that we would be done no later than two o’clock Tuesday, so I called the airline and knocked my flight back a day. Even at the usurious rate of 125 bucks to transfer my reservation, it was a damn sight cheaper than staying over an extra day. Hotels in LA—decent ones, at least—are expensive.

As it turns out I could have used the extra day. The printer was having a little trouble working with our paper, having never printed on it before, and our press run was going a little slow. The press check that should have happened around midnight Monday took place seven o’clock Tuesday. With the final one set to happen sometime that evening, I wasn’t going to be able to make it unless I changed my flight again. IĀ  really didn’t want to do that, so I left the final check up to the print manager. After the first press check they lock down the color and subsequent checks are pretty much a formality. Of course something bad can always happen, but I had always trusted this company to do a good job in the past—I normally only stayed for the first press check when the job was printed in Oregon—and rather than incur another few hundred bucks in reservation transfer and hotel fees, I decided to let it slide.

I topped off my whirlwind LA tour Tuesday with a quick visit to Manhattan Beach with Tim, one of Mark’s partners (in his BMW convertible no less; how more California can you get?) and—at my suggestion—lunch at In ‘N Out Burger, which believe it or not was also on my list of California landmarks to visit. In ‘N Out is a fast food joint that is family-owned, refuses to follow the franchise model (which means they are actually in the business of selling food, unlike franchise restaurants which draw the vast bulk of their revenue from the rent they charge their franchisees), consistently wins awards for the quality of the food, and is known for giving all of its employees a living wage plus full medical benefits. They also make a really decent burger, an almost perfect compromise between a fussy upscale gourmet concoction and a good ol’ roadside rotgut. They also slice the potatoes for their fries right on the premises. The local equivalent ’round these parts would be Dick’s….though to be honest I think the In ‘N Out’s got a better tasting cowwich.

I got to the airport around one o’clock for my five-thirty flight, but was able to land a standby seat on the two thirty to Seattle. Good thing, too: for all that it is one of the busiest airports in North America, LAX is a bloody ghost town, with almost nothing in the way of entertainment for the waylaid traveler. Seattle-Tacoma International has a ton of restaurants, shops, art installations….LAX had, like, a coffee stand and a Hudson News. Had I been forced to stay there the whole four-and-a-half hours, I would probably have gnawed my own leg off just to relieve the boredom. (Just kidding about the leg; no way am I that flexible.)

All in all Mark and his associates did everything conceivable to make this a pleasant and rewarding trip, and I really did appreciate the efforts of all involved. The journey was a bit exhausting but extremely productive. I certainly wouldn’t mind maybe going back some day. But Man oh Man, am I—and Margaret, and the cats—glad I am home.

4 Responses to “LA Story”

  1. Gavin Says:

    Mmmm, In & Out. A double double, animal style, with fries and a Coke. Hmm, is it too late to go to lunch?

    As an aside, In & Out also makes a bumper sticker with the words “In and Out Burger” on it. You usually see these with the ‘b’ and the ‘r’ removed, leaving ‘In and Out urge’.

  2. Uncle Andrew Says:

    Second that, only gimme a #1 Meal with a vanilla shake instead of a Coke. :mrgreen:

    I remember the old In ‘N Out stickers. I thought they changed the bumper sticker years ago to make it harder to edit it.

  3. Dalek Says:

    A murder of LA drivers would be an insult to crows. šŸ˜‰ How about a thuggery? A posse? A psychosis? :mrgreen:

  4. Uncle Andrew Says:

    How about a bedlam? šŸ™‚

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