2003 Road Trip Diary: Chapter 7

It was nice to wake up and know that I didn’t have to drive somewhere. Well, somewhere out of town at least, because L.A. is all about being in the car.

Todd was still asleep when I got up, so after showering I decided to explore a bit. I started down Santa Monica Blvd. looking for a Jiffy Lube that, according to Mapquest anyway, was supposed to be there. I couldn’t find it. Hungry, I cruised over to Melrose Avenue and found a funky little café where I had breakfast. The actress Jami Gertz came in right after I did and sat down at the table next to mine. I’ve never understood the impulse to get autographs or say something to famous people – what are they to me? – so even though there was nobody else in the place I let her enjoy her breakfast. I couldn’t think of anything I would say to her even if I wanted to. “Loved you in Quicksilver, Jami!”

After breakfast I meandered east through Hollywood to US-101, up to 405, down to Redondo, up through the Beach Cities to LAX, past the giant donut, and then back to the freeway and Todd’s house. I didn’t really stop anywhere. Traffic was light this early on a Saturday and I just wanted to get the lay of the land. My overall assessment of L.A. after a few trips there: Brentwood, Westwood, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Manhattan, Hermosa, and Redondo are all pretty cool, while the rest of the place consists of endless, faceless sprawl for which I don’t have much use. I would live in L.A. before, say, New York, but only if I didn’t have to commute downtown to a normal job and could stay in my own neighborhood most of the time.

Todd was up by the time I got back. He led me to the Jiffy Lube that had somehow eluded me, after which we headed down to Redondo Beach to toss a baseball, play video games and air hockey and generally screw around. Todd and I are really good at this. The year before he had visited me in Columbus and we spent the day going to a ballgame, getting milkshakes, riding go-carts, and playing miniature golf. It sounds corny, I suppose, but I love doing this sort of stuff. I only seem to manage to do it when I’m with Todd, though, and it’s afternoons like these that make me regret that one of my closest friends lives thousands of miles away.

After the beach we hit an In-and-Out Burger and then made our way down to Anaheim to catch the Angels-Mariners game. The ride to the stadium was endless, partially due to traffic, but mostly due to the fact that we missed the exit for highway 22, which cuts from 405 back over to the Big A. As a result, we had to take 405 all the way down to where it ends at I-5, and then jog back north to Anaheim. We missed batting practice, but we did get more time to gab about life, the universe, and everything.

Angels-Mariners would have been a relatively easy ticket to score in April 2002, but a year later the reigning World Champion Angels were a much hotter attraction. The ticket lines were dreadfully long when we arrived, so we looked for a scalper. While I took a call from the fraud department at American Express (they noticed that someone had taken my card and had absconded out west with it, racking up hundreds in gas and hotel charges) Todd stumbled upon some guy whose friends couldn’t make it and was trying to recoup his losses. He was selling them for less than face value, but Todd still managed to talk him down even further. There are many times I’ve thought that maybe Todd should be the lawyer, because he’s much better at that kind of stuff than I am.


We didn’t ask where the seats were located, because when two guys under the age of fifty go to a ballgame, it’s all about trading up, and by “trading up” I mean “squatting in good seats that don’t belong to you and hoping the owners don’t arrive.”

Trading up is an inexact science, dependent upon many variables such as overall crowd size and usher-tenacity. Given that it was a beautiful weekend evening, an attractive opponent was in town, and they were giving away stuffed Rally Monkeys, none of the variables seemed to be in our favor that night. We nevertheless set off for the good seats along the first base line, because to admit defeat before even trying would be downright Un-American.

To ensure a successful trade-up, you must avoid the ushers, but you can’t look like you’re avoiding them. You must walk with confidence and sit down in your chosen seat as if you were its lifetime season ticket holder, but you must be prepared to execute a friendly relocate if the rightful owner arrives. This entails looking at your ticket stub, mumbling something about being in the right row but wrong section, and quickly moving along. The very appearance of arguing with the seat’s rightful owner is unacceptable in that it risks an usher spotting the exchange, coming down, and attempting to resolve things. If this happens you might as well head straight for Suckerville (the middle rows of the left field bleachers where your true seats are located ) because you’re going to be watched like a hawk until at least the sixth inning. And no, trading up after the sixth inning doesn’t really count.

That night’s game was the most difficult trade-up of my life. We had to execute multiple friendly relocates before we found a permanent seat, and even then it was difficult to get comfortable given that we were getting a serious eye-fucking from one of the ushers. He was obviously on to us. The only reason I can think of why he didn’t evict us was that he felt he needed some kind of probable cause he didn’t yet have. Everyone kept their powder dry, however, and we managed to settle in nicely by the time the third inning rolled around.

Oh yeah, the game wasn’t half bad either. Kevin Appier – one of my favorite players from the 90s – started for Anaheim, but he left early with an injury. Reliever Scot Shields was no help, and the Mariners jumped out to a 6-1 lead. The Rally Monkey was in the house that night, however, and the Angels mounted a comeback, capped off by a three-run rally in the bottom of the ninth. Final score: Angels 7, Mariners 6.

I was both happy and expectant as we drove back to Todd’s place. Why expectant? Because Carleen was flying in the next morning and I couldn’t wait to see her. I wasn’t until I picked her up the next morning that I had an idea of how expectant I really was.

Craig Calcaterra

Craig is the national baseball writer for NBCSports.com. He writes about things other than sports at Craigcalcaterra.com. He lives in New Albany, Ohio with his wife, two kids, and many cats.

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