Sunday, 18 October 2009

California Dreaming

The text on my phone read: "Darlo won 2-1. You are the Jinx. Stay Away. Signed Stan".

So it's now official - I'm the one to blame for our losing streak - despite missing other games and us still losing. But that's the way it is.

And sitting 5000 miles away in sunny California, I was simply pleased to hear we'd finally won a match.

I was over in Los Angeles to visit some of my colleagues in Burbank, home to the major studios such as Walt Disney, NBC, Universal and Warner Brothers.

On my first night over there I went to downtown Burbank and popped into the Gordon Biersch brew restaurant, one of a chain of bars serving US-brewed German-style beers.

There was a decent selection on offer - a soft hefeweizen (not unlike Paulaner), a couple of lagers (one light lager and one darker Bavarian-style offering), a Schwarzbier quite akin to an English porter and a seasonal offering which was an Oktober festival beer. All were very palatable - the food was good too.

On other nights when we worked late, I made do with a trip to the local supermarket, Vons, where they had a micro-brew aisle in their drinks area, and the delights of room service.

(left) Bottled brews

I tended to stick to a quartet of bottled beers - Blue Moon Belgian White, New Belgium's Flat Tire (an amber ale), Downtown Brown ale from the Lost Coast Brewery (great labels) and Stone IPA.

The Blue Moon Belgian White is actually a Coors beer but is an easy-drinking Hooegarden-lite which is an ideal thirst slaker.

All good ales and at around $3 for a 22 fl oz bottle, pretty good value as well.

One of the strangest parts of the trip was when I joined over 6.9 million Californians in the largest earthquake drill ever. Called a ShakeOut, the intention is to practice how to protect yourself during an earthquake.

Given we were on the 29th floor of a supposedly earthquake resistant building it's an interesting concept and at the designated time, an announcement came over the building tannoy and we all hundled under a desk - in our case a big desk in a meeting room - the intention being you see out the quake and then go down the stairs when it's finished. Makes our fire practices seem a bit lame in comparison.

Being true to type, I managed time to fit in a curry when we had the lunch buffet at Flavor Of India just a couple of blocks along from Gordon Biersch.
(right) Even the police like curry

The fare on offer was certainly not up to my local east-end standards but it pushed some of my buttons. The local police were there in force too - certainly beats doughnuts.

One of the highlights of the trip was meeting fellow Punishment of Luxury fan, Ged, who originally hails from Sunderland and who also once worked for the Mouse. Ged runs the site for the band and this was the first time we'd met.

Ged took me to downtown LA - not quite as glamorous as I'd imagined and more resembling the Isle of Dogs on a weekend - where we went to see Eddie Izzard play a small club as a fund raiser for a local charity.

Unfortunately we had to queue for over 40 mins in the worst weather LA had experienced all year - torrential rain - which had all the locals in a bit of a lather but was just water off a duck's back to me.

Finally inside the club, we were fortified by Sierra Nevada Pale Ale - one of the early standard bearers for the US brewery scene - and then a sparkling two-hour set from Izzard by the end of which we were thoroughly dried out.

Towards the end of the week the weather changed and it was a bit too hot for me. Perfect though for a lunchtime visit to the Disney Studio Lot to see where the Disney Magic is created.

It certainly is a happy environment - as it was lunchtime everyone was milling round outside the commissary (canteen to you and me) soaking up the sun - everyone smiling. It was quite weird for an old misery guts like me.

(left) Walt and Mickey

I had a wander round the lot including the massive sound stages where a lot of productions are put together as well as the smaller building where post-production is done. Impressive stuff.

And now I'm back in the frosty autumn and facing the dilemma of whether I should watch the game at Underhill on Saturday. Perhaps if everyone chips in and pays for me to stay in the pub?

Didn't think so, you tight gits....

NB. The text didn't actually come from Steve Staunton, dear reader, but a certain Arkwright-alike of the Darlington area.

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