Hop in for a while My trip to California began on a Sunday in early January. I was on my way to the airport just before dawn and not one soul was on the streets. The song Blackbird began to play on the radio, a song I’ve never heard before, all of a sudden I felt a rush of relief come over me. I thought about the past few years and how I’ve always had the same job. I thought about friends I had just seen and would probably never see again. I thought about how much I’ve changed and how much had stayed the same. So much confusion and doubt had followed me around but somehow I knew this trip was supposed to happen. My stress already, began to pour out the open windows and for the first time in a long time, I left it behind me.
I met with my dad for breakfast before I left. I hardly get to see him anymore and it was nice to sit down just the two of us. He never really opens up and tells me what’s on his mind but then again neither do I. He was nice enough to drive me the rest of the way to the airport and with a quick goodbye and take care of your self, I was off. Even though we never really communicate much, to me he’s a great dad and I’m lucky to have him.
It was a long plane trip on top of another three hours in a car but I finally arrived in Santa Maria that night. As soon as I stepped off the plane the scent in the air transported me back in time and all these great memories came rushing back to me. It was nostalgic and a bit depressing all at the same time because those times were so far away gone.
Don’t call it Frisco! First thing I did when I got to Cali was rent a car and oh what a car it was. A brand new Chevy Cobalt, ohhhhhhh. I hopped in my rental car, said goodbye to my aunt and drove 300 miles to San Francisco. It was such a great drive, just me, some good music, and the beautiful weather. Half way to my destination I stopped to refuel. I pull up to this gas station in the middle of nowhere country and I just sat there waiting….and waiting….and waiting. I’m saying to myself, “Where the hell is this gas attendant!” I’m honking the horn and causing a ruckus and wondering why everyone is staring at me. Then I see the sign that says, “SELF SERVE.”
I arrived in San Francisco 4 hours after I left Santa Maria. Luckily I have a friend who just moved to Frisco two weeks prior to my arrival. She was now living with her boyfriend and they were nice enough to allow me to stay at their new place. It was in a section called the Mission. This city has many little sections with names like Chinatown, the Castro, and Dogpatch and all these little sections are very small consisting of only a few blocks. You can smell the liberalness in the air; it’s a very open minded city, except don’t call it San Fran or Frisco, they hate that.
One particular activity that grew on me was the drinking of wine. My friend was always into drinking wine and she educated me a little bit. We sat in her back yard sipping and talking about old times waiting for her boyfriend to arrive. I was a little nervous about meeting him; after all here I am some guy he doesn’t know blowing into town to see his girlfriend and staying over his place. Probably didn’t sound too good when he heard it either. When we did meet he was very nice to me, also a genuinely funny person. He won me over right off with his sense of humor and we quickly became good friends. This friend of mine, let’s call her Cha-Cha, is like a bratty sister to me and unlike some guys I am capable of having a friendship with a female that has nothing to do with sex.
Attacked by Cujo
Sitting outside relaxing I was introduced to their roommate and also to a gay next door neighbor who came out to do some gardening. Following closely behind him was this animal called a pit-bull. Now I’m a dog lover, I even like cats, I’m in all around animal person, I am not however food for an animal. The second this beast came out I had this nervous feeling and I said to myself, “Relax Laz the dog just looks vicious and mean, it’s probably just a lovable little creature.” That’s when it attacked the roommate, viciously. The only thing the gay neighbor could do was faintly yell at his dog, “Thtop it! Thtop it!” Seems to me that even the owner was a little scared. Why would a gay guy keep a pit-bull anyway, seems like an oxymoron. Anyway, it wasn’t long until this dog got a taste for some Latino blood and came lunging at me a few times. For the rest of my stay I kept having nightmares that I was stuck in the Steven King movie, Cujo. That weekend we painted the town red, bar hopping, dinning in fine restaurants, and watching live bands. By the last day I was so tired and hung over all I wanted to do was stay home and order a pizza, and that’s what we did. The pizza in Frisco taste different from New York. For some reason because of the natural chemistry of this city everything is made with sour dough bread. Also it was being prepared by 2 burnt hippies instead of the usual Italians in wife beater shirts yelling out phrases like, “Ay, ya wanna pie or what?”
A little History and a lot of Chicken Wing.
Before I left I did get a chance to spend some time with my aunt from my dad’s side of the family. Her family was so nice taking me out to Pier 39 and showing me all the sites there. The last time I had seen her was when I was 12 years old. We spent the day walking around and catching up on each others lives. I learned a little more about my family’s history like how my dad stole one of Castro’s boats and sailed here illegally when he was 15 years old. He didn’t even get all the way to the USA instead somehow ended up in Haiti first. We also talked about my late grandfather. It was sad coming back because the last time I visited he was still alive and it was the first and only time I ever met him.
That night at the apartment we ordered Chinese food. Chinese food in Frisco is similar to the pizza, made by hippies and not by authentic angry Chinese people who talk 100mph. So I bite into a chicken wing and one of my crowns came loose, as in one of my front teeth crack off. I freak. I run into the bathroom and luckily it wasn’t that bad, but now I have a loose tooth and normal eating is a thing of the past, great. I left San Francisco a little wiser and made a few new friends along the way. It was a good experience with the city by the bay.
Here I go again on my Own
The following week I was back with my aunt from my mom’s side of the family in Santa Maria. A quaint little farming town that’s very quiet and very boring if you don’t know anyone and I don’t. I call up the dentist because of my emergency and get an appointment to go in the next day. They say I have to get a new crown and that it’s going to take at least a month. Well, what am I going to do just walk around not eating anything? So I agree and the same day extended my stay until God knows when. I actually called up Jet Blue and had the following conversation:
Laz: “Yes I need to extend my flight.” JetBlue: “Certainly sir, until when?” Laz: “God knows when lady.” JetBlue: “Your flight has been extended until God knows when. Would isle 16A be ok?”
I went to the bar attempting to make some friends since I’d be staying awhile and the bartender was putting up the chairs at 9pm. Not a soul is in this town. Luckily I have my 16 year old cousin to entertain me. I sit in the house and watch him play video games or I drive him about the town to see his friends. It’s great just me and all these teenagers hanging out at the Barnes and Nobles. I’ve never felt older in all my life. I asked one of his friends how old he thought I was and his response was, “You’re like in your thirties, like old right?” My other cousin is 18 and the lead singer of a hardcore heavy metal punk band. He invited me over to see one of his shows and I thought, awesome he’s older and bit more mature how hardcore can his music be. The entire night I stood in the back of the room fending for my life. I felt like a lion tamer holding up a chair pushing back kids who were going crazy in the mosh pit.
On my way to L.A.
My producer set me up with an actor friend of his who lives in L.A. Now I’m weary about staying in a stranger's place but I have a cousin whom I never met before who lives close by so I figured I could always crash at his place. Yea I know makes no sense. Anyway my producer also got me this two day gig doing a showcase for CBS. His voice message sounded like this:
“Dude, Laz listen. I got you this audition with CBS, their doing a comedy showcase out there, I want you to go and stay with a buddy of mine, you better fuckin go alright, peace bitch.”
An audition for CBS, wow I thought. So I drive to Los Angeles and find out I just volunteered to be a stage hand in a showcase for CBS featuring the best sketch comedians from around the country. Basically they didn’t even know I existed. I was just there to move the scenery. Well I made lemonade out of lemons and for the next two days I got up and was the best damn stage hand I could be. I ended up meeting the VP of casting for CBS and made friends with some of the actors. I got to watch a great director and writer from Broadway work and it turned out to be a great experience. The rest of the time my actor friend who we shall call Raff, took me all around LA. The first night I was there we went to this bar on the Sunset strip called Skybar. It was an interesting atmosphere. The lights were turned down way dim, a swimming pool lay right there in the middle of the room, and beds were scattered all about. I wondered if I should have bought a pillow and some swimming trunks. Talk about seducing someone here, you didn’t even have to take them to a motel when the time came.
After a few drinks Raff and I headed over to the famous Rainbow room. I didn’t really see anything famous about it. It was a bar and upstairs they had a room where amateur musicians and comedians would perform all night. When I say all night, I mean until 2am. Every place in California closes at 2am, very tame compared to New York but as Raff pointed out, “You don’t have to drive in NY.” Not having a car in LA is like missing your legs in a potato sack race, it just won’t work.
Sleeping on Deflated Air.
Raff was kind enough to let me stay at his place, and he set up an air mattress for me in his small studio apartment. Now Raff has two cats and one of them apparently clawed a small hole in this air mattress. Slowly but surely it deflated over the course of the night. I began sleeping on air and by morning I ended up on the hardwood floor with two cats oddly staring at me as if to say, “Look at this asshole, sleeping on a deflated air mattress.” Before I met with Raff, I decided to pay a visit to my long lost cousin on my Dad’s side of the family whom I’ve never met. It’s funny how I end up in Long Beach in a complete stranger’s house and they treat me as if they’ve known me all my life. They took me out to a real nice all you can eat buffet and set me up in my own room. I also learned a little bit more about my past. According to my cousin who is now in his 60’s, the Viciedo family were millionaires in Cuba before Castro took over. My Grandfather owned 3 farms, 2 department stores and a gas station. No wonder I have such good taste, hehe. In any case, one by one my family left Cuba for a better life here in the United States. The only one who stayed behind was another aunt of mine who is a doctor.
The Longest Blog in the world. My trip isn’t over yet and I plan on updating as often as possible. At this time I would like to thank all of you who read this blog but I would like to especially thank Paula (pictured below) who has stood by me and supported my career for a long time now. Thankx Paula! I would also like to send out a big thank you to the people at the Chico and the Man forum on Sitcoms Online for being like a second family to me. As Elvis would say, Thank you….Thank you very much. Laz has left the blogging.