Topher Harless
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The Arrival (Part Two)

 

 

Ok, so to recap…

Preston and I are in Los Angeles, we have a trailer on the back of Preston’s almost broken trailer attached to his almost broken truck, that has to be returned in a day.  We have one last night in a hotel that has one full size bed that Preston and I are sharing (please no jokes.  I’m married, she’s not my beard, and I hate sleeping on the floor.)  We only have enough money to pay a security deposit on an apartment and for one month’s rent, so if we don’t get one by tomorrow, we have no where to sleep, we lose the trailer, which we can’t afford to rent for longer, which means that we must keep everything we own on the ground at some random park and finally die alone and homeless.

Oh and we just found out that it’s Memorial Day weekend and every place we have visited so far, won’t let us move in until Tuesday, two days late.

So, after considerably freaking out.  We walked away not sure what to do.  Until we looked next door.  Another apartment complex…  Eh, let’s just give it a look.

It was called, “The Reef Apartments.”  The lady showed us around.  It was a carbon copy of the complex next door.  So, of course we loved it.

Afterwards, she asked us if we wanted to apply.  We asked when we could move in and she said…

Immediately!

If we were approved…

I then filled the application out (It was under my name since, I was paying for it to prepare a place for La Nita when she moved here) then left and PRAYED.

We then spent all day waiting.

No call.

We went to bed that night, and had the most nervous sleep ever.  The next day, we checked out of our hotel and went to a Starbucks.  Then waited more.  At this point a logical person would have looked at other apartments, and applied to another place.

If you find that person, please tell me.  I could use advice in those instances.

So, we sat there until 4pm until we finally got the call.  We were approved!!!

We then , frantically moved all out crap into the room, which was a pain and returned the trailer that night.

Suddenly, we had an apartment, and a VERY tiny room with enough stuff in it to fill a Goodwill.

Then La Nita sent some money to help out.  That was nice.  She was a HUGE help.   (Again, tell her nothing.)

OK!  So, then I lived in LA.  I was getting married in a month and a half, I was paying a reasonable $750 a month for a studio apartment (Which is a great deal here) that I had to pay for a year, and wait…  I had no job.

So, the next blog will truly be about surviving as an artist.  When you get to LA with no job, I have some ideas about what you should do.  Everyone moves out here with huge anticipation that as soon as you get here you should dive into your dreams and be a actor, writer, director, etc.  What no one tells you is that most people who move here, blow their wad quickly, then go home.  What you have to do is establish yourself and learn how to live here.  There are affordable places, to shop, live, hang out etc…





The Arrival (Part One)

 

 

Alright, so there I was.  Staying in a hotel on Sunset Blvd, sharing an uncomfortable bed with Preston, and really hoping that I wouldn’t get shot among the sounds of gun shots followed by screams of terror.  Mine of course.

That first night was NO FUN.  The room didn’t even have cable.

Oh, I forgot to mention, our first meal that first night in LA was “El Polo Loco,” or in English, “The Crazy Chicken.”

Which is actually quite good for fast food.

The next day we ventured out to find other apartments to view.  We ended up going to all of the places that we had found online and none of them were what they advertised.  Either they were WAY more expensive than they advertised, or they were nothing like the pictures.

So, there we were…  One more night at a hotel, no place to live, no money to rent a hotel any longer.  I had enough money to pay a security deposit on an apartment and not a cent more.  Preston had nothing.  It cost hundreds more in gas to pull the trailer than he had planned.  Also, it was Friday and we had to return the trailer holding all of our earthly possessions on Sunday.

So, if we didn’t find a place to live, like that day, we were done.

I wasn’t sure what we would do if this didn’t work out.  Neither Preston’s parents or mine were rich, so literally they couldn’t afford to float us money to survive until we found a place.  If this didn’t work out, I’d have to use our rent money to get back to Alabama and even that wouldn’t be enough, so we have to sleep in the car each night and we couldn’t afford to bring our things home because the trailer cost too much.  Not to mention that Preston’s truck could no longer handle the stress of luging around the trailer and was smoking.

Panic slightly hit me at that point.

So, Preston and I sat down at a Quiznos.  Ate a sandwich, spoke to La Nita a ton on the phone, and looked up places in an apartment book we found at a newspaper stand.

La Nita that day did one good thing and one bad thing.  Don’t tell her that I told you this, but if it weren’t for her, I would have sucked it up and moved into the apartment that the HKG (Hello Kitty Girl) showed me and risked both my, Preston, and La Nita’s lives for the next year.  She really pushed me to go look at other places and because of her we ended up in a nice place that was much safer.

The bad thing?  She was more stressed than I was and she started fights with me over the phone.  I almost killed her over the phone about a million times.

That’t how you know that you’re in love kids.  One moment, you want to hug someone because you miss them and love them so much and the next you want to stab them in the face with a fork.

Ahhh true love.

Anyway, the book of apartments that we found didn’t help at all, so Preston and I ended up going to a few apartments we found using an app on his iPhone.

That’s when we finally found “The Montego Apartments.”

This was the first place that we went to that looked nice, was in a nice location, and I didn’t feel like I’d be killed in my sleep for a cup of sugar.  We got a tour of the place from the guy.  He walked us around, it had a pool and a balcony.  It actually resembled an old remodeled hotel.

So, he handed us an application and we smiled like idiots because we knew that we had found our new place.  Once, he handed us the forms, we asked if we could go sit down and fill them out immediately, so as to get the process going faster.  He said that was fine and if we filled them out right now, we’d know if we were approved on Tuesday.

WHAT?!?

Was of course our response.  That’s when he gave us news that we hadn’t counted on.  It was May 28th, Memorial Day weekend.  Virtually no place would take us in until Tuesday.  Which is about three days AFTER we needed to move in to survive.

*Commence the weeping*



The trip (Part five)

 

 

The last day of our trip was driving into Los Angeles.  Now, if I didn’t make this clear before, I shall do so now.  I moved across the country from Alabama to Los Angeles California without ever having been to the west coast at all.

Pretty stupid.

The furthest I’d ever been west was Wisconsin.  P.S…  The cheese is really good there.  However, there are two types of cheese curds.  One is fried cheddar and the other is some kind of raw oyster thing.  Just be aware of what you’re ordering…

Back on topic.

So, we just saw the Grand Canyon and now we were driving into “Tinsel Town.”

What is it that you were told about LA?

Were you told that there are only gorgeous people there?  Were you told that the sun never stops shining and it’s gorgeous all the time?  Were you told that LA is a cesspool of evil where liberals go to die?

Yeah, that’s what I was told too…

The last drive was supposed to be a 7 hour drive.  I was supposed to drive straight to an apartment that Preston and I had been looking at online thanks to my friend Pete.  We had spoken to them on the phone, arranged a meet and greet to see the place and already been emailed the paperwork which we had filled out.

So, the first snag was that driving into town was mostly hills.  So, Preston’s big ass truck had problems.  Which meant we were behind schedule and we had to get to our meeting.  So, Preston being the nice guy that he is, calls me and insists that I go ahead of him and get to the apartment, so as not to be late.  Of course I didn’t want to do that, but he pushed me till I did.

So there I was.  Driving into LA alone.  I rounded the hill to see the sign that said, “Los Angeles.”  I of course frantically tried to take pictures of the sign.  However, the second I got over the hill I looked down to see traffic as far as the eye could see.

So, I was alone, I was stuck in traffic, it started to rain, and I looked to the right to see a transvestite pushing a homeless man in a grocery cart along the street.

All I could think was…  Welcome home.

The road I was most excited about was “Sunset Blvd” partly because my favorite show of all time is “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” but mostly because I thought Sunset blvd was Hollywood blvd.  So, when I drove down Sunset, didn’t see Grauman’s Chinese Theater and all I saw was about a million tiny buildings shoved into the smallest amount of space with a Subway on every other block.  I was less then elated.

P.S…  I hate Subway and I had just moved into the land of Subway apparently.  Did God hate me?  Probably.

So, after a long time I finally arrived at the apartment…  on Sunset.  Yes, the apartment I was visiting was right off Sunset Blvd.  Reason being, when Sean, Preston, and I were originally planning on moving here, Sean insisted on living in Hollywood.  His Uncle who lived in Burbank told him that everything was in Hollywood and living anywhere else meant hours of traffic.  Which meant that we absolutely must live in beautiful Hollywood.

By the way…  Most auditions are in Santa Monica.  I go to Hollywood all the time to hang out with friends or go to random jobs, but everything really important seems to happen to me in Santa Monica.  Granted, the traffic is bad when you “go over the hill,” but you learn to deal with it and you learn tricks to get by it as much as is possible.  Overall, there are safer and cheaper places to live than just Hollywood.  Before you decide where to live, shop around.  Hollywood is a good place to be, but you do have other options.

So, I arrived at apartment, on possibly the worst looking street I’d ever seen in my life.  I called the woman I had spoken to on the phone, and said that I was there and needed to be let in.

A young Asian girl in her early 20’s wearing “Hello Kitty” footed pajamas greeted me at the door.  She spoke absolutely no English, but led me to the room.  Where was the other woman I had spoken to?  No clue.

Maybe she was somewhere laughing at my expense, thinking, “Stupid southerner.  He’ll be dead by dinner time.”

Hello Kitty Girl or “HKG” led me to the smallest room I had ever seen with bullet holes in the wall.  That’s not a joke.  The rent was $800 a month and I now knew why.  I promptly thanked her, which she didn’t understand, and ran like hell.

Preston finally arrived in town and was immediately pulled over by the Police for talking on the phone while driving.  Apparently, that’s illegal here.  Thankfully, he explained his way out of the ticket and the cop let him go.

We then met up at our final hotel of the trip, which we didn’t get till the night before.  There had been some confusion about what place we would stay at.  So, after we realized that we had nowhere to go, La Nita kindly went online and got us a hotel for two days in a place off Sunset.

Problem is, she didn’t specify that there needed to be two beds in the room.  So, when we got to the hotel that night, it was super small, super crappy, and had only one full size bed.  We attempted to upgrade, but the price was too high to do that, so we got stuck with only one small full size bed for two grown men.



The trip (Part four)

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Day Three –

Albuquerque, New Mexico to Flagstaff, Arizona.

First off, Albuquerque was beautiful.  If you get a chance to stay there, do so. You basically have to drive up a mountain to get there.  I stayed there both times I drove through.  The second time, I dined at a Route 66 Diner and had some fried pickles.  Can you say, “When did I go back south?”  Of course you can.  Why did I ask that?

The first time I went, Preston and I stayed in a wonderful little hotel next to a diner and we walked there because we were lazy.  Whereas the first hotel had a nice pool indoors, this one had a pool, but I don’t remember being able to swim.  Probably because we had a long trip ahead of us the next day.

Just had an idea…  How about I list the EXACT hotels we stayed in on my first trip?  Sounds fun.

1. Comfort Inn Fort Smith in Fort Smith, AR.

2. Days Inn Midtown Abq in Albuquerque, NM.

3. Flagstaff/Grand Canyon Travelodge in Flagstaff, AZ.

Something I noticed was that in that area, a majority of the food was a tex-mex type thing.  At the diner, Preston had enchiladas covered in green chili sauce and I had roasted turkey with mashed potatoes and gravy.  The whole food type mixing thing felt weird to me.

The next morning we had our free breakfast at the hotel and headed off.  This was a shorter day (Thank God).  After our really long drive, Preston and I wanted to get to Flagstaff asap, so that we could see the Grand Canyon in the day time and the night.

Two things we saw that day…

1.  The Painted Desert

Ten dollars a car, but sooooo worth it.  I really wish we could have stayed longer, but we were in a hurry to get to the GC.

 

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2. Twin Arrows

Twin arrows is an abandoned Gas station/ gift shop out in the middle of nowhere.  Preston and I pulled off the side of the road (There is no parking.  I’m relatively sure, what we did was illegal.) and played around.  Very fun place to see.  You feel like you’re in the past.  It’s actually kind of creepy.  I’ve heard that truckers get tattoos of twin arrows to signify their life on the open road.

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So, we headed away and reached our destination quickly.  I think around 3pm or so, and headed to the Grand Canyon.  It was about an hour away from our hotel and I drove my Jeep.  At this point, Preston’s truck was smelling awful because of the clutch burning after holding a trailer for so long.

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If you ever get to see the Grand Canyon….  It will change you.

I was excited to see it, but I didn’t freak out about it because I imagined it as a crappy family touristy thing to do, however, when I got there it took my breath away.

Another note…  Every heard of the Sky Walk?  It is supposed to be this amazing glass walkway over the Grand Canyon.  Preston and I looked into going.  It was ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS a person to go.  That and it was three hours from our hotel.  We aptly decided that was something we couldn’t afford and went to the south side of the canyon and payed twenty five dollars for one car.

Much cheaper and just as beautiful.

We then left after the sun went down and headed back to the hotel.  The pool was freezing, but we’re guys and we went anyway.  It was a cool way to end the day.

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The trip (Part three)

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Please notice how fat I look here.

Day two of our long journey was AWESOME.  We finally hit I-40 which is in essence Route 66.

Now, I had heard all about how amazing Route 66 is, but I had no clue how to drive it.  I couldn’t find any clear directions and from what I understood it ran parallel to I-40.  By the way, I- 40 is the ONLY way the GPS would allow us to go.  When we changed the settings to “Avoid Highways” it wouldn’t take us along Route 66 because apparently those roads weren’t efficient enough.  If you can, get a GPS with a way to download Route 66 directions.  That would have saved me a headache.  So, as soon as we got on I-40, we tried to get on Route 66.  Which meant we mainly just drove on service roads that we thought were Route 66.  Finally, we realized what to do and watched for signs directing us to 66 and tried to get off every exit that said that we could drive along the classic road.

This is slightly annoying, but overall very fun.  We first went to a Route 66 highway museum.

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This was very cool.  Kinda dorky, but we loved the antiques and wax people in this abandoned city square now turned into a museum.

After that we drove through Oklahoma.  When you talk about the drive west, no one talks about the drive through Oklahoma, I will.  It was incredible.  Everything was so beautiful.  We loved the drive.  I especially liked the windmills.

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And finally we drove through Texas to see Cadillac Ranch.  If you’re wondering where it is…

“Just west of the Amarillo city line. I-40 exit 60. Drive south to the frontage road (old Route 66), then turn left. Drive east one mile. Cadillac Ranch will be on the right (south) side; just park your car along the shoulder and enter the pasture through an unlocked gate. Visitors are encouraged.”  – http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/2220

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You MUST see this and write your name on it.  However, don’t forget to go pick up some spray paint.  Preston and I forgot to do so and we had to find some semi used cans.  We were lucky to find them.  The next time I drove across country and saw the ranch, I forgot to get paint again and La Nita and I couldn’t find any laying around that were usable.

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Tips for the second day drive…

Don’t forget spray paint.  It is fun.

If you have a GPS, go online and download a Route 66 map on it.  That way you don’t miss any of the road like we did.

And finally…  Drive slow and enjoy the trip.  You’re making an epic journey and it’s one that many others have had to make.  Its incredible, breath taking, and life changing.  Imagine yourself as an early traveler trying to settle out west.  How long did the trip take them?  I can guarantee you more than four days.



The trip (Part two)

The first part of the trip was filled with a bit of ridiculousness. Preston and I spent most of the drive trying to get my two way radios to work. They worked for a couple minutes into the drive and stopped working completely. Apparently, two way radios from junior high don’t like working the first time you actually need them…

As a whole, the first day of the trip was relatively uneventful.  We ate at Wendy’s and I followed Preston in his truck with the trailer attached.  As we drove, we realized that because of the weight and the fact that Preston’s truck is a four cylinder, we could go no faster that seventy miles per hour unless we were going up a hill, which meant we could only drive fifty.

Not as bad as you’d think.  This is actually one of my favorite parts of our trip.  Driving for ten hours back and forth from college was absolutely draining.  When I finally got home all those times I had to make the trek because I couldn’t afford airfare, I would feel like I was going out of my mind.  All the driving at eighty or faster (don’t tell my Mom) and weaving between lanes will drain a person.  Not having to think about driving, but just following Preston, made the first fourteen hour day seem like it was a four hour trip.  Not so bad.  Also, I have two words for you…  Audio Books.  Those kept me sane.

We got to the hotel that night feeling refreshed.  We even hit the pool, which was pretty nice at our three star hotel.

We drove that day all the way from Alabaster, Alabama to Fort Smith, Arkansas.  We pretty much didn’t see anything notable.  We did see an amazing bridge made of all steel going through the state lines of Arkansas, but that was about it.  We hadn’t even really hit I-40 at that point.

My advice about your first day on the road?  If it’s a long trip, don’t rush.  Ride it out and get some good books and podcasts to listen to.  I find the “How Stuff Works” cast to be fun, but can get annoying because they’re so short.  I read two full books on the trip and I will admit fully that one of them was a Spider Man novel…