TRAVELOGUE

On the Road: Danny sets out for sun and celebrities in LA

Sep 18, 2016, 10:35 PM | Updated: 10:35 pm
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The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum ahead of kickoff. (Danny O'Neil)
(Danny O'Neil)

Los Angeles smells like summer.

At least I’ve always thought so.

Even in September, and especially in December.

I may be biased, though, given my annual pilgrimages to L.A. as a kid, but I swear there is a certain smell that is slightly sweet and a little bit florid that to me is unmistakably SoCal. Maybe it’s morning dew evaporating in the most paved-over part of our country. Could be the iceplant that grows alongside the spiderwebs of freeway interchanges.

Photos: Danny travels to Los Angeles

Whatever that smell is, it hit me when I stepped outside my hotel on Sunday morning, heading to cover L.A.’s first regular-season pro-football game in 22 years.

It hasn’t been nearly that long for me, but this city exercises a hugely sentimental pull. It’s where my Dad grew up, one of nine children, and it’s where we came every summer for vacation.

Some families go to the Grand Canyon. Others to Europe. We packed up the family hatchback and drove the 600-some miles from Klamath Falls, Ore., down to the house where he grew up in Montrose, a tiny little townlet near Glendale whose total area isn’t much more than one square mile.

My Pops had eight brothers and sisters, a huge family in the best sense of things. I have more than 30 first cousins on that side of the family alone, and our annual trips to L.A. meant afternoons in the pool with my cousins or a drive to Manhattan Beach and maybe a visit to one of the theme parks.

So when I boarded Alaska Airlines Flight 472 on Saturday, I knew my heartstrings were going to be tugged at on the other end.

Los Angeles is where I saw my first pro sporting event, sitting in the outfield seats at Dodger Stadium. I swam in the ocean, learning to body surf and developing a belief that I belonged on the beach. In fact, 30 years of relentless sunburns have failed to convince me otherwise.

And for all the jokes that get made about Southern California and the people who live there, it really is an incredible place. In fact, I’m such a sucker for Southern California that I’ll get wistful about Jack in the Box. I’m not kidding. That’s where my uncle Randy took us after going to Manhattan Beach. In fact, this almost qualified as exotic for me back then. See, we didn’t have a Jack in the Box at home in Oregon and the idea of putting a burger on sourdough – while not quite gourmet – couldn’t have tasted any better after a day spent huffing saltwater through my nose.

My tastes are a little more adult now. I got dinner at Tortilla Curtain on Saturday night, a gastropub with a three-page beer list and street tacos served on impossibly thin yet deliciously soft tortillas.

But who am I kidding? About five years ago, my wife and I went to Disneyland and spent more than 12 hours at the park. We do not have children nor did we have anyone else’s with us.

And on Sunday, I came back to Los Angeles on the same day pro football returned to the city, going to an old stadium that is hopelessly outdated by today’s standards yet quintessentially Californian. The Red Hot Chili Peppers played before the game. Ceelo Green sang the national anthem in what appeared to be a mumu. LeBron James was on the sidelines.

But that’s Southern California, where the stars come out in the midst of a sun-soaked afternoon.

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