London Day 6: In Which I Go to LA to Home and Back to LA

Or would this be more of a day 5.5? Ah well.

Like Day 0, it’s hard to quantify a “day” spent when most of it is in an airport. We woke up very early in morning, around 5:00, and after showering and such, finished packing everything and tidying up. I’m sure I left a Smarties tube or a Fruit Pastille under the bed or something, though.

Mom was quite anxious about getting to our plane on time, and insisted we take the Heathrow Express. It was pricier (and not that much faster) than the stop-n-go Heathrow Connect, which we had taken coming here, but this was something I sensed wasn’t worth arguing about.

After lugging our luggage down to the lobby, we checked out and headed for the station. Mom didn’t even want to stop for Starbucks, which was just as well, since the closest one had unexpectedly closed for renovation yesterday.

We bought our Express tickets and only had to wait a few minutes before the train was ready to leave. Even though this was our third train trip , we still had trouble navigating the platform, and passed a few open cars before realizing the difference between first class and not, and finally just jumped into one.

All told, it was a nice train, and comfortable, and true to its adverts, we got to Heathrow in less than 15 minutes. Our terminal was the farthest away, however, and we had to take a shuttle to get there. First, though, was baggage, security, and customs, and the only issue we ran into was suitcase weight. Specifically, Mom’s. It was too many kilos over the limit (which we had to have the poor clerk lady painstakingly translate into pounds), and after an anxious rearranging of clothes, I was given two jackets to wear, and Mom another pair of shoes. Scale satisfied and excessive weight fee avoided, we were able to move on. Mom was surprised at how automated security was. No hovering guards or scanning tubes; we didn’t even have to take off our shoes. We had nothing to claim in customs, and free at last, we took the shuttle to our terminal.

Mom was nervous the entire time, even though we were a couple hours ahead of schedule, and it wasn’t until we were staring at the flight board by our plane entrance that she was able to relax. We were among the first people there, and without anything better to do, we went to have breakfast. Mom finally got her coffee, and proclaimed it the best she’d had since leaving home. We poked around one of the convenience shops, where I got sweets for my sister (since I’d eaten the others myself) and snacks for the trip.

(It wasn’t until we were actually on the plane that I realized we had never turned in our Oyster Cards for the cash, and I still had a significant amount of coins we couldn’t exchange back home. Whoops.)

The plane was the same type of British Airways airbus we had taken in coming here, and I felt an old pro as I immediately started messing around with the entertainment module while waiting for everyone to board. Takeoff was as teeth-chattering and ear-popping as ever, but I barely noticed as I stared out the window, watching London and then England disappear below me.

IMG_1634Goodbye, mountains green!

Like before, I had planned for the lengthy flight, and had books and games and paper, but it was impossible to concentrate on anything. I ended up dozing for a couple hours, then watched Monty Python, Horrible Histories, The Monuments Men (I liked it, it was funny and yet poignant), and Her (really weird, but pretty good). Basically, this trip wasn’t as bad as the first run, probably because it didn’t feel like the middle of the night. We left London at 9:42, and landed in California at 12:42, effectively reducing the 10 hour flight into only three. Bizarre.

IMG_1638

Hellooooooo, LA!

The first thing we noticed after landing and going into LAX was the air conditioning. Heathrow had had A/C, but not of this caliber. Mom was visually relieved to be back home, even though security, customs, and baggage was far less organized and it took us over an hour to get through all the lines and find our suitcases. Already exhausted, we finally escaped and were welcomed at the arriving gate by my grandfather’s smiling face.

My siblings had been staying at my grandparents’ house the whole time, so we had to go pick them up before heading back home. The whole way there, I gushed about what we had done and seen. I also texted my sister (our phones worked again!) to make sure all their stuff was packed and ready to go, because I was eager to get back home since I had to go somewhere that night.

You’re probably questioning my sanity at this point, and I can’t say I blame you. But see, tonight was a Talkin’ Toons night, and one I really didn’t want to miss.

For those not in the know, Talkin’ Toons is a podcast put out by veteran voice actor Rob Paulsen. He has done hundreds of voices for hundreds of cartoons and movies, and is also a really awesome guy. I’ve had the honor of meeting him on numerous occasions over the past couple years, and I can attest that he is among the kindest, humblest, friendliest, most talented, least pretentious, amazing human beings in the world. Most of that group also includes other voice actors, all of whom are humble and nice and stupidly talented. Rob’s free podcast started out as him just talking to himself and answering fan questions, and expanded to include having his voice actor friends on as guests (such as Maurice LaMarche, Billy West, Kevin Michael Richardson, Cree Summer, etc etc etc) and then a UStream channel (also free), then regular gigs at the Jon Lovitz Comedy Club at Universal Studios City Walk, and now monthly showings at the Hollywood Improv on Melrose. The podcast itself, available on iTunes, his website, or his app for Android/iOS, remains free for all to enjoy, but anyone can also go see him and his special guests  at the Improv. I’ve been a number of times, both there and when it was at the Lovitz, and I always invite people I meet to go see it if they can. If you love cartoons, voice actors, or laughing your guts out, then by golly, this show’s for you! I absolutely love going there, and I get to not only see Rob and whoever the guests are, but also other VOs that show up, and my Improv peeps, and I have a wonderful, glorious time.

Now that I’ve finished shamelessly plugging, I have to admit that it’s a pricey venture for me. I don’t actually live in LA, but about an hour away – which with traffic, can be up to three hours away. The tickets are very reasonably priced, especially for the caliber of entertainment you get, but with that and gas and parking and food, I have to plan my trips carefully, and I can’t always make it. The show for the 22 July, even though it featured the cast and crew of the new Disney show, The 7D, I thought I would surely have to skip because there was no way I’d be able to make it after flying home all the way from England.

But then my friend texted me saying she finally had a day off on Tuesday, and she’d love to go to Rob’s show. Now, I’d been trying to get her to come to a show since last August, when Tom Kenny was on. Also, a dear friend of mine who lives in Utah was currently visiting California and also going to the show. I felt this was one I couldn’t miss. Mom wasn’t too pleased with it, insisting I would be too exhausted, but I figured what’s a little jet lag among friends?

We arrived at my grandparents’ house, got smothered by welcome home’s from my grandmother, grabbed the kids and their stuff, said goodbye and thank you, and headed home. I probably should’ve tried to sleep, but I felt bad that I was just going to take off as soon as we got back, so I chattered the whole time, telling my sibs what I had seen and all the things we’d done. (My sister really liked her Platform 9 3/4 shirt and all the sweets I smuggled.)

At home, I texted my friend that everything was good to go, and that she could head over whenever she was ready. Normally, I drive my friends to places like this, since I live the farthest, and can just pick everybody else up, but my car was dead (long story) and I also didn’t trust myself not to fall asleep while driving. So I would pay for gas and my friend would drive us both.

Somehow I managed to get ready in time (I’m notoriously tardy for everything, it’s horrible), and after getting food for everybody (my poor friend had to make so many trips), we headed to LA, the second time that day for me.

Southern California traffic really is as terrible as they say, but it does largely depend on when and where you’re driving. LA is always pretty bad, but it was a weekday and we were on the road after 17:00, when everybody is leaving the city to go home. In any case, we made good time, and arrived at the Improv without much fuss or bother.

I’m not going to go into much detail about the show itself, since I think people really ought to listen to the podcast and hear for themselves, but it was TOTES AMAZEBALLS. Rob is always wonderful, and I also talked with Kevin Michael Richardson, Bill Farmer, and Scott Menville, all of whom I’ve met before and always enjoy seeing again. There were a few other famous VOs peppered throughout the crowd, as well as a number of producers, agents, writers, directors, etc.

Besides Rob, of course, as the host, the guests for the show were the cast of The 7D, and Tom Ruegger, the creator, shared the stage with Rob and talked about the show and introduced everybody. It’s a truly star-studded cast, but not everyone could fit on stage at once, so Bill Farmer (Doc), Kevin Michael Richardson (Happy), Maurice LaMarche (Grumpy), Stephen Stanton (Sleepy), Billy West (Bashful), Scott Menville (Sneezy), Dee Bradley Baker (Dopey), Paul Rugg (Lord Starchbottom), and Jess Harnell (Grim Gloom) all came up separately to do their voices and talk about their characters.

IMG_1648A relaxed, welcoming atmosphere with some of the most talented people on earth.

One person who came up on stage was a bit of a surprise.

IMG_1642That’s right, the Crimson Chin!

Jay Leno plays the Magic Crystal Ball on the show, and he treated us to about 20 minutes of stellar stand up material. I’ve never seen his older stuff nor much of his talk show, but he was sharp and on point and pretty darn funny.

When it was over (sadly; I always wish they were longer), everybody headed outside to talk and have autographs signed and pictures taken. I met up with my other friends, and we loitered around as usual (we’re almost always the last to leave). I playfully forced my friend to talk and take pictures with Bill Farmer (Goofy) and Scott Menville (Robin from Teen Titans) and she was beyond escatic at the whole thing, which made me very happy. I also introduced her to Rob and Kevin, and my Improv peeps, and it was nearly 23:00 when we all finally said our goodbyes and headed home.

I had gotten many comments from people who knew of my recent London adventures questioning how I was, y’know, alive enough to have come that night, and indeed, by this time, I was very tired, but I stayed awake on the way home for my friend’s sake, since she had a long drive back to her house. We gushed about how awesome the show had been and all the people we’d talked with, and she said she’d definitely want to do it again.

All in all, it was a wonderful conclusion to a long day, and an amazing week.

[Author’s Note: Next posts will be about my adventures at San Diego Comic Con! And don’t worry, they won’t be as lengthy and rambly as my London ones! Stay toon’d!]

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