Abraham Lincoln's Doctor's Dog, 2008 style
End of August 4 column

This Week's Column, My LA Trip

First, an apology. The week in LA threw me off, so thanks to all the wonderful people out there who sent me political items I didn't use. I still love you! I still care what you think! I'll do better next week!

Also, I saw Mama Mia (3 stars) and Dark Knight (five stars with a bullet, saw it with Neal Vitale, who now has another week in which to review it before I'm stuck with the pundit role) and haven't had time to review it yet.

I had to make the hard choice: make the column even later, or cut back. I'm already "past deadline," and as a former journalist I hate that. Sure, I could post the reviews later in the week, but I don't like to work that way. I pretend this is a column, and I post it all at once. That's what I do. That's the way I like it.

For the first 24 years of my marriage, V and I went to LA frequently to visit her aging parents. Her mother died three years ago, and the frequency of our trips dropped dramatically. While she has few friends in the area, I have a number, and I've been making an annual summer trip to see them. Last week, I had the added joy of dinner with B, a good college friend, whom I took to the Brass Cap on the Pacific Coast Highway at Chataqua. We had a wonderful meal, and of course, both enjoyed great company.

Thursday, down to Palos Verdes for lunch with my good friend, USC professor Joe Saltzman, head of the Image of the Journalist in Popular Culture project at the Annenberg School for Public Communications. He asked me to start a column reviewing journalism movies and TV shows; as soon as it gets going, I'll let you know. First up, Quid Pro Quo, an indie film due out on DVD in a few weeks, featuring a radio reporter working on a bizarre story.

Friday to San Diego (via the bus downtown and the Surfliner train) for a visit with friend and former colleague Jim Forbes. He gave me a bunch of tomatoes fresh from his garden, introduced me to his mom, and amused everyone on his fill with his ATV derring-do. Sitting with Jim on his porch and talking for a couple of hours is an honor and a privilege. Plus, I hate driving, so the train ride was really cool. Union Station in LA, the last of the great train stations, is still a thrill for a rail fan.

V came down, along with my daughter M, for a family business meeting Saturday. Saturday night, we went to see American Tales at the Deaf West theater in North Hollywood (Noho), preceded by dinner at the Eclectic Wine Bar. A fantastic meal at a great restaurant, and a remarkable play in a mind-boggling venue. Sit in the front row and you are in the laps of the actors. Phil Proctor was in the cast of both one-act plays that night. He is a member of the Firesign Theater, the author of the Planet Proctor newsletter, and, all things considered, one of the most talented and entertaining people I've ever seen. I wrote last week about meeting him after the play. I'm still all tingly.

Monday's treat was Jerry Pournelle, famed science fiction writer and another friend and a colleague from my days as editor of Byte.com, where I was honored to "publish" his Chaos Manor column. My mother met him once, and can't wait to see him again. I can't either, and I get to see him once or twice a year! He's as charming as he is conservative, and boy, is he conservative! We had lunch at Good Earth in Studio City, as is our wont, and enjoyed a wide-ranging conversation. He's doing quite well, despite radiation treatments for a brain tumor (detailed on his blog). He likened it to "being at Hiroshima and standing behind a wall with just your head showing when the bomb went off." That's how much radiation he's received. All things considered, a blessedly complete recovery. He says he has four good hours a day. Jerry Pournelle hours are to regular hours as dog years are to people years, almost. I'd estimate his four hours a day are worth 8-12 of mine.

The day's second treat was dinner with Neal in Culver City, near a parking lot with floors named after famous Columbia movies (including Groundhog Day!), after seeing Dark Knight in Imax. More on that later, I hope.

Whew! What a whirlwind.