Reading at the Crossroads

Reading at the Crossroads is an archive for columns and letters which appeared in the Terre Haute Tribune Star. I also blog here when my patience is exhausted by what I feel is irritating, irrational and/or ironic in life. --gary daily

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Location: Terre Haute, Indiana, United States

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

February 15, 2006 -- Letter from Manhattan Beach

I Found It at the Late Late Show (Part 1)

Yesterday was a trip into one of the glamorous hearts of the City of Dreams. Big city, many hearts.

It seemed liked the thing to do. So I left the edge of L. A., the strand of Manhattan Beach, the friendly confines of the local coffee shops and restaurants, to drive into the city proper. None of this, however, should be seen as an aimless wandering about, a gawking, objectless journey to wherever. I had a ticket to the taping of the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson at the CBS Studios on Beverly Boulevard, that's just down the street from Santa Monica Boulevard, a stones throw from Rodeo Drive. And those dark shadowed trees marching into the highlands just to the north? Yes, the Hills of Beverly. Let the Dreams begin. I was a man, albeit a Hoosier tourist type man, with a plan, and the plan had been in place for a month.

Big stuff, right?

Well, maybe not, not if you've never heard of the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. And this is quite likely. True to it's name, the show comes on at 12:30 in the a.m. which qualifies for Late Late in my book. Ferguson follows the David Letterman show. Somehow I like Letterman but he annoys me. On three nights out of four he can put the most avid TV viewer to sleep. He cruely tries to wake everyone up by finishing each of his hyper nightly efforts at entertainment with some alternative band, usually from some small wheat growing community on the western plains of Canada. The band bashes out some monotonous beat on the bass, a lead singer snarls or painfully mopes through a lyric that is incomprehensible. All to the cheers of everyone in New York City's Ed Sullivan Theater. This serves as a kind of wake up call and introduction to the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson out in far off L. A..

Frankly, I only know one person who watches the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson with any regularity. But she, and this is no cheap joke, suffers from insomnia. When I emailed a good friend in Maine about my being part of the audience, he dove for cover by diplomatically informing me that all of Maine went to bed early. When I applied for tickets to the show online for a specific date, the instant positive reply smelled of producer desparation.

As I gingerly (big mistake, never show any sign of fear) nosed the car my California friends are letting me use onto the 405 Freeway, I experienced my first blast of real L. A. traffic. It was an unbroken line of mostly large SUVs and vans, magically joined at the bumper, the whole resembling a kind of segmented flashing metal centipede. This beast was streaming and screaming north on our six lanes of the 405. And I became part of it, it became part of me. I think my knuckles are now permanently white. But I have since craftily assigned this driving adventure to the "it's all part of the experience" rationalization bin in my brain.

The taping of the show was scheduled for the late afternoon and my email printout ticket indicated I should be there by quarter to four--I was at the gate of the CBS Visitor's Lot at 2 pm. When you're on the 405 time has no meaning. My travel estimate was off by exactly one hour. Should I rate this estimate: 1) bad, 2) very bad, or 3) very, very bad even for a Terre Haute driver who only knows of rush minutes not rush hours?

I partially redeemed my auto ego at the CBS parking lot gate. The very nice Jamaican lady working there told me that the lot was full and I should come back around 3:30 pm. Visions of driving around in the L. A. traffic for another hour or, worse yet, parking somewhere and being towed, flashed into my mind.

So I played the Indiana Card.

The Indiana Card is when you look your potential friend or foe straight in the eye and say: "But I can't do that, I'm from Indiana." This has the effect of either gaining support through humor or through pity--depending on the delivery and the personality of the power broker with whom you are dealing. The Indiana Card ploy has a record of working well in cities on the Atlantic or Pacific coast with a population of more than a million people and located at least seventy-five miles from any corn field.

Anyway, this princess of the Caribbean either laughed or took pity on me and waved me on into the parking lot. The gods were smiling and I slipped the car with a sigh of relief into the one empty place in the entire lot. Now it was time to stand in a few lines.

But that's enough L. A. excitement for one day. Tomorrow's Letter will take you into the cramped compartment of Ferguson's CBS studio. There you will meet Important Assistant, Chucky Cheesy (aka, Chunky Dee), a sparkling Cinderella of the Hills and her fairy tale posse, a Dorothy who has escaped from Kansas with her son, and, briefly, the star of the show, the displaced Scotsman, Craig Ferguson.

Go to Part 2

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