San Francisco evidently read my last blog. She didn’t want me to leave. At 8.30am yesterday morning we left for an 11am flight to Los Angeles. The shuttle to LA is such a popular route that there are often two planes an hour. The planes are small, two by two with a single aisle, it’s almost like getting the train to work. If you follow me on twitter, you’ll know how much I enjoy South West Trains daily challenges. Unfortunately, Delta airlines decided to take a leaf out of their book. We boarded a little late, I buckled up drifted off to sleep. I couldn’t believe it when I was awoken by the clicking of unfastening seat-belts, it’s not often I manage to sleep through a whole flight, even a short one. Sadly, all I’d slept through was the boarding process. Due to a fault, we had to ‘deplane’ and shortly afterwards, the flight was cancelled. LSO management went into overdrive and after a couple of hours waiting, boarding cards began to trickle out with instructions to either run to terminal 3, take a bus to San Jose or just wait around for the 4 o’clock flight. There was nothing I could do, I sat down to a burger and looked at Facebook as some of my more fortunate colleagues checked into the Biltmore in LA. I didn’t pay much attention to where anyone else was, or what flights they were on and so after I got bored of coffee refills, I walked out of the restaurant and was met with...well, nobody. I couldn’t see a single other LSO player. A prickle ran up my back. Had I misread my new boarding card? Had I missed my flight? Was I going to have to pay for a new ticket and miss the concert?
I checked and everything was in order, but I was still on my own. It was all a bit weird. Touring with an orchestra is to be constantly surrounded, shepherded around, following the leader - depending on who’s conducting. Here I was, on my own in San Francisco. It appeared that everyone else had been put on the 3pm flight or bussed to another airport. My 4pm flight arrived in LA at 5.30, the rehearsal was at 6.15 and with the notorious LA traffic there was no way I was going to make it to Disney Hall in time. We have two principals on this trip, so I relaxed at the thought that even if I didn’t make it, at least Adam would be able to play the whole concert. What I didn’t know at this point was that he was at San Jose airport with no record of his booking…
One thing I’ve learned over the last 20 years of travelling is that when you’re delayed, there is no point in getting stressed, it doesn’t get you anywhere any faster, the plane won’t take off earlier by shoving the guy in front, the traffic won’t go quicker by tailgating, and shouting at the check in person will get you to the back of the plane. I boarded, sat down, put my headphones on, switched on the Doors and day-dreamed of 1960’s California.
It turned out that Iwona, one of our violinists was also on the 4pm and when we arrived at LAX, the baggage from the earlier flight hadn’t arrived; we were met with a frazzled huddle of players wondering what they were going to wear for the concert. By some miracle my case had arrived on a flight I wasn’t on and was singularly gliding around the carousel. We hopped in a waiting car and nuzzled into the Californian traffic. It was 6.15 by the time we made it out of the car park so we were pleased to hear that the rehearsal had been put back by 30 minutes. Eventually after leaving the hotel at 8.30 that morning, I walked onto the impressive stage at Walt Disney Hall at 7pm, an hour before the concert. Concert outfits for those without luggage were cobbled together and at 8pm after many biscuits, cups of tea and tale swapping, we walked out and played to a rapturous reception. It’s funny that we so nearly didn’t all make it to the show and yet the second the applause dies down, it all comes together, although I’m not sure we were all ready for our close up. The Hall by the way is sensational in every way. I'd quite like to take it back to London with me.
John Williams came to the rehearsal. As you’ve probably heard, the LSO won’t be recording the next Star Wars film later this year for various scheduling reasons. I was lucky enough to be on the last films, but you can imagine the sense of disappointment for the band. He spoke to us about the problems he faced and expressed the hope that we would play together again soon. Let’s hope so.
We only had a few hours the next day before we bussed out to Santa Barbara for another show. The conurbation of Los Angeles is so vast, it’s difficult to know where to start. Seeing as I hadn’t been before, we really had no choice but to head over to Hollywood. We got off at the recommended stop for the Hollywood Walk of Fame and upon reaching ground level, I found it all distinctly underwhelming. Some of it made Oxford Street in London’s West end look rather upmarket. It was surprising because Hollywood is all about image. It’s smoke and mirrors, it’s facelifts and teeth caps, it’s dark and lights, cameras and action. The image is all. The runners in the park on the hill all could have been film stars with dazzling teeth and sculpted bodies. The cars were polished like a Sergeant Major’s buttons. The museums promised ‘genuine Hollywood relics’. I’m assuming they meant ephemera rather than Burt Reynolds. Every other person seemed to have what looked like a script under one arm, an important call in the other unaware that they were walking all over yesterdays stars on the pavement. Outside the Chinese Theatre, tourists posed, seeing if their hands matched up to the famous, and the further you walked, the more obscure the names on the stars became. The image of Hollywood momentarily slips on the Walk of Fame, like a hole in the wall to the secret garden. The forgotten names underfoot serve to remind that it’s fleeting, fickle and distant; a galaxy far, far away.
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