August 20, 2009

Root Beer, Bridges & Quarries

Every time I watch a movie where kids go swimming in a creek, or a documentary where the local water-filled quarry turns into the summer spot for teenagers to drink and smoke, I get jealous. I live in LA, and such spots don't exist. Yeah, we have the beach and some mountains, but the iconic images of kids sitting on rocks drinking root beer, jumping from rail road bridges into streams and swinging from ropes are images you just won't find in LA City. Those activities are reserved for rural America, not Wilshire Blvd.

Knowing this about LA, is the very reason my interest was beyond peaked when I got a cryptic phone call from a friend of mine the other day. I was sitting there eating lunch when Matt called and told me to be ready in 20 minutes, and that he was going to take me to a place I wouldn't be able to believe was in LA, in my own backyard. He rambled on about his brother "discovering" it back in high school in '89, sworn secrecy, and how he couldn't wait to see my face when I saw it.

I thought about the foothills, Hollywood reservoir, and even old mansions in Bel Air, but couldn't think of anything so cool as to warrant such excitement on Matt's end. But when somebody prefaces a trip with as much tenacity and excitement as Matt was rattling out, you need to at least entertain the idea. We entertained, then we agreed to meet. Oh, then he told us we would have to put canvas bags over our heads to protect the location of such a place.

The canvas bags were a novel idea, one we would humor Matt with until I remembered Matt's love for all things vintage and period correct. When he brandished WWII laundry bags, the stakes went up, and we swore that if this little surprise of his was anything short of mind-blowing, there would be a price to pay. About five minutes later, the bags once again nearly became the sole reason our adventure would have to be cut short, but not because of 60-year-old smelly canvas, but because a cop got behind us and the sight of three grown men in the back of a Tahoe with bags on their heads just might raise a few red flags. The cop turned, we continued. Two things start off in such a manner, adventures and horror movies. At this point, we were willing to take our chances.

Minutes later, the bags came off, and there we were, parked on a dirt road. Now, let me again say that not ten minutes before, we were stuck in traffic, and in a blink in a bag, now on a dirt road surrounded by trees. If I didn't know Matt so well, I would've been expecting a blunt object to strike me from behind, or a set of shovels and a bag of lye waiting to greet us. But no, just a trail leading from the road into some trees. We followed the dirt trail, and disappeared into the trees.

I'm not going to lie, the whole drive up was filled with not only the stench of vintage canvas bags, but also the unkind smell of apprehension and negativity toward the thought of a place existing that could impress us. I'd like to think I know LA fairly well, and that most of the "cool" spots are spots I am familiar with. I've never been so wrong as we rounded a bend and saw before us, the stream, the root beer, the water-filled quarry, the railroad bridge and all the other images I had always dreamt about. There we stood, on the banks of the impossible, a "spot" so amazing, yet right beneath our noses. We looked at each other, then to Matt, whose smile was bigger than all of ours. We then wiped the canvas smell from our faces and forgot about the bags and all the other ill thoughts, stress or pressures we could've had with us on the ride up.

For the next two hours, we were nothing but kids.

We thought a few hours spent together bonding over the idea of the four of us being kings of our unknown secret kingdom would be enough of an experience to gain trust over Matt. It wasn't. The bags went back on, and we headed home... in darkness. Beneath those bags however, I guarantee there were smiles and none of us cared about the old canvas. It was a good day to drink root beer on the bridge.