November 28, 2004
Shelly And David Journey To Culver City
Every so often my old friend Shelly Peterson and I go off on some sort of adventure. Last November she and I were down on the field at Qualcomm Stadium during a tribute to the brave men and women who had fought San Diego's horrible '03 fires, when I spotted an open doorway that I knew led to the old Padres dugout, now gathering dust forever beneath the south seats. Naturally we snuck inside for this Kodak moment.
Shelly and I shared our greatest adventure together yet, though, a week before Thanksgiving, when we journeyed by truck, trolley, train and rental car to Culver City, where I lived for the first year or so of my life. Shelly had to go up there to take a test at Sony Pictures Studios for prospective contestants on the "Jeopardy!" TV show, and she asked me to go along and keep her company. While she was taking the test, I ended up going off to search for the church I was baptized in as a baby, which had the same name as the high school I would attend years later in San Diego!
The day had begun around 8:15 a.m., when I picked up Shelly and drove us to the Old Town Trolley station. We trolleyed a few miles south to Santa Fe Depot, then boarded the 9:30 a.m. Pacific Surfliner to Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles. The ride was uneventful, but I enjoyed it thoroughly, as it was my first time aboard a train since the beginning of 1955, when my mother brought 6-year-old me and my 1-year-old sister by train from Norfolk, Virginia, to our new home in San Diego.
We arrived at Union Station right on time at 12:30 p.m., where we picked up our rental car and headed for Culver City. I hadn't actually known that would be our destination until after we were aboard the train, as I thought Shelly had said Studio City when she invited me. Once I knew where we were really headed, though, I was pretty excited because I was almost certain that Sony Pictures Studios would turn out to be the old MGM Studio, which I knew was across the street from St. Augustine Catholic Church, where I was baptized.
With Shelly driving and me navigating (a skill I must less-than humbly say I have always been quite good at!), we made it to the studio and into a space on the top floor of the correct parking structure with time to spare before Shelly's 2 p.m. appointment. We then took the elevator down to the ground floor, where 50 or 60 people we're sitting or standing in a little roped-off holding pen, waiting to go inside for their tests!
I started talking with a guy named Doug Luffborough whose wife would be taking the test too. When the women and their fellow "Jeopardy!" hopefuls were herded inside, Doug and I headed off to find some lunch and my history! We walked out of the studio, then north to Culver Boulevard, where we turned right and headed toward a tall steeple I had spotted about two blocks away. Before we got there, we passed a historic marker proclaiming the Sony buildings to be the former MGM Studio! My hunch was right!
We crossed the street to a large magnificent church and soon learned it was indeed named St. Augustine! Doug took this photo of me in front of it. Next to it was a smaller social hall which looked like it might have been a church once itself. I wondered whether it might have been the actual church back when I was baptized, so after I returned home I checked my baby photos and discovered that, yes, the hall was the church in 1949! Thus, this is a picture of me and the new church, not the old one. I stood in front of that building too, though, so I did return to the site of my very first Catholic ritual!
Doug and I walked farther up Culver Boulevard to the San Gennaro Cafe, where a piano player was entertaining a few late lunchers. We both ordered clam chowder from Megan, a pretty waitress with gorgeous eyes, and I secretly wondered if she was really an actress just waiting to be discovered by the studio down the street! Doug asked for a wine and I got an Anchor Steam Beer. The chowder was one of the best bowls I can ever remember eating, and the beer was good too! Around 3 p.m., Shelly called my cell phone to say she was done with the test, and that only 5 or 6 people had scored well enough to be asked to stay for a practice "Jeopardy!" show. A few minutes later, Doug's wife called to say she hadn't survived the cut either, so he and I headed back to the studio. Doug paid for both of us, by the way, which was very nice of him. I shot this picture of Doug beside the historical marker on the studio.
Once we were back with the women, we all said our goodbyes, then Shelly and I retrieved the car and headed back to Union Station. We just followed our directions to Culver City in reverse, which worked quite well until we messed up attempting to get on 101 South. We ended up driving around on surface streets for a little while, as I tried to get our bearings from a map I had insisted on grabbing back at the car rental agency. We eventually passed Dodger Stadium, though, a landmark that helped me get us headed back a short way south to where we needed to be.
We reached Union Station around 4:45 p.m., giving us just enough time to return the car and buy two tickets for the 5:10 p.m. Surfliner home. The train ride south was as uneventful as the one north, and we pulled into Santa Fe Depot at 7:50 p.m., then took a trolley back to my truck in Old Town.
Thanks to Shelly for inviting me to accompany her! It was a great trip and a very fine adventure back to my original hometown! Thanks also to Doug for joining my little quest and for lunch!Posted at 4:01 PM in DMG's Friends, Los Angeles