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I Heart Venice or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love LA

I’ve haven’t spent much time in Los Angeles, only traveling there for a quick photo shoot in 2006 and an impromptu job interview following the EA Chicago studio closure in 2007. Both times left me underwhelmed and, like most people, I figured LA was nothing more than a fakery factory with pretentious cuisine. Even the weather seemed mundane and unadventurous. With our game, Star Wars: The Old Republic, making its final E3 showing this year, Erin and I finally decided to fly out and give LA a fair shake. To be honest, we didn’t see much of the city, choosing to explore the area surrounding our hotel: Venice Beach. The beach itself is nice enough, if you like knock-off sunglass purveyors and shady pot dispensaries. What surprised me was the artistic sensibility, vintage architecture, and hipness that reminded me more of Brooklyn, NY than Los Angeles. After some incredible coffee (Intelligentsia), the greatest sandwich I’ve even eaten (Gjelina), and the Wet Hot American Summer exhibit at Gallery 1988, Venice had won my heart (and wallet… incredible coffee and life-altering sandwiches don’t come cheap). The “unadventurous” 65 degree summer weather didn’t hurt either.

[On a side note, I read an article last summer about the psychology of vacations. It stated that people, on average, enjoy planning a vacation and reminiscing about the vacation more than they actually enjoy the vacation itself. A lot of this has to do with amplified anticipation and the stress of fitting in all of the pre-planned activities. I unfortunately read thisĀ after our epic NYC/Chicago 10-day trip last summer, which fit nicely into the psychological mold illustrated in the article. With this knowledge, I have approached this years' trips (Montreal in March as well as this recent LA excursion) very differently than similar trips in the past. First, I plan almost nothing (Erin usually checks out a few guidebooks from the library). I book the hotel and plane, but otherwise, we let the days unfold organically. This isn't easy for me; I'm someone who likes to have breakfast plans 48 hours in advance. But I must admit, this no-plan plan has worked to perfection. Both the Montreal and LA vacations were stress-free during each trip, and the lack of serious anticipation nearly eliminated the usual post-trip letdown. I seriously recommend this... (And, yes, I am aware that this "side note" is far meatier than this weblog's entree.)]

The rest of the trip consisted of E3 with ex-EA and current BioWare co-workers, a 15-second reunion with my old boss who now holds meetings like the Godfather, listening to Mix Master Mike cook at the Microsoft Forza party, visiting the amazing hilltop Getty Museum, attending a Bill Maher taping, shopping for sneakers at Undefeated next to Punky Brewster, watching dolphins swim alarmingly close, and having dinner with old friends. Not bad for no plan.

Like most of our vacations, I put together an iTunes mix of California and summertime-related music to pass the time on the plane. On the flight home to Austin, a Decemberists lyric suddenly seemed much more apropos: “Los Angeles, I’m Yours.”