Alex & Jason’s Wedding, Los Angeles, June 2011

It’s been a while since I’ve been back to LA. Cassie went down more recently to sort stuff out for our wedding, but this time we were guests at someone else’s – our dear friends Alex and Jason.

It was on a Friday, so I took the day off, and we made the well-worn trip from Oakland to Burbank on glittering Southwest Airlines (a trip soon to be made more relaxing and comfortable by the California High-Speed Rail system). SW are celebrating 40 years of being cheap’n’cheerful, so the in-flight magazine was full of pictures of stewardesses in orange hotpants. There was also the boilerplate American maverick success story, which is so common and predictable it makes you root for GE & Westinghouse.

Once we had wheels down and , we picked up our rental – a white Corolla, if you can believe it – and headed to Pasadena so Cassie could get her hair done. I wandered around the shops a bit, noting once more that J Crew have their muzak mix tuned perfectly to their demographic (Watching the Detectives was playing this time), before joining her at the salon while Carlos worked his magic. They recommended I check out the shop next door, and they were right to do so – Rocket Fizz is a chain of soda stores that also do all kinds of candy and foreign stuff, including UK sweets. I picked up a cream soda and a Double Decker, which I still have in my drawer.

Once she was done being primped, we headed downtown to the hotel – the glorious Los Angeles Athletic Club. The LAAC has a long history (well, since 1880, which is long for California) and they are rightly proud of it, with photos of men in leotards and trophies everywhere. The building is mainly taken up with sporting and socializing facilities, but the top three floors have some very nice rooms and suites. Our room was sumptuous and inviting, while also having all the functionality* that I crave so much.

* Re: Functionality. I can’t stand it when stuff is fancy and opulent, but doesn’t work. The Hotel Vertigo on Sutter is my go-to example. Trendy boutique hotel, fancy furniture, but no AC, no surfaces in the bathroom to put your stuff (it had to go on the floor) and no wifi or cellphone reception, so pretty useless for our purpose at the time – finding an apartment. Give me function over aesthetics – both if possible.

We got spruced up and headed across the road to the venue of the wedding – the Oviatt Penthouse. I haven’t linked to it because it’s a shitty Flash blob that hijacks your browser, but the place itself is amazingLalique akimbo, such as frosted glass sculptures on the elevator doors.

The wedding itself (actually a civil partnership ceremony, because A & J are saving the real thing for when gay marriage is legal – a noble thought) was held on the roof, under the gaze of the banking towers. It was a short and very sweet ceremony, with the bride and groom exchanging simple heartfelt vows. Handkerchiefs changed hands.

Then it was cocktails, champagne, and a great selection of good beers – these guys are connoisseurs of all of these. Alex helped me find the cocktail that was right for me a few years ago, and I always try and have a couple of good six-packs in the fridge when they visit. We danced, talked, drank and danced some more, and finally left the venue to go back to the hotel for a nightcap on the roof. It was a bit breezy up there, but once we found where to plug the fairy lights in and hunkered down in the wicker chairs, it was cozy. After a final glass of fizz, I was falling asleep, so I left Cassie talking to the happy couple under the LA skyline…

Brunch was held in the Game Room, with the high-backed canopy chairs to prevent people seeing your hand, or how much bacon you took. I love the US tradition of the morning-after-the-wedding-breakfast/brunch – it makes sense when everyone is in the hotel. You get more of a chance to talk to people, swap stories, explain dance moves you demonstrated the night before, and get introduced to those you’d missed the night before.

Brunchtime drifted into lunchtime, and Cassie had arranged to meet up with a friend around the corner, so I took advantage of the fancy gym facilities and went for a swim. Lovely pool, with people jogging around a mezzanine balcony, and an underwater window that I couldn’t see out of, but which I could look in afterwards when found it.

Friend Jason was hanging around being all academic, so I joined him for a stroll to Cole’s, a nice old bar which does a pretty amazing Bloody Mary, complete with house-made celery salt and a heady kick. It made the stroll in the sun back to the hotel rather light-headed, while Jason told me about the fall and rise of Downtown LA. I hadn’t really been around that area before, as Cassie was based in Silverlake, which might as well be in a different city.

I needed a rest and a snack after swimming, boozing and strolling, so I ate the complimentary cheese and crackers while being disappointed by Red Dawn, which I’d not seen before. Weak ending.

Later in the afternoon we visited our friends Andrea and Igor and the adorable Isadora, who gets cuter every day. They served us sangria and a delicious spread of tapas, and we enthused about their daughter and caught up. Then back to hotel for another late drinks sesh with A&J in their fancy suite and on the roof.

After another splendid LAAC breakfast, and goodbyes to the wedding party, followed by a sneaky tour of the wood-paneled other floors, we took the Corolla for a run back to Burbank and Bob Hope Airport. The flight was the same as before, only north. It was then a case of retrieving the car, visiting the most desolate and hellish Safeway on the face of the earth, collecting our super-excited dog from his temporary home, and then Cassie driving home while Gordon curled up in my lap.

Fantastic weekend.