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Get me there!  

WARNING! This is a long entry. If you do manage to stick with it then I give you my heartfelt thanks as this was probably the most poignant day of my entire trip and I guess really revealed to me the reasons I embarked on the trip in the first place.

Friday, 9th February

Woke up at 5 this morning. I am getting there, slowly. As promised, I subjected myself to a gruelling run around Carson but I cut short the run as I got freaked out that I was the only person who was on foot. Instead I returned to the hotel and did a workout in the fitness room. The fitness room was quite well equipped but my exercise wasn't helped by the fact that I couldn't find the light switch and so had to work out in thinly veiled darkness. I figured this probably made the workout more intense as I had to multitask between lifting weights and not falling over. I have heard that ninjas train blindfolded to heighten their awareness so I will use this technique tomorrow and simply 'sense' the presence of the ball and not run around.

Although my trip to LA was about as well planned as the new Wembley arena, the only clear ideas I had before I came was to try and get as much done as possible in the time I had. Each day had to have some target to try and reach. Yesterday, was the Rancho Cucamonga experience, tomorrow would be the tryout, sunday would hopefully be tryout again and then meet up with the Riot Squad, Monday would be sightseeing and then home. Today's target was to go and visit Robbie Williams at his home in Beverly Hills and go for a kick-a-bout on his indoor football pitch. I had found his address easily via a google search at home and was convinced that he couldn't possibly ignore me after I had come all the way to see him especially as I was born in the same city, Stoke-on-Trent. I envisaged that he would probably think I was mad but then say how cool it was, invite me in and we could chat about the good old days in Stoke, how well Port Vale are doing under the leadership of Martin Foyle and then he would volunteer to go in goal whist I took pot shots at him from distance. At least that was the plan...I didn't actually print out his address so I was back in same situation of having to try and find an internet cafe. I thought that if it came to it, I would get as close to Beverly Hills as I could and then just get a taxi to Robbie's place.

Before that, however, I had to get to an internet cafe. I took my usual bus into Union Station and then the metro red line that would take me to Hollywood and surely there would be an internet cafe there. As usual, rather than admitting I was a tourist and asking for help, I thought that even I would be able to figure out how to get off at the stop that said 'Hollywood'. So imagine the way I tried to hide my anxiety when I got on the train and saw that Hollywood had 4 stops. 'Hollywood Vine', 'Hollywood Highlands' 'Hollywood Western' and 'North Hollywood'. Oh dear. Luckily for me, sandwiched somewhere inbetween these stops was a name I recognised, 'Universal City'. So, although I had no desire to go there whatsoever, I decided to make it to Universal, have a quick look round, ask for directions and then walk back to Hollywood, afterall, how far could it be?

Getting off the train at Universal, I simply followed the crowds in the vain hope that they would be going somewhere interesting and, after detouring slightly, I found myself sitting at a bus stop waiting for a shuttle that would take us up the steep hill to Universal. After waiting for 10 minutes, I was getting impatient as I didn't want to waste more time so I stood up and then set off up the hill. It is a bloody long and steep hill I can tell you. About half way up, the shuttle that had just picked up at the bottom drove past me and I could see a couple, who had been waiting next to me at the stop, point and laugh. I took secret comfort from the fact that I was actually getting some exercise and would benefit in the long run. When I eventually made it up to Universal, I have to say I was really impressed. Watch me being impressed here.

 

I didn't go in to the park but luckily there is a huge perimeter with shops, bars and restaurants. I loved it. Walking around I also decided that it would be funny to get a cartoon drawn of me in the galaxy kit. I found one guy and had a great chat with him as he drew me. It turns out he had drawn for TV animation before. I was very envious. I love cartoons and animation and enjoy trying to make my own. We got talking about different software etc and I think he was kind of impressed that I knew a bit about the techniques. He also spoke about the tryouts and joked that when I get drafted he could draw posters of me to sell in the club shop. I laughed with him but secretly thought that we could be on to something. I also asked him about which stop was best to get off and see the best bits of Hollywood so I finally had some sense of direction. Anyway, the picture was great. I didn't get his name but if you ever read this...good job!

After leaving Universal, (and strolling down the hill with a smug expression that I hadn't used the shuttle either way) I got back on the subway to Hollywood Highland. This was what I had been waiting for. Getting off the subway and going up the escalator, the last thing I expected to see at the top was the famous 'stars' of Hollywood. It was very weird. I always had the idea that the stars were a big deal, that there would be guards standing over them and they would be polished daily so that the gleaming symbols of success stood out for millions to aspire to. Instead, they are just kind of 'there' and people just walk all over them. I have to admit that looking at them there were a lot of names I didn't recognise and it was only later back at the hotel when there was a news piece that I realised you pay to have one. Maybe my next website should be called, 'Getme2theBoulevard' and I should try and get donations for me to get my own star. Before I left the UK some guy had told me he worked opposite the Chinese theatre and he could show me around Hollywood. Again, however, I didn't get his number or the place that he worked so it was only after going into two shops and saying, 'Are you Adam?' that I realised it was unlikely that we would meet up. Still, I amused myself by interviewing some of the street stars about what they thought about David Beckham. See the video here. My favourite bit is when I go up to Darth Vader and say, 'Darth, quick one for the BBC. What do you think of Beckham?' as if by mentioning the BBC, Darth would think, 'Hey, this guy is for real. I wasn't going to answer his question but now I know he's from the BBC I will provide him with an answer.'

 

After interviewing, I finally managed to track down an internet cafe and this time, with pen in hand, jotted down the address of one Robbie Williams. Across the street from the cafe was a grand hotel so I before jumping in I asked the driver how much to Beverly Hills. He seemed pretty vague but there was no way I was getting in until he gave me an idea so evetually he said it would be about $30. I thought to myself, '$30 on the off chance of a whirlwind advetnture, heck, count me in! Besides, if it doesn't work out, I can always walk back!' So, with butterflies beginning to form in my stomach, I jumped in and we were on our way.

It wasn't long before the taxi driver started giving me the creeps by first of all driving for a mile and then saying, "This way is no good. I take you another way, quicker route." "Hmmm..."I thought, "I have seen enough movies to know that either a) he is going the 'quicker' route to show me the sights of LA thus adding another $20 to the fare b) changing direction to a quiet location where he can point a gun at my face and steal all my money, afterall, who is going to miss a sun-burnt tourist who nobody knows exists? Still, I was in no position to argue. Instead I tried to get him on my side by asking him questions about his life. He told me he was from Lithuania and had been a kayaking champion in his home country back in the 70s. He was also talking about football and the stars who live in Beverly Hills. I thought I had calmed him down a bit until, for no reason, he cut in front of a car, beeped and then proceeded to wind down his window and hurl obscenities at a mother and child in a language I didn't understand. The funniest thing was that immediately after, he wound up his window and continued the conversation as if nothing had happened.

The journey after that was actually quite pleasant and he took delight in pointing out which stars owned which houses in Beverly Hills. It was becoming ever clearer that there was no way I would be able to walk back either. The long, steep winding roads were full of traffic and there was no sidewalk to walk down. The thing that amazed me was that the houses were really beautiful but the roads were awful. Full of potholes and cracks, I just expected that the film stars and sports stars would have demanded better. I consoled myself in the fact that although I will never own a house like theirs, at least the road in front of my house is flat. (I am sure that any stars reading this are now in floods of tears at my boast)

Eventually, after a very long drive, the driver told me we were approaching the estate that Robbie lived on. I suddenly got very nervous. I had played out the scenario of how Robbie would react in my head a thousand times but now it was for real. The following recount details how my brain and my mouth didn't work together and ultimately lead to failure.

We pulled up outside the guards hut where I simply stated my name and the fact I was here to see Robbie.So far so good. Don't mention you don't know him, make them think he's expecting you.So the guard goes on the telephone in front of me. (After making me turn off the camera) After a few seconds talking he puts his head up and says, "Who are you again?" So I repeat my name and even spell it out. Keep cool, Kev, keep cool. At this point, the guard looks like he is struggling so I ask him if I could speak on the phone. Amazingly he hands me the phone. Advantage, Kev. Unfortunately, on the other end of the line isn't Robbie but instead his Irish housekeeper.Use your charm. I put on my best, most polite voice and proceed to tell her how I have come all the way from Stoke to say hi to Robbie and have a kick-a-bout. Well done, Kev, keep holding it together. I never actually said I knew Robbie but it seemed like I was starting to make headway until she asks me, "Can I just ask? How did you get his address."Weren't prepared for that one eh dipsh*t? Think man, think. Tell her you got it from his agent, or a friend of his in Stoke, or a journalist, just don't say..."I got it from the internet." Abort mission! Abort mission! He said it! NOW YOU SOUND LIKE A STALKER NOT A FRIEND YOU IDIOT! Silence on the end of the phone. The housekeeper then says, "He's not here. He's away and won't be back for a few weeks." "Where has he gone?" asks I. Good comeback. Now it is housekeepers turn to stumble on words. "Er...he's just away." Jump in! Jump in now! "You're lying aren't you?! He is there really isn't he? Don't accuse her of lying you fool! Housekeeper gets defensive and tries to end conversation. Don't let her go! Say something or your chance will be lost forever! All sense of coolness then goes out of the window as I desperately start to beg to speak to him for just one second. "I know he would let me in." I plead. In the end, housekeeper, brain and me are all slightly embarrassed by how desperate the behaviour has become until we are all grateful that phone is hung up.

Sadly, I hand the phone back to the guard. He, his colleagues and the taxi driver have also just witnessed my demise and the vanishing of dignity. They all kind of look sorry for me. As we drive off, I have a little rant into camera and then suddenly feel very sad. I couldn't place my sadness at first, but I guess part of it was the frustration that I am still certain that if I had gotten the chance to speak to Robbie then he would have welcomed me. The journey back is quiet except for the taxi driver who seems to sense my sadness and sings some appropriate Lithuanian laments along the way. I get back to Hollywood and all I want to do is go home and be alone and sad. I walk through the bustling streets in a daze and 90 minute journey back to the hotel seems to pass in an instant.

I did nothing else that night. I still now cannot really place why the Robbie incident hit me so hard but I was feeling pretty low. It was only 2 days after I got back to the UK that I started to get a moment of clarity for not only my sadness but also my motives behind starting the whole quest in the first place.

In October last year, my grandmother died of cancer. She had been ill for a very long time and in the end, if you can have such a thing, she had a beautiful death. She was surrounded by love and she passed away safe in the knowledge that there was nothing left unsaid. I was always very close to my Nan. I think the reason I was so close is because she was always such a happy person to be around. There is not one moment of my life where I can think back to anything but good times with her. She always made a fuss of us, was genuinely interested in what we had to say, gave us unwavering encouragement in all our exploits with the phrase, "All you can do is your best." She always smiled, played jokes on us, laughed and gave us nothing but love. For me she was an inspiration, particularly when she was ill. The last few weeks were very hard for her but throughout the entire time, she maintained the same principles she had held throughout her life, that you get one shot at life and why spend time sitting around complaining when you could be doing so much more? For example, in the very last few days she knew that eating and drinking would make her violently ill but she was defiant in doing what she wanted to do and so cracked open a bottle of pink champagne and a box of chocolates. It was as if she was sticking two fingers up to the cancer and saying, "You may take my life but you'll never take my dignity." She was amazing. The hardest thing I've ever had to do was to kiss her and say goodbye for the last time but all of my family say we feel at peace that we all got the chance. Of course, there are still tears and great sadness but in a way they are happy tears because we just feel happy that we knew her.

So, in a way, I have come to realise that this whole trip has been dedicated to her. My missus, Nikki, summed it up perfectly by saying it has been my way of 'embracing life'. And for this reason, getting to the tryouts was enough for me. It may sound strange but standing out there gave me an inner peace and I knew that whilst the rest of the world might think I was an idiot for embarking on the trip, one person would be looking down on me with a knowing smile. So the following video is dedicated to the memory of my wonderful nan, Monica Randlesome. It shows that when you're down sometimes you just have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and appreciate what you've achieved. Watch it here.

 

 

 

 

 

 
   
kev@getme2thegalaxy.co.uk
 

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