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Mike Tasos: Enjoying my trip to California ... sort of
Mike Tasos

Shame on you, Randy Newman. Your “Toy Story” music made for an endearing soundtrack. 

With your tune about short people, it’s a safe bet you would have been munchkin meat if the song had been around when “The Wizard of Oz” was filmed.  

But where I really have a problem is with your obsequious ode: “I Love L.A.” 

I don’t like it or love it, Sam I am.

In the next three weeks, I’ll spend a few days in Southern California. I’d rather take a swim in the shark-infested waters that surround Alcatraz.

Even venerable Dodger Stadium, the third oldest MLB playground still around and once a jewel, has become run down and outdated. 

It’s comparable to a visit to grandma’s before Alzheimer’s played havoc with her. Dodger Stadium would benefit from getting the grandma furniture treatment: Cover the seats with plastic. It even smells musty.

On a recent trip, I decided to take in a late-afternoon game before my self-imposed torture of catching a red-eye flight home.

As an aside, I cut my sports-writing teeth at Chavez Ravine. The place used to be jewel. It’s been around since 1962 and the O’Malley’s ran a classy operation and took care of the free-loading L.A. press guys. 

Vin Scully was typical of the organization: Classy and kind to a kid from Bakersfield who tried to hide his “pinch me” emotions. He asked if he could join me and a friend for dinner. There wasn’t enough water to keep me from coughing. 

I was astonished to pay $25 to get in. To park a car. I would think that lot is paid for by now. The tab grew: $66 to walk through the crumbling venue’s turnstiles, $30 for dinner (two Dodger Dogs which used to be the benchmark for ballpark chow), a water and a bag of the worst peanuts ever (I’m Georgia spoiled).

The only holdover from the old days was peanut thrower Roger Owens. Google him and you’ll be amazed. “I’ve been with the Dodgers forever. I’m the only MLB pitcher making less than a million dollars.”

But nobody can throw strikes from two sections away like Roger. The conversation was the best part of the afternoon.

But please know that L.A. is a wonderful place. If you like traffic way more nightmarish than Atlanta’s, gang-shootings, endless displays of graffiti. It’s where you seldom see a clear blue sky, instead seeing a murky brown haze comprised of air not conducive to taking deep breaths.

The best part of trips to the left coast involves seeing my brothers. I’ll be in San Diego for three days next week. Youngest brother Marty has promised to visit. I promised to buy him a Mexican luchadores wrestling mask if he shows. 

However, if he wants a Tijuana excursion as a reward for the five-hour drive, my response will be: “Adios” and “Vaya con Dios.”

Sadly, that’s two of the few phrases I remember from two years of high school Spanish.

Throw in “Buenos Dias,” “Buenos Noches” and that’s the extent of what I remember from the late Mrs. Winston. We always had fun asking her if we could bum a cigarette off her. The smile she gave was one of pity, not amusement.

Oh yeah, another Spanish phrase, compliments of Cheech (Marin, not Milano) and Chong was “Fuchi Capesta.” Never could get a translation on that one.

After next week’s trip, I’m soon to return to SoCal. I’m planning on seeing both of my brothers for a Bakersfield weekend that’s certain to be filled with laughs, old tales and great companionship. 

And while I don’t love L.A., I miss seeing my siblings, so that means I sorta miss Bakersfield.

On the plane ride home, I thought of Merle, Buck and Willie singing “Georgia on My Mind” and John Denver’s “Take Me Home Country Roads.” 

And if I ever meet Randy Newman, I’ll give him a smile, full of pity.


Mike Tasos’ column is published every other Sunday. He says: “Enough with the lightning damage (another strike this past week), missing toes, broken washing machines and blown-up modems.” He’ll pray more if the guy upstairs will keep treating him like Job. Comments can be sent to miketasos@earthlink.net. He is also on Facebook.