Last weekend, I worked in Pomona. When news of a Tatiana Nicole show at the Whisky a Go Go broke on an online forum I am a part of, and the date was just two days earlier than I needed to come to southern California anyway, a plan for another mini vacation began to take shape.

A month before the trip, I booked my flight into LAX for the morning of Tuesday, December 1, booked a mini van I would need for load out after my weekend’s work, booked two nights in Hollywood and three nights in Ontario, near Pomona, arranged for my co-worker to fly into LAX Thursday where I would pick him up and for him to fly home with me late Sunday night after our work. I booked a park and fly stall near SFO.

With travel logistics taken care of, I let my forum friends know that I was coming to Hollywood for the Tuesday night Tatiana Nicole show at the Whisky. Two of our L.A. area forum members, Scotty and Sean, were going to meet me and see the show with me.

With Wednesday being an off day for me, I contacted my good friend from high school, Ron Pipes. Ron does make up for television and movies. Ron works a lot, has a great reputation, an Emmy award, and is Hell to pin down for a get together. I have traveled as much or more than anyone I know and my work brings me to southern California fairly often. If we could get together, it would be after three years of trying.

On the day before my trip, I traveled to my business partner’s house to pull together the last few items for my last work weekend of the year. Half way to the airport, I didn’t want to return home, and stayed at my son Charlie’s grandparent’s home for the night. I have a good relationship with my ex-wife’s parents, and was grateful for the opportunity to spend the night.

Tuesday morning, up early, I drove to San Francisco, gave up my car, caught a shuttle to my terminal, checked one bag, breezed through security, and boarded my flight at the front of the queue.

After arriving in L.A. and collecting my bag, I walked out to the curb just as my rental car shuttle arrived. I was quickly whisked to the rental car corral where I was given a nice Toyota Siena. The great news was that both the front and rear bumpers showed signs of having been used often, so I wouldn’t have to worry about incidental contact.

My phone is an iPhone, and it quickly provided GPS directions to my hotel. I followed them and found my hotel with no difficulty.

Okay, I have to confess, when I booked the room in Hollywood, I got a great deal, but I thought the room would be horrible. I was willing to save a little money, I was by myself, this wasn’t for work, no one would judge me based on where I would stay. I was prepared to suffer a bit, I was expecting a terrible place.

Oh, was I happily surprised! My room at the Travelodge, Hollywood on Vermont was really nice, the entire property was clean, cheerful, and nice. I was so lucky, just thrilled.

I went for a little walk, and within a couple of blocks, I found myself standing at the corner of Vermont and Hollywood, the Hollywood sign visible on the hill, and the delicious aroma of food coming from a Fatburger franchise on the corner. I ate a delicious King with egg and cheese in the warm sun and read a book. I was pretty happy.

After posting messages of my happy arrival on facebook and twitter, I contacted Ron about our meet up the next day. We agreed to a late breakfast, planning to talk again at 10 AM Wednesday.

My forum mates, Scott and Sean, connected with me through facebook, twitter, and finally phone calls. We would meet at the Rainbow on Sunset, just up the block from the Whisky, at 7 PM for drinks and food.

I got a call from Scotty saying that he was running late, and asking if I could be sure to get to the Rainbow on time and look for Tatiana; she would be joining us and Scotty was running late because of a flat tire.

My iPhone told me I could cover the 6 1/2 miles from my hotel at Vermont and Sunset to the Rainbow on Sunset in just 12 minutes; maybe you can at 4 in the morning. I am thrilled I built in “idiot factor” to the trip and left at 6:15 PM. It took all 45 minutes to get to the Rainbow and park. I walked into the Rainbow at 7 PM exactly, did a quick tour, didn’t see Tatiana, Sean, or Scotty, so I went to the bar to order a drink.

I am old enough to know what I like, but I am terrible at bars. When it comes to mixed drinks, out of the millions of possible combinations, I don’t really like that many. I really would be quite happy with a tropical drink with an umbrella, but it isn’t very manly outside of an island resort bar. I like gin. Gin and tonic, or…Martini! “Excuse me, I’ve decided, may I please have a Tanqueray martini?”

Nice big up glass, two olives, lots of crisp, delicious gin. Yum.

I went outside, to the outside bar, and saw Sean as he was coming in. After a brief introduction, we got down to business. I got Sean a Martini – they cost an extra dollar at the outside bar, hmmpf – and Sean handed over his pack of cigarettes. This would be the third night I would smoke this year. The first long drag hit me like a train. More yum.

The Rainbow cooks a good steak for about $30, but puts the same steak on a piece of bread, calls it a sandwich, and sells that for about half. An order for two steak sandwiches, medium rare, both with salad, one Italian, one blue later, and Sean and I fell into easy conversation.

A mutual friend of ours from Australia has been trying to get Sean and I together since April this year, I don’t know how you can just know two people would get along great. Outside of our shared forum interest, we don’t really have much in common, but our friend was right. I like Sean tremendously, and am incredibly comfortable in his presence.

Scotty showed up next. Scotty has the feel of New York about him. Faster, tougher, maybe a little dangerous. Kind of like a mobbed up, wisely, goodfella. Now Scotty isn’t bent nose. Look at my last name, and you would be right to guess I was raised in an Italian home. I’ve seen Italian, and I’ve seen mob. Scotty is a good guy, but he has that flavor – maybe it is the east coast thing, I don’t know.

Scotty ordered a pie. Pizza pie.

We talked and talked, we ate, we talked, we drank, one more round please, we talked. Interestingly, Sean and Scotty are both from the same part of New York, out on Long Island. While I would never question where Scotty came from, I was surprised to find that Sean wasn’t a native Californian.

Scotty said that Tatiana was running late, was heading directly to the Whisky, and we would meet her after the show.

I just came down to see her. Meeting her was unnecessary. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to meet her, but I really came to hear her rock the house.

Most of you, at this point, do not know who Tatiana Nicole is, unless you have googled her. Tatiana is better known by her full name, Tatiana Nicole del Toro, and rose to some level of fame when auditioning for American Idol last season.

Tatiana Nicole was the best singer on the show last season, and was used over and over, throughout the auditioning rounds of season’s beginning, through to the awarding of dubious distinction awards at the finale at season’s end. Tatiana was the girl with that laugh. She was the one that cried. She was the one seemingly self-possessed to the exclusion of anyone or anything else.

I saw her completely differently. I heard her sing. She had the best pipes of the season. Girl could sing. Big. Amazing pitch. Great control. Whitney? No problem.

The clothing? Chosen to stand out in a crowd and get her noticed by the producers. The seeming over-emotional personality? A combination of reality, giving the producers what they ask for, and editing.

Sean and Scotty and I are members of a forum that saw through American Idol’s manipulations, and saw Tatiana Nicole as the best, most entertaining, contestant of last season.

The week before the Whisky gig, I listened to a pod cast of an interview Tatiana did with another forum member, Aaron, for his internet radio show. Tatiana was lucid, articulate, funny, endearing, a competent self-promoter. Tatiana also revealed that her Whisky gig set list would include lots of AC/DC.

I thought she was kidding.

We walked down to the Whisky, passing Scotty’s vintage Cadillac, took care of the door, went in and got some beers. On stage was the opening band, Controlling All Dilemmas, a quartet of teens, technically competent but needing seasoning and lacking a captivating or engaging quality. Nice, even good, but not great. They’re young, there’s time for them.

After CAD finished, and during a short break, Tatiana Nicole’s band began to set up. During the break, we noticed that Kristen McNamara was in the house to support Tatiana.

Kristen McNamara is from my neck of the woods, in neighboring Napa county, and played Konocti in Lake County. Kristen is practically a hometown girl. I introduced myself, and shared where I was from. Kristen graciously came and met Sean and Scotty, and promised to talk with us more after the show.

Kristen McNamara was on both Nashville Star and American Idol, and is as cute as a bug.

Tatiana Nicole played with a bass player, guitar player, and drummer; and the AC/DC promise became a reality, as Tatiana ran through a set that relied heavily on classic AC/DC and a couple of songs from Led Zeppelin, Black Dog and Whole Lotta Love.

Dressed in painted on black sequined pants, a black and gold sequined sleeveless top, black and gold fingerless gloves, and black high heel boots; hair and face looking beautiful, a perfect combination of features, Tatiana Nicole was a gorgeous rock Goddess, a life size porcelain doll come to life, sexy as hell, strong.

Did I mention earlier that the girl has pipes? Tatiana went through a blistering set with plenty of high notes, some low sexy growling, and an endless array of perfectly delivered notes.

Fun and driving, Tatiana Nicole and her band delivered.

At one point, Kristen was at the front of the stage, and I snapped a pic. Cute black dress, gold pumps, glittery bracelet. Tons of blond hair, gorgeous legs. Nice backside. Hey, I’m a straight guy, and you would have to be blind to not see Kristen is a cutie.

After the show, Tatiana sweetly joined me out on Sunset in front of the Whisky for a picture, and then another picture in our booth along with Kristen.

Kristen, by the way, wants to be known as KMAC. KMAC sounds sort of like a gang member handle; amusingly, she is flashing her gang sign in her picture with Tatiana and me.

KMAC asked me to fly back down for a January 29 SIR showcase, and also said she is sharing a place with both Tatiana and Normund Gentle from American Idol 8. Reality show, Three’s Company style, anyone?

I had more fun than I could have imagined. Thanks to Scotty, Sean, Tatiana, her band, and KMAC. I hope to see you all again.

Wednesday morning at 10 AM. Uggh. I have not had a night with two large martinis and several beers in many years. Although awake, showered, and dressed on time, I was thrilled when Ron suggested we meet later, between 2:30 and 3 PM. I went in search of breakfast. I drove down Sunset to Echo Park, found the Bright Spot, went in and had a breakfast of bagel and lox, with cream cheese, capers, tomato, cucumber and onion slices, and sprouts, along with coffee.

I didn’t feel great when I walked in, but the perfect breakfast made with deliciously fresh ingredients fixed me right up. I felt great walking out.

Ron picked me up in the afternoon and we drove to the original Farmer’s Market in L.A. on Fairfax for a late lunch at Du-par’s. I ate an okay only Patty Melt, honestly nothing special, although the fries were good, and the coffee was alright. Mostly, Ron and I just caught up on classmates who either came, or didn’t come, to our 30 year high school reunion two months earlier.

Ron took me on a tour of the Farmer’s Market. Oh My God! So much incredible produce, and an incredible variety of proteins. Specialty items, foie gras, truffles, uni, caviar. Sur La Table, an incredible kitchen store. I want to live here. Dayum, I love the Farmer’s Market.

After out Farmer’s Market tour, Ron took me on a tour of an adjacent outdoor mall, and we visited some of Ron’s favorite shops including Crate and Barrel and Nordstrom.

Our visit together was only a few hours, but it was perfect. It was really nice seeing my good old friend.

Wednesday night, I was back at Fatburger for some dinner burgers. Some television, some reading. Second great day in Hollywood.

Thursday morning, upon waking, I showered, dressed, and packed to leave. After check out, I went back to the Bright Spot for a leisurely breakfast, eaten while reading.

In time, I drove to LAX to pic Art up. After collecting Art, we drove to the Fairplex in Pomona and set up my last booth of the year for the Pomona Harvest Festival Original Art and Craft Festival.

Work is work, nothing super exciting, or dramatically different than previous weeks, although this is a very good show, and was less affected by the economic downturn. We drew big crowds, and they bought big multiples for year end holiday gifting.

On Saturday, Art had some show food, a Philly Cheesesteak. Saturday night, Art spent the entire night hurling his cheesesteak and another stomach contents into our Ontario hotel room toilet. Art poisoned himself with show food, got no sleep, and was looking really bad Sunday morning.

Sunday, our plan was to work through to show’s end, pack up for shipping, borrow a hand truck to load out to our mini van, drive to a 24 hour Fed Ex Kinko’s on the way to the airport, ship everything home, drop off the van, get a shuttle to the airport, check two bags, and catch an earlier than last flight out standby flight back to San Francisco. Once back in San Francisco, we would collect our bags, collect my van, drive north to Santa Rosa, drop Art off at home, then I would drive to our business partner’s home, spend the night, take care of accounting, write myself a check, and drive home to Ukiah, and spend some well earned time off with my son, Charlie.

We were able to execute the plan flawlessly, Sunday went perfectly, except for Art feeling sick, weak, and hurt, and it was nice to see Art smile as I dropped him at home.

I had another great week.

Thanks for reading.

John