Los Angeles County – the area that the kid’s party company served – splays across Southern California for a staggering 498.3 square miles like a giant, polluted amoeba. This is slightly less than half the size of the entire state of Rhode Island. I’ve been to Rhode Island. It isn’t paradise (no offense R.I-ers, but c’mon…), but I’d rather spend a lifetime beneath an overpass in Rhode Island than try to cover the entirety of LA County in a single day by car. Which was expected of us. Regularly.
My 1971 VW Beetle was a $2,000 cash purchase, one that to this very day, I proudly crow about. It was in excellent mechanical and physical shape (come to think of it, back then, so was I). Each Thursday, I’d ritualistically putter over to the children’s party’s offices, pick up that weekend’s costumes, receive my marching orders (packets done up with the parents’/kid’s info), stuff the costumes (ranging from Batman, to a Power Ranger, to once, some kind of evil, menacing dinosaur that terrified every child I approached) into my trunk, and head back home to contact the parents.
Being the days pre-GPS, or even Mapquest or Google maps, or any other variety of online mapping system that leads drivers down the wrong direction of one way streets, I had to get in actual touch with my contacts to receive directions. I would then pull out my *Thomas Guide and begin the long process of figuring out whatever the hell a Laguna Nigel is, and how to get there from Pomona, wherever the hell that was. Depending on the number of parties stuffed into a weekend - a Saturday could sometimes be a 14 hour day - and the logistics of the locations, this mapping could take upwards of 2 hours.
To be fair, once we were asked to drive outside 20 miles of the immediate Los Angeles area, service charges were tacked on, in increments of $5, starting at 20 bucks. On a busy day with a shit-ton of driving, I could rake in 60 or more extra greenbacks. The strain of trying to navigate to these exotic locales, coupled with the stress of sitting in LA traffic, usually meant that money was to be spent on single malt scotch for that night, enjoyed while *sitting in my apartment, dazed, on the floor.
* A massive, detailed map of all of Los Angeles County. They are seriously about 800 pages thick. And nearly everyone's has the same tattered, fucked up pages (page 532 rings a bell).
*No one likes to see a drunken Batman.