24 Hours in SoCal – From Nowhere to Nobu

I recently left Microsoft to accept a VP role at another company. Small company, maybe 35 employees, but its been around for almost 20 years now, so it’s solid. With Bruce Clay Inc my new home career-wise, some other things in life must inevitably change.

Obviously we’ll be moving.


To California.

To the Moorpark/Thousand Oaks area, just north of LA. That puts us about 30 minutes from Malibu. Which puts me about 15 minutes from Mulholland Highway, Malibu Canyon Rd, Kanaan Rd. and many of the fun riding/driving roads in SoCal. Watching the sunset from PCH1 could easily be a daily occurrence.

My new playground…

I have yet to hit Angeles Crest Highway, so that’ll be a celebration road once I get the bikes and Z4 down there. So much to figure out, so much new to explore, so many places to discover. I swear, I live for discovering new experiences!

Last week I was down there getting things sorted out to start work. This week I was in Dallas announcing my new role. Next week I’m back in Simi Valley to meet the few folks in the company I haven’t yet encountered, get my office sorted out and start getting stuck in on a couple projects.

Here’s my road trip report from last week’s 24 hours in LA. :) There is a motorcycle in here, too! With a somewhat unique farkle…(if you don’t recognize the term “farkle”, that’s OK. It’s an insider term that motorcyclists use to describe any accessory related to motorcycling). In this case, the “accessory” in question is less related to lean angles and more related to law enforcement – see if you spot it. 😉

Now, socially, I can suck at times. I promise friends – dear friends – that I’ll swing by and visit “when I’m in town”. Then months go by and no Duane. I see folks again at a conference, repromise the same old thing, and evaporate again.

This time, however, I was to make good on the promise. See, I have friends in LA, but rarely does business take me there. So what was I to do?

The solution presented itself in the form of the Ungagged Conference in Las Vegas. I would be their opening keynote speaker and it would be my last event representing Bing/Microsoft onstage. I won’t lie – it was bittersweet. In the moments before I was introduced to the stage, I stood behind the screen with tears in my eyes. Partly for what I would be leaving behind, and partly from the excitement of stepping forward. I truly know what Indiana Jones felt in the movie when he needed to “take the leap of faith”. A very good friend said to me on our way to dinner the night before, “You know people come to listen to you, not because you work for Microsoft, right?” I was about to find out.

Fittingly, this smaller, more reclusive event was held at the Tropicana, the last bastion of real, original kitsch in Vegas. And so it would seem, their staff’s ability to spell when updating the event room screens reflects the overall mental baking that happens in the desert…to say nothing of their abilities with telling time… A 13 hour keynote?! Well, I did say I like new experiences…gulp!

Time marches on, as we all know, and there was no putting it off. I took the stage and assumed the pose for a final time under the Microsoft corporate banner. And the crowd got a bit wild!

My pre-session relaxation – a stogy. The Ecigar was provided by a friend whose company partnered with Mercedes to produce these (thus the logo, which glows when you smoke it, fittingly). For the record, it remains unsmoked at this time. 😉 Sorry Joe, just haven’t…besides, I still have Cubans to work through. :)

Leaving Las Vegas, which is always best viewed at night and always for less than 3 days at any one time. 😉

For all the talk about traffic in Los Angeles, LAX was eerily empty when I arrived.

Now, it must be said, this marks the beginning of an epic Mental Health Day. The Ungagged organizers arranged for a limo to take me to McCarren in Vegas. Nice touch. My flight? Left bang on time, landed 10 minutes early, and I was bumped up to Business Class. Thank you Delta. I’d recently fallen in love with Chris Stapleton’s new album Traveller, so alternately rocked out and cried the entire flight to LaLaLand. Hey, it’s country and I have a lot going on in my life right now. I’m not made of stone. I’d cry if any of you even so much as stubbed your toe!

I don’t often fly into LAX. As airports go, it’s fine enough, if a bit slutty. That’s OK, though, as it’s perfect for SoCal. I mean, just after picking up my rental car, I drove passed Vivid Entertainment and Stiletto Productions!

And speaking of the rental car. I’m out of pocket here, so I booked a simple sporty car. Dodge Challenger. I step to the counter, look left…and see “Exotics at Enterprise”…I’m f**ked.

I’m introduced to The Concierge, a tall, willowy brunette whose dulce-de-leche smooth voice explains renting an exotic is no different than renting a regular car. More costly, but the process is the same, save for the deposit they take on your credit card. Fearing no deposit, I point at the Audi RS8 Spyder and ask, in my best James Bond voice…<Scottish accent>”How much?”</Scottish accent> She lets me live in the moment a bit longer, lingering, before replying “$800 a day, Mr. Forrester”. (Cue shattering glass and drag the needle across the record!)

Back to Schlubville for me. 8 bones for a hundred miles in an Audi – Nah.

“And all our exotics are on sale, this being mid-week, Mr. Forrester.” There’s something about the way she says my name. It’s liquefied somehow, smoother than I’ve ever heard before. Is it the garage’s acoustics, from the several million dollars of Bentleys, Ferraris, Porsches and Astons rounding every consonant, every vowel? I can’t tell.

Before I reach the realistic state of “crestfallen”, she moves in beside me, points to the Corvette in the corner and coos, “We call that one White Chocolate. It’s my favorite.” Hey, I like chocolate. Dare I ask?

I cannot help myself, the cars have weakened my resolve. I know this is about to get expensive, but the wheels in my head are churning, creating justifications (you’re in LA!; call it a test drive!; it’s sunny out, a convertible is appropriate!), nudging me ever closer to the one phrase I know will spell my doom… “I’ll take it!” I’m only vaguely aware of the words being put forth, and only because their echo in the cavernous garage assaults me with my own decision.

We’re at the counter now, and I say I want the full insurance package. I hand over the credit card. She reminds me the cars are on sale, this one comes with a 100 mile limit, then it’s a buck a mile and the deposit is a grand, rather than the usual $500. I mumble my agreement, thinking only of 455 horsepower, canyon roads and more of my new favorite album blasting through that finely tuned Bose stereo. As I’m handed a pen, I snap to reality long enough to review the document. Turns out the cost IS reasonable. I was about to pay $250 for my day with the Challenger, all in. White Chocolate? She rang the bell at just over 4 of my personal Benjamins. Still a spendy mount for 24 hours, but OMFG…what a mount!

I leave the lot, slowly, enjoying the gentle burble from that 6.2 litre V8 under the 2016’s hood. The view is magnificent. A quick change from Sport to Touring sees the Magnetic Ride Suspension calm down – damn this is as comfy as my truck on LA’s downtown streets. Soon enough, I’m on the freeway headed north to meet friends. Traffic is moving at this time of day, no hold ups and I have 45 minutes to get acquainted with this steed…er, sorry…rocketship. 😉

I plan my moves carefully, mindful of not really knowing where the edges of this thing are. The road opens, three cars bail from my lane. Without thought, my right foot creates a molecular bond between the gas pedal and the carpet under it. HOLY S**T, is that noise White Chocolate?! Hells yeah, the headers are opened (programming allowing WOT to open bypasses in the exhaust – OMFG…that’s nice!), the entire car seems to twist from the 460 torques angrily seeking to punish the highway’s concrete surface. The traction control icon flickers briefly in the head up display. I note it and instantaneously grin, feeling the rear end struggling for traction…at 65 MPH. The HUD flashes 85 and I lift my foot, realizing I now match the velocity of those around me. My mind, my senses, my consciousness take several moments to catch up with me, having been left several thousand feet behind when this odyssey of lunacy began as my foot hit the floor. Never in my life have I experienced that level of acceleration. Astronaut training? Check.

I am in love! What’s better than love?! I’m there!

As the day wears on, it’s clear 100 miles will come and go like so much air being processed into exhaust. But hey, I’m cruising Mulholland and Malibu Canyon Rd. Strafing Kanaan and the PCH1. Suddenly a buck a mile seems like cheap thrills. And yet, time simply doesn’t want to extend. It wants to march forward, and in what seems like mere seconds, the sun has collapsed and my stomach is signaling the need for some hi-test fuel of its own. White Chocolate, it should be noted, has behaved and horded fuel pretty well. On the highway, she was showing me 28 mpg at 65 mph. Top down. In moments of HE (hooliganism enablement) however, she showed her other face. The dirty, raunchy wench she can be when pushed to the limits. She’s beautiful, but such unladylike behavior shows you her dark side, which reaches all the way into single digits…like 5 mpg at times. 😉 Thankfully, most driving will see her turning off 4 cylinders to sip gas like a proper lady. 😉

For dinner I opted to stop at this shabby-chic hole in the wall on the waterfront in Malibu. White Chocolate outside, waygu beef inside. Nice way to almost end the day.

Rib eye tacos were EPIC! Note water drops on table for a sense of scale – the tacos were tiny!

I opted to skip dessert at Nobu because the actual dessert I had planned was even more special and the perfect wrapping on this little party of a visit. See, on the way back up Malibu Canyon road to my hotel, well…there’s a tunnel. It isn’t long, but I knew it was coming, so I dawdled a bit in traffic, opening a gap. And as I entered, I requested White Chocolate summon Thor’s Hammer and beat the atmosphere into submission. The concussion from the sonic blast as that 6.2 unloaded every decibel into the tunnel was awe inspiring. The shift in position was immediate, and required attention. This kind of acceleration is borderline teleportation, so it pays to watch what’s ahead. Someone behind me was either very happy or very sad, as they commenced honking their horn. That or White Chocolate’s “sonic moment” set off their alarm while they were driving… 😉

Then I got back to my hotel and crashed. Me, on the bed, not the car! The car crouched in the parking lot, angry, like a captured animal. Mistrustful of her surroundings and eager to taste freedom again.

At this point, the story kind of wraps up. I was driving back to LAX the next day as the sun came up which was really a nice way to start the day. Merging is an easy affair in this car. Point, press, scoot. Whatever is on the road short of an F22 Raptor approaching takeoff, you can out accelerate it. Oh, and the HUD displaying the tach, the speed (I like to think of it as “ground speed”), the gear the 8-speed auto trans is in, and the green lines along the bottom (A g meter to measure lateral cornering forces.)? Fully customizable. Incidentally, the HUD will also flash the signal lights as you pass through 90…I’m told. I call this shot Tequilaless Sunrise.

Returning the car, it was noted that I was 67 miles over my 100 mile limit. Wonder how that happened…? LOL Whatevs, I paid the lady and hopped the shuttle to LAX. Two noteworthy things happen on my way to my flight. First was the discovery of a new farkle for my motorcycle! (Look near the back of the bike…)

The second was a phone call from The Concierge at Enterprise informing me they were going to wave my mileage surcharge. What a friggin’ sweet trip to SoCal!


How To Capture Creativity

View image | gettyimages.com Capturing creativity is probably one of the toughest goals you can have. You know how it goes. You have a great idea, a real winner, and seconds later, its gone. You rack your brain to try to resurrect it, but to no … [Continue reading]