No long family trip is complete without a vehicle malfunction. In this case, on our way from the Grand Canyon, our new Buick stations wagon’s water pump gave out, and had to be replaced. The event took place in Williams, Arizona, and was uneventful, requiring only a long visit to a diner. I was surprised that the pump could be replaced so easily in such an out of the way place, but replaced it was. And on we went, to explore a few other cities of Arizona, none of them all that interesting, except for the fact that they were uniformly hot.
Naturally, when we visited Yosemite we also visited San Francisco, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, going as far south as Baja California, Mexico, and taking time to visit some other tourist attractions in between Marin County and Mexico. It is impossible to remember everything that happened in California, but it was all thoroughly enjoyable. In San Francisco the seals off the Embarcadero were especially appreciated by the children, and we had a good time joining a picket line of striking longshoremen. Naturally, City Lights Bookstore was on our itinerary, but we did not meet or see any of the Beat luminaries.
I had wanted to visit Forest Lawn Cemetery in Los Angeles ever since I had read Jessica Mitford’s The American Way of Death, and later Evelyn Waugh’s The Loved One, and when we got there, it did not disappoint. It was in fact Whispering Glades, and I kept expecting to run into Aimee Thanatogenos or Mr. Joyboy, but nothing like that happened, although it was somewhat strange to be in a cemetery with scheduled tours.
An unexpected highlight of the Los Angeles leg of our trip was our visit to Universal Studios, in which I had little interest, but managed to surprise me. Of course, there were the old sets from TV shows and movies, but at one point I was asked to volunteer for something or other. I had no idea what it was going to be, but I had made it a rule that I was going to go for whatever came along on this trip, and in this case, after I had volunteered, I and the others were told it was going to be a “try-out” on a movie set. The set was the inside of a crowded airliner, and I was to play the Van Heflin role of the bomber in the 1970 version of Airport, the one in which he wrestles successfully with Burt Lancaster (I believe) for control of
an attaché’s case which holds a bomb. The directorial instructions I and the other volunteers received were everything. They were much more difficult to follow than I would have thought, as none of us were actors or had any hope of becoming actors. In any case, the scene was filmed, and it was fun doing. After it was completed, Linda and I and the kids and several hundred other people sat in an outdoor arena and watched the “movie” in which I “starred.” The clip was only a few minutes long, but it seems to have been memorable, as after that, in several of the places we visited up and down the coast of California, there was always someone who had seen the clip and recognized me as the “star” of that famous non-epic. Needless to say, I enjoyed my brief and modest celebrity status.