We landed in Oklahoma City, returning from Game 4, about 3:30 p.m. Monday. And I told the guys, not to spread bad news, but in 21 hours, we have to check for our next trip to Los Angeles.
Such is life in the NBA playoffs, which tries to maximize travel and minimize sleeping. It’s almost like the NBA has stock in jet lag.
Anyway, we were on the ground in Oklahoma literally 45 hours, during which we slept a little, spent a few hours at home, spent a few hours at the office and watched a basketball game at Chesapeake we aren’t likely to forget for awhile.
Then it was back to Will Rogers for a most interesting return trip to Los Angeles. Including a very pleasant surprise.
THE BIGGEST WINNER
Standing in the terminal Wednesday, waiting to board the plane, a fellow struck up a conversation. Asked me about Game 6 and how it might go. Then we got interrupted and never really finished.
Later, I boarded the plane. Johnny Damon saved me an aisle seat, and soon enough, the same guy I had been talking to came down the aisle and took the middle seat, which was fine. It was a full flight.
We started chatting, he said he never had been to LA before and finally I asked him what was taking him this time. Most of the time, people think I’ve got the coolest reason to be going, headed to a ballgame. Not this time.
Kenny O’Neal was the guy’s name, and he was headed to LA to shoot a finale for ABC’s summer show, Extreme Weight Loss. It’s a takeoff of NBC’s The Biggest Loser, only there aren’t winners and losers. It’s just sort of mini-documentaries of people’s journey to weight loss. The show starts in May 27 and runs through the summer, but it’s being filmed in the next few weeks.
Here’s the official ABC bio on O’Neal: “Kenny/410 pounds, a former Marine who wants to make his kids proud.” Most episodes include two stories, and Kenny shares his with another contestant, and the ABC website says “their head-to-head episode is not to be missed…”
O’Neal has been working with the show for almost a year, some in Colorado, some back home in Moore, and while he can’t tell us how much weight he’s lost, I can tell you, he’s nowhere near 410 pounds. He’s transformed his life, that’s what he’s done.
Super nice fellow. People person. Great story to tell. We really enjoyed chatting with him. And he’s a big sports fan. Wanted to talk about the Thunder extensively. One of the sacrifices he’s made is to get rid of cable TV, because it impedes his workouts. So he hasn’t been able to watch most of the Thunder games. But he follows as best he can.
For Mother’s Day, his mom wanted just one gift. O’Neal to come over and watch the Thunder-Clipper game with her. So they had a great time, other than the Thunder collapse.
Anyway, we landed in LA, and Kenny went off for his adventure. His family joins him in a few days. I’ll be pulling for him. On the show and off.
WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS
We had a 90-minute layover in Las Vegas and had to walk probably half a mile to change gates. So we saw a bunch of the Vegas airport. And it’s interesting. The place is full of slot machines. And most of them sit empty. Wonder why? Is it because a ton of visitors are gambled out by the time they’re leaving? Is it because those just arriving know something awaits a lot more appealing than airport slot machines?
I just know this. There would be more free-flowing walkways if the slot machines were gone.
We landed in Los Angeles about 4 p.m. California time, got a rental car and headed to our hotel. This time, we’re staying at the Spring Hill Suites just south of LA International Airport. We had some work to finish, so I watched Miami-Brooklyn while I finished up.
Then A.C. Slater, Johnny Damon and photographer Nate Billings headed out for dinner. We decided to go to Manhattan Beach, which is just southwest of LAX.
Manhattan Beach is an incorporated city of 36,000 just south of El Segundo, which is sort of the south border of LAX. We got there in about five minutes.
And Manhattan Beach is exactly what it says. A big-time beach. Lots of surfing, lots of beach volleyball, a ton of ocean-view homes. Manhattan Beach in 2013 had more sales of $1 million homes than any other city in California. The median residential home price is $1.8 million, and property values in Manhattan Beach are among the highest in America.
It’s not an opulent place. More of a trendy place. With a vibrant, albeit small, downtown area, with not just restaurants and bars, but dry cleaners, for example.
We went looking for a place to park and the only place we found was right on the beach, a parking lot not 30 feet from the sand. But it had one restriction. Out by 9:30 p.m. or you get locked in. It was 7:50, so we were pretty safe, but I was worried. I didn’t want our rental car locked in.
Manhattan Beach sits on a fairly steep hill which slopes down to the ocean — I guess it would be hard for it to slope up to the ocean — so we walked up the incline the one block to Manhattan Avenue, the town’s main street. We slipped into a place Mama D’s, an unpretentious Italian place that was hopping. The doors were propped open because of the great weather, the place was small and crowded but with a great atmosphere.
I had the cioppino, the seafood pasta in broth, which was fantastic. We had some calamari and mozzarella sticks, and a server occasionally walks by and offers individual appetizers like a cocktail party something. Great place. We really enjoyed it.
Then Nate and I scooted out of there to make sure we hit the 9:30 deadline. Johnny Damon and A.C. went across the street for some ice cream, and we picked up A.C. Johnny Damon stayed in Manhattan Beach to hook up with some of his old Channel 4 friends.
Then it was back to the hotel and crash. Short night, long day. But a good day.