Column | A short trip to Long Beach
It's time for another installment of "Things you should do before all you have to look forward to is your weekly sponge bath from Nurse Brickbat. "
My most recent business travels took me to a conference in usually sunny Long Beach, California. I say "usually" because while I was there, the California sun was apparently still mourning the Rams' loss to the Patriots in Super Bowl LIII (not to mention Adam Levine's shirtless halftime show) and was holed up in bed binging on Nutella and Netflix.
The cold and cloudy conditions followed me and my colleagues all the way from East Texas, where we were picked up in the rain by a pimped-out shuttle vehicle, complete with faux ostrich-skin trim, neon mood lighting and what appeared to be a "dancing" pole in the back. Obviously there was a mix-up at the shuttle company, and it took all the restraint I could muster to resist demonstrating my best reverse stag spin on the way to the airport.
The general awkwardness of the trip continued on the flight. After a perfunctory and disappointingly brief lower-leg feel by TSA, we boarded our plane, which apparently had its seats designed to comfortably accommodate undernourished ballet dancers. In addition to being crammed in like sardines (only with less leg room), I had chosen my pre-flight lunch poorly and opted for a massive airport burrito from Moe's Southwest Grill called "The Homewrecker. "My apologies to the flight crew and my fellow passengers.
Once we were in Long Beach, and I had promised my colleagues that I would avoid Mexican food for the remainder of the trip, we spent our daytime hours in conference sessions, but were free to explore the city's nightlife. The highlight of these evening outings was a ghost tour of the historic ocean liner RMS Queen Mary, permanently docked at the Port of Long Beach. The massive ship is said to have gotten its moniker at the insistence of King George V of England, who wished it to be named for his wife – probably after she'd made fun of his ridiculous handlebar mustache.
The Queen Mary, which has hosted such figures of international heroism as Winston Churchill, General Dwight Eisenhower, and Liberace, was sold to Long Beach by Great Britain in some kind of pre-Brexit deal. It now operates as a hotel, restaurant and tourist site for conference attendees with nothing better to do on a Wednesday night than traipse around in the dark through the bowels of giant antique boat that smells like my dad's garage.
My tour group consisted of a few colleagues, several family groups and a handful of teenagers nursing their cell phones. We were led by a pair of enthusiastic young men who clearly enjoyed guiding us around and sharing eerie tales of unexplained deaths, paranormal sightings and out-of-order restroom facilities. Speaking of restrooms, the closest thing to a ghost I saw on the tour was a broken urinal covered by a white garbage bag. It gave me quite a start when I first entered the men's room, but I was soon distracted by supernatural sounds coming from one of the stalls and made a quick exit.
My favorite part of the tour was through the cavernous boiler and engine rooms where, as the tour guides informed us, an 18-year-old sailor was mysteriously crushed to death in an engine room door during a routine drill. (He was probably staring at his cell phone.) Seeing all of the complicated and dangerous machinery required to run the vessel made me thankful for my English degree, but also tentatively hopeful that I might get the opportunity to use a wrench someday.
Although my visit to Long Beach was brief – and I never saw any beaches, much less a long one – I thoroughly enjoyed myself. (I even snuck in a taco – or ten. ) So if you ever get the opportunity, I strongly recommend a visit to The Aquatic Capital of America. And if you hire the right shuttle company, you could get a chance to practice your reverse stag spin.