“It doesn’t go fast, does it?”
We had just boarded the Metro Red Line in North Hollywood and my teenage autistic son already started fretting even though he has often been on the subway.
“It’s not a roller coaster,” I calmed him for the umpteenth time.
“I hope not.”
Wrong response. My son gripped my hand so tight, I lost all sensation in my fingers. He released the death grip only when we slowly lumbered away from the station bound for Hollywood.
“See,” he assured himself. “It’s not fast. This is the speed I like. Slow.”
And then we accelerated, reaching a top speed of 70 miles-per-hour, faster than many of the cars on the 101 Freeway. The vise closed on my hand again.
“Hey, think about lunch at Musso and Frank’s…you can order flannel cakes, flipped just the way you like them. We’ll check out the new Madame Tussauds Wax Museum…”
“Will we stop at liquor stores to buy lottery tickets, Dad? I know that’s what you want to do…”
The question threw me for a loop. We all have our obsessions; my son’s are just more pronounced.
Eight minutes after leaving North Hollywood we arrived at Hollywood and Highland and emerged to a hubbub of costumed characters and tourists co-mingling on Hollywood Boulevard. We declined the persistent offers to tour Hollywood by bus and took our own short walking tour to Musso and Frank Grill, a Hollywood landmark since 1919.
My son who never forgets a face instantly recognized Manny, the dapper little maitre d’, who has worked there for four decades. And Manny, the consummate host at least pretended to remember us and then proceeded to show my son where Charlie Chaplain and a host of other stars loved to sit and tell us the rich history of the restaurant, which really hasn’t changed much over the years. And the food is rich, too.
I marveled at how my son could pack away an order of flannel cakes, which are crepe like pancakes, macaroni and cheese, a hot turkey plate, an extra order of rye bread and butter, tomato soup and milk. Even in my prime, I couldn’t come close.
“Man, you are a lean mean eating machine.”
My son beamed with pride and smiled.
“Can I get dessert?”
“Do you promise not to blab to Mom about me buying lottery tickets?”
The good mood carried us back to Hollywood & Highland, where next door to Grauman’s Chinese Theater, we made a pilgrimage to Madame Tussauds Hollywood Wax Museum. Fun place where they let you pose next to the wax figures, but even with the Metro rider discount, I don’t think we got our money’s worth when we blew through there in 12 minutes.
“Where are the Beverly Hillbillies?” my son started fretting again.
“Wrong museum. They’re at the Hollywood Wax Museum, near Musso and Frank, but President Obama is here.”
And, yes, we can pose with him for a nice glossy picture at extra cost. Next time, I won’t forget my camera.
Trekking back down Hollywood Boulevard, we found ourselves paying homage to the Beverly Hillbillies of 1960’s television fame, but my son didn’t give a hoot about Jed Clampett, Grannie, Ellie May, Jethro or their dog. He spent almost an hour in front of the display enthralled by the raggedy truck.
“It’s not loud?”
“I’m sure they took out the engine.”
“Are you sure?” my son plugged his ears with his fingers.
“I’m not checking.”
“How did they get it in here?”
“I dunno. You ask a lot of good questions.”
“But you never answer anything.”
“That’s cuz I don’t know anything.”
My son gave me a knowing look and said nothing. I just smiled.
And I was still smiling on the subway ride home. And, yes, we once again went through our routine about speed and dips. And my son squeezed my hand again, but just enough that I found it comforting.
Next time: Taking Metro to Thai Town in quest of noodles and a Walt Disney book.