Leaving friends and family was the most difficult part of the move to the West Coast. But I also strongly considered my previous ten seasons coaching youth basketball for the Hersey Feeder Junior Huskies. I looked forward to every season and the new group of players and families. And it was always exciting to have a younger brother of someone I had coached previously. I was fortunate along the way to coach with friends and one of my brothers, which made the experience even more memorable.
I had set some loose deadlines for when I would “retire” from coaching: When the boys on the tryout register were born after my high school graduation date; If there was a player on the team whose parents I went to high school with; When my former sixth graders were able to legally purchase alcohol; If some player I coached against reached NBA stardom. Ultimately, I enjoyed each season too much to ever step away from coaching until this transfer opportunity was presented.
Upon moving to Long Beach, I attempted to contact a variety of park districts, YMCA, and travel basketball programs to inquire about volunteer coaching. I connected with NJB, a regional youth basketball organization that has leagues ranging from kindergarten through eighth grade and from introductory fundamentals to advanced AAU basketball. I was assigned to coach the Division II (5th/6th Grade) Lakers and we had our first two games Sunday against rival Costa Mesa Calvary. We split the two games, with each team winning on the other squad’s home floor. Long Beach NJB hosts home games on campus at Cal State Long Beach, including some contests in the famous Walter Pyramid. This is different basketball that I’m used to, but I’m grateful to have something to fill my Sunday afternoons since the NFL season ended long ago in Chicago.
Speaking of basketball, I recently collaborated with the talented Conrad Burry on a Bulls alternate home uniform. This was an idea swimming in my mind and I wanted to put it to paper before someone else could “steal” it from me. I’ve long doodled logos and uniforms on the back of my trapper keeper or at the top of a legal pad, but never have had something so professionally produced. The black (pinstriped) Bulls jersey has always offended my aesthetic sensibilities and I wanted to somehow feature the Chicago flag prominently on a team uniform. The skyline could perhaps be tweaked for better geographical accuracy, but I’m otherwise pleased with how this came together. You can view more of Conrad’s portfolio here. I am especially fond of his Oklahoma City concept.
Other than coaching basketball or playing golf or driving aimlessly down PCH, I’ve been asking around for other things to enjoy on my weekends. One option that kept being suggested was to hike Runyon Canyon. I assumed the term “hike” was being used very loosely, that this would be a leisurely, celebrity-filled stroll above Hollywood with plenty of scenic views. I mean, I walk when I golf, I’ve covered all of Long Beach on foot, I’ve stumbled along long journeys home from the bar… How difficult would this hike really be?
…It was nearly impossible. Somehow I turned right when I should have gone left and was then attempted traversing a steep incline to the lookout point. How I didn’t turn an ankle or pull a muscle or grow a blister is a mystery. I made it to the top and enjoyed the view while catching my breath and considering drinking water out of the doggie bowl nearby. But how would I get back down?! Log rolling down the cliff was a slightly more dangerous route. There were no donkeys to pay for a ride back to my car. No concession stand was available to replenish my fluids. It took me twice as long to make it back down, but I found my way thanks to the bread crumbs I left behind. I’m grateful to not still be in the Hollywood wilderness.
The adventure was not over after leaving Runyon Canyon. I battled weekend traffic on the freeway. I badly needed gas. And a smoothie. I never did find that smoothie, but I did find a gas station after numerous U-turns and curse words and red-level stress about the flashing E on my dashboard. I hadn’t walked enough earlier, so I explored the pier and the boardwalk in Redondo Beach to decompress after an unexpectedly taxing Saturday afternoon. I cannot claim to be bored or wonder what to do when this new foreign place has so much to offer.
Hollywood Boulevard is a street in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, splitting off Sunset Boulevard in the east and running northwest to Vermont Avenue, where it straightens out and runs due west to Laurel Canyon Boulevard. West of Laurel Canyon, it continues as a residential street and ending at Sunset Plaza Drive. The eastern end of Hollywood Boulevard passes through Little Armenia and Thai Town.
Prior to Hollywood Boulevard, the street was named Prospect Avenue until 1910, when the town of Hollywood was annexed by the City of Los Angeles. After annexation, the street numbers changed from 100 Prospect Avenue, at Vermont Avenue, to 6400 Hollywood Boulevard. In 1946, Gene Autry, while riding his horse in the Hollywood Christmas Parade — which passes down Hollywood Boulevard each year on the Sunday after Thanksgiving — heard young parade watchers yelling, “Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus!” and was inspired to write “Here Comes Santa Claus” with Oakley Haldeman.
In 1958, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which runs from Gower Street to La Brea Avenue (and an additional three blocks on Vine Street), was created as a tribute to artists working in the entertainment industry.
The Hollywood extension of the Metro Red Line subway was opened in June 1999, running from Downtown Los Angeles to the San Fernando Valley. Stops on Hollywood Boulevard are located at Western Avenue, Vine Street, and Highland Avenue. Metro Local lines 180, 181, and 217, and Metro Rapid line 780 also serve Hollywood Boulevard. An anti-cruising ordinance prohibits driving on parts of the boulevard more than twice in four hours. Today, the Boulevard is a popular tourist destination and is always crowded with cars and people.