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I have a friend coming into town this weekend. Nice enough guy; we worked at the college newspaper together, then again at The Sporting News. Depending on who you talk to, he either a) made me aware of the job, or b) was the reason I got hired (a: me, b: everybody else). Heís now a big-shot columnist at USA Today, though Iíve always felt his mug shot looked kinda doofy (no, heís not Larry King, dammit).

Save for one guy who happened to be out here for something else and my friend Chris, who visited on a weekend when she was desperately needed, and my pals Mike and Joan, also from the college newspaper, heís the first person to come out since I moved to New York. (OK, so maybe heís the fourth person, but I needed an easy segue into the column). And, as one might expect, heís out here not to visit me, really, but to visit the city.

Itís somewhat surprising to me, actually. Being from the Midwest, a vast flat land full of nothing particularly significant, save for a couple of places Abe Lincoln once used the crapper, Iím aware that people there are looking to escape at any opportunity. And nothingís a better sell than New York, save for maybe Los Angeles.

When I lived in L.A., I had, letís see, seven visitors. Some were welcome: My sister trotted out there to get a tattoo on her 18th birthday - a huge-ass butterfly across her stomach, an adornment my parents for some reason blame me for - cousin Denny visited twice and my friends Andy and Kyla came out to celebrate their recent engagement. But there was one guy ...

His name was John Lalande. (If you happen to know John, whom I havenít talked to in almost two years, make sure to forward this column to him, so the little shit knows I havenít forgotten.) Iíd gone to college with John, and we had a few mutual friends, but I never particularly cared much for the guy. He was spineless and had a tendency to trash you behind your back (I, of course, do the same thing, but Iím better at not being caught). Upon graduation, I figured Iíd never run into the guy again, and I felt none the worse for it.

About 10 months into my one-year stay in L.A., I received an e-mail from Mr. Lalande. He mentioned that he would be out my way in a month or so, and he thought we should hang out. I could swing that, I told him, just let me know, weíll grab a drink or something. He ended up calling about a week later, and his ďout my wayĒ had suddenly morphed into, hey, would it be OK if I stayed with you while Iím out there? Another week, and it had degraded further, into, hey, letís just hang out that week - you can show me around.

In other words, I had to play the cordial host to a guy I didnít even like doing things I didnít want to do, for a week. He postponed the trip for one more week, a pivotal move; in that week, I learned Iíd notched the job at The Sporting News and had just nine more days to stay in Los Angeles, to say goodbye to the old gang. And seven of those freaking days would be with John Lalande.

People often ask me, now that Iíve professed an immediate deep and lasting love to New York City, what I thought of Los Angeles. My social group in Los Angeles consisted of my roommates and co-workers Marisa and Lynda, and the Film Nerds, a bunch of people who had gone to USC film school with Tim, my best friend from Mattoon. They were wonderful human beings, just crazy smart, and when I found out I was leaving, I knew Iíd miss them all terribly. They were my favorite part of Los Angeles, the people who were my crutches when the ex-fiancťe left, lifelong compadres. Leaving them saddened me greatly.

My least favorite part of Los Angeles: Fucking Hollywood Walk of Fame. My God, I bet I saw that stupid thing 30 times. Every single person who came into town ... letís see the Hollywood Walk of Fame, oooh, itís George Burns, oooh, itís Alec Baldwin, oooh, look how small Lillian Gishís hands were, hey Will, do you know who Lillian Gish is?

Every damned person who visited wanted to see the blasted Hollywood Walk of Fame and Mannís Chinese Theatre. Now, if you havenít been to Los Angeles, you might not know that the area surrounding the Walk of Fame is the dirtiest, nastiest, cheesiest, most tourist-infested place on the planet, and Iíd be surprised if Neptune has much that can compare, too. Itís a bunch of morons with Hawaiian shirts, mullets and excessive chest hair, putzing around with cameras and snickering about that Rock Hudson exhibit. Best way to describe the Walk of Fame: Right next door, there is a wax museum. If you ever meet anyone who willingly wants to visit a wax museum, neuter them immediately as a civic duty.

Well, guess what John wanted to see. Like every other first-time-to-L.A. visitor, he wanted to see the Walk of Fame, and the place that was in Swingers, and the planetarium, and the part of the beach with the most people and syringes. I spent my last week in Los Angeles showing some idiot around town, and thanks to an upcoming

ďcross your fingers drink this stuff youíll be cleanĒ drug test, I couldnít even drink away the pain. I vowed never to be sucked in by tourist friends again.

Nobody ever wants to visit St. Louis, so I didnít have this problem when I lived there. In fact, I temporarily forgot my own rule and visited my old gang in L.A., staying a ridiculous 10 days (funny, nobody ever invites me to come back there anymore).

And now Iím here, and now everybody I know thatís ever wanted to visit New York has an excuse to. This weekendís visitor is the first in a string of people: My uncles and grandmother will be out here at the beginning of July, and then the big one, the one youíve all been waiting for: The Leitch family, Bryan and Sally and Jill, will be making its first ever trip to New York City at the end of July, the Clampetts take Manhattan, a very special episode (Quoth the Mom: ďMake sure you can get us some Montel tickets.Ē).

Now, Iím excited to see my old TSN buddy this weekend, and heís staying for four days, a perfectly reasonable time, enough for us to appropriately hang out but short enough so that we donít become sick of one another (a friend here at work has someone staying with her ďuntil he finds a job and a place to live,Ē which, if any of you people ever do to me, Iíll choke you).

But Iím just trying to think of what people want to do when they visit New York. There are a few givens: Statue of Liberty, Times Square, Central Park, Chinatown. Weíll go see a baseball game (actually, my first trip to Yankee Stadium is this weekend), and weíll probably scope out the Village a bit.

Thatís not my life in New York, though; people often forget when they visit that while this is just some fun vacation for them, you live here. If I were to give him the true New York experience, the way that I live it, weíd sit inside writing all day, then weíd go out and drink all night, whine about women, drink some more, then stumble home, either write some more, play some video games or go to pass out. Itís a vacation to me, but probably not to him.

Iím just afraid Iíll be a terrible host, which is pretty much assured, since Iíve always tried to avoid hosting anyway. I just hope he doesnít mind when I point out everything he wants to see as ďWell, thatís a tourist trap, only dorks would want to go there, and youíre not a dork, so we wonít go.Ē

At least I like the guy. Actually, if anybody does happen to know where John Lalande is living these days, lemme know ... I could use a vacation.



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