The fact that President Obama was flying in to Los Angeles today for a Tonight Show appearance was rather ho-hum news. He may not spend as much time here as he did when he was campaigning for re-election, but few politicians with a national presence are strangers here — not when there is so much money to be made from deep-pocketed donors.
Then my friend Jessica Gottlieb posted a traffic advisory to Facebook with a list of streets to avoid over the next two days… And all I could think was, “WTF?”
All of the traffic will be here in the San Fernando Valley. Some of that makes sense, as NBC’s Tonight Show studio is located on our eastern flank, in Burbank. And it didn’t take me long to suss out the fact that the area around Sherman Way and Hayvenhurst borders Van Nuys Airport, which may be the city’s busiest hub for private jets.
I remember how back in the gymnastics years, some of the other moms and I would retreat to the bar at the 94 Aero Squadron, which offers great views of the runway at Van Nuys Airport. And one day, we noticed a woman in casual business dress sitting alone at a table near ours. She had binoculars trained on a plane sitting on that runway. “Secret Service,” whispered our waitress, who told us that the plane she was watching so intently had brought Laura Bush that afternoon for a school appearance in Northridge.
The published news of the President’s visit states that he will be landing at LAX, but probably taking a helicopter to the Valley, so I guess there’s no chance of going back to the 94th to see Air Force One. But the real head scratcher was the report that he’s spending the night in Woodland Hills, with the traffic advisory warning us away from the area around Warner Center. There are no mansions or billionaire compounds there – just office space, condos and shopping malls. And a couple of hotels, one of which must be where the President is bunking for the night.
The one thing my friends and I can’t figure out is: why?
Maybe he wants to get a feel for how the middle class works and plays in Los Angeles, I surmised. Perhaps he had some extra Hilton points to cash in. I bet he heard there’s a really nice PF Chang’s across the street from the Marriott.
Honestly… I have no idea why the President, who could stay anywhere in our diverse city, would choose an unremarkable part of the area author Kevin Roderick called “America’s Suburb.” Unless that was the point.
Naturally, I set my daughter up for a haircut at a salon in the Topanga Plaza mall, smack in the middle of the no-drive zone. So we may find ourselves in a Presidential traffic jam going home. (My friend Marsha expects to be in a similar predicament when his segment with Leno is taped.)
I’m actually confident we can maneuver our way around the President’s motorcade. I know lots of people who have plenty of experience doing so in more glamorous parts of the city. But I will be looking for news reports that explain why.
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