Rail passengers depart from the Angels Express, which arrives shortly… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
Hoping to distance myself from the nattering nabobs of negativism (Lakers fans), I hop a train to Anaheim, namely the Angels Express — seven bucks, round trip from L.A.'s Union Station. You can't buy a gallon of gas for that. Well, almost.
With me are two of L.A.'s resident psycho-satirists, Rob and Rich, a lawyer and a doctor, the kind of people you'd like to be with for three or four hours, not much more. Psycho-satirists are like psychotherapists, but they have a more twisted view of things. To me, that's pretty priceless.
Better yet, Rob picks up the tickets and the train fare. I pick up dinner. I'm not sure what Rich picked up, other than a hot dog smothered in beans and cheese. But he's a doctor, so presumably he does a lot of good things when I'm not looking.
Baseball, of course, is the most conversational of the major sports. So we talk about lots of things: the DWP, Sarge Shriver, the actress Julie Bowen. We talk about how it's counterintuitive that tickets to sporting events cost more and more despite the ridiculous infusion of TV revenue.
"Attendance is really down this year," notes Rob, and maybe what we're finally seeing is a backlash. Good.
Back to this new train for a second, and the miracle of rail travel. We board in downtown L.A. at 5:30, leave at 5:50 and arrive in Anaheim about an hour later. I suppose you could drive the 60-mile round trip on your own, gripping the steering wheel a little tighter with each passing furlong. Do you ever have those dreams where you're braking in your sleep? I do. Poor dog.
This train experience, though, is the real deal, available weekdays, and yes, I said $7 round trip. It reminds me of riding the El to a Cubs game or the No. 4 train to Yankee Stadium.
"Just imagine it," says fellow train passenger Susan Feist, "a round-trip ticket to Anaheim Stadium from Venice Beach [via the 733 bus] for less than $7" (senior discounts applied).
I can't imagine it, for life rarely gets better, only worse.
"When we win, I turn on the light," Susan says of her battery powered Angels cap.
And I move on.
The thing I enjoy most about Dodger Stadium — pregnant women in halter tops — is in short supply here at Angel Stadium. In the O.C. everyone seems fit and about 15, even the grandmas. The older men smell of yacht plastics. They all look like Haley Barbour.
On this night, there are also a lot of White Sox fans, who are easy to identify because where most people have a right ear, they usually just have the little fleur-de-lis of a scar.
It's not a bad look and it helps you to adjust accordingly, because the only thing more challenging than sitting among a couple of West L.A. satirists is sitting among a gaggle of Sox fans.
In fact, a couple of them get themselves thrown out in about the sixth inning. The usher tells me later that she warned them three times about profanity and taunting.
"Plus, they were really drunk," she said.
"Well done," I told her.
"That was sort of a quick hook," said my buddy Rob later, but he's originally from Chicago, so thuggish behavior doesn't upset him so much.
Let us pause, by the way, to honor the most beautiful monument ever built, the Chicago-style hot dog, which you can buy for $650 at Angel Stadium. Or maybe it's $6.50. I always had trouble with decimal points.
Chicago-style dogs usually make my annual best-dressed list, and if you're willing to slog to the stand in center field, you can get one made specifically for you — tomatoes, onions, neon-green relish, celery salt, a meaty filet of pickle.
The chef confesses that he can't get the traditional poppy-seed buns, but those poppy seeds always just get stuck in my pancreas anyway, and then you have to worry about flunking random drug tests at work. So a Chicago-style dog without poppy seeds is all right with me.
The cashier, Betty, rings up our purchases and then thanks us by name after carding us. I'm 54, but look 80. And that's just on the outside. Internally, I'm about 104.
"Have a good night, Chris, Rich and Rob," says Betty with a smile.
And for the next few hours, mustard in our cuticles, all is right with life. The Angels continue to have the best fan experience in local sports. Doesn't hurt that they have managed to retain the services of Mike Scioscia, while the other elite coaches around town have moved on — Torre, Carroll, Jackson.
So, with no post-championship Lakers riot to look forward to — last year I torched a taxi — it's good to have this train to Angelsville. Like I said, things don't often get better in life, only more challenging, making this Angels Express a rare and welcome victory for the common fan.
Try it some time. And be sure to say hi to Betty with a smile.