EU Confab @Casa Glenn

Elena "hugging" a 10-foot wide map of the world
Two women posing for a photo at Union Station in Los Angeles
Elena is perhaps the ultimate CouchSurfer: we metup at Union Station around 9pm. Elena got there about 10 minutes before me, and so that was already plenty of time to turn a traveling stranger into a new BFF!

EU Confab @ Casa Glenn

Up to now I’ve had a few wonderful CouchSurfer visits from European countries like Hungary and Poland, or Asian countries like Taiwan and Malaysia. This week, part by accident, part intentionally, I had a little bit different CouchSurfing experience. I hosted three groups of CouchSurfers all at the same time! Elena from Poland, Carl & Maria from Sweden, and Antonio, Isnaya & Fabio from Italy.

Elena by herself, or Carl & Maria by themselves, or Antonio, Isnaya & Fabio by themselves, would have each been fantastic CouchSurfing guests. Taken all together it was amazing!

Dim Sum with Elena

woman eating dim sum with chop sticks
Elena having Dim Sum breakfast at 888 Seafood
Going up the escalator at the brand new Broad Museum on Grand Avenue in Los Angeles
Going up the escalator at the brand new Broad Museum on Grand Avenue in Los Angeles
a large white room with paintings on the walls and a large metallic sculpture in the center
The opulent Jeff Koons & Christopher Wool room at the top of the Broad Museum escalator
Grand Avenue in Downtown Los Angeles featuring MOCA, The Broad Museum, and Disney Hall
The new view down Grand Avenue with MOCA-LA on the right and The Broad Museum and Disney Hall on the left
Los Angeles' skyline photo from Griffith Observatory at night
Elena admiring the endless expanse of Los Angeles as viewed from Griffith Observatory

Carl & Maria arrive

Carl & Maria drove their rent-a-car up from San Diego. Meanwhile Antonio, Isnaya & Fabio were going through customs at LAX and heading for the “fly-away” shuttle to Union Station. Carl & Maria met us at Union Station but Antonio, Isnaya & Fabio weren’t there yet. Carl & Maria were starving. So Carl, Maria, Elena, and I walked over to Philippe for some famous sandwiches.

Two people walking down the street at night.
Maria & Carl walking back to Union Station from Philippe

Antonio, Isnaya & Fabio

People sitting around a table in a small kitchen
We finally found Antonio, Isnaya & Fabio and headed back to Casa Glenn in Rosemead.
3 people lounging in an office
Elena, Maria & Antonio
portrait of Elena
Elena exhibiting the scar she got on her tongue from careless Selfie-Stick use
2 people at an outdoor dinner table
Carl & Maria
Antonio holding a globe
Antonio contemplates the vastness of our little world
Elena with her phone on a selfie-stick
Troubled by the statistic that more Americans have died in 2015 from Selfie-Sticks than from Shark Attacks, Elena gives an impromptu seminar on proper selfie-stick usage
3 people at a table at breakfast
Fabio, Isnaya & Elena
Elena sits at a "School of Art" table and eats lunch
Elena at the CSULB School of Art, Art Galleries, having lunch and collecting student ID cards
JenRod and Elena "napping" at a table
Calexico & JenRod joined our visiting troupe for lunch. Here JenRod & Elena nearly faint when Fabio declares all Hip Hop music “crap”.
Elena and Fabio talking to a shark expert at CSULB
JenRod got the CSULB Shark Guru to help Fabio confront his paralyzing fear of sharks

Italian Dinner

The meal that Fabio, Isnaya & Antonio cooked tonight was delightful. But even better was shopping at Mother’s Market with them. Every item, every tomato, every choice of onion, was a 10 minute discussion. Fabio and Isnaya would debate. Antonio would protest that they never listen to what he says and walk away. And this was just for the vegetables. Then we got to the pasta! You don’t even want to know how long the discussion on the olive oil took!

3 people shopping in a market
Fabio, Antonio & Isnaya shopping at Mother’s Market

3 people discussing food choices at Mother's Market in Costa Mesa, CA

100 Corks

They wanted a bottle of white wine to cook with. So we walked across the Mother’s parking lot to the liquor store and found one. Meanwhile, Maria, Carl & Elena in the other car were fetching wine for dinner. But then Antonio offered:

Can you really trust a Polish girl and two Swedes to select wine?

So we bought a bottle of red too.

photo of 4 wine corks
100 Corks! Or… the first 4 anyway!

Those 2 bottles of wine were the first any CouchSurfers brought to my house. Although a few days later Lorenzo & Anita would bring 2 more. It’s funny, the only CouchSurfers to ever meet my mom have been the CouchSurfers from Poland. And so far all the CouchSurfers from Poland have met my mom. Similarly, so far the only CouchSurfers to bring bottles of wine to the house have been from Italy (or Italians and their Danish girlfriends!)

When I used my “ah-so” “uncorkscrew” to open Anita & Lorenzo’s bottle, Anita got very excited about it. She marveled at the “corkscrew” that left the cork undamaged. And then I marveled at the lovely cork on her bottle of wine. It was an Australian wine and the cork had an illustration of a kangaroo on the side. And then I realized that if people were going to bring bottles of wine to the house, then we were, haha obviously, going to have to number the corks and write about them in the CouchSurfing LA journal. You can read about the corks at 100-Corks.

selfie of 4 people inside a car
Isnaya, Fabio, Antonio & Glenn heading home after shopping at Mother’s Market & the liquor store in Costa Mesa
Night photo of people sitting around a candlelight table
And then… the meal!
3 people looking at a 10 foot wide world map
Maria, Elena & Isnaya looking at the map of the world
Elena "hugging" a giant wall-sized map of the world
Elena loves the world!
5 people talking near a large world map
Isnaya, Elena, Carl, Maria & Fabio
putting map tacks in a map of the world
Putting pins in Poland, Italy & Sweden
7 people posing in front of a world map
Fabio, Carl, Maria, Elena, Antonio, Isnaya & Glenn
7 people posing around a car
counterclockwise from upper-left: Carl, Elena, Glenn, Antonio, Isnaya, Fabio & Maria

Carl & Maria were wonderful people and generous CouchSurfers. It was kind of them to come up to Union Station to help shuttle Antonio, Isnaya & Fabio to my place, and also to bring Antonio down to Newport Beach. We had a lot of fun trading John Oliver FIFA videos, talking politics, Burning Man, Free Culture and a few other topics we barely had a chance to scratch the surface of. I wish we’d had more time to talk!

waving goodbye
And then we waved goodbye to Carl & Maria
Maria driving a car
Maria the driver
Carl helping Maria back out of the driveway
Carl the navigator

The Guitar

Yesterday while we were kayaking in Newport, Fabio said that he wanted to get an inexpensive guitar for his time in California. So this morning we walked down the street to the pawn shop. Haha! I’ve never walked in that place before! It’s full of musical instruments!

Antonio listening to Fabio try out guitars at the pawn shop
Antonio listening to Fabio try out guitars at the pawn shop
Fabio chatting with one of the people at the Pawn Shop
Fabio chatting with one of the people at the Pawn Shop
Fabio & Antonio walking down the street singing and playing guitar
Fabio walking home with his new guitar as Antonio uses his tea bottle as a microphone

Antonio and Fabio walking down Willard Avenue in Rosemead, CA with Fabio's new guitar from the neighborhood pawn shop

Elena eating a cooking at Starbucks
Poor Elena still goes to Starbucks because she doesn’t appreciate how much better Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf is. I’m cool with it. No judging!


Elena wrote her college thesis on Marilyn Monroe. And the first thing she did on arriving in Los Angeles was go to the Hollywood Walk of Fame to visit Marilyn’s star. Today we went by the Weiss Gallery at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica and chatted with gallerist Denise Weiss about her vast archive of vintage Marilyn prints. And about Marilyn’s life.

Elena looking at vintage prints of Marilyn Monroe at Weiss Gallery at Bergamot station in Santa Monica, CA
Elena looking at vintage prints of Marilyn Monroe.

If you covered him with garbage,
George Sanders would still have style,
And if you stamped on Mickey Rooney
He would still turn round and smile,
But please don’t tread on dearest Marilyn
‘Cos she’s not very tough,
She should have been made of iron or steel,
But she was only made of flesh and blood.

Ray Davies

Elena and Denise Weiss discussing Marilyn Monore.
Elena and Denise Weiss discussing Marilyn Monore.
Elena at the grave site of Marilyn Monroe in Westwood, CA, smiling and applying lipstick to leave a lip print on the mausoleum wall
Then we drove to Westwood to visit Marilyn’s grave. Elena kissed it.
Elena posing with a large banner that reads "Italian Heritage Month"
In Santa Monica we discovered that, OMG! It’s Italian Heritage Month!!
Elena dancing in the street at the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica, CA
Then on the 3rd Street Promenade Elena came across this charismatic Puerto Rican Salsa singer that just made her move!
closeup of Elena & Glenn's hands with Orange and Black nail polish and glitter
Doing our nails in Halloween Orange & Black

Last Night; First Night

As the river of life keeps flowing, Elena, Antonio, Isnaya & Fabio’s visit was coming to a close. And Stefanie, Zeinab & Larra’s was beginning. But before all that, I went down to Newport Beach for a kayak race:

Glenn Zucman paddling a Fenn Surf Ski in Newport Harbor at the Sam Couch Memorial Race in October 2015
For me the day started off pretty early. After a late night and a few hours sleep I headed down to the Newport Aquatic Center for the 2nd annual Sam Couch Memorial race with Surf Skis, Outriggers & SUPs. I almost didn’t go I was so tired, but I’m glad I did. I felt fairly crummy for most of the race, but it was a lot of fun to see the other paddlers going by on either side of the turn around.
Glenn Zucman holding a 1st place award at the Newport Aquatic Center on the occasion of the 2nd annual Sam Couch Memorial race
By some inexplicable miracle, and mostly by just getting old enough to have less competition in my bracket, I wound up finishing 1st place in the old-guy division! 😛

From Newport Beach I drove straight to the Greyhound Terminal in Downtown LA to pick up Stefanie and Zeinab (from Germany). Then the 3 of us drove about a mile to pickup Larra (from Spain) at Union Station.

We got back to the house about 3pm or so, so Stefanie, Zeinab & Larra got to spend about 6 hours with Elena, Antonio, Isnaya & Fabio. Even now as I write this a week later, we still talk about the electricity of that night.

4 people in a living room: two standing talking and two sitting on a sofa
Isnaya chatting with Larra as Zeinab & Stefanie relax on the couch
4 people at an outdoor dinner table
Isnaya & Larra in animated conversation as Stefanie & Elena enjoy the meal
Two people, guys without shirts, sit at an outdoor table and eat a casual meal
Antonio & Fabio
Isnaya holding up a bunch of salad from a bowl
Isnaya’s Salad!
Glenn & Elena relaxing on the purple couch in the living room
Glenn & Elena
Zeinab painting Antonio's nails in alternating Orange & Black
Zeinab painting Antonio’s nails in alternating Orange & Black
4 people in a living room. 2 doing yoga poses and 2 sitting down
Isnaya & Elena do yoga as Larra relaxes and Stefanie enjoys their company

People relaxing in the living room as Elena plays ukulele and Antonio moves all over the room

Antonio showing off his new orange and black nailpolish
Life is larger when Antonio is present!