Jammer Goes to L.A.

Seeing the Franchise from Another Perspective

Starring: Jamahl Epsicokhan (critic-turned-pitcher; narrator), Wade Steinberg (best buddy; travel manager), Joe Menosky (pitch inviter; co-executive producer), Ashley Miller (objective pitch adviser), Mike O'Halloran (tour guide), Bryan Fuller (pitchee; executive story editor), Tim Lynch (retired critic), Ted Liu (final test-pitch victim), Brannon Braga (incidental meeting guy; executive producer)

By Jamahl Epsicokhan

April 26, 2000

Introduction | Preparations | Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3

Day 1: March 10, 2000

6:00 a.m. CST, THE FLIGHT — Okay, I'm awake. Our flight is scheduled to leave at 7:30. The airport shuttle is going to pick us up here at Wade's apartment at 6:30. His apartment is only about two or three miles away from O'Hare, but the train into the airport can be somewhat unpredictable time-wise, and we're not going to drive because we'd have to leave the car and pay those airport parking fees. We're ready to go (Wade's been up for a little while already); just a quick shower and shave for me and throw on my clothes and we're outta here. As the shuttle van pulls away from the apartment complex, I'm feeling paranoid that I've forgotten something, even though we went through the basic "checklist" last night. "You have your billfold?" Wade asks. Yeah. "You've got the maps?" Of course. Wait, let me double-check. I look into my bag and ... I don't see them. You've got to be kidding me. Where are they? Don't tell me I left them on the coffee table when we were looking over them last night! Great — just how I wanted to start this trip.

The flight leaves basically on time, but I'm slightly pissed off at myself about those L.A. street maps. One of them was a good tourist map that had locations of free tourism stuff we're going to do. Now we'll probably have to buy maps at LAX at inflated airport prices.

I enjoy flying (aside from the occasionally annoying ear-pressure thing), and don't do it much. Unfortunately, most of the flight through the Midwest turns out to be completely cloudy — can't see anything. Anyway, I've planned to work on my stories during the four-hour flight, so time to get cracking. I need to write them down on 3x5 index cards so I can refer to them in the pitch session. I'd also like to come up with story #4 sometime before the session. As I reach into my bag for the notecards, I find the L.A. maps! I have no idea how I didn't see them before. Now I don't feel like a complete idiot — except for the fact I spent the last hour thinking I'd forgotten something that was right there. Maybe it's a good sign.

I start writing down notes for my stories. I had typed them out before this, but I left the printouts at my apartment when I left Thursday evening for Chicago. Doesn't matter, because I have the stories committed to memory and was planning to take the notecard route for the session anyway. I scrawl down each of the three stories using one side of three index cards — nine cards total. I put the title of the story on each card: "Momentum," "Human Option," and "The Warning." After I'm satisfied I have those notes the way I want them, I starting pondering my fourth unfinished idea, which I've opted to title "Do No Harm." I honestly don't think this fourth idea is going to fly because I have no idea what I want to do with it, but if I only pitch three, no big deal. Besides, I could always pitch a half-baked idea for #4. Nothing to lose versus not pitching it at all.

Looking out the window, it's interesting to note the geography changes as we fly west. Mountains, rocks, etc. The ground turns red and looks dramatically different from the miles and miles of flat green and tan plains in the Midwest. As we descend into L.A., we realize that Southern California goes on forever. There's no open space; civilization seems to occupy infinity. The smog is about what I expected, which is not as bad as I gathered from what a lot of people told me.

At 9:45 a.m. PST we land. Right on time. Time to get the rental car and start our L.A. self-tour!

10:10 a.m. PST, LOS ANGELES GROUND TRAVEL — It's a nice day in Los Angeles: Sunny and 70 degrees (Fahrenheit, of course) — a pleasant change from the cloudy and 45 we left behind in Chicago. We take the Alamo shuttle to get our rental car, which Wade arranged last week. He opted for the mid-sized sedan, so we have a new, boring-white Buick Century to drive around town. We've got all day to spend until we head out to Paramount Studios, so we're going to see what driving in this town is like. Wade is driving (it's his rental arrangement and his insurance, so it's his ass if we drive the car over a cliff). I am navigating (which means it's my ass if we somehow end up lost in Compton). We first stop for lunch a couple miles from the airport — a McDonald's (how original) on La Tijera Blvd. Then we decide we're going to head up to Beverly Hills and/or Hollywood and hit a couple obligatory stops. We forego the freeway and take La Tijera to La Cienega Blvd. (Irrelevant commuter cultural observation: You will never hear someone in Chicago call a limited-access highway a "freeway." Even the ones that are free — i.e., not the tollways — are called expressways.) From La Cienega it's follow the road north to the hills.

I must say, for someone like me who rarely travels, it's impressive to see different geography firsthand. Illinois has some of the flattest land you'll ever see and it's not very interesting to the eye (unless you count the Chicago skyline, which of course isn't part of the natural landscape). As we drive down La Cienega toward West Hollywood we can see the Santa Monica Mountains and the Hollywood Hills from miles away. This is interesting to the eye.

Traffic is a breeze, probably partially because of the late-morning hour.

Mann's Chinese Theater.

11:45 a.m. MANN'S CHINESE THEATER — Time for our first tourism stop. An obligatory one, but still worth the time for the chance to see something well-known. We park the car at a meter on some street that's right off of Hollywood Blvd. and walk a few blocks back toward the theater. Wade and I survey the names written in the cement in front of the theater. I guess my Hollywood history is pretty poor; I must confess I have no idea who "Sid" is, who is thanked by many of the stars through the 1930s and '40s. I imagine it has something to do with his role in the theater. (I don't have time for Hollywood history research at the moment, but if anyone knows, they're welcome to educate me via e-mail.)

Of course, we also walk a few blocks on the Walk of Fame, noting the numerous stars and names. Pointless observation: There are a lot of blank stars on that walk. I suppose someone was thinking ahead and taking into account that actors will continue to start new careers and become stars. How insightful.

Jammer poses quickly along the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Interesting irony: The star at the bottom of the frame is Jeffrey Hunter's (who of course played Capt. Pike in the original TOS pilot). This was not planned when the photo was taken. I didn't notice it until I saw the photo a week later.

The restroom at the McDonalds right near the theater has an "insert coin" lock on it. Figures. Typical capitalists for you.

While we're walking down Hollywood Blvd., we notice a couple guys hanging around the sidewalk with clipboards asking people if they want to see a taping as part of a live studio audience. We are first approached by someone handing out studio passes to a 3 p.m. taping of "Win Ben Stein's Money." That could possibly conflict with our tour at Paramount, so we decline. Then another guy asks us if we're interested in seeing a live broadcast of the HBO series Dennis Miller Live at 7 p.m. I like Dennis Miller and the timing is right, so we accept the studio pass. Now we'll have something to do tonight without needing the effort to plan it ourselves.

12:45 p.m. GRIFFITH PARK OBSERVATORY — If you want a great view of Los Angeles (albeit you do see the full effect of smog), you should without a doubt make a stop at the Griffith Park Observatory. It's way up high in the Hollywood Hills. As you drive up there you really are going way up ... though it seems much higher once you're at the top. The drive doesn't seem like such a climb, although it occurs to me this would make for a tremendous workout on a bicycle. (I personally would die.)

The day is incredibly nice. We stop for a few photos along the way up, not realizing that the view will continue to get better until we finally reach the observatory, where you can go up on the roof and look out over the city. Note to future tourists: It's free! If you simply want a good view, make sure you go. It also doesn't hurt to pick a nice day. Naturally, we got the obligatory shots of each other standing with the famous "Hollywood" sign in the background.

Note to self: When I get back, I need to rent the recent Steve Martin/Eddie Murphy comedy Bowfinger. My friend Mike told me before I left that some scenes of the movie were shot here. (Of course, it's not the only movie with scenes that were filmed here, but it is perhaps the most recent.)

Above: A picture of Griffith Park Observatory's facade as taken from the roof. Below: Also a photo taken from the observatory roof: L.A. is known for a lot of things, but not its lackluster downtown skyline (complete with smog effect). Go to Chicago or New York for a real skyline.


On the way back to the car I bounce an idea off Wade about my as-yet-unfinished "Do No Harm" pitch. He responds with some comments. Wade's still convinced I should pitch a story about an exploding tanker truck. That's a running gag for us. We're always talking about the worst possible endless chain-reaction vehicular mega-crash, in which an exploding tanker truck is somehow involved along with mass destruction that absurdly causes disaster after cascading disaster. We even considered developing a Web page where a tanker truck blows up and visitors would have to add something to the chain-reaction story to keep it going. But we realized it probably wouldn't be of much interest to anyone but us. (We of course loved the opening sequence of Lethal Weapon 4, because it featured a tanker truck that not only exploded, but did a back-flip 30 feet into the air and landed on a police car. Awesome!)

Yes, we are in severe need of therapy. In addition to exploding tanker trucks, we of course make constant gestures to each other that simulate throwing the other over the observatory walkway ledge and down the hill.

2:00 p.m. HOTEL CHECK-IN — We check into our hotel, the Guesthouse Inn near Beverly Blvd. and Fairfax Ave. It's like a compact hotel. Everything seems tightened in to save space. The room is average. Average is all we were looking for, so no problem. Two beds, a bathroom, and a TV. It's a hotel room. Works for me.

But you would not believe the parking garage under this place. It is the most damnably compressed parking design I have ever seen. Whoever designed it should be shot (or forced to escape his garage every day). First there's a slope that's probably about 35 degrees downward. Then at the bottom there's an opening that leads into the garage where you have to make a 90 degree right turn. This turn was not engineered with the insight that cars cannot change shape as they change direction. Making this turn is akin to a semi-truck trying not to make a "wide right turn." Now Wade's wishing he had opted to go with the compact rental car. "Tight" is an understatement. This is a joke.

It turns out that CBS Television City (where we're going to see Dennis Miller tonight) is literally across the street from our hotel. But then Wade realizes that he can't find the pass to the studio. He looks everywhere through his stuff and can't find it. Now he's pissed at himself the way I was about the maps earlier. Amusingly, after 15 minutes of being convinced we won't be seeing Dennis Miller after all, Wade finds the studio pass under the driver's seat in the car. Heh.

2:45 p.m. FAIRFAX AVE. — Well, we've got time to waste, so we decide to walk around the nearby area and see if there are any interesting shops to see. There aren't. We walk around the block and head back to the hotel.

Getting out of the parking garage proves to be even harder than getting in, because now our front wheels (you know, the ones that turn) are going in the other, more difficult direction through the turn angle. It takes us three minutes to navigate this mess. I actually get out of the car and direct Wade to tell him when he's within one inch on either side of the wall. There's just zero maneuvering room. Wade decides he will not be using the parking garage for the rest of our stay. Parking on the street would be far easier. What's funny is that we later would see an SUV trying to get out — we wouldn't wait it out to see how that little adventure would end, though.

Anyway, onto the real reason we're out here...

Jammer stands in the parking area on the Paramount Studios lot. In the background is the studio water tower, which is not a prop but in fact real.

3:40 p.m. PARAMOUNT STUDIOS, 5555 MELROSE AVE., HOLLYWOOD — We find we're getting pretty good at finding our way around this town, or at least the small area that we're exploring. We drive up to the studio entrance gate, where a "drive-on" has been arranged under my name. The guard gives us a map of the studio lot and directs us to the parking area, and we get out the car and I'm thinking, "Well, here we are." I just need to make my way down to the Hart Building where the Star Trek offices are located. (First some photos, naturally.) The front part of the studio lot is surreal — a cross between a theme park (sans rides) and an upscale college campus.

On the way to the Hart Building is the studio gift shop. We walk inside and look around. Lots of T-shirts with Paramount branding, naturally. I opt to buy a tall coffee mug that says "Paramount Pictures" on it. Couple postcards, too.

4:00 p.m. THE TOUR —We walk into the Hart Building, home of the Star Trek offices. In the entryway is a sign that has all the writers' names and their respective room numbers. I find "MENOSKY, JOE" on the list, and we walk to office 100. An assistant tells Joe that we've arrived and I finally meet Joe face-to-face. He sets us up with Mike O'Halloran, another office assistant. Mike gives us the tour of the lot. It turns out that this little adventure we're getting is rarer than I figured. Mike tells us that tours are only given to outsiders if you know somebody in a position of authority (like a producer), or if you win one as a promotional prize. ("Enter and win a tour of the set of Star Trek: Voyager!" Heh.) As it happens, Mike recognizes my name from my reviews, and then says, "Hey, you're that guy who does the reviews. They're the only ones I read." Funny. In fact, given his position, I wouldn't be surprised to find out that Mike was the guy who passed my "Scorpion I" review along to Joe a few years back, but that's just speculation.

Above: A photo of the studio's main walkway, looking east. Below: The walkway 180 degrees in the other direction. The building immediately on the right is the gift shop where I bought my mug. The 4-story building at the end on the right is the Hart Building. We were not permitted to take photos while on the sets.


We walk around the lot, and Mike points out various trivia bits. We walk by Paramount Theater, which is apparently an awesome movie theater where studio employees can go to screen films. It would sure beat the hell out of Midwest-regional GKC, which I'm sure anyone in the area who is forced to endure GKC (for lack of alternative movie theater chains as in the case of Bloomington-Normal) will agree that the chain is pretty lame.

We approach the Voyager soundstages (stages 8 and 9). Right across the way in another row of soundstages is where Deep Space Nine used to be filmed (stages 17 and 18). Of course, those sets were all torn down a year ago after DS9 ended; now CBS's Judging Amy is filmed on those soundstages. Apparently, the DS9 promenade set used to be the largest standing TV set in Hollywood. Wish I could've seen it.

Anyway, we're standing outside the entry door to the Voyager soundstages. There's a red light on that indicates a scene is being shot somewhere inside on one of the sets. Mike can't open the door until the red light goes off because it's "quiet on the set," as the saying goes. Outside the door in the entryway is a bulletin board with various work-like employee postings, like any office. The light goes off and Mike opens the door. From here, there's a door on the left that leads to stage 8 (where nothing is being shot today) and a door on the right that leads to stage 9 (where there is something being shot). We go to the left.

First stop: the bridge. It's sort of eerie. We're walking around the bridge of the starship Voyager. Not unexpectedly, it feels different from the way it looks on TV. Most of that is due to lighting; the only lighting on the bridge right now is the actual lighting that is built into the set. Naturally, the TV lighting isn't there. (The bridge apparently isn't going to be used for another week or two.) The front of the bridge is simply not there, because it doesn't really exist. The viewscreen is rolled in on wheels (right now it's around the corner away from the set) when there's a scene requiring use of the viewscreen. All the chairs are covered with plastic tarps. Mike pulls the plastic off the captain's chair and offers me a seat. Pretty neat, sitting in Janeway's chair. (You know what, though ... it was actually Chakotay's chair — the one on the right — but I'm going to exercise creative license and call it the captain's chair.) The words on the consoles and buttons are of course teeming with in-jokes and nonsense filler. One console has words like "Ford" and "Chevy" and other car names. There are other inside jokes I don't even remember, along the lines of one example where a sticker on a panel says "Don't mess with so-and-so," where so-and-so was the name of the person who designed the panel. I walk over and push some buttons at Harry Kim's post. Of course, it isn't a button console at all but rather a big piece of glass on top of a backlit artistic rendering of a bunch of buttons.

As we walk into Janeway's ready room, Mike pushes open the sliding doors, which are remarkably solid-looking (and solid-feeling). During filming, the doors are opened with pulleys by stage hands who stand above the sets in these built-in walkways. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the window in Janeway's ready room has no glass. As far as I can tell, none of the windows has glass. This would presumably be so that directors don't have to worry about reflections when they're shooting. Outside the window about 15 feet away is the starfield backdrop, which is essentially a really big curtain with little reflective pieces of carefully-lit glass on it to simulate space. The curtain slowly rotates to provide the effect of motion. When the ship is at warp, the curtain is replaced with a blue backdrop for blue-screen effects. Mike says that every time there's a shot with warp stars (not a scene, a shot), it costs $5,000 in labor. This is why the number of scenes with warp stars is minimized.

Jammer stares stupidly into space as friend Wade snaps a photo on the Paramount "New York streets" backlot.

We next walk through the short corridor set. (There are two corridor sets; this first one is the shorter version.) At one end is a turbolift, and at the other is the open end of the set where the Voyager universe simply ends. Accessible from this corridor is the crew quarters set and the mess hall. The crew quarters set is used for all crew quarters scenes. It's redressed depending on whose quarters it's depicting, and there's even a wall that is used to partition off part of the set to make it a smaller junior quarters. Right now there's a folding table sitting in the quarters set, with clipboards and notes and paper plates and disposable eating utensils, as if this were a makeshift break or meeting room that hadn't been cleaned up after its last use.

The mess hall is next, and it's pretty neat. All the lights are off on this set, so it's dark and there's this weird sense that we're secretly sneaking around the ship. Again, there's plastic over all the furniture. It's kind of weird seeing Neelix's cookware hanging on the walls right there. It almost seems real. Mike tells a story about some band members who were invited on the set and weren't the best behaved. They apparently were messing with Neelix's cookware (putting pots on their heads and so forth) on a "hot set" where there was more of a scene still to be shot and set continuity was supposed to be maintained. Kinda funny.

Time now to move on to stage 9. Before exiting stage 8 we again wait for the red light to turn off, then we cross through the entryway and into stage 9, which is a soundstage in use. This soundstage holds a variety of different Voyager sets, but it's all one building and the noise has to be kept down to a minimum (which is very low) when they're shooting. This means that when the red light is off, we can move about from set to set. When the buzzer sounds and the light comes on, however, we must stop and talk in low whispers. Kinda weird, walking through a soundstage and then freezing in your tracks when you hear a buzzer.

We start with the long corridor, from which branches several other sets. We see the transporter room, engineering, and sickbay. Most of the lights are off in these rooms, mostly because they're shooting a scene that's in darkness and they don't want ambient light leaking from the other sets. I'll note that that the transporter room looks like the transporter room (except dark), and engineering is a neat set, except it seems somewhat smaller than it does on TV. A stage hand lurking the soundstage turns the lights on in engineering for us, but then is told to turn them off because of the ambient lighting. (Don't hold up production on my account. Heh heh.)

When we get to sickbay (also dark), though, it comes across as a supply closet. There's electrical junk all over the place that has been stashed on the set for, apparently, lack of a better place to store it. While we're chatting in sickbay, Ethan Phillips strolls past in the corridor in full makeup. He's apparently the only regular on the set shooting today (or at least at this point in the day). His scene involves the Borg children, for an upcoming episode called "The Haunting of Deck 12." Mike tells us that we would normally be able to stand back behind the cameras and crew and watch a scene being shot, but in this case it involves the kids, who get nervous with a lot of people around on the set. So instead, we watch the scene from a monitor just on the other side of the wall. We can hear David Livingston, the director, giving directions and repeatedly calling action, and we can sort of barely see what's going on in the monitor (it's a darkly lit scene).

I must say, TV filming looks like it could get exhausting. We're on stage 9 for maybe a good 20 minutes, and the whole time they probably only film about one minute of screen time. It's a scene involving Neelix telling the Borg kids a campfire story in a turbolift (I think it's a turbolift). [Note (5/31/00): After seeing the episode, it appears I was mistaken — it was the cargo bay.] Neelix is talking about a turbolift "falling faster and faster," and then Mezoti says, "Neelix!" I'll undoubtedly recognize the scene when "Haunting of Deck 12" airs in May, seeing as they repeat this little exchange probably a dozen times while we're there. "This time with more energy," Livingston says at one point.

Above: This was a really cool photo spot, but it didn't turn out as nice as it looked being there, mostly on the account I'm standing in a shadow. What's neat is that you can see down the lot, with soundstages on both sides and at the end, and you can see the Hollywood sign way off in the distance just in the line of sight. The Hart Building is on the left. Below: The Hart building, home of the Star Trek offices, and where I pitched my ideas.


There are some major sets we don't see before leaving, including astrometrics, the holodeck, and the cargo bay. Actually, we do sort of see the cargo bay, but not exactly. Where the cargo bay used to be is all torn up — this particular corner of the soundstage looks like your average cluttered basement. There are pieces of set and props all over the place. The Borg alcoves are standing in a pile removed from the wall. The reason for this is that the set is being rebuilt into a Borg ship for the Borg-centered season finale ("Unimatrix Zero"). [Note (5/31/00): After seeing "The Haunting of Deck 12" on TV, it would seem the cargo bay set was not torn up, so I must've been confused about what Mike was telling us. This torn-up area must've been another set, or perhaps only part of the cargo bay set. I am not certain whether the Borg props we saw were from the cargo bay set; it's entirely possible they were not, and were used in a previous Borg episode.] The amount of labor that goes into tearing up these sets (or redressing them so they look different when they are recycled) is impressive. The bridge, for example, has to be slightly reworked whenever a scene calls for red alert, because red neon lights have to be physically installed in place of white ones.

Anyway, it's all part of that Hollywood illusion. After stage 8 and 9, we walk outside and up the lot to stage 16, commonly referred to as the "Planet Hell" soundstage. This is a big soundstage that can be used for building miscellaneous caves, planets, ships, etc. At this moment, more than half the stage is empty; it resembles an empty airplane hanger. In one corner is a standard cavern set, always a Trekkian staple, which I'm guessing was the one used for the episode, "Live Fast and Prosper." We walk through the cave, which is pretty small; I'm sure every inch ends up in the camera frame. It's sturdy, but of course doesn't feel much like rock; it's actually papier-mache. There's also a life-sized front end of the Delta Flyer buried in rock, which I believe relates to the upcoming "Muse," according to Mike. There's some other unfamiliar stuff, like what looks like the rusted decks of an alien ship. Hanging on the wall on the empty side of the stage is a huge prop that was used in "Barge of the Dead." I'm not even sure what it is — looks like a big wheel. Very big.

Moving on, we tour the backlot where various outdoor scenes for films and TV are shot, including the "New York Street," which resembles the look of New York. Mike says the different studios sometimes use one other's backlots to add variety in the look of their shows. For example, Seinfeld would occasional film New York scenes on this backlot, even though the studio producing Seinfeld had its own backlot. Also, some scenes for Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing were shot here, in addition to the actual location shooting.

As 5:00 approaches and the tour winds down, I'm starting to feel the anticipation of the pitch session. We return to the Hart Building, where Joe is standing outside chatting with another person I don't recognize. While we're standing there discussing the tour we just had, Brannon Braga walks up to the building, and I score some ego points when Joe introduces me to Braga as "one of the few Trek critics with real integrity." Neat. Braga makes a joke about corrupting my integrity, or about critics in general, or something, but I forget what the joke was. Oh well. Joe asks me if I'm ready to go into Bryan's office and get tossed out on my ass. Sure am, I say.

5:00 p.m. THE PITCH — Here we go. Business mode. Game face on. But the tone turns to humor when another studio employee tries to open the door to Bryan Fuller's office and the doorknob snaps off. The door won't open from either side and now it looks like Bryan is trapped in his office. Guess I won't be pitching after all.

The end.

Just kidding.

Finally, they manage to get the door open. We walk in and explain to Bryan that I'll be pitching and that Wade is a bystander for this particular task. Bryan's office is full of ... stuff. This guy was clearly a franchise fan before he was an employee. On his desk are Klingon and Borg action figures standing in action mode. In one corner of the office is a life-size cardboard cutout of Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine. Bryan asks me if I have any questions and then gets right down to business.

I pitch my stories, consulting my notecards. As I talk, Bryan types notes into his computer. For my first pitch, I'm pretty nervous and trying not to read from the card and I stumble a bit. But Bryan types away, not seeming too concerned with the presentation. For the second pitch, I rely more on the notecards, which helps me deliver the story more smoothly. With Bryan typing, it's not as if this has to be a speech with a lot of eye contact.

My pitched stories are the following (click for full details).

After I pitch my stories and Bryan responds with comments on each, he gives me some general tips on what they like to see. He also prints out a list of "most commonly pitched stories" — in other words, stories to avoid pitching because everyone has already thought of them. A lot of this I'd heard from Joe as we were talking over e-mail the past couple months. But above all, Bryan stresses that what Voyager wants is "action" — something that will work in an action-based format. He thought my stories were more suited to The Next Generation's talkier, philosophical style of storytelling versus Braga's vision of a punchier, quicker-paced Voyager. (I don't know if I agree, though, since I thought "Momentum" and "The Warning" in particular offered plenty of opportunities to blow stuff up real good.) He says it was a decent session for a first pitch and that I know the show (gee, I wonder why that would be) and tells me I can arrange to pitch again if I want to call to set one up. Might just do that.

5:30 p.m. EXIT, STAGE RIGHT — So that's it. My first pitch is over, but the door is open. Maybe in a month or two I'll do another one (though that will be over the phone and not in person) after I come up with some new ideas that will fit the Voyager "action" format better, and rework "Momentum" to something else that will catch their attention.

As we leave, I stop by Joe's office to say hey, and he walks us out to our car. He's a nice guy, and what he has to say to us about working at Voyager is interesting (which I feel would be somewhat out of place to reprint here, so I won't). He's leaving the Voyager staff at season's end (which by the date of this posting has been publicized and has happened). He gives me his card and number, and says we should get together for a drink sometime Saturday. Hey, I'm game.

He leaves in his car and we leave in ours. With Paramount Studios now in our rear-view mirror, we venture toward our next destination. For me, the pressure is done with and the experience is already being filed away into the category of memories. The sun sets in L.A. as we drive down Melrose Avenue, one of those visual memories that stands apart from the others and etches itself into the brain. It was definitely worth coming out here. For me, it's an experience for someone who often lets himself get too bogged down in routine.

7:00 p.m. CBS TELEVISION CITY— With the main event of the studio business done with, the rest of our time here will be spent trying to find ways of entertaining ourselves. We head out to CBS Studios, which is a block from our hotel. We show our pass and get assigned a number, at which point we sit and wait for the doors to open.

8:30 p.m. LIVE BROADCAST BEGINS — We watch a 30-minute live segment of Dennis Miller Live as part of the studio audience. The guest is Kevin Smith. Not bad considering this was total chance. (Kevin Smith is apparently the most-requested guest ever to appear on the show. Good timing for us, I guess.) There's just no way you can't like Dennis Miller doing the news. Pretty good show.

9:30 p.m. JOHNNY'S N.Y. PIZZA, CENTURY CITY — What can I say? We're eating pizza. In a chain pizzeria. 'Nuff said.

10:30 p.m. "NAKATOMI PLAZA" — Being in Century City, I realize that we're pretty close to the Fox Building on Avenue of the Stars, best known to moviegoers as Nakatomi Plaza from the 1988 action classic Die Hard (one of Wade's and my personal genre faves). We take a quick drive past Nakatomi Plaza. We consider taking a photo but end up not, on the account it's dark and we don't really want to bother finding a good place to stop the car. Photo probably wouldn't turn out anyway. My camera sucks; I need to buy a new one.

11:15 p.m. CRASH — We arrive back at our hotel, and we're done for the night. Considering the difference in the time zone, you can take your pick — either we've been up since 4 a.m. PST, or it's really 1:15 a.m. CST and we've been up since 6 a.m. That's a long day no matter how you slice it. Crash time.

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