Another early morning. Have to drop Mike off at American Idol so I can have the car. It sucks he has to work, but he managed to get four tickets for the dress rehearsal today, so at least we’ll get to see him. I get back to the apartment at 8:30am and have an hour to shower, get ready, and straighten up the apartment before I pick up John and Mandy and head to the airport to meet the rest of the Manfre clan.
It’s madness. Mike’s Mom is texting him, Maria is texting me, Mr. Manfre is calling John and pretending he’s talking to Mike. I pull up to the airport and wait, nervous I’m going to get a ticket. John and Mandy get out of the car and sort of hide near a bench about 50 feet away. All of a sudden I see Mr. Manfre running towards the car. Where is Mrs. and Maria? He gets to the car, smiling. “Where are they??” I nod behind him to where John stands with his back to us and his hood up, Mandy at his side. Now I see Mrs. and Maria jogging towards us, confused expressions on their faces. They haven’t even gotten their luggage from the baggage claim yet, and they don’t know why they had to come out to the car right now. There aren’t even hellos yet, just questions of what is going on? Mr. Manfre tells them, “We gotta go.” I just join in with him when they look at me. Yup, we gotta go. Maria is not convinced. “What about our bags?” Now John makes his entrance from across the way. “Give me all your money!” He’s running to us. Mrs. and Maria are startled. Maybe that’s Mike? No, it’s John and Mandy. They both scream. Mrs. actually crosses her legs – I think she’s going to pee herself.
The surprise is over. We can all say hi now. Mrs. and Maria give me hugs. Mr. was so excited for the surprise he didn’t even realize he didn’t say hi yet. He’s got a big smile on his face. “Oh yea, what are we doing? We haven’t seen you in forever! How are you?” I laugh and give him a hug. Now we really do have to move. It’s 10:30 and we have to be at the rehearsal by 11:30. Originally, Mr., Mrs., Maria and I were supposed to go, but now with John and Mandy here, Mr. sends Mandy, so he and John will just hang out together. They stay back to get the luggage and take a taxi to John’s hotel. I feel bad Mr. isn’t going (not John: he said if Mike got him a ticket he still wouldn’t go).
We get to the CBS studio right on time. We have to wait in line for a while, but it’s a nice day so it’s not bad. It was supposed to be rainy all week, so I’m super thankful it’s sunny right now. They start to herd us in and as we’re walking we see Mike up ahead. He’s got his headset on, looking all professional. Then I see him chomping on a pink donut. OK Mike. Mrs. Manfre screams. “Is that Michael? It is. Hi sweetheart, how are you?” He just stands there, waiting. She gets to him and gives him a big hug. The line is still moving so he walks with us a bit. Maria gives him a quick hug hello. Mrs. doesn’t stop talking and Mandy and I just walk ahead, laughing.
It’s a long wait before they let us in the actual building. When they finally do, we have to hand over our cell phones and cameras – no picture taking inside. It’s cool to sit in the audience. We’re all surprised at how small it really is – looks so much bigger on TV. Again, there’s a lot of waiting. One of the producers talks to the audience, keeping us updated on what’s going on. “We’re just waiting on Ryan to get here. His radio show just ended at 12:15 so he’s on his way.” Ryan Seacrest looks so small in person. I feel like I’m getting redundant with this statement. Steven Tyler, even smaller. He comes later and is super friendly with the audience. Randy shows up and gives Steven a big hug. Mandy is funny. “Why are they hugging like they’ve never seen each other before?? They were just together last week.” It’s true, Randy is a little too excited to see Steven. Jennifer Lopez is the only one who doesn’t come. The real entertainment is when all “the kids” sing. That’s what Mike says everyone calls the contestants. The performances are great; they all sound really good. Phillip Phillips is sooooooo cute. I don’t even like the song he sings that much, but I still love him. Maria has a crush on Colton. He has chicken legs and beady eyes.
It’s not until about 3:30 that the show ends. They all loved it. Maria is probably the most excited of the three of them. “I don’t care what else we do on this trip, that was the best thing I’ve ever done.” Wow, you really love American Idol. I’m just glad they had a good time. The studio happens to be right next the The Grove, which I’m excited about because I’ve never been to The Grove and everyone has told me to check it out. It’s basically just like an outside mall with shops and restaurants, but it’s really nice. It’s just a cool spot. We’re all starving, so we walk around, looking for a place to eat. There’s a crowd of people ahead, and Mandy and Maria immediately want a piece of the action. As we get closer we see Mario Lopez interviewing some guy from Dancing with the Stars for E! News. Maria thinks he’s so hot. She and Mandy take some pictures and we’re on our way. I look up and see an actor to my right. I quickly put my back to him and tell them. There’s an actor right behind me. I don’t know his name, I just know he’s from Ghostbusters (Peter MacNicol). They spot him and get excited. Mandy and Maria want to ask him for a picture. Oh, God. I do not want to be a part of this. He walks into an Apple store and Mandy and Maria follow him in! What are they doing? They come back out. Guys, do you even know his name? You cannot ask him for a picture if you don’t even know his name. Maria doesn’t seem to think this matters. He walks out of the store and I know she’s going to do it. She has this crazy look in her eyes and I realize, this is how most of my friends will be when they come out here. I keep picturing Heather being exactly like this. Maria goes after him and stops him. He’s very nicely telling her no. “Please. I’m here from New Jersey!” “I’m sorry. You don’t even know my name, do you?” Oh my God, he said it. I’m so embarrassed. He shakes her hand. “Can I just shake your hand? I’m here with my family and I don’t really want a scene.” He sees me and Mandy over to the side watching. He walks over to shake our hands, too. That’s so nice. I’m even more embarrassed now because I don’t know his name. Mandy gets annoyed at me. “Oh, who cares. What, like you’re ever going to see him again?” I hate you, Mandy.
We continue walking, now really focusing on a place to eat and settling on Wood Ranch BBQ and Grill. I’m so hungry. I had a bowl of cereal at 9am and now I just need some food in my body. We all get the lunch special: a salad, two sliders and a side dish. I have a blue moon; Mrs. and Maria a margarita, Mandy water. The waitress asks if we want some garlic rolls for the table. What kind of question is that? Umm, yea, sure. They’re amazing. Actually, we don’t know if they’re amazing or if they just taste so good because we’re so hungry. We then drive home, but stop in Santa Monica at a liquor store – Bevmo. I need Parrot Bay flavored rum for sangria. With traffic and everything we don’t get back to the apartment until after 5. John and Mr. Manfre this whole time have been without a car. They’ve walked around, had lunch, and actually walked to the apartment. I gave them my keys so they can just chill there. It’s so weird to me when I pull up to the apartment that Mr. Manfre opens the door to say hello to us.
I make a pitcher of white sangria and can’t believe I have so many people sitting in the apartment. I wish Mike was here. We have a few drinks while watching the Phillies game – feels like we’re in Rehoboth on vacation, but we’re at my apartment in Venice! We still have to wait a while for Mike to get home, so let’s go to the beach. We walk the five blocks there – I make a “road soda” sangria for the girls to share. We pass James Beach on our left and I know John wants to go there – we’ll have to make it part of our itinerary. We walk out on the beach just to put our feet in the sand. I feel happy that I live here and can bring them here, even if it is a chilly evening.
We walk back to the apartment, and once again it feels like a waiting game for Mike to get home. I have to pick him up, too. Well, not me, Mandy – I’ve been drinking too much. John and I go along for the ride. Mr. and Mrs. are passing out on the couch while Maria wakes up from her nap on the floor to watch the live episode of American Idol that we saw earlier today. After what seems forever, we get back to the apartment and it’s a reunion all over again now that Mike is here. I notice Mrs. Manfre has cleaned up the snacks and washed the dishes. She is such a mom and I’m so grateful for it. Everyone is dead tired – even Mike – but tomorrow is the only day Mike gets to sleep in, so he is determined to go out. I don’t really want to, but when he asks me, I tell him I’ll do whatever he wants to do, so we head to Nikki’s.
Maria gets Patron shots for me, Mike, and herself. Cheers! We all have one or two drinks and order a couple things since we didn’t really eat dinner. It seems like everyone is trying to be a good sport about being out but everyone is really tired. We have to be out, though, because this is our only night with everyone out that Mike can be out late. Mrs. Manfre looks like a zombie. Once again, I pass out easily once I hit the sheets.