Escapes: Remember, travel is the payoff for patience

Keep your eyes on the future.
(Stephanie DeAngelis / For The Times)

Good day from my “sunny with a chance of snappishness” world communications center in Greater Los Angeles.

Look up “crabby” in the dictionary and you may find my face. I’m just not myself these days, maybe more like Rasputin’s cousin.

And yet...

Is there a greater place to be confined than Los Angeles, especially this time of year?

I think not. I have to remember that and remind myself that the essence of spring is that hope for renewal, the promise that sets me free to dream about where I will go when I can.


Welcome to our quicker-format newsletter. I’m Catharine Hamm, a.k.a. Capt. Crankypants, and I’m the travel editor for the Los Angeles Times. OK, practicing the 4-7-8 breathing method (breathe in to four counts, hold for seven counts, exhale for eight counts). Better now. Here we go.

Looking ahead

In this week’s queue of reading material are stories that will help you plan now for that day when you can travel.

Christopher Reynolds writes about making the most of your photos, both before you go and while you’re there. Sharon Boorstin talks about skills you can acquire to enhance your next trip. And I’ve written about trip planning, something you can start right now — a tribute to my mother, who used to say, “A girl without a plan is no kind of a girl.”

Looking at the here and now

We bring you up to date on what’s open and what’s closed around the Southland, including info on parks (including Joshua Tree, thanks to an update from Mary Forgione) and beaches, and what you won’t be doing until at least mid-May (answer: cruising, Rosemary McClure writes).

Looking at the good and better

We’re asking for your contributions to a compendium we’re putting together on acts of kindness you have seen, and we tell you about a couple of things you don’t have to worry about right now, including Real ID.

Enjoying this newsletter? Consider subscribing to the Los Angeles Times

Your support helps us deliver the news that matters most. Become a subscriber.


And looking at nothing at all

Jay Jones shows you what Las Vegas looks like minus 42 million people. Here’s just one of his snapshots:

An escalator leading to the Grand Bazaar Shops, Bally’s and beyond is off, and the Strip is quiet in Las Vegas.
(Aaron Mayes / UNLV Special Collections and Archives)

And, at last, a story with a happy ending

Relief comes in some of the strangest forms on some of these strangest of days. In that vein, I recommend this essay by Christopher Reynolds, “An Infectious Disease Nearly Ruined the Trip That Changed My Life.” It is worth it just to look at the photos a little farther down in the story.

What we’re reading

I confess: I’m a pet person, primarily at this stage a cat person. I am always interested in stories that have feline roots, including this one about Torre Argentina, the Roman cat sanctuary, from Atlas Obscura. I’ve read of it before but this reminded me that where they live is also where Julius Caesar was killed. Wonder whether he was a cat lover.

In fairness, I must give dogs their due. Next time I am in Toronto (which was supposed to be this month, dang it!), I will put Berczy Park Dog Fountain on my “must-see” list, thanks also to Atlas Obscura. The fountain has statues of 27 dog breeds and even allows a cat into the picture.

As we seek to keep ourselves amused, here’s one way to convince yourself that things are looking up: It’s Jamie Carter’s Travel & Leisure guide to seeing the night sky this weekend. Besides some of the favorites (Venus, Orion), she mentions the Spring Diamond, which she calls the “ultimate ‘sight’ of the season.” No need for a heavy-duty telescope in some cases; a good pair of binoculars can let you see some of the show.

With a good pair of binoculars, you can see many of the details of the moon.
(Martin Bernetti / AFP/Getty Images)

What you could also be reading

The L.A. Times, of course. Yes, I’m biased, but I can’t think of any other publication that’s so full of information that means something to me. Here’s the deal: You subscribe to the Times, and we’ll keep telling you what you need to know. Deal?

Our other newsletters. Whatever your passion, we have you covered. These newsletters are delivered free to your inbox.

Your name. We’ve asked you to tell us about how the coronavirus has affected your travels and the acts of kindness you’ve witnessed as we await the end of the pandemic. Are there stories you haven’t seen but would like to? Let us know any or all of these things by writing to

End paper

At a time when many of us are looking inward, I want to applaud those organizations that are looking outward — looking at you and your needs and what is best for you as a customer.

Not every company is doing that. David Lazarus’ column about getting a refund from a cruise line may not make you feel high on the importance scale. The weirdness with United’s policy that I’ve written about may not have you thinking that you’re the most important thing to the airline.

Those are but two; I know from the mail to, some of it deeply unflattering, that there are more.

This led me to an interesting interview with Edward Segal, an author and a crisis management expert. He encourages clients to put a crisis plan in place before the tsunami hits, because it will happen, inside or outside the building.

“I’ve seen far too many companies and organizations driving in the dark without headlights,” he said. The emphasis, he noted, should be on “how you treat the people that helped make you a success in the first place.”

As travel begins to come back, keep abreast of the companies that put their customers first — the companies, as Segal said, that know what they should do as opposed to what they can do.

Come to think of it, Segal’s corporate philosophy makes sense for us as individuals in this time of the coronavirus. I can go visit my friends and family, but should I? Probably not, not because they have germs but because I might.

In these moments, I think of a phrase I hear often: “stuck at home.” I’ve heard people suggest we should reframe that with “safe at home.”

Actions matter. Words matter. And most of all, you matter. Hang in there.

I just heard another jet overhead.

Until we can take off again, be safe and well, and when this is done, the world will be there to welcome you back and we’ll be here to welcome you home.