There's nothing like a trip to Hollywood to remind you of the fantasies that grow there as rapidly as kudzu grows in Southern summers. There, I often find people who are not exactly my people.
That world is as different from my world as pinto beans are from garbanzo beans. Still, it's an interesting place to visit and it offers a different perspective of life outside the rural South. On a recent trip, I was driving down Wilshire Boulevard and passed the famed Beverly Wilshire -- think hotel from the movie "Pretty Woman" and you've seen the place -- and I started laughing at the memory from another time.
A few years ago, a business trip to Fox Studio coincided with some of my NASCAR friends being in town for the championship banquet of what was then called the Busch Grand National Series, the second level of competition.
Since the big boys went to the New York Waldorf to celebrate their champion, someone had decided that the other guys should go to the glamorous Beverly Wilshire for their celebration.
I was staying at the Hyatt, which backs up to the Fox lot, but it only took a couple of calls from friends to convince me to move over to the Wilshire and hang out with them.
"You can stay with me," urged my long-time friend, Deb. "C'mon. We'll get you a ticket to the banquet, too."
Quicker than it takes to make a cup of instant grits, I packed my bags and headed to Beverly Hills. First, I should have known I was in the wrong place, because unlike the Hampton Inns and Holiday Inns where I normally stay, the Wilshire does not have a sign out front.
You have to know where you're going. And, apparently, if you have the several hundred dollars a night that those rooms cost, your chauffeur knows how to get there.
Not me in my little rental car, though. I had to call the hotel and admit, "I can't find you."
In an aristocratic, elegant tone, he replied, "We are the grand building with all the flags flying on the front exterior."
I looked up and there it was. It bore a striking resemblance to Buckingham Palace. I drove into the back courtyard where doormen dressed like the liveried servants who serve the Queen of England, opened my door and grandly greeted me. "Welcome to the Beverly Wilshire. It is our pleasure to serve you, ma'am." They bowed.
One of the doormen, who would become a pal to Deb and me, unloaded my luggage and then explained, "We have a chauffeured Rolls Royce, which is available at the beck and call of our guests, should you desire a drive somewhere. Please inform us, and it shall be at your service."
I began to get the feeling that I was not among my people.
Deb met me in the lobby and waited with me in line at the front desk to register. In front of us, was an east coast couple expensively dressed in designer clothes, who arranged for a room for the pilot of their private jet, spoke in cultured tones and was loaded down with real Louis Vuitton luggage.
I knew these were not my people.
About that time, I looked over to see two of the NASCAR drivers dressed down in jeans, logoed tee shirts not tucked in and clean, and white sneakers, who were talking while each held a plastic cup with a paper umbrella stuck in it.
Aw, there were my people.
A while back, I asked Jeff Foxworthy where the studio puts him when he's in L.A. to film his television show.
"Different places," he replied with a casual shrug. "We have stayed at the Wilshire a couple of times." He stopped and sniggered. "You oughta see that place when it's overrun with rednecks."
I laughed. "I have."
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of "What Southern Women Know About Faith." Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her weekly newsletter.