3.14.2006

Home Again

I had a great time in Los Angeles this weekend. Not just the fun activities we enjoyed, but just being in Los Angeles felt right.

Anyway - highlights of the trip - we had a fun drive with a picnic in Blythe, CA. Jennifer, Stephanie, Evan, Mark and I rotated between naps, car games, and fun conversation. It had stormed recently both in LA and Phoenix, so there was snow at pretty low elevations, and on lots of the hills next to the freeway. It was kind of cool. We got behind a car that had a foot of snow on it's roof so it could "snow" on us.

Our hotel in the heart of Hollywood was literally 40 feet from the main area of the star walk (the Kodak Theatre where they host the Oscars). There were street performers out in force, so we walked around shopping a little and caught a little break dancing on the street by a Cuban B-boy group. They were pretty good. Lots of characters. We shopped and then met Mark and Scott up at Pocito Mas for good mexican food - sort of Scott's birthday dinner. Afterward, we basically crashed - Evan fell asleep fully clothed with his contacts still in - the rest of us followed suit, but had PajamaTime first.

Next morning, we woke up kind of early and went to a little cafe for breakfast and then headed out to Knottsberry Farm. For the record, it is better than Disneyland for adult-scary rides and a ton of good coasters. I thought it was a petting zoo with a Ferris Wheel or something. There were 4 coasters with upside-down loops... nearly everyone's favorite was a long wooden coaster, Ghost Rider. The Silver Bullet (suspended from above with legs swinging like the Batman) actually gives you vertigo when you step off it. Stephanie conquered some fear and went on two very scary ones. There was one funny moment when Jenn dragged Evan and I onto what we thought looked like a kid's ride. It was a circular pendulum swing that rotated 180 at the top of each swing. It started out really slow and we were rolling our eyes. Then it just kept picking up momentum, and picking up momentum and our eyes started watering from all the screaming. It went well above the 90 degrees of the bar holding the pendulum. It was pretty scary because neither of us were prepared for that kind of excitment. It was a great day to go because there were practically no lines whatsoever. The average wait for any ride was about 15 minutes. I realized I'm a thrill junkie. Pretty funny irony when you consider that I am going into a field that minimizes risk.

Evan and I decided to leave Jennifer and Stephanie at the park after picnic lunch in the parking lot and go do something else. We don't have the all-day stamina that they have - So we went to chopper Mecca. We drove to Long Beach to see Jesse James' West Coast Choppers Shop. They created a room for fans to hang out and drool in, with finished choppers lined up, some very neat custom cars, a coffin-keg on wheels, and lots of posters, newsclippings, etc hanging on the wall to see and a gift shop and an area where you can look into the garage where they are putting finishing touches on things. The whole place is a work of metal-art. All the doors, gates, signs, railings, etc are artfully crafted and beautifully detailed. It was sort of spiritual, in a hard to explain way. One of the buildings is an old church and their logo has a cross in it, and with all the beautiful architectural details, pilgrims silently paying respects to the craftmanship... and hoping to catch a glimpse of the icon, Jesse, supposedly upstairs in the offices (we did not see him.) I thought it was appropriate that the only place to sit was an old church pew.

We picked up Jennifer and Stephanie and inched home through rush hour traffic and right when we arrived at the hotel I became suddenly and violently sick. Afterwards, we picked up something to eat, crackers and water for me from the grocery and take out for Jennifer and Stephanie. Evan went out on the town with a friend who lives there and came home later. And again, we just crashed. It was a long exciting day.

It felt wonderful and reaffirmed for me our decision to move there when our lease is up here. I had this terrific moment this morning before we left. I woke up at 5am and got a latte and watched the sun come up over the old familiar neighborhood. It was so warm and nostalgic. And I also got to experience some of the realistic expectations one needs to properly make that kind of decision. It's really hard to live in LA. I mean, literally hard. Everything is inconvenient, more expensive, and a little more complicated. It's crowded and condensed, so the underbelly of society is unavoidably on the surface - and it raises one's social conscience. Since we dropped Mark off at Scott's house, I was in charge of taking care of our needs while we were there, so I did all the city driving, found our eateries, hotel, etc, and coordinated our activities a little. It was interesting to find that I could do those things. I had some driving moves that I'm really proud of. I only got lost once for every time I got behind the wheel - and made fewer than three U-turns per destination. I do worse than that sometimes in Phoenix.

The drive home was uneventful but pleasant. We were all pretty beat. There is still some snow on the mountains outside Phoenix. It looks strange as the backdrop for cactus. The trip felt like a long vacation rather than the 18 day-time hours that it was.