05 April, 2009

Spring Break 2009: San Diego and SoCal

First night in San Diego. Wednesday. Arrived hungry and could not believe how close the planes were to the residential areas upon landing. I see why fighter jets at the nearby Naval Air Station every now and again crash into neighborhoods. I was too slow to whip out my camera but believe me, damn it was close! When Neil and Dana used to live here, he remembered looking out at incoming planes and seeing distinct faces inside the airpliner's windows. For din-din, we went to the Royal Thai Cuisine that evening. It was uncomfortably cold and breezy when we arrived. The restaurant was in the Gaslamp District. I think all major cities have a gaslamp district. Nothing too unique nor distinctive. Super touristy but at least it was different, clean, and had good people geeking. At the restaurant we ordered a bottle of Merlot. Melissa had a Pad Thai Vegetarian and I had a Royal Thai with shrimp. Talked about getting Tats. She on her wrist and me on my ring finger. This (of course) would substitute for the actual ring I would wear on my left hand (the tat signifying my ring). Back at the Hyatt, the very elaborate Manchester Grand Hyatt, I placed my Nano in the iPod docking station/alarm clock to wake me up. Here are some pics from our 17th floor window.
poolside, 10th floor

from market street

Going to meet Neil in San Juan Capistrano 'round 7 am. Train leaves downtown SD at 0610. Talked to Neil about firming up plans for Thursday when we came in the night before. Neil talked about how traffic’s going to be a mother scratcher on Thursdays and Fridays out here so the earlier we start the day, the better we'll arrive at a decent time back at his and Dana's place in Rancho Santa Margarita.
Thursday. Took the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner to San Juan Capistrano at 0610. Almost missed it because I was enjoying the hot, hot, long bath because I am on vacation. Thank you very much. Yeah, water’s supposed to be a precious commodity; but I’m on vacation so I let the water run and I just sit in the bathtub in a luxurious, vegetative state of mind (white noise reverberating through my noggin') at 0515. Left the hotel at quarter ‘til, walked to the Station about 5 mins away; had no time to spare and just got in with everybody else. Took a nap until the ticket lady-a rather large woman who was wearing sunglasses at 6 in the morning-asked me, San Juan Cap? that woke me up. Yup. I replied. She smelled really nice too. She ripped my ticket and put a slip of paper above my head on the overhead storage rack. Put my iPod back on, placed the sunglasses over my eyes and went back to sleepyville. There’s something pretty cool about riding a train in a strange place-especially before the sun comes up, listening to your favorite music and watching strange people board. It reminded me of the Euro-rail times when I was stationed in Germany back in the day, hanging out with my visiting friend Colin in Luxembourg, sleeping under a cigarette vending machine waiting to catch the red-eye back to my german village. It cost $20 for a one-way ticket from SD to San Juan.

I saw Neil looking out for me at the San Juan Cap entrance and off we go to L.A. Neil picked out a really cool breakfast spot called Urth Caffé. He said they sometimes film Entourage there. The food was really outstanding, organic, and vegetarian friendly. The barista made a really cool Aspen leaf design

on my cappuccino and the beans were so strong and my body so hungry that after drinking that lovely juice made from blasting the bean ground to maximize its surface area to volume ratio at a certain temperature, my body was humming. The Caffé was right off Melrose. The nutty thing about it people have residences on either side of this major street. That was the way to start the day off! Food, espresso-type drinks, and watchability of freaks. Melrose is also very poseur. You see people trying hard to be cool; then you just see people being their kooky self. Hard to tell the difference. Me personally, I was a tourist decked out in sunglasses, black Converse® jacket, khaki shorts, and my trendy Merrell’s with camera slung over my shoulder so I don’t miss something noteworthy. So now it’s off to Amoeba records in Hollywood, off of Sunset Blvd. A great, great indie-record/dvd/lp store. Inside I pick up Gillian Welch’s Revival, Sun Kil Moon’s re-mastered, 2 disc, Ghosts of the Great Highway, and the Weakerthan’s Reconstruction Site. Neil got the new Big Head Todd & The Monster’s latest-All the Love You Need. On any given day, any of these might be a challenge to find. Neil and I spent almost three hours there. You should’ve seen the stacks of CDs I had before I narrowed it down to these three. Mark Kozelek, Billy Bragg, Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, Sufjan Stevens, The Dodos, Fleet Foxes, Broken Social Scene, The Decemberists, and some others I’m sure I’m forgetting to mention, needless to say these were easily findable music back in Denver (but probably not at these prices). Thinking about it now, I should've got Art Blakey's A Jazz Message remastered by Rudy Van Gelder. We then proceeded to UCLA. Neil’s brother in-law’s alma mater-very awesome campus. It’s a very well manicured and symmetrical campus unlike my (alma mater)Texas. Went to a free museum exhibit on the campus too. It was over tribal chic. They--the Fowler Museum at UCLA--had artifacts from all over the globe on exhibit with a wee bit of history on each item. Interesting and better yet...free!
The campus itself was very vibrant. It seemed like the Spring fling of all colleges where fraternities, sororities, and clubs with ethnic, social, political, and sexual orientation were recruiting from the general student body population. Loved the campus; loved the vibe too while we were walking around.
the iconic bruin (bear)

It was a nonstop smorgasbord of academic hard hitters surrounded by palm trees, manicured lawns, badass architecturally hip buildings, busy bodies, lounging bodies, under auspicious blue skies with a luminous, gaseous/plasma sphere of thermonuclear fission reactions overhead. Almost a distorted reality really. The teaching med. school, law school, business school and undergraduate facilities all in one campus were impressive (as well as the socio-economic background of the attendees).

If one of my kids got accepted here, I would gladly donate a kidney for the cause of higher learning from UCLA.
Our tourist version of L.A. hit the range of eating, people geeking, and art. The only thing we were missing was some good microbrew; but that’s what Saturday night’s for.
Neil took me to the Farmer’s Market, not the Farmer’s Market where all the local farmers sell produce in a parking area in L.A. but an actual spot called “Farmer’s Market” that’s the archetypal outdoor, Los Angeles tradition dating back to the fifties where they had the outdoor shopping and dining thing. Had some Russian/Greek orthodox food, vegetarian of course while Neil had a something-or-another with meat.

It was delicious and quite filling.
We did the two hour commute back in typical SoCal heavily volumed, all 4 lanes going 80 mph-style on the 405. We get to travel in the HOV lane! I thought Conifer had a NASCAR mentality; but sheez SoCal driving’s nutrageous but not loathsome. I could get into it. Once we got home, Dana talked about her excellent job evaluation where we celebrated at the local Starbucks in Mission Viejo, Laguna Niguel, Aliso Viejo triple Venn diagram of similar urban settings. The funky weather here has SoCal as being rather cold and rainy. It sucks! I was completely looking forward to wearing hats and shorts to welcome the sun (I did anyway but it was still cold-that wind with humidity thing is a deal breaker for me). It’s also snowing back where we live so it seems we’re not going to get a reprieve from the cold, although it was rather sunny hanging with Neil. Back home we vegetated and Neil showed me some TiVo’d shows of supercars unmasked he recorded on SPEED vision. It’s that Y-chromosome thing y’all. I spent the night and in the morning we had breakfast at Mimi’s Café and bought some argyle socks at the local bike store (I have a fascination w/ argyle as a fashion statement apparently). After that he dumped me off at San Juan Cap to catch the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner back to San Diego. Took a much needed nap and met Melissa back at our hotel room.
Friday we commit to getting tattoos (no more talk) as our homemade way of renewing our wedding vows. After some internet research Melissa finds this place: Propaganda Tattoo (and piercing).
Having the letter “M” indelibly etched onto our skin for the rest of our lives to remind us of our teamwork to others and to ourselves. Melissa went first. Brandon was our tattooist. He made a classic looking design of the letter “M” and the superscript 5 signifying our family member’s names all begin with the letter “M”. It looks very cool and it’s in an inconspicuous place for a lawyer-placed in-between her carpals and her forearm.

Brandon hooked it up with style that’s going to be fairly classic for a long time. I got inspired to put a tattoo of a band consisting of “M” s on my ring finger but the guys said that it’s not a good idea for a design to be a band since it’s only the top of the finger that keeps the ink. So, I got a masculine version of the letter “M” placed in-between my ring finger’s knuckle the first joint from the knuckle.

Oh my goodness did it ehfing hurt! The needle was hitting bone every time it reciprocated from the gun. I was grimacing and Melissa was laughing at me. It was painful, but I’d do it again. It was cool! Yeah team “M” getting inked. Is there any other stronger evidence of love? I think not. We went to oldtown for some Mexican food and margaritas. Ate a place called “Fred's”. We had vegetarian quesadillas with Portobello mushrooms. Yum. Then to continue our celebration/date we went to the 40th floor of the Hyatt to geek the city night lights and to imbibe in a trendy bar. We continued by buying a bottle of Premium Delaney’s Irish Cream at the Grocery Store Ralphs. Best party in town Ralphs. Where else can you buy half-priced (as compared to San Diego bars) premium liquor?
Saturday morning Neil and Dana drive down to San Diego to get us. La Jolla is a rather hoidy toidy kinda town that exudes money. I mean look at this very cool traffic island.
Before we bail back to Neil and Dana's we go to La Jolla and go to the Karl Strauss Brewery and restaurant for some lunch. Wash down a tasty meal with a German Doppelbock. The beer was slightly sweet with a high alcohol content. Then we walk down to the shores and geek some pictures. We have coffee at a place called The Living Room Coffeehouse. It’s a house converted into a hip coffee joint where the UCSD crowd hangout, study, cap on the free Wi-Fi, and get buzzed on caffeine. Very plugged-in group.
Behind the window's the Pacific Ocean...

We walk down to the shore and smell the smells and see the sights. There isn’t a very fishy smell in La Jolla. Very pretty beach and very windy too.
Back at Neil and Dana's, Melissa and I cook dinner: A pesto linguini dish, with a local Syraz, and a vegetarian Cesar Salad. Neil and Dana being the thoughtful people that they are, they bought a cake to celebrate Melissa's birthday.

Have I mentioned I haven't been on my bike in weeks and I'm eating like it's going out of style? Oh yeah. Nothing wrong with that! So it’s Sunday. Off we go back to Colorado. We break our fast one more time at Neil and Dana’s. French Toast, scrambled eggs. The weather’s beautiful as we’re leaving. The best so far actually. Sunny with a nice gentle breeze. The lady at the Amtrak station in San Juan Cap’s asking if we’re going back to Colorado. We say, Yes and she says, Are you sure? We are sure we want to stay. I check the weather before we leave and there’s a 40% chance of snow back in Denver. Damn. It’s too beautiful to go back to Colorado’s, spring, spotty snow until May.
Here are some ladies in purple walking past our train depot as we wait...

The upside is, there isn’t a whole lot of school yet. I check my Facebook® page and my homeboy Kenny says they’re racing today at 27° F. That sucks. The cold that is, I actually want to race this season.
In CA, I always daydream what our family’d be doing if we lived here. Realistically though, it’d be difficult to find a teaching job better than my current one and Melissa would have to pass the CA bar exam (she could do it, she passed the NY bar exam first attempt!). It’s pretty out here, I could ride my bike almost everyday, the population's very diverse; but I’d miss our house and property in CO. It’s quite a nice situation we have actually up in Conifer. As the Amtrak’s rolling through Solano Beach, I see the surfers out there. See the blue skies edging up to the water’s horizon and begin to dread the reality of Monday morning. All the cars are parked by the beach. People enjoying some coastal breeze(s), sun, and sand. Time slowly passes here with impunity (unlike the UV radiation people here get I'm sure). Couldn’t even imagine the way we’d have to live to afford our current cost of living in SoCal. I better quit daydreaming. Had a blast hanging out with Neil, Dana, and Melissa. What a lazy way to spend a vacation. It was date time with Melissa whenever she got out of her conferences and just having adult conversations temporarily without kids was nice too. It was a nice reprieve before the maelstrom of child rearing begins in about 4 hours. For right now, Melissa and I are going to enjoy some napping and looking out the southbound train at the suburbs, beachfronts, blue, cloudless sky heading out towards San Diego to catch our flight back to reality. Damn you Monday.

1 comment:

Alec said...

Didn't read your SoCal post until now. Turns out you hit quite a number of familiar sites that remind me of college in San Diego. Fred's in PB was a classic Friday night bar hopping food joint. The Living Room in La Jolla was a frequent study hang out until we discovered the Coffee Cup Cafe and Goldfish Point Cafe. Karl Strauss has some good keg tappings with free beer every 2nd Tuesday of the month. Makes me miss San Diego a little.