Well…here we are. Southern California. I’m all kinds of melancholy, homesick (for here), reminiscent and reflective. It’s been a while since I was here, since I lived here. Even though Rhonda and I dated while I was in LA, I now feel the need to explain to her and my two babies everything about this city and the ten years plus that I spent here. I want to tell them memories I have from places we pass, things I did on certain streets we drive on. For the most part I am keeping it all to myself. No one else would probably agree with that. Everyone knows I talk too much.
Yesterday was a big day. We went to Venice beach and parked at the end of the pier and walked north on the boardwalk, south of where the madness is, where million dollar beach mansions belly up to the sidewalk and as much time is spent peering inside them as is spent looking to the left, where the ocean and waves are. I used to love walking by those houses. Right around Muscle Beach the girls saw a playground so we lathered them on with sunblock and let them go crazy. That lasted for about fifteen minutes until they saw the water.
It couldn’t have been a more beautiful day. It was maybe 75 degrees, no clouds and a nice gentle breeze. Rhonda and I split time between building sand castles with Lily (who was afraid of the waves and in no way willing to go near them) and swimming around with Bird (who was a little reluctant to get all sandy and dirty). With no clouds, an even temperature and such blue water sunburns are almost a welcome thing on days like yesterday. The entire time I was reviewing my decade-plus life in LA and feeling like I really didn’t take advantage of the beach. How did I feel so away from everything yesterday but not when I lived there? Maybe I just answered my own question.
Later Jeff and Jaime met us after awhile and we spent several hours split between playing with the kids and catching up with them. Then Travis and Steph arrived and it dawned on me that the last time I hung out on Venice Beach – and I mean really hung out, not just strolled the boardwalk with the freaks, was fifteen years ago, right when I moved here from Denver. Travis was with me then, too, and we talked about what a lifetime ago that was. Today was his birthday, so his brain was set to ‘introspect’ too. Fun to talk about where we’ve been. Maybe it would be less fun to talk about if we didn’t like where we are now.
I still have pictures from that exact day at Venice. I took my friends there because I was trying to feel ok about being alone in such a big place. I was hilariously insecure about living in such a big place, being alone and not even sure what I was doing there myself, let alone capable of explaining my intentions to others. Every time I would get a visitor I would take them to all the places that were famous and looked nothing like Colorado. Sunset Strip, Beverly Hills, UCLA, Santa Monica, Hollywood and yes…Venice beach. Invariably they would love it. All of it. Then they would leave and I would be there alone with a half-lived appreciation of the life I was living, trying to remind myself that I was living in the best place on earth, alone, on a mission to become whole. Those experiences helped me feel connected and that period of time was my gateway into adulthood. Funny. I know now exactly what I was doing then. I was living.
After we’d had enough Venice Beach sun, we headed to the end of the pier and went to The Whaler for lunch. There is an upstairs with an open air patio that overlooks the Pacific that seemed just about perfect. After we pushed a couple tables together and created a spot where the girls could sit just out of the sun’s reach…it was exactly that…perfect. I’d never been to that place before and, to be honest, the menu was a little vanilla. But even so, the food ended up being good. I over-ordered, as I usually do, instructing them to bring us a steady convoy of oysters, fish tacos, shrimp, guacamole. And with a couple buckets of Mexican beer and friends, we were in heaven. I was so proud of the girls; they ate a huge plate of shrimp and another of chips and guacamole. How many two and three year olds eat shrimp and guacamole?
And then…a trip across the city and towards the happiest place on earth followed lunch. Disnelyland. For once, I was grateful to be caught in LA traffic because it afforded us just enough time for the babies to get in a powernap. It would definitely be a big night. Georgia and Owen and their kids met up with us and everyone from Venice came. So…we had a big crowd, but only two couples had kids (and kids who may be, ostensibly, too young to enjoy the “Disnyland Experience”.) I was a little concerned about other peoples’ experiences, but only briefly. That part of me has diminished significantly since having kids. There just isn’t enough time or energy to park everyone’s happiness. I just figured that if they didn’t want to come with us, they wouldn’t have…right?
Because Jeff’s girlfriend is an avid Disneyland (if not obsessive) fan and attendee, we got a great deal on tickets ($100 for the four of us. Yes, hard to believe that is a good deal). But there was no getting around the inflated prices of every little thing you “need” to buy, once you’re inside the gates. I figured…Well, we’re here. All in. Later: Me at the hotel trying to figure out how in the hell we are going to get these $24 balloons in the car. $24. Balloons.
I guess it was an ok time. The kids are too small to go on any of the rides really. Ava and I went on a Merry-Go-Round which was exactly like you think it would be. Then we watched the fireworks show…which was a little schizophrenic. I didn’t know that a huge focal point of the firework show is to see Tinkerbell (or Dumbo?) fly behind the castle. Well that didn’t happen and our girls were disappointed. Add to that the fact that we missed the Princesses and – you guessed it – we’re going back today. Another $100, plus whatever they decide they want to spend while we’re there.
Ok I’m done writing now and I just bought a yogurt parfait to take up to the girls. There I will split it in two hotel glasses for them to eat with spoons. It’s a good snack for early in the morning. After that we will load up and start our day.
p.s. The food at Disneyland was awful. I’m getting a little antsy about not having any good LA food yet. It’s been a day.