Monthly Archives: January 2011

Young Man Went West #29-D: Winter Trip Facebook Statuses, Unabridged (Pt. 4)

Day 10-11: Lunch w/Justin Todd in L-Mo, then off to the SF w/Casey Cochran. Met up w/Nate Visconti, Jake Sorensen, Jessi Bucey, Sabeen Knows Techno, Kathryn Woodworth, Anna Felver, Matt Felver, and others. Ate, skated, drank. Woke up early to catch a plane to Maui. Left the airport, met a friend, ate free food. Back to Honolulu. . .

Though Christmas had wrapped up and I was getting on a plane on the 27th, I took full advantage of the 26th in terms of seeing people and going places.  My day started with lunch at IHOP with Casey and our good buddy Justin.  Justin is a busy, busy man with like ten jobs and fifty side projects, so he couldn’t stay too long or come with us to our next destination: the City.  Casey and I took BART to San Francisco where we planned to go ice skating in Union Square with some high school friends.  Along the way from the Embarcadero station to Union Square, we met up with Nate.  Each of my friends was glad the other guy wasn’t going to skate either, for neither could/wanted to.

While waiting in a short but slow line for a chai tea latte and cannoli (sad news: they had no cannoli, so I got a random, twisty pastry), Jake and Jessi arrived.  I couldn’t hang out with them just once.  More good news for Casey and Nate: neither Jake nor Jessi were skating either.  That’s okay, my skating friends were still coming.  I was just glad Casey wasn’t going to be hanging by himself outside the rink.

Finally, Sabeen and Anna showed up, as did Anna’s brother, Matt.  The three of them just come from a performance of The Nutcracker.  I would have joined them, but $100 a ticket was a little too steep for a show.  I’ll just YouTube it.

We were nine-people strong with over an hour to kill (our tickets were for a specific timeslot), so we decided to grab some nostalgia-infused burgers at Lori’s Diner, a ’50s-style restaurant.  During our two-block journey there, Anna’s boyfriend and his buddy joined us, so we were a party of twelve going into the poor diner (the extra seat was for Kate, who was joining up with us later).  It actually turned into a party of thirteen because a friend of Anna’s boyfriend’s buddy came along.  The sheer volume of surrounding friends–from as long ago as elementary school to as recent as right then–put a smile on my face.  I was drunk off euphoria.

(Just as a guide, here’s how I group everybody: Casey–elementary-high school; Sabeen, Anna, Kate–high school; Nate, Jake, Jessi–college.  The mixing of friends makes me happy, too.)

With the high school group. Pretty background, pretty company, awkward stance.

As a server, I empathized with our waiter when we asked for split checks.  He was happy to do it, but I drew him a diagram anyway.  I was pretty happy with the diagram, actually, which included a representation of the table and the number of seats around it, the different paying groups numbered and divided by lines, with reference points for orientation, i.e. stairs are on this side, giant airplane to the right, pie shelf to the left, etc.  It was probably the smoothest I’ve paid for a meal in a group that big.

After dinner, we finally took to the rink.  Half of us, anyway.  The ice, however, was crowded with amateurs.  I’m not even sure if what I did was skating or more just standing in a forward motion.  During skate trains and newbie dodging (I imagined I was Han Solo navigating an asteroid field), my friend Juliana finally met up with us.  She’s a friend from college, so it worked out perfectly that those standing on the sideline were Jake, Jessi, and Nate.

On the sidelines. The most attractive poses for Juliana, Casey, Jake, and Jessi.

The sideliners eventually took off for a nearby bar.  After a few more minutes of ice rink traffic jam, I joined them.  Everyone else, determined to skate every minute they paid for, joined in about an hour later.  The bar we ended up in was an Irish pub about half a block from Union Square.  We got a nice little corner with a long booth and were waited on by a crazy, old Irish lady.  I think she liked me.

In pairs and groups, my friends started leaving little by little.  For every friend I reunited with during this trip, I had to say goodbye to all over again.  Eventually, it was just me and Casey driving back to Livermore from the BART station (luckily we got a ride there and didn’t have to take BART).  Okay, it was more Casey driving and me falling asleep in the passenger seat.  That Irish pub had good beer.  I needed all the sleep I could get because I had a 7:40 AM flight to catch the next morning.

For some reason, the cheapest flight back to Honolulu included a three-hour layover in Maui.  Didn’t bother me, though.  For one, I’d never been to Maui, and two, the layover was long enough for me to leave the airport (one of my requirements for having visited a place).  As my days left in Hawaii become fewer–and my off-season tip income gets smaller–the reality of completing my Hawaii bucket list seems further away.  One goal is to visit the five other main islands.  I was determined to leave the airport to check off one-fifth of an item on that bucket list.

I hesitated at the exit gate, not sure where to go, what to see, or if I had enough time to come back and stand at the checkpoint.  But then I left.  Who cares what I’m not sure about?  I couldn’t come this close to another island without leaving the airport.  Bottom line.  I pulled out my laptop and looked on Google Maps for anything nearby.  I was this close to cabbing it to Bubba Gump’s, but that was in the main tourist city of Lahain, which is on the west side.  I was in Kahului on the north side.  Granted, it wouldn’t be too long of a taxi ride, but every minute counted in this layover.  Luckily, something in Kahului part of the map caught my eye: Whole Foods Market.

It took under ten minutes and less than ten dollars to get there by taxi.  I was excited by the prospect of seeing my old friend and coworker An Qi (whom you may remember from YMWW #13) at the Kikka Sushi stand inside.  If she worked here as often as she did in the Honolulu store, I was confident she’s be behind the counter when I arrived.  And she was.

An Qi was pleasantly surprised and a little confused to see me.  She was so excited, she bought me lunch.  It had been a while since I chowed down on the Kikka Sushi lunch special.  We talked for a while outside about her lazy coworkers and how Maui differs from Oahu.  She eventually had to go back inside, so I wandered around the outdoor Maui Mall for a bit.  It was small and empty.  I got bored right away and spent the next half hour on my laptop.

The most exciting part of Maui Mall! Yipee.

Luckily, An Qi convinced her friend to drive me back to the airport at the start of his lunch break.  At first, the guy seemed a little annoyed albeit willing, but by the time we started driving, he became very talkative.  He warmed up as soon as he found out I was a Filipino from the mainland, just like him.  I told him about my current wandering lifestyle and he told me all about his past jobs and relationships, and what ultimately drove him to Maui.  During the last few minutes to the airport, he started telling me about this one flight he was on where the engines failed.  He was sure he was going to die.  I was sure that wasn’t a story you tell somebody while dropping them off at the airport.  If I were anybody else, I’d have probably started freaking out.  Instead, I laughed to myself about the morbid irony of the situation.

I parted ways with my five-minute friend, thanking him profusely for the favor.  I definitely need to return to Maui to get the full experience, but I’m counting this little stop as a visit.  And it was a great end cap to a fantastic trip home.  With almost two weeks of memories and much less money in my account, I was ready to hop on that last plane to Honolulu.

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Young Man Went West #29-C: Winter Trip Facebook Statuses, Unabridged (Pt. 3)

Day 7: Berkeley day with my big sis, Melanie Ramil, then lunch in L-mo with Casey Cochran. Last minute Christmas tree shopping with the family proved a failure, so we ended up decorating a 4-foot houseplant and watching a color-corrected version of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ Strange Christmas. . .

I can’t not go to the Bay Area without at least one trip to my old college town.  Except for the occasional new restaurant on Telegraph, signs of progress on the stadium, and the lack of students (I’m always visiting during a break), Berkeley still feels the same.  After trying (and failing) to see my old boss Kelly at the Bancroft Hotel, Ate Melanie and I chowed down on some pupusas in El Platano, a Salvadoran place at which she used to work.  The waitress got three out of four of our pupusa orders wrong, but it didn’t matter; they’re all delicious.

We then hit up the Telegraph Avenue Holiday Street Fair, which comes around every weekend in December.  If you’ve ever walked past the vendors on Telegraph on a normal day, imagine that times a hundred.  And in the street.  The city cordons off four blocks of Telegraph, from Bancroft to Dwight, and vendors from all over the Bay line both sides of the street with their homemade goods.  One can find everything from candles to metal scrap statues, knit mittens to freshly popped kettle corn.  My sister does a lot of Christmas shopping here.

The two of us left Berkeley before I could meet up with my friends in the area so as to beat traffic (sorry Nate and Olivia!).  After grabbing a bit to eat and a beer with Casey at First Street Ale House in downtown Livermore, I rejoined my family for our traditional Christmas tree hunt.  I use the term “hunt” loosely since it usually just means driving to the closest lot.  Usually.  This year was different.  This year, we got a late start because somebody wanted to go gallivanting around southern California until December 22nd, meaning we couldn’t get a tree until the 23rd.  Apparently, nobody thinks people would be in the market for a Christmas tree so late in the game.  Our little shopping venture actually turned into a hunt as we prowled around Livermore in the Hyundai Sonata, scouting out the known Christmas tree lots, only to turn up empty-handed.

Downtrodden, we returned home and ultimately decided to settle on a (shudder) FAKE Christmas tree.  We’ve NEVER had a fake Christmas tree, and I could tell my dad was not happy.  He’s pretty nonchalant about most things, but by the look in his eyes I knew he saw a fake tree as a slap in the face to the memories of his childhood Christmases.  I had messed with tradition, and I felt bad.

While my mom was out buying the plastic Christmas twig, my dad was struck with a clever idea.  “How about this for a Christmas tree?” he yelled from the den.  My sister and I walked around the corner, curious, and found my dad pointing at a four-foot tall house plant.  It was so unexpected we couldn’t help but laugh and love it.  We promptly called up Mom and told her to forget about the fake plant for we had a worthy, if not ironic, substitute.

Another part of our Christmas tradition is decorating the tree with our ornaments, all of which are unique.  Except for our yearly family ornaments (ya know, those big ones with the year and our names), all of ours were gifts from friends, family, and my dad’s past students.  Absolutely no store-bought boxes of bulbs in bulk.  My mom, sister, and I retell the same stories behind each ornament while my dad watches It’s a Wonderful Life and critiques our hanging of said ornaments.  (Actually, we laugh about how we tell the same stories.  Pretty meta.)  This year, we couldn’t find our copy of the Frank Capra classic, so while my mom was out not buying the tree, she also purchased a new copy.  This one had a colorized version on the flip side.  Staring at our Christmas house plant, which was sagging under the weight of a fraction of our ornaments, my dad and I knew we had to watch the colorized version, much to my sister’s displeasure.  It was different, not worse.  The main thing was that I discovered how many daytime scenes there were.

The family in front of our Christmas House Plant

‘Twas a strange Christmas, but it’ll ultimately go down as one of the most memorable.

Day 8-9: Sister and I had breakfast w/Jake Sorensen and Jessi Bucey in Sac before continuing on to Lotus for the traditional Christmas Eve extravaganza with the Ramils. Good times, as always. Drove back home the next morning with the family and stayed in pajamas all day, even through our family Christmas dinner. The parents got the hang of their nooks a lot faster than expected.

Our Christmas Eves are spent with my dad’s side of the family at our “house in the woods” in Lotus.  Since my mom had to work until the evening, my dad stayed behind while my sister and I headed north that morning.  Sacramento is somewhat on the way to Lotus, so that was our first stop.  Not only does my sister live there, but so does my college roommate Jake and his girlfriend Jessi.  The four of us met up for breakfast.  Over delicious omelettes, our conversation quickly turned from jobs and future prospects to robots, hypothetical universes, and screenplays.  Some things never change.  Though brief, our encounters are never boring.

After a quick stop at my sister’s rat-terrorized apartment (a gritty war story that should–and may–be its own post), we continued on to Lotus.  Since its usually just the northern California chapter of our family, this get-together is relatively small compared to the bigger events (like a 100th birthday).  Ya know, only about forty or so people.

Everything played out as it it usually does: aunties in the kitchen cooking too much food, uncles drinking outside around the fire, cousins lounging about the living room while their kids run around on an endless amount of energy.  Dinnertime looks pretty much the same except everybody has an overflowing plate in hand.  There’s no room for a table big enough to hold us.  After dinner comes the presents, which, in my family, is a two- to three- hour long event.

I have noticed a drop in the patience and gratitude levels of the young folk.  When I was a kid, I hugged everybody who gave me a gift and waited patiently for my next one.  I’m not saying there aren’t some little cousins that do exactly that (see photo below), but there are definitely others who seem unsatisfied unless there’s a constant stream of toys coming there way.  I’m going to blame this on instantly-gratifying, Internet-infused, multimedia technology.  Attention spans have become an endangered species.  Thankfully, as long as we have family–and some copy of It’s a Wonderful Life–Christmas spirit will not be.

Exception: this kid. He sat quietly, was genuinely excited every time his name was called ("For me?!"), and loved EVERY gift he got ("This is EXACTLY what I wanted!")

The next morning we drove back to Livermore for more of my immediate family’s tradition: opening presents in pajamas.  As the baby in the family, I love this tradition because I’m the young one all over again (as opposed to the older cousin who hands out presents and plays in the adults’ White Elephant).  We drank hot chocolate and snacked on a plethora of random hors d’oeuvres my mom prepared.  My Uncle Mike and Cousin Jordan even stopped by for a second on their way back from Lotus.  Even though our rented digital copy of A Christmas Carol crapped out, I couldn’t ask for more.

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Young Man Went West #29-B: Winter Trip Facebook Statuses, Unabridged (Pt. 2)

Day 3-4: Flew into LA with Lawrence Burkart and hung around PV. Next day, romped around a rainy Disneyland with Amanda Bates in tow. Ended the night at the Long Beach Bubba Gump’s.

My college roommate Lawrence had spent the few days prior showing his girlfriend, Polina, and buddy, Connor, around the Bay Area, as they were all visiting from Northwestern for winter break.  Polina–born in Russia, raised in Texas, and living in Chicago–had been to California before, but it was Connor’s–born and raised in Kansas, living in Chicago–first time.  Our original plan was to meet up and road trip it down Southern California, but that fell through because neither of us had a car.  Minor details.  So instead, we booked a cheap flight to LA.  I met up with Lawrence and his Chicago crowd at Oakland Airport.

Lawrence’s high school/college buddy, Aaron, picked us up from LAX and drove us to their hoighty-toighty town of Palos Verdes.  We’re talking big houses on a hill, clear views of the ocean, and wild peacocks–the fancy man’s pigeon–roaming the streets.  After some Chinese food and board games, we turned in relatively early so we could be up in time to reach Disneyland when the gates opened.

We woke up bright and early. . . minus the bright part.  Giant grey clouds threatened the coming of rain.  We crossed our fingers for an empty threat.

Disneyland itself is pretty exciting, but what I was looking forward to the most was meeting up with my good friend Amanda.  I had worked with her at Bubba Gump’s, but she left last summer for San Diego, which means she was relatively close and willing to drive up to spend a day in the park with us.  She arrived at the gates not too long after we did.  It was great to see her again after half a year.  Her smile was just as bright, but she lost a little bit of her Hawaiian tan.  I let her know right away.

Amanda amid the drizzle at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Our party now numbering six, we entered the Magic Kingdom, grey clouds still looming overhead.  Our first stops were Space Mountain, Astro Blaster, and the Matterhorn.  The lines were insignificant, so we shot from one to the next in no time, and still dry.  However, as we were drifting to the end of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, we noticed that those in line donned wet jackets and ponchos.  The clouds had made good on their threat.

We scurried to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in a drizzle, and then to the Indiana Jones ride in a light rain.  By the time we got out, Amanda and I had decided it was time to give in and buy some ponchos.  They cost us six bucks a piece and a weird conversation with a fedora-wearing shop worker in Adventureland.

The rain only got harder as the day went on.  Luckily, most of the rides were indoor.  I think we hit up Space Mountain again and then the Haunted Mansion before hopping over to California Adventure park.  Our first order of business: food.  Of course, with the whole park trying to stay dry and outside seating out of commission, finding a place to sit was an adventure itself.  The majority of our group stood in line for the food while Polina and I scouted out potential tables.  She took one side of the restaurant, I took the other.

We stalked around from table to table, judging each party’s estimated time of departure, eyeballing those whose plates sat empty while they lounged a bit longer.  We lurked in the corners, ready to swoop in like vultures.  I had entered into an alliance with another man who was occupying a four-top while waiting for the adjacent six-top I had my eye on.  He told me he had claimed the larger table already, but would make sure I got the smaller one once they shifted over.  A small table was better than no table, so I happily accepted.  Ultimately, it was an unnecessary deal, as Polina had acquired a six-top on the other side of the restaurant.  I thanked the man, gave my table to some nearby vultures, and joined Polina in holding down fort.  Somehow, our burgers tasted better under envious gazes of table-less patrons.

We braved the rainstorm through a few tours of the Hollywood Tower of Terror, Soarin’ Over California, and even the outdoor rollercoaster California Screamin’.  Raindrops at that speed feel like hail pelting your face.  However, by about five o’clock, the rain was a straight-up downpour and we collectively decided we couldn’t hold out for the fake snow and fireworks that occur near closing.  I’m not even sure if it happened that night.  We left drenched but not down-spirited.  Disneyland is still Disneyland and we had a great time.  Well, I can’t speak for Connor, who was looking forward to some California sunshine between the snows of Chicago and Kansas.

Connor: "This is not the California weather you promised me, Lawrence!" (from Connor's album, but I took the picture, so I'm gonna use it!)

Sweetly and sorrowfully, I parted ways with Amanda and the rest of us headed back to Palos Verdes.  We put on some clean clothes, had some filling and discounted meals at the Long Beach Bubba Gump’s, and ended the night with more board games.

Connor, Polina, Lawrence, and Aaron on the early shuttle out of the park.

Day 5-6: Explored a rainy Venice Beach w/Lawrence Burkart & co., then had awesome coffee talk w/Ian Villanueva & Sarah Prochaska in downtown LA’s Farmer’s Market. Ended the night making spam musubi w/Leslie O’Neill. Hit up Santa Monica Pier w/Lawrence & co. the following day before flying back to the Bay.

The rain in LA continued on through the next few days.  Luckily, it was only a slight drizzle when Lawrence, Polina, Connor, and I walked around Venice Beach.  It was my first time in Venice Beach, I’d realized, but it definitely felt familiar.  Lawrence described it as Berkeley on the beach.  It sure as hell smelled like Telegraph Ave.  The walkway was nearly empty, only a handful hobos and junkies riding about on stolen bikes.  I loved the place immediately.  We got a bite to eat at a (covered) sidewalk cafe and left.

While the rest of the crew headed into the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), I met up with Ian and another great college buddy named Sarah whom I haven’t seen since graduation.  Sarah and I had a lot of catching up to do, but it was okay because she talks faster than anyone I know.  She was able to relate the past year and a half–in detail–in a few hours.  The three of us chatted over coffee and then wine (I know!  So grown up!) at the LA Farmers Market, which, by the way, is the cleanest and most organized farmers market I’ve ever seen.  I don’t think it counts.  Later, we walked around a really posh, outdoor mall called The Grove.  I didn’t realize how much I missed Sarah until that night.  She’s a good friend with great dating tips.  I’d love for her to come out here and wingwoman for me.  And by the way, there’s no lack of love for Ian, too.  It’s just I see that dude all the time.

I said my goodbyes to one good friend and Ian dropped me off at the house of another: Leslie.  We made Spam musubi, one of her favorite discoveries from visiting me in Hawaii, and then she fell asleep watching an episode of The Wire (which I still want back, Leslie!).  See, Leslie has one of those grown-up jobs and has to wake up early all the time, like five times a week!  But not me, I stayed up and watched Jaws by myself.  It was my first time (shocking!).  A little dated, but still a good flick.

Leslie

Funny little sidenote:  My flight back to the Bay Area was the next day, December 22nd.  I had booked it for 9:30 PM, but for some reason, had it in my head that it was at 9:30 AM.  I had plans to fly into Oakland, BART it to Berkeley and meet up with my friend Olivia, then head to Livermore in the late afternoon so my family and I could go Christmas tree shopping.  Fortunately, I checked my flight details a few days prior and caught the mistake.  Unfortunately, I had to cancel the aforementioned plans.  So instead. . .

The next morning, Leslie dropped me off at a mall in Beverly Hills before heading off to work.  I did some last minute Christmas shopping and then Lawrence and friends picked me up on their way to Santa Monica.  The sunlight peaked out from behind the rainclouds as we walked around Third Street Promenade, a long outdoor pedestrian mall with interesting shops, nice restaurants, and the most helpful tour guide I’d ever met.  It did rain a bit, but fortunately only while we were eating.  It dried up again as we strolled along the Santa Monica Pier (they also have a Bubba’s.  Yes, I went inside).  I’m glad Connor got to see a little sun before heading to his snowy Kansas home.  We both had flights that night.

The So Cal leg of my trip had come to a close.  I met a lot of old friends, and made a couple new ones.  Disneyland was a minor letdown, but I discovered parts of LA I actually liked.  A lot of good memories were stuffed into a few short days, with many more to come upon my return to the Bay.

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Young Man Went West #29-A: Winter Trip Facebook Statuses, Unabridged (Pt. 1)

Day 1: HNL to OAK. Arrive @ 9:45 PST. Meet family at hotel in Concord and prepare for my grandma’s 100th birthday celebration tomorrow.

Unlike most trips I take to and from California, I flew into Oakland with company, my cousin Brad.  Managed to get the seat next to him, across the aisle.  It was a typical, uneventful flight, but that’s a good thing when it comes to air travel considering the alternative: screaming, crashing, flames, and death.  Instead, this one consisted of Sky Mall, sporadic naps, and most of Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World (my laptop died before the last scene).  We arrived at Oakland Airport in the brisk, breezy night.  My body covered  with warm layers and a big smile, I was happy to be back in the Bay.

Day 2: Went straight from the airport to BART to a bar (and later a diner) with the cousins. Went to bed late, woke up early. Now, putting together a slideshow for my grandma’s 100th birthday celebration tonight.

Since all of our family was at a Hilton in the nearby city of Concord, Brad and I took a free shuttle from the airport to an Oakland BART station, and then took BART into Concord.  I would have liked to say that our older siblings were there shortly afterward to pick us up, but somehow they got lost along the way, which is surprising since they’ve each lived in or near Concord at some point in their lives.  It’s alright, they came bearing Taco Bell.

Instead of heading to the  hotel where I could have dropped off my unnecessarily large, half-filled suitcase (only one I had), we drove straight to a downtown bar where a dozen of our cousins were already drinking.  I’m not complaining; being a young traveler and a family-oriented man, this was a fantastic welcome!  Although, it was weird seeing so many old, white people in a bar (you know, everybody but my family), but that’s what happens when you live in Hawaii for fifteen months.  We capped the night at a 24-hour diner, overwhelming the other diners in sheer number and volume.  Never put a drunk Filipino family in a public place with a jukebox.

I made it to the hotel in the wee hours of the night.  My loving parents woke up just long enough to hug me hello before falling back asleep.

We woke up relatively early the next morning to start on preparations for that evening’s festivities.  My main job was to put together a slideshow of my grandmother to play while people shuffled into the ballroom.  Projects in hand, we all congregated in a top floor suite and buckled down to business for the next few hours.  It almost felt like a busy campaign office before an election, except instead of fliers and buttons we had too much food and dozens of relatives to hug hello.  Though we were all working hard for that one special someone: birthday girl Fausta Reyes Ramil.

Fausta Ramil a.k.a. Grandma a.k.a. Lola

Day 3: Crazy night with the family. 6 hours of celebration, including a 3-hour talent show and then dancefloor badness. After party included 50 tacos from Jack in the Box at 3 AM. Now, it’s time to fly to LA.

All the aunties, uncles, and cousins were dressed to the nines and down in the ballroom around 5 pm.  Surrounding the stage and dancefloor were twenty-two linen-covered tables, a DJ, and a bustling catering crew.  After some frantic family photos (with what seemed a less-than-enthusiastic photographer) we spread out to greet, organize, and mingle with the other guests: friends and family from grandma’s past and present.  In all, attendance was around two hundred people.

This is just the family. . . which made up for about half the guest list.

Of course, my family just can’t say a few words, move to dinner, and mingle all night.  Oh no, we had a well-scheduled, fourteen-act talent show filled with song, dance, skits, and my uncle’s version of “This Is Your Life!”  I think the guests not as familiar with my family were pleasantly surprised by Polynesian and Filipino dances, the multiple duets, and the big show numbers.  Either that, or they were too scared to move.

Dinner was served during the performances, and after all was digested and the last act took a bow, the party started.  Everybody–young and old, family or friend, born into the craziness or witnessing it for the first time–took to the dancefloor and busted many a groove.  During all three hours of this, my grandmother refused to go to bed.  At one hundred years young, she stayed up ’til midnight to watch her legacy celebrate in her honor.

When the DJ announced the last song of the night, my sister–cousin number fourteen and that evening’s event coordinator–came up with one of her best ideas.  After the song ended she had everybody make a huge circle on the dancefloor.  My Auntie Gloria wheeled grandma to the center and the DJ started playing one last song: Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings,” a family favorite.  Auntie Gloria spun grandma around slowly as we all sang to her.  There was not a dry eye in that circle.

The old ones went to bed, while the young ones (and the old ones who still think they’re young) retreated to the common room for some debauchery and poker.  After a while we got hungry, and since nobody was delivering pizza, my cousin’s husband Scott and I made a late night run to Jack in the Box for fifty (“Yes, five-zero”) tacos.  We held up the drive-thru line long enough for some woman to get out of her car and yell at us and/or the graveshift workers.  Scott and I thought we were returning to at least ten hungry men, but instead found a room of about four or five, with another passed out on the floor.  We that remained did as much damage as we could to the greasy bags, but barely made it through twenty or so tacos.  My limit, I found out, was four (not because I was full, but because my body couldn’t handle that much questionable meat).

The next day, after a hearty breakfast and many hugs goodbye, I went back to Oakland Airport for the So Cal leg of my trip.

 

Dancing to one of our family favorites: "Come On, Eileen."

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