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.
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.
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.
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.
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.