Yeah, so, once again, and suprisingly, I am sure, my sad attempts to actually sit down and write things on a daily basis on the USA trip came to a grand result of absolute diddlyshit. I suppose I was just too busy doing things to take a step back and contemplate. Actually, it feels like I've been so busy I haven't had a chance to think or fart. Fortunately, farting doesn't take much thinking, or I'd really be in trouble.
Anyway, USA trip was fantastic - 2.5 weeks of pretty much non-ending coolness. I spent the first few days in San Diego, and, for the first time (possibly ever?) a few days in SD on my own. I'm going to have to make a habit of doing that, b/c it gave me the rare chance to actually sit down and have a proper talk with Poppa - sort of one of those life, the universe and everything talks, that is not at all possible when there are crowds of people there and he puts on the happy mask. (I suppose it doesn't say much for my overall powers of observation that it has really only been in the past few years I've fully understood this - I suppose that's sort of one of those 'growing up' things). I think that one of the things that really stands out is the degree to which people (probably subconsciously) end up treating him like he's a delicate piece of china - he might break at the slightest provocation. I mean, really - the guy's been around 93 years and has seen a few things. True, his vision and hearing leave a little to be desired (we had a very exciting conversation at In and Out Burger when he didn't bring his hearing aids), but, not surprisingly, it really irritates the shit out of him that people treat him like he'll break if confronted with the various truths of life. Anyway, I can't overstate how much I really appreciated the time to just sit down and talk.
I did get the chance, this time, for the first time in years, to visit El Cajon and Spring Valley. El Cajon, I have to say, was about as I remembered it (a bit trashy), but, save for the houses that had burned down, and the attempts to gentrify downtown (unsuccessful, I might add), about the same. Spring Valley, on the other hand, had just gone to hell, and that's putting it nicely. The overall impression was one of decay and ruin, with hints of danger (gangbangers hanging about and such). I drove up to see the old house, or, rather, the location of the old house, and found the garage - listing a bit in the shade of the grown eucalyptus - the overgrown remnants of the plants planted by Mom and Dad, and a hideous, half-built monument to greed - a McMansion - in place of the old house. Parked in front were some number of half-dead cars, and taking the place of the garden was a fenced in enclosure containing various types of industrial debris, trucks, etc. I suppose the Szuch's house was still there, greyed with time, replete with the usual 'Keep Out' signs, but, to be honest, the whole experience was heartbreaking. I wish I had never gone back there to see a childhood memory trashed.
That's enough of that.
The wedding was really nice, and I don't use 'nice' in a bland, blah kind of way. I thought Debbie was just about to explode with happiness when the two of them were standing up there in front of Brian. I have a pretty groovy family, I have to admit (weirdos and all!).
After San Diego, I drove up to LA with Mom and Katherine in Katherine's new car. I figured it would be easier if I just tried to find the place we were going while driving, rather than attempting to get one of them to navigate through big bad LA (which, on a Sunday, was pretty dead). We met Robin at this little French bakery right near downtown (I'd been there a few years ago and had a fab omelette, and the French waiters were really dishy). The omelettes remained amazing, but the French seem to have all been replaced by Mexicans. I suppose Mexicans can make omelettes as well... Sigh. So, Mom and Katherine drove off into the sunset (OK, the early afternoon), and Robin and I headed in the rental car out to the Huntington Garden for some serious plant nerding. There is something really refreshing about wandering around a place like that with someone who is about 100x nerdier than me! Robin was a bit jet-lagged, and hadn't gotten much sleep after a crappy flight, an interrogation by the border control (as he is a notorious homosexual), and having lost his luggage. Fortunately, he found solace in the arms of some nice young thing he found on the internet.
Plant chat finished, we drove out to West Hollywood, where we stayed in a fairly astonishingly pink Ramada. I have to say, WeHo is the most ridiculous place I have ever been. I mean, it's so gay that even the police cars have rainbows on them - one can be screwed by the gay boys in all sort of ways in West Hollywood, I suppose. I know - bad. I had a very nice morning run out to Beverly Hills - ran down Rodeo Drive and everything. I managed about a block on that street and had to leave - I was afraid I might be overwhelmed by the number of late middle aged women who had had so many facelifts as to have given themselves a beard (yes, I lifted that from somewhere), not to mention the squirrel dogs, and the roving hordes of tourists taking their pictures. No recession there! Rather cleverly, Beverly Hills had signs up advertising the upcoming 90210 Festival, which started, wait for it, on 9/02/10. Classy.
Anyway, after our run and gym (we have priorities, you know), Robin and I headed out to Century City, to get me onto the car agreement, and then it was time to head north. I managed to convince Robin to let me drive through LA - he is way the hell too timid in LA traffic. I've done that drive back and forth from SoCal so many times I can pretty much do it without thinking - I don't think Robin was terribly pleased about how long and boring it was though - and we even took I-5, which isn't half as bad as 99. We stopped somewhere around Goosefart or Chickenwhistle for dinner, which consisted of something that may well have been a burrito. Note to self - putting two boys who have eaten sketchy burritos into one car and closing the window is a bad plan.
Had a few days to chill then in Sacto. Met Angus, the world's most laid-back enormous dog, did some shopping, collected bugs in Mom's pool (while ostensibly tanning) and went up to Coloma. We also got to hang out with Chloe a bit more, who, I have to say, is a damn cute kid. Probably cuter given that I've never had to change a dirty diaper (thank God), but still, pretty cute - and smart as well. Lots of words, and she's cottonned on pretty quickly to the fact that cuteness will get her a long way (read the umpteenth book to you? no problem!).
Sadly, Robin did not have any boy adventures while in Sacramento, though not for lack of trying. I wasn't sure how exactly I was going to explain to Mom why he needed to take the car out to Elk Grove to visit his long lost cousin that he hadn't known about until five minutes ago...
We did, however, have some very yummy salads and cookies at a lesbionic cafe in midtown Sac. I'm sure that nearly made up for it. Also exchanged the rather wobbly Nissan Altima for a less wobbly, but noticeably dirtier Camry. (I also had to inflate all four tires, which didn't impress me much).
And, Robin tried his hand at being the Marlboro man on Shylah the horse. Of course, I had to take as many pictures as possible, with the hope that one of them might make the grade and end up butching up his Gaydar profile. Anyway, many pictures were taken as he rode around the ring and the sun went down (I should point out that he was shirtless). It's possible though that the pictures more conveyed something along the lines of Lady Godiva than Marlboro. We can but try.
I sent Robin off to SFO on the Amtrak and headed up to Shady Cove, OR, for more family excitement. Fortunately for all, Robin was able to make up for his poor boy-hunting performance. I, on the other hand, had a yummy milkshake in Corning and had an uneventful and suitably pleasant drive 350 miles north to what may be one of the redneckiest towns I've been to on the West Coast.
I would be lying if I said that I hadn't been worrying about that reunion. Well, not about the reunion itself - I love family reunions, but about the fact that this was going to be the first reunion Mom had been to since the divorce. I think she'd managed to work herself up pretty well before then, which, of course, stressed out all the kids, but I have to say that it was fine. Mom talked to Jan, ignored Dad (pretty effectively, to an almost comical degree), and everyone had a good time. We sat around, bullshitted, ate lots of food (including way too much cake), and everyone came out of the experience in one piece. I kind of feel like that may have been a bit of a sea change in the ongoing Mom/Dad drama - God I hope so! (I suppose if the family can move beyond the days of 'Moron Valley' (Morongo Valley), there is hope...
Didn't get much sleep there - the first two nights were in a hotel, shared with Mom and Katherine (I won't make any mention of any sniffing, coughing or nose blowing that went on during the night), and the 3rd night was on an inflato-bed at GP Plumer/Jere's. This would have been fine, had they not an electric, faux-Westminster chimes clock outside the door of the room, which happily announced the top of every hour (without ever actually chiming the hour). Waking up once an hour, every hour, is not generally good for one's overall night's rest. Anyway, having survived the 1000% white, tea-party-loving charm of southern Oregon (well, except for Crater Lake, which, as we all noted, seemed to have been taken over by the Indian subcontinent), I hopped into the car and headed southward and westward, towards Arcata - possibly the world's hippy-dippyest town.
Hung out with Jen there (I'd not seen her since we met at a motel for an evening of bullshit and crap wine in the meth-heavy lovely burg of Ukiah a few years previously). We sat around on the beach, watched the sun set, froze (this is the north coast we're talking about), and then (as one does), capped the evening off with some bad Chinese food (the only thing open on Labor Day).
And you think this might be the 'and finally', but it's not... Made a brief sojourn through SFO, where I dropped the car and met Robin (fresh from yet another boy-venture). Spent not enough hours sleeping in a room with a gorgeous view near Union Square (complete with minor earthquake), then headed the next morning to NYC.
It's kind of hard to get one's brain around San Diego/West Hollywood/Sacramento/Shady Cove/Arcata/SFO/New York - a typical Doug trip. I think, by the time we got to New York, it felt like we'd been gone about a month, but, to be honest, I really didn't feel at all ready to come back to normality, work, routine. I kinda like nomading around.
New York did, and does still feel like home. Robin doesn't much like it - finds it too neurotic and shallow (well, duh?), but there's something about that city I really love. I think it may be the hardest place to go back to, because it really does feel like I'm coming home, more than another other place except here (possibly equal to here though). I've never understood why that city feels as it does - I suppose one just accepts those sorts of things and is happy that there is a place in the world that does actually feel like home.
We had a day to spend in New York - wandered around downtown, walked along the river, ate good food, saw a friend of Robin's and two of mine (Ray and normal-John). Robin spread the love around that city as well (do we notice a pattern here?) and I had a lovely run along the river.
Will have pics up as soon as I can get them together.
I always feel a little out of sort after these trips for a week or so - I've managed to move my life halfway across the world - and it's a little emotionally overwhelming to drop myself back into the extended family, and things from childhood. I wouldn't miss it though. As I said, I have a pretty cool family, and am always happy to schlep my ass across the ocean to see them.
Oh, the title of the blog? Suppose that's b/c David has purchased what may be the world's biggest TV - 63 inches (and 3D). The box would fit a Smart Car (well, almost). However, as he is quick to point out, it's very energy efficient and only weighs 38kg without stand. It's going to get mounted above the fire place after we move. We may need planning permission, as I'm pretty sure it generates its own weather.
So yeah, back to normal. Will try again, as usual, to do this more frequently, which might be easier when I'm not trying to recount several weeks at once.