Tuesday, July 25, 2006

So Cal Adventures

I arrived at RDU around 5:15 pm, for my 6:55 flight. (I like to be early.) There had been a brief downpour on the way to the airport but as summer thunderstorms are wont to do, it cleared up quickly. This was my first flight on Delta, and near the terminal there was a used bookstore. Genius! Why there isn't one in every single airport is beyond me! I got Sophie Kinsella's Confessions of a Shopaholic and am finding it a quick and entertaining read. We boarded the plane on time, but sat on the tarmac for a short while due to the air traffic controllers trying to decide how to route everyone around a storm off to the west. Once we took off, the flight was smooth and quick: only a little over four hours.

When we landed at LAX we once again were forced to sit on the tarmac, this time because there was an American Airlines plane blocking the way. After picking up my luggage I headed outside to wait for the Flyaway. Immediately I was struck by the coolness and salty smell of the heavenly ocean breeze. A thought flashed in the back of my mind...why did I ever leave this? As we left the airport we drove along a very familiar route; we passed my old office, came near my old apartments, and the memories were so potent. Another flicker: If this is how I was feeling about an area I lived in for a mere 18 months, how would I feel returning to the town I grew up in?

Van Nuys was a tad warmer, but still quite lovely. My dear friend Nicole, who picked me up, was a shadow of her former self, looking quite fit and tanned. We gabbed in the car as if we were never apart. Don't you just love friendships like that? We stayed up pretty late (4 am according to my jetlagged body) but there was so much to talk about!

Friday morning, I got to sleep in. Nicole went off to a wedding-related brunch, and then later we met up for a late lunch with all our girlfriends at a local restaurant. I got to meet all the new babies! There were no fewer than three new little ones. Owen, a tank of a 5-month tot with the fullest head of unruly hair you can imagine:

Logan, a quiet guy who was just taking everything in. And Katy, the youngest at only 8 weeks, who slept the entire time. All the girls shared stories of motherhood--mostly the joys but also some of the frustrations.

Afterwards Nicole and I were off for a pedicure. I like So Cal pedicures because you can get flowers painted on your toes.
A rather simple request, but apparently unheard of in NC, and I think it adds a fancy touch. Our toes barely had time to dry before I was whisked off to the mall to meet a friend for dinner, while Nicole went to the wedding rehearsal. I ate at BJ's, a chain we don't have here in NC, and there was some serious avocado action going on. I had the avocado eggrolls (not as good as Cheesecake Factory's, but yummy nonetheless) and the Santa Fe salad which had slices of avo on top. After my friend left I headed over to the wedding rehearsal dinner at Buca di Beppo's for dessert. The groom's cake was to die for.

Saturday morning we got up early and headed over to the wedding reception site to start setting up. Silly me, I thought we'd be done by 11, but we didn't get out of there until after noon. We rushed home, showered and got all dolled up, then headed across the valley to the wedding. On the way we were tasked with putting up signs and balloons to direct the guests to the out-of-the-way church. The ceremony was to start at 3:00, and at 2:45 Nicole and I were struggling to stick little signs in the ground in the 108-degree heat and whipping winds. Needless to say, I asked myself why I bothered showering! By the time we arrived, we were among the last few. Oh well. Because Nicole was kind of on the "inside track," being involved in the reception and all, we got in to see the bride before the ceremony. Erin looked radiant.

Gorgeous dress. And I'm not normally a fan of wedding dresses. The ceremony was about 30 minutes, with a couple of singing performances. I couldn't hear the bride and groom say their vows--it didn't help that we were seated in the last row so that we could bolt as soon as the ceremony ended and head over to the reception to prepare for the guests' arrival.

There were a few minor glitches at the reception (the mike had some feedback and volume issues, the temperature in the foyer prior to dinner was a little on the hot side) but overall it went very smoothly, a testimony to my friend's planning prowess. Everything looked beautiful,

and the clubhouse it took place in (Bridgeport in Valencia) was lovely.

There was an Chinese flair to the decorations, since the bride and groom had met in China while doing mission work there. I got to sit at a table with all my friends, so it was a delightful evening.

It was all over rather quickly; by 8 most people were gone. Of course, we didn't leave till much later, being involved in the cleanup.

The biggest bit of drama occurred as we were about to leave the complex, and Nicole reached under her car seat and sliced open two of her fingers. Moments earlier the centerpiece she got to take home had tipped over, spilling water all over the car floor, and meanwhile her cell phone was ringing and we found out that the A/C at her house was not working. Whirlwind! Luckily the cuts were not too deep, and Nicole's roommate figured out how to make the A/C work again. Thank goodness on both accounts!

Sunday we did not have any obligations, so we decided to swing by my parents' old house in Saugus. Wow, the new owner is doing quite a lot of work in the yard!

I wonder what the inside looks like.

We had lunch at the venerable California burger institution that is In 'n' Out. Love me my grilled cheese animal style! Later Nicole was driving me around the valley so I could check out all the new things: roads, bridges, shopping centers, car dealerships, office buildings, etc. Suddenly we heard a weird noise, and when I looked in the side view mirror I saw that the rear tire was flat as a pancake. (What is it with me and flat tires on vacation?) Anyway, we pulled onto a side street and called AAA. We were quoted a wait of 40 minutes, but it ended up being nearly two hours in 113-degree heat. We had the A/C on, but when you're not driving, it doesn't stay very cool. But we made the best of it.

Finally our help arrived--we were his 15th tire change of the day and it was only 3 pm! By this time we had missed our movie, so we did a little shopping and had dinner at Oggi's (they have killer "stix"--basically pizza dough and cheese--and a mean chicken tequila pasta). Eventually we made it to a later showing of The Devil Wears Prada (very cute). Meryl Streep was perfect for that role.

Yesterday we got up and went out to breakfast at IHOP. Gotta love that. We got the tire replaced and then stopped by Trader Joe's but I didn't purchase much because most of my must-haves there are either refrigerated or frozen so I had to settle for drooling over them.

Then we just hung out watching bad TV (E! True Hollywood Story about the cast of Who's the Boss!) and I even indulged in a nap! We purposely left time to cruise around my old haunts in Playa del Rey and Westchester. Sigh. At the airport I got through security like a breeze and somehow found myself on a golf-cart-like shuttle by myself being chauffeured through a tunnel-like hallway to Terminal 6. Very bizarre. The terminal was sweltering; I figured they were conserving energy, because the threat of rolling blackouts is always imminent but apparently they were just having A/C problems. Solution: a decaf frap from Starbucks!

I totally lucked out on the plane getting an entire emergency exit row to myself--that is, until someone came and sat in the aisle seat. That was fine, he didn't bother me. The plane was designed with two exit rows, and I was in the first one, so my seat didn't recline at all, but at least I had the extra leg room. I managed to get a little bit of sleep; I'd say maybe 2 hours. I went straight to work from the airport because why bother going home when I'd have to just turn around and leave right away? Miraculously I was not all that tired today, but I'm sure I will sleep very soundly tonight, especially since I got a massage this evening.

Oh, and by the way, by the end of the trip I was missing NC, and in an even more stunning revelation, I realized I was actually looking forward to getting back to my job. Who knew?


  1. I loved reading this, eventhough I lived all of it except for the airplane rides to and from L.A. It was so awesome having you here Melissa and thank you again for all of your help with the wedding stuff and tire adventure. Next time you come I will order cooler weather. Kay? Talk to you soon.

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed your trip. :) And that you looked forward to returning home. Hope to see you out my way sometime again.

  3. Love the toes and I know what you mean by that heavenly, salty, fresh air. That's what I miss the most about the entire West Coast and may be thing that'll eventually draw us back. But it's also good to go back to the old place and then fly back to your new home and realize it really is home. We haven't done that yet since we moved to Florida so it'll be an interesting exercise if/when we do. And love to buy books at airports - one of my favorites is PDX for that very reason.

  4. Glad you had a good time in the California sunshine. It's always weird when you go by your old home to see what the new person is doing, isn't it?