324 miles

We're off to Mammoth tomorrow for a week of camping... In a tent trailer... With a 16-month-old baby. Wish us luck!


The REAL shining city on the hill

I spent part of last week in San Francisco with my brother, Dave. He had to go to some seminar for work and wanted company for the drive up and back, so I happily accepted the invitation. I love to travel just about anywhere, and I've never stayed in San Francisco.

The drive up was boring and uneventful, just a lot of nothing. Dave's GPS basically gave us two instructions: 1. Find the 5 and 2. Drive north until you're comatose. Which we did. I caught Dave banging on the steering wheel trying to stay awake. He thinks I don't know that's why he was doing it, but I do. It's the same thing I used to do driving home from wherever at two in the morning.

We hit the city around dinner time and went to Fisherman's Wharf for chowda at Boudin's. So good! They claim to have the original bread bowl, but so does every other seafood place around there. We hung out on Pier 39 for a while, then drove to our hotel: the Sir Francis Drake Hotel on Union Square. Gorgeous hotel, but the room Dave reserved was the smallest hotel room I've ever seen. We tried to upgrade, but the snooty concierge told us they were all booked up. So I slept on the floor the first night, then traded for the bed the second.

On Thursday I was on my own for most of the day and got to explore the Union Square part of the city a little. It was so much fun! I loved everything about it: the weather, the shops, the people most of all. Everyone seemed so friendly and relaxed, and I felt like the people that worked in Starbucks and Borders were already my friends. So different from around here, where it tends to be a struggle to get a smile out of people. I sat in Union Square for a long time that afternoon writing, listening to the Thicker than Water soundtrack (it just seemed to fit) and watching people check out the art show. Later I met Dave near the financial district and we walked all over the place, looking at the buildings and the shops. The architecture there is amazing and beautiful. It's like they rebuilt the whole place in 1907 and haven't touched it since.

That night Barbara came into the city and we went to dinner at Brindisi in Belden Place. I loved eating outdoors in the alley, sitting so close to the people next to us that we could've (and almost did) eat off of each other's plates. It was great to see Barbara and talk about what's been going on and what's coming up and what our latest music finds are. After dinner we walked down to the Virgin Megastore to stock up. I was looking for an Owen album I'm having trouble finding, and Barbara was looking for various things that she got talked out of. I wound up with an American Football album, and Barbara got a Cure and a couple of U2s. Dave joined us at the store and we walked Barbara back to the BART station, and then Dave and I hopped on a cable car (free public transportation day!) at the end of Powell Street and rode it all the way to Fisherman's Wharf and back, standing on the running board of course.

We left Friday morning, stopping in Monterey for more chowder. It was such a fun trip, and San Francisco (what I saw of it) is a wonderful city. I'm sad that I only really got to spend a day there. But I'll definitely be back....


In my former life, I was a crazy trash-digger

Last night there was a going away party for Brian and Ashlee. And I don't want to talk about it. One of the guests was Ashlee's best friend Chara. She was wearing jeans that were all torn up and were so cute, and I began to get all nostalgic for my favorite pair of jeans.

When I was about 15 my parents' neighbors divorced. She (we'll call her D) left him, so he was understandably bitter and gathered up all her things and piled them up on the curb for the trash collectors. A friend and I, having no pride whatsoever, went digging through the pile, because there were clothes in there! Used ones! Already broken in! And we were in our thrift store stage anyway. I found and claimed a perfect pair of Levi's that D had left. They were in great shape. They were beautiful, much like the pants in the traveling pants books. Worn enough to be comfortable, but still in one piece. I wore them off and on in high school, and then the knees ripped out, which made them perfect for when I went off to college. They were the best jeans ever. I wore them when I wasn't feeling good, and when it was raining. Chicken soup for the legs. I wore them to night classes with my favorite olive green sweater and my beat-up fake Converse. I wore them until they ripped out halfway up the thigh sometime during my junior year of college, and then I cut them off into daisy dukes and wore them all through my senior year. And then sometime after I graduated they ripped just below the back pocket and became totally indecent, even for wearing to the beach. I hung onto them even for a while after that, because I couldn't bear to give them up.

Finally, one very sad day, I tried them on one last time (they still fit perfectly) and then took them off, folded them once, and dropped them into the trash. They wound up out on the curb for the trash collectors to take. And when I get to heaven I'm asking for them back. But all in one piece, so I can wear them out all over again.


Stepping out from behind the Orange Curtain

Last week Dave called me up and said one of his clients had given him tickets to a movie in downtown LA. He and Becky couldn't go, so he wondered if Nathan and I wanted them. Of course I said yes, not even caring what the movie was, because it was showing in one of the old movie palaces on Broadway. I didn't really know what that meant, but I love LA history, so I jumped at the chance to visit a historical place. So Nathan and I headed over, getting there a little before 7. We got off the 101 at Spring Street, and the first thing we saw was a homeless person's tent on the sidewalk. Not too unusual, but the tent had graffiti on it. I guess the graffiti artists are really getting desperate for wall space in the city. After getting lost looking for the correct parking structure, we parked in Pershing Square and walked down 6th Street to Broadway, and into a part of town I'd never been to. It's the heart of the jewelry district, and it's a crazy mix of beautiful old buildings and ratty little shops selling gaudy jewelry and cheap clothes. And there were TONS of people walking around.

The movie was Rebel Without a Cause, which I had seen, but not since about 10th grade. It was a fitting movie, because when Nathan was in 8th grade a teacher reprimanded him for something in class, and Nathan talked back, and the teacher said, "Nathan, you're a rebel without a cause." Which is, of course, about the coolest label you can give a 13 year old boy. The teacher meant to bring Nathan down a little, but ended up totally boosting his status. Anyway, after using a serendipitous red light to cut into the enormous line, we were ushered into The Los Angeles Theater. It was built in 1931 at some outrageous cost, and then finally shut down in 1994. It's kind of fallen into disrepair, but it's still really cool, and they're working on restoring it. It looked pretty much like the picture above (minus the video games and the metal detectors on the stairs). Really gorgeous and huge, with two balconies and, in the basement, what used to be a playroom with a carousel for children, and the restrooms, which are works of art in themselves. It was interesting to see it all. I wish I'd been around back when going to the movies was a glamorous event and the area was upscale and beautiful instead of rundown and sad. We had a good time, and the movie was great, much better than I remembered. I don't think I really understood it when I was 15.

My parents came over to watch Judah that night, and before we left my mom was looking at the brochure Dave had given us about the show. It included recommendations of places to eat in the area, and my mom got all excited because it listed Clifton's Cafeteria. It's been around since the early 30s, and she said my grandpa used to take her there to eat when she was a little girl. She was glad to see it was still around, and urged us to eat there if we had time. Unfortunately, that didn't happen.

So this morning I went to my parents' house with Judah to hang out, because we had nothing to do. My mom has the summer off, and my dad, being semi-retired, has Fridays off. We were sitting around trying to come up with something to do. I suggested Ruby's in Newport, but that got nixed because it was too far. A while later my mom suggested Clifton's for lunch, and that got the green light. Suddenly, LA was closer than Newport! Amazing. So we loaded up in my car, since I was confident that I remembered how to get there. And I did. Seeing the tent with its graffiti was proof of that. We parked and walked a few blocks, and located Clifton's, which is so trashy looking from the outside. Inside, it's absolute kitsch paradise.

It's designed to look like the coastal redwoods near Santa Cruz, complete with fake trees, fake bears, and a real (though man-made) waterfall. It has walls lined with those 1950s era landscape photos that are mounted on light boxes, and a prayer chapel on the second level with a neon cross on the roof. I loved it. The food really is cafeteria stlye. You grab a sticky plastic tray and move it along a metal countertop, grabbing anything that appeals to you. It felt like going back in time, with all the vegetable choices and jello salads and macaroni and cheese and fake mashed potatoes and gravy. I think the only update they've made since 1935 is the soft drink machine and the many flavors of Horchata they offer.

After much deliberation, we chose our food (between us we had chicken, ham, an enchilada, mashed potatoes, rice, corn, peach pie, and tapioca pudding) and took it up to the second floor, where we could look out over the whole place. It's huge. The largest public cafeteria in the world, in fact. We gave ourselves a tour after we ate, then wandered back out onto the crowded streets, Judah walking next to my dad, holding his hand. Cutest thing I saw all day.

It's been a fun impromptu history week. I've loved the trips down memory lane, even if the memories mostly belong to other people.


So pretty.....when you're not stuck inside it

So, have you guys checked out The Hub yet? No, unfortunately, I'm not talking about the long gone (RIP, Hub) cafe in downtown Fullerton with the Vespa hanging upside down from the ceiling and Timber playing in the courtyard. I'm talking about Biola's new online alumni network. I saw the ad for it in the latest Connections, and I thought, Hey! What a good idea! I thought I'd go, sign up, and look up a few old friends. So I went, but no one I looked for was there yet. So I spent a while looking around the site, and after a few minutes I got a really weird feeling. Took me a second to figure out what it was, and I finally realized: I felt trapped. The Hub is bubbs revisited. A little more grown up, a little more up to date, but the same idea. And the same people. And the same attitude. And the same bubble. I felt like I was standing in a too-small room. Maybe it's because when I graduated I traded bubbs for the internet, soapboxes for blogs. And the world just seems bigger now. Not that bubbs and the hub are bad ideas. I think they're really great at what they're intended for. The Hub will be great for tracking down people we've lost touch with. But it's kind of like when I go to Biola to meet my mom for lunch. The people walking around are all the same people with different names, and I don't really know any of them anymore. You can't go back.