Stars come out in LA; Misc. Manic Musings
It’s becoming hard to pinpoint the top destination or even highlights of our trip, though that’s fast becoming the #1 question friends ask us along the way. But the past weekend in LA has to rank at the top of the trip, when we took a break from the road to bask in the rare convergence of family and friends to celebrate daughter Emily’s UCLA performance of Euripides’ “Elektra.”
Oldest daughter Kirsty flew in from Boston with her mom for the weekend, and our dear friend Adhir Kalyan took time out from his own acting schedule (you can see him on “Rules of Engagement,” or on his own growing list of film credits) to grab some middle eastern food then head over to the UCLA campus for the performance.
Em and her mates were phenomenal, of course, putting together a creative and energetic interpretation of the classic Greek tragedy, and it was a fitting climax to her UCLA experience and also one of the last times we’ll see her before we spirit off to Cambodia in June. We’ll be back for her graduation, and both girls are coming to Phnom Penh for Christmas, but we all knew it was the last time the four of us would be together for awhile.
So we made the most of it. Gabi, Em and I made dinner at Em’s place for nine of her buddies, and we were once again struck by the talent, personalities and incredible beauty that the UCLA program attracts. Quite the group, as evidenced by the photo. And poor Colin, who as one of Em’s roommates gets to constantly surround himself with fun, interesting and gorgeous girls.
We also got time with my nephew Nick, who has made a helluva life for himself in LA and has served amirably as Emme’s big brother, and with former colleague Matt Policastro, who stopped by the Napa Valley Grill to give us an update on work stuff and rekindle a relationship of mutual admiration.
We closed the weekend with a wonderful brunch in the brilliant blue sunshine of Venice, followed by a group hug and a promise to text, call, and generally keep in touch to maintain our incredibly strong familial ties.
They are quite a pair, my daughters, and Gabi and I talked for the next few hours about what gems they are. Braggart, hell – I just speak the truth.
Back on the road
Speaking of gems, it occurred to me somewhere around Santa Barbara yesterday that among other wonderful things, Gabi is the Energizer Bunny of experiences. I verbalized this observation to her, likening her to a recurring sponge for experiences and opportunities. She has boundless absorptive capacity, immediately rising to any occasion to taste, feel and do. As we spend all our time together, I’m developing an enhanced appreciation of this childlike quality, which yesterday manifested itself when one of us raised the possibility of a Yogurtland treat while driving sometime around 4 p.m.
Yogurtland is a CA-based frozen dessert franchise where, according to the company motto, “You Rule.” You stand in line for 15 minutes or so, then grab a four-inch deep cup and proceed along the line of yummy frozen yogurt dispensers, filling your cup with a concoction, then topping it with your choice of fruits, candies, nuts and sauces.
After I mentioned my craving, Gabi locked onto her Blackberry and within minutes had found a Yogurtland in Santa Barbara. So, off the 101 we went, into the charms of downtown Santa Barbara and into line for a dose of Yogurtland.
I’ve learned, over the past month, that a simple mention of a place to see, something to learn, or a great place to eat will instantly prompt Gabi – research maven extraordinaire – into an efficient hunt for details. We’re like a rolling research library, and the fruits of her labors have enhanced our trip immeasurably.
Bruins Bleed Blue
One of the great things about Southern California is the weather. Terminally sunny and 70s. A bike rider’s heaven on earth. And that made me thrilled to have my trusty Litespeed with me, and I got in two fabulous rides from our digs in Marina del Rey to Malibu along the Pacific Coast Highway, which is as stunning – if risky, given the raging traffic that surges alongside lycra-clad cyclists – ride in the entire US of A.
Yesterday, while backing off on the pedals so I could enjoy the view of the Pacific, where the seal-like forms of surfers dotted the undulating surf, a big guy in a brilliant blue bike shirt eased next to me and struck up a conversation, as road weenies often do with one another to pass the miles and make a human connection before retreating into the solitude of pedal cadence and breathing patterns.
The subject came up that I was visiting from the East Coast and that my daughter was a UCLA student.
“Thank God,” he bellowed as we wheeled along, taking me a bit by surprise. “Out here there’s only one color, and it’s Bruins’ blue,” he continued sitting up and taking his hands off the handlebars so he could emphatically tug at his jersey.
“We don’t do no Trojans,” he ended, referring , I realized, to UCLA’s archrival USC rather than the leading brand of prophylactics. This from a guy in his 40s, long ago graduated from the Bruins ranks himself, but obviously forever an enthusiastic alumni.
I made a U turn to head back to Venice, receiving a fist bump from my new pal and a “Go Bruins!” as he headed off toward Topanga Canyon. Old habits die hard, I guess, and I can understand the guy’s commitment to blue, though my own infatuation with Orange (as in Syracuse) pales by comparison.
The ride back along the coast was much less eventful and quieter, and it was a great chance to soak in the rays, the views and get familiar once again with the whir of a freewheel and the thrum of rubber on pavement.
Back on the road after brunch with the girls, we headed north and stopped near Pismo Beach and today we’ll tackle the stunning coastline south of San Francisco.