The highways danced by as we traveled a thousand miles or so in my little white Sentra these last few days.
Thursday nite ended my week of school, with an A- on my paper and a terrible test-taking experience in Communications. And even after studying. Ah, well. I do enjoy school though - but bigger undertakings and experiences awaited me.
We awoke Friday morning, finished making preparations before leaving, and then began the less-than-eventful 3 1/2 hour drive to Santa Cruz. Driving is still somehow one of my many passions. It's unexplainable - it all started with the joy that came with listening and fervently singing aloud to loud rock music, windows down, blowing my hair and face about, and letting my headlights illuminate unlit sections of night-darkened road - but now even the simple experience of undecorated driving brightens my day. Even when all I hear are the sounds of children's cartoons, the drone of the whizzing streets, or the irritating shriek of some passenger's side sound, and all with the AC on, no music playing, no windows down, and no solitary enjoyment - everything else that comes with it still unleashes that passion within me. Even when I'm acting stressfully or headached or disregarding, it ends on a high note. That life is mine!
We arrived in Santa Cruz to no fanfare and to the highly dramatized high-end suite at the Sunset Inn - owned by the notorious red Kool-Aid haired Laura - and enjoyed a small amount of relaxation. We unloaded, moped about, and then up and headed for the New Leaf in Capitola to visit Joey. His break was over, so we purchased few items and headed back to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and met up with Mikie. We ate cheaply at a not quite delectable hole-in-the-wall Mexican food joint, and then paced to the arcade. It was pretty lively; we watched an Intel-looking 35-ish Japanese man with hiked up Dickies and a fully buttoned white polo dancing Riverdance-style on the DDR machine. It was excellence. The best part of this evening though was when we attempted the Boardwalk. On a Friday nite in mid-September, the place was deader than a New York stare. The only life we found was heralded in Laffing Sal, the freakish ghoul of a marquee stand-up doll that laughed in Something Wicked This Way Comes reminiscence. We got some good video, let me tell you. The rest of the Boardwalk was quiet, dead, not a soul to be seen. I was wishing that we had a great nite camera, and I would put together a photography book entitled Abandoned at the Boardwalk. The gondola had those lifeless life-size dolls with their right arms outstretched around an invisible passenger. Everything rung with a sort of surreal nonexistence, the moon was full and illuminated enough to substitute the usual shop and roller coaster lighting that was missing. We walked until a barricade barred us entrance. I loved it all though, and I shall use those memories for good.
After our strange journey, we returned to the motel suite and finally found sleep.
The next morning we awoke to a choreographed gathering of Joey, Mikie and I, ready to head across 152 to I-5 at 8:30 AM. True to Beatty family nature, it was closer to 9:30. Amid a detour that took us on 129 to 101 and then back up to 152, and our frequent gas and snack stops, I was surprised we were only 45 minutes behind Heather, Adie and Mom who'd also left that morning. Our midday driving led us to our meeting place at Kettleman City on the I-5/Highway 41 exit around 1 o'clock. After eating and chatting, the caravan again hit the road, completed.
Amy drove now and I took to jotting thoughts and a poem for Mom until we hit Los Angeles. That city of angels. LA. Reminding me of big-city Mexico. I'm so out of place with the large cities that they all tend to remind me of each other. But I love the big city and my limited knowledge of it, in an estranged bastard child sort of way - where I want to be there so badly if only for a short time, but I also want to be the visitor with tourist ambitions and a different type of zeal for life and the surroundings that perhaps the residents lack. We found our interesting, small, antique Guest House Inn where our rooms were as big as my small office. The parking garage was miniscule and concealed underground, with a sharp 90-degree turn upon entry. We got our things together and walked as an obvious group of foreigners down Fairfax and Beverly, past the barnhouse whole foods store and the bars on all the windows, past Farmers Market Place and through street-sized crosswalks. It was a pilgrimage!
We arrived at the LA County Museum of Art for the 2005 King Tut Exhibit. After much waiting in line and security checkpoint meandering (absolutely no cameras allowed), we were ushered in into a nearly acute silence - I suppose that three in four people wore the Omar Sharif-narrated audio tour. The cry of a baby was like a sonic boom or a nuclear explosion in there, which made for quite the parental difficulty. But somehow, some way, I was able to see most of the presentation. And it was amazing. History and its intricacies constantly leaves me speechless. These thousand years old dynasties of Egyptian magnificence and all their beliefs and rituals have survived in some form over the course of time's decadence. There were wooden chests and perfectly precise hieroglyphic carvings, large partially crumbling tombs and golden inlaid daggers, masks, statues and canopic jars. I plan to buy the book to read and view all of the 135 astonishing artifacts in uninterrupted (but far less personal) splendor.
As the night wound its way down and started to tick to a stop, we walked to Swingers for dinner. Well, it was dinner if dinner is considered possible at 11:00 PM. Which it is, so be it. Bella slept amid the incessant noise and blaring jukebox. Swingers was wonderful: delicious food, fine service - I'd return in an instant. I discovered quinoa and tasted some organic eggs and had the most delicious egg sandwich BLT bagel ever. Fine, fine place. That late nite ended with sleeping and crying children, popcorn, and a disoriented Jarom at 2:30 AM.
Sunday morning Mom knocked on the door to startle us awake and hand-deliver the hotel's continental breakfast. Turns out that place used to be an old folks' home. Interesting. We traveled its elevator and stalked its courtyard and hallways. We had a circle of love and appreciation for Mom with the presentations of Amy's scrapbook, mine and Joey's poems, kind words and the like. Mikie planned a special serenade for later. And we left. Goodbye, fair Guest House Inn. Tis a day nigh upon us when we shall return.
The arrow-shot of Santa Monica Blvd. was our guide; we followed it to its bitter end, taking in the sights and sounds of those blood vessels of the big city. The Santa Monica Pier was our destination. We sheltered our cars in a massive, confusing parking garage and met up at the pier. We once again were fascinated by the arcade and its drivel - Joey and Adie became kin with the Japanese DDR professional while they attempted to conquer its hip beats. And oh, so hip were they. We had a ride in the Ferris wheel and its gondola, taking in the ocean and the pierside view and giving Mom an aneurysm as Jarom climbed and looked over. It was a glorious day, beautiful, with sun but not scorching, ocean breeze but not chilling. After some time waiting outside the gift shop as Mom spent her hard-earned money on gifts to treat her children and grandchildren, we took a last stop at the 3rd Street Promenade, via the nearby mall. We met up at La Salsa, a delectable stop, and after Mikie stopped a large crowd in the street to sing "L is for the way you look, tonite!" to Mom, we returned to the cars. We said some goodbyes and each found our way to the 405 and its intersection with the 5, and started the northerly trek that would take us back to our habits and lifestyles.
We made some minor stops on the way home and I was a bit tired but not too bad, and then like that - the trip ended. We were back at the small humble apartment we've called home for not quite four years, which we'll soon depart, granting it our utmost thanks and gratitude. Sayonara. Be of good cheer. We'll meet again.
As usual, I was up late after the stimulating drive home - sick to regret from eating so many gas stop delicacies, yearning for detoxification. My head sunk into the pillow at 2:30 AM, and the clock started ticking again.
Audio: Clarity|Jimmy Eat World
Video: Prison Break (some weird TV show on last nite, may as well have been watching nothing)
Text: The Great Gatsby|F. Scott Fitzgerald
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