Sunday, July 12, 2015

To Good Friends and New Memories

Once again I found myself vacationing in California this year. A place that I've fully come to accept will always hold a special place in my heart. With the high prices, insane traffic, and countless not-so-friendly people I've encountered I've not always been so fond of the state; however the more I visit the more familiar I become and the more it's grown on me each and every time.

I've slowly come to learn that while a lot of the LA/California stereotypes hold true it doesn't define every area. It doesn't describe every person. I've also discovered that if I look past all those little quirks, California is so much more. It's a starting place for so many people trying to make a life and a name for themselves. Little neighborhoods that I've stayed in have so much charm and hold so much history. I've found that there are still little family owned shops, little hidden charms that remind me more of home, less of the hustle and bustle of city life. I've learned a lot each time I've stayed there and it's grown on me.

I decided to take a quick trip to Cali before starting classes again in the fall since I know I likely won't be able to the next couple of years. Not many plans were made in advance, but I tried to reach out to everyone I knew there in hopes to connect. Some plans fell through and there was a lot of downtime, but despite all of that I had a great time and ended up seeing nearly everyone I had hoped to see!

I kind of split my vacation up between two locations to maximize how many people I would be able to see. I stayed near Santa Monica with Corey, Ruben, and Jackie the first 4 days. It was definitely the relaxation half of my vacation! I think I watched more movies during those 4 days then I have all year! I don't have cable or satellite so it was fantastic to be able to veg out in front of the TV and channel surf. My three friends had to work a lot of the time I was there. The first full day I was there, which was Thursday, I spent the day between the third street Promenade and Santa Monica Pier.

I am typically not one to enjoy activities alone, especially in a place I'm not all that comfortable with. I had been to the Pier 4 times before and I've been to the Promenade once so thankfully it was a bit familiar. But despite being by myself all day I honestly had such a relaxing and fun day. I guess you can call it one of those self reflecting days. I walked along the beach, listened to the waves as I read a book, got that corn dog I'd been craving for a month, explored the pier - again, went into a ton of little shops, saw a movie (theater with reclining chairs - what?!), and watched a lot of performers and bands. I wasn't on a schedule and I didn't have an agenda for the day so I got to do things completely at my own pace. I discovered a couple LA-based bands I really liked and sat and listened to them for a good amount of time. There were some dancers, some comedy acts, a cute, smart little dog the kids just loved... It was a perfect day.

The next day, a Friday, was spent pretty much in front of the TV all day watching movies and reading my book which was perfectly fine with me! On the 4th (Saturday), I was able to see Bob for a bit and I finally got to eat at a place called Lemonade that I've heard so much about from my friends there. It was delicious! It was great to see and catch up with Bob again since January, didn't hardly skip a beat =) Glad that the timing was perfect for when we were both in LA for a few days!

I spent the rest of the afternoon with Corey, we watched some TV, went to a brief beer/wine tasting where he works and did a lot of catching up. Once Ruben and Jackie got home from work, Bertram came over and we got our evening started! We didn't see any fireworks but had a fun time hanging out. We did our own little tasting at home and tried like 8? 10? 12? different craft beers. I really wanted to experience city/LA night life and so we used Uber and went to Venice Beach and did some bar hopping. Soooo different from back home, obviously! A bit overwhelming ;). We went to 3 different places and ended up at a karaoke bar shortly before it closed. I felt like I got a little taste of home at that last bar.... Sweet Caroline and a little Journey to end the night. Californian's don't do Karaoke quite like us Mid-westerners, but still a fun time!

Sunday was another very laid back day. I went to breakfast at a farmers market with my friend Jorge that morning. Had a great Belgian Waffle and got to hang out with Jorge for the first time since I saw him about 5 or 6 years ago! The 4 of us went out to eat together that evening and that's about all aside from more movie watching!

Monday is where I feel like things started to get a little more lively! The second half of my trip began and I spent that time in South Pasadena with a group of friends. I headed to Union Station that morning and was reunited with one of my best friends, Emily! We've been trying to get together at least once a year since, I think, 2008 and so far have succeeded all but 1 year! Em lives in San Diego and I'm so glad she was able to come to LA for a couple of days! My good friend Adam flew in from Maryland for a few days and was in LA the same time we were there, so I got to spend 2 days with him as well. We all stayed at Lauren's house together and had a great time.

After picking Em up at the train station we went to lunch at this cute little Cafe called the Alcove Cafe and Bakery. Jorge joined us again and we met up a couple of friends, Marlon and Jill, who work for the Starlight Children's Foundation on the site which I volunteer through called Starbright World (SBW). Lunch was INSANE and filling.

We then headed to Hollywood to do some touristy things where Gabe met up with us! So good to see him again. I've known Gabe for many years through SBW, first met him when we shot a video I was in that he directed for the website, met again at Starlight headquarters one year, then at the first Starlight Gala Spence and I spoke at. Awesome that it worked out to meet up again! Went to Hollywood Boulevard, saw the Walk of Fame, the hand prints in the sidewalk outside of the Chinese Theater, and saw some other cool historic and famous buildings there.

Next was Griffith Park and the Griffith Observatory! We were all kind of beat at that point and the actual observatory was closed, but I'm still glad we made an effort to go! We walked around the observatory and got an amazing view of the Hollywood sign and the view looking out over Los Angeles. We walked around a portion of the park a little bit and Lauren got to play soccer with a professional soccer player there in LA. Made for some good pictures and great video ;). We ended our night with some great pizza, cookies Emily's mom made us (Thanks Ellin!), and watching half of The Goonies together before crashing hard to hit it early the next day!

Lauren, Em, Adam, and I ventured out to the LA Farmers Market for lunch the next day. Had some great fish and chips (may I add in how ridiculously FRESH the food is there?! Ahh I got spoiled!) and walked around. We sat around for awhile and decided to either go to Malibu or take a hike at the Rose Bowl. We were quite prepared for a trip to Malibu and the beach to we headed back to Pasadena and got ready to go to the Rose Bowl Stadium to walk some trails. It was a great view and there happened to be a bike race there that Adam was mesmerized by ;). We found a great trail and hiked that for about 4 miles and then headed to eat dinner at Urth Cafe and see a movie together. We ended up seeing Inside Out - such a cute movie! I felt ridiculous for tearing up at the end, but Pixar knows how to pull emotion into their films!

The movie made for a pretty late night so we crashed as soon as we got home. Unfortunately that was our last day as a group. The next day, Wednesday, we had to get up early to take Emily to the train station and Adam to the airport. We had a nice breakfast with Jorge before heading out! It was so sad to see them both go! We made a lot of new memories together. Lauren and I then ran a couple of errands, then went home to relax for a few hours as we chowed down on more of Ellin's cookies and getting reenergized with some Starbucks. I had plans to go explore South Pasadena a little bit but I was exhausted and decided to watch Reba with Lauren. =)

I think the absolute best way to end my trip happened that Wednesday night! It just so happens that a very good friend from college at the U lives in Orange County now and was able to make a trip to Pasadena to see me! I cannot even put into words how AMAZING it was to get together with her again! We haven't seen each other in about 4 years and kind of lost touch. But I'm so glad I reached out to her and we were able to make it happen. Jessi was definitely a highlight and a big part of the first and second of college for me. Trying to get lost in SLC, "study" nights, movie nights, homecoming, airport trips, and the list goes on. So many memories that we got to reminisce about together. We caught each other up on the last 4 years of our life, but I hardly felt like we were even able to scratch the surface. There was just SO much I wanted to ask her and know! There wasn't a dull moment and it was a frantic mess of trying to share every aspect of our lives with each other in just a couple of hours. Truly such a fun dinner together and I can't wait until we get to see each other again.

And as always, it always has to come to an end. But goodness, I am so thankful for the many friends I have on the west coast. It's so great to be able to say "See you later" as opposed to "Goodbye" and knowing for a fact that it's only a matter of time before our paths cross again. I'm ecstatic that I was able to see 13 (wow! more people than I thought!) of my friends during my trip. So much relaxation, so many things that I was able to see (but still SO much I have yet to see!), and tons of new memories.

After traveling so much these last couple of years I am so glad I've chosen to spend time and money on experiences rather than things. Never will I regret having done and seen so much and having spent so much time with people who I care for so much.

Thanks for your hospitality and transportation, guys! I had such a good time and miss it, and you, already. Until our paths cross again, because I know they will, see you next time!

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