Last weekend I didn't write, and I have a good excuse: I was in my home-sweet-homeland of southern California, and though I tried to sit myself down at these keys to type, California is one of those places that keeps you constantly on your toes. It's not the type of place where you want to waste any time staring at a computer screen. Now I know what you're thinking: Why do you get to go to Cali so much? Who do you think you are, up in the air all the time? And these are valid concerns. However, this time I had a really good reason: to celebrate my man's graduation!
Yep, you read that right. He's done. Last Friday afternoon, I watched Mr. David McCracken walk across stage, donning his cap and gown, grinning that goofy grin as he shook people's hands and became a Master of the Fine Arts. The best film school in the world signed off on this, so I think it's safe to say that this impressive man (who already has a Masters in Creative Writing as well) is going places in film and television. I can't wait to see what good things life has in store for a winner like that.
I've been to California four times in the past year--yes, that's a lot of times--but this past week (5/16 - 5/22) spent with David and his family was possibly the best of them. And I even had a cold the whole time!
Picture this: warm coffee & Kahlua in a mug. Beautiful California sunshine streaming through an open window. Mumford & Sons playing in the next room. Bathing suit donned instead of regular clothes.
And that's just a 5-minute excerpt of one morning. But it's not even slightly what made the trip so splendid. Here's a layout of the week's most memorable activities, day-by-day....
Thursday, 5/16: Arrive to LAX; David & his family pick me up and we head to San Pedro where we are staying at the Fort MacArthur Inn, near the Air Force base. Entering the fenced-in grounds, it feels like you've just slipped into a 1950s happy housewives community. The lawns are a perfect shade of green and the lodgings are as gorgeous from the outside as they are inside. The place we stay has three floors, two bathrooms, and three bedrooms. We eat dinner at a delicious Mexican restaurant, complete with sweet Sangria, and head back to the mansion of a place we'll be staying.
Friday, 5/17: David's Graduation Day. A day I'll remember forever, thanks to my trusty camcorder and a surprise guest appearance by John Goodman. The USC campus looked even more gorgeous than usual (if that's possible) and people were EVERYWHERE. But it was the good kind of crowded, because you know all those people are there celebrating someone, just like you. So, John Goodman...first I passed right by him on the way to the bathroom without even noticing, then later he let me redeem myself by showing up to David's graduation ceremony (I mean, it's the School of Cinematic Arts...it's a pretty big deal) so I snapped a far away pic. There was also a nice little after-party where I ate finger sandwiches and approximately fifty cookies.
Saturday, 5/18: Originally, we were supposed to go fishing, but instead we made salads and won some money. In the morning, we drove from the house to the Navy Commissary (which is an awesome big store where taxes don't apply, for those who are unfamiliar with it). Me, David, and his sister Leah were heading to the check-out line with our stuff when we hear this guy asking for contestants to make some salads. And how often do you get to make salad in the supermarket? So all three of us and an older lady went head-to-head, trying to make the best salad. (Keep in mind David wins everything, ever). Of course, I forgot that David always wins, so I tried and inevitably failed. But you know what we got for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place-combined-in prize money? ONE HUNDRED & SEVENTY-FIVE flippin DOLLARS in Commissary gift cards!! For making salads! Holy hell, it was a great day. After that, high on the idea of being such winners, we all headed for Newport Beach and Fashion Island. I'd never been to Fashion Island but it was beautiful. Picture the prettiest outdoor mall you've seen and this one was prettier. After a day of shopping (and playing with cute pups at the Pet Store), David, Leah & I ended the night by watching Arrested Development. A splendid day, all around.
Sunday, 5/19: After winning all that money at the Commissary, you know we weren't about to let it go to waste. So this morning (which is also coffee/Kahlua morning) we all headed back and grabbed stuff off the shelves like nobody's business. I got shampoo, cat food for Otto, 5 packs of gum, face scrub, and two different kinds of crackers. And that was only like $25. Needless to say, we felt like winners all over again as we paid for our prizes. Next we headed to Santa Monica and lounged by the ocean, reading, tanning, & napping while watching a surf competition in the water. We then got coffee (a staple of this trip) and headed for the next hotel. After getting settled, we all went to a delicious dinner at The Nosh in Beverly Hills (with some good wine & a mimosa) and then went to the Cinerama Dome in LA to see Star Trek. Now I'm not into the Trekky stuff, but this movie was really, really good. Plus, the Cinerama dome was designed for films made on three different cameras, so the picture is stretched and kind of raps around in the theatre. Let's just say I was satisfied.
Monday, 5/20: Early in the morning, David's parents left for their flight back home, so it was just us kids. "There are only two rules in this car," Leah said as we left the hotel. "We have the music turned up and the windows rolled down." And we did, all the way from the hotel near LAX to Malibu. We stopped at the Malibu Library (one of my favorites) and perused the books & CDs for sale. I walked out with some Enya & Bad Company, plus a huge hardback for $1 that was in pristine condition and by an author I love. It was a good day to be a bookworm. We then all headed to a Malibu beach, and it was one of the best! Not too crowded and such clean sand. We laid out our towels, ate string cheese, and read by the ocean. We all then fell asleep for a little bit and when we woke up the tide was about three feet from our faces, so we hurried to get our stuff. That night we chilled at the Third Street Promenade, and I met up with my cousin Leah for dinner at California Pizza Kitchen. After dinner we all roamed and ended up back at David's later on.
Tuesday, 5/21: The last day, but one of the best. Leah left early in the morning, so David and I walked from his house to The Grove a few blocks away. There we got yummy chocolate-covered bananas at Bluth's Frozen Banana Stand (from AD). We walked for a while and then headed to Mendocino Farms, a super healthy joint with the most delicious soda you'll find anywhere (and I dislike soda). We then walked to the Goodwill (and WeHo has good stuff) and back to his house. It was getting late/chilly, so we changed and got ready to head to dinner at Gyu Kaku, a couple miles away. Along the way, we were chatting and walking when a tan guy about my age walked out of a bar/restaurant with a blonde girl right in front of us and stopped by the curb. I made eye contact, and what do you know-- tan guy just so happens to be Mr. Taylor Lautner (aka Jacob from Twilight aka Sharkboy from Sharkboy & Lavagirl aka the man who covered my bedroom walls when I was 15). David and I kept walking and then stopped. I was quietly flipping out. I mean, what are those odds? There was NOBODY else on the sidewalk but us and them. It was a perfect opportunity I wouldn't get again. Unfortunately, I wasn't smart enough to take it. As I started to walk back towards them talking on the sidewalk, a sleek black car pulled up. Taylor opened the passenger door for the blonde and a driver stepped out on the other side to let him in the driver's seat. Before getting in, he waved back at the dumbfounded, awkward girl still staring (me) and said, "Have a good night!" I didn't even respond because I'm an idiot. He honked twice, and they were gone. *sigh* Anyway, despite the regret I got for missing this opportunity, David was right as he said it taught me a lesson...the next time I see a star or get an opportunity, I won't miss it. Sometimes all you get is one chance to do it right. Still, I had a splendid dinner at Gyu Kaku with my man (Happy Hour has never been so good), and that's enough for me.
The next day, I headed home after our traditional pre-airport lunch at P.F. Chang's. It was such a trip, mentally and physically...I know my brain will still be riding in the backseat of that rental car in Malibu long after my body has settled into this simple Indiana town. Tomorrow I will celebrate 20 years of living, and I just feel so lucky to have been a part of all the things I have so far. Memories like this are the reason I continue to write. Life is so fast, and I don't want to forget it.