About four hours ago, I drove Crystal to the airport so she can get back to Atlanta and her girlfriend, Kim. Not without having had an amazing extended weekend with one of my dearest friends in the world! It's safe to say that a summer trip with Crystal may always be a tradition, now - it's wonderful to have a friend who can keep up with me via Facebook and text message, who hates to talk on the phone as much as I do, and who can pretty much hang and do anything from movies, music, sports, and so forth.
Crystal's flight was delayed on Wednesday, but not by much - they definitely made up time in the air. We headed straight for Venice Beach so we could park for the day and experience the boardwalk. There was still a marine layer in the air, so we opted to walk the 2.8 miles from Venice to Santa Monica on the pedestrian/bike trail. Most of the boardwalk was pretty quiet anyway, as it was around 11:30am on a Wednesday.
Arriving at Santa Monica, I was now starving, so I suggested we try to find a place to eat. We continued to walk uphill from the beach to the 3rd Street Promenade, which had been on my original list of things to do. I'm here to tell you that the Promenade is not really that exciting if you aren't planning any serious shopping. We eventually found an LA classic restaurant, Barney's Beanery. Not the ORIGINAL Beanery, I don't think, but still someplace that Crystal would not have experienced before. The music was great, the black bean burger was not homemade, but we enjoyed the atmosphere and plethora of wide screen televisions showing all the sports for the day!
After lunch, the marine layer was finally gone so we hiked down the hill back to the beach and enjoyed an hour in the sun. It was COLD, though. Probably right at 68 degrees, which I'm sure some will say is excellent beach weather, but my nipples were definitely showing. Crystal did not apply additional sunscreen and she paid dearly for that later. A serious farmer sunburn! It was her idea to pack up and head back to the car, so we did just that. Another wonderful 2.8 mile walk back to Venice.
NOW, the boardwalk was booming! Lots of vendors open and people playing their guitars, shop owners pitching their medical marijuana cards, and a few pick up basketball games on the courts. We even saw that turban-wearing, rollerblading guitar player who flirted with Bridget Fonda in POINT OF NO RETURN. A Venice classic!!
Returning to the car, I noticed that I had received a parking ticket. For expired tags. That wasn't really my fault because I did was I was supposed to do. After all the hulla-baloo from LAST summer's parking ticket, I'm wondering if it's worth it to appeal the ticket again THIS year. We'll see. I do hope to have my tags soon - at least the check finally cleared!
So, just minutes before the 5pm rush hour (I know, amazing timing, right?), we leave the Venice Beach Parking. We are headed to the 405 and Westwood. Moving at a slow crawl, we enjoy laughing at people who are breaking the law on their cell phones and/or enjoying their music just a little too much. We hit the Wilshire exit and FINALLY begin to look for parking. We find a meter spot just across from THE BUFFALO EXCHANGE and do some serious thrift store shopping. I was quite pleased with my purchases - an Old Navy dress, gap capri pants that were NWT, and a new dress for work. Crystal purchased t-shirts for herself andn presents for Kim. Exiting the store to put our bounty in the car, we notice the meter maid doing his rounds and decide that it will be in our best interests to move the car into an indoor lot.
After parking AGAIN, we make our way to Jerry's Deli, another LA institution (again, not the original, but oh well). We both have a much lighter dinner knowing that we are going to experience a Diddy Reese cookie shortly after. Dinner takes a while because our waitress is slow, but I fully enjoyed my large baked potato with mushrooms, peppers, and salsa plus steamed garlic veggies.
And then it was time for Diddy Reese. Amazing cookies that are CHEAP. and you can also have an ice cream sandwich between two cookies for $1.50. That's right, - just $1.50!! I bought a half-dozen cookies for the hubby for just $3.00. My dessert was pretty messy to eat - we should have stayed there to eat slowly. I had a chocolate chip cookie and candy chip cookie with cookies and cream ice cream in the middle. Yum! Next time I plan to try the brown sugar cinnamon cookies with just vanilla ice cream!
By this time, it's dark and I'm feeling spent. We were supposed to head to The Gas Lite in Santa Monica for some karaoke fun...but I wimp out. Which is good, because Crystal is happy to wimp out as well. She and I never seem to get to the karaoke fun at all. Next year I need to build in an afternoon nap so we can still go singing! So, Day One (Wednesday) is in the books!
Thursday, July 2nd we are staying local. I sleep as late as I can which isn't that late. No gym today either, for some reason. We see a 9:45am showing of PUBLIC ENEMIES to start our day. It's not the best Michael Mann movie I've ever seen, but it doesn't suck either. Johnny Depp looks great, he's perfectly cast as John Dillinger. There are some AMAZING shoot-em-up scenes and the prison break piece is filmed particularly well (nice long shots of the prison with some bright back lighting...cool!). My one beef is that they didn't seem to give Christian Bale a whole lot to do. I thought his character was under developed. Marion Cottiard has a great scene towards the end of the film as well. All in all, a good historical drama, not the life changing experience I thought it would be. One great line, though, that became our tag line for the weekend. "Why Indiana? I have absolutely nothing I want to do in Indiana."
After the movie, we headed to Gourmet Pizza so Crystal could experience the greatest pizza in California. I had the Five Sisters with half cream cheese and half pesto; she had the Tuscan and enjoyed her first pizza with cashews! We met up with some U of R folks: my counterpart, Jason and his wife and baby; and a former student, Emily, who was in town for the weekend. Great visit and of course the pizza was kick ass!
Following lunch we ran some errands and gathered some Golden Spoon yogurt for after dinner. It was decided that we would eat at home for dinner and save some money; then Charles dropped us off at Market Night as he was headed to work. Two years living in Redlands and I still had not experienced a Market Night. We did a full round of the event before making any purchases. I bought Allyson a necklace for her birthday...and, oh shit, I need to call her, too! I also bought some nectarines and plums; Crystal picked up some peaches. We didn't stay too long - about 40 minutes - and then walked back to the house and decided to stay in for the evening. We rented NICK AND NORA'S INFINITE PLAYLIST on On-Demand and it was quite the delightful little movie! Michael Cera is turning into a charming young leading man! Another new tag line: "fistfull of assholes" We got a kick out of that one, too!
Friday was to be our biggest day! Travel to San Diego with the hubby in tow - our main goal for Friday was TATTOOS! Before even departing for San Diego, I decided to go running. that's right - not a regular trip to the gym, but actual RUNNING. I decided to go for at least 20 mintues, because that's what my marathon training book says to consider: if you can run solid for 20 minutes and have been doign that a while, you are ready to begin your training. Well, I did it - and it felt GOOD. More on that later...
First, we stopped for brunch at the Hob Nob Hill diner, which had been featured on the Food Network's "Diners, Drive-In's, and Dives." Although, this placed seemed a little fancy for a "diner" and was definitely not a drive in or dive. Still, my Canadian Blueberry Pancakes were AMAZING and I also tried Crystal's Oat Raisin French Toast, which is what I will get the next time we head that way.
After brunch, it was time for NOTHING SACRED. We parked the truck and made our way into the Gas Lamp District. Our appointment was at 1pm and of course we were early. We tooled around until they were finally open. Imagine our surprise when we walked in and could see live, in the flesh, Carly Smithson from Season 7 of AMERICAN IDOL. Well, duh, she and her husband own the tattoo studio! We knew we were getting our art done by Todd, but never thought for a second that Carly would actually be in town, let alone hanging out at the studio! Eventually we did get to talk to her about cleaning the garage, being married, what the show was like, what her new band is like, and so forth. Crystal was probably more in shock than I was, but I turned out to be the one who gushed the most! Still, she is a very down to earth artist and someone I will definitely continue to follow!
NOW: the tattoo! I started to get really scared once we were in the shop and Todd began to work on my art. I had settled on an irish claddaugh ring patter but thought it would be a thin band that would run across my waist. He advised me to consider the detail of the pattern, and that I might need something a little bigger. I agreed. He tried to talk me into color, but I stuck with the black and grey.
After almost an hour of prep work and drawing, I'm finally on the table. He tells me to lay flat and perfectly still. And here comes the needle. I am expecting to cry out loud and for the tears to start flowing. Surprisingly, I'm really keeping it together. To describe the actual sensation would be too difficult. There's pressure, pinching, maybe a little heat. The shading part was difficult, lots of pinching in one place. The LONG lines are the hardest. But I think I was a good client. Charles and Crystal took pictures to capture the moment. I was probably on the table for another good 45-60 minutes. And since I was wearing a dress and the tattoo was being done on my belly, it was cracking me up to think of people walking by and seeing me in my underwear the entire time! My cotton beige colored Fruit of the Looms were stained by the time he was done.
The tattoo turned out much bigger than I'd planned for...it's probably the size of a small grapefruit, but I positively LOVE IT! (I fully intend to get a second tattoo next year after I run the marathon.) My bandage consisted of some Saran Wrap, a paper towel, and masking tape - hysterical!
Crystal went next - she was getting a gold star (dual purpose - part the Vanderbilt logo, and part "gold star lesbian" meaning that she's never been with a man) on her side, below the armpit. Her tattoo was going to be more painful than mine, and I think she had a harder time with her art than I did. She did great, though - her star looked amazing, although when she got on the plane today she still had some redness. Todd didn't fill the star completely in, but I think once it's fully healed it will have amazing definition!
Finally, my hubby decided to do a "wedding ring" for his left hand. He never wears his ring because of work, so he found a font he really liked and put a "K" on his left ring finger - that "K" is for me, of course! Pretty amazing! This is probably the most sentimental thing he's ever done :) He and Todd really got along - Charles was explaining his idea of putting a Phoenix on his back, and Todd talked him into doing it on the arm instead. They made an appointment for July 18th, so we are headed back to San Diego in a couple weeks!
So: the art work was done and we headed to THE FIELD for dinner. Another Carly thing, as she used to wait table and sing there. Charles didn't mind, though - he could get a Guiness AND corned beef and cabbage. Crystal had the french dip and I enjoyed a Veggie bake with "champ" om the top (mashed potatoes with green onion). It was FABULOUS! Then I put the nail in the coffin by making Charles take me to Ghiardelli for ice cream. Did I really need that double waffle cone? Probably not, and the walk was tricky because I was eating while I walked, with saran wrap and masking tape on my belly, and it was starting to get cold. Our evening wasn't even over yet!
We had tickets for the San Diego Padres, facing the LA Dodgers. If that wasn't already a fairly big game becuase of the rivalry, it was Manny Ramirez' first game back after his 50 game suspension. So EVERYONE from LA came out for this game! The first inning was a super exciting one - the Dodgers scored 5 runs - but the rest of the game was somewhat of a bust. And I was cold. And Charles bought garlic french fries that I could not stop eating. But the Dodgers did win the game and we could head for home with a very fun and successful day in the books once again!
Saturday - July 4th - meant to be our most restful day. We had breakfast at home, watched some sports and then headed west to San Bernardino so Crystal could experience another West Coast specialty - In-n-Out Burger. I indulged as well, which was too bad for me because I'm normally a vegetarian. I love a good veggie burger, but if you know In-N-Out you know that you don't have any other choice. I indulged in the cheeseburger, french fries, and a chocolate shake. BIG MISTAKE. Not only did I kill the rest of my flex points, but I ate activity points that I haven't even earned yet. Unbelieveable! And Shame On Me!!
Chaz then dropped us off at the movie theater and we saw YEAR ONE with Jack Black and Michael Cera. Again, not the funniest movie I've ever seen, but it didn't suck. A few good one-liners and some fun cameos.
Then it was off to Ruben's house for a little July 4th fun. Jason and Breanna were there again, along with my vital work friend Amy. We were advised not to swim, so we basically just hung out, ate dinner, watched the fly-by with the air force planes, and then headed for home. Charles had gotten really sick while we were at the movies, so he was home feeling not-so-great and I felt just a little guilty being out while he was not feeling good. When we got home, we watched some of the different celebrations on TV and then went to bed fairly early.
And, now, of course, the vacation is over and I must return to work tomorrow. But I have the afternoon to catch up on DVR stuff, do some laundry, some strength training, and then I think I may go running again (i already did another 30 minutes this morning, but I gotta earn some more activity points with all the crap foo I ate this weekend!).
As I said earlier, it's always a great time when I get to hang out with Crystal. I know that she will call me out if I'm whining too much, but she will still be my friend when it's all said and done. I'm glad I got to show her more of LA/SoCal and for her to have been there when I got my first tattoo! I can't wait for the next visit, whenever it may be!