Running the risk of sounding like such an Ohioan where we are a rather homogeneous bunch— California was surprising because there are so many different types of people; the real hippies who sometimes appear to border homeless, the actual homeless, the reality stars and wannabe reality stars, techies, registered and unregistered migrant workers, the endless line of aspiring actors moonlighting as servers, everyone is in California. Or at least some version of everyone, most from other states, having moved to escape their small towns. I remember my Aunt Vic saying after she moved from the midwest to California that it was the land of fruits and nuts. I am blown away by how many Californias don’t get the joke when I say it directly to their faces as the joke that it is. These situations usually end with me doubled over in laughter and an annoyed and confused look on their faces.
After missing the 49ers game because of snow that never came in Seattle, I arrived in San Jose about 11 hours late and was greeted at the airport by Allie and the ever attempting to flee the car, Miller! All of my friends that have dogs get such joy from them, I’m so happy that though expensive and sometimes annoying, the relationships bring everyone involved such fulfillment. I’ve thought about the entire article I could write about the dogs that aren’t mine that I’ve had the opportunity to pseudo-live the life of a dog owner with: Mutts Across the Country: A Memoir.
I’m always on the lookout for a place with wifi, food, and coffee to spend a few hours a day working and the San Pedro Square Market was perfect. The interesting thing to me is that the SPSM is slow during the day to the point that I wondered how it stayed open, but in the evening is eoverflowing with young people who work in Mountain View or San Francisco but live in San Jose! Hundreds of them were spending time and money supporting local businesses that support local art, history, and culture. It is a neat space.
We took Mr. Miller for an evening walk along Guadalupe River Trail and learned fun facts about the San Jose Italy community in their tiny version of Little Italy. It runs along the Guadalupe River and other than the many, many homeless people getting ready for bed very near us in the bushes it is a great trail. It was one of those moments that we were pleased Miller isn’t exactly a small dog. Allie and I love to play outside and both being from the Midwest were ready to appreciate some of the things California does best, Redwoods! Just an easy one-hour drive from San Jose and we were in Big Basin Redwoods State Park! We hiked around and decided it was the perfect nature escape.
While not exactly like The Internship, working at Google’s main office in Mountain View, the heart of Silicon Valley, is still pretty cool. They feed you, and there are even heated toilet seats! I’m so proud of Allie – I always joke that she is my smartest friend, but she is always looking to grow and challenge herself more. She has a desire, makes moves, and creates it!
From San Jose, I caught the Greyhound to Santa Barbara to visit my Aunt Leah and Uncle Eddy. I was reminded of the time my dad ran away from home… to his sisters…. in California…. when he was 16 years old! These are the gypsies that raised me whenever anyone wonders how I’m the way I am. She and I grabbed a quick lunch and then I got familiar with downtown Santa Barbara while she taught a yoga class. We met back up for her Reiki and yoga class at Salt Cave. This is the ultimate antidote to hours on a Greyhound bus. 84 trace minerals that are wonderfully healing and leave salty lips by the end. The ceiling, walls and even “sand” is salt!
I visited Eddy where he works at the Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. I love that this hospital works with local artists and even hvosts their own farmers market that the hospital kitchen and cafeteria then purchases from. Per his personality, he is a pretty popular guy around the hospital. Without gushing too much, Leah and Eddy have been happily married for 36 years, have healthy relationships with relatives and are happy in both work and passions when they don’t overlap. They even both still look great in bathing suits tearing up the water slalom skiing. They chose their new location so they can walk to the beach; something they do together most mornings and evenings. Having their example is invaluable. They live lives of unexpected excitement, challenges, and joys. We even got in trouble together at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art for goofing around while enjoying their collection.
I left Leah and Eddy to visit their daughter, my cousin Kristina and her boyfriend Brent in Costa Mesa. Growing up she and I were the only only-children and also the youngest of the grandchildren, so I was excited to see her. Highway 1 delivereud as far as drives go; we were so close to the Pacific Ocean that surf was splashing onto the bus!
I’m so proud of Kristina. She is smart, hard-working, she knows what she wants and how to follow her heart. She is one of those women who is beautiful, funny, and intelligent that you want to hate, but then she is super sweet so you just can’t help but adore her. We went out in Laguna to Tortilla Republic. It affirmed for me that lots of places in California use mirrors to make spaces feel bigger and it worked! Most of us at the table thought the restaurant was double the size until halfway through dinner. They offer a great Happy Hour with delicious pitchers of margaritas and corn tortilla tacos.
I also felt very ‘Ohio’ upon learning that “dive bar” in Laguna means any bar that plays country music. It was the fanciest dive bar I’ve ever spent $12 on a drink in my life, but we had fun dancing to the live band. She and I can be really silly and it makes for easy smiles and laughs when we’re together. I’m happy she’s happy, but my people-watching affirmed that Californians in a very broad, stereotypical way are not my people haha. Everyone was sure to clarify whether they live in LA versus Orange County or vice versa. Neither wants to be confused with the other, and they each will correct you. Orange Countians want you to know they’re the wealthier, more conservative ones while LA folks want you to know they’re the progressive, fun ones. I purposefully said the wrong thing just to watch their heads explode and allow them to explain yet again that even though they went blue for Hillary in 2016………..
My final and farthest south point on my California road trip was to see Ali, Matt, Nigel, and Wiggins in San Diego. They live close to Balboa Park, which might as well be the set for Devil in the White City in my opinion and is impressive almost beyond belief. Originally built in 1915 for the Panama-California Expo (similar to a World’s Fair) the structures have been maintained and are now permanent. Over 20 museums and the zoo are all located on the property
San Diego wins my vote for best food too! French fries in burritos at Cotijas Taco Shop, fresh seafood tacos and ceviche at Oscar’s Mexican Seafood, and Uncle Biff’s Oreo stuffed cookies! We even found delicious deep dish pizza at Lefty’s! Breweries on breweries in San Diego and this beer snob doesn’t hate it! It deserves a whole week of just brewery tours! Matt and Ali’s local favorite is Modern Times, and we had to do Ballast Point even though, disappointedly, it is no longer independently owned. Ali is “my person” friend. She and I are (fortunately as much as unfortunately) often times experiencing similar tribulations, joys and goals. We won’t see each other in real life in 6 months and upon seeing other start finishing each other’s sentences when we forget what we were saying ourselves. We have such similar personalities. We met as two scared freshman at the first Public Relations Student Society of America of the 2008-2009 school year and have carried a piece of the other everywhere we went since.
I had been looking for the perfect place to spend the first two weeks of November and all of these amazing friends and family are recent transplants to California, so for many I got to be the first visitor in their new homes! I took Greyhound back up to Allie and she put me on a train to make my first cross-country train trip! I’m grateful I spent my last weeks before Ohio for the holidays soaking up all that sun. California might be the land of fruits and nuts, but damn it they are my fruits and nuts.