This is part 5 of a TBT Travel Series: A Taste of California. Check out these posts on why I picked California, how I saved money on travel, the magic of hiking in Malibu, and why you shouldn’t miss the Getty Villa.
Assuming that Los Angeles would have the most to see and do, we made this the longest leg of our California trip. We allocated 3 days to LA, 2 to Yosemite, and 1 measly day to San Francisco. I’ll weep about this another day.
As it turns out, I am not an LA person. I’m not sure what makes one an LA person—while there, I concluded that a person can wear literally anything without being subject to a single raised eyebrow—but I do know I’m a non-example. I loved the warmth, the dry-ness of the heat, and the abundance of truly excellent food. But the smog is real, folks, as is all the cement. I’m not sure why, but my time in LA left me a little depressed at the state of the world. I didn’t know that a bright and sunny city could feel so . . . dark.
So during our time in LA, Dan and I sought out and soaked up and held on to all the warmth and beauty we could grasp, which included several winding drives and time with sweet friends.
As I’ve shared before, I moved around a lot as a kid. I lived in Georgia during my first two years of high school, and though my time in Canton was by far my shortest stint, it was filled with some of the richest, deepest, truest friendships I’ve ever known. Sequoyah High School was one of those entirely unique places where everyone is friends (or at least friendly) with everyone, where the cliques are actually circles that blur and bleed together, where a jock is also a theater kid is also a smarty-pants in the AP classes. You could be whoever you were, and you could count on having a friend. I—a painfully shy new kid on the first day of freshman year, among other kids who had known each other since kindergarten—was welcomed and accepted and had more friends than I could count within just a few days.
One of my best friends throughout the tumultuous years that are the ages 14 and 15 was Zack. We shared dozens of jokes, laughed constantly, and enjoyed a friendship that was so easy and carefree, markedly different from the way most boy-girl friendships are at this stage of life. My crafty companion and partner in crime, Zack knew pretty much everything about me and still thought I was worthy, still wanted to be my friend. It was a whole new experience for me.
Zack now lives in LA, and I was delighted that almost 10 years later, I’d be able to reconnect with him and introduce him to Dan. I know so many of Dan’s friends, most of whom he’s known since his childhood and still live nearby, but most of my dearest friends are scattered across the country, and so it’s always a joyful moment when I can share him with some of my people.
We met Zack at a tiny, hole-in-wall pizza place right in the heart of Culver City (by far the most charming neighborhood in LA, in my very limited and humble opinion). We sat outside in the post-sunset cold, under a barely working heat lamp, laughing and sharing old stories and eating pizza that had long since cooled. And then as quickly as it started, dinner was over and we parted ways, but not without a memento to mark the moment:
We really haven’t changed much since high school. My eyes were always red then, too.
The next day, Dan and I had the pleasure of meeting my college friend, Randi, and her husband, Rob, for dinner at Don Antonio’s in Santa Monica. The epitome of dive-y, we sat in the dim restaurant, on either side of a squeaky and well-worn leather booth, eating $1 tacos and drinking $3 margaritas and gorging on endless baskets of chips. And just as it had the night before, the talking and the laughing and the stories flowed just as freely as the margaritas, but not quite as freely as the water, because LA was in the middle of a drought, so there were serious limits on those water refills.
It was 9:00 by the time we finished our dinner, which is early for most people—especially people on vacation—but my idea of a vacation is going to bed by 10:00 and waking by 7:00 so I can soak up tons of sleep and tons of adventure during the daylight hours. But I wasn’t ready to say goodbye; I wanted the night to go on and on, and I pretty much never want the night to go on and on (hello, introversion), which meant there was no choice but to give in to this new sensation and continue our fun. (But, of course not without an Instagram-worthy picture first.)
Sorry for yet another grainy pic. My iPhone doesn’t take awesome night shots. Any tips?
We all headed to Barkowski, where Rob taught us a new game—bumper pool—and Randi introduced us to a new drink—the Moscow Mule. The men connected over something or other manly, and Randi and I talked about everything—writing and blogging, our relationships with God, sex slavery, ethically sourced goods, finding beauty, and seeking simplicity.
Bleary-eyed and exhausted, we said our goodbyes around midnight. I drove away and back to our little hotel room feeling, for once, not depleted from two consecutive late nights filled with conversation, but instead fully alive and awake and buzzing with joy over the friendships I’d had a chance to savor. My heart was bursting with thankfulness for my weird, motley hodge-podge of friends, each so different from the others, scattered across cities and states and countries. Some were seasonal friends and some are forever friends, but each one is so tightly knit into my heart and formational in who I am and who I’m still becoming.