Monday, July 17, 2006

In which another camera catastrophe occurs...

Those of you who are regular unplugged readers will remember that last year's trip to Italy included yet another in a series of photo disasters. This trip was no exception, though this time I blame the thiefs of the big city.

Before I get to that dastardly little detail, however, let me rave about our vacation. The whole two weeks were completely swept up in seeing the dozens of people we know in CA. The first week, we stayed in Catalina, a little island off the coast of southern CA that has funky (expensive) beach cottages and requires golf carts to get around (no cars). There were 93 people related to me in some fashion on that island. We had a square dance on the third night and that's when they took the head count. This side of the family is actually my step-family mostly with my brother and sister thrown in for good measure. My dad's wife has a huge Jewish clan and they were all there, and some of their UCLA grad friends and their children and children's children join in every year as well. I was meeting people as much as I was huggging people I already knew. Wild.

We snorkeled and swam in the cold Pacific (but it felt great), we ate dinner on the beach multiple nights, we played cards, took nieces and nephews out for ice cream, watched fireworks on the 4th over the water and had nightly gatherings of some version of the extended family and friends. I had lots of wonderful time with my sister and her family. We miss each other.

One of my high school friends brought her kids over for a day which was a treat.

When we left, tears everywhere. Everyone wanted us to move back.

Jon left Catalina the night before the rest of us did because he had to fly to the very north of CA to go to his high school reuinion. He saw all of his old buddies while I drove the kids to northern California. We would hook up two days later at his sister's in a town called Guerneville (set in the Redwoods next to the Russian River).

On the way up north, I took the kids to UCLA for lunch and we walked around a bit so they could see my alma mater. It still looks great - better than ever. Why do we all love and miss college so much?

Then I drove us to the exits for my house where I grew up and I showed the kids my high school (looks really dowdy... sad), and the community I grew up in (startlingly developed and too suburban compared to the more rustic town I remember). Instead of funky pottery shops, there are now BMW and Mercedes dealerships. We drove by my old house and also the apartment I shared with my mom my senior year of high school.

Then we continued up the coast and visited (for an hour) my freshman roommate from UCLA (she and I also went to the same high school). She lives is a gorgeous house in Santa Barbara which butts up against the Botanical Gardens. They have a view of the ocean from up in the hills. Had a great time reconnecting with her and sharing the five kids with her for the first time.

Continued up the coast and wound up at my best friend from high school's home in San Luis Obispo for the night. I love the homes in CA. They have such open spaces - nothing closed off. This house was especially delightful with high open ceilings that had these huge metal tubes suspended over head. They took out the typical ceiling but left in the "guts" that hold wires etc. Made the house feel open and funky, which I like. Great kitchen too.

Her mom and her mom-in-law were also there and I know them both very well. Mom-in-law was my high school counselor. Her son married Dana and the three of them visited Jon and me in Morocco twenty years ago. Such memories. Dana's mother was like a second mom to me during my parents' divorce. It was wonderful to share memories.

While we were in San Luis, Noah called his soon-to-be roommate who lives (we discovered) in a town next to SLO called Arroyo Grande. The friend was at a wedding only two exits from where we were staying so Greg (the friend) came over to see Noah and took him out for a night of fun. Noah got to meet Greg's mom and the other roommate coming from CA to live at University of Cincinnati with the two of them. Such a surprise!

I had a lot of fun walking with Dana through Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (they live right down the street from it) and into the canyons there. California blew me away again - stunningly beautiful, rugged, majestic, various... absolutely magnificent state. I kept thinking of Bilbo as I drove. :)

We headed out on Sunday a.m. to drive north to meet Jon. He descended from where he was up near the Oregon border. We met in Santa Rosa and then drove out to his sister's.

In Guerneville, we stayed in a nice little motel in the Redwoods that was about five minutes from Jon's sister and four of her adult kids who also live there. Jon's mom came up from Palm Springs and two of his brothers and one sister (from Montana) also made the trip to see us. Cherie (Jon's sis) has four kids who are married each with kids (except one couple) and we had a fantastic time with all of them.

This trip was full of toddlers and small children, hikes in the mountains, swimming in the gorgeous pool at our hotel, eating dinner or breakfast every day with this large extended family. I enjoyed the nieces and nephews who I had last seen when they were still under twenty. They were all homeschooled and I enjoyed talking to them about their reflections on their childhood now that they are adults.

I hope to blog about that some time in the future.

We ended the trip in San Francisco where we hooked up with an Internet friend of Jacob's. This boy and his "mum" (who is British) drove into the city to spend the day with us. They were wonderful! The only blemish on the day of cable cars, Pier 39 and the Hard Rock Cafe is that our camera was stolen.

Yes, stolen!

Jon accidentally left it on the back of our chair at HRC and when we discovered it five minutes later, someone had already walked off with it. We had fortunately downloaded most photos onto his computer by then, but lost all of the SF ones and the last day with family... and the camera which we loved. Sigh.

That's what I get for ever caring about pictures. :(

One strange effect of being in CA for me is that I lose my voice within a day of arriving. It is still sore. The whole two weeks I found it painful to talk and that I was straining to communicate. Very hoarse. Interestingly, when I got off the plane in Cinci, the moist air literally felt like a balm. I knew it would help, but the dramatic feel still surprised me. It is recovering already.

The kids said yesterday, "Wow, your voice is different in Cincinnati."

We loved our visit, miss family and friends so much, love California (I mean, who wouldn't?). But the whole time, I was also struck by how expensive everything is, how strangely self-contained the state is, how much my life in Ohio is actually satisfying and smaller scale and doable, how much Cincinnati is a much better place to live than say, Fresno or Clearlake (two of the only places in the state we could even talk about buying a house).

In the end, I was ready to come home. I really want to make money (!) because I'd like to be able to travel back and forth when I want to (for family events). But I don't want to live there. At least not now.

And that is a nice way to feel after a trip like that.

Anyway, that's a little travel report from me. Hope to catch up with your blogs soon. My mom and her husband come out on Tuesday until Sunday; Noah's big send-off to college party is on Sunday and the following weekend, my aunt and uncle will be here. July is the month where we will see every family member we have I think (except those who live in Italy! LOL).

I've changed my blog look for a fresh start too and I hope to have a new UPI coumn up for this week. I took last week off.

For those who missed it, I posted a paper I wrote about yin-yang and the environment on the Thursday ten days ago: A Yen for Yin and Yang.


Dave said...

Welcome back, thanks for the quickie personal travelogue, sorry to hear about the camera - that really sucks! - sounds like you had an awesome incredible time and I'm happy for your family that you all had such a great getaway and a chance to show off your old stomping grounds to your kids. One of my sons, Curt, is in California for this month working on a house that my sister-in-law and her husband are building up near Mendocino. Curt spent the weekend in San Francisco, staying in a cheap Chinatown hotel, wandering the same streets of SF that I did 25 years ago when I was just a bit older than him and living in The City. I called him on his cellphone and he was in the Tower Records store! I could just picture myself browsing those same racks (of actual vinyl albums, back then) that he was flipping through (of CD's) at that moment. I wished I could be with him to put all those buildings, alleys, parks and other hangouts in context.

Good to know you are back home now for awhile and I share your appreciation of the midwest - it's home to me, after all - but I get what you are saying about California. I like having people I know out there but I'm not sure I would make the move to live there even if it were a plausible option for me, which it isn't now or will be for the foreseeable future.

Matt said...

So glad to have you back, and by and large it sounds like a tremendously successful and relaxing vacation. I've never been to California before, and with no plans in the immediate future to do so I have to live vicariously through everyone else (that, and getting a feel for San Francisco through frequent viewings of "Monk").

You shouldn't apologize at all about caring too much about pictures. One of the times in my life when I was most torn up was during a move about 12 years ago, when several boxes of photos and yearbooks were "misplaced" (I use that term loosely, since I think someone took them while I was hauling a load to another house, although I was never able to prove anything).

Anyway, very glad to have you back!!

Kansas Bob said...

Welcome back Julie!

julieunplugged said...

Hi Dave, Matt and Bob (and all you lurkers who don't post comments).

Great to be home.

I am knee-deep in my Brave Writer work at the moment but look forward to catching up with all of you as I work my way through your blogs.

I've also got some thoughts to throw out for discussion that I hope to put together over the next couple of days.