Thursday afternoon, August 6th, 2009, and I’m on my way to the Portland International Airport, Portland, Oregon soon to be heading south to Beautiful Downtown Burbank, California.
It’s been a year and a half since I’ve seen my oldest daughter and her new husband and equally as long since I’ve seen my middle daughter. My youngest and I get together every six to nine months, in a good year. All of my girls are grown and on their own and doing well in their own right. I am equally proud of each and every one of them for their own individual achievements. But, mostly, I am proud of them because they love me so much. Like most parents who are totally honest with themselves, we never feel quite worthy of the degree of love we receive but are grateful for every hug and kiss that comes our way.
When my flight was entering the greater Los Angeles area, I was expecting the great smog basin to welcome me with brown skies and near zero visibility. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw clear blue skies and, when looking straight down, I could see the ground and not through a thick brown haze. What a relief.
It’s such a pleasure to arrive in Burbank instead of LAX. Bob Hope Airport, as it is now called, is small and efficient. There aren’t miles of concourses so walking is kept to a minimum. That’s the big treat for those of us who don’t want to go on a ten mile hike immediately after deplaning.
My daughter Whitney’s flight from Phoenix was delayed two hours so she arrived when I did. Luck of the Gods. My oldest daughter, Audra, would now only have to make one trip to pick both of us up. But, there would still be plenty of driving to be done over the next few days. My middle daughter, Katrina, lives in Pasadena which is a twenty-five minute drive by freeway from Burbank and Trina doesn’t drive. Good thing Audra and her husband, Darius, have an economical and comfortable car to drive.
Things being what they are in the L.A. area, housing of all types is quite expensive. Being a young couple and just starting out, Audra and Darius have a smallish one bedroom apartment in the Burbank area. Quite cozy and livable for two, a little crowded but still comfortable for four. Darius and Audra are thinking about a family and buying a house but just where, they’re not sure yet. Being young, they still have time for that.
I think the highlight of this trip was the relaxed nature of it in general. There was little in the way of planned activities which always makes a vacation a little more hectic than I like. I just wanted to relax with my girls and observe them interact. Something I haven’t been able to do for a good many years, do to the divorce and all. We did things, don’t get me wrong but, they were discussed among us right then and then we did them. We weren’t on any kind of a schedule. Much better that way.
We had dinners at home or we had them out. We had breakfast home or out. What ever the mood dictated. Oh, they did insist on one breakfast at home though. They all insisted that I fix my famous biscuits and sausage gravy. It’s the first time we all have been able to sit down together for that breakfast in over fifteen years and, it was the very first time for Audra’s husband ever. He cleaned his plate, by-the-way, and he wasn’t just being polite. At least, that’s what I prefer to think.
On Saturday, Darius had to work during the afternoon so the girls and I went to Venice beach and walked around for a couple hours. It was good to see the area again and how much it has been developed yet, how much it remained the same. The sidewalk venders and small restaurants still lined the strand along with the random musicians playing for money or just playing for an audience with dancers dancing trance-like to the rythym of whatever was being played.
There was the man on stilts with the Abe Lincoln outfit and the street jesters pulling pranks on the unwary sightseers. Roller bladers and skateboarders showing their talents and girls in bikini’s showing their tattoo’s and other attributes. It was a treat for the senses in all respects. Sights, sounds, smells, the feeling of being part of a living, breathing moment in time.
After the Venice experience we decided to walk the mile or so to the Santa Monica Pier which we did at a leisurely pace taking in more of the sights and sounds along the way. The pier is always bustling with action of one sort or another. Venders selling their wares, musicians, again, playing for the masses, artists doing drawings and sculptures for tourists and locals alike. The smell of fish and restaurants mingle the raw elements and the finished product which temps the plate of all who pass by.
We were no exception. We went directly past all the seafood places to the end of the pier where sat a beautiful Mexican restaurant, The Marisol, where we had snacks, a pitcher of Margaritas and a couple of pictures to remember the moment.
Much to the displeasure of the wait staff, I had made friends with one of the local pigeons by feeding him corn chips. I even got one to sit on my arm and eat out of my hand to which the waiter scowled and my daughters went eeeuuu, dad!!! I thought it was kinda neat, myself.
While Audra and Whitney walked back to retrieve the car from Venice Beach, Katrina and I continued up the board walk to the main street at the foot of the pier stopping along the way to browse and have a cup of coffee. We waited on the corner for the girls to arrive with the car and went home from there. It had been a busy afternoon and the day wasn’t over yet.
We had dinner at home that night but afterwords, we went to “The Magnolia”. The Magnolia is a refurbished speakeasy from the Roaring 20’s era. As-a-matter-of-fact, it was the original speakeasy in the L.A. area built in 1926. It had a fake store front with a secret entrance for those with the proper credentials only. These would be card carrying bootleggers and aristocrats who would enjoy, not only top of the line booze but many pleasures of the moment, if they could afford it that is.
We had some martini’s and some conversation and then called it a night. The Magnolia was real close to where Katrina lived so we dropped her off and proceeded back to Beautiful Downtown Burbank. Oh, I all ready said that, didn’t I?
Let me go back to the first night, if I might, I have to tell you about this fabulous salad dressing my daughter fixed. Audra said she found it on the internet and decided to try it. It was a ginger flavored dressing served on chilled Romaine lettuce cut into one inch pieces and it was fabulous. Simple to make and we had it every meal we ate at home. It was terrific. I have the recipe, by the way.
Sunday morning my youngest, Whitney, and I decided to skip church and hangout together since she had to return home to Scottsdale later that afternoon. We walked toward downtown Burbank and had breakfast at this sidewalk cafe called “Bob’s Bigboy”. Yes, they have outdoor seating in Burbank but, the food is the same everywhere.
Afterword, we walked back to the apartment just in time to meet Audra getting back from church and followed shortly there after by Darius. He’s the sound engineer at the church, which is his profession anyway, and Audra sings in the choir.
Today is really the only time when something had been preplanned for the afternoon and what an event it was going to be. For me, it was like a trip to Hong Kong. Darius, who is Chinese, was taking us to Dim Sum, a very special restaurant in Montebello, CA that serves authentic Chinese food. Things like you would never get in your neighborhood Chinese restaurant. The service was totally different and everything was done in Chinese.
Darius ordered everything and explained what it was as we ate it, one course at a time. There was shrimp of all forms, rice and rice noodles. Soup wrapped in rice noodles. Shrimp dumplings and puff pastries with I don’t know what inside and tea, always lots of tea. There must have been eight courses or more, I lost count. It was all so good all I can say is if you ever get the opportunity to go to a Dim Sum, cancel whatever else you were going to do and go. You will never regret it. I’m ready to go again.
As if we hadn’t eaten enough all ready, Darius cooked for us again that night. It was a favorite dish of all of ours especially Whitney but, unfortunately, she was all ready on a plane back to Phoenix while we were enjoying the fruits of Darius’ labors.
Darius had fired up the barbecue with Mesquite wood and put on some steaks seasoned with salt, Rosemary and garlic powder and then rubbed with soy sauce just before being placed on the grill. Then he came into the house to prepare the beef and broccoli with rice and Audra prepared her now famous salad and dressing. The steaks, believe it or not, was the appetizer and the beef and broccoli the main course. Different but delicious. It was yet another feast for the palate.
Whitney was there for the Dim Sum while Katrina had to work and Katrina for the evening meal while Whitney was on the plane so everything worked out, sort of. As for me, I was lucky enough to be there for both, yum.
The next morning it was my turn to return to the great northwest. Thursday evening, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday morning doesn’t seem like very long but it was a dream vacation to me. Probably the most perfect vacation of any I have had in memory when it involves my girls. I can’t wait to do it again.
After an enroute delay in San Jose, I arrived back in Portland around 2 hours late. I hopped on the MAX train right outside baggage claim and road the forty minutes to downtown to meet my ride and have a couple of beers at the Goose Hollow Tavern before heading home. It was a wonderful four days which I will relive over and over in my mind for months to come. I love my girls very much and miss them terribly. Someday, who knows, we may all be closer, someday ……………………….