Monday, July 26, 2004

Issue 9: Santa Cruz

The Firm’s big summer trip is a weekend in Santa Cruz, a beach town an hour and a bit from San Francisco. Santa Cruz is known for surfers, fish tacos, and it’s laid-back vibe.

I drove down Friday afternoon, and I was surly by the time I got there because I hit beach traffic. Luckily, the early birds had been busy setting the mood – beers on ice, tunes, sombreros (??) everywhere. The firm rented out the whole inn, and it was utterly fitting – seashells on the windowsills, weathered wood, a big patio with lawn chairs. From the patio, walk down 8 stairs and you’re on the beach in less than 30 seconds. The beach is essentially private because it is nearly closed off by rock outcroppings on either side.

People trickled in. Rebecca and Danny taught me the proper way to drink a Tecate – lime juice, salt and Tapatio hot sauce on the tab top, pop it open and drink as much as you can. Much yummier than you’d think. (Then again, Danny bailed on kayaking the next morning by calling Rebecca on her cell because he was too sick to leave the bathroom.) By dark, nearly everyone had showed up, so we took the show to the beach and built a bonfire (legal in Santa Cruz.) If I remember correctly, upon request, I taught Tom the sun salutation yoga series. There’s nothing like doing Seven Points Pose in the sand.

Half the group went kayaking the next morning (minus a few people who were "not up to it.") We saw sea otters (so cute! the puppies of the sea), an inquisitive seal, and dolphins (I spotted them!) We had to stay at least 100 feet away from marine mammals, great in theory – but they don’t know the rules, so, for example, the seal kept trying to check us out. Either you stop paddling and stare down the seal, or you try and casually paddle away.

We all retired to the inn to nap and prepare for the big event: KARAOKE! The festivities began before dark. Wayne started us off with "The Copacabana", a bold selection. More libations. Matt can actually sing. More beverages. Mike and James, both summers, performed "Baby Got Back" – another gutsy move. More. I flipped through the song book with Kevin and ended up singing bits and pieces of practically every song in there – thereby proving the accuracy of my college roommate’s claim that my superpower is knowing the words to every bad song every recorded. More drinks. I sing "backup", i.e. I hold the microphone and try to back away as much as possible, on "All My Exes Live in Texas", and "Material Girl" (Kevin’s eventual selection.) We all sang "Imagine" – as cheesy as it sounds, it was a really touching moment for me. I love that song, and it made me feel close to everyone there. More drinky-poos. And big karaoke finale (which I participated in) – BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY!

I woke up early the next morning and had the beach all to myself. I spent some time with my journal and reflected on what the summer has meant to me. It’s been one of the best summers of my life, and also one of the most solitary. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and it’s definitely not a complaint. In some ways, the way I view the world has shifted, and in other ways it has just solidified.

After breakfast, everyone packed up and checked out. Kevin and I decided to "cruise Santa Cruz" and drove around getting lost. We found the boardwalk, took pictures of the surfing monument, picked out our dream houses. I’ve come to know my fellow summers so well – from his face, I can tell when Kev wants to ask a question, is lying, or disagrees. (He’d make a lousy poker player.) Aaron and I know not to make eye contact if something funny happens in a meeting because we’re the worst gigglers in the bunch. James has such an off-kilter pacing to his stories – it keeps you guessing. Andrea has the easiest laugh, and that makes you feel like the funniest person alive. It’s going to be hard to leave them … like the end of so many other eras, I know it will never again be like it is right now, this particular mix. I’ll see Andrea and Mike in DC, and I know all of us will keep in touch. Hopefully, most of us will end up at the firm, but it will still be a change.

It was hard to leave Santa Cruz, and the beach traffic didn’t help. I could easily see myself living there: walking on the beach in the morning with my dog, living by the ocean. If Santa Cruz could be bottled, it would be pure relaxation: sun, sand, and the odd comfort the ocean always gives: you are so small in the world.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Issue 8: Adventures in Driving, etc.

The Firm has a small library that I enjoy using when I really need to concentrate (Our office is so social that sometimes my office isn’t the best place for getting work done.) In the library, I always chose the same seat – huge table, comfy chair. In the far distance, there are two skinny, tall palm trees that always remind me of Dr. Seuss books (the Lorax, maybe?) I’ve been looking at those trees for weeks, so you can imagine my surprise when I was driving to work on the 101, and out of the corner of my eye, glimpsed the two trees – on the left side of the 101, right next to the highway!! I’ve been passing them twice a day for literally months and never noticed.

On Gilbert Street, there is a tree that is growing in the middle of the street. Literally. The base of the tree is about 4 feet from the sidewalk, and the asphalt goes right up to its trunk. I wish that someone had hung a little plaque on the tree, or that there was some other kind of explanatory sign. I want to know it’s history, and how it came to be spared.

I’m getting a little better about orienting myself here. It’s all about resetting your parameters. In DC, when you get on the Beltway or the Metro, you think about which direction you’re heading to set your end points. Richmond or Tysons? Vienna or New Carrolton? Here, going north-south it’s San Francisco and San Jose. On the 92, it’s Half Moon Bay (to the west) and the San Mateo Bridge (crossing over into the East Bay.) The El Camino Real stretches from San Diego up to Sonoma county and connects 21 missions founded by the Spanish in the 18th century. (It’s not the only El Camino Real, the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro. runs between Santa Fe, NM and Mexico City, and another one that runs in Mexico to northern Louisiana.) The Spanish names of streets still intrigue me – my new favorite, Junipero Serra. I am still enjoying Alameda de las Pulgas – which sounds so fascinating, but apparently means Avenue of the Fleas.

Bay area radio is an interesting thing. Because it stretches from San Jose up to Marin (north of SF), and over to the East Bay (Oakland, etc.), some radio stations broadcast from different places on different frequencies. Which would explain why I was blessed with "She’s like the Wind" by Patrick Swayze on three different stations on my drive home earlier this week. I also managed to catch a version of Shania Twain’s "Still the One" in Spanish, complete with tuba.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Issue 7: Nuestra Senora la Reyna de Los Angeles de Porciuncula

For those who don’t make it all the way through my posts, I’ll open up with the two highlights of my trip to LA. The first occurred before I even left the airport! Some guys who were on the flight with me were picked up by their friends in what can only be described as a home-made limousine. From what I saw, I think that they took some beat-up Lincolns, cut them apart, and welded them together. Not to worry, they didn’t mask their handiwork by painting their creation – it rolled by in all of its glory. It was unexpected, tacky, ostentatious and utterly LA.

The second highlight: Fourth of July. After a few beers, my friend’s partner’s brother (did you follow that?) asked me if I was a Hari Krishna. The evidence: I don’t eat red meat, and I was wearing a purple scarf. (This reminded me of being asked by a good friend (you know who you are!) whether I was a lesbian. Evidence: I had lesbian friends in college, and I used to have short hair.) Friend’s partner was sort of embarrassed, but I thought it was hilarious. But it’s a good thing that he said it to me at this point in my life – if someone had asked me that in college, I would have flipped out.

We watched the fireworks from the street – we could see a number of "official" shows, and more than a few "amateur" shows. Not so amateur, really. While we had the legal kind, a lot of people in the neighborhood had bought fireworks from Tijuana – to my eye, exactly like the professional kind. It’s a little unnerving looking up at big (DRY) palm trees, and watching fireworks burst just above them.

It was weird to be in LA for the fireworks – I missed DC: the warm wet blanket of humidity, the monuments. Maybe you just want holidays the way they were while you were growing up. Somehow, I’ve managed to spend the big holidays away from home recently. Christmas in Granada, New Year’s in London, the 4th of July in LA. I love travelling, but in some ways – I want to wake up Christmas morning in the uncomfortable twin bed in my parents’ house, spend New Year’s with the ever-youthful Dick Clarke, etc.

I came down to LA to visit my college friend ILTSAE. Saturday, I spent going on a cheesy bus tour of LA – the Hollywood Bowl, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, Rodeo Drive, you name it. I need to do cheesy tourist stuff more often. Sunday, I went to ILTSAE’s softball tournament, and Monday (after recovering from July 4th) – we spent at the mall! We saw "Spiderman 2" in the nicest theater I’ve ever been in (and I’m picky), and spent an inordinate amount of time in Borders (another of my favorite things – although I’m enough of a snob to prefer independent book stores.) At dinner, I saw my high school friend Scarlet who is moving to New York later in the week. I have the best timing. Overall, a weekend with old friends. I’ve been developing a new theory on friendship – I think the friends who knew you during certain critical phases of your life, such as high school & college, have deeper insight into you than people you meet at other (happier?) times in your life.

I can’t believe the summer is half over…before I know it, I’ll be back in DC complaining about school and missing the people here.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Issue 6: Yoshi’s

We get invited to a lot of fun dinners etc. for groups that the firm is involved with, or sponsors. Jeet (the Indian partner I've mentioned before) sent out an invite to a pro bono group's cocktail hour. It was lovely - good wine, etc. etc. Here's the point of the story - I was trying to duck out, so I found Jeet to say goodbye. He introduced me to one of the pro bono group types, that guy's wife came over and we all chatted for a bit, and I left. The next day, Jeet told me that guy's wife had thought that we (Jeet and I) were married. That's right - the two Indian people in the joint HAVE to be married to each other. I had a good laugh, but apparently, she was mortified, doubly so because she's an employment lawyer.

Saturday, I headed up to Oakland to Yoshi's - world famous Japanese steakhouse and jazz joint. I somehow forgot how much I love live music. Actually, I seem to remember that every time I see someone live, and then I forget it again. (I'm the same way about submarine sandwiches: I always think I don't like them, but I don't mind them when I do have them.) All music is expressive, of course, but jazz seems more so...the phrasing, the improvisation, etc. Dee Dee Bridgewater was phenomenal. The show was very intimate - small venue, and the music was too - in the middle of "La Belle Vie", Dee Dee started crying. During the last song, Yoshi (the proprietress) came out and did some kind of interpretive dance (scarf and all.)
We had a "luau" at work - not really, just kitschy "Hawaiian" stuff. Most important: a hula hoop competition! One of my secret shames: I can not hula-hoop to save my life. So, of course, I did not compete. But, I did manage to semi-permanently borrow the hula-hoop for my office. People drop by to visit, and hula hoop - very fun. I've been practicing every day, and so far no luck (although, I do manage to crack myself up a lot. I'm not giving up! By the end of the summer (hopefully), I will have overcome my inability to 'hoop.' Next thing you know, I'll be able to ice skate (yet another no-longer-so-secret shame.)

I had too many after school activities this week. The gamblers in the summer associate group organized a poker night. Just as I was far behind the curve re: blackjack, it seems that everyone has more of a notion as to how to play poker. The firm took us, along with some associates and partners, to Malibu Grand Prix! Mini-golf (which I suck at)! Go-carts! Little race-cars (which I also suck at.) Arcade games (which I was smart enough not to go near)!

Next week: the 4th of July report from LA!