I’ve had a fantastic start to my spring break! I feel like I already had a full one in LA, and now I get to go back to Austin and have another one (even if I have to work about 40 hours during the rest of the week).
Rather than recount every place we went, everything we did, which I’m tempted to do because I feel like recording my feats of sociability and activity, I will try giving a paragraph to each of the California experiences.
The Pantry, Hotel Figueroa, The Bordello
A group of us were trying to go to a burlesque show our friend’s friends were in. But my baby brother got carded. We thought of several ways to try to sneak him in. He reconned the kitchen, and we had an idea if he could sweet-talk the cook, he could get to the door just behind the doorman, at which point we would provide a distraction as he slipped to the main room. We even had our phones synced up for text message coordination before my brother lost his nerve. I had the idea that was “just crazy enough to work” of dressing him in feather-fans and boas and sneaking him in as a performer, but he didn’t go for it.
As we were walking our friend from her car to the Bordello (which, incidentally, was half a block from the rock paper scissors competition from two years ago), Willie caught sight red light spilling onto the concrete—the backstage door was open! He seized the moment, and took off across the street sprinting into the door. Three guys milling around back there, whom we had hoped weren’t bouncers, exchanged glances, and the biggest two changed course and followed my brother.
Fortunately he didn’t emerge roughed up or bloodied, but we abandoned our attempts since pretty much everyone in there by then knew his face (it would have been funny if he had emerged on the stage in the middle of a burlesque number, but I don’t think that happened).
So a few of us broke off to return for a second night of Hotel Figueroa (fantastic, fantastic place—like Hotel San Jose in Austin, but on heroin). Mojitos all around (I broke my no-alcohol, no-coffee resolutions multiple times this trip; you can’t break the first without breaking the second the next morning). My brother’s girlfriend is great. I decided they are just like Anakin and Padme.
Before the burlesque show, we had a rushed dinner (Ethiopian), and S’s boyfriend was imparting wisdom to my brother and his gf on going to the burlesque show: “You have to applaud, which is already different from a regular strip club. You have to applaud, but you have to be doing it in a way that says ‘you go, girl! You’re really good at this, and I bet that means you’re good at other things in your life, too!’ So you have to applaud, but with subtext. Can you applaud with subtext?”
“Let me tell you about the very rich: they are different from you and me.”
Santa Barbara is a beautiful part of California. Mountain, beach, green in between. I was there most of Monday. We spent four (4) hours touring someone’s ranch (by vehicle; it was very, very big). There were beautiful views, avocados, lemons, a few oranges, a private beach, dozens of vehicles including the UK army jeep used for getting around the trickier terrains of the property, and a dog faithfully trotting behind the jeep at every turn. So what was missing? A tank? Well, the owner had ordered one. A miniature tank. Jokingly he said it was because of a land dispute with a neighbor, but never gave the real reason he would order a tank (to them, it was apparently self-explanatory why a gentleman-farmer would want a street-legal military surplus tank).
At first I didn’t get the owner’s vibe (maybe I’d offended him when the first thing I said to him when he showed us his new still-empty barn was “You know you’re supposed to put stuff in these? I think I read that somewhere.”), but in the end, he was a nice guy after all. He took us down to the private beach (which, and I'm dead serious, he shares with the Jolie-Pitts). The beach itself looked like it was designed by the Style Network: aesthetically smooth stones stacked in pleasing and scattered piles, a trickling creek running across them, sheer cliffs and a fun-looking tunnel through them. The owner let me have an orange and a lemon and an avocado from the ranch. I will cherish them always.
On the other end of the spectrum, and speaking of the Style Network, the house my friend has lived in the last 5 years got re-done by the Style Network’s show Clean House since I was there last. The house is rented by a group of people struggling in the entertainment industry, so the yard sale of all their old stuff raised only minimal money. But the place looks great! I've always wanted to see a before-after in real life.
“Let’s go down to the pool at the Raddy and drink strawberry daiquiris!”
Before arriving at my brother’s school, one of the activities he pitched was going down to the Radisson and drinking by the pool. “Wow,” I thought. “That doesn’t sound fun at all.” (Yes, I'm a hotel snob: San Jose is OK, Radisson is not ok. But read on)
I don’t know how to put this, exactly, but many of my worst fears about my brother’s school proved true: TVs bigger than my condo on every dorm floor, and a free (though faulty) air hockey table. Everyone wears bathing suits all the time, apparently, and many people are drunk every day (not my brother thankfully). Every night I slept in his dorm, one or both of his neighbors were…uh…with their girlfriends. I got to experience sexile. Every Sunday there is a music festival on the lawn (my brother played so I got to see him). Sex, drugs, rock and roll. I had forgotten many of the horrors of dorm life (shower shoes, bringing your products with you to the bathroom, in addition to the aforementioned).
But I remembered the fun of the yearlong nesting, and was impressed with my brother’s innovation in said realm—he’d gotten a used fold-out couch so his bed was a bit bigger, and it was enclosed by a canopy of draped sarongs from Venice Beach. I could tell he’d straightened out the room significantly in honor of my visit, but there was still no chance of mistaking it for a Style Network “after.”
After buying a bathing suit, sunnin’ and funnin’, meeting about 30 of my brother’s friends a day, and getting myself a tan for which I felt moderate pride, I realized I was ready to go hang out at the Raddy. I got it! And it was kind of fun. Some kids were spoiled (after one sip, one girl sent back a drink the bartender had spent 15 minutes making, and didn’t act the least bit thankful; another in talking about what to make for dinner that night couldn’t decide between shrimp cocktail and steak), some kids weren’t bright (even my brother said, about one of his friends, “I don’t know if you noticed, but X? Is kind of a dumbass.”), but they were still fun to hang out with, at least for an afternoon at the Radisson pool. And many were so great I just wanted to take them home in my pocket. My brother congratulated my transformation when I used “chill” as an adjective.
My last night, I was going to be sleeping at the school, but it was revealed on the ride back that he’d had a big fight with his roommate before dinner (explaining his distraction), and I was going to be sleeping in his girlfriend’s room, while they would be sleeping in the basement. But as I was helping them carry a bundle of blankets down to the basement, we realized at the door that the roommate and the roommate’s girlfriend were also down there getting ready to sleep there. It was kind of a funny coincidence, since it wasn’t actually the dorm they live in, but both of them had been planning to sleep in that basement to avoid each other. The coincidence precipitated a resolution, and we all drove back to my brother’s room, and the five of us slept there that night.
At the airport, they just announced “If you left your laptop, and the Girls are Having a Great Time, please pick up your items from TSA.” What?
My flight has been delayed more than an hour. Plus my brother dropped my off about 2 hours early. But it’s OK to watch the sun set behind the mountains one more time.