Tuesday - On the first night in the hotel I ordered fish tacos in my room and drank the champagne L had waiting for me for Valentine's Day. I watched "Teen Mom," immediately mystified by how television works on the West Coast. Some things are shown at the same time as back east....others are not. Throughout the trip I felt like the east coast was pinging all these news items and alerts to California -- important information about politics, the economy, stocks, Europe -- and it all seemed to lose its importance and meaning by the time it reached the west coast. Who really cares? You wake up early in California, the northeast corridor is already getting ready for lunch, and none of it really seems to matter. Who the hell watches MSNBC in California?
Wednesday - After the conference ended for the day we drove out to La Jolla. We were in a Suburban-style vehicle with seating for eight. Rihanna ("We Found Love") was blasting in the speakers and I loved it. Our driver was a little surly and wore an odd suit. At one point we were struggling to do something -- unlatch a seatbelt, open a container -- and someone jokingly said, "How many master's degrees does it take to [complete this task]?" Later, after we had gotten out, the driver said to us, "I have two master's degrees," and explained how he had been a successful businessman in his home country. I felt bad that he had totally misread us.
We had dinner in La Jolla at a fancy and wonderful restaurant. The most sophisticated meal I've had in a long time, including a couple of these rosemary-based cocktails:
|"Sea Dew Collins"|
Afterwards we walked down to where the road curved down by the surf. It was pitch black and we couldn't see anything, just the roar of the waves, the artless barking of the sea lions, and the great black emptiness of the water. I thought a lot about the only other time I've been to La Jolla -- on my first trip out west, in the spring break of 2001 (almost eleven years ago now) -- I was with a couple people I loved dearly then, one of whom is still my friend, the other lost to time -- but that was the first trip where I really traveled, saw the Pacific, drove hundreds of new miles. That trip was a real lodestar for me and it was good to return here under completely different circumstances.
As we piled into the car to return home I said, "I need some Rihanna right now! Give me some RiRi!" And sure enough, at that moment the song I wanted to hear ("...In a Hopeless Place") came oomphing through the speakers.
|Night in La Jolla|
Thursday - Dinner in Old Town San Diego, at Cafe Coyote (or Coyote Cafe). We walked by the oldest brick structure in southern California, a regal building that had a large weeping tree of some kind on its property. I moseyed around the sidewalks and felt completely disoriented. I thought I was in New Orleans or something, but no... The randomness of this trip and my presence in southern California never really abated.
Friday - After the conference ended at noon on Friday I wasn't sure what to do with myself. I wandered around the beautiful spacious suburban sprawl and investigated their version of a Chipotle. It was full of men in their 30s and 40s in business casual attire. Many people were sitting outside on the little plaza. The interior was so spacious that I actually took up a whole booth by myself, just me and my food and my copy of The Atlantic with Barack Obama on it. I felt like a real East Coast elitist asshole. The food was great -- the steak tasted different, the guacamole was smoother, the chips were better. Huh.
I spent more time walking around the hotel area, doing work when I could, and then returned to sit by the pool for a while. A new conference was launching in those final hours and I felt awkward remaining there. Our time had passed. At the airport I realized that I had waited in the same terminal a few years earlier with colleagues from the law firm, and I again thought about how much had changed since then.
Does California only exist as a fantasy, a mirror, a landmark on the horizon to notch the passing of time? It sure seems that way.