My first real, no sh-t, vacation from running this website has sadly come to an end. Honestly, I considered just saying “fuck it” and staying on the west coast – Vegas calling – but after gaining about 27 lbs and drinking for two weeks straight, cooler heads prevailed. It was time to come back and Biggest Loser and Intervention myself.
This trip, unlike most of my vacations, was filled with activities. Here are some of the highlights while I work my way back into “Top Ten Barnyard Animals” shape:
Mexican Food – Went a little hogwild here, eating at small taco shops or Rubio’s (an awesome Cali chain) the first 18 meals before pulling back slightly. The only disappointment? My go-to in Santa Monica, Tacos Por Favor, wasn’t bringing the thunder like they usually do – food was a little bland and not exactly piping hot. I’ve decided that you can best take the measure of a taqueria by first sampling their carnitas. Have one carnitas taco, then proceed with your order after processing the information (take note of the rice and bean situation, too. I recommend running away from rice that has ingredients other than rice).
Virgin America – First time flying on what I thought was a newer, nicer, Jet Blue. It turns out it is a newer, same-level-of-niceness, Greyhound. The prices are pretty cheap because they’ve apparently stripped out anything that could provide any comfort whatsoever in favor of adding extra seats. I’m of the opinion that airplane seats shouldn’t be so f*cking close together that you have to read whatever the person in front of you is reading when he leans back the robust three degrees that the seats recline. They also charge for everything – $3 for some f-cking Pop Chips?!? My fellow passengers appeared to have all stumbled out of the Harrah’s Atlantic City pool party – tatts and regrettable headgear as far as the eye could see. Luckily I had a middle seat and the lady next to me had a dog.
Free tip: Avoid Virgin America at all costs.
The Beach – One thing about California, everyone seems to like smoking the pot. At the beach house an 80 year old couple asked if we like to “smoke a doobie.” We politely declined and asked if they had any crystal meth. The beach in Oxnard is pretty swell, even if it is covered in my nemesis, sand.
The Magic Castle – Brilliant concept: a members-only club where there’s no pool or golf course, but various rooms of magicians performing sets. As many handlebar mustaches as you’d find at a 1920s villain convention. Also lots of creepy oil paintings where you expect the eyes to follow you around the room – but they don’t. Had beef wellington as an entree for the first time, it’s roughly as rich as a Cadbury creme egg omelette. Good times.
California Graduation – I went to my first west coast high school graduation – there were more Wangs and Dongs than in a Chelsea video store.
Drive Up The Pacific Coast Highway – Everyone who heard we were driving up the PCH used terms like “beautiful” and “incredibly scenic” to describe the drive up the two-lane highway all the way on the left side of the country. Better descriptive terms would be “sh*t your pantsingly scary” and “two inches away from both oncoming cars and a mountain.” I highly don’t recommend this drive if, like me, you are scared of heights. It’s ear-poppingly high. Just grab a postcard somewhere in Monterey and say you did it.
My First Hoodie - Despite having seen The Wire in its entirety, I’d never owned a hoodie. Upon alighting upon Monterey, I realized that my packed wardrobe of tee shirts and plaid shorts wasn’t gonna cut it since the wind chill was about seven below. So I bought a gangsta-assed black hoodie for $20 at one of the tourist shops. Now I roll like Bodie – and nothing, I mean nothing, suggests you are a bad mother f-cker like MONTEREY boldly scrawled across your brand new sweatshirt. Represent the 831, son.
Whale Watching – SO wanted to do some whale watching in Monterey; I’d been before and wasn’t super high on the concept (despite the best efforts of the octogenarians in Oxnard). In my limited experience, whale watching was basically just seeing a fin of flipper briefly, then looking in the same spot for 45 seconds before seeing another fin or flipper. And it’s cold as sh*t, stupid blubber-laden whales.
The folks on the boat were pushing the seasickness pills, but homie don’t play dat: I’ve never been motion sick in my life, even when journeying through Cape Hatteras on a boat about the same size as an Escalade, or after telling a flight instructor in a T-34 that I didn’t need an airsickness bag because I don’t get sick. (Note: Turns out, T-34s are pretty maneuverable.) Anyway, back to the f*cking whales, we cruised out about an hour into the bay and happened upon a mother and her calf. They did typical whale sh*t for about thirty minutes.
Then they started jumping out of the f*cking water (or breaching, if you are planning to become a marine biologist). The mom only did it once (tremendous splash) but the baby did it like 20-30 times, which was somewhat awesome. Then some dolphins rode our wake on the way home, like we were in some kind of f*cking Disney movie.
Monterey Aquarium – I realize I’m gonna lose the considerable street cred I have built up around here, but the Aquarium was awesome. Given that I’ve been to the Atlantis so many times, and they have a legit aquarium, I was skeptical. But the Monterey Aquarium had three killer segments: sea otters, seahorses, and jellyfish. Sea otters have it pretty good, just doing the backstroke all the time and generally chilling the f*ck out. Jellyfish make no sense whatsoever, and I still hold a grudge for them stinging the sh-t out of me when my laser fell apart during sailing training. Seahorses are cool, but their cousins, sea dragons, were the funkiest things ever – I’m gonna try and set up a sea dragon aquarium in my living room. A f-cking plant that swims? Sweet.
U.S. Open Practice Round – As we walked out of the Aquarium, some lady was scalping some Open tickets. Maybe it’s not scalping given that she sold them for half face price, but it was commerce nonetheless. So we went down to Pebble Beach – I hadn’t been there since playing a round in 2007. (Don’t remember what I shot, but suspect it was something in the low 70s.) Had never been to a golf tournament, it was pretty cool, but there weren’t a lot of golfers on the course, as a lot of guys skipped the final practice round. We did follow Tom Watson for a couple of holes – his son was caddying for him. I wonder how that works when your dad is world famous and people clap and cheer upon catching a glimpse of him? And the son is cleaning off a sand wedge. I’m sure the fact that he’s rich as balls doesn’t hurt – I guess it’s the same thing with any son of someone who’s uber-successful. If I ever have a kid, he’s pretty certain to be disappointed at the number of people who clap and cheer upon sight of me. But I’m gonna make that little bastard caddy for me anyway.
Napa Valley – After the Open, we headed up to Napa for two days. I’d never been, but suspected it was one of those things that sounded fun, but was likely to not actually be fun (like Lillith Fair). We had a pretty nice room at a place called the Harvest Inn, which, importantly, had a 24 hour outdoor heated pool and hottub. It was within walking distance of the key restaurants and such, so I fully anticipated a Sideways reenactment.
Day two (which was also day one, since we got there sort of late the night before) we went on a wine tasting tour, a bus-based booze cruise where we hit four different smaller wineries. It was pretty stellar, but I just wish they’d give you about 200% more wine during a tasting. And there was definitely a pouring discrepancy between the men and the women – did the proprietors think getting the ladies drunk was the way to sell more stuff? Still, I’m up for just about any drinking-based activity, especially the ones that start at 11:00 AM. We ended up having to contort six bottles of wine into our already-stuffed luggage. I want to go back. Like, right now.
The Unfortunate Incident – After the wine bus, we stumbled directly down the street to the upscale pizzeria to eat and watch game seven of the NBA finals. (The NBA, I have concluded, is a joke. Way, way too many fouls; the refs effectively determine the outcome of the games more than the players. Seems like things have gotten worse since the Donaghy thing came to light). We ordered a nice bottle of red and were enjoying the game, when I realized I had gotten some sediment or something in my last drink of wine. Working it around a bit with my tongue, I realized that, sizewise, this was closer to a full grape than just a bit of sludge – so I spit it out.
Turns out, it was a large housefly. I threw the fly on the ground and started freaking out. SO picked up the fly with a napkin and showed it to the bartender so I could get my drink refilled (good thinking!). I started dry heaving for a couple seconds, but no actual vomiting occurred. I think that might’ve actually been worse than this. Let’s move on.
Menage – A chance to visit the homeland – next stop, Yellow Tail.
Little Kids – Spent the weekend in Alameda with one of my best friends, and visited two of SO’s friends in the Bay Area. Exposure to five kids total, ranging in age from two days old to almost seven years old, all girls. The mood swings, the yelling – it was just like being back in investment banking. (Although, if banking had nap time, I’d be clawing my way back into the biz.) Apparently, raising kids is tiring, given that all the parents looked like they’d just pulled a 72 hour shift in the ER. I’m pretty sleepy as it is, so I guess I won’t have to worry about that Tom Watson situation anyway.
Golf – I played it in Alameda; I am not good at it.
Ike’s Place – You know that you: 1) Are a fatass; and 2) Have too much free time, when you hear about an awesome sandwich shop located across the f-cking country, and somehow work it into your vacation plans. We’d read stories about Ike’s Place, where they bake your bread when you order and will put mozzarella sticks on your chicken sandwich. We went slightly out of our way to try the one in Redwood City, without taking notice of the fact that it is closed on Sundays. Damn you, Ike! And, who puts a sandwich shop in an office building? Still want one so bad…
Kim Kardashian – I feel like she’s kind of following me around, first Harrah’s, now Virgin America? No need to be so shy, Kim, despite all the disparaging comments I’ve made. (And, I have it on good authority that she’s in the “drink bathwater” category, which far exceeds the “hit it” mark).