california part II

the california trip was just shy of a week, so i should be able to sum up the rest of the journey in this post. man, i wish it was a longer stay, something like 2 weeks, so a multi-day trip to LA could've been squeezed in, and relaxation could've reached truly epic heights (lows?).

either way, that's not how it goes for the likes of ry & me & our bank accounts, so we tried to enjoy each minute of every day, and what a rad trip it was...

on saturday, we woke up to a brilliant morning and biked our way through oakland (so charming!), to a diner called rudy's can't fail cafe. this kitchsy gem combines punk rock aesthetics (without any bad attitude from the servers), with classic comfort food. lots of vegetarian and vegan options, too, oh lordy the menu was packed with choices. however, we had a bit of a wait to get seated, and drank lots of coffee in the outdoor courtyard.

did i mention the weather was amazing? not warm enough to go without a jacket, but still sunny, clear, energizing, lovely.

after our hearty breakfasts and probably too much coffee, we biked into berkeley, and spent many hours in the amoeba records on telegraph. i bought a really good stack of vinyl, including a mae west collection of sultry jazzy numbers called "queen of sex." fighting our way through the crowds comprised of students and burn outs, we stopped in tiny deli for what were fast becoming ubiquitous late afternoon big bottles of beer.

biked up and further up winding hills into a very fancy neighborhood in berkeley, to a park that was essentially a huge rock from which there were breathtaking views of the bay and san franscisco beyond it.

other people slowly gathered across all facets of our little mountain, and we drank our hoppy brews and talked, and watched the lucky residents of the homes below go about their early saturday evenings. at one point, we heard a woman's voice gently shout "dinner time!" and saw a few children scurry out of the yard and up the steps...what a heartwarming little scene. so as the sun began to set, we quieted down, and watched the golden drama unfold.

after the beautiful sun finally sank below the horizon (and you could really see it disappear, until only a glow remained, then finally...nothing), i said "it would be funny if people clapped," and then they did - they applauded the sunset! the lack of irony and cynicism in the people out west is astounding, equal parts weird and comforting to a lifelong east coaster like me. we packed up our bags and empty bottles, and headed back down the steep garden path back down to our bikes.

a relatively quick shop in the berkeley bowl (too much to photograph to even try) for dinner wares, and then back to the apartment to make our meal: a big green salad with blackberries & easter egg radishes, pasta with mushrooms and peas, and an asparagus & brussels sprout salad with almond lemon pesto (one of ryan's new specialties). we ate heartily around their cozy table, sipping wine and listening to the records we'd purchased earlier.

later, a quick bike ride to eli's mile high club, a very divey punk bar (and oddly empty on a saturday night), for a few rounds of drinks and pool...

then we biked further into downtown oakland, toward the ruby room, which was in full swing with some sort of booze-soaked high school reunion where everyone was in costumes. it was a bit odd, and so we only stayed for one drink. back in the apartment, we ate some little snacks, talked some more, and turned in for the night.

after a quick breakfast in the morning, ryan and i swung by a car rental place, got ourselves a nice little 4-door, and headed south toward santa cruz! our friends patrick and janina moved out there in june, and i've missed them so. we drove down the coast, an epic and gorgeous landscape of mountains, gigantic trees, and beaches. we pulled off at pescadero beach to walk off some of the gnarly snacks we bought from a gas station. here is ryan looking very california:

i'd never been to santa cruz before, and it was a quaint beach-y town with a very 50's feel. there is a rad old boardwalk with wooden roller coasters that i sadly didn't take any photos of. also, just past the boardwalk there is the bridge where they filmed that scene in "lost boys." while we stood on the bridge at twilight, looking out over the dry riverbed below, patrick pointed out a blue heron standing gracefully on the riverbank. the night was cool, but clear, and it felt really special to be there with them.

we walked all through the town, to a badass sushi restaurant, whose name i can't remember. i didn't take any photos there either...by that point in the trip i was definitely slacking on the picture-taking. so just take my word for it that the sushi was incredible (there were macademia nuts in one of my rolls, and they have the option to get your rolls tempura-ed, like deep fried, like oh my GOD). full & happy, we walked over to logos, the very cool bookstore where janina is now employed. the store is just huge, so we spent an hour or so perusing all the books and records and meeting her co-workers. it's always nice to get to see a glimpse of a friend's day-to-day life who lives far away from you...like it kind of helps you feel closer to them when they're like "i'm at work, i can't really talk right now," and you can imagine exactly what that scene looks like.

we had some cocktails at a fancy little bar called the 515, including a really wonderful drink that i had, a spin on an old fashioned with herb infused bourbon, maraschino cherry, oranges and champagne. i don't always dig on the overwrought craft cocktail thing, but this was crazy good. and strong!!

back at the apartment, we stayed up late talking, trading stories, watching funny youtube videos and drinking cold bottles of beer. in the morning, we woke up to another beautiful california day, complete with cat:

also, remember how janina is an expert jam maker? well, even on the other coast, she's still at it. check this out: she doesn't have a shelf, or part of a cabinet dedicated storing her canned wares and preserves. no, she has an entire closet!

a very inspiring site to me, still weirdly intimidated by the process of canning. anyway, we had to return the car by 1PM, so we said our farewells with long hugs. the drive back to SF was quick and easy (we took the highway back), and we mentally prepared for our last day of the trip. we bummed around oakland with john in the afternoon, i met up with another friend for coffee in the evening, and we polished off some rippin' 'za at a pizzeria called lane splitters. finally, to our last bar of the trip and undoubtedly the best: a tiny, ancient dive called kingfish. this was my kind of bar: small without being cramped, $1 olympias served up by a wizened but friendly old man, a jukebox, a diverse crowd, low ceilings, a popcorn machine in the corner and...shuffleboard!

does anyone know of bars in philly that have a shuffleboard table? i was too drunk to play very well that night, but i do love a good game of shuffleboard. mary met up with us there after her drawing class, and it just felt so easy and regular to be meeting up in the night to drink and reflect on our days, just like we used to in philly. through my beer + bliss haze, i kind of let myself pretend that this was just another day in our lives, and not the last night of a brief visit.

loving people is hard sometimes. you want them to be near you, but you also want them to be fulfilled, and to explore, and to be where is right for them. you try to enjoy the times you do have together without constantly reminding yourself that soon you will have to say goodbye. you look at their faces and feel them in your arms when you hug, and you know that this is fleeting, and that it will be another 7 months at least before you get to do that again.

when we said goodbye on tuesday morning at the oakland airport, i felt so many things. i remembered the morning that john & mary drove away from our house in west philly for the last time, i remember how mary cried and how touched i was, and how deep it felt to watch them really go. i felt amazed at how many miles separate us now, but how from the moment we arrived, i felt instantly re-connected and happy. yes, the bay area is charming, and abundant and awesome, but we could've been in any little apartment anywhere with them, and i would have felt just as much joy.

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