Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Day 46: City on a Hill

I arrived at Scott and Rachel's Saturday evening. Scott cooked an awesome dinner of chicken with a cashew sauce over rice for the three of us, plus Rachel's friend Rebbecca. After dinner, the consensus was to find dessert somewhere and possibly some brews for Scott and myself. There were a couple of shady dive bars Scott had in mind we could try depending on how adventurous we were feeling later on.

We headed to downtown Claremont and wandered a bit, deciding where to indulge at. We settled on the Press, a fairly upscale looking establishment that probably charges too much for its beer and other drinks without even offering an amazing selection. I had a slice of cheesecake, which was extremely average at best; the girls split some cake and ice cream, Scott had a beer. Afterwards, we decided to try our luck at a bar more focused on beer. It turned out to be almost exclusively imported draught beer, which in itself is not a bad thing at all, but as a consequence was far too expensive and trendy for us.

Not so easily defeated, we had the girls drop us off at one of the suspect bars on the way back; we were close enough to Scott's apartment to walk back when we had had our fill. The pub was called something like the Black Watch something something. I forget. It's not terribly important anyway, as the place turned out to be pretty tame. We bought a pitcher of Boddington's, sat down away from the bar to chat whilst drinking, and were almost immediately drowned out by the live band playing that night. It wasn't a complete shame, though; they turned out to be alright. The drummer had an amazing mullet going on, complete with 80's style 'stache, and the older gentleman on lead guitar was pretty fantastic. We finished off the pitcher, chalked another one up to experience, and walked back.

Back at the apartment we cracked into some Dublin Dr Peppers. The glass bottle makes this drink about a million times more delicious.

On Sunday Rachel had a job being an assistant for some old artist downtown, so I tagged along with Scott to drop her off so we could bum around the beaches all day. First we explored Santa Monica. Down 3rd street on either side of Santa Monica Blvd for a couple of blocks is the promenade, which amounts to an outdoor shopping mall with a handful of street performers attempting to get discovered. We walked about half of the promenade before making our way to the pier. Like many piers or boardwalks in California, the pier at Santa Monica has a perpetual carnival going on. On the beach itself, adjacent to the pier, is a monument maintained by Veterans for Peace called "Arlington West". In the sand, they have a cross for each solider who has died in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The view is quite sobering and a reminder that even in a place of perpetual fun like the beach of Santa Monica, you can't escape the consequences of war.

We walked along the water for a bit, making sure to avoid any needles in the sand, before heading back inland (across the widest beach I have ever see, by the way). By now we were getting a bit peckish, so we stopped on the promenade again to grab some mediocre pizza by the slice.

Not really being much for shopping, Santa Monica wasn't really impressing us. We decided to head south to Venice beach, since we still had a good two hours at least to kill before Rachel had to be picked up. We drove down, parked in a lot where the fee machine was broken (free parking!), and walked the boardwalk. That place is brilliant; the pavement is lined with street vendors peddling art, crafts, political messages, sub-par entertainment, amazing entertainment, and just about anything else you can imagine. The day had started off overcast, but was beginning to clear up as we walked down Venice. We stopped for a while to watch some guy attempt to perform comedy and stunts at the same time, but moved on pretty quickly when we found out he was extremely lame. However, further down the boardwalk our craving for excitement was satisfied. For a good 20 or 30 minutes, we watched a group of break dancers. They were a group from LA and Chicago, and not only were they fantastic dancers, they were also very good entertainers when speaking to the crowd. They also claimed to be followers of true hip-hop: Healthy independent people, helping other people. For the finale, one of the members did a flying leap/flip over about five audience members who where kind of bent over. Very impressive.

After the show, it was time to go. We navigated traffic (ugh), picked up Rachel, and now exhausted, headed home. We decompressed for a while watching some classics (Old School and Wedding Crashers was on TNT). Before sunset, we drove over to the Claremont colleges to experience one of James Turrell's skyspace sculptures. You sit in an outdoor space under a white ceiling with a large square cut out of the middle. The show begins when the sun sets. Color changing LEDs light up the ceiling, gently changing the color through a wide array of colors. As the color of the ceiling changes, the way you percieve the color of the sky through the square changes too. A sky that appeared a deep purple one moment will suddenly seem as blue as the midday sky. The experience is amazing, one that I would highly recommend to anyone in the area. I'm not sure if his other skyspaces have similar light shows. As a side note, I have actually unknowingly seen a Turrell skyspace before. While in England this last spring, we visited the Yorkshire sculpture park where he has another skyspace installed in the side of a hill.

After the skyspace, we came home to scrumptious gumbo. Mmm. Scott, I'm going to visit more often.

The next day was Monday, so Scott had to take off early to make the hour and a half commute of 30 miles into work. Unfortunately, when he left, he locked one of their cats in the same room I was sleeping in. This usually wouldn't be much of a problem; I'm not allergic to cats or anything silly of that nature. It seems, though, that this cat has a particular habit I was unaware of: when he gets hungry he will chew on your fingers and toes. Needless to say, I was awoken to the feeling of a cat first rubbing his head against, and subsequently gnawing at my feet.

I got the the hint and got up. After breakfast and packing, I said goodbye to Rachel and drove into Altadena to meet Scott for lunch. After some good Japanese, I said goodbye to him as well and headed out on the 134 to the 101. The plan from here on out was to stick to the coastal highways all the way through Oregon. I love this drive, and when I have the time I will choose to do it ten times out of ten rather than taking the mind-numbingly boring I-5. The views are spectacular, and the landscape varied and interesting. Obviously weaving in and out of coastal cliffs a hundred feet above crashing waves takes a bit longer to navigate, but the experience is more than worth it.

I still don't care if it is kitsch
I spent the rest of the day and a good portion of the night heading up highway 1. I arrived in the Monterey Bay around 11pm and decided to grab a motel for the night. I had been hoping to simply camp on the side of the road somewhere over looking the ocean, but the condition of my back coupled with the fact that I knew my air mat would offer absolutely no support led me to decide against that. It should be the last room I have to pay for on this trip, anyway.

In the morning I headed around the bay into Santa Cruz. I'm pretty familiar with Santa Cruz, having spent my first year of university here. I drove up to the UCSC campus, parked, and walked around. It was great to see the place again, it brought back a lot of good memories. I went by the bookstore up to my old dorm building (College 10: The college with no soul!), down across the Science library bridge, and around some of my old lecture buildings. I wondered what life would have been like had I stayed. The campus is definitely beautiful, and amazing to walk around (although kind of a pain because of the hill it is on). Things would have been pretty different; I most likely wouldn't be on this trip, living who knows where. But, had I not gone to Southern I would never have gotten as heavily into photography, and probably not math either. Its hard to say, and really there is no use dwelling on past decisions. Learn and move forward, make the most of where you are.

After coming down from the campus (it is located on a hill overlooking the city), I parked downtown and strolled the street. I couldn't resist eating lunch at my favorite pizza place, Pizza My Heart.

Now, I'm on my way up to San Francisco for a day or two to see my friend from back in the old swimming days, Devin. I'm nearly finished with the trip, but there are some good times that need to be had before I'm done.

Weather: Mostly cloudy north of Santa Cruz.
Total miles gathered: Exactly 12200.
Sea Wolf - Leaves in the River (I didn't realize how good this was, I would have listened to it earlier had I known)
Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here
Chevelle - This Kind of Thinking (Could Do Us In)


Stuart said...

Hey when you are in San Francisco go check out Johnny Foley's Irish House on O'farrell Street. Great beers, live music and UK style food. Anytime I am in town this is where I end up.

Cate said...

Time to start practicing your dance moves so you can show those break dancers up next time!

g said...

dude, i am way jealous you are going to san fran. you should go to the exploratorium or whatever it is called... they just reopened the whole thing, its supposed to be way awesome... like OMSI except amazing.

colin douglas said...

Bah I missed both of those places... I have heard of the exploratoruim before, and really want to check it out. I have a proposition, though, that I will post on the forum that may solve this problem.