Web standards alert

Account: log in (or sign up)
onebee Writing Photos Reviews About

Away Go We

Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Mom (I know, I'm getting tired of it, too.)

This week, I was lucky enough to watch the season premiere of Ed and the California Gubernatorial Recall Debate: Schwarzenegger Edition. (Arianna Huffington, I love you.) But more importantly, I was lucky enough to spend a vacation with my parents, who are about as great a pair as you can find.

We began in Los Angeles, where – for want of a better term – I "live." We had a great time shopping and exploring the town, went to dinner with a delightful and lively pair of newlyweds, and saw Lost in Translation (soulful, melancholy, but oddly uplifting; I love Scarlett Johanson and I lurve Bill Murray – no further review forthcoming, I'm told I get gushy and unreadable on the ones I like). After that, we decided to head out of town for a bit so I, too, could experience a change of scenery and my air conditioner could take a break. We started our journey in Cambria, which is a surprising number of hours north on the California coast. This was the location where Frank Marshall filmed Arachnophobia, and having directed two sequel/remakes to that film myself, it seemed like a long overdue pilgrimage.

Cloaked in coastal fog (we Californians refer to it as a "marine layer," just like we refer to our freeways with the use of the word "the"), Cambria is a lovely blip of oceanfront touristiness. Not that its touristy element is all bad, though. Just like Laguna Beach, another favorite jaunt of mine, the tchotchke shops and sub-par eateries just add to the atmosphere. There are still beautiful vistas and delicious restaurants to be found, where you can avoid the hordes of tourists-by-bus and just enjoy the scenery. We found a nice hotel just across the street from a boardwalk trail that spanned the coastal bluffs and allowed ample views of frolicking sea otters in the waves below.

I enjoy nature, although my interaction with it is far more limited than my interaction with, say, TiVo. I owe a great debt to my family for cultivating my relationship with the natural world over the years, reluctant as I may have been. I'm grateful for all the experiences I've had and all the opportunities to learn and explore; but I find that we appreciate the outdoors in very different ways. While their approach is to devour every chance to see or experience new places, I prefer to stand back for a while, soak everything in, and then find a few specific ways to appreciate the wildlife in front of me. They love to hike. Hike, hike, hike. Always new things to see around every corner. That's fun sometimes, but I like to stroll. Or maybe sit. For me, it's more engrossing to focus on a particular tree branch, or the way the waves splash on a specific rock, and just watch that for a while. It's restful, and it's fascinating to think about the centuries over which a particular feature of the landscape came to be.

Also, these days the folks like to focus largely on birds and trees. If not for cats and insects, birds and trees would be the two forms of life about which I care the least. Okay, and smokers. Let's just say birds and trees are somewhere in the bottom five life forms that I care about. (And these god-damn wrong number dialers!) Not to say that birds and trees aren't necessary. Trees especially are a big help to have around. But I'm not particularly interested in spending a lot of time thinking about them. And birds? Jesus. As animals go, they're about as cuddly as a scorpion. All those scales and dusty feathers – birds just seem so filthy, loud, and brittle. I like my animals fuzzy, like a chipmunk or a panda; birds are all sharp edges and jerky movements. I get enough of that with my desk lamp.

Which is not to say that I was miserable. I mean, we all get a kick out of my occasional facetious "whining," but I loved the walks and we had a great time doing other things, like going out to dinner or reading by the fireplace in our room. Also, driving. My car has a little readout where it will tell you the average speed and gas mileage over its lifetime, and these long out-of-town trips always serve to ratchet both numbers up a few points. The PCH is great fun for those of us who love to drive and have a comfortable, responsive, powerful car to do it in. I didn't see a damn thing I recognized from Arachnophobia, though. I guess thirteen years really changes a place.

After that, we settled in for a little posh star treatment at the Four Seasons Biltmore in Santa Barbara, which is one of our favorite towns to return to on these trips. Since we were only in town for a night and had heard rumors of the Biltmore's lovely grounds, we decided to live it up, and it was quite an experience. Vacationing in luxury is an expensive proposition, but at times it can feel worth it. Amenities, privacy, and lush settings are certainly things I could get used to.

And, so as not to tip the scales too far toward the indoors, we also visited Lotusland, which is a theme park for botanical enthusiasts. Think of a Disneyland for landscapers. Created by opera superstar Madame Ganna Walska between 1941 and 1984 (both great films, by the way), Lotusland refers to the grounds of her estate in Santa Barbara, where she and a team of gardeners created a living collection of unique and exotic plant life, divided into a dozen or so separate gardens of specific focus (cycads, ferns, etc). Despite my aforementioned arboreal apathy, I enjoyed Lotusland for two reasons. The most important is that my parents absolutely ate it up. I enjoy the rare occasion when I can get my appreciation of something through their excitement. But also, even if the particular species weren't of special interest to me, the plants were beautiful and the arrangements were very intriguing – and the whole place had a lot of interesting things to say about fame, wealth, and legacy. Particularly the concept of finding some way to preserve a part of one's personality so that it lasts into the future. Walska (I refuse to refer to her as "Madame," perhaps as a result of hearing it one too many times from the lips of our semi-retarded docent) had a strange and exotic taste for plant life, and she managed to set things up so that it could continue to be shared with the world after her passing. Pretty impressive.

But now they're winging their way back to the east coast, leaving me behind to deal with the recall election, the remaining chocolate cake, and a TiVoful of season premieres all on my own. I miss them already. Thanks, guys, for another wonderful vacation. I wouldn't trade a minute of it for anything in the world.

Your Comments
Name: OR Log in / Register to comment

Comments: (show/hide formatting tips)

send me e-mail when new comments are posted