On Wednesday night I picked up my parents at the Burbank airport. It was still relatively early in California, so they were up for dinner. We went to Ribs USA, which is a favorite (of everyone who eats there) for BBQ and the associated sides. Since this was a special meal, we sort of went all out and ordered half the sides on the menu, multiple racks, and grilled shrimp.
Back home, we got into a bit more exotic dessert menu; ice cream with limoncello poured over it. Sam and I have been experimenting recently on making our own weird mixed drinks like White Canadians (Banff glacier vodka+canadian maple whiskey), home-made margaritas, and now this “Limocolada” (limoncello+coconut milk+lemon juice+seltzer/etc.), so there’s always something new when my parents arrive.
On Thursday we dove into Mom’s newest must-not-necessarily-see-but-since-you-asked list by walking around Echo Park Lake. Even after living in LA for fifteen years I’d never actually walked around the lake. It’s that sort of nice, but still not-nice setting where you know the city put a lot of work into the park, but it’s surrounded by (literally, not being derogatory) dirty hipsters, cheaply built and poorly maintained but now super expensive (thanks to the aforementioned hipsters) real estate, and homeless camps.
It was interesting to hear how two seniors from the midwest steeped in Foxprop reacted to the homeless crisis in CA. It is a crisis because there are so many unfortunate folks on the streets, but they’re hardly the lurking menace they’re portrayed to be. The most noticeable part is simply how many more homeless there are now. I’m not qualified to pontificate on the why or how more people are homeless, but it’s obvious that it’s an “easier” (as if it’s ever easy to be homeless) place to exist that way than say Manhattan in March, where it still freezes at night. But, it’s also easier to fall into homelessness, with a “gig” based debtor economy and extreme housing costs.
And yet these folks (literally, with tents) camping on the shores of the lake coexist with 30-something tatted bearded dudes pushing baby strollers, lululemonized joggers, and service workers using the park as a shortcut to their gig. It’s a weird version of the apocalypse, and this was only a few days before the Coronapocalypse hit the city.
And the joker was there to spur on the chaos; I’m 95% sure we walked past Joaquin Phoenix as we left the park, beard, stringy hair, black shades, and everything. I told my parents they just saw the Joker. “Who?” Joaquin Phoenix. “Who?” (Shows them photos) “Who’s that?” I could have said “the actor the carnival barkers on your television made fun of for being vegan when he won an award” and dad might have got it… (mom doesn’t watch tv, good for her!)
This (the LA) part of the parents’ visit was intentionally left loose since a stricter protocol would have to be followed to make the trip up and down the pacific coast run smoothly. When I asked them what they wanted for lunch they said they wouldn’t mind tacos (mom always has a stronger hankering for Mexican food than dad, not sure why). There was a King Taco between Echo Park and our next stop, and Sam always raves about them, but I’d never eaten there. After doing so, I have to say I’m not a fan of the salsa limits.
Mom had put Pershing Square on her list, perhaps without knowing what it really looked like. We went down there (literally, parking in the garage under the park). As expected, there wasn’t much to see in the park itself, but it was a good springboard to walk to The Last Bookstore (also on mom’s list) and Uli Gelato (not on Mom’s list, but always on mine).
When I SMS-bragged to Sam that we were at Uli she asked if we could deliver some to her office. We delivered three pints and mom took home a new shirt in the exchange.
On the way home we visited Angeleno Heights to look at the Victorian houses. I can’t see a victorian or craftsman without thinking of horror movies. Watching The People Under the Stairs at ten years old ruined me on classic SoCal architecture for the rest of my life. We walked into an open house (again, this was a week before social distancing existed); almost $600,000 for a tiny one-bedroom TIC without a parking spot next to the freeway. Ouch, said the lungs and the pocketbook together.
Later in the evening, Sam met us at Tokyo Cube for dinner. Even though it was a Thursday night, the Asian Fusion restaurant was completely packed. An evolution from the place that used to give out free appetizers and shots to regular customers. (We’re so regular our photo is on the wall) Now, sadly, due to the virus, it’s probably empty and struggling again. They’ve got much more than sushi, though, the kale tempura alone is worth the trip, or, I guess now during the quarantine, worth the postmates.
On Friday morning, we dropped Sam off at work and drove north, stopping for lunch in the abandoned wasteland of Los Alamos for dry pulled pork sandwiches, wet cabbage-as-slaw, and stale french fries. It was that or Subway, so I guess we got lucky.
Then we were off to explore Morro Bay for a bit.
Our next stop was the elephant seal rookery. Compared to our visit three years ago in June, the seals were sparse and mostly small (juveniles?). Boy, the few that were there still liked to scream and wail like mutant humans though. I regret not recording the sound to play around with it later in Ableton… The lack of horrible elephant seal poop smell was an improvement over last time.
As we were leaving the rookery it started to drizzle and would do so on and off for the next three days. I knew that this was the last stop before San Jose Airport (well, other than maybe squeezing in dinner) so we flew up the 1 around all the dramatic twists and turns. I’d never heard my tires squeal before, and realized I probably should take it easier on the corners in my car than in Sam’s Miata. Plus, uh, I was taking my parents’ lives in my hands as well. But, slow and steady would leave Sam literally holding the bag at the airport in a few hours, so I tried to push my little econobox around the hairpins as fast as physics and good conscience would allow. In the rain.
Eventually, we made it to the freeways where normal speeds catapulted us into San Jose about twenty minutes before Sam’s flight would land. This gave three hungry Longs time to eat some fast food. As we sat down with our sandwiches, Sam texted me that she’d landed. 20 minutes early.
It ended up being fortuitous because we’d ordered too much food, and Sam had eaten too little before boarding. She inherited a giant sliced beef salad from West Coast Beef (pretty good sandwiches and salads!) to eat on the long drive to our hotel in Monterey.
Our first stop Saturday was Point Lobos. Sam and I had stopped there in 2017 and spent a few hours hiking around and searching the tide pools. Now it was my parents’ turn to do the same.
We stopped at many vista points as we drove south on the 1.
I should have read my own notes about McElway Falls that warned the trail closed down right after the first viewpoint. As such, we paid $10 to walk out to a view that was really no better than the free view from the turn-off on the PCH above the trail. I’m glad I’m in an economic position now (although my portfolio just said “hold my beer!”) that a $10 mistake isn’t one to get upset about, but I’m sharing with all of you that may not have heard the trail is closed (and the teenager manning the parks booth sure ain’t gonna warn you before he takes your money!).
A bit further down the road, we stopped at the art gallery before I pulled off the road at Willow Creek Beach. By this point, everybody else was tired, and I was kind of a jerk by making them wait/nap in the car while I danced out onto the rocks to try my hand at more long-exposure sunglasses water pics.
When we got to Ragged Point we started down the trail, but it quickly became apparent that my parents wouldn’t be safe. Why? Because Sam was the first of us to slip and fall on the loose, wet, sandy slope just below the stairs at the top. In 2017 we took the trail to the beach and watched an amazing sunset, but it was already clear that there would be no sunset to watch today. We doubled back and decided to eat dinner instead.
We came at the worst time, too early for the restaurant, and just hungry enough to try the Sandwich Stand. Which was terrible. I mean so bad I’m going to tell you about it on a blog and use their real name. This was a practice I abandoned years ago after dealing with blowback from the person or place I criticized wasn’t worth the grief. But, damn, the Sandwich Stand sucks. We were the only customers, there were three girls working, and it still somehow took 15 minutes to make microwaved food. The fish and chips were the worst we’d ever had, three tiny fish pellets wrapped in over-fried rubber dumped on top of soggy obviously-bought-at-the-town-grocery-store-freezer crinkle-cut fries. To be fair, we ordered a beer, pie, and cake from the cafe, and those were fine. Sam and I also ordered entrees three years prior at the actual restaurant and that food was fine (not great, and maybe not worth the price if you’re price-sensitive, but it was a satisfying meal, unlike the Sandwich Stand).
From an outsider’s perspective, I suppose the experience would be a telling lesson in economics. From my tongue’s perspective, though, I never want to eat there again.
As the sun set (somewhere behind the thick cloud bank over the ocean) the rain started to pound harder until it was a downpour by the time we were halfway to our hotel in San Simeon.
I still had to pull off the road and shoot, though, not wanting to make a decision I’d regret again!
Sunday was dominated by Hearst Castle, where we spent about four hours. Mom wanted to take the cottages and kitchens tour, but I found more interesting photographs wandering the grounds without the group after that.
By the time we got out of there, everybody was very hungry, so we eventually landed on a Mexican restaurant in Cambria. We came at the right (or wrong?) time to see retired hippy ladies dancing to a live classic rock cover band on the back patio. If you live in Cambria you know now exactly where we ate lunch.
Now pressed for time to get back to LA, we didn’t stop at many more places.
We drove through Solvang so the parents could see it, and just like in 2017, nobody felt inspired enough to need to stop.
We finished off the trip with a stop at Rori’s Ice Cream in Santa Barbara before fighting the end-of-weekend LA traffic on the 101.
On Monday, the last day of their trip (because getting up at 3am to take a flight on Tuesday doesn’t count), we went to Griffith Park to hike around. A coyote came down from the canyon right in front of us.
Unfortunately, that was the end of the excitement as I was struggling with gastrointestinal issues (from the Mexican in Cambria?) that required being in closer proximity to porcelain than Hogback Trail would allow.
Despite being gastrointestinally challenged, I knew mom wanted to get one more seared salmon steak in California, so we rolled the dice and tried Catch 56.
It was surprisingly good. Would recommend if you want fish and chips or salmon. I plan on going there with Sam when this social distancing craze is over.
I should also mention that my parents made it on their flights and back to Ohio before any of the airline closures took effect, and, to date, none of us are showing any symptoms of the virus.