Thursday, February 23, 2006

More LA Stories: 2005 (Part VIII)

Day Three — Sunday (continued): Pier Group II
A few more jokes and about three blocks later, we found ourselves at Stearns Warf, the main pedestrian pier in Santa Barbara. It’s a popular spot for tourists and locals alike, extending out about a quarter mile offshore, overlooking Santa Barbara Harbor.

Stearns offers the trappings typical of many large, urban California piers: restaurants, gift shops, and plenty of amateur fishermen. The slapping surf and squealing gulls in the background form a soundtrack that is both soothing and sensual. The salt air gently seeps into your skin. This is what I miss. This is the sensation that cannot be duplicated anywhere in landlocked Music City; it’s a tune they just can’t play there.

I suppose it was good experiencing that familiar calming effect that the ocean always has on me. It sort of primed my attitude for what could have been an even more abrupt turnabout in our emotional rollercoaster of an afternoon.

Just to the right of the pier, on the beach, someone had erected a mock graveyard with literally thousands of Arlington-style white cross markers representing the fallen soldiers in the Gulf war. An American flag, flying at half-staff overlooked the solemn scene.

Almost in unison, it punched all four of us in the gut, emotionally. “Oh my God…” was all any of us could say as we stood there, transfixed.

The thousands of representative grave markers drove home the sober point of the horror that has been the loss of American and Iraqi life in the second Gulf War.

We surveyed the site for several minutes, pondering the reality of it all. Continuing our walk, trying to reacquire the smiles that had been plastered all over our faces just a few minutes earlier, It took a few minutes to get back in the mood to talk, but eventually we did, albeit with a little less enthusiasm than before. The girls and guys paired off temporarily, as Nanner and Aimee lagged behind for some girl talk, while Mike and I continued on ahead.

One of the great challenges of modern mankind, it would appear, is to get Mikey to smile for the camera. And on this rare occasion, after much poking, prodding and cajoling…

Well…whadaya know…

Aimee and Inanna, with the misty hills of coastal Santa Barbara in the background.

Another borrowed, shot this time of Aimee and me, courtesy of MakeMineMike.

Soon it was time to start meandering back towards land. Despite that little shot of reality we received at the gravesite demonstration, the mood was still good. We were still having a great time. However the afternoon ws nearly over and Aimee had to think about getting back to her Sis’s house, where Emily was no doubt wondering how much longer Mommy was gonna be at that poopy old craft fair.

So we decided to try and find a place to get a cup of coffee and hang out just a bit longer, before once again going our separate ways.

Latte afternoon and into the evening
We figured there must be a Starbucks somewhere nearby, and chances were it would probably be on State Street. Well we had to walk several blocks, but we finally stumbled upon one (and in my case, the stumbling was literal, as Aimee will attest). And that, along with all the walking we’d done that day made the prospect of just sitting down for awhile every bit as appealing as that grande no-whip mocha I had a hankering for.

In actuality, Only Michael and I were interested in getting coffee; the girls just wanted water. So while Mike and I stood in line, Aims and Nanner snagged the only still available table next to the front window. It was late afternoon by now, close to six o’clock; the hills overlooking coastal Santa Barbara were rapidly swallowing up the red sunlight. The long shadows cast a surreal light upon the tree-shrouded downtown streets.

By the time I returned to the table (it seemed that it took twice as long as usual for the Java Jockeys behind the counter to whip up my order), it appeared my three compañeros were already deeply engaged in conversation. Over the next hour and a half, the topic on the table would migrate from that sixtysomething homeless guy doing a strip-tease on the sidewalk just outside the window, to Blogland, to politics, to religion, to marriage and child-rearing to hopes and dreams and all things in between.

Oh yeah…we talked about you, too. No one was safe!


Primarily, we dissected each other’s blogs, asking the questions that HaloScan couldn’t even begin to broach; what our motivations were; what we got out of writing them; and what we had hoped to find when we discovered Blogland in the first place. We revealed which blogs we enjoyed reading the most; whom we would most like to meet in-person and why. It was very interesting.

This was by far the best part for me. This was the stuff that stokes the fire I have to meet and enjoy the company of so many of my Blogland neighbors. It was fabulous, and the time was way too short.

If not for our the dull pain messages our butts began sending to our brains, making us realize that we hadn’t moved from that one spot for better than ninety minutes, I think we could have spent twice that much time, just sitting there and visiting. But unfortunately (in a manner of speaking), that Mommy alarm inside Aimee’s head started going off (even though she hit the snooze button more than once). She admitted that she really needed to get back to her little girl. It was time to end our little shindig and head back to the car.

As we did, the subject was simply how exhilarated we all felt for having spent the day together. We were so glad to have had this rare opportunity. Would we ever be able to do it again, who knows? But if not, at least we would always have Santa Barbara.

As I alluded to earlier, having spent considerable time with both Michael and Inanna in prior visits. If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you likely know what I think about Miz Peachy Keen and His Honor, the Mayor, so I won’t spend any more time here making them uncomfortable by singing yet another verse of their respective praises.

Nope, for me, the only mystery to this little Santa Barbara confab would be Aimee. And while she was nice enough to say some really complimentary things about me in her own blog account of this Sunday last August, I’m not merely pulling a quid pro quo here. The nice things I want to say about her are more than well deserved.

If you know her blog, you also know that she’s an emotional being. She’s opinionated, self-assured, and intensely loyal to those she loves. But what you may not know, and what I was pretty much blown away by, is the depth of character and the intellectualism behind the kindness that makes Aimee the person we know and love so well. Is it any wonder that she’s flying through law school? Is it any wonder that she has the capacity to take on such a burden at this point in her life, yet still devote the time necessary to be the Mom that she is to Emily, sew five bridesmaid dresses for her friend’s wedding in June, and work enough to support her family?

Makes sense to me.

Aimee is living proof that kindness and intelligence are not mutually exclusive qualities. When she embarks upon her legal career, who knows? Maybe she’ll revolutionize the profession. Maybe they’ll call her the Anti-Sheist(er).

At any rate, I wish her well, and can say with all sincerity that I’m delighted to call her my friend.

You go, girl.

By the time we got back to my car, it was just after 8PM. It was eerie how the ocean’s pitch-blackness seemed to swallow up all ambient light in the night sky, leaving only a thick, nearly palpable contrast against it and the streetlights’ illumination of the mature trees and buildings below.

As we returned to the side street on which Aimee had parked, I was determined to not say anything about the laptop she had said she would give me, ‘cuz…you know…I didn’t want to sound like a kid waiting for permission to open his presents on Christmas morning — even though that’s exactly how I felt. I pulled into the closest available vacant spot on the curb, about fifty yards up the street from Aimee’s car.

Aimee turned to say goodbye to Mike and Nanner in the back seat, and they all exchanged hugs. Then she turned to me and said, “And YOU — you need to follow me and get your laptop.”

“Oh…okay…if I have to…”
Yeah right. I was outta that car before she’d even touched the door handle.

We walked down to Aimee’s car and she opened the passenger side door, reaching into the back seat. She pulled out the black carrying case and unzipped it. First she popped open the laptop and then showed me the accessories she had included in the package: A laser wheel mouse, mousepad, phone and network cables; all of which would have run me an extra $75-$100 bucks alone had I needed to go out and purchase them separately. She gave me the lowdown from what she could remember about her old password and the software that was installed on the machine, as it had been 2-3 years since she’d last used it.

Meanwhile, back at my car, Mike and Nanner were getting antsy, so they made their way down to our position just as Aimee was wrapping up. Once again, everyone hugged Aimee goodbye.

I dropped Mike and Inanna off back at The Daily Grind where they had parked just around the corner. I would see Mikey later in the week for a pre-scheduled dinner get-together, and at that point having seen Nanner for the third time in six months it somehow seemed as though I’d see her again before too much longer as well. Of course now in retrospect I realize that was a naïve assumption to make, but we’ll see. I really wasn’t thinking about that just then. What I was thinking about was what a great day had just been added to my memory, and how much more I had to look forward to in the six days remaining of my SoCal vacation.

As I hit the freeway, heading back for Cindy’s, it was now 8:30 PM. I made a few calls, first to Aimee to again thank her for everything, then to my Dad, to check in once again regarding my visit the following day on Monday. Then I called to Cindy to tell her I was on my way home. In between, as they came to mind, I blabbed away into my little tape recorder the thoughts and notes regarding the events of that very busy day, which comprised much of the context for this blog entry.

I sat back, dialed up some smooth Jazz on the XM, and put my mind on autopilot for what turned out to be, quite possibly, the shortest two and a half-hour drive on record.

Next: Days Three and Four (Monday/Tuesday):
Where’s The Champ When Ya Need ‘Im?
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