By The Sea

Long Beach is also known as “Iowa by the Sea” because in the 1950s there was a huge influx of my people to the area. This nickname is no longer in the common vernacular, but older locals still know of it and tell me each time I tell them where I come from. The lady at the historical shop knew all sorts of interesting tidbits and, from what I could understand, was very interesting. She had a very strong accent. In fact, I think she was Kathy Burke.

She looked just like her and she talked just like her. I bought some espresso cups that were reproductions of ones that were used back when the ship was still in full operation. They had original ones, but they cost $450.00! I enjoy spending money, but that was a bit too much for me. She tried hard to sell them: hotel guests get a gift, a thank you note, a certificate of authenticity, and a ten percent discount, but I couldn’t do it! The reproduction is fine, the size of a double espresso cup.

After a bit of wandering with a coffee, an orange juice, and an egg salad sandwich from the rather elegant Starbucks on board, it was time to head out. I was sad to leave. I love the Queen Mary. I highly recommend you go and I can’t wait to return. I want to spend days and days on there writing and lounging and relaxing and making the occasional excursion to the beach where I shall order strawberry ice creams and not pay and dance and dance as my sister dies ten feet away in the sand (who nobody seems to notice, which always baffled me. I mean, Blanche is lying right there in the bright Malibu sun, surely somebody wondered why there was an older woman who looked like a corpse in the sand? No? Just me?).

I sang “My Heart Will Go On” again in my best Cher voice — a highly recommended activity. Such fun! and then headed out for the free shuttle to the Blue Line of the Los Angeles Metro. FREE! I couldn’t get over it. California is rather pricy and they’re giving out free transportation on very nice buses. I’m in shock still as I write this. (And I must excuse myself for having such a delay between postings. I’ve had rather shit Internet for the past week or so, misery, I tell you. MISERY!)

The driver was very nice and I’m about 95% convinced he was Bob Hope. Allegedly, he’s been dead since 2003. ALLEGEDLY. He was lots of fun and told me all about things I should have done while I was in Long Beach and I immediately decided to come back again to this area some day. I didn’t much care for Los Angeles or Anaheim, but Long Beach felt different. It was calmer and more beautiful and for some reason a bit more peaceful.

Soon I was on the train and wondering why the young and impoverished feel the urge to scribble and scratch all over everything? Why can’t they leave it alone? Every seat had gang symbols and nonsense engraved and carved into it and it was awfully unattractive. I was looking forward to getting off the train! As we were coming into the heart of Los Angeles I saw the Staples Center and this image flashed through my mind:

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This is what I think of when I think of Michael Jackson’s funeral now. The elephants had nothing to do with the service, of course, they were there for the circus that was happening at the same time, but they’re very fitting. Let’s listen to one of his songs, shall we?

And after that, it wasn’t long until we were at Union Station and I fell in love with it all over again. It’s one of the most beautiful places in Los Angeles, I think.

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I can’t get over it. The world used to be so elegant. I have tried and I have tried to come to terms with the modern world, but I struggle so much. I love modern technologies and all…but it’s all so ugly. (Nothing by Apple, obviously.) Why must buildings be so plain? Why must cars be so basic? Why are windows made of plastic? Why do trains have to have horrible walls and not be lined in wood? Why are light fixtures so pedestrian? Why don’t we put up coffered ceilings anymore? The world is so sterile. So, I love being in places like this. They make me feel like I’m in a place that I can completely understand. I don’t understand why I shouldn’t be wearing a suit in an elegant train station, so it jars me when I see people in hoodies slurping on energy drinks. I don’t like it. I refer you to this old blog post of mine [CLICK THAT LINK, READER!] that people seemed to like and to this wonderful book that should be in everybody’s library. You do have a library, don’t you?

I had time to kill and I didn’t want to sit amongst the public — sometimes they get to me, vote for me for governor! — so, I headed over to Traxx Restaurant for a quick nibble.

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Did I expect it to be one of the finest dining experiences of my life? No. Was it? Yes. Honestly reader, I have this place up there amongst my very favorite restaurants around the world. Let’s list them: 1) Django — Des Moines, 2) Alfredo’s — Rome & New York, 3) Ralph Lauren — Chicago, 4) Iolanda’s — Paris, 5) The Veggie Grill — Los Angeles. Try them all!

I ordered a caprese salad, it’s my go to in many restaurants that don’t have a lot of vegetarian options. It’s hard to mess up tomatoes and cheese. I didn’t think that those simple ingredients could transcend themselves into an orgasmic confection of elegance and perfection. Reader, I’ve never eaten a finer tomato in all my life. Tomatoes rarely taste of anything at all, so when you eat them and they taste so much of a tomato, you nearly pass out. I couldn’t get over it. They were perfection. I loved this ripe green variety, which I later learned existed. I thought they were just unripe tomatoes, but there are certain strains that don’t change color when they’re ripe. The other was this interesting looking thing that was deep burgundy and black. GOOD GOD, GURL, IT WAS GOOD. It was like eating Jesus. Then, the cheese. Oh, the cheese! It was buratta, a very soft mozzarella, which I’ve had before, but this was something else. It was seasoned perfectly with oil and vinegar and dill. DILL! I don’t even like dill, but I loved this. I can’t recommend this place enough. Dessert was a chocolate praline torte, which was also excellent. I’d come back to Los Angeles just for lunch.

Soon it was time to board the train and I discovered that my seat had no window. THIS WAS NOT TOLERABLE! Thankfully the peasant in front of me got off a few stops into my trip and I took her seat, which awarded me views like this for hours at a time:

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I went into shock.

I love the sea.

I love water.

I love that briny smell.

I love the color.

I love the nautical lifestyle.

I need more ocean in my life.

You don’t get much ocean in landlocked Iowa…you don’t get any at all.

Of course I sang this:

There’s nothing more wonderful than the sea! So, I was engrossed in looking out the window and regularly gasping as the scenery became more and more splendid and gorgeous and delightful and dreamlike and seemingly ripped from a painting. I could not get over it. I still have not gotten over it. I will always remember the way that water looked crashing into the rocky shores.

We turned away from the water for some time, so I went for a nibble. Nothing worth mentioning, just over-processed garbage that probably took a few months off my lifespan. Sad.

Soon after I arrived in Grover Beach and was picked up by my cousin Pam, who I just recently met at a family function. Very glad I did! We got along swimmingly and then I met her giant, but sweet, dog and roommate. Lovely, all three of the them.

Soon it was time for bed.

After I woke up and ate a bit and had some wonderful coffee, Sandy and I went out for a ride on her scooter. Don’t I look dashing in a helmet?

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I don’t have any recollection of ever being on a two-wheeled motorized device in all my life, and was rather apprehensive, but it was wonderful! Now I want to get one of my own. This one, preferably:

seafoam-green-vespa-scooter-classic-italian-scottsdale-phoenix-arizona-valleyThen this would happen:

We drove down to the beach and I just couldn’t get over it. Look at the colors!

IMG_5690Can you get over it? I can’t. We sat under the pier for awhile, watching all the people walk by and play volleyball, they weren’t very good.

We met back up with Pam and went to a cute Farmers Market where they sold excellent purple basil and really nice salsa. We ate by the ocean at a place called Fat Cat’s and I couldn’t get over the way the water looked — it was like a painting with the pier jutting out and the white sails billowing in the gentle breeze. For the life of me, I don’t know why I didn’t take a picture.

The next day I went to the fair, which was quite an adventure.

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The next day was a bit more relaxing as Pam and I drove up the coast to Hearst Castle. We stopped in all these wonderful little towns and beaches and I loved everything about it. Avila Beach is perfect.

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A kayaking pomeranian, reader, I REPEAT: A KAYAKING POMERANIAN!!!!!!!

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Sea lions were everywhere. They’re loud and obnoxious and they sink boats and I’m crazy about them.

We went to San Luis Obispo for lunch at this natural foods restaurant where I had an excellent salad. Charming town with everything you could ever want.

We stopped at a town called Harmony that only has 18 residents. More tourists than occupants. I poked around the ceramics shop and then had a coffee before we made our way up to Hearst Castle.

It was stunning. I felt at home. I need a castle…or a mansion…or a château.

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This was the drive up to the castle. Stunning. It went on and on and on.

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This is Hearst’s indoor pool. Not as spectacular as the outdoor one, and that’s saying something.

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Obsessed with tiled stairs.

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A perfect palm tree.

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Part of the outdoor pool.

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Just relaxing by the pool. I WANT IT. I just want a pool, really. I’ve been begging for a pool since I was conceived. I’ve worked hard to build my own, but it’s currently been taken over with tadpoles and I’m not really sure what to do.

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Stunning ceiling in the pool area.

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I can’t get over it.

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I want a cottage that looks just like this.

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A bigger view of the pool. It was massive and perfect.

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Part of the castle. Stunning place.

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This was Hearst’s office. And I thought my lounge was nice.

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Ceiling of Marion Davies’ bedroom, she was his mistress.

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The library. Obsessed with the ceiling. I love ceilings.

IMG_5746Just a random hallway. The entire place was opulent.

I was very impressed with the place, it could have so easily been tacky and vulgar, but it was tasteful and comfortable. Loved it.

We headed back and stopped at a few more beaches that were all equally beautiful.

IMG_5797The beach was very chilly and wonderfully gloomy. I never knew how cold it can be in California! I always thought it was sunshine and palm trees 24/7. Not so much!

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This is just a sliver of Morro Rock, an ancient volcanic plug and very dramatic.

IMG_5803Sunset over Shell Beach.

I bought a ticket to head for San Francisco the next day and went to bed.

 

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