So it’s been over a week since I got back from CA, and I’ve yet to give a re-cap of the trip. Here goes…
- Went to work.
- Flew from Richmond to Charlotte, Charlotte to Vegas, Vegas to Sacramento. In the Vegas airport they had an Apple vending machine full of iPods. Amazing.
- Arrived in Sacramento at 2am (their time), was taken out for a late-night snack at Mel’s Diner (of American Graffiti fame).
- Crashed at Onjray’s house, where we stayed for the duration of the trip.
- Breakfast at Jack In the Box. The Jack In the Box character freaks me out a little bit. But egg and cheese croissants were a perfect start to our 9monthiversary.
- Off to some wineries in the Napa Valley. We hit up Sutter Home, Beringer, and Sterling. I liked Beringer because of the old buildings, but Sterling was certainly the more impressive. You ride up to the winery via a “gondola” in the sky, which is basically just one of those sky trams like they have at Busch Gardens. They also had a pretty large operation going on there, and a nice self-guided tour that allowed you to see the various storage rooms and different-sized barrels of all wood types, and the equipment they use to press the wine.
- We randomly spotted a beautiful cemetery tucked back in the woods as we drove past, and ended up pulling over to hang out at the Calistoga Pioneer Cemetery. It was nice to take a break in this little green oasis, after driving through the rather icky, parched California countryside. I think the only plants that actually like it are the grapevines. Anyway we took a video in the cemetery, so we’ll see if any ghostly figures pop up in it.
- We also found some weird ruins on the side of the road, but there was barbed wire all around it so we couldn’t really investigate.
- Lunch at Boskos Trattoria in Calistoga. Highlight: baked artichokes smothered in garlicky, lemony olive oil.
- Back in Sacramento, we visited the gardens that surround their lovely state Capitol. Most of downtown Sacramento seems like a lot of flashy, modern-type restaurants and bars…no little hole-in-the-wall places that you would have to discover for yourself just to enjoy. We’re talking run-of-the-mill chains, or restaurants that try to be chains, with high-gloss signs in Papyrus font. Ugh. But the Capitol is a welcome break in the middle of that monotony; it’s a grand, stark building surrounded by calm gardens. We strolled around there for quite a while, and took a ton of pictures. They’ve got this World Peace Rose Garden, which is quite beautiful if sort of contrived and hippified. I kept thinking of that part in MIss Congeniality when they’re asking the contestants what they would wish for if they had one wish, and they all say “World peace!” all triumphantly, as if they had been the first to think of it. What can I say? It’s a lovely dream, but I have to agree with Morrissey. Maybe we’ll move onto that goal after we see a little peace between regular human beings first. Then the world.
- Dinner at Nishiki Sushi with Onjray. Everything was delicious, especially the barbecued rare tuna that Onjray is obsessed with. My face hurt a little bit from laughing after this meal.
- Dessert at Rick’s Dessert Diner, one of Dan’s favorite places. I like the idea of restaurants that only do one thing. We had some strawberry cheesecake that was incredible.
- Went next door to the Golden Bear for a couple of drinks. It was relatively deserted, so we had a nice time just sitting and talking with Onjray and a couple of his friends.
- Breakfast back at Mel’s Diner, because it was close by. Hash browns = fantastic, breakfast gravy = disgusting. Homesick for 821.
- Mini road trip to Lake Tahoe, a couple of hours away. Very curvy roads, many log cabins and rocky streams. Then, we started seeing snow! An amazing sight in May. The lake itself was gorgeous and shockingly blue, and it was freezing up there. We drove all the way around the lake, crossing into Nevada and then back into California again. A beautiful drive all the way.
- A late lunch at In-N-Out! A little greasier than last time, so a decided improvement.
- We went to the mall, but didn’t really see anything they don’t have back at home. They do teeth-whitening at a kiosk in the middle of the mall though. Went to the Vans store so Dan could get some replacement slip-ons.
- Hung out at Onjray’s house for a bit, just decompressing from the day.
- Dinner at Kaveri Madras Indian Cuisine, which was great. We shared a huge sampler of a bunch of different food and I think I liked all of it.
- Coffee at True Love. Lovely atmosphere, friendly people, and a huge patio with (gasp!) low lighting, which I relished. We took our coffee with us on a little walk around downtown.
- Momo Lounge for a Bows and Arrows fashion show and dance night. This venue looked like the apartment of some 80s coke dealer. Just like in the movies! We got there early and had the opportunity of hearing this “band” (read: Peaches wannabes) sound check, which meant a lot of yelling into microphones with no respect to pitch or inflection and fighting with the sound guy by inflicting some unnecessarily dirty phrases and terminology on his poor ears. Shock me, shock me, shock me. Yeah yeah, we get it. You know some gross stuff. Congratulations. They win the classy award, for sure. Luckily it entertained us until the fashion show started. Our friend Jen actually did some alterations to the vintage pieces that she chose, so that was kind of neat. Mostly though it was a lot of girls parading around in some very unflattering, 80s-cut tapered jeans (like the ones with the bows near the zippers at the bottom that your grandma tried to hand down to you). Once that was finally over we had a lot of fun dancing with the lovely Jen.
- Breakfast at Crepeville!
- Haircut for Dan at his old standby, Eddy’s Deluxe. I was seriously impressed with this place. Just a really small, simple, rockabilly hair salon. They had shelves of dippity-doo for sale, lots of retro posters decorating the place, and the people working there looked the part. It’s neat for a hair salon to actually have an inspiring atmosphere; it encourages creativity and probably fosters the development of a certain “look” for some people (instead of just going with the same old boring haircut).
- Lunch at Jimboy’s Tacos. This is Sacramento’s own taco chain. The taco shells were freshly-cooked and very greasy and kind of floppy, so it’s a whole different ballgame from the crunchy ones you normally get. They’re also dusted with parmesan cheese, which is an unexpected and nice little twist. I enjoyed it.
- Historical learning time at Sutter’s Fort! We joined about a million field-tripping elementary schoolers for learning about the settling of the ole’ West at this mid-19th century brick fort in the middle of town. It’s kind of like Jamestown, except ever so much less grandiose. And no boats! We got to see a cannon set off, which was certainly the highlight of the visit. I also liked the fact that the captain of the fort and fascinating historical figure, Mr. J.A. Sutter, had a straight-up gorgeous canopy bed in that primitive place. Sometimes you have to stick to your standards to keep things up to snuff, and I like that Mr. Sutter understood that as he had a major hand in civilizing that wilderness.
- Old Sacramento! This is Sacramento’s enclave of Old West-type buildings and boardwalks instead of sidewalks and Pony Express statues and stuff. It was fun going there because that moment in history is so different from the pre- and circa Civil War era that Richmond seems to dwell in. We went into a bunch of shops and walked around and took photos, and got some saltwater taffy, and walked around on a riverboat. This was my favorite part of the trip.
- Back to Onjray’s for a bit before the three of us headed to the Old Spaghetti Factory for dinner. Dan has a number of chain restaurants that he is secretly obsessed with, and this is probably the best one (well, it wins over Red Robin anyway). You get a ton of food with their “combos” for very cheap, and although it’s not the most flavorful pasta on the planet, you can’t argue with food that’s smothered in cheese. As Onjray said, “There’s probably not any good Italian food on the east coast anywhere.” Haha. I think a life of homogenous suburban shopping and heavy, cheese-smothered dinners make some Sacramentoans light in the head.
- Onjray took us to the airport. We got automatically bumped up to first class on the flight from Sacramento to Vegas, because I guess there were some open spaces and Dan is some sort of a preferred member with US Airways. Being unable to contain our excitement at flying First! Class!, we probably looked like perfect rednecks sitting there giggling and sipping our complimentary whiskeys. Those first class seats truly are a hundred times more comfortable than coach. Believe the hype! They made a perfect venue for us to sit back and watch an episode of Metalocalypse before landing in Vegas.
- Our flight was delayed for about an hour in Vegas, which sucked because we were verrry tired by this point in the evening. I gambled for the first time, losing $1.00 in the slot machines. It was fun because Dan was there and we were cracking up, but my overall impression of gambling is that it’s not much fun. There’s this bright, flashing machine in front of you that’s making a lot of sharp, crunchy noises, and you’re supposed to put money in it an pull a handle. Then it makes even more noises and flashes even more brightly, and then you’re done. Not very aesthetically pleasing. I’m not sure what sorts of people are attracted to these things for more than 1 minute.
- We were nervous about making our Charlotte to Richmond flight, but we made it just as they had finished boarding most of the passengers. On the flight home I was so tired I couldn’t sleep, and nothing lifted my spirits until I saw the Richmond skyline looming in the distance — the most beautiful sight I saw the whole trip. It was so refreshing to see the green terrain and lush rivers all around as we landed. Home sweet home! The lovely Talia picked us up from the airport and we slept most of the day.
This trip was quite different from my last trip to CA, because last time we spent a lot of time in San Francisco, which I loved. But this time we spent much of our time in the suburbs of Sacramento, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t downright ghastly. You know how ugly Paneras and Cheesecake Factories are? That 40-shades-of-beige, curvy-lined, modern-but-trying-to-look-vaguely-organic type of architecture? I hate it, I simply hate it. I think it’s soul-crushing. Well imagine every single building you pass looking exactly like that. Homogenized down to the very last tawny brick. Not a mom-and-pop shop in sight, and neverending apartment complexes stretching out in their identical tiny iterations as far as the eye can see. Can you imagine what that probably does to a small child’s sense of creativity and variety? Thinking that this is all they get when they grow up. I mean there are people who actually live there! They can live anywhere in the world, anywhere they want. And they picked…this yellowy wasteland? It’s a curious thing. I suppose you surround yourself with some combination of what’s interesting to you and what’s comfortable to you, except some people said “let’s just cut out the interesting part…we don’t really need that.” Big cities have their charms and small towns have their charms, but I’m not sure what the suburbs — especially ones outside of Sacramento, CA — have to offer, besides convenience and plastic surgery and the steady march of death by subdivisions.
We had fun because we have fun doing anything, and probably we’d have fun even going to the dentist or dealing with being burgled (oh wait — that already happened), but we were both really homesick the whole time. I’m glad we kept mostly to mini-road trips and learning about history (history is made up of dates, people. get into it). I also had a really good time hanging out with Onjray a lot. His hospitality was wonderful, and he made us as comfortable as possible in his home. He lives with and takes care of a special needs guy named Brian of about the same age, and it was really neat for me to see how that works. It’s amazing to see someone choosing to give constant care to another human being who is at times uncooperative, and not really being able to have a separate work and home life. But I can see that it’s also very rewarding, and fun to be around Brian’s boisterous personality, and exciting when breakthroughs are made and Brian learns something major. It was really moving for me to observe a life that’s so different from the daily routines of me and most people I know.
Back in Richmond, the real celebrating has been happening. But that’s for another post.