Having grown up in Southern California, I have often been asked what LA is like. After visiting this past weekend, The Princess came up with a perfect synopsis: "California would be great to live in if you didn't have to work.”
True, SoCal has the beaches and weather; it is more laid back than DC. But, putting aside the famous Woody Allen quote about LA– “I don’t want to live in a place where the only cultural advantage is that you can make a right turn on a red light” – the only reason for me to visit anymore is to see the Arjewtine family.
I love flying westbound because of all the time you have when you land. It’s like going into the future. Or the past, I don’t know. Doc Brown
should explain it to me. Sure enough, after waking at 6:30am Thursday, we took a direct flight out of BWI and landed in LA shortly before noon. As we walked to baggage claim, we had our first celebrity sighting: Flavor Flav
! He was really short and a fan was hugging him as he waited for an elevator.
Hermano picked us up and took us to my mom’s condo in Northridge. I grew up in the Valley so my tolerance for 90- to 100-degree dry heat is pretty high; The Princess, however, actually got allergic to the desert weather and started what would be a four-day weekend of sniffling and sneezing.
We ate some empanadas for lunch and then went to the pool. The Princess was awed by the fact that the trees there grew fresh limes and I regaled her with stories of my siblings and me feasting on the fruit of an apricot tree that used to grow in our backyard. I swam a few laps while she sunbathed. When we went home, we played Guitar Hero
on my brother’s PS2, a game which is kind of like Dance Dance Revolution but with a guitar.
It is HIGHLY addicting, as I learned. We then went to dinner with Mami, Hermano, and Hermano’s novia at my favorite place, Buenos Aires Grill, where my brother and I gorged ourselves on sangria and a parillada of meat, meat, and more meat.(Note: The Princess stopped eating meat three years ago after Hermano and I shared a parillada at Gaucho Grill and she watched me eat a morcilla. If you don’t know what it is, look it up. Caveat: you may stop eating meat.)
My mom took Friday off and we went to The Grove, a shopping complex downtown I had never visited and which looked like a glorified strip mall with expensive restaurants and corporate shops. We walked around for a while, window-shopped, then drove home by taking Sunset through Beverly Hills and Westwood to the 405. (I stopped calling the Capital Beltway THE 495 a few months after I moved to DC; I still say “stoked”, though.)
My mom took The Princess and I clothes-shopping that evening (I have no sartorial talent when alone) and then we treated her to dinner at, where else, Buenos Aires Grill. The next day, Papi picked us up and took us to his place in Santa Monica. We borrowed his cool green retro bikes and cycled to the Santa Monica Pier and then to Venice Beach, where we lunched on the BEST FISH TACOS ever and gawked at the freaks. We went swimming and the waves made for some awesome body surfing. No crappy six-inchers in LA, unlike in the OC, bitch
That evening, we drove down to Laguna to visit my grandparents. I had asked my dad to invite my extended family, many of who I hadn’t seen in three years, and on the way we insisted on buying champagne. In retrospect, I can see why they were disappointed that we didn’t have a special announcement. Champagne+Family Gatherings, I guess, should = Marriage Announcement. “Donde esta el anillo?” my tia pleaded. Still, we feasted on Argentine food, looked at family vacation photos, and I wrestled with my nephews and niece.
Sunday morning, we shirked Coffee Bean and biked down to this independent coffee shop, which looked like the bastard child of Tryst and Asylum Bar. The organic coffee from El Salvador was decent but I was mostly amused by their instructions that you had to average $2 in expenditures per hour while patronizing, otherwise you were loitering. How do they monitor everyone? Is it on the honor system? I can’t imagine someone going up to the heavily pierced and tattooed barista and saying, “I’m sorry, I’ve only spent $6 in the last four hours while working on my screenplay. Get me a scone.”
My dad took us to an omelet parlor for brunch and then we walked around the farmer’s market. When I say “farmer’s market,” I don’t mean like what you find in Dupont, Mt. Pleasant, or Takoma every Sunday. This was unreal, a Hollywoodization of outdoor markets, where parents pushed their babies in $1,000 strollers and there was actually a limo parked in front. We didn’t see any celebrities but I must admit my first thought was that we would see Brittany Spears stuffing her face with organic corn.
Flavor Flav wouldn’t have done that.