So in July, I told my parents about my plans to leave work at the end of August (without having another job in place). Admittedly, this is a pretty risky move for most anyone, and maybe it’s even a bit out of character for a planning freak like me… On hearing the news, my parents immediately booked a flight out to California for early September (during my first few days of unemployment). Yup, no rest for the weary!
So last week, a few days after my job wrapped, the aliens landed. I call my parents aliens because well, we have a rather drama-filled history. They are good, responsible, caring people, but due to a variety of factors– culture, language, age, generation, personality– we clash often, less so now, but still. Consequently, even as I enter my late 30s, I still feel some tinge of dread before my alien encounters.
Surprisingly, this trip went pretty well– no major controversies. On the advice of my friend P, I tried to focus less on our differences and recurring conflicts and more on our commonalities. For example, I’ve come to realize that my father and I actually share somewhat similar personalities. We like to come across flexible and accommodating, but we easily get annoyed if there is zippo planning (and no efficiency). We don’t like to sit still: in fact, at 68 years old, my father is still the most intense/productive/efficient person I know. He really likes to pack shit in– be it travel, learning, pragmatic life skills and lessons. And both of us have a fear of complacency and stagnation. There is nothing worse than getting “soft” and losing the edge.
So, my parents have visited us four or so times since we moved out to California in 2006. Already, we’ve hit SF, San Jose, Carmel, Santa Cruz, Monterey, Half Moon Bay, and then they’ve also done various other touristy places throughout the state with tour groups. This visit, I thought we’d try something different: drive down the Pacific Coast Highway to Big Sur, Hearst Castle, and Cambria. I figured we’d spend a day to drive down, stay overnight in Cambria, then head back north and drop by the Gilroy Outlets on the drive home.
The drive down on day 1 was ok. I think after years of traveling on Chinese bus tours, their travel style is kinda like the Chinese idiom, “Ride the horse and see the flowers.” Basically, they travel drive-by style: no real time in one place, just stop, get out of the car, take some pictures, and get back in the car headed for the next attraction. We stopped at Point Lobos, south of Carmel and walked around a short trail to the cove. Then we climbed back in the car to lunch, where we feasted on the deck (too much sun for them though) of the California Market Restaurant (part of the Hyatt). Delicious clam chowder, perfectly grilled salmon, and tasty swordfish sandwich! Best meal of the trip! After roasting in that full sun, we got back in the car and then stopped in for a few minutes at Pffeifer Big Sur and Julia Pffeiffer State Parks– all big-name parks but unfortunately, to see anything substantive, hiking was required… and that just wasn’t happening in the afternoon heat. So we did a quick nature walk around the parking lot and then got back on the road.
For evening accommodations, I got sucked into a Travelzoo deal, and we stayed at this place– Cambria Pines Lodge– that was really disgusting. Seriously. My affinity for discounts pulls my standards way down, but this place was embarrassing. Musty, dark, dirty, dingy… To make matters worse, John and I watched the Shark Tank on TV and one of the pitches was for a bed bugs detection product. I could not stop itching the whole rest of the night. Ugh.
I felt a little bad, actually, for my parents. Because of my frugality, they got shafted with totally subpar accommodations plus we had a shitty dinner at the hotel restaurant. John’s prime rib was like straight out of Restaurant Impossible. It looked like a slab of meat intended to be canned dog food. And still, the place was $200/night!!! Goddamnit. Oh well, I guess it was only one night. Every now and then, we all need a little jolt to keep it real, right?
The next day, we hit Hearst Castle. We did the Upstairs Suites tour, walked quickly through the lush gardens, and then they were ready to take the bus back down the hill. Maybe their attitude is: once you’ve seen one huge mansion, you’ve seen them all (they saw the Goodyear one in Ohio a few months ago plus a ton of castles in Europe). I think for them, having traveled all over the world, nothing amazes anymore. What can you do?
What else. My acting class started last week. 90 minutes long and totally kooky with about 25 people. Lots of silly games and exercises aimed at getting us “out of our minds.” Hmm, I dunno why I get myself into such uncomfortable situations. It’s my fear of complacency that pushes me outside my comfort zone, but then a lot of times, I don’t actually enjoy the experience. Oh well, only four classes in the series, and I guess this is one strategy to improve my patience/tolerance. Shrug. Fucking LivingSocial. Partly, I got sucked in by the dealio!
In other news, I’m continuing with my Social Psych class on Coursera. Loving it. Learning tons: who knew that people make such astoundingly accurate judgments within SECONDS of meeting strangers?! Apparently, first impressions really are EVERYTHING!!
Travel-wise: I’m uber stoked for Wilmington, NC at the end of the month. I’m going solo, so my bud and I will be livin’ it up SATC-style for seven days in this coastal college town. Well, she lives there already, but you get the drift. Plus, she’s dating some member of a bluegrass band, so I’ll get to witness the groupie lifestyle up close. Hehe.
Also, I booked airline tickets to Italy (finally) for October. Yup, pulled the trigger on my first day of freedom. We’re only going for 8 short days, but that’s just how we roll. We’re flying in to Florence, and out of Venice. I can not wait. Thank goodness I have some time now to do hardcore travel research! Hook me up, Rick Steves!
Can you tell my mind is in turbo mode again? It never ends, really. And hanging with dad only exacerbates my inadequacy complex. Seriously, I don’t know how one person can retain so much fucking practical, medical, financial, political, technical, global knowledge in one brain. In three days, he has already fixed my couch cushion (using a MacGyvered cushion needle made from a wire hanger), created a reliable (i.e. non-shitty) solution for my portable AC window unit, added shelving to my bedroom, plus talked stocks, real estate, tax incentives, Syria, CA high speed rail, Jerry Brown, state budgets, etc… I’m exhausted trying to keep up even at a half-ass 15% level. Fuck. I so need to step up my game. Shit’s REALLY getting real!