Friday, August 23, 2013

The Staycation

So, I turned fifty-five today.

"What do you want to do for your birthday?" asked Surfer Boy a few weeks ago.

"Let's not spend the whole time eating and drinking.  Let's do something active and calorie burning."  My favorite activities include Surfing, Hiking, Running and Yoga.  "How about we go somewhere not too far and spend a couple of nights?  Carlsbad sounds good."

Carlsbad is only a forty-five minute drive South of our home in Laguna Beach so it was settled.  The area had everything we wanted: a Bikram Yoga studio in Encinitas, one of the most gorgeous hiking trails in Torrey Pines and some of the best surf in the world all up and down the coastline.

We arrived at the Hilton in Carlsbad on Wednesday afternoon.  It was a perfect Southern California day -- warm and sunny.  As Kerry pulled his white Chevy Van Surf-mobile into the valet parking area, we were greeted by a group of enthusiastic valet parking attendants -- tall athletic surfer dudes.

"Welcome to the Hilton," said the valet as he opened the passenger door to the Surf-mobile for me.  "Where you guys coming in from?"

I stepped out of the van, inhaling deeply of the sea air.  "All the way from Laguna Beach."

"Oh, a Staycation," he said.

Now, maybe its just me, but I'm not sure about this term Staycation.  I think it's a new Facebook generation term -- a term made up to make me feel like I'm a bit less-than because I didn't take a trip to Dubai or somewhere equally far or exotic.  Or expensive.

"Oh, a Staycation," he said with just the merest hint of disappointment.  "Cheapskates," is what he looked like he was thinking.

The Hilton in Carlsbad is gorgeous.  Right on the beach.

We threw our luggage into our deluxe room overlooking the ocean and hit the coast looking for waves.

The first town South of Carlsbad is Leucadia.  Leucadia is the kind of town that boasts a mixture of spiritual hippie-types and alcoholics, seemingly in equal proportions.  The Leucadia liquor store stands at the center of town like a beacon.  It has a towering architectural steeple boasting the word LIQUOR in tall black letters. When we drove by the liquor store at night, I noticed that the Q and the R were burned out on the neon sign.  Did that stop the drunks from finding the place?  Nope.  Next to the numerous liquor stores, you can find holistic practitioners, yoga studios and vegan restaurants.

Drive a little further South and you hit Encinitas, home of the Self Realization Fellowship -- a temple dedicated to spiritual enlightenment but to the surfers, home to one of the best surf breaks in the area.  A surf spot called Swami's.

Southern California has some of the most consistent surf in the world.  Unfortunately, that hasn't been the case for the past week or so, but we were hoping that would change.  I mean, it is my birthday after all.  Don't they know who I am!

We parked the Surf-mobile and walked over to the parking lot overlooking the surf-break.  A group of unemployed Jesus Christ look-alike surfers were huddled around the railing at the edge of the cliff, hands in pockets, glum looks as though they'd just lost their best friend.

"Where's that surf you promised me?" I said to one of the bearded surfer-dudes.

He broke into a grin exposing perfect white teeth.  "Tomorrow."

We walked back to the van, determined to find a place to surf before we succumbed to the restaurant with its rich food and fine wine.  Checking out the architectural style of the multi-million homes along the cliff, I noticed an odd mixture.  One home was done in a Neo-Zen contemporary style.  It looks like it's been recently renovated complete with a state of the art kitchen, the likes of which have granite tile work that cost more than my entire net worth.  Then, next to that house, we saw a creepy home that looked like the mansion where Bette Davis was cruelly imprisoning her wheelchair bound sister in the movie Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

We finally ended up in Cardiff, and not to be deterred, set up our beach chairs, donned our wetsuits, grabbed our surfboards and surfed in surf that was around two to three.  Inches.

Thursday morning dawned bright and early -- Kerry and I ready for our triathlon of Yoga, Hiking and Surfing.  Our first stop was the Bikram Yoga Studio in Encintas.

We walked upstairs to the small studio above the place that used to be an Insurance Agency but is now apparently a bakery judging by all the cake pans I saw through the plate glass window.

"Good morning!" trilled the fit dark-haired yoga instructor.  "Sorry to tell you, but the heater's broken.  It's only about eighty-five degrees in there."

Bikram Yoga is a kick-butt ninety minute yoga workout typically performed in a room heated to one hundred and five degrees.

"That's a relief," said Kerry.  "This way, we won't be so wiped out the rest of the day.

Now understand folks, this is a luxury triathlon, so after yoga it was back to the Hilton for a deluxe lunch of fish tacos overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  Then it was time to don our hiking clothes for the hike at Torrey Pines.

Torrey Pines is one of the most majestic hiking trails in Southern California and if you've never been, you must check it out next time you're in town.  We spent two hours hiking some steep trails that lead right down to the beach.  The weather was perfect.  Sunny, warm with a cooling ocean breeze.

We checked out the surf the whole time we were overlooking the ocean realizing that the Jesus Christ look-alike who promised us waves today was wrong.  But, being people who start what they finish, we concluded our hike, waxed our surfboards and hit the cool Pacific Ocean which felt delightfully soothing on our tired hiking legs.

In the Parking Lot at Torrey Pines
By then it was getting late.  I wanted to get cleaned up and presentable for dinner but that meant going all the way back to the hotel, showering, putting on makeup and flat-ironing my hair into submission before we could sit down to our well deserved dinner, fine wine and decadent birthday dessert.

"Why don't we just shower off in the beach shower?  You've got that gauzy white dress you can wear to the restaurant," said my husband -- the man who loves me without Mac Makeup or hair extensions.

"Okay," I said, too weak to argue.

We had reservations at the Solace and the Moonlight Lounge in Encinitas.  Urban gentrification has hit Encinitas hard which basically boils down to multi-million dollar loft apartments built on top of the state-of-the-art Whole Foods Market -- the largest one I've ever seen.  Next to the Whole Foods Market was our restaurant which embraced the theme of conservation, recycling, and farm to table foods, the produce picked by legal immigrants.  It has a decorating style that can only be described as biodegradable.  One big storm and the fine art sculptures made out of recycled cardboard will disintegrate.  But the food was delicious!  The salads were fresh, the salmon was cooked just right and if you visit, make sure you get the coconut cake for dessert.

I like the architectural style but for my money I want the ceilings finished please.
Birthdays.  Now that I'm older they seem like such an odd holiday to me.  You get all this crazy attention from your family and friends for doing nothing more than making it through the year.  But I love it because we all need a day where we're reminded of how many great people we have in our lives.  I thank you all for being part of my life and all the birthday wishes I got today.  I am truly blessed.  And next time you need some time off, consider a Staycation.  You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Strip Poker

Genre:  Card Game

Players:  Two or more

Playing Time:  Amount Varies

Skills Required:  Counting, Strategy, Bluffing, Probability

I had never been good at card games.  Susan and I had a favorite board game manufactured by Parker Brothers called Clue, a game that didn't require much in the way of skill, just a simple process of elimination which ended with either Susan or me triumphantly declaring: "Mr. Plum did it with the lead pipe in the conservatory!"

     When Ricky Comfort telephoned my house that day, his scratchy voice asking, "Hey, um, what're you and Susan doing today?  Wanna come over and play strip poker?" we figured it was time to learn to play cards.  Neither one of us had skills like strategy, bluffing or probability but we did have our Teenform training bras.  Evidently since we'd already had our first make-out session underneath Ricky's house, the word on the street was that Susan and I were, how shall I put this delicately?  Easy.

     Hanging up the yellow kitchen wall phone I nervously said to Susan, "I think this'll be okay.  We can always leave whenever we want.  Let's go in my room and just find as many clothes as we can.  That way, we shouldn't have to strip down too much."  I was nervous but by now I was an old pro -- my first kiss under my belt.  This was the age that sex hormones were starting to kick in and the prospect of hanging out with a group of hot, sweaty half-naked pimply guys sounded almost enticing.

     We rummaged through my dresser pulling out extra t-shirts, sweaters, leotards, tights to go underneath our stretch shorts and of course our Teenform training bras.  I'd taken to stuffing my bra with toilet paper that year since I was flat as a board, but that little secret was something I decided to forgo that day.  "Hey, look what I found," said Susan pulling out a pair of wool gloves from the back of my underwear drawer.  "The more clothes the better," she said with a nervous smile.  We were so overdressed that our strip poker debut was sure to be successful.  I grabbed my winter coat for good measure before we stiffly walked out into the scorching hot Florida sun and ambled over to Ricky's house.

     When we arrived at Ricky's house, we were greeted by Ricky, Henry Mahanke and Michael Melvin who wore the bare minimum of clothing -- each wore just a pair of jeans and t-shirts and Converse high-top tennis shoes with socks.  I started mentally counting how many articles of clothing they wore compared to ours.  As usual, Ricky's mother was either at work or running extensive errands since she didn't seem to be around much.  The house was uncomfortably warm, made all the more so by our extra clothing.  One inefficient box-style fan stood in the corner of the room blowing warm air.  Susan and I sat down on the tattered sofa which was covered with a faded beige-colored nubby bedspread.  Ricky's dog, a large brown mutt with fur that felt like wire sauntered happily over to us, his tail thumping against the side of the mahogany-colored naugahyde recliner that was set up in front of the black and white TV set.

     "Buster!" Go lay down," commanded Ricky.  Buster obediently curled up right in front of the fan, ready to watch the action.

     Sex-god Henry was looking just as alluring as ever that day, his mesmerizing blue eyes scanning our fit-for-Alaska clad bodies.  I felt myself flush.

     Walking out of the kitchen carrying a couple of cokes with ice in cheap plastic tumblers, the pink tumbler for Susan, purple for me, Ricky said, "Hey, this'll be fun.  My mom's gone the rest of the day shopping with my sister so we got the place to ourselves."

     Henry produced a deck of Bicycle playing cards and set them in the middle of the coffee table and started shuffling the deck not taking his eyes off of Susan and me.

     I felt myself get dizzy as cards were passed out and the boys started throwing around phrases like 'poker face, wild card, and stripped deck' -- phrases that I'd never heard before but sounded like words I wouldn't mind becoming more intimate with.  I can't really remember how this game is played because I still never do more than put five bucks on black on the roulette table whenever I go to Las Vegas.  I like games that are nice and simple.  But Ricky, Henry and Michael seemed to have strategy when it came to strip poker because before we knew what was happening, Susan was down to her white cotton underwear and Teenform training bra and so was I.  A few more cards were dealt and Ricky's luck took a turn for the worse.  Suddenly, he was down to his Fruit of The Loom tighty-whities, his pale body only matched by his pale pimply face.  That was when the phone rang -- a shrill sound disrupting our intense concentration.  We all jumped in alarm.

     Ricky snatched up the phone.  "Hello?"  I suppose the person on the other end of the line must've said, "What are you doing?" because Ricky answering in nothing but his underwear said, "Oh, nothing."  A few more mumbled phrases before he hung up the phone and panicked saying, "My mom's gonna be home in half an hour!"

     Saved by the bell.  The five of us scrambled around, gathering up our jeans, t-shirts, Converse high-tops, leotards, stretch shorts, socks, gloves, coats, and rapidly dressed.

      As we walked home, Susan and I felt as though we'd just performed an important rite-of-passage.  Susan picked a red hibiscus flower, tucked it behind her ear and smiled.  And that, my friends, was my first time seeing a boy almost naked.