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Los Angeles

It’s been a while since I’ve written.  Just didn’t seem like daily blogging was the recipe for my summer.  But I did want to post a little recap of my Los Angeles vacation.  I wrote this on the train home.  Perhaps I’ll do another post of pictures from the road trip portion – I foolishly took none in LA except at the wedding!

Amtrak.  Friday.  8:00 pm.  Somewhere between Salinas and San Jose.  Shaky writing, but done with a distinct feeling of relaxed self-satisfaction.

We should be in Davis in 4 hours or so, wrapping up our ludicrously successful vacation.  I can’t believe how much we’ve done.  Mom and Dad met us Davis last Saturday, and we drove to Tahoe to see Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, and the Wiyos play.  It was a neat show – good to see Bob, and an excellent introduction to Willie.  mom was very pleased to be doing this for our anniversary / Lewis’ birthday.

Drove to Bishop the next day, and saw much beautiful scenery en route.  Bishop was extremely cute – a tiny town all alone in the high desert.  Next day we drove to San Diego via Mt. Whitney, which was quite a sight to see.  I was very impressed with the entire range there – starkly beautiful granite faces rising abruptly from the floor of the arid Owen’s Valley.  Also saw Mono Lake – beautiful but surprisingly alkaline, thus pungent and seemingly less-than-salubrious.  A lake best enjoyed photographically.

San Diego was nice per usual – saw grandparents & cousins, and had an above-average visit with Mom & Dad.  It’s good to have time to warm up to Mom; our visits lately have always been too short for me to overcome my testiness at being mothered.  This trip was just right.  Stayed something like three days and then caught the train up Friday to LA, where Lewis met me (he had gone up a day earlier for bachelor party fun).

First few days in LA were occupied primarily with wedding stuff.  Friday was the rehearsal and dinner.  It was a bit chaotic, as the pageantry of a conservative Jewish wedding is somewhat complicated.   Lewis and a bridesmaid, Meredith, were assigned the small balcony to decorate, which was serving as the retreat space required for the couple to have some minutes of quiet time between the ceremony and reception.  We spent the greater part of Saturday searching out materials (plates, food, a book of poetry) for their comfort.

That evening we had tickets to see Harvey Danger play at the Largo on their farewell tour.  The Largo seats only a few hundred people, but it’s a theater, so the set up was both intimate and somewhat awkward.  They have “a strict no talking policy”, and the whole timbre of the show was a little like the band playing a show in their own fantasy, and the audience looking in from outside.  They did not disappoint, however, and I spent a good portion of the show chuckling at Sean Nelson who was doing his best to be both amusing and acerbic.  The best part of the show was certainly the second half, in which they took requests only if properly prefaced by an “interesting question”.  The band’s working definition of “interesting” was quite strict, thus there was more mocking the audience than playing requests, and those questions which were answered rarely were done so with focus on veracity.  What made the night truly unforgettable was the after-show, in an as yet smaller theater.  We had great seats here, and the show took the form of a jam between friends – Sean did several songs accompanying himself on piano, and Shana Levy (ex Rilo Kiley) played.  The best sets were with Jon Bryon and an excellent pianist backing Sean, doing audience requests of classic rock songs – I remember “Maybe I’m Amazed” and the Monkee’s “Porpoise Song” specifically.  It was really wonderful, and left me feeling both touched and lucky.  Harvey Danger will be truly missed, but I can console myself with the knowledge that what I always loved most about Harvey was Sean, and I have no doubt he will remain in the public eye in some capacity.  (I also forgot to mention the hilarious introduction John Hodgman recorded for the band – a word-for-word copy of the introduction Bob Dylan is using on his tour!)

The following afternoon, we saw Gabe and Melanie get married.  The ceremony was beautiful, the weather fine, and the company superb.  All Lewis’ old roommates were present, and even happily attached to lovely girlfriends.  There was much bonding and dancing – we danced the horah for at least half an hour! This big group closed the night out – dancing till midnight and finally leaving out of pity for the exhausted bride and groom, and our own sore selves.  Both this night and the previous filled me with blissful, life-affirming thoughts and I felt more connected with life and love and the universe than I have in some time.

The remainder of our trip was occupied with seeing friends.  We met our old lab manager, Laura, on Melrose and shopped.  We moved in with Sepideh and Cyrus for a few nights, and spent very much quality time together.  Getting to know Sepi better first-hand was certainly one of the highlights of the trip.  She’s a truly kind and interesting person, and a very good friend to have.  We also managed a trip to Zankou Chicken + Amoeba to stock up on records.  Nearly the whole group of boys from the wedding was there, and it was really amusing to watch a group of music school kids all shopping together in the jazz section.  We had dinner with Sepi on Sawtell (tiny Japanese restaurant strip in West LA) and met Nick & Suzanne at Beard Papa to catch up.  Beard Papa has some seriously delicious cream puffs, and Nick Martin is one of the best conversationalists I’ve ever met.  We also managed to see Chris and Ashley for dinner.  He cooked us exciting Mexican fare – shrimp and cactus!

Finally, we finished up our week with Devin.  We went out to dim sum (in my old neighborhood!) at the Empress, and got coffee downtown.  Greg joined us for dinner at Father’s Office, which was delicious but somewhat snooty.  Greg & Dev were as always hilarious and I laughed a good deal all day.  Got to hear lots about Devin’s escapades as a somewhat newly outed gay man in West Hollywood, and Greg amused us with jokes on the same topic.  It’s lovely to have college friends still living in LA to remember good times with.

Life in LA was wonderful.  We saw campus – including the new cinema building, and even visited with our old advisor, Joyce!  Campus made me proud to be an alum, as did seeing all the neat things our fellow alumni are up to.  LA itself has changed remarkably little since we left.  We saw most all of our old haunts, and even ate at the Brite Spot twice!   I had to force myself not to pontificate on the wonders of LA and how much I love it’s streets, people, drivers, and scenery.  I saw with ease how we could come back some day for another extended portion of our lives – if we could ever get employment in the area.  LA is full of love and life in a way I never found in the Bay Area.  I am looking forward to coming home to Davis, but I do so knowing I left a piece of my heart in the streets of LA, and the smallest corner in Sean Nelson’s foppish breast pocket.


Lovely day for a lovely wedding.

Got up mightily early this morning to make it to a 10 am wedding in Berkeley.  The groom was one of Lewis’ friends from junior high.  It was quite a nice affair – both the (fairly non-traditional Jewish) ceremony and the reception were both at The Brazilian Room in Tilden Park in the beautiful Berkeley Hills.  There was a great Bay Area mist about this morning, with lots of light rain and fog.

The wedding was a much smaller affair that I anticipated, since Lewis and I got invited and I’ve never really met either the bride or groom in the years we’ve been together.  But they were at our wedding, and Lewis and the groom seem to have solid affection for one another… so it was quite an honor to be on the list!  Our friends Ben and Maya were there, as well as some other old classmates of Lewis’ from Davis, so we were in good company.  We also carpooled with another couple from Davis who we hadn’t met who were quite lovely and I’m sure we’ll see around town in due time.

I’d never been to a Jewish wedding before (actually, this is the first non-family wedding I’ve been to!), and it was very cute.  They aren’t particularly orthodox, so it was a very casual ceremony, but it did have the various blessings and canopy and glass-crushing I came to expect.  And a klezmer band.  And lots of circle dancing!  All in all, it was a really warm and relaxed reception with lots of participation from the crowd and lots of silly happenings.

Only downside for me was for some reason my heart wouldn’t stop palpitating in the latter half of the reception.  I kept walking outside to get some air, getting myself calmed down, and then going back inside and having it start up again.  It did eventually stop, but I think I went through four prolonged rounds of it or so, and it’s usually just one or two off beats before it rights itself.  It was at least well timed to prod myself into getting an appointment at the health center, since I had spoken to my nurse about the general palpitation issue last week and she told me to come back in with my records from my old place in LA where they had done an echo cardiogram.

I do think it’s just stress (as in, this always happens waaay more frequently around finals week and such than any other time), but anyone who has had regular palpitations must know how off-putting and a little troubling they are.   At any rate, when I had that echo cardiogram done last time all my doctor said was that I had a slightly irregular heart beat, and I’m sure that’s all that’s going on now.   It’s funny how nervous I get about my body when I’m stressed out.  I keep finding muscle knots (I think) in my neck that my brain just can’t let go of.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to talk myself out of thinking that they’re cancerous lumps or some sort or another.  Any tiny thing goes wrong and I presume the worst.  This doesn’t happen when I’m feeling less stressed – I wonder what it is about stress that makes me feel so… perishable?  At least my hair isn’t falling out, like one of my grad school compadres.