A SoCal Thanksgiving

Southern California is often described as a laid back environment, and a relaxed Thanksgiving was just what I needed this past weekend. Being around my little sister Karen usually calms me down as well; she doesn't seem to ever get too high or low. I suppose I knew that before, but it was particularly noticeable this weekend compared against my recent moodiness.
I was up most the night before heading down Wednesday. Most of my clothes were still packed away, and finding everything I needed for the weekend was a chore. By the time I arrived I felt a fatigue down to my bones. The afternoon was a drowsy blur, but one thing I do remember was the warmth of the air, about seventy or eighty degrees. That alone, after the temperatures in the thirties in Seattle, soothed me. I'm starting to understand why retirees seek out warm weather.
Howie met us for dinner Wednesday. I enjoyed listening to him and Karen discuss the LA social scene and to know that they had that shared context. Perhaps they'll hang out from time to time; I'm one of those people that feels it's some failure on my part when any two of my friends fail to appreciate each other. We drove down that night to San Marcos to Angela's family's place. Seeing James is always a happy moment; he's like an eternally happy puppy...that tells jokes...and performs insane magic tricks.
Angela's entire family was there as was James and Angela's friend Eddie. Big groups are fun at holiday time. Angela's parents were gracious hosts, and we never lifted a finger except to pick cards out of a deck of cards in James' hand which he would magically control back into his hands after a few shuffles. Our favorite sayings of the weekend were, "If I just give it a little shake..." or "Now I haven't been anywhere near my pocket..."
Thanksgiving Day, the kids (as I approach the big three-O I like to continue to include myself in that group though sometimes I think about it and it seems absurd) spent the morning up at a park at the top of a hill near Angela's house playing pickup hoops. A group of Russians came along and beat us up in a game of four on four, mainly because they had one gigantic brute of a guy who just ran us over.
Thanksgiving Dinner was so tasty, a nice mix of Korean and American cuisine. The turkey was cooked just right, something that in my experience happens less than you'd think given the popularity of the other white meat at this time of year. I brought up the turducken, but no one else thought it sounded very good.
After dinner we karaoked for something like five hours, and that's not an exagerration. I don't even like to karaoke, but after some initial shyness and hesitation, suddenly I had the mike in my hands on every song, belting away like Engelbert Humperdinck. James and I monopolized the mikes; I could barely talk by the time it was all over. Their karaoke machine gave scores after each performance, and James and I scored a perfect 100 for our rendition of Sweet Caroline. Though the evaluation algorithm was of dubious accuracy, we felt an unusually deep sense of accomplishment.
Friday morning we ventured to the gigantic outlet malls nearby, braving the capitalist hordes with designer fabrics in their eyes. Parking was so bad that LA drivers riding gargantuan SUVs (some were seriously monster trucks, leading me to wonder why they were shopping at outlets) simply hopped the curb across the street and parked in a giant dirt field. It was a massive outlet mall, one of the largest I've been to, but I managed to ignore the massive discounts and contain myself to a few odd items. Barney's had suits at half price, and while they were beautiful, I can count the number of times I wear a suit each year on one hand now. James scored two sweet suits, though, being the finance wheeler dealer that he is.
The only great stressor in LA is the traffic, and we got a taste of it driving back on Friday. The perfect gift for LA Karen would be the MIRT, if it were still legal. We were late to dinner with James' uncle and aunt up north, but we still managed to catch up with Jason and Jamie and Sadie at Kenny's place in Pasadena afterwards. I was so excited to find that Sadie hadn't yet gone to sleep, and I got a bunch of playtime with her. She's such a cutie! She's at the stage where she likes to bounce up and down if you hold her up and steady. I'd raise her up to the ceiling and then lower her down, and she'd jump up and down a bit and shriek happily, then every now and then she'd turn around and stare at me as if to say, "Who are you? Oh, it doesn't really matter, just toss me up in the air again, buddy."
Saturday during the day we did the relaxing Hermosa Beach thing. I rented one of those Schwinn beach cruiser bikes which sits you straight up, has just a single gear and two fat tires, and has handlebars that you have to hold with your arms spread wide and extended straight. The bike shop owner convinced me that to ride anything else, like a mountain bike, would mark me as a silly tourist. I felt like such a geezer, but riding at a lazy saunter down the boardwalk, sun-seeking folk all around and the ocean whispering to the beach to one side, I felt what it means to be a beach bum, to obey the call of the shoreline as it says, "Just chill out, man."
Saturday night Karen and I had dinner with our cousin Chuck at Blue Pacific, an Asian fusion restaurant on Hermosa Beach. Since my mother passed away, I've done a lousy job of keeping in touch with cousins on that side of the family, and that bothers me more now than it did before.
Afterwards, Karen and I met her friend Judy and caught the preview showing of The Last Samurai at Bridge Cinema de Lux. I'm not often tempted to move to LA, but if I did, getting to see movies before the rest of the country would be one of the reasons why, that's how much of a movie geek I am.
I saw only two movies this weekend in LA, so this conclusion is based on a small sample size, but the crowds in LA are refreshingly enthusiastic. After some assassins are turned back by Tom Cruise and some samurai, the crowd burst into applause and cheers. The theaters in LA are also much nicer than the ones in Seattle. Stadium seating is a norm, as is digital sound turned up nice and loud. LA respects its movies and presents them as nicely as possible, even if some of the content itself is dreck.
Sunday Karen went with me to see Love Actually. It was her second time, my first. I'm not much for romantic comedies, but after a Thanksgiving weekend among family and friends and by the time Bill desposited back on my Seattle doorstep, I couldn't much deny that love was indeed all around.