Thursday, August 18, 2011

What An Adventure

Maybe nobody will find this all that interesting, but I guess I'm writing it as much for myself as anyone.  We traveled to Los Angeles during the last couple weeks to attend my niece's wedding in Malibu, California.  We left Austin after work Wednesday, and after Steven dashed home from his summer school final exam and just threw ourselves into the car.  Steve didn't have any luggage in College Station, so he brought his clothes and toiletries in a big plastic bag and packed them into a suitcase as he rode in the back seat.

We had been so busy in the weeks before the trip that all the planning we did was get the flights and three nights of hotel reservations.

Our first flight was mostly empty, and the airport was also mostly empty with no wait at check-in or security.  Steven, who had pulled an all-nighter for his advanced O-chem final, slept on the plane.  We had a quick plane change in Phoenix and then arrived at LAX right on time and bewildered at the cool night air.  After all, we have had months of over 100 degree temperatures, and we could barely cope with 70 degrees.

We went directly to the car rental and then to the hotel, where we crashed quickly.  It was probably 1 a.m. here, 3 a.m. back in Texas.  I remember little except smacking my right forearm on a low  garment hook in the handicapped-conversed bathroom.  I was fumbling in the dark for a light switch.  I still have an ugly bruise the size of a silver dollar.

Thursday morning, we had a lovely hotel breakfast and then wandered off to find the family.  We moved to Huntington Beach, where we drove around and showed Steven the condo (although we didn't go inside, because we have a nice tenant).  It was a relaxing day.  We didn't get together with the family right away because they were off buying flowers for the wedding - the bride planned to do her own flowers.  The Sullivans hit the South Coast Plaza, where we bought Steven sneakers and Steve and I bought bought some clothes.

My sister Sharon said there was a lot of work to do for the wedding, though, so we volunteered to be wedding slaves.

We stayed in H.B. Thursday night, and as wedding helpers Friday, the three of us went to Christine's (the bride) apartment to do whatever she needed.  She needed folks to arrange flowers.  Christine had collected tall blue and aqua glass vases over a matter of months and had purchased hundreds of orchids and roses at the Los Angeles flower markets on Thursday.  We formed an assembly line, John, Steven, Maynard (Chris' daddy, my BIL) and me, putting orchids on a stick and then a wire so that the weight of the blossoms didn't break them, then putting them into arrangements in the big vases with a few roses, some sticks and moss, just as Christine planned.  They were beautiful.  Our Steven turned out to be the champion wirer.  A huge roll of floral tape later, we had about 45 table arrangements plus an assortment of other big bunches ready to go.  It all had to be on a U-Haul trailer at 4 p.m.  The guys with the U-Haul arrived - James, the groom, and his dad and brother - and we carried vases down the stairs and to the truck, then my hubby John and Maynard packed them into the truck, water and all, in boxes so they wouldn't tip over.

The bride and groom were completely overwhelmed and frazzled with worries about getting everything done.

Next we had a ridiculous long caravan along Pacific Coast Highway to gorgeous Malibu, where the vases had to be delivered to a building in the park.  Traffic was heavy.  We worried about  broken vases and broken orchids, but we only lost a couple of orchid stems.  No vases broke, and no water spilled.

After that, the bridal party had a rehearsal and we had a dinner date, so we split up. We ate in Calabasas with my newly-arrived older brother Bill and his two adult kids Michael and Michelle.  They had driven from Sacramento.  Bill's kids are very good-looking and charming, don't know how that could possibly have happened, and we hadn't seen them in ages - especially, we hadn't seen Mike since he was just a kiddo. My sibs mostly stopped getting together in groups when our parents passed away, and the distances involved are a big barrier.  We had a blast at dinner.  Steve and Mike totally hit it off, and starting talking music and gear.  John and Bill went into gadgets.  I was slurping on an old-fashioned chocolate milkshake at the 50's diner place we ate, and just getting a huge kick out of everyone, especially Michelle, who is an artist - the best kind, specializing in fashion.  We got to see her portfolio, truly lovely.  So much fun.  I have knitted socks for her before, but I need to turn her on to knits more.

We spent the night in an adorable suite in Westlake Village.  Steve has a college friend in W.V. and they went off the drive around and see the beach after dark.

Saturday was wedding day.  We got all dolled up and drove to Malibu.  John had a suit and tie, and Steve had a black tuxedo and cowboy boots.  Steve got tapped to help usher, and he enjoyed that.  The Pepperdine chapel is very lovely - small with huge walls of stained glass - and there was a string quartet doing classical favorites.  The services was a terrific, touching Christian service, performed by the high school pastor at Sharon and Maynard's church.

We repaired to the open tent at the park for a humongous party.  The families are large, and with friends, there were maybe 150 at the wedding.  There was a jazz band and DJ at the "tent," and we ate, drank, danced, chatted and partied.  For me it was like a huge family reunion.  At some point the expressions on the bride and groom switched to, "Wow!  We pulled it off!" and you could see them relax and have a great time.   We had mild temperatures, a light breeze, and amazing views of the ocean and coastline.

Unfortunately, all but the brownest among us got sunburned.  The top of the tent was supposed to be covered, but it wasn't, and we really got cooked.  I am fair and had red cheeks and a VERY red nose, but other people who had low-cut dresses are toasted in much more tender places than my schnozz.

I have never, ever been to a prettier wedding.  My sister and her husband have set the bar awfully high for the rest of us who have kids to marry off.  Steven says whenever he gets married, it will be entirely outdoors.  Hmm, the still unknown bride may have something to say.

The wedding was before lunch and the party ran until 6.  I had so much fun, I couldn't help thinking about the wedding feast to come in Heaven.  We helped only a little with cleanup and then went to Sharon and Maynard's hotel, the Casa Malibu - right on the water - and sat around and chatted with family, plus we saw the bride and groom off in the limo. I was cold, rolled in a blanket, out on the hotel patio facing the water, while other folks who don't live in Texas heat were in shirtsleeves.  Steve and Mike went after two huge buckets of fried chicken, since everyone was hungry all over again, and we ate with our fingers and decompressed from the completely successful party.  

Saturday night, we went back to the hotel in Westlake Village, and then on Sunday, went to see the Getty Museum with Bill and Michelle while Steve and Mike went to Venice Beach instead.  After hours of walking around in the museum complex and realizing that we couldn't possibly see it all in one day, I bought a big museum picture book to enjoy later.  We needed to drive to Fontana to see my other brother and his family, but we had no Steve and Mike.  We phoned them, and they had lost their car at Venice Beach and were still hiking around looking for it.  Eventually, everyone managed to get to Fontana, but a bit late, and we went to dinner (party of 13) with my brother Pat, his wife Gloria, his daughters Ashley and Heidi (who has a little toddler Riley and one on the way), Heidi's husband Chris, Pat's son Mark, plus our group of six.  Whew.  We ate mountains of food and had a good time.  And that was Sunday.

We spent Sunday night in Huntington Beach at a hotel Bill stayed at - but we didn't like it quite as much so it was a one-nighter.  We spent Monday morning with Bill, Mark and Michelle at Sharon and Maynard's house.  The boys hit the grocery store for healthy snacks and we sat around Sharon's place nibbling and talking about their crazy Sunday, which consisted of a dozen errands and getting the bride and groom to the airport for their honeymoon.

Bill and his kids headed back to Sacramento, and our next stop was back to Westlake Village to meet my other sister Karen and Jeff, their kids Branden and Ana, at a restaurant for dinner.   It's hard to describe the distances and traffic, but this was a couple of hours of driving and we were a little late since we hit a total clog.  The gridlock was so bad on Santa Monica Boulevard, where we got off for gasoline, that I got out of the car and looked at Tesla cars in the showroom while John was waiting for the cars to move!

Our whole vacation involved hours and hours of driving all over Southern California in a rented Charger that John got with Priceline.  Because we had that car and my hubby is such an intrepid driver, we got to see everybody and do everything we could squeeze into the schedule.

We had a great meal with Jeff et al, and then we stayed at an amazing place, the Westlake Village Inn, which Steven picked out on his Iphone in the car while we were driving here.  This place is amazing, rooms set up like a string of Italian villas.  It has two restaurants, a golf course, tennis, and pool, dozens of statues and fountains and long breezeways covered in bouganvillea and honeysuckle.

Jeff and Karen gave Steven another guitar and amp (a Fender!) and he tried it out in the hotel room.  He had it tuned and playing in five minutes, so we could call Karen on her cell so she could hear it.  Steven plays for hours and plays with friends - it's a huge outlet for him.

Next, we went back to Huntington Beach and hung out with the Zwaagstras (Sharon, Maynard, and Thomas).  We went to the street fair they have on Tuesdays, ate vendor food, shopped in all the cute booths, and then walked on the beach.

After that, we drove to San Bernardino and stayed with John's mom and sister.  They're doing great.  They recently put solar panels on the house that will provide enough juice for summer air conditioning.  San Bernardino is awfully run-down these days, though.  We went to see dear friends, washed all our clothes, went to see John's brother, and then on Friday night, Steven decided that he just had to see the Doors - well, the guitar player and keyboard artist along with a cover singer for Jim Morrison's lyrics.  That entailed a trip to Hollywood to the Sunset Strip where Stevie went to a bar and watched the show while we went to Griffith Observatory.  We liked the Observatory so much that we took Steven back the next morning before our flight back to Austin.

And now we're back in our routine.

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