Wednesday, June 03, 2009

And it's only the giving that makes you what you are

I finally got around to telling Darren's and my tale of California mayhem to Mom, Aunt Mo and Grammy, and now I tell it to you, in the same words I wrote to them:
Kristian, the first friend we stayed with in Lake Forest (about an hour's drive from L.A., but that's mostly because the traffic's always packed), picked us up at LAX around 11 p.m. PST. From there, we went to BCD, a Korean chain restaurant that specializes in hot soups (both in the temperature and spiciness sense). We got ourselves settled in at his place, which is in a large complex of apartment buildings and garages. I couldn't believe how big things are. The next day, I saw all the rolling hills and cacti and palm trees. It's a lot different from the Northeast! We used the gym on the complex and went to In and Out Burger, a regional chain that Darren loves and missed. You can get your burger and fries "animal style," which means with this Thousand Island dressing and caramelized onions and cheese and stuff. I wasn't quite clear what it meant, but Darren and Kristian loved it.

What we did on each day is really a blur now, so I'll do a summary. We drove to Laguna Beach (really ritzy, with tons of huge houses on a hill overlooking the ocean) and looked at the tide pools -- crabs, snails, hermit crabs, and anemones mostly -- and played frisbee on the beach. Oddly enough, it was still too chilly to go in the water, but we wore our bathing suits anyway. We walked around "downtown" Laguna with all the ritzy shops and restaurants.

We went to the Getty Center, which is this huge complex of art and sculpture galleries, gardens and cafes on this hill overlooking L.A. You have to take a tram to it, and it's all very well done architecturally -- they had a big-name architecht design the whole thing -- in white stone. There were fountains all over, and the white stone reflected the sunlight so much they offered everyone umbrellas to shade us from the glare. We looked through the galleries and walked through the gardens and took pictures.

We ate all-you-can-eat sushi at Minato with Kristian and his friend Henry. It really was a ton of sushi, and they just kept it coming, whatever we ordered!

We saw the Hollywood sign after driving along these hilly, winding roads lined with million-dollar-plus houses with beautiful hedges and flowers out front. We looked at the sign from a dog park, which was in the perfect location. We watched the dogs and couldn't believe people could hang out with their dogs right under the Hollywood sign!

We met up with Kristian's cousin in Little Tokyo and ate Japanese curry and perused the shops. I bought a cast-iron-like teapot with its own mesh carriage for the loose tea leaves. Kristian bought one of those cute wooden frogs with the little stick you rub up and down its back that makes a froglike noise.

We discovered Yogurtland and now want to open a franchise in Boston. We think it'd be hugely popular, especially in the university areas! It's a serve-yourself frozen yogurt place. There's a row of hoppers with different frozen yogurt flavors -- most of them nonfat -- and you get your bowl and go through and put as much in as you want. Then you get to choose however many toppings you want -- fruit, little chunks of cheesecake, or brownie, or cookie dough, chocolate chips, crushed Heath bars, nuts, anything! At the end, you pay 30 cents per ounce. We ate there pretty much every day -- Darren and I couldn't get enough, and I think Kristian and the other friends we hung out with didn't understand our obsession because they can have it whenever they want. The closest franchise to us is in Greenwich Village in New York City, so maybe someday we could open our own in New England ...

We went to Mitsuwa marketplace near Huntington Beach with Kristian's friend from work, Eugene, and Henry (who is Eugene's roommate). It's a big Asian market with a food court and a market. I got some loose green tea for my teapot and we ate stuff at the food court. Later, we all (except Henry) hit up Koreatown in L.A. for some live octopus at this Korean restaurant. It was kind of good we had Eugene with us, because he's Korean-American and spoke a little Korean, which you really needed to be able to do to get anything at the restaurant. They take an octopus and cut its head off, then they chop up the legs and serve you those on a plate with kimchi, rice, and the rest of the usual Korean sides. It was kind of fun to eat, and the little leg pieces kept suctioning to the plate, so I had to use my hands, and then they suctioned to my hands. I didn't even think of how possibly disgusting it was, because it was so delicious and fresh. Andrew Zimmern, eat your heart out. To end that evening, we went to a little Korean karaoke place where your party gets its own room to do karaoke, and you're charged per hour. We were joined by Darren's friend from Boston University, John, who speaks fluent Korean. We stayed with him for the rest of the trip. He lives in a suburb just outside L.A. proper with his roommate, Eddie. Eddie is from a pretty rich family, is 30 and owns his own business. He drives a Porsche and owns a yacht. On our last full day, we went out on the yacht in an area overlooking Long Beach -- really nice! The boat is 36 feet at its longest point and has a downstairs with a bathroom and bedroom and little kitchen, and the driver's station has a radar, fish finder -- all the bells and whistles. We did a little fishing, but didn't catch anything. It was so awesome being out on a yacht!

So that's our trip in a nutshell! I had such a great time -- you're pretty much guaranteed sun every day -- it's almost hard to get used to, but I'm sure I would never take it for granted. Everyone we hung out with was nice and fun -- I think Darren's friends really liked me! I really felt like one of them.
What I'd forgotten to mention to them was an evening trip with Kristian to the Griffith Observatory. There was a rather large lawn area on a hill overlooking the millions of lights emanating from the city below. Smaller telescopes were set up on the lawn; Saturn was the planet to watch that night, and sure enough, the telescopes gave us a clear picture of it, including its rings. But the big attraction was inside the observatory itself: the big telescope on the left side (if you're facing the observatory entrance) of the observatory that was the most looked-in telescope in the world. Inside on the main floor were various space-, Earth- and science-related exhibits that we perused before Darren and I stood in a snaking line for about 45 minutes outside in the cold to get in to add two more eyes to the number that have peeked into the famous telescope. Honestly, for me, the view of Saturn we waited so long for was no better than in the smaller telescopes on the lawn, but Darren was so eager to look through it that it was worth waiting so long. We barely made the cutoff in the line; docents had to start turning people away from the line because the observatory was about to close.

The place was packed when we got there, and we had to walk about 10 minutes to get to the observatory. By the time we left, the place was barren, but that did nothing to ease our walk back. I was exhausted when we finally made it back to Lake Forest; Darren and Kristian still had some life in them to go to Eugene's to play some "Street Fighter IV."


At 9:28 AM , Anonymous Elyse said...

Sounds like you had a great time. I am SO jealous that you went to In and Out Burger!!! :-)


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