A Vacation During Apocalypse 2020
It was Election Day, November 3rd, 2020. Donna and I'd stopped in Houston and had a great visit with Esther and Trey, lunch with dad, and were more than happy to leave the Reds of Florida and Louisiana for the Blues of California. We'd already voted, so our goal was to forget election turmoil as best we could.
When we exited our rented Red Mustang Convertible to enter Hotel Royal in Long Beach, California, we saw the hotel and the entire street boarded up. We were later told it was for fear of civil unrest. We saw a shirtless man on a bike with a vast Trump 2020 flag flying.
"WTF?" I thought. "The REDS are everywhere!"
Later at the beach, some guys walked around saying, "Fuck Donald Trump," and I chimed in. That's more like it.
We weren't permitted to use the hotel bikes because of Covid, which we'd looked forward to. All the vintage clothing stores were closed because of Covid. Every restaurant had outdoor-only seating because of Covid if they were open and many weren’t, which was extra sad when it came to Thai District, its right across the street from Hotel Royal, so we ate there twice. Sitting outside in south California weather is good as it gets. The food was terrific, and our server Jennifer was perfect, but damn you, Covid! The interior of Thai District is part of the experience. I was so excited to show Donna the beautiful decor. We weren't even allowed to walk around inside.The following day we were up before dawn. As we walked out of our hotel, we saw someone painted "White Power" on one of the boards on the hotel's front window. We notified the front desk, and they immediately painted over it.
We headed down to the beach for a walk. We stopped at Starbucks. Donna had pulled her mask down and forgot. When she approached the counter, the barista very curtly asked, "Can you pull your mask up?" Donna replied, "Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry!" and pulled it up. I joked to Donna, "Girl, you're about to be Karen all over Tiktok," but neither the Barista nor any of the other employees laughed or smiled. Then I realized they were probably sad. This was the day after the election when it was looking like T might win. I looked around, and I could see people were very sad-looking. I could see the heaviness on their faces. But then again, someone DID write White Power on a board in downtown Long Beach California, and I DID see a man on a bike flying a Trump flag, so obviously, T-cult followers, ignorance, and love of pussy-grabbing, rapist, assholes are not limited to the south.
Either way, “Empathy Carole” that’s what I told myself. Even though I’d gone vacay from reality (or trying to), it didn’t mean the rest of the country had checked out, so I needed to be cognizant of the people around me and how they were feeling.
A couple days later, these same Starbucks employees were in much better spirits when the election results started to change. The Barista was chipper, “What were your names again?” she asked. The bike-T-flag guy was nowhere to be found. A sign on another coffee shop door we went to exclaimed their business to be a safe space, "Diverse, Inclusive, Accepting..." the sign read. Bathrooms in most businesses were unisex. An older gentleman came out of his shop and loudly discussed Biden's apparent victory with a man in the street in joyous tones, which Donna and I marvel at. "You're not in Kansas anymore," I thought. Of course, a line from a movie. Always a line from a movie.
The air was crisp, birds were chirping, and the sun was shining.
Thank you, California.
We drove down to Newport Beach, where we found stunning homes and the air thick with snobbery. Everyone seemed to walk around without a mask and with a stick up their rear. Then we ate lunch in beautiful, yet far too expensive, Laguna Beach. But the people were friendly.
Back at the hotel, Donna had me watch A Beautiful Day in The Neighborhood, and there's one part where Mr. Rogers tells the reporter to take a minute and think of all the people who loved him into existence. I tried it myself, and the only people I could think of were my mother and Donna. I'm sure there are others; I just couldn't think of them at that moment. Donna works hard to not let anyone feel or discuss feelings around her. Still, I know what's up when she makes me watch movies that make me cry, like A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood and Saving Mr. Banks, and when she yells "stop being such a pussy" at the kid on The Big Flower Fight when he's crying.
After Long Beach, we headed to Fresno to visit my niece, Candice, and surprise my great-niece Bayla for her Unicorn themed drive-by birthday party.
On the way, I was so excited to stop at Vista Del Lago to show Donna the beautiful view from the porch of the tourist center. But NOOO, of course not, thanks to that bitch COVID, the stop was closed.
We stayed at Candice's house for five days, and it was great. I painted her a guitar for her music room. It looks like a blue, Crawfish, Alien holding a Cello to me. We watched Next in Fashion, loved it. I love Tan France! I introduced her kids to Nacho Libre, You're Welcome Candice. I finally watched Alien and Aliens with Donna (she's wanted me to watch the series for a while now). About thirty minutes into Aliens, I was like, Why is this so Cheesy? Why is the dialog so bad? Why is it so poorly acted compared to the first one? Why does it seem so predictable, pandering, and insulting to my intelligence? Why is it more about special effects this time rather than the story? Then I looked up who directed it and saw it was James Cameron, and I was like, Ah! That's Why! Mr. Douche bag! Donna got so mad at me for talking shit about that movie. But yeah, now I have to go watch the other Ridley Scott Alien movies because he's actually a good director/producer. I'm gonna watch all of them; I'm invested now.
Then we went to Santa Cruz. Candice and TJ joined us for the first night. We all took turns snoring except Candice; she doesn't snore. I refuse to believe I was the worse.
I LOVED Santa Cruz. We stayed at Beach Street Inns and Suites, and I highly recommend you stay there if you're going to Santa Cruz. Heck, I recommend going to Santa Cruz if you're going to California. It's the best place I've been. I told Dean and the kids we all had to go back.
This was the view from our room. Each morning we would get up and sit on the porch to watch the sunrise. Our neighbors on either side of us sat outside more than we did. We'd all sit out there, drink and talk. On our left were a Hispanic couple and their friend. They were fun. They asked when was a good time to come to New Orleans, we chatted about Crawfish, Mardi Gras, and the southern heat. On our right was a nurse from Washington State. She worked at the nursing home where the Covid pandemic started here in the U.S. she and Donna talked about nursing and stupid ass Covid deniers. She sat on the porch with her drink and pack of smokes. I was all for it. I was like, "You go ahead, girl." That lady and Donna both CERTAINLY needed a vacation.
Every second of Santa Cruz and Beach Street Inn was phenomenal. Even TJ's snoring...Just kidding, TJ, we all know it was Donna :-)
After two days, Donna and I left Santa Cruz and headed toward Highway 1 for the adventure of driving the coast to Los Angeles. Donna drove because she's a far better driver than I am.
This was the point in the vacation where we almost killed each other. See, by this time, we'd been together nearly two weeks, and my sister was driving a treacherous road through mountains she'd never driven before. Far too many assholes with no understanding of her situation would get two inches from her bumper like going the speed limit on a cliff-hanging road was just atrocious. There are these areas to pull over so people can pass that we kept using so all those Cool Cats could fly by.
I made the mistake of getting out at one Vista Point and looking down. I swear ya'll, I was not prepared for what it did to my psyche. Getting back in that car and riding that close to the edge after looking down completely freaked me the fuck out!!! It was pure terror! I couldn't look to my left at all. I had to put my hand beside my face. No joke. At one point, there was a Maserati Motorcycle behind us, and he kept reeving his engine like, "Get over!" Donna was going the sped limit, but she sped up some, and tears welled up in my eyes from the fear. I had to work so hard not to have a panic attack. She finally got over into one of those spots for slow traffic, and I cussed that man so hard.
We stopped a lot to site see and to just breathe. We stopped at a beautiful vineyard and had some sour wine. We tried to eat lunch at a place straight out of Hansel and Gretel, but it was closed. We tried to go to Hearst Castle, but it was closed too. We stopped to see the Sea Lions.
It took us twelve hours to drive from Santa Cruz to LA. Donna drove the entire way. She was so stressed when we arrived at our hotel at 7pm. I'm surprised she didn't strangle me just to relieve her tension. She's really a good driver. I really appreciate her driving. No joke. I couldn't have done it. Lord, I almost had several breakdowns from the passenger seat!
So now I'm back home. I feel refreshed. My face is all healed up. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that before I left for the vacation, I got drunk at the Halloween Party and fell flat on my face. Yep, that happened. I had on a killer costume. The theme was Album covers, and I'd really pulled it out.
I'd never gotten really drunk at that party, but I thought this year I was gonna par-tay. There weren't many people there, it was a nice small group, it was outside, lots of social distancing was going on, and we were all having fun. Dean was having a blast, Donna was, I was, and then I went from vertical to horizontal on the way back from the bathroom in less than a second. I did a complete face-plant on the concrete. No hands, just face, and knees. It was insane!
But would 2020 really even be 2020 without a drunk face-plant on the concrete?
I think not.
And what else is MORE 2020 than going on vacation during the most consequential election of my lifetime, during a pandemic, driving around in a convertible Mustang with black eyes and a busted face while wearing a plush unicorn sweatshirt with the word Unique on it?
Say hello to my little friend...