First Weekend of Freedom

After the ridiculous amount of studying and the lack of sleep I had over the last two or three months, I still can’t quite believe the term is over. I now have about three months until I start graduate school!

My summer vacation already started with seeing a lot of friends. Last Friday night, I went to West Hollywood to celebrate my gay college friend’s birthday. It also happened to be LA Pride weekend, so the clubs in WeHo were even more packed than usual. It was great fun. I’m not into the club scene, but the focus of the night was to hang out with friends, which I’m always up for.

On Saturday, I attended a birthday BBQ party for my best friend from high school. My high school bestie’s birthday was last week, but he postponed his party so that I could attend (since he knew I had finals last week). I got to see some high school friends who I haven’t seen for at least six months. My married high school friend and his wife were there with their month-old baby! I got to hold her! She is so small and so cute. She didn’t like me though; she was crying almost the whole time I held her.

I didn’t actually get to talk to my high school bestie much during his party, but I got a chance to catch up with him as I was leaving. I had already said goodbye for the evening and was standing outside his front door, but one small conversation led to another. We ended up spending half an hour in his front doorway. It was a little chilly outside, but I’m glad I didn’t leave the party without having a good chat with him.

Finally, I had lunch on Sunday with my other best friend from high school (I really need to come up with more ways to describe my friends). Hanging out with my friends is my favorite thing to do, so my first weekend of freedom was amazing. I hope every weekend this summer can be like this!

Extra note: My best friend from graduate school just had twins! Best weekend ever! I can’t wait to see her and her babies next month!

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LA Landmarks

I was still slightly sick over the weekend, but I was recovering well enough to still have fun. My best friend from college (the one I psuedo-date) had her birthday on Friday, so we went to a fancy restaurant to celebrate!

We dined at Campanile, a fairly historic LA landmark (it was built for Charlie Chaplin!). We went all out: wine, appetizer, entree, and dessert! I love fine dining, and this place was very fine. We even got dressed up for the occasion! I’m not sure if they even let people in wearing jeans and a T-shirt.

The head chef (and owner) of Campanile is Mark Peel, who was a contestant on Top Chef Masters. He actually came by our table and asked how the food was! I honestly never saw Top Chef Masters and hadn’t heard of Mark Peel until that evening, but my friend was very excited. We were both a little surprised that he showed up, so we didn’t have much to say (beyond that the food was really good), and we were both too afraid to ask him for a picture with us (or at least with just my friend). But meeting Mark Peel still counts as meeting a celebrity in my book!

On Saturday, to continue celebrating my friend’s birthday, we (along with a good number of friends) went to the Hollywood Bowl (another LA landmark) for some Brazilian music and fireworks. The music was quite good, and the fireworks were very impressive. We also went to the Hollywood Bowl for my friend’s birthday last year too, which was the first time I had been. In fact, the only times I’ve ever been to the Hollywood Bowl have been for my friend’s birthday.

It’s interesting that I grew up in LA and love its history (I learn a lot from I Love Lucy) but don’t really visit many of the LA landmarks until out-of-towners moved down and took me to them (my best friend from college is originally from Northern California, practically a different state). I should really get out more.

Weekend In San Diego

My dad wanted to go somewhere far (but driveable, like San Francisco or Las Vegas) for Labor Day weekend, but my birthday party left us with only two days instead of three. My parents and I bounced some ideas around but never finalized anything until Sunday morning.

We were all but settled on staying near home until my dad made the impromptu decision to book a hotel room in San Diego. This was especially impulsive because my dad rarely ever makes decisions; he usually constantly asks my mom and me to make decisions, even if it’s for something he wants. At my birthday dinner, he kept looking at me when he couldn’t decide whether to have his steak medium or medium rare!

It was already the early evening by the time we reached San Diego (it’s about a three-hour drive). We went for a walk at Seaport Village, which has a lot of little shops and restaurants next to a walkway that overlooks the San Diego Bay. The weather in San Diego was perfect (as it usually is), and the view of the water was beautiful.

After sunset, we drove up to the Pala Casino. I had never been to an Indian casino before, but as I should have expected, it doesn’t look very different from casinos in Las Vegas. We went there because my mom heard from a friend that the seafood buffet at Pala was very good. We waited in an hour-long line (we didn’t get into the buffet until after 9pm), but it was definitely worth it. The quality of the food was very high. As an example, the ice cream was real Dreyer’s brand ice cream, not the generic soft serve machines. There were ten flavors to choose from!

My parents and I did a little gambling at the casino before heading back to our hotel. We don’t play to win; we just play for fun. Ten dollars on penny slots lasted us for a good two hours! Going to see a movie costs more than that!

On Monday, we went to the San Diego Zoo. With the lack of planning we did for our trip, I really wasn’t expecting to have time to go to the zoo, so needless to say I was excited. My parents assured me that I had been to the San Diego Zoo before this time, but I have no memory of it.

I love zoos. I love animals, and I love learning about them. I feel like a kid whenever I go to zoos (aquariums too). The panda and capybara exhibits were my favorites; not only are pandas and capybaras very cute, but I also got really good pictures. There were so many animals that were way too difficult to photograph well. I wish I had more zoom on my camera (or at least a photographic memory).

I had a great weekend (first my party and then San Diego!). The only downside is that I got sick soon afterwards. I drove down to San Diego, so my dad drove back. Whenever my dad gets tired at the wheel, he turns on the air conditioning very cold to keep himself awake. I fell asleep in the back seat (it’s a long drive!) without a jacket, so that’s probably how I got sick.

I’m still sick now (day two), but I’m already on the mend. I’ve had chicken noodle soup three times in two days, and I’m drinking probably five times as much water as I usually do (and I’m not drinking coffee!). I also went home from work a little early yesterday. I’m trying to get better quickly so I can see my friends this weekend. My best friend from college is having her big birthday gathering on Saturday! Should be great!

Best Pseudo-Date Ever

Continuing my streak of great weekends, I had a fantastic Saturday with one of my best friends from college. We set a date (I’m her perpetual pseudo-boyfriend) to have brunch, and I drove to her apartment in LA (we take turns driving to each other’s places for our dates).

After we had brunch at a cute local French bakery cafe, we didn’t really have any plans, so we walked around my friend’s neighborhood admiring all the fancy houses. I love house watching (I really don’t know the proper term for this). I imagine owning and living in some of the houses, sort of like a kid fantasizing about being an adult (not even “sort of,” that’s exactly what I’m doing).

Once we sufficiently walked off our brunch, we relaxed at my friend’s apartment (of which I’m so jealous) for a little while before deciding to go see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I’ve been waiting to see it, and I knew that my friend is a huge Harry Potter fan (and has been one since before it was cool to be), so it was a perfect time to go (I feel like using a lot of parenthetical phrases today). I thought the movie was great; it sets up the scene for the last two movies. I’m anxious to see them!

By the time the movie was over, it was already the early evening. We walked across the street from the theatre to a nice Italian bar/restaurant. At first I thought we were just stopping in for gelato, but we ended up spending the next three hours having a long, leisurely dinner in the restaurant’s outdoor patio area. We did the date thing all the way (well, except for, you know…): we split a carafe of sangria, a pizza appetizer, and a lasagna entree. We got our own orders of gelato (yum), though, since there was no way that splitting one order of gelato would have been enough dessert for us.

Instead of calling it a night after dinner, my friend and I spread out on her couch and watched Under The Tuscan Sun on DVD. I hadn’t seen the movie in a long time, and I forgot how good it is. I also never knew/realized that Jeffrey Tambor (Arrested Development), Kate Walsh (Grey’s Anatomy/Private Practice), and David Sutcliffe (Gilmore Girls) all made cameos! I love it when I learn new things about old movies (In putting in all those hyperlinks, I found out David Sutcliffe was also on Private Practice with Kate Walsh. Crazy!).

Considering that all we had originally planned was brunch, playing the day by ear ended up being a fantastic day! Best pseudo-date ever!

Big Bear Lake

After work on Friday, I drove nearly 150 miles to visit my best friend from elementary school at his house/cabin in Big Bear Lake (I mean the city; his house isn’t actually in the lake. English is funny sometimes.). The almost three-hour drive is twice as far as the farthest I had ever driven in one sitting before, and driving up a mountain is a little scarier than flat freeway driving, but I challenged myself (after debating all week) and drove it successfully! The drive wasn’t even as scary or as tiring as I thought it would be, but this is still a big step for me. I never would have even contemplated such a trip two years ago.

When I arrived at my friend’s house/cabin (it looks like a one-bedroom vacation home, I’m so jealous), my friend had dinner waiting for me! He’s a pretty good cook (cooking is one of his many hobbies), and he made slow-cooked ribs for me! Over the course of the weekend, he also made me waffles and homemade pizza! Healthy and economical.

Besides just visiting my friend, the other excuse for driving to Big Bear Lake this past weekend was to attend a chili cook-off put on for the city’s Old Miners’ Days. We went around to 25+ booths that each let us sample some of their amazing chili, and we got to vote for our favorite. I loved learning about the Gold Rush and California history back in elementary school, so this kind of event appealed to me. I don’t know what chili has to do with history, but joining in on a small town tradition is always fun. Also, I just love chili.

Of course, we also did some walking around the local shops and took in some views of the lake and the scenery. Basically, I had another amazing weekend (three weekends in a row of hanging out with my best friend from elementary school!). Spending a couple days in a secluded little town up in the mountains really felt like a mini-vacation. It’s so relaxing to escape reality, one weekend at a time.

Sign Of A Good Weekend

I’m really looking forward to the long weekend. The shortened workweek (did you know that workweek is one word?) is reason enough to celebrate, but I actually have plans too!

I’m going shopping at the Cabazon Outlets with one of my best friends from high school and his girlfriend tomorrow. I’ve never been to those outlets, and I don’t really know where Cabazon is, but who am I to turn down a day of shopping?

On Saturday (July 4th), I’m hanging out with my best friend from elementary school again (we have a lot of lost time to catch up on). We’re going to attend a barbecue at his mom’s place in Marina del Rey (it just sounds pretty). My friend said there will be a deck that overlooks the ocean and has a perfect view of the fireworks (I don’t know who’s putting on a fireworks show, not that it matters).

I’ll probably end up crashing at my friend’s mom’s place on Saturday (my friend suggested that I should). I’m not sure what my friend has planned for Sunday, but I’m hoping it’s something low-key. My weekends aren’t usually this packed. As much fun as the weekend is going to be, just thinking about it makes me feel tired. I’ll probably be more tired on Monday morning than I would be from a normal weekend, but maybe that’s a sign of a good weekend!

Sharks, Shrimp, Pumpkins, And Parties

I had a really good weekend. It started when I left work a couple hours early on Friday to hang out with one of my best friends and his new girlfriend. They invited me to attend Shark Lagoon Nights at the Aquarium of the Pacific, a free after hours event where you can touch the sharks and rays in the outdoor shark touch pools. Long Beach is pretty far, and the Shark Lagoon Nights are only on Fridays, so that’s why I had to leave work early to attend.

The Shark Lagoon Night wasn’t actually all that exciting. It was definitely fun, but it was a very small section of the aquarium (that’s why it was free, I guess). We hung out there for a while (maybe an hour), and then decided to get dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., which happens to be across the street from the aquarium.

I always wanted to eat at Bubba Gump, but I never had a chance before! I’m not the biggest fan of Forrest Gump, but I did like it. I think it was a smart idea to make a restaurant out of the concept from the movie. The atmosphere was great, the “Run Forrest Run” and “Stop Forrest Stop” signs were fun, and the food was really good! I took a lot of pictures.

We had more things planned for the weekend, so I spent the night at my friend’s house that night. My friend has a four bedroom house. He sleeps in the master bedroom, and he rents one bedroom to his cousin. The third bedroom is unfurnished, and the last one is a guest room (where I stayed).

In the morning, we went to a nearby ranch where there was a pumpkin patch for Halloween. There were rows and rows of pumpkins, as well as a corn maze, petting zoo, and pony rides for kids. It was really nice to walk around and see all the families having fun.

At the ranch, my friend and his girlfriend met up with some of their mutual friends (I didn’t really know them), and my friend invited them over to his house for the afternoon. We ordered pizza and played the Wii. Two of the friends were married and had a (almost) four year old daughter and a six month old son, so it was really fun to watch their kids smile and play. Actually, the son didn’t play any Wii, of course, but it was cute to watch him do anything, like spit up after his meal or take a little nap.

In the evening, my friend had another party planned. He invited a few of his coworkers (who I also didn’t know) over for a BBQ and game night. We played Trivial Pursuit (way too difficult for all of us), Cranium (difficult, but some things are doable and funny), and Taboo (just hilarious).

I’ve known my friend since junior high, and I was the only one from that era to be at all of my friend’s events over the weekend. I sometimes felt a little out of place (especially at the game night), but in the end I got into it and my friend’s coworkers were really nice about including me in the fun. The party actually went on so long (3am) that I ended up staying in the guest room another night instead of driving home. Overall, a very good weekend, except that I’m exhausted now.