Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Tourism in Familiar Places - Home For the Holidays Part 2

So I won't bore everyone with the standard details from my trip home for the holidays: For the most part the only people who would actually be interested in such things were there.

The abridged version: I alternated between my Mom's place in the town I grew up in -- Temecula, California -- and my dad's place in Long Beach, spending little more than 24 hours in either place at a time. I'm not sure if I would do it again -- doing the 80 mile / 90 minute each way drive 4 times in as many days was a bit tiring, but borrowing my dad's BMW certainly made it tolerable. And struck up the urge to replace the car I've had for the past 11 years.

Temecula a city that at once is a suburb of Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego -- and has ballooned from a population of 29,099 when my family relocated there in 1989 to 105,029 today. My perception growing up was a largely upper-middle class population; my most recent visit gave me a middle-middle class vibe. Long Beach, on the other hand is a decidedly urban suburb of the City of Los Angeles -- albeit a suburb with a population of some 492,000, making it California's 6th largest city.

Temecula, in addition to being home to 100,000 commuters is home to California's lesser known Wine Country. Although I strongly prefer wine to beer**, perhaps the fact that I moved to Cleveland shortly after my 21st birthday explains why aside from a few errands*** I've never imbibed on local spirits. I was determined to change this on my trip. My mom and I started the day with a lackluster lunch at Bally Vineyard & Winery, including the least attentive service I've seen in years along with the most disappointing Riesling I can remember drinking -- tasting more like stale grape juice than wine.

Wine Country, Temecula, CA
(excuse the fact that by this point I had decided to forgo shaving for 3 or 4 days...)

As it turns out there are more than 20 wineries in the Temecula valley. At one point I had the delusion that we would try, if not all, most of them throughout the course of the day. Apparently more out of practice with wine tasting than I thought we made it to a total of three wineries. On the third winery, Bella Vista, I wound up tasting 6 and bringing 4 bottles home with me. Most of these will be served at the I-still-haven't-figured-out-if-it's-a-party.

With a complete dearth of live performing arts based on a combination of the region and the season we wound up seeing Tangled--mildly amusing--and How Do You Know, which though a bit long struck a bit close to home.

On my way in to Temecula I stopped by my old high school, closed for winter break I was contemplating roaming the campus to see if there were still any staff I remembered and to see how the place that influenced so much of who I've become has changed in the 8 years since I've been gone. Maybe some future visit.

On my way out of town for the last time -- sparked by a comment my mom made, I stopped by the elementary school that I attended from 2nd to 5th grade (a side effect of the city's rapid expansion, the oldest school I attended had been open a year when I first arrived). In front of the school was--and still is, nearly 20 years later--a wall with the hand prints of the students and staff on Day 1. I found mine.

My handprint20 years agoMy hand 20 years later

In Between, of course, no visit to Southern California is complete without one--or more--visits to In-N-Out Burger. I was in California 6 days, two days were not In-N-Out able (one for reasons I'll spare, the other because In-N-Out is closed on Christmas Day) during the remaining four days I partook five times. And I could have done it more. The below images were taken (a) while #17 in the drive-thru line waiting for Christmas eve dinner driving from my Dad's to my Mom's and (b) My mom's point of view during our first dinner on this visit.
A different In-N-Out drive-thru. This is my phone's new wallpaper.Me at In-N-Out from my Mom's POV

In Long Beach, the visit consisted largely of catching up and hanging out with the dogs -- a Dalmatian, a Jack Russell terrier, and a Pekinese. I've been told that dogs bring out my "child like side" and that I always seem more relaxed when our office manager brings in her Golden Retriever. I could probably spend weeks on a couch petting and being licked.**** Away from the house we wound up seeing Black Swan and The King's Speech. I hadn't heard of either: Black Swan wasn't at all what I expected based on the description I was given; The King's Speech was quite intriguing and well done.

Dogs at my Dad's Place

On the way home, of course, there was the Passenger In 3B; after getting home and sleeping off the jet lag I found out that my paternal grandfather passed away in his sleep. It wasn't expected, nor was it completely unexpected...and I'm really not sure how to take it. I feel like I should be more...something...anything...about his passing. Hmmm. I think I got my pragmatism from him.


*- I forgot what this footnote was going to be.
**- As in: I drink wine. I do not drink beer. Unless I'm really trying to be sociable; even then I have to suppress a pretty violent gag reflex. (Rieslings and Gewurztraminers are my weakness, though a sparkling red will get me every time.)
***- From the days when I was on the board of a independent film festival
****-Double entendre not necessarially intended, and slightly disturbing, but this is the phrasing is the best I can come up with.

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