Thursday, July 7, 2011

Golden state (of mind)

DRAMATIS PERSONAE: Steve (Corndog) Cornman, our intrepid hero; Debby (his ex); Bodhi (their dog); Tim (his stepson); Michelle (Tim's fiancee); Nate, (age 8, Tim's son and thus Steve's grandson); Jake, age 12, Tim's ex's son and, whatever the technicalities may say, Steve's grandson)

Truthfully, I wasn't especially looking forward to my two-week trip to California last month; due to Nate's custody agreement, I'd only be seeing him for five days, and generally just for a few hours each day at that. And I wouldn't be seeing Jake, who lives a couple of hours away, at all. I wasn't sure how I would fill up the days with Debby; how many times can you pick up a few things at the store or take the dog for a walk?

But once I got there, Debby and Nate and Bodhi helped me move my focus onto what we could do, not what we couldn't. And it was fine.

First off, beautiful Bodhi was head-over-heels to see me. She hadn't forgotten me at all in the year since I'd seen her (or the nearly two years before that). When she gets excited, she smiles, baring her top teeth in what you'd swear is a gopher impersonation. Then she sneezes and sneezes. She's one of the lights of my lifetime, and it felt good-- still does-- that she loves me so much.

 Bo, 2007. Isn't she lovely?

I've always had a special bond with Nate; I was the first person, other than his parents and the hospital staff, to ever see him when he was born. We've always been close, and it was wonderful to spend some time with him. On my first day in Ventura on this trip, I helped out at the Field Day at his school. I feel I carried out a sacred and arduous duty; it's not just anybody who can supervise children throwing beanbags through a painted-on-plywood clown's facial orifices.

Nate and I went swimming a few times and talked and just hung out a lot. On his penultimate day before going to stay with his mom, Debby took us to Griffith Observatory in LA, which was fascinating. In the Leonard Nimoy Theater (funded by Leonard Nimoy), we watched a film of Leonard Nimoy talking about the building's history (it was spocktacular) and we saw a show in the planetarium. It was a beautiful, sunny day, good for getting a good look around. (At the hills and valley, not at the stars; it was daytime! You're silly.)
Observe Nate.

One of the things that I notice when I'm in the LA area (which, until last year, I hadn't been since 1961) is how it seems I know every name on every sign; we went through or past Malibu and Venice Beach and Mulholland Drive and, oh, all the stuff I've seen on TV my whole life. I almost expected to be pulled over on the 405 by Erik Estrada. And there are just so many landmarks.
No matter how often the aliens, monsters, and quakes destroy the HOLLYWOOD sign,
they always rebuild it.
The next day, Nate's last with his dad while I was there, Tim, Michelle, Nate, and I went to the Universal Studios theme park. It was far and away the best amusement park I've ever been to (better than the Magic Kingdoms in Orlando and Anaheim, Disney's California Adventure, Everland, and Lotte World). We had a blast at Jurassic Park, the Terminator 2 and Shrek shows, the Simpsons ride, and especially the studio tour. (Did you know that Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver lived on the same block as the Desperate Housewives?) The tram went through the brief but absolutely spectacular King Kong 3D ride, survived an earthquake in the subway station set, and was attacked by Norman Bates, who'd just finished stowing a body in his car trunk:

...and on and on, from the crashed airliner in War of the Worlds to the shark attack from Jaws to the stunt cars in The Fast and the I Dunno, Didn't See It...

The best thing of all, though, is that Michelle has a friend who works in the front office at Universal and set us up with super-duper all-access passes, the same ones Stephen Hawking and Basil Rathbone get when they come visit. So we got to be those people you hate when you've been standing in line for 45 minutes and somebody waltzes in and gets right on the ride, no muss, no fuss. We got to talk to the Terminator 2 show's stars, too. It was sweet to be a VIP for one day in my life.

Debby and I went to Meditation Mountain for a full-moon meditation and we saw Larisa Stow and Shakti Tribe, a New Age/world music/spiritual/folk/jazz band, twice at Debby's church. The Saturday night show was amazingly inspiring and spirit-filled and as moving-- literally, as in people dancing in the audience-- as a Southern gospel service or, in another way, a four-hour Bruce Springsteen show. And their performance at Sunday morning's service was just as wonderful.

On a Saturday morning, I ran my first race on US soil in three years, a 5K along the beachfront. The next day, I ran and drank with the Ventura County Hash House Harriers. It's something to see: I'd never met these folks before, quite likely will never see them again, and as fellow hashers we were instantly warm friends. Meeting other hashers is like, I guess, meeting fellow members of the same fraternity; there are no barriers. I had a wonderful time, though the ceremonial chugging of 20 ounces of pale ale made at the nearby brewpub impeared my thougt proceses for a litle wile.
The guy in black had hashed with two of my friends in Seoul (6000 miles west) when they all lived in North Carolina (3000 miles east). Small weird, isn't it! 

As for the rest of my stay, just being real friends with Debby, three years after our split, and spending every minute I could with Bodhi made it all-- the endless hours of flying (grinding tedium punctuated by my own suppressed fears), the incredible freeway traffic getting lost in the incredible freeway traffic, even missing my first two Yongsan Kimchi hashes ever-- worthwhile.

And it was good, for a little while, to not be The Foreigner and to just be me.

And now I'm back.

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