Saturday, December 8, 2007

California vacation, Day 4: Wednesday November 21

For the entry on Wednesday, and the ones after, I got lazy. Rather than write out like a journal, I wrote down "keywords" to help me remember the events of the day. The original idea was to finish it right when I got back, but it's now been almost two weeks since we've been back. I've been slackin, and now all I have is some keywords. But I do remember most of it; had it not been for what I did write down, I wouldn't remember some of it. So here goes:

Wednesday morning was the first morning I was not the first to rise. I think Mom woke up first, then some other people, but I do know I was up before Jen. That's almost always a given when there's something to do. (On the other hand, on a day we both have off, she's always the first one up.) We had a very important task for a little later, but first things first - Mom made her famous biscuits and gravy. Nothing beats some real Southern biscuits and gravy, but Mom's are good too.

When we were done, we took a little trip up to Safeway - yep, the very same one we stopped at the night before on our own. Mom drove her car and Jen and I took the rental, because while Mom was coming right back, we were not. Mom was getting a dozen roses, and I picked up some allergy medicine. Then we were back on the road, headed north.

Most folks either bury or cremate their fallen. We (my mom's family) cremate, but we do it a little differently. The ashes are scattered somewhere in nature as decided by the individual or as assumed by the family. My mom's real dad was scattered at the ocean. My mom's stepdad was left at the river, and this is where we were leaving my grandmother. I had never taken part in such a ceremony before (I was too young) but I specifically requested this honor, and Mom agreed to wait until our visit. This was also new to Jen - her family is Catholic, so they bury. (Interestingly enough, at a wake for a family friend, I saw my first "body" and it was creepy as hell. I'm still a little creeped out by that.) I should note that the legality of this is questionable, but I don't question family traditions.

The ceremony was simple. We all said a little something about my grandmother, except Jen, who really didn't know her. Then my mom and I took turns pouring the ashes into the water. We then each lay or tossed a rose into the midst of it all, and then laid the remainder in the middle, close to the shore. As for what it looked like, it's hard to describe. If you've ever poured milk into coffee and didn't stir it, just watched it, it was kind of like that. Just beautiful. But then, while I don't claim any particular religion, I don't believe the body makes a person; after death, the physical remains are just that, and what made the person has either gone onto another place (as per Christianity) or has simply died (athiesm). Likewise my impression of seeing a body in a casket, it was like a very intricate mannequin, very disturbing in its realism.

This is where we parted ways with Mom. She headed straight home. This all took place at a spot at the Russian River just north of Cloverdale, a town where I spent a year and a half of hell in the early 90s when my dad had married this religious nut (and by nut I mean, for example, had literally put me on bread and water until I produced a 10-page report on my mother's "sinful ways" - I am sure she still has this and prizes it to this day). So even though there were some painful memories, it was a part of my past, and I wanted to show Jen where I come from. So I took her by the house (which by itself really is a nice place), showed her where my old friend Rodney (who we'd see Saturday) stayed, I showed her the schools and the hangouts and the burger place I discovered later, although we didn't stop anywhere. Once we were done, we got back on the freeway and headed back.

We tried to see my old friend Myles and his wife, Marie, but I couldn't find their place. I thought I had the right road, and I thought I spotted their place, but Myles' Suburban wasn't there. Someone could have been home, but I wasn't sure I had the right place (it HAS been over 2 years) so we kept going.

Our next stop on the tour of my past was Santa Rosa's preppy mall, Coddingtown, once owned by businessman/politician Hugh Codding. I was greatly surprised to see that SIMON now owned the mall - they also currently own the main mall as well - so I wonder what happened with the Codding family, but never bothered to ask anybody. I know Hugh unsuccessfully ran for mayor shortly before I left California, I dunno, maybe he lost a lot of money in that. Anyway, we stopped at the Sbarro, which was now "L.A. Italian Kitchen" - same thing, different name, higher prices. (Oddly enough Jen says if a mall loses its Sbarro, it's doomed to fail - Coddingtown lost its and came under new ownership, probably around the same time, but I know Coddingtown isn't going anywhere.) I also formally introduced Jen to See's Candy, a chocolate/candy brand on the West coast. Good stuff. We stopped in an old favorite gift shop of mine, International Imports. Same Indian (as in Middle East, not Native American) couple running it - real nice people. The Waldenbooks was now a Borders or something, so that's three brand changes I noticed. (Thursday's entry will have some focus on brand changes.)

After Cottontown (a slang name we gave it back in the day), it was onto the "Real" mall. The Santa Rosa Plaza kicks unholy amounts of ass - for a mall. Two stories. Brick all the way around. Three-level parking garage along the whole western side of it - the eastern side is basically downtown, north of it is old (but not the original, far from it) Santa Rosa, and south of it... a school and neighborhood, not a good part of town really. Anyway, Third Street actually goes UNDER the mall (the Food Court overlooks this, facing downtown (east)) and comes up in the old Downtown, now called Railroad Square, which Jen only saw a little of. Also, there's this cool hand sculpture outside the main entrance to the Plaza at Fourth Street (basically the heart of downtown is Fourth Street where Mendocino Avenue becomes Santa Rosa Avenue, and that's just a block east of the main entrance). Inside, the mall is two stories, with Macy's at the north end, Sears at the south end, Mervyns in the middle, and all three of them occupying both levels. Aside from that, the mall has about everything. Real cool place. I mean, it's a good excuse to walk - I circle both levels and that's probably a mile - yeah, the mall's gotta be at least a quarter mile long, if not more. We stopped at Burger King (had to show Jen the view) so she could get a vanilla shake, and I stopped at Surf City for a smoothie.

We had parked in the mall's parking garage, Macy's side. (My mom always parks on the Sears side and considers that the "front" or "start" of the mall, but since when I first went, we lived north of it, I always thought of the north side as the "front" or "start", so unless I actually have business in Sears, I'll park on the Macy's end, even though I don't shop at Macy's itself and actually prefer Sears and the shops that way.) So we left the mall via the main entrance, headed down Fourth Street. I pointed out all the downtown shops I knew about, and I thought I was on the wrong street when finally, almost to the library (three blocks from the mall) I found it: A blown-glass gift shop with a huge aquarium and some real unique gifts. They used to have a bulldog patrolling the store, but he wasn't there that day. They also have a glass-blowing station right there and do custom work. (If alarm bells went off in your head when you read "blown glass", yes they have smoking stuff there, and of course we looked at that - and we were there purely to admire, we bought nothing.) Jen had business at the bank, so we stopped by there, and then came back through the "park" that is the south corners of the aforementioned "heart of downtown".

We were sort of on a time schedule. See, this was a night I was looking forward to, because though I had been talking about Jambalaya, my favorite food, for a couple years, Mom never tried it. Well, I brought two boxes of it (good thing, I couldn't find it out there) and was planning on making it Wednesday night. So we did - and everybody loved it. We even watched a movie Mom wouldn't have thought to get on her own (on account of the WWE's involvement), The Condemned, starring former champion "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. Everyone agreed that it was pretty good.

So all in all it was a good day. Jen got to see a lot of my history. We ate good food. And we watched a good movie. So the happiness eclipsed the sadness, which is always a plus. Only real bump in the road, the air mattress' pump wouldn't work. Turns out it doesn't run on AC power, but rather must charge, so we had to let it charge an hour or so before pumping up the bed. And of course the inevitable sleep.

...So yeah, I would say the "keyword" method works better for the blogging, since I went into much greater detail here than I have for the previous days, for which I simply copied the entry over and corrected a couple things.

1 comment:

James said...

Hi Nathan,

I'm James (LilJames) from the IPS Forums.

Out of interest I was Googling around - a few people were wondering what you were up to now, and I found this blog. Nice to know you're doing well. No shock your posts are as long as they always were! :)

Hope you've had a good holiday season.

Best wishes,