I put the photos in first because, well, I could not figure out how to move them down. The story begins with Yvette and I traveling to San Diego for, a) my Uncle Pete’s funeral, and b) Yvette’s softball tournament in San Diego, quickly moved to Chula Vista because we were immediately bounced down to the Loser’s Bracket (Copper!) after pool play; errors cost you, my friend. It is far too boring to go into but suffice it to say if you get relegated you are in a community park (field 3, to be exact) where there are either no stall doors in the ladies’ bathrooms or there are vinyl shower curtains. I do not know which situation was better: bringing a buddy to be the door or hoping the breeze wouldn’t sweep through the lavatories.
That said, Chula Vista and neighboring Bonita were nice surprises. We dined locally on carne asada fries and in Donny’s Cafe, the only real coffee – with heft – in town. I really wanted to purchase a paint horse advertised via a crayoned sign but I couldn’t fit him into my Prius. I was very impressed by the shiny new library and dance studio advertising “pilates and flamenco;” it says something about a community when the library is as new as the police station. And, for the record, I get flipped off at least twice a month in Marin by angry mommies and weekend-warrior dads; in the San Diego area, I never did. There is the possibility, of course, I didn’t notice, so intent was I on overcoming my phobia of driving on super-tall freeways.
My Uncle was buried in Miramar where the U.S. Army gave my Aunty Inez “Taps” and a very carefully and respectfully folded flag. His ashes arrived via a carriage and draft horse. It was solemn and appropriate, and everyone behaved as Uncle would have expected and appreciated. The Knights of Columbus were in attendance with purple helmets and robes. I loved seeing the numerous cousins and counting the nationality combos: Irish/Puerto Rican; Irish/Filipino/Nicaraguan; Irish/Filipino/Hungarian Jew/Scottish; Swedish/Irish/Filipino; Mexican/Filipino/Irish; some French and Dutch thrown in via second and third marriages, and Chinese in absentia.
After the frustrating softball losses and the realization we were staying in the McMarriott, we had lunch with The Aunties, where Reuben sandwiches and Budweisers were ordered, at around 12:15. The Aunties are 87 and 89.
Let me explain the photos: the cool thing about softball tournaments are the unexpected teams. For instance, the Guam Seawalkers showed up, with fan-carrying parents and lots of enthusiasm. The Maui Pearls were there, as well as teams from Montana and Colorado. If you get dropped down to the Loser’s bracket, you can still win something, but they punish you for being lame; you can only play one game a day and are often playing up to 5 games on your final day, only to be banished to the local Pizza Hut for dinner before your 9-hour drive home, sweaty, maybe disappointed, and counting quarters. As one Arizona mom put it, “Wait, you mean you’re driving 8 hours and you’re still in your own state?!”
Back to the McMarriott. Nice employees. Large and beautiful Indian wedding sharing the hotel, which meant a lot of men smoking around the pool area late at night. The pool was so close to the freeway I could see the commuters’ lunches as they sped to work. Complimentary breakfast with mystery sausage and eggs (“Yeggs,” as Mr. Halfstory calls them).
Yvette and I loved the San Diego Zoo, however, and we are not huge zoo fans. We got to witness a 5-year-old spitting on a camel, and the subsequent excellent parenting. “Whoa, buddy ,whatcha doing? Congratulations. You just bought yourself a time out.” The camel was really close and friendly and, thankfully, the kid missed. We also enjoyed the slap fight between grizzly siblings out of the corners of our eyes, and spent a good hour trying to circle back and find them; we empathize with that action. The highlights were the names. Match the exotic animal with their names:
a) Polar Bear
b) Sumatran Orangutan
c) almost completely extinct Tasmanian Devil
Through all of this I was still on Prednisone, battling the Great Lip Swelling of 2014 and mopping up hot flashes and trying to read the map app and follow the 107 freeways it takes to get anywhere in southern California. Thankfully, Yvette is not only a mean hitter but she is a good travel companion, in that we can yell at each other and still be all right watching any lousy Nicolas Cage movie that pops up on TNT, all while eating free hotel cookies.
I bought an iPod version of The Luminaries; I was immediately riveted and befuddled. I kept having to start over! I am still working on it but it may take some walking miles. It is very well-written and fascinating, but you may need extended beach time to dive in. I did finish The Untold, by Courtney Collins, a novel set in Australia, about a female outlaw and her attempts to evade capture after she murders her abusive husband. Collins has a masterful touch with folkloric tone and it was stark and gritty enough to remind me of 3:10 to Yuma. It’s not for everyone but if you want a modern tale hiatus, it’s a fine choice.