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The Break Down
Muted Real
Saturday – Late Night flight into San Francisco. While waiting for my parents to pick us up from the Frisco airport, a woman came up to me. Since I was wearing my Mac hoodie, she asked the obvious question, and then said she was an alumna as well. She and her traveling companion shared a few thoughts on Frisco sights, as well as a light off the Boy’s lighter. My parents arrived in the mini-van they had rented (my poor Mother; always in a mini-van, even on vacation). Back to the hotel room – a nice little affair with two bedrooms and a shared bathroom - and straight to sleep.

Sunday – Our first full day of vacation! Walked down Market Street to the Ferry Building. Had a lunch of gourmet cheeses, wine-cured salami, artisan breads and fruit juice smoothies. Felt very West Coast. Walked along the piers for a while, enjoying such sights as mountains and oceans. Decided against trying to cram in an Alcatraz tour… this time. Went out on Pier 39, saw the sea lions and bought $30+ in salt water taffy that would come to last for almost a week. Went to Ghirardelli Square, Fisherman’s Wharf, then a cable car ride to Chinatown, through to the mostly closed stores of Union Square, and then finally back to the hotel room to fall asleep for the night.

Monday – Still exhausted from the previous day, managed a little more walking in Union Square after a breakfast of the remaining bread and cheese. This time the stores were open. Headed out from Frisco about an hour to the northeast to my aunt and uncle’s place in Turlock. Landscape is hilly, with dry, gray-green vegetation, except for the massive irrigated fields. On the way, though, we stopped at Wente Wines, took a tour of the winery and then a ‘flight’ of wine. Delicious. The Boy and I bought 4 bottles of wine and 2 jars of specialty mustard. Arrived at Brad and Pat’s, hung out with much of the extended family, had dinner, lounged by the pool until bed time. Just a few sleeping bags on the floor this time, but hell, it was free.

Tuesday – Slow moving, momentum hard to build around my family. Breakfast and then everyone back in their cars for another hour drive, even further east. Countryside still very brown, but more mountains. We hit around 3000 ft elevation by the time we were up Old Priest Grade: a horrifically steep road leading up to the community where Brad and Pat’s cabin is. The cabin was much more of a second home, amidst the forested hills of the community. We all went down to the marina, took out the boat of some friends, and toured the valley-now-lake. Beautiful lake-side homes, all very upper end and most with steep 50+ staircases leading down from the cabin to the lakeside. Then we went back to our cabin, drank 3 bottles of wine, ate dinner, drank 2 more bottles of wine and went to bed. Hooray for the pullout couch in the basement!

Wednesday – Woke up to 7 deer outside the window, munching on the apples and crushed corn that were being tossed to them. We had another slow, hour long breakfast time before my parents, the Boy and I packed up to head down to LA. We decided to take the longer way down rather than risk Old Priest Grade; wasn’t comfortable with the down lane being on the outside of the curves, closest to the Cliffside. San Fernando valley was dry, dusty and flat. Even the mountains in the distance didn’t make it all that exciting. We stopped at some little roadside shack for lunch at the recommendation of my uncle, then continued on. LA is immense. And yes, the traffic sucks ass. So glad I wasn’t driving. By the luck of the draw, the Boy and I got a room that opened to poolside, a fact that we were quite vocal about for the rest of the stay. Wandered around Sunset Plaza for a while, grabbed dinner, then went to the Nomad’s apartment. It was very much a college students’ apartment, though very well cleaned – no doubt for our arrival. My brother has done his room up nice. Parents, partner, brother and some-day sister-in-law all got into the car and though it was already dark, we headed to Santa Monica. It was very strange to have less daylight hours in California than we do up here. The Pier was very dark, very cold, very misty. The ocean was very seductive; I could have watched the waves for hours. Grab some ice cream, drop the Nomad off, back to the hotel room, sleep sleep sleep in the King-sized bed. How decadent!

Thursday – After free breakfast, we met up with my parents and headed back to the Nomad’s for a tour of the USC campus. Coming from a Mac background, it’s quite different, and not just in a larger sense. The Boy and I finally headed out on our own that afternoon, walking down Sunset Boulevard to the Samuel French Bookstore; yes, the company that prints all those plays. Then we went up to Hollywood Boulevard, walked in towards the big attractions, grabbed dinner and then went to the Pantages Theater (yep, named just like the one in Downtown Minneapolis) to see Wicked. Wow. The Theater was breath-taking, the production was awesome. The First Act just Knew was it was and how to do what it needed. The Second Act suffered a little bit from “ok, we need to wrap up this story”, but still very entertaining. We took a cab ride back to our hotel room and after a bottle of wine, fell asleep.

Friday – We opted out of attending the University Graduation Ceremony, as it would have required getting up at 6am. Not on MY vacation. Instead we lounged about until noon, then headed to USC for the Graduation specific to the College of Cinematic Arts. You can tell USC has money and loves to use it. It was in a huge arena, digital screens everywhere, an opening movie. The graduates started walking in to the “THX” sound byte. Some of the graduation was interesting. Clint Eastwood was receiving an Honorary Alumnus, so was there to shake my brother’s hand as he graduated. The Speaker was Will Wright of Maxis fame – while bringing a lot of interesting points to the table, I think he failed to tie them all together and distill it into a coherent message for the graduates. After a quick reception, we all went to the Stinking Rose garlic restaurant. We were sat in an enclosed space called “Dracula’s Grotto” that was an amazing, cavern like place to have a graduation dinner. More food, more wine, more hearty congratulations, then back to the hotel. We all sat around for an hour or so. The Nomad had an incident which I will decline to mention here, but none-the-less shall be remembered humorously for at least all of my days. Then to bed.

Saturday – My parents dropped the Boy and I off at the rent-a-car place, and we picked up the convertible he had reserved. Yes, that’s right, we drove a silver Mustang Convertible to Las Vegas! Top down, music blaring, just like all the movies told us to do! It wasn’t nearly as long a drive as it had been to LA, but it was hotter, and dryer. First night in Vegas was frustrating, because traffic on Las Vegas Boulevard is worse even than LA, the New York New York hotel check in took forever, the drop-off point for the car was in a casino that apparently doesn’t exist any more, and we waited in line for 75 minutes for the buffet that was recommended to us. Long, frustrating evening, especially since dinner wasn’t until nearly 10pm. We just went back to New York New York, threw away some of our money, and went to bed.

Sunday – In no rush to get up early, we sauntered down to the theater to pick up our tickets for that night’s show. Lunch at the casino, then sight seeing a few of the other casino’s in the area. Vegas is a very different place. At the height of gayness, we bought our dog a boutique, far-too-expensive dog bed. We dropped that off back at New York New York and since we were there and had free passes, we went on the roller coaster. I only went because the Boy wanted me to go with him so badly. I do not like roller coasters, and after this one, I was reminded of all the reasons why. I did it though, and we then headed back out into the heat for more hotel viewing. We finally had lunch at a very upscale steakhouse, and headed back to New York New York, passing the Belagio just in time to view one of the water shows. Spectacular. Back to the room, dress and primp, and then: Zumanity, the Cirque di Soleil’s sexuality show! Front row love seat, no less. There’s nothing like a Cirque show to make you feel absolutely magical and pathetically boring and normal at the same time.

Monday – We got up early for breakfast – way too early. But I wanted to make sure we were all packed before we spent any more time lounging about or – gasp! – gambling. Spent too much on the Star Wars penny machines. Yeah, that’s right. Penny machines. We’re cheap. We got a little bit of a late check out, did the check out by television, and hopped a cab to the airport. It was almost 5 hours of waiting there, but we didn’t want to drag our luggage through all of Vegas. Besides, the Vegas airport is nothing like the Minneapolis airport. So we killed time, got on our plane and came home to a city that is surprisingly green. Not sure if just that much grew since we left, or the week in a distinctively brown environment made for an extreme contrast. The Boy’s mother picked us up with Buttons in tow, and we went home, did a hurried unpack, and went to sleep. The End!