PDX TO LAX.
My flight from Portland to LAX in route to Laguna Beach was so short that I barely remember it. I was so tired that I have zero recollection of take off. I think I slept the whole way … maybe. I’m not sure. I do remember landing and then walking into the airport thinking it was a shit show. LAX is just so big and I had no idea where to tell Tanya to pick me up at arrivals.
Tanya and I met through our mutual friend Amy. It was probably 9th or 10th grade when we first really interacted. That relationship escalated quickly. A few years later we were sitting in stir ups at Planned Parenthood to get our first prescription for the pill. For the record, I’m pretty sure this is the first time my mother has heard that story. Don’t worry mom, I never took them. I chickened out. A move that Tanya will never let me forget. A vaginal exam will bond you for life though.
All joking aside, I always admired Tanya. She was strong and knew exactly what she wanted. She didn’t hesitate to make decisions she felt passionately about. From designing a dress for Junior Miss to moving across country, she did what she intended to do regardless of the sacrifice. She loved with everything she had in her being and fought with the same abandon. She was the definition of passionate and it shined through her.
I wasn’t like that. In some ways, I think I tried to pull strength from her, especially during Junior Miss. Junior Miss was an annual scholarship pageant and the winner would proudly represent Luzerne County in the state competition and so on. You may be familiar with some of the more notable Junior Miss contestants for example Dianne Sawyer, followed closely by me and Tanya.
We entered the competition as the resident bad asses. We smoked cigarettes, wore a lot of black, and we were intelligent but we may not have been as “book” smart as some other contestants. We both had previous pageant experience however, so we were in it to win it. The night of the competition, there was a ton of issues. I couldn’t hear my voice teacher accompanying me on piano as I sang and Tanya had a mess up with her piano piece. I have it all on VHS. It’s a classic.
When it came time to announce the winners our adrenaline was high. They called my name and Tanya hugged me while whispering in my ear with a laugh “how the hell did you just win?” Side note, the shock and awe of me winning was a recurring theme. Even my mother said she was thrilled she baked a cake because people would be coming back to the house now. Although she only baked it as a consolation prize because no one expected I would win. Most people thought the winner was selected for political reasons. Except here I was with zero social ties and wearing hand me down clothes, the price you pay being the youngest of four.
The truth is I could never have done it without Tanya. She is really the one who pushed me through until the end.
She came to my wedding with an injured back. She had a doctor’s order not to fly but she came anyway and that was Tanya, strong and determined. She sat at my wedding in excruciating pain and hopped on pain pills but did it all smiling. In hindsight, she may have been the most sober one there. Open bar … amIright?
When I got the invite for her 40th birthday, I knew I had to go. As you may have previously read, it was time for a vacay so this was fate helping me make a decision. I finally found Tanya outside of the airport after we exchanged photos of where we were and just like when I saw Dave, I fell into a hug. I was on solid ground again and now I had my strength.
We made one quick stop at In-and-Out Burger, as I was a an In-and-Out virgin. I have heard legends about the double double for years. Final verdict, it was good. There is not much more I can write about that.
I feel sorry for the people who watched the show “Laguna Beach” and assumed it was an accurate representation of the area. I know I had some preconceived notions of Orange County but it proved me wrong from the moment I got there.
Our first stop was Tanya’s lair that featured the most adorable back patio. She referred to it as her veranda and that is definitely a more appropriate term. Twinkle lights, succulents, and a fig tree filled the open space and created a picturesque and warm welcome to Laguna Beach. Once we caught up on the gossip, I took an Uber 5 blocks to my hotel. The Philly girl inside wanted to walk but the NEPA girl knew it probably wasn’t the best idea in a strange town.
I checked into my hotel and found my room finally. That night I fell into the bed as if I would never wake. The hotel had assigned me the most perfect room. It was quiet but you could still hear the ocean. It had a fluffy bed and the air conditioning was pumping. Shout out to the The Capri Hotel because they were so nice and accommodating. I will absolutely stay there again when I visit Tanya which will probably be a lot now that I’m in love with the magic of Laguna Beach.
Locked and Loaded.
Before I left Philly, I was convinced I would wake on Thursday and spend the day by the pool. So much so that I brought 2 bathing suits and a few books. As it turns out, I woke up nearly at noon which is a very rare occurrence and completely indulgent. Eventually I got dressed and headed out the door to have lunch with Tanya. I was having (what I thought) was a good outfit day. A KISS muscle shirt and Michael Kors white jeans. I felt very punk-rock-a-riffic.
I learned something about my dear friend this very day. She doesn’t like Mexican food. It was a surprising twist in a very interesting week. We ultimately decided on a place called Nick’s.
We entered the restaurant for lunch and instantly a boy at the bar zero’ed in on Tanya. He was all “target locked and loaded” in 10 seconds. Not surprisingly when we got our table he appeared and sat with us. I admit that he was kind of entertaining. I love meeting random people and feeding them the classic white girl cocktail of wine followed by vodka followed by rosé. Then you just sit back and watch the fireworks. In this case it got loud and entirely too loud. It was our cue to leave. He did text her that night but as you will soon discover, we were in no shape to do anything where humans could see us.
On a sunny day after lunch and cocktails there is only one thing left to do, nap. I love a good power nap. I can close my eyes for 20 minutes and feel totally renewed. Power naps are like restarting your computer. The problem occurs when you push the 20 minute mark. Then you enter a grey area that could perhaps lead to grogginess later in the evening. Luckily we managed to successfully make it out of the house on time.
We were heading to the Sawdust Art Festival. Prior to my trip, I had never heard of it but I quickly learned it was a Laguna Beach institution. Now in its 50th year, I was overwhelmed by the talent and the beautiful art that was created.
So here’s what happened. Tanya’s friend Allison has a booth at Sawdust. When we arrived, we first went to say hello to her. It was my first time meeting her and she was fantastic. I actually have to order one of her prints for the hubs! So Allison had some wine and she was incredibly generous. Before we knew it, it was closing time and I had only a few moments to do a quick walk through of the space. I still managed to find 100 things that I wanted to purchase.
Outside the building, there was a giant mural called “Heritage” done by artist Roland Berry to commemorate the 50th anniversary. That night Tanya took the most bad ass photo of me in front of that mural. I know it was there for Sawdust’s 50th but in a way I felt it was also there for my 40th.
Feeling totally punk rocker-esque and now completely bad ass because of the photo, I wanted to go out. We headed into town and landed at a bar called the Marine Room, rumored to be a favorite of Justin Beiber. The Marine Room had live music and cold drinks. It was all I needed at the moment.
After a few cocktails, we went to the ladies room and started talking with a women who clearly seemed upset. She was in the bathroom obsessing over her hair. She thought it was thinning too much and she wasn’t feeling good about herself.
PSA: Women, we have to stop hating on ourselves. Spending 30 minutes in the ladies room obsessing over our flaws when the bar is filled with fun people and live music is not a good use of our time. We don’t have a lot of years in one lifetime but I promise we have 1000 flaws. Let’s change the story of ourselves. We need to get out there and have fun. Lumps, bumps, wrinkles, thin hair – whatever the issue – they are our war wounds.
We earned those flaws by living a full life and should show them off with pride. We aren’t children anymore. We are women who have worked hard. We aren’t perfect because we stood in the line of fire. This actually goes for everyone, not just women. We are people who have decided to take risks and enjoy life. If we came out unscathed, we probably didn’t live life to the fullest.
Back to the regular scheduled blogging … This bar was fun but this is where things start to get a bit hazy. Here is what I know for sure:
- I bought a round of shots for me, Tanya, dancing dude, and Boston guy.
- I have video on my phone of Tanya dancing her heart out with dancing dude.
- We were hungry and spontaneously bought a frozen pizza, nacho cheese, and Doritos.
- The only thing eaten the next day was half a bag of Doritos and some nacho cheese.
- I threw up Doritos.
- Tanya, who hates Mexican food, fought me over the nacho cheese.
All in all it was a stellar evening. The next morning however, was not as pleasant. I think it may have hit Tanya a bit harder than me. I don’t know if I’m proud of that or not.
Beach Me like it’s 1989.
While Tanya was in recovery, I used this time to walk along the beach and get a good breakfast. You need a good base if you are going to party on the West Coast. I wandered through the streets and through the sand. I snapchatted the beauty of Laguna Beach and the madness that is the ocean. Then I napped, again. It was glorious. The perfect West Coast Morning.
That evening, Tanya mentioned we were going to see a band play at Emerald Bay. Her friend Sanene invited us. I heard “beach” and “band” and I was sold. When we arrived I quickly discovered this was bigger than I could have imagined. Sanene and her sister Christina and of course their families were amazingly awesome and they were the most gracious hosts. We danced, we drank, we talked, we did exactly what you should be doing on a Friday night. You should be finding magic near the ocean with new friends.
The band was called Flashback Heart Attack and apparently very well known. They played the greatest hits of the 1980’s. It was so entertaining. I knew every song and sang loud. Little by little all the women my age started getting closer to the stage with fuller glasses of wine. By the end of the night, the band had a stage full of groupies and teenage children. They handled it like such pros. I wish some bands could take lessons. That’s how you handle a crowd.
We left after the final Journey song. Tanya had a million preparations for prom and I was more than happy to help. So off we went to get ready for the big day!
It was here. The main event, Tanya’s 40th Birthday Prom. First on the agenda was hair. Tanya graciously took me for a blow out to prepare for the day. This was a gift for my birthday earlier that summer. I’ve never had a ton of luck with blow outs especially now that I’ve grown older. My hair just isn’t as thick as it once was. The ladies at the shop were nice and my hair was ok. I know now for future reference that I’m not a beachy waves kind of girl. Tanya’s came out super sleek and straight. It looked fantastic and held up quite well throughout the evening. It was her day.
I didn’t really talk about my dress. Long story short, I bought one to take with me but it wasn’t fitting right that day. I loved this dress. It was a teal Betsey Johnson but I returned it because now I hate it. Luckily Tanya had a dress that fit me perfectly. I mean like perfectly and it looked cute so that was a relief because there was no time to shop.
It occurred to me earlier that morning that a corsage was needed to complete the prom theme. Luckily I had walked past a pretty floral shop on Pacific Coast Highway called The English Garden. I walked in and talked to the two ladies working that day. I told them all about the prom themed party and what Tanya’s dress looked like and their eyes lit up. They were so excited to get out the rhinestones, pink, silver, black, and feathers to create this masterpiece and that is what they did. The corsage was really beautiful and complimented prom perfectly. Again being open to things allows the universe to guide you in the right direction. Who would have thought I could find the most perfect corsage two blocks from my hotel the morning of prom? Magic.
To the window, to the wall.
We headed out to set up the venue which happened to be super close to her house. Luckily we left when we did because we arrived at the same time as all the vendors. It was a mad rush to set the space up. We technically had an hour but could have used probably two. What’s interesting about Southern California is that the weather if really pleasant. It doesn’t get too hot and rarely gets cold so the need for air conditioning in minimal.
Not surprisingly, the venue did not have air conditioning. My beachy waves quite literally turned into the beach. I may as well have went swimming. I’m a northerner and do not do heat well. I was going to have to fix this mess that was my face, but again this wasn’t about me, there was work to be done. Always the prom committee never the prom queen.
One thing I commented about to everyone when I returned is that Tanya managed to find the very best people in Laguna Beach and surrounded herself with them. It’s hard to find one or two people you can call a friend sometimes, but I knew I was witnessing something unique. Tanya found, or maybe even helped create, a community. This was a group of down to earth, kind, and generous people who still believed in friendship and showed up for one another. It takes a village and I truly believe that village has its shit together. Truth be told I was a little jealous. I knew if I lived there I would have leaned right into that group of people and forced them to adopt me.
I was tasked with sorting balloons which you think would be easy. However, when a delivery man drops off nearly 150 grouped in no particular order, putting them in smaller groups of 9 sorted by color is quite the task. My balloon partner for life Tracy and I somehow managed to make it happen with not one …. let me repeat that … not one balloon floating away. Booyah!
We brought our dresses with us to get ready at the venue. Are you getting that this event was equivalent to a wedding? I’m so glad that Tanya and I shared that moment at Planned Parenthood so many moons ago because tying her into her dress was almost a similar experience. There is a lot of shifting, pulling, and straightening that goes in to getting a corset right. Then before we knew it the guests arrived.
The room was beautifully decorated in pink, black, and silver. A candy bar welcomed guests. The food was elegantly displayed. The photo booth captured priceless moments and the bar was stocked. In the background 90’s hip hop blasted through the speakers. The songs selected took me instantly back to a time when life was simple and I felt fearless. It was a whole new level of reconnecting so all I could do was smile and watch as people danced the night away.
There are a couple of things I would like to note here:
- Someone expertly did the worm. I see you Christina!
- Tanya had an amazing vocalist named Anesha Rose lead everyone in singing Happy Birthday. I got goose bumps hearing everyone sing.
- The Caterers working the event were rock stars and made sure no one wanted for anything.
- The cake was a gift from one of the greatest couples ever, Charlie and Tracy. It was perfect. It was a barbie with a blinking 4-0 on it and tasted like angels whipped unicorn tears and added butter and cream.
- Another friend of Tanya’s, Suzi, put together a board of everyone’s original prom pictures and put it on display. Seeing myself in 199something in that halter neck dress brought back wonderful memories. Again the 40 year old me had a moment to tell the teenage me that we were going to be a-ok.
- Another friend, Jeni, created the centerpieces that accented the room perfectly.
- Everyone had a great time.
- Everyone was so welcoming. There were no egos at this shindig.
As the night was winding down I suggested to some of Tanya’s close friends that having the DJ stay a bit longer might be a good idea. Sanene and I made it happen and he agreed to spin for some extra time. I got caught up in the magic a little too much at this point and maybe didn’t think that through because we needed to be out at 11pm. Having the DJ stay until exactly 11 made that a bit challenging. My bad but people did stay to dance and dance and dance.
At the very end of the night, I led a group of people from the venue to Tanya’s apartment. A great guy named Sean helped me lead the way while we carried the cake through the streets of Laguna in prom attire. I felt like a tour group leader at Disney but instead of holding a flag to keep the group together, I had a big mutilated pink cake.
Sean needed to stop at the convenient store for a moment and it set the stage for one of my favorite moments of the evening. As he was shopping I stood outside with the cake in my fancy dress right by the gas tanks. A gentleman that looked to be a little more, let’s say street savy than I, started walking towards the store. He just stopped and looked at me. All I could say was, “Just holdin a cake outside of the store in a Prom dress.” He died laughing. How could you not? It was ridiculous.
We made it back to the apartment and there were some last minute things that needed to be addressed before we could relax. Remember how I said that Tanya’s friends “show up”? They changed the bathroom light bulb, got me a drink, and organized the apartment for the after party before I could even say hello. It was impressive. I know I didn’t mention everyone but to each person that I met in Laguna Beach, you rule. I’m leaving some events out from the evening because, well, you had to be there. Let’s just say they involved police officers, bow ties, and dead barbies.
I will end with this – love connections were made, friendships were formed, and Tanya turned 40 in the most magical way possible.
Last day of my tour
Sunday was it, the very last day of my #EatPrayDrinkTour2016. I wanted it to last just little while longer so I changed my flight to the red eye. This allowed me to spend the day on the beach with the amazing peeps on Emerald Bay. I was worthless however; tired, slightly hungover, and sad that it was over. I spent the day thinking a lot about what I learned and how I was going to apply it to my newly changed life. I sat on the sand and stared out into the ocean feeling a gratitude that I may never be able to express.
How did I get so lucky to have friends that created such beautiful lives? And how was I fortunate enough to experience it with them if even for a few days? I wish everyone had the chance to sit on a beautiful beach, surrounded by great people, with one of your dearest friends beside you and feel joy. You can’t walk away from that not feeling changed.
It was time to order my Uber and it came quickly. I had to say good-bye now, not only to Laguna Beach but to Tanya. As I mentioned before, it gets harder to say goodbye to close friends after short visits. Magic struck again though and it was an Uber black car that came in lieu of my UberX so I got to ride to LAX in a new BMW with air conditioning. I cried in the back seat as he listened to Young Thug. I bet that is the only time those words have been uttered. As it turns out, the West Coast wasn’t ready to let me go, my flight was delayed. I put in my headphones and blasted my music knowing that I rediscovered my creativity.
When I finally boarded the plane, the girl next to me decided to be chatty. She utilized the delay to drink martinis. She instructed the bartender to add an extra shot into her martini’s because she couldn’t taste the alcohol. Then she proceeded to tell me about what a jerk her boyfriend was and how she was in love with her professor. I’m sure she needed to talk but at that moment all I could do was grab my blankie and fall asleep. The plane took off and I was on my way home.
In the next post I will try to make sense of this trip and the impact it had on me.