Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Day in Capistrano

There are a few things about this town that are completely different from L.A. Well, maybe more than a few things, but there are some differences that stand out. First of all, I've never seen any place where so many homes have their own private parking lots. I noticed this last summer when I started looking for a home to rent, preparing for our upcoming move. In some areas it seemed like every house had a huge driveway. I mean HUGE, as in large enough to park several cars and a bus.

Then, when I looked through real estate ads I noticed that "RV parking" was commonly listed along with the other selling points for many houses.

It struck me as a little odd, because in L.A. real estate the size of one of these driveways would be covered with a house. Although I'm sure there are many families in L.A. that own RVs, and maybe some who even have a parking space for one in their driveway, I can only remember ever seeing RVs (and as an oddity) parked on the street. I had an assumption that RVs are for retired couples who want to see America on a budget, or for families who rented them for weekend trips to the mountains, or to go visit relatives in Missouri. So, I thought it odd that RVs are so popular in Bakersfield.

Now, I think I know why.

It's hot here in the summer.

Today my husband and I drove south to Capistrano Beach to spend the day with friends who rent a beach house there every summer. We left Bakersfield about 9:00 AM and it was already in the 90s, with a forecast of 104. When we arrived in Capistrano three hours later it was a cool 80 degrees.There was a houseful of friends, relatives, and kids of all ages, along with plenty of food, sun, surf, sand and beach cruiser bikes. A wonderful sea breeze, negative ions, the rhythmic roar of surf, and Jane Austen's Emma lulled me into a state of sweet relaxation. I woke to my husband's touch, reminding me it was time for our bike ride.

We hopped onto borrowed cruiser bikes, mine pink, slightly rusty, and with a cute little wicker basket in front just the right size for my water bottle and sunscreen; his black and sans basket. We rode a mile or so up the narrow private road to the bike path, and then kept north. That's when I noticed the entire beach side of the bike path was blanketed with RVs, maybe a hundred of them, and dotted with camp tents. It was like a beach town, everyone out in the sun, on the beach, in the water, playing cards, and cooling off.

It makes complete sense. Pay a little parking fee (many were just parked in the parking lot, not in the campsite) or campsite fee, and there you are. Let the kids loose, set up your pop up gazebo, drinks in the cooler, stocked fridge and pantry, keep the sunscreen handy, and you are on vacation.

I'm just an ex L.A. girl who has always lived within 8 miles of the beach and never needed an RV to get there, but I'll betcha most folks with RVs here in Bakersfield use them for heading to the coast during the hot months. And it beats paying $300 a night (or more) for a hotel room.

I am not running out to get an RV, and doubt we will ever ever own or rent one. However, I am realizing my L.A. naivete. How hadn't I even known there is an entire culture of people who use their RVs all the time (in the summer at least). Totally cool.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Godzilla's on vacation

My husband and daughter are off to Tucson to visit his mom for the July 4th weekend. I spent yesterday cleaning house, interspersed with watching NCIS, noodling on the internet, and napping. Today I rewarded myself for a job well done by going to L.A. to see a few friends and get a little shopping done.

This worked out great, because when I called my bff Siri Bhrosa about getting together she suggested I join her and her husband Kirtan Singh at the Walnut gurdwara in leading kirtan. I haven't played kirtan at gurdwara here in Bakersfield in the 9 months that I've lived here (this is entirely because I haven't been assertive at all getting on the schedule). I couldn't find my little shabd book anywhere in the house, so chose one to play from a handful of printed shabd sheets I had on file, "Chit Aavai Os Parabrahm Lagai na tatee vaao." Perfect. Gratefully, God was merciful and my voice was working today. So often I start losing my voice or it cracks or otherwise malfunctions.... but today it was right on and the energy was great.

Afterward as we were driving back to L.A. Kirtan Singh commented on how he loved how empty the streets all were. It's Saturday, the 4th of July, and looking down the road there was not a single other car on that street. His theory was that everyone must have left the city en masse for the holiday.

I think he's right.

After our little Walnut trip, I stopped and visited with my other bff Hari Bhajan for a couple hours, and then headed out to do a little shopping around (I'm looking for just the right area rug for my living room... no success today). Headed down Robertson Blvd. toward the 10 Freeway, this is what it looked like around 4 PM:

Shopping done and not quite pooped, I decided not to stay in L.A. for the picnic and fireworks at Rancho Park. I got on the 405 and headed north toward Bakersfield around 6 PM. You would have thought, except for the fact that it was still daylight, that it was 3 in the morning, there were so few cars on the freeway. It was so bizarre, to be in L.A., on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon, driving on a surreally empty freeway, specifically the 405 freeway from LAX and northward.

This is going north on 405, headed out of San Fernando Valley:

And this is I-5 somewhere north of Castaic:

I did not hit traffic of any substance at all until I neared Bakersfield!

Normally, we all know, L.A. is so jammed with traffic it can take an hour and a half going from the West side to downtown, a distance of maybe 10 or 12 miles. In fact, typically when I am leaving L.A. and my car is stuck in the tight rows on the freeway with all the other zillions cars wherever the hell they are going, I am struck by how if these same cars were on the 99 going north out of Bakersfield, you'd think a mass evacuation was in progress. You'd think Godzilla was coming over the mountains about to invade us and we were all cramming the freeways getting the hell out of there. L.A. is like that all the time, in a constant state of Godzilla coming.

God, I love Bakersfield.

Oh, but my poor husband. He is coming home from Tucson
tomorrow, Sunday afternoon, at the end of the holiday weekend, into LAX, and then he is driving home to Bakersfield. It is too painful to even imagine. But at least he will come home to a clean house and a happy and unstressed me :-)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Land of Green Chiles, Sopapillas, and Loving Family

Here's pics from our trip last weekend to New Mexico. We arrived in Albuquerque Thursday 6/25 around 7 PM, picked up our rental (great weekend deal with Hertz, 50% off!) and headed north on 25 toward Santa Fe. Here's a pic snapped from our car. One side of the road was bright (first pic) and the other was dark (second pic)... the dark side was where the sun was going down... the darkness from massive thunderheads blackening the sky.

By the time we were on the Taos Highway going toward Espanola, the sky was a literal light show. Lightening flashing and illuminating a wall of clouds thick with rain... all in the distance.

We pulled into the driveway of our friends, Seva Simran Siri S&K around 9:15 after a quick stop at Wild Oats in Santa Fe for snacks.

My daughter Satkartar (Saki), her husband Kris, and our family's new addition, Cassandra Kiran (Cassie) were already there, having flown in earlier in the day from Durham. I thought for sure they'd all be asleep after the long trip, but Saki was up with Cassie in the living room trying to get her to go to sleep. What an angel!

Here is Gurujodha meeting Cassie for the first time, when she joined him at the end of his sadhana meditation the next morning.

That morning was also the wedding of Siri Chand Singh and Tejinder Kaur. Gurujodha and Dev Suroop Kaur were co-ministers for the wedding. This was the first time I'd ever known of two ministers performing the ceremony. It's a long story, but the couple wanted Gurujodha and Dev Suroop specifically, because of their background (from either interracial or interfaith relationships) and also because each had an integral role to play in the lives of this couple. Below are many photos from after the wedding. Only one of my photos of the actual ceremony came out.

If the layout looks weird it's because it is very hard to format things with the tools this blogsite provides. Perhaps I will become more expert as I go along.

This was probably the most wonderful wedding I've ever attended. The energy was absolutely incredible, powerful, knock your socks off. A truly blessed couple who demonstrate that with faith and love all challenges can be met, and that the hand of God truly reaches and protects those who serve in His Name. After the receptions (sorry, no pics) we made it up to Ram Das Puri for the last night of Summer Solstice Sadhana and the Rainsabi (all night kirtan/music program).

I am getting the hang of this, kinda.

OK here's more family pics. Cassie is blessed with three Grandpas..... Jerry (Kris's dad in Durham), Gurujodha (also known as G-Popz) and Siri Ved Singh (Saki's father who lives in Espanola). Here is Siri Ved Singh meeting Cassie for the first time.

Cassie gets her first karate lesson with GPopz and learns Short Form One.

After a relaxing Saturday with family, lunch at El Parasol (best little roadside spot in town for authentic New Mexican green chile cuisine), and an afternoon movie (I can't remember what it was, if not such great company it would have been a waste of time), we all met for dinner at La Cocina (best little restaurant in town for great New Mexican food).... Gurujodha, Satamrit, Saki & Kris, Avtar, Siri Ved Singh, Cassie, my sister Guruprem Kaur (also lives in Espanola), and I. Good times, good food, and a good reason to eat a light breakfast in the morning.

Mmmmm veggie burritos with GREEN CHILE

After dinner, Gurujodha and I went to the Ranch for a kirtan program with UstadJi (kirtan master who teaches the Cherdi Kala Jatha) which was a truly blissful and meditative way to top off a full day.

The next morning before packing up for our trip home, Avtar came over (from her friend Lakshmi's down the road) and we all (Seva simran Siri's, Kris & Saki, Gurujodha and me, Avtar, and even Cassie had a tiny bit of banana) had a cozy relaxed breakfast (fruit salad, scrambled tofu, toast, juice, and a little of this and that), talked ashram politics, played with Cassie, and honest to God, it was wonderful.

A few hours of driving and flying time later, we landed in L.A., drove a couple hours, and were home by about 9:30 PM. Too short a weekend!!!

And all I feel is so much gratitude for t his wonderful loving family.