I’m back in New Jersey already and freshly jet-lagged after an overnight flight from California. The rest of the all-too-brief trip there was great, but I’m too tired to go into the standard level of detail, and there aren’t too many noteworthy details anyway.
Friday went pretty much like Thursday with Krissi working until closing, but the activity that night was a free movie in the park instead of a free concert. I guess every summer in Santa Barbara they show old movies in a park at dusk, this year the theme being old sci-fi. The movie this night was “Invasion of the Body-Snatchers”, a title I’ve heard about but never seen, and it turns out my life was no poorer for having missed it. Just because a movie is a classic apparently doesn’t mean it’s any good.
After the movie, which I went to with Kevin, Rob, Jason, and Natalya, we split up and Kevin and I went to Dargan’s for a few drinks, then back to Kevin’s place where he promptly passed out, at which point I rode back to Dargan’s to get a ride back to Krissi’s place with her and have the standard pita/hummus snack before passing out.
Saturday was quite nice. Krissi only had to work until 6:00, so I went to lunch at Dargan’s and then walked along the beach up to Shoreline Park where I sat on my favorite bench overlooking the cliffs and read my book for an hour. It was cool because that spot is pretty much where I started reading A Song of Ice and Fire a year ago, and I was still reading it at that exact same spot a year later.
I timed my walk back to Dargan’s perfectly for Krissi to be finishing work, then headed across the street to the Press Room for a couple of beers. After that we had camping to prepare for, so we drove back uptown and did some shopping for supplies. It was a pretty quiet evening as we just picked up a less-than-awesome California pizza and watched some Netflix comedy until passing out.
Sunday was very busy. It was Krissi’s friend Diana’s birthday and she was having a champagne brunch from 10:00-2:00 at El Torito, the Mexican chain restaurant where she used to work. We got there half-way through and joined the small crowd. That was a very pleasant time and I got to meet some really nice people and school them on what life is like in Japan.
But we ducked out early to finish our camping preparations, which involved buying massive amounts of beer and ice, as well as a few food items we’d forgotten the evening before. We then loaded up the car with all the supplies, pretty much doubling its weight, and finally headed back up the mountains to Paradise Road and the Upper Oso campground.
No sooner had we finished pitching the tent and cracked out first beers then Kevin and Jason, who’d been hiking nearby all afternoon, rolled up and joined us for a few hours. They both had to work the next day though, so it was just Krissi and myself again for a few hours until midnight, when her room-mate Dave and co-worker Kelly—both very cool people—arrived and joined us for the rest of the drunken camping fun
We got up as soon as it started to get hot the next morning, and after a small oatmeal breakfast drove to Red Rocks, that mountain lake with the big rock you can jump off that Krissi and I hiked to last year. We spent the day in the refreshing coolness of the lake, drinking beer and making each other laugh hysterically. The water level was much lower this year due to the drought, so I was too nervous about jumping in again, but a lot of the other people there did and no one got hurt.
When it was about the time we were expecting the others to arrive at the campsite we drove back, but by then I was already drunk and heat-exhausted so I just headed to the tent and passed out for an hour. I tried to get up and join the crowd later, which now included Kevin and Jason again as well as Diana and her boyfriend, but the drinking-all-day-on-an-empty-stomach had already taken its toll and I just couldn’t hack it. I tried to recover by eating something but I just threw it up right away, and ended up having to duck out early and head back to the tent for another few hours. But I did get up in the middle of the night and join the last few people awake for the last bit of beer and conversation.
We were all feeling pretty terrible the next morning, but most left early because some had to work. It was just me, Krissi, and Kevin in the morning to overcome our hangovers and break down the campsite, which naturally took us much longer than it normally would. But we got the job done, then drove back into town for a nice breakfast at the diner, after which Krissi and I went back to her place for some amazingly refreshing showers and naps.
Krissi had to work until close again, so she left at 5:30 and I rode down there at 6:00 to get a delicious buffalo-wing dinner with Jason and Kevin, who apparently do that every Tuesday night. Somehow, by then I’d recovered enough to actually start drinking beer again.
When we were done at Dargan’s, I went with Kevin and Jason to the Old King’s Road, a British Pub around the corner, and had a few drinks there. I then bid farewell to Jason and went back with Kevin to his place where we had some interesting conversation followed by watching a few fascinating PBS nature documentaries.
It was about 12:30 when Kevin started passing out, so I bid him goodbye and rode back to Dargan’s to have a couple of last drinks as Krissi closed down the bar. Once that was done we drove back to her place where for the last time in who-knows-how-long I was able to indulge in some pita-and-hummus deliciousness.
My flight home out of Ontario airport on Wednesday wasn’t until 7:30 p.m., but because of the traffic situation Krissi wanted to get into Ontario by 2:00 and just kill time there until I had to check in. She and Dave had looked up things to do in Ontario the night before and discovered that there was a Jake & Busters very close to the airport, which is a huge place with arcade games, pool tables, shuffleboard, and multiple bars.
We managed to be ready to leave by noon, and we first stopped at the Fresco across the street from Krissi to pick up some lunch we’d ordered to eat on the way. It was without a doubt the best veggie-burger I’ve ever had, and I don’t think anything is ever going to live up to it.
Our plan to avoid major L.A. traffic worked pretty well, and we got to Jake & Busters at about 2:30. We first went to the bar for some obligatory drinks, then proceeded to play a bunch of the arcade games they had in this giant room that reminded me a lot of arcades in Japan, only with significantly crappier graphics. When it looked like we were running out of time we went to the other bar for one last beer, then got back in the car to drive to the airport. We were almost there when Krissi realized she’d read her watch wrong and it was actually an hour earlier than we thought, so we had a good laugh and drove straight back to Jake & Busters to kill the remaining time. We thought we’d play more games but we were both a little hungry by the time we got back, so we just went back to the bar and got some food.
As we drove to the airport we reflected on how quickly the time had gone by, but that it was nice how we’ve still managed to see each other fairly regularly over the years, considering how we’ve been living at least a thousand miles apart for so such a long time. I don’t know if I’ll want to spend the money to visit again next year, especially when there’s still so much travelling within Japan I want to do, but we made extremely tentative plans that the next time I see her, we should skip Santa Barbara altogether and just meet up in San Francisco, spend a night there, then go camping in the Redwoods the whole time, something both of us always wanted to do but never have.
After our fond farewells, I proceeded to go through the long but uneventful process of flying home, first a quick hour-long jump from Ontario to Phoenix and then a four-hour flight into Newark where my dad picked me up at literally the crack of dawn and drove me home. Because of the time-difference, by the time I got to sleep at 7:00 a.m. it was only an hour or two later than I’d gotten accustomed to going to sleep anyway, so hopefully the jet-lag will subside soon enough.
And now the journal is up-to-date again. There’s nothing to report regarding the visa situation, though I should have had some definitive answers two days ago. If I don’t hear from them by tonight I’ll make an overseas call and ask them what the situation is, but whenever I go a few days without hearing from them I start to worry. There’s been no mention of any possibility that I might lose my contract, but I can’t help but feel a little paranoid that some random thing I hadn’t thought of is going to blow up in my face and the next thing you know I’ll find out I can’t go back to work in Japan at all. At this point I don’t even care how much of a financial hit I’m going to take—I just want some kind of assurance that I can fully expect to be back at my school and doing my job at some point, even if it’s a few weeks later than I’d like to.
Hopefully I’ll finally have some solid answers tomorrow. It’s been a great vacation, but this dark cloud and possible sword hanging over my head have undeniably reduced my appreciation for it. As much as I’m enjoying my time here, I can’t wait to be securely back in Japan.