Change views, not channels

When they said ‘palm trees,’ they really weren’t kidding, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

[The “Change views, not channels” post title is inspired by those smug little San Diego-advertising billboards that I used to pass on my way to Sacramento everyday.]

Like everything else I’ve ever written, this is long overdue, so I figured I might as well get this Thanksgiving-roadtrip-to-San-Diego update out of the way so I can write about other things. However, I can’t conceive of this being really interesting to anyone, so if you get bored you might as well skip the words and jump right to the whole entire set of pictures. And that was only some of them. Yeah, I know.

Alright, here goes my (probably unsuccessful, I can tell you that already) attempt at conciseness…

First of all, why San Diego?

I talk about my father a lot on this weblog – mainly about his obsessions with gardening, shopping at Costco, and trying to convince me to go to law suckool so we can finally have a lawyer in the family. I believe I may have neglected to mention the fact that my father is also an avid cook, “avid” being keyword for “experimental.” His favorite phrase to use while cooking is, “Special recipe.” His style of cooking can best be described as “everything but the kitchen sink.” He’s lucky that everything he cooks tastes wonderful.

One of my father’s other obsessions revolves around someday owning and running a restaurant. In this fantasy, he will be the main gourmet chef, and I have a feeling the rest of us will be relegated to lowly kitchen help, like chopping the vegetables. Much like what happens when he decides to take over the kitchen on some weekends.

My father scrutinizes food daily at the table, whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner: “This,” he’ll pronounce, “will be a great addition to our restaurant, don’t you think so?” As if there is no doubt that there will indeed be a restaurant. “When we open our restaurant, we’ll call this…aloo omelette…and people will line up at the door to get a taste of our food.”

In typical Yasminay-style, I’m making a short story too long. Let’s wrap this up:

So, one evening about a month ago, the daddy-o was cooking dinner and raving about the latest edible masterpiece he had whipped up. “We need to move to a college town,” he decided. “The college students will never be able to get enough of this kind of food! That way, we can make sure we always stay in business.”

“Mm-hmm,” I said noncommittally. I decided not to point out the fact that there was no way in hell any of us were moving anywhere again for a while. Whenever the daddy-o is feeling high-spirited and exuberant, he is just as easily brought down by comments he finds deliberately antagonizing from those who refuse to share his enthusiasm. This usually, all too easily, escalates into bad temper at both ends. It is best to be silent sometimes, even at the risk of being labeled indifferent.

“Houston,” continued my father. “I think we should move to Houston. There’s a good college town!”

I decided silence was not an option any longer, even though I knew this was a theoretical conversation. “Houston?!” I said. “Who wants to move to Houston? Dude, if you’re looking for college towns, we might as well move to San Diego. They have a bajillion colleges there. Plus, they have nice weather, too.”

“San Diego! That’s an idea! And,” he added mockingly, “they have plenty of warm weather and you won’t have to wear your sweaters all the time.” The daddy-o finds my obsession with sweaters slightly amusing and mostly mentally unstable. Much like everyone else I know. Shut up.

The conversation petered out eventually, but later when we were throwing around ideas of what sort of roadtrip to take for this year’s Thanksgiving break (roadtrips are becoming tradition now), the daddy-o brought up San Diego, and that was that.

Alright, so here’s how it went:

Day 1: Thursday, 24 November 2005

Driving down to Los Angeles, where we would spend the first night. All I really remember is, lots of stops for gas. Also, being shocked at gas prices near Bakersfield: $2.85/gallon? Good Lord. The sister and I were slightly annoyed because the Daddy-o thought it was a terrible idea for us to even consider buying an ice cream bar at one of the gas station convenience stores. FINE! we fumed in true little-kids fashion, and decided to gorge ourselves on all the leftover Halloween candy that my sister had wisely brought along. Good lookin’ out, buddy. This is my favorite photo from that gas station.

Also: Stopping for lunch and prayer at Fort Tejon State Historic Park. A nice young man apologetically approached us in the middle of our lunch to say that their Pathfinder had a flat tire but the tow truck guy was unable to unlock the tire. He noticed we were driving a QX4; perhaps our tire-lock rod would work, and could they please borrow it for a few minutes? “Sure,” said the Daddy-o, adding in amusement, “As long as you know where it would be, because I don’t know.” Apparently we have all these tools and things attached to the bottom of the passenger seat. Amazing.

The tire-lock worked, the flat was replaced with a spare tire, and not only did the guy and his family thank us about ten thousand times, they also gifted us with tin of cookies and waved a lot as they were driving away. Rocking!

What else… Made it to our hotel in Los Angeles, and I was in pain because my ears were popping from driving through the mountains, so I took a nap on the couch after unsuccessful, frustrating attempts to hook my dad’s laptop up to the hotel’s wireless network. I woke up to find him playing Solitaire/FreeCell on his laptop, an addiction I thought he had kicked, years back when he used to stay up ’til late, late at night, engrossed in the game on his computer.

Later in the evening, we had dinner at a desi [South Asian] restaurant called Bismillah in Buena Park. Eating out with the parents is always tricky, because my father doesn’t believe in ordering whatever one can cook at home (he once refused to let me order spaghetti at an Italian restaurant), which also does away with the desi food option most of the time, whereas my mother is wary of eating anything other than what we eat at home. What a process.

Day 2: Friday, 25 November 2005

Woke up to this in LA. Yes, I was hella annoyed. But the fog (and some of the smog) started to clear away as we hit the road and the day got warmer, which cheered me up.

We were aiming to make it to Jummah [Friday congregational prayers] at the Islamic Center of San Diego (ICSD), and stressing it a bit because we thought we were running a bit late. But we turned out to be early. The ICSD is absolutely gorgeous. I wandered around stealthily taking pictures for a few minutes while waiting for the prayer to begin; this was my favorite, because it made me smile: warm fuzzy feelings!

We settled down for prayer, and I got sidetracked making funny faces at the little boy next to me, who couldn’t have been more than two years old. He reminded me of Matteo, the toddler I used to work with as part of my Human Development lab practicum back at university. If my weekly Jummahs in Oakland have taught me anything, it’s that I’m all too easily distracted by adorable little babies at the masjid. But I managed to drag my attention away from the Matteo-lookalike to listen carefully for once, and I’m glad I did, because the imam gave a beautiful khutbah [sermon] on gratitude. I sat there remembering my friend S’s Thanksgiving voicemessage from the day before: “I don’t know if you celebrate Thanksgiving but, hey, we have things to be thankful for: We’re alive and kicking!” It was a lovely reminder, and I’m blessed to have the friends that I do.

Here was the funniest and most random (as far as I’m concerned) part of my Jummah:

Walking out of the masjid, dawdling a bit behind my mother and sister, squinting at the sun in my eyes, and hearing someone call out from my right: “Can’t say salaam?”

The world always comes full-circle, doesn’t it? It’s extremely fitting that after almost exactly a year to the day that we missed meeting up with 2Scoops while he was at Jummah in the East Bay and we were Thanksgiving-roadtripping it to Santa Barbara, we instead run into him at Jummah prayers in San Diego. Very slick indeed. I always had a suspicion my life goes around in circles, but this just confirmed it.

Apparently the way to make my father’s eyes light up and to get him to like you enough to give you his business card is to mention two words: BUSINESS and LAW. Preferably in the same sentence. Way to go, buddy.

Next up: Trying to figure out what to eat, and where to eat, for lunch. [My dad still laughs, remembering the words of one of the San Diego guys (a friend of 2Scoops’, I believe): “If you’re looking for good Afghan food, you’ll have to eat it at someone’s house.”] Finally, we gave up and settled on french fries. Yay! Then we hit up Balboa Park. Those San Diego people are so smart: they put all their tourist attractions in one single location, so confused people like us don’t have to waste time wondering what the hell to do with ourselves. We checked out pretty buildings, the Japanese Friendship Garden [did you seriously think we could go anywhere without my parents checking out the gardens somewhere?], various other places, and, finally, the San Diego Museum of Art, which was totally drool-worthy.

Too bad I couldn’t take photos inside the museum, because the galleries and exhibitions were gorgeous. We spent almost two hours in there, finally dragging ourselves away past sunset, and still only managed to get through Galleries #1-5. Out of twenty. Yeah, you read that right. The “Selected Masterworks of Indian Painting” was enough to keep the parents occupied, while I was mesmerized by the “Only Skin Deep: Changing Visions of the American Self” exhibit. Right up my alley.

We spent the night in San Diego, and not only did the manager lady, Annie, 1) have a rocking Scottish accent [I especially loved the way she pronounced “laptop,” and couldn’t stop mentally repeating it to myself for days afterward], and 2) advise us to eat dinner at an awesome Italian place down the road, but she also 3) helped us connect the daddy-o’s laptop to the wireless network, thereby earning our never-ending gratitude forever and ever, amen. It was to be the only internet connection we’d have for the three days we were on the road, and we were all twitching to fulfill our various online addictions: weblogs (me), Facebook (the sister), email (everyone).

Day 3: Saturday, 26 November 2005

We checked out of our hotel, stalked the ICSD for some more pictures, picked up lunch from Jamillah Garden, and hit the road back north.

The daddy-o, regarding San Diego’s maze of well-connected freeways: “These people just won’t let you get lost. It’s terrible!” He broke it down easily for me, the navigational amateur-rapidly-turning-pro: “They call all their big roads freeways,” citing Balboa Avenue – which is apparently also called 274 – as an example.

He didn’t like Interstate-8 though. Somewhere around there, he started singing, to the tune of “‘Tis the Season to be Jolly”: “8 is a screwed-up freeway, la la la la la la la…” Good times.

Leaving San Diego:

Sister: “Daddy, are you going eighty?!”
Dad, unrepentantly: “Yes, is that a problem?”
Sister: “Yeah.”
Dad: Why does that bother you? You’re the one who said you wanted to get home in at least an hour.” [Laughter at the exaggeration.]

Driving north, I decided Southern Californians put a lot of creativity into their street names. Some of them are really beautiful. Check:

Via de la Valle
Street of Copper Lanterns
Ava Magdalena
Bluebird Canyon
Boat Canyon Drive
Morning Canyon

And there was a town with the lovely name of Lemon Grove. Oh, and there’s bougainvillaea everywhere! Absolutely gorgeous. The daddy-o and his inner gardener couldn’t stop marveling at it.

The parents especially liked the Cardiff and Solana Beach areas of San Diego. “Let’s retire and move somewhere around here,” suggested my father.

“Yes,” said my mother, “but maybe closer to where that masjid was.” My ummy was really liking the masjid.

Around Carlsbad, my father started getting antsy: “Southern California is so boring. All you see is palm trees and U-Haul trucks.”

But then we stopped for coffee, milkshakes, and smoothies at Orange Inn in Laguna Beach, which made for some cool pictures and refreshed tummies, and all was well.

We made it home late Saturday night. I fumbled my way out of the backseat blankets and the daddy-o’s sports coat and tumbled out of the car onto the driveway, where it was so cold that my ears almost froze and fell off my head and I decided this was unacceptable and I’d have to move to sunny Southern California after all.

The end.

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