Reunion Tour

Trip Start Jun 01, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United States  , California
Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What seems like eons ago, I used to lead music for the college group at church.  Despite popular naming conventions, I was not the Worship Leader.  I always disliked that title.  Who would I be to think that I could lead worship?  That is something that only God, the Holy Spirit, could do.  My only job, my only objective, was to do my best to create an environment, through the means of music and singing, that people could enter a place of worship on their own.  On their own terms with God, in their own way, their own pace, to whatever level of intimacy they chose.  If someone was on the ground, head down, arms stretched out, crying tears of joy or sorrow, great.  If another was standing upright, hands in pockets, head up, eyes open, not singing, great.  Who would I be to determine that one of these people was "worshipping" and the other was not?  Only God can know the heart of man, even better than a man can know his own heart.  I think that with discipline and practice and a willingness to hear difficult things, we can, more and more, learn to hear our own hearts.  Easier than we think, but more difficult than we can imagine.

But I digress...

Over many years of leading music, I had the pleasure of meeting and working with a number of wonderful people.  These next few days turned in to somewhat of a reunion tour.  A girl that I had the pleasure of singing with, one of the most enjoyable singers I have ever heard, lives with her husband in the foothills of the Chino Hills, about 20 miles to the southeast of LA Proper.  The drive into the dense foothills was like a jungle Disneyland ride - steep grades, blind turns on roads hardly wide enough for one vehicle, all lined with tall, thick, lush vegetation and thousands of silver-dollar sized red flowers.  The road ends at their home, isolated, the Chino Hills surrounding it and coming right out of their back door.  Hard to believe that crazy, nasty, hectic LA was just a few thousand feet away.

A cradle robber, she wed a younger man, with whom I hit it off with and liked instantly.  One of those couples that bickers and fights a little bit, but in a very healthy, non-uncomfortable, and actually quite humorous way.  The couples that I enjoy spending time with the most, whom I respect and admire, the couples who seem the happiest and best fit, have this same sort of energy to them.  Free, honest, joking, forgiving.  Real.

She happened to have the next day off, so after cooking them some of my [someday famous] mixed berry almond butter crepes, she played tour guide and took me out to Laguna Beach.  Thousand Steps Beach, to be specific, aptly named - a staircase of Aztec temple proportions led the way down (and back up...ugh) to the beach.  A fantastic, uncrowded beach with soft sand, clean water, and more girls in bikinis ("skinny bitches", as referred to by my company).  We also discovered a great little coffee shop and sandwich place - probably the only place in Laguna where you can get a good meal for under $20.  Koffee Klatch - good, big, cheap sandwiches (like $7!), eclectic atmosphere, gay magazines, and Christian music.  This plave has it all!

Individually and together, I had such great times with my hosts.  It had been nearly six years since I talked to her (since I left Reno), and did not meet her husband until arriving, but it felt like an old friendship, not moved or hindered by the passing of time.  We talked of the old times, the old people, our experiences (and grievances) with the church, where we've come, where we're at, where we're going, had some tender moments as well as many that led our cheeks and abs to hurt from laughing so much.

The only part of the visit I did not completely enjoy - that damn bird.  Each night, late, like clockwork at 11:30, a bird that screamed like a fog horn in the night.  Perhaps a nightengale.  Loud.  And nonstop.  Unlike most birds (to my knowledge), that usually one have a couple different sounds, this bird made dozens of different calls.
Peeeeeuw!  Peeeeeuw!
Tweet  <whiiiiiiiir>    tweet <whiiiiiiiiiir>
pick ME up.   pick ME up
Soooie!!!  Sooie!!!
Bark! Bark! Bark! Bark!
booDEEdoo.  booDEEdoo.
jin gle bells.  jin gle bells.  jin gle bells.

It reminded me of the Family Guy episode where Stewie is trying to get his mother's attention: "Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Momma! Momma! Momma! Momma! Momma! Ma! Ma! Ma! Ma! Ma! Ma! Mom!  Mom! Mom!"  This poor bird, starving for attention, just trying to get SOMEONE to pay attention to it!

I had heard so many good things about San Diego over the years that I couldn't pass it up while being that close.  And, to continue my reunion tour, the drummer and bass player, joined in matrimony between then and now, offered to host me for as long as I needed.  Fantastic hosts - introducing me to some of their favorite haunts and friends and offering a choice of couches to partake of (the vintage couch won by a landslide).  However, I was informed that there was a bird that, like clockwork, came out every night at 11:15 and tweeted and hooted through the night.  A cousin of Stewie, in LA, I am sure.

People always say San Diego feels like a small town, and now I can see why.  Well, first of all, it feels like driving through Jurassic Park - steep mesas and corridors between them, thick, huge plants and palm trees, the atmosphere moist and saturated with ocean air.  Due to the natural landscape, you don't really feel like you're in the middle of a city, because you can't see most of it, unlike LA, that stretches on and on and on through the flat valley.

The next day, while they both unfortunately had to work, I showed myself around town.  A local La Mesa coffee shop.  Balboa Park, being practically buzzed by planes heading in to the San Diego airport.  Home of the Rose and Cactus gardens.  I took time to smell the roses.  Thousands to choose from, all equally delicious and vibrant.  And the Cactus Garden - filled with plants and trees that I have not seen the likes of other than in episodes of The Flintstones!  Short, tall, twisted, bulbous, fingerish, thorned, smooth, welcoming, haunting... types of things I could imagine on another planet.

I notice that, with a number of different types of palm tree, the trunk and basic shape give away the age of the tree.  With one type the palms grow out the top, eagerly reaching to the heavens.  As time goes on, as they grow old and weary, they slowly reduce their angle, toward the ground, making room for new growth.  Eventually, a palm points straight to the ground, forming a shield around the trunk.  Younger trees are given away by their bare trunks.  As they age, the tired, sleepy palms form increasingly thick bushes around the the truck of the tree.  Other palms, taller in stature, I saw in sections: the top section containing large, thick palms growing upward and outward; a middle section, rough and thick in diameter, littered with the stubs of palms that have long since broken off and become part of the earth; and a lower section, smooth and smaller in diameter, where the stubs seems to have either shrank and smoothed, or perhaps eventually dried and chipped off to reveal a smooth trunk underneath.

I eventually made my way to Pacific Beach (I know, this is sounding a lot like another "dear diary" entry), of which I had heard good things.  A very good friend of mine, who grew up in the LA area and now lives in Denver, longs constantly for the ocean.  "Find something to throw in the ocean for me and tell it I'll be there soon!" she pleaded.  There is a kind of plant whose flowers look like the head of a nasty, prehistoric bird.  At Balboa, I had found one on the ground, and also gathered a handful of yellow rose petals to appease my friend's request.  Some delicious tacos quieted my roaring belly and gave me enough energy to trod through the sand and to the lapping waves, growing larger by the minute as the tide was coming in.  As promised, I said some words and tossed in the gifts on my friend's behalf.  She, the ocean, seemed happy.  Within a dozen swells or so, many of the petals were already washed back to shore.  Well, I thought, the ocean is wise.  She will keep what she wants.

PB provided me with a cozy coffee shop and iced chai to get some contract work done, and even an open mic to play a few songs at that night.

A night on the antique couch, a fine breakfast and refreshing conversation with my wonderful host, a full tank of gas and a [much needed] carwash.  In the southwestern most part of the country.  Time to head north.
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