Sunday, July 31, 2011

Beach Road Trip with Pics: Monterey


Lazy days of summer... or crazy days, with kids on vacation. My munchkins love staying in hotels, and they think they like road trips but really, they only like the snacks and the unlimited video game time. They absolutely hate being in the car any longer than an hour, and with our planned stops, our road trip to Monterey took around ten hours each way. 

Ten. Hours. 

But we survived! Yay! Check out the highlights, including pictures!
Out the Door
We left the house only a little behind schedule, mostly because a mysteriously nauseating smell in the minivan sent us tearing the car apart. It turned out that while I’d been unloading groceries earlier in the week, I’d accidentally left a bag with bananas, hot dogs and a pack of cheese in the trunk. The smell decided to blossom on the morning of our trip! Lovely, right?
Despite being a little behind, we didn’t forget anything-- which is a near miraculous feat in my household. We even remembered little things like hair ties and lip balm, not to mention the biggies like cell phone chargers and cameras. After nine years of parenting, Superhusband and I finally have our act together!

Wait, why are those of you who know me in real life looking at me that way? There is no follow-up to that. We actually didn't forget anything. *ahem* Moving on...
First stop: Santa Barbara

Driving through Santa Barbara, I noticed it's filled with homes I'd be terrified to live in. I imagine they have phenomenal views, but I’d stay up at night imagining every sound I heard was really the earth beneath my house crumbling into the sea. 

But anyway, the beach! This is one of those postcard, white-sand-gorgeous, clean and perfect beaches. Definitely a great spot for letting the kids run around and stretch their road trippy legs on. We had lunch there and told the munchkins they could get their feet wet but not their whole bodies because we wanted to stay on schedule.

Two hours and three sopping-wet kids later, we were slightly behind schedule. Good thing I packed tons of extra clothes for everyone. :)
Next up: San Louis Obispo and the Second or Third MOST Disgusting Wall on the Face of the Earth

I’d like to start by saying San Louis Obispo is a beautiful city. Being a Thursday, we were able to experience the amazing weekly street fair and farmer’s market, and we shared a mouth-watering pulled pork sandwich with smokey-sweet barbecue sauce that tasted like heaven. I adore this city; it’s artsy with a laid-back vibe and I love it in a million ways, but... there is a wall there, and it’s covered from top to bottom in chewed up pieces of gum. Blek! Our three-year-old tried to pull some of the gum off because they looked gooey and he thought it was playdough! EW!!! Some of the pieces were freshly-chewed and glisteny and-- grossssss

*shudders* I feel like dousing my son’s hand in antibacterial sanitizer all over again just thinking about it. Moving on.
Monterey, Hooray!
This is actually a series of MASSIVE sand dunes.
Those tiny dark specks at the bottom are people carving their names in the solidified sand.

Our hotel was a mega bargain, and only a block from the sand dunes and shore. But everywhere I looked were signs that warned of the deadly rip currents, and for those of you who don’t know, I’m slightly extremely overprotective with my kids. They’re strong swimmers but I don’t really let them “swim” in the ocean. Because I’m paranoid. Luckily they don’t even like ocean-swimming, they only like ocean-playing: jumping waves and digging holes for waves to come and fill up, that sort of thing. Still, I kept my eyes on them. Those waves weren’t going to snatch away any of my kids, not on my watch. And check out this sign, ack! As if all the rip current warnings weren’t enough to make me feel like this was the most dangerous beach on the planet:
But the kids had a blast, and no one was swept away by a tsunami, a rip current, or anything else my paranoid imagination could come up with.
On the road again: Pismo Beach

After two happy nights at Monterey, it was time to head back home-sweet-home. Our road trip back included a stop at Pismo, at an interesting beach full of coves and inlets and creepy sea caves. This was a great beach for sitting and thinking up story ideas. At least, it was for me. For the kids it was a great beach to explore tide pools and look for interesting pebbles and broken seashell bits. It was also a great place to be told five thousand times that you cannot go into the cave because it's at the bottom of an inaccessible cove. And because there might be a weirdo hiding inside-- caves are spooky, I'm just saying!!!
Solvang:
I forever want to call this city Slovang, I can’t help myself. It was established by Dutch settlers and all the architecture is windmill-ish and adorable. Doesn’t that make you feel like slipping into some clogs and gathering tulips? No? Just me, then. Okay.


This and That:
As I mentioned, the sand dunes at Monterey have a natural wall of hardened sand at the bottom. People chisel their names in it. Being a social deviant at heart, I jumped at the chance to add to the graffiti. Check out my hardcore tagging:
Me, at the base of the massive sand dunes of which I spoke.

There's also an amazing aquarium, with touch tanks and an underwater wave tunnel. Very cool stuff!


And Monterey has an old lighthouse, which makes me think of writing a creepy ghost story. Except that this lighthouse looks much too cute to be creepy.



And that about wraps it up. We had a great time but I have to say, it's good to be home! :)

xo

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Critique Me, Baby: Guest Posting at Writerly Words

I'm pleased to be a guest today at Andrew Turner's blog, Writerly Words. Drew is a talented writer who is published in short fiction. He offers workshops in the Los Angeles area, as well as freelance editing services and creative mentoring (you can find out more about that here.) 


And now I send you elsewhere... 
Check out my guest post: Critique Me, Baby


Drew is also a dear friend of mine and I'm delighted that he asked me over to be one of his guest bloggers. If you haven't already, take a peek at his blog and see what he's been up to!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Fireworks

Another flash fiction piece revolving around the current holiday. Er... sometimes my flash is about expanding my horizons (like my creepy Halloween story), so for this one I tried something a teensy bit different than the usual. I had fun writing it, and hope you enjoy. In any case, happy Independence Day, everyone!

***

Fireworks

Gold light reflected off the water, dazzling and intense. Monica squinted against the glints of glaring red sunset, her legs kicking absently back and forth in the cool water. The summer before senior year. This time next year she'd be getting ready to go to college. Her life would be so different--

"Did you serve your cousins a plate of food?" Mom asked.

Monica grit her teeth. By 'cousins,' Mom meant her male cousins, of course. Their big 4th of July party turned her into servant-wench to the boys of her family, as usual. 


"Not yet," she called, then added in a muttered undertone, "Are their arms broken?"

Her mother gave her a suspicious glance. Monica kept her face neutral and scooped huge mounds of moist arroz con pollo onto two paper plates. Beside her, the gleaming vinyl fence wobbled, indicating someone trying to get in. 

"Hello? Anybody home?"

Carla was here! Monica dumped the half-filled plates of food in front of her cousins and rushed to open the gate. 


"Carla!" Carla was a year younger but they'd never even noticed. Their families used to live in the same apartment building, and years of being practically sisters couldn't be erased just because her mom bought a house in another zip code. 

"Thank goodness you're here," Monica said. 

Carla tucked her lustrous black hair behind her ears. "Barely! Eddie took for-freaking-ever getting ready."

Monica almost bit her lip at the mention of Eddie. Growing up together had meant a lot of things, including being the same age as Carla's big brother.

"Oh, this is from us," Carla said.

Monica took the giant box of fireworks and added it to the already enormous pile, grateful for the excuse to steady her breathing. Eddie. She'd worn her new red top today - the one with a row of tiny white flowers stitched along the bottom - in case he was coming. 

She adjusted her matching red head band. Okay. So, she and Eddie kissed last summer. And okay, it had been more than one kiss. It's not like they had become an official thing or anything... it had been a secret. Then last year with the move they'd gone to different high schools-- it was all craziness and they didn't really talk about it. But now that summer was here again... 

The thought of being kissed by him again made her feel like fireworks were going off in her chest. But, what if he didn't feel the same anymore? What if he did?! She smoothed her hands down her shorts. As long as she didn't do anything stupid, what could go wrong?

"Hey Monica!" Carla's mom and sister said together. Monica hugged them, wishing she'd had a second to put on lip gloss before Eddie walked through the gate. But a moment later there he was, a flash of teeth in his dark-tanned skin, glossy hair spilling over his forehead. He looked amazing as he escorted a gorgeous brunette into her backyard--

Gorgeous... brunette?

"Monica, it's so great to see you," he said, looking genuinely happy. He leaned in for a hug.

She returned it automatically. Hugs, kisses on the cheek, the affection of her culture had been drummed into her since time beyond memory. The gestures that should have sent her heart racing were practically meaningless. 

She shook her head, sure that everyone could hear her brain rattling inside her skull as she stared blankly at his-- his--

"This is Blanca," he said. He gave Blanca an impossibly sweet glance. "My girlfriend."

Monica forced a smile to her lips. She was obliged to hug and kiss the girl. Young woman. Whatever. Clearly, she was a senior in high school too... or maybe Eddie was going for older women now? Monica tugged up her blouse, her body going white-hot and ice-cold at the same time. 

Eddie showed off his new girlfriend to the rest of her family. Everyone was thrilled to meet her. Enchanted. Delighted. He'd dated other girls, sure. Rumors had been sprinkled here and there, but he'd never gone out with anyone seriously enough to bring her to a family get-together. Monica's face burned.  She and Eddie had been at family get-togethers together, but obviously their sneaking kisses hadn't counted. It was like they'd never even happened.

"Time for fireworks!" Mom called, ordering the boys to carry the boxes out to the driveway. 

Monica exhaled forcefully, wondering if it was too early to say she was tired. The thought of Eddie and Blanca cuddling up in front of the fireworks was enough to bring on a massive headache.

Everyone's laughter and good cheer swirled bitterly in her stomach. She'd heard people say that in a crowd of people, they'd never felt so alone, and now she knew what they meant. Eddie pulled Blanca behind the oleander bush. That was where he'd first kissed Monica. Monica's throat closed up and she lost her breath, backing toward the house as Carla handed her a lit sparkler. 

"Remember?" Carla asked cheerfully. The glow lit her face, making her look like an angel in darkness. "Like when we were little!"

Monica took the sparkler, a smile forcing its way past the tears in her eyes. "I remember," she said, watching her friend draw designs in the night sky. She sat on the curb beside her cousins; the last year she'd be a little kid with them, she realized. 

She wasn't going to let Eddie ruin her fireworks. Not him or anyone. She breathed deep, the smell of sulfur filling her lungs. A fountain of sparks sprayed from a cardboard tube, red and blue glowing in alternating sequences, and her heart sped up at the sight of it. 

Someone lit a set of bottle rockets and she and Carla flinched and laughed. Monica watched her sparkler die out. It didn't matter. There were plenty more, and if not, she'd make sure her own smile lit up the night.