I back slowly out of the parking space at a Wendy’s in Valencia, pondering some question Kerry asked me while peering out the narrow rear window. My thoughts are interrupted by a sickening jolt – I’ve somehow managed to back into a black SUV.
In a self-fulfilling prophecy, I’d told my father multiple times that I wasn’t comfortable driving his Hyundai Sonata down to Southern California. My usual ride, an old Toyota Camry, was deemed too unreliable for the journey, and now here I am apologizing teary-eyed over the phone. Fortunately, it’s about as minor an accident as they come. The SUV doesn’t even have a scratch on it, though the Sonata comes away with a wicked dent.
We make it to Claremont without further incident, where we meet up with our high school friend, Kathline. She gives us a tour of the four Claremont Colleges. Scripps, the women’s college she attends, is especially gorgeous, arrayed around an idyllic quad lined with fruit trees. Each dorm building includes a plush reading room, living room with a grand piano, TV lounge, and manicured courtyard.
After the sun sets, we meet with a couple of Kathline’s friends by a mirror-like pool under color-shifting lights. The night passes in scattered portraits: bocce ball at a restaurant, chickens roosting oh-so-hilariously-and-precariously on tree branches, fingers fumbling out piano songs, milkshakes sipped between feverish bouts of Fooseball (my teammate Ilona did all the ass-kicking, as I made weird noises while moving the goalie back-and-forth), a party at Harvey Mudd that’s more of a reminder that Lent’s underway than the Mardi Gras bash it’s supposed to be, Sherlock’s dashing deduction skills, and a spare mattress carried with giggles across campus upon which we could collapse in exhaustion.
On sunny Saturday, Kathline, Kerry, and I wandered aimlessly around the hectic Venice Beach before meeting an old high school friend for dinner at UCLA. Then it’s off to a club crawl in Hollywood. The first few places are nothing special, just overpriced drinks and crowded dancing. In fact, Las Palmas is so crowded that the fire marshal shuts it down. I sigh with relief when the lights come up, and we move along to the final club, Boulevard 3. We enter through a fancy outdoor lounge/garden area where a woman is apparently paid to swing above a reflecting pool. The dance floor has a stage with scantily clad dancers and a dude on stilts with a mohawk and light-up suit. As we wait at the bar, a lady hops up to blow fire over our heads, and I have to remind myself we’re not in Vegas. I’m at first content to dance with my friends until I spot a guy moving up off to my left with a wide smile that’s both shy and inviting. Just like that, the German engineer is my dance partner for the rest of the night.
After a lazy Sunday picnicing with Portos in the park and admiring art in LACMA, we inadvertently drive past the Kodak theater while the Academy Awards are underway. It’s weird to think that most major celebrities are gathered a couple hundred feet away, with people all over the world tuning in. (“George Clooney is right there!” Kerry exclaims.) We meet the German guy from the club for dinner at Universal CityWalk. When Kerry’s meat is overdone at the Saddle Ranch, they bring out a giant tower of complimentary cotton candy.
The massive amount of sugar inspires me to take on the mechanical bull. (Usually alcohol is the trigger, but I am of course 21 going on 8.) Despite my best attempts at hip thrusting with its wild movements, I last all of 15 seconds on the bull before making a conscious decision to abandon ship and somersault off. Itt could get pretty fun with practice.
All too soon, it’s time to drive back north. We pick up another friend from her parents’ house on the way, and she gives us a tour of the place. Her dog’s in a pen in the backyard, and I approach despite a warning – a couple feet away is plenty safe, right? Wrong. The dog makes a heroic lunge over the fence and clamps on to the closest part of me – my left boob!
I shrug it off until I notice all the blood while undressing that night. I run into my brother’s room, where he’s gaming on the computer, and blurt, “A dog bit me on the boob!” Tinny laughter comes over the speakers – of course he’s Skyping with friends. I now bear two half moon scars as a souvenir.
The weekend was not without its ups and downs, but it was wonderful to reunite with old friends and form new acquaintances. I’m notoriously bad at keeping in touch with people, so it’s a great sign when your friends’ friends so easily become your own, and when a long absence results in stories to fill the gaps instead of awkward pauses.