Los Angeles, November 1999

by Matthew Burfeind

Oranges at the Mission Inn, Riverside

We celebrated Thanksgiving with Jennifer's family this year, in Los Angeles. It was great to see the family and be there for the holiday, and the weather was fantastic -- we rented a convertible and drove with the top down just about every day. The travelling itself, on the other hand, was painful. We learned three lessons:

  1. Never travel at Thanksgiving
  2. Never travel across the country unless it's a direct flight
  3. Never travel through Philadelphia
Stone face at the Mission Inn, Riverside

We missed connections in Philadelphia in both directions. On the plus side, it meant that we got to see Minnesota for the first time. Minneapolis/St.Paul has a very nice airport, although the shopping mall was just closing for the evening when we got there, forcing us to sit and watch CNN specials on James Bond and Celine Dion. I also got to experience firsthand the joys of lost luggage. To be fair, it wasn't actually lost. The airlines knew exactly where it was -- still in Philadelphia. Jennifer's bag was one of only two that actually made it to LAX with us that evening, and the other one wasn't mine.

Anyway, we had a great time in LA, once we finally got there. On Wednesday, we drove out to Riverside to pick up Mark. We stopped by the Mission Inn, one of the highlights of any visit to Riverside. They went a little overboard on their holiday decorations -- a Dickensian Christmas just doesn't work on a Spanish-style building -- but it was still beautiful. We had lunch at an In-N-Out Burger, and of course, we drove with the top down the whole way.

Daniel Dickson with Jeneva Shea and Katie Estes

On the way back, we planned to go to the Norton Simon Museum, in Pasadena, but it was too nice of a day to spend it in a museum. Instead we called up Jamie and asked if we could come hang out with her and her kids for a few hours. So, we got to meet Daniel, the latest addition to the Dickson household. He was adorable, even though he was crying the whole time I got to hold him. And I'm still not sure why Jamie chose that moment to leave the room. Training me for something down the road?

View of the Santa Clarita Valley

Thanksgiving dinner was held at Bobbie and Jim's house in Saugus (pronounced "Suawgus" if you're from around Boston). I've been to a few of these family gatherings now, and I'm beginning to get the hang of it. The first time I met Jennifer's extended family was also at Bobbie and Jim's house, and everybody was on their best behavior. The second time we visited, Jennifer and I were engaged, so I was practically part of the family. It was, I have to say, a little overwhelming. The third time was the wedding, and I was too busy to be overwhelmed. I've learned that the secret to large families (not having one myself) is to be aggressive. Say what you want to say, and if nobody listens, say it louder. And it helps to have a glass of wine.

Flowers at the Glendale Train Station

Indeed, there was wine, in addition to a 28-pound turkey, four pies, stuffing, vegetables, potatoes, rolls, and of course, the traditional Thanksgiving treat, black bean salsa and corn bread. I was stuffed. And it's true what they say about turkey making you fall asleep. I couldn't even keep myself awake during that night's episode of Will and Grace!

On Friday, Jennifer and I had brunch with Barbara Roscoe and her boyfriend, Aaron, at a tiny little place called, I believe, The Little Cafe, or something equally descriptive. It was indeed small, although their bacon portions were anything but. I think I had my year's quota along with my french toast. That afternoon, we bummed around for a while, stopping by the Glendale train station to see how the renovation turned out (beautifully, I must say), and the Griffith Observatory to see if there was a good view. Unfortunately, it was smoggier downtown than it looked in the Valley. And it was crowded. Boy, howdee, was it crowded.

Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles Hollywood Sign from Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles

The other highlight of the trip was Alec Dickson's fourth birthday party, on Saturday. I haven't been to a four-year-old's birthday party in about twenty-five years, and I have to say, they're pretty cool. This one included: twenty children; thirty-five adults (many of them belonging to the children); a giant, inflatable jumper; twenty-five balloons; and Batman. That's right, Batman. He was there, in the flesh, or more accurately, in the rubber suit.

The Inflatable Jumper at Alec's Birthday Party Batman at Alec Dickson's Birthday Party Alec Blowing out his Birthday Candles

I have now been to California in February, April, May, and November. With the possible exception of some rainy days in February, and some smoggy days in May, I have yet to see bad weather. And I never fail to come home with beautiful memories, from the unbridled happiness that Gordie and the other dogs feel when Jennifer is home, and the sweetness of seeing Daniel being held by his father and his grandmother, to the wonderful smell of Jeanne's homemade muffins cooking in the morning.

Gordie leaning over the fence, San Fernando Daniel Dickson with his Father and Grandmother

© 1999 Matthew S. Burfeind
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Last revised December 10, 1999
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