There’s a distinct divide between my family and me in our preferences for where to live. No two people will have the exact same preferences, sure, but what surprised me (or maybe not?) during my visit was their insistence on the ex-urban lifestyle. Strange because I spent my entire life being raised in one of the largest metropolises in the world. Strange because mom grew up in this large metropolis herself. But not really strange because dad grew up in the suburbs; and everyone always seems to have some complaint about the city.
Something about the smell. Something about the homeless. Something about this and that.There’s an element of “us versus the world” in their aggressive insistence on my living in the farm-filled valley of Southern California, away from the city. It’s a certain kind of escapism they’re after, and would wish for me.
I’m not wholly against places that are more nature than built environment (but to be frank, I’m no fan of suburbia) I love my mountains, lakes, rivers, oceans. I love hiking, walking, cycling, fishing, tent camping, and more. I love the outdoors. It’s the kind of escapism that allows you to “reset” from the chaos of city living. It’s good to get out every once in a while, so the saying goes.
What I noticed during my visit was a kind of escapism that was more for the sake of escaping. It was hard to tell if these mini-excursions we went on were done for the experience or for the sake of doing them. Is this how they normally ‘do’ leisure time? It was hard to tell if they actually enjoyed what they were doing. I like to think they were. But it was hard to tell.
It’s hard to tell anything with my family. Everyone acts as though they’re hiding something. Hiding their inner feelings. Eggshells.
Santa Monica Pier
Adult Christmas is very different from childhood Christmas. Mornings spent eating steaming stacks with maple syrup and ripping wrapping paper into smithereens is replaced with mornings spent eating whatever there is for breakfast and maybe ripping a sheet of wrapping paper. And drinking coffee. Lots of coffee.
And, if you’re visiting family, a rando trip to the pier. Because there’s nothing else to do.
It was a beautiful sunny day. And everyone had the same idea: going to the pier. It was busy. But we ambled along to the end of the pier where we ate lunch. Nachos and tacos. And watching pigeons try to steal food off the table.
Our stomachs filled, we ambled back the other way. Purchased a Route 66 sign. Walked over the bridge, towards the downtown area. Doubled back towards the entrance to the pier and walked along the “high-line” on Ocean Avenue. Passed by the Georgian Hotel. Made our way back towards the beach, where we piled back into the car and made our way back to sprawling Camarillo.
Charbroiled oysters. By this point, I’ve had close to three dozen oysters (that’s probably an exaggeration, but I sure as hell had a lot of oysters…).
Forty miles. We traveled for those oysters. Nothing else.
I read about Ojai while we ate and, with bellies full, I suggested a walk—exploration—around the town center. It’s a quaint little town with a distinctive look and history. Wikipedia lists it as a tourist site. Easy to see why.We walk up and down the strip. My family, ahead of me. They walk briskly. Looking around but not really looking around. There’s an air of impatience to their steps.
Me? I take my time with my new camera in hand. Looking up and down the street. Spanish revival architecture. The trolley. Bicycles rolling along. Dogs tied at post signs and benches.
All the while, my family stands ahead of me. They appear impatient. I’ve been separated from them as I wait to cross the street. I’m in no hurry. Mom looks displeased. Worried, maybe. When we get to the car, the engine starts quick and we make our way into the valley.
We’re headed into Los Padres National Park. We drive. And drive and drive. We get out of the car once or twice. Just long enough for me to take a few photos.
No hiking. No picnicking. Just driving along the mountainous winding roads. It’s getting late. But not really. We drive to a turnaround point and head back. Back down the winding road, back to Camarillo.