If it’s Tuesday, this must be . . .
Whenever I talk about my writing, someone inevitably asks where I get my great ideas. (Okay. Fine. They just ask where I get my ideas. I like to believe the “great” is implied.) My answer is a two-parter: one, I am perhaps less engaged with reality than, say, your average accountant. (I have a sister who’s an accountant. She has way more life skills than I do.) And two: I know a good detail when I steal one.
I set my next young adult book, Bubble World, on a magical island called Agalinas. I stole the name from my son, who as a very young child, invented an imaginary place to house all his imaginary friends. And I stole the basic geography (and more) from Santa Catalina Island, which is only an hour by ferry from Long Beach, California, but feels like it exists in an entirely different dimension.
The rest of the book I made up entirely by myself. I swear.
Anyway, here are some of the things I love about Catalina:
Thanks to the Catalina Island Conservancy, 90% of the island can never be developed.
Golf carts (and feet) are the preferred mode of transportation. Car ownership is strictly limited. But that doesn’t matter because the only real town, Avalon, is so small that you can walk anywhere.
Wild bison, the descendents of animals brought in to film a 1920′s western, roam around the interior of the island. Also, there are lots of feral cats, which I realize is not a selling point for everyone, but I just really love cats.
Colorful tiles made on the island decorate much of the architecture.
The island is a treasure trove of Southern California history. And yes, I did giggle I typed those words. But it’s true. Google it.
There’s always something going on in the center of town. Like: sand castle contests. And art festivals. And rubber ducky races.
It feels too perfect to be real.
Ha! Kidding. Obviously, it is.
Until this week, I’d only been to New Orleans once, for a family wedding. Our hotel was on Bourbon Street, which was kind of like a never-ending frat party, only with way more neon. Also more transvestites. My daughter was six. We went to the aquarium. On the way to the rehearsal dinner, an extremely tall transvestite-mime presented my little girl with Mardi Gras beads. The next day we went to the wedding, and then we went home. I sensed I had not properly experienced the city.
Kidding again. But I DID spend hours taking pictures of the spectacular architecture, which I then dutifully edited and posted on Instagram (not to brag, but I’m up to 18 followers). And I got a pina colada out of one of those frozen drink machines and walked around with it — on the street! (It’s legal, assuming you are over 21. You can assume I am over 21.) Okay, I split the drink (size small) with my husband. But the night was young. (And we are not.)
The French Quarter is a place of joyous sensory overload. Music is everywhere. There’s jazz in plenty of clubs, of course, but I most enjoyed the street musicians. Two young ukelele-strumming women sang “Hit Me Baby One More Time” on an otherwise quiet street, while on another corner, a young man played an electric African bass harp. (I know because he had a sign that said, “What is it? It’s an African bass harp.” I’m clever that way.)
There’s so much to see. Like: leftover Mardi Gras decorations (we showed up on the second day of Lent), Eighteenth century buildings painted in bright hues, art galleries, tarot card readers, creepy Easter bunnies, coats of armor, vampire stores . . .
I’d been to the waterfront before (see aquarium reference, above), but not in the evening, when the tourist riverboats pipe haunting music into the air. If the French Quarter attracts creatives — artists, musicians, and oddballs of every stripe (though maybe not writers since sensory overload tends to mess with our productivity) — the waterfront attracts teens and young adults even closer to the edge. Which is another way of saying that it looks like a casting call for “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” But not in a bad way.
Food. Wow. We wandered into a restaurant called Sylvain because it looked suitably interesting and sophisticated but not stuffy. My husband’s fried pork shoulder was one of the best things either of us has ever tasted. If Sylvain were in L.A. they would call the fried pork shoulder something like, like — oh, I don’t know even. Something so pretentious that you’d have to ask the waiter, “Um, what is this exactly?” And the waiter — who was this close to getting a part on a new series on the WB — would go out of his way to describe the dish without ever using the words “fried” or “shoulder.” Or “pork,” for that matter.
We also ate beignets, a.k.a. “French donuts.” I am not a big donut eater, but if you go to New Orleans, you need to eat these things. They’re that good. And besides, if you’re in New Orleans, you can’t think too much about calories.
Last time I came to the French Quarter was pre-Katrina. Coming back, it was impossible not to think of all that was lost. But there is such a spirit to the place and the people. It’s not like they don’t know think bad things can happen — they do. So you might as well grab a pina colada, listen to music, and enjoy the beauty of the moment.
Once my husband and I were at a Mexican restaurant with an English friend. Unfamiliar with several of the menu items, he asked the waitress what “fah-gee-tahs” were. Isn’t it cute how he mispronounced “fajitas”? We all thought so! Once we finished laughing, our friend told us how he’d amused Californians by mentioning La Joe-La, an affluent seaside community on the north side of San Diego. Of course we laughed at that as well.
Free tip for Brits, Aussies, Scots, Irish: In America, you can say pretty much anything and we will think you are either clever or adorable or both. (Sorry, Canadians: your accents are too close to ours.) Sadly, the reverse does not apply, plus you get points taken away if you sound like you’re from the New York area.
Over the Thanksgiving break, my family headed down to La Jolla to visit UC San Diego and The University of San Diego, which I’ll write about some other Tuesday. (I don’t travel much; I need to drag things out.) We stayed a block from the beach, in a really, really nice hotel within easy walking distance to some really, really nice stores and some really, really nice restaurants. My mother bought some lemon-infused olive oil at an olive oil store. Because La Jolla is the kind of place that has olive oil stores.
Even better, La Jolla has the Pacific Ocean: miles and miles of spectacular coastline. It’s got sea caves, surfers, and seals. Lots and lots of seals. Seals caused quite a bit of controversy a few years back when they took over a beach originally intended for children. La Jolla is the kind of place where seals count as a problem.
They say a picture paints a thousand words. They also say that when you start using cliches like “a picture paints a thousand words,” it’s time to upload some photos and wrap up your blog post. So, enjoy these shots of La Jolla, which is a nice place to visit even if you, like me, can’t afford to live there.
I am cheating here. Big time. Because instead of writing about a place, I’m writing about something I found online while trying to get information on a place. Follow?
My daughter is a junior in high school, which means that for the next year I’ll be filling up “If It’s Tuesday” with a whole bunch of college visits. (I started last summer with The Rhode Island School of Design.) We’ve got a trip to San Diego coming up, where we’ll be checking out UCSD (The University of California at San Diego) and the University of San Diego — neither of which should be confused with San Diego State University. Confused? Me too.
Since we’ll be staying in La Jolla, where UCSD is located, I’m hoping to have dinner one night near the university to get a feel for the college community. To track down any retail/dining district near campus, I Googled “UCSD shopping.” That’s when I came up with this College Confidential parent post, which is so hilarious that I had to share.
Okay, everyone: how do YOUR children cope with stress?
My daughter is currently in the process of deciding between schools. It is LOADS of fun. Anyways, this may seem trivial, but she is an avid shopper (apparently this is how she copes with stress), so what are some nearby shopping locations and is transportation to such areas provided? We’re in the midst of scoping out shopping areas for all the schools. We were there for admit day (btw she’s a human biology major) and really only saw the Price Center. Are there any other areas nearby? I ask because we explored downtown La Jolla and San Diego and really couldnt find any great spots. (If you’d like to know I can say that she spends the majority of her time at Nordstrom with quite a few charges to Urban Outfitters, Forever 21, A&F, Macy’s, and other fairly typical stuff). Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Also, we’re from Norcal, so she will DEFINITELY NOT be driving
We, as a society, are doomed.
Oh my God, oh my God! You’ll never guess where I am!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Yeah, I’m in Fullerton. In my office. In my house. With my cats. (They say hello, btw.)
Once again, my “if it’s Tuesday” post presents the usual challenge: I never go anywhere worth writing about. One of these days I’m going to write about Target — or Targets. Fun fact: there are FIVE Targets within ten minutes of my house. Two of them have Starbucks and one has an escalator. Oh, yeah, you wish you were me.
My next book, WHAT CAME FIRST, comes out in eight days. (Did you know that? Are you excited? Have you pre-ordered???? For your convenience, I’ve got pretty little bookstore link buttons to the left of this post. Because I’m always thinking of you.) That means I’m spending even more time than usual at home, working on guest blogs and such (which is my excuse for slacking off on my own blog). So today, instead of writing about someplace interesting that I visited (Ralph’s grocery store, anyone?), I’m going to go all vicarious and talk about my friend Tammi’s trip to Prague. That way, you can vicariously enjoy my vicarious experience.
That is SO meta.
When we last visited Tammi, she was getting measured for custom orthotics to manage her plantar fasciitis while walking around the cobblestone streets of Europe, and I was getting orthotics so I could walk from my desk to my kettle and back again. And so, let us begin our vicarious tour. Here are Tammi’s feet, clad in brand new shoes from The Walking Company:
Okay, quiz time: Prague is in what country? Did you say Czechoslovakia? Well, you’re wrong! Because Czechoslovakia hasn’t existed since 1992, when it was peacefully split into two countries, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia, and Prague is in the Czech Republic!
Okay, maybe I’m the only person in the world who didn’t know that, in which case I’m reasonably certain I shouldn’t have admitted it.
At any rate, enjoy Tammi’s pictures. (How cool is the astrological clock?) And don’t be too jealous. She said her feet really hurt.