All Thunderous On The Eastern Front
I am as disappointed in myself as you are that it has taken me five days to post about my week-long trip back to the East Coast. Usually I return to Los Angeles refreshed and filled with stories. It should not take more than one or two nights for me to put virtual quill to virtual parchment. Alas, upon returning to the West Coast I was literally greeted at the airport by my mother, who flew into town for the weekend. Hence the lack of updates. I’ve been really busy.
I departed from Los Angeles last Tuesday evening. My flight was scheduled for an 11 p.m. departure and 6 a.m. arrival. Unfortunately the inbound flight from Newark was delayed, and as a result so was mine. Of course, I proceeded to take a sleeping pill ten or twenty minutes before I thought I would be boarding. By the time I actually boarded I was practically holding my eyelids open. Maybe I was hallucinating, maybe I wasn’t, but I could have sworn that while I was fidgeting with my blanket and pillow an old friend from high school passed by my seat. I couldn’t even find the words to call out his name to see if it was really him. Maybe I was already dreaming.
We touched down shortly after the sun had risen. It was as hot outside as it had been in LA the day before, only muggier. I stood around outside for a few minutes before my ride arrived. There was no going home from the airport. Instead I was chauffeured from Newark to the Garden State Parkway and then I-87 North towards Albany. My destination was Burlington, Vermont. I hadn’t visited my first alma matter since a brief stopover after Ian’s bachelor party in 2012. The reason for this stopover was because cousins were in the States — and on the same coast — for the first time in seven or eight years. They spend most of their time working in developing nations. Opportunities to see each other are quite rare. The last time I saw their babies they were just that. I think I was pushing them down Church Street in strollers. Now they’re…six and ten years old? A get-together was long overdue.
Lunch was already underway when we reached Burlington. A Single Pebble is an institution. And yes, they serve cans of Heady Topper with their Chinese food. No, I did not offer the can to others via the lazy susan that adorned the table. That shit was mine; I earned it.
After lunch my cousin drove me back to her mother-in-law’s house (where everyone was staying), and along the way we stopped at Fiddlehead’s tasting room (they’d just canned Mastermind, a delicious double IPA I bought a half case of), as well as that of Zero Gravity. As you can see from the above photo I’m a terrible influence on young children. After some quality family time in Shelbourne – and a brief rain delay – we returned to Burlington for dinner at the Farmhouse Tap and Grill. Burgers and beers and laughs were shared. And when it was done I retired to my hotel room and I…ugh. I had to get some work done for the new job. Vacation? What vacation?
I awoke early the next morning to a breakfast of maple glazed sausage, eggs and toast. Then I drove to Winooski to buy as much Heady Topper as I could afford (along with some other local treats, like 14th Star Brewing and Lawson’s Finest). Then it was onto swim practice for one of the kiddies. We returned to the house in Shelbourne for a few minutes, but as the skies began to threaten the time to depart for New Jersey drew nearer. Oh well. There was a stop on the way home at Dakin Farm for cheese, bacon, and a flight of maple syrups. Then home.
My time in New Jersey was pretty much spent being shuttled between relatives and appointments. Thursday night I met my father and sister for dinner at Cloverleaf. I have the worst luck in the world with that bar. Every time I fly home their infamous tap takeovers feature breweries readily available in Los Angeles. This time it was The Bruery. Insert eye roll emoji here. Was it nice to taste Fruet and Grey Monday and the like without having to open bottles from my cellar? Yes. Would I have preferred a Magnify or Carton or Kane tap takeover? Abso-fucking-lutely. It was good to see the immediate family, though. And Elissa’s boyfriend, and some of her townie friends. Good times were had.
After lunch at Wegmans Friday my sister and I went to visit our friends in Hoboken for the night. We enjoyed some delicious pizza from Dozzino and then cracked a bunch of beers in a lovely apartment right around the corner from my old stomping ground at Water Music Studios (whose website seemingly hasn’t been updated since 2004!). The highlights were Drie Fonteinen Hommage, Kane A Night To End All Dawns (Vanilla), de Garde The Persimmon, and a bunch of bottles from Wicked Weed. The next day the drinking continued, the highlights of which were a 2009 vintage of Cantillon Vigneronne, a 2010 Still Nacht Reserva, a Tilquin Oude (Gueuze Tilquin)², and even more impressively a De Cam Oude Lambiek from 2003. Of course upon returning to the crash pad that night more pizza was in order. Sister and I watched a movie. Podcast Jack joined us. The revelry continued. Here’s about half of the day’s alcohol consumption:
Sunday morning was my father’s 75th birthday. This was the main focus of my trip home. Thirty-plus people piled into a side room at a steak house for a fancy brunch buffet to celebrate the old man. Some family members I had not seen in over a decade were in attendance. All of them asked why I looked the same age. A couple guests commented that the last time they saw me was in the ’80s. That was slightly terrifying. At least I don’t look that young. On Sunday night I introduced my sister to A Serbian Film. I don’t think she was amused.
Monday was not fun, as I had to see my dentist because he fucked up my mouth when I flew home for Thanksgiving. This made lunch with yet another cousin slightly uncomfortable as my mouth was numb. What’d I do for dinner that night? I don’t remember. Oh, right. That place in Chatham. Serenade. I love that restaurant. They had an amazing veal porterhouse on the menu that night. From there it was back to Cloverleaf. They were still mostly serving mostly Bruery beers. I swear to God I have the worst luck with that place. The should coordinate better with me when I book my flights back to Jersey.
Tuesday was my father’s actual birthday. I believe the afternoon was filled with some marvelous thunderstorms. You don’t realize how comforting thunder and lightning are until you live without them for almost a decade. My sister took us all to dinner at another local steak house. Neither of us bothered to bring him any gifts so the idea was floated we would both treat him to dinner. I backed out at the last minute when I remembered what my credit card bill had looked like that morning. Did we go drinking again after that? Probably.
On Wednesday I had to spend a couple hours doing work, then raced to the bagel shop to pad my luggage for the return flight to LAX. My flight landed at about 11:50 p.m., and Uber is still a bitch to use even though it’s “legal” at the airport now. I almost fell asleep in the back seat on the drive across town. Thankfully my mother let me take Thursday off so I could go home from work and relax on my couch before spending the weekend driving all over the west side with her.
Even an early dismissal from work Friday couldn’t save me from traffic on the way to Santa Monica. I grabbed mom from her hotel and the two of us drove over to The Misfit, which was quite tasty but a little disturbing in that it took maybe six minutes from the time we ordered to the delivery of our plates. The kale salad with quinoa was great, the cauliflower fried rice was great, and the hatch chile burger was pretty good. Literally all three plates were set down before us in the time it took me to thank the server for taking our order and the time it took to walk about thirty yards to the bathroom to wash my hands. Scary fast. Delicious complimentary chocolate chip cookies, though.
The drive home that night was highlighted by coming up over the hills on the 405 and seeing the Sand fire light up the sky in the distance. The very definition of spooky. A black sky with a horizon on fire. If I wasn’t such a conscientious driver I would have snapped a couple photos to prove how eerie it looked.
On Saturday I went for a morning run even though the sky was brown and there was a thin layer of ash covering my car. Going for a run that morning was probably not the most health-conscious decision, even if it felt like I was doing my body good at the time. Mom and I hung out in and around Santa Monica, Venice, and then Culver City for the day before dining at Lukshon. No matter where we drove, it looked and felt like we were living through the apocalypse. All along Abbot Kinney people were composing their best Instagram photos. No filters required. The smoke from the fires was doing otherworldly things with the sky. The sun was a shade of neon orange I’m not sure I’ve ever seen before. I had to drive back towards it on the 405 to get home again that evening. Again I didn’t photograph it because I was racing to meet Nate and Mark for a Bojack Horseman binge-watch party. We drank most of the beers I shipped back from Vermont, I made a heaping mound of nachos and a few Moscow Mules and we all got trashed and watched half the season. My coffee table is still sticky from where the bottle of vodka was left overnight. Oops.
On Sunday I skipped my morning run even though the sky was blue. Mom and I wandered around the canals in Venice before “dining in” at the AMC in Marina Del Rey and watching The Infiltrator. It was not Brian Cranston’s best work. We killed a few more hours before our usual farewell dinner at Kanpai Sushi. The salmon belly carpaccio special and king crab with summer black truffles sushi were the highlights this time. Then it was back to mom’s hotel for dessert and drinks before bidding her adieu.
So here I am, back on my couch, A/C blasting and Khemmis on the turntable.
I’ll try to write again soon.
Khemmis – Ash, Cinder, Smoke [MP3]
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