California trip recap

While in California I was heavily consumed with why we were there and managing a series of media inquiries for my job back home, so the blog was left untouched.

Skye with gold medal outside arena in Ontario, CA.
The doll is dressed in the team’s competition dress.

We spent most of our trip in Ontario, CA – the biggest series of strip malls I have ever seen containing every retail chain known to America. It was all hotels, restaurants and stores. Hard to tell where people actually lived. The town was nice, well manicured, very clean, but it definitely was missing the historical charm I have come to appreciate here on the East Coast.

Skye’s Juvenile level Skyliners team competed against twelve other teams from around the country. Their performance appeared nearly flawless. The results came in while Victoria (my wife) and I ran out of the arena in starving desperation to grab some “normal”  food at a nearby In and Out Burger – our appetites did not adjust with the time zone change and arena food was not appealing – Skye called me with a simple “we won” sounding like she was in disbelief. They had just become the Synchronized Skating Juvenile National Champions. Congratulations are deserved for the other Skyliner teams that competed: Intermediate placed 2nd, Novice 4th, and Junior 1st!

Me kneeling at Humphrey Bogart’s slab at the Chinese Theater.

Los Angeles was interesting. Met up with friends on Hollywood Boulevard outside of the Chinese Theater on our last full day in California. We were accosted by a 70s-style Elvis character who wanted a donation for taking a photo with us. Several strange versions of characters of movie/cartoon characters populated the street doing the same to unsuspecting tourists. Several salespeople tried to sell us on “homes of the stars” bus tours. No, we did not feed into this bottom feeder industry. I do not go out looking for the celebrity homes in the NY/CT area, why would I want to do it there? We drove through the city toward the coast, on the way we saw the famous clubs on the Sunset Strip – not at all like I had pictured them – Beverly Hills, Century City and Santa Monica.

Sunset at Venice Beach

We spent the afternoon at Venice Beach – the place is full of fascinating contradictions. We ate at a good outdoor restaurant serving California cuisine on the boardwalk next to a halfway house with miserable guys smoking in their patio watching the restaurant patrons eat. A few storefronts over was a Jewish Community Center with rabbis standing outside talking immediately next to an open storefront selling T-shirts and underwear with obscene statements visible for the kids on their bicycles to read. Vendors selling art, crafts, and vegan causes lined the beach side of the boardwalk. Many people walked around in Mardi Gras costumes, though we never found an actual Mardi Gras celebration.

LA seen from top of Griffith Observatory

We finished our LA visit at Griffith Observatory – best part of the trip. Serene and beautiful setting, amazing view of the city. We saw what was probably the most elaborate, and dramatic, planetarium show. Just a nice experience to wrap up our visit knowing we were headed home the following morning.

Going to California… for a week

Next week, my daughter’s synchro skating team, the Skyliners, is competing in the USFSA’s 2011 Synchronized Skating Championships in Ontario, CA, so for the very first time for all of my family we get to visit West Coast. They recently won gold in the Eastern Regional Championship at Lake Placid, NY.

It should be noted that my wife and I are very proud of our daughter’s accomplishments in skating, we have sacrificed a lot to give her this amazing opportunity and to develop her talents. Before she was six, I would have never imagined that the world of figure skating would be a part of our collective future. I have found it is a tight-knit community that stretches across the country and into other parts of the world – people involved in the sport at all levels seem to know each other or have friends in common. Just on my own I have met a handful of Olympic skaters from Team USA, a few have even coached our daughter.

As for California, I am really wondering what to expect in the LA area – I have all sorts of preconceptions from movies, TV, books and word of mouth. It will be an interesting personal experience to see how much of Los Angeles lives up to the notoriety. We will be spending a lot of time checking out the city and some of its infamous sites. My CT/NYC-area upbringing has instilled a certain level of disdain for anything West Coast, but I will approach this with an open mind. I’m always up for new adventures, as much as I hate preparing to travel.

More to come from the West Coast… the good, bad and mundane.