Hi all, today is Memorial Day. It’s the first three-day weekend of the year. It’s picnics, hot dogs and burgers, softball games and frisbee toss, and much more. Today we honor those who served. Whether on a bloody beach, a terrifying jungle, mountainous wasteland or a sweltering desert, today we praise all our service men and women who sacrifice(d) for our freedom.
When I was a young boy, I belonged to a Boy’s Club in Chicago. We played all sports during the year. Memorial Day was our last softball game of the spring. It was called windy city ball; slow pitch, on a little league diamond with a 16-inch ball and no gloves.
The park was full of continuous games all morning and afternoon. Every team played on Memorial Day. The clubhouse displayed the American Flag at half-mast, and before each set of games, they played our National Anthem over the loud speaker. All who were in the park stood and put their hands over their hearts in remembrance.
Patriotism is a choice. It can’t be forced. It comes naturally, from within. Hopefully all citizens of our free country will take a moment today to stand, hand-over-heart, and remember. We’ve lost to many.
Remember the Fallen
Below is the next chapter of my trip. Enjoy!
Our clothes were still damp from the impromptu dip in Mr. Hearst’s popoolmost eloquent swimming pool, so we stopped at a wayside and changed into dry duds. The next leg of our trip was just a short hour drive down to San Louis Obispo. We were quite excited, because we were meeting our daughter for dinner at Pismo Beach.
Jessica had been living in the L.A. area for several years. She moved out there after completing college at UW-Milwaukee. She graduated with a degree in Theatre Arts. This kid can hit a high “C” that sends chills up your spine. She had an itch to try out her craft, so off she went.
Her first move was to Van Nuys where she moved in with a roommate she had met in Milwaukee teaching acting classes for high school kids. This worked out for about a year, during which she took on several jobs, and some local community acting before finally finding good employment as a CPR trainer for the American Red Cross.
Jess also met a great guy who she dated for about a year. They found an apartment together in Burbank. Mike is in the film industry and a stand-up comic. He and Jessie really clicked. They’re both kind of geeky and share a lot of the same interests.
Jessie booked a couple rooms at the SeaCrest Oceanfront Hotel in Pismo for the night. This will be our last night together. Dar and I will be going different ways after tonight. We will still be doing some more traveling, just not together. No, we did not have a fight. This was all planned out from the beginning. It’s quite exciting for both of us.
Several months ago, Jess had been offered a job teaching CPR to the crew of a cruise ship, no big deal, right? Wrong, very big deal! The training was scheduled aboard a top-notch ship owned by the Crystal Cruise line, and, oh by the way, the ship was at sea, cruising the Caribbean. Talk about a sweet deal.
My daughter, who struggles to make rent each month, took a free 12-day luxury cruise with her boyfriend as a guest. It was incredible. They were treated as if they were paying customers. The only expense incurred was any ground excursions they took. All meals, on board entertainment, soft drinks and complete use of the ship were free. Of course, she did have to work for it. She had to do her CPR training for the crew. All in, this took about 15 hours. Poor baby.
Apparently, she did a good job, because they offered her another gig on the sister ship. This time the cruise was, L.A., through he Panama Canal, with stops in Cartagena, Cabo, Ft. Lauderdale, Charleston and finally New York City. It was also themed as a theatre cruise, with several celebrities on board. 17 days of pure delight.
Jessica invited Dar to join her this time. She definitely got daughter of the year award. Not only was it a wonderful gift, but the timing couldn’t have been better. Jessica hadn’t been home since Christmas and Dar had just finished 5 years of post-cancer meds. They were looking forward to a fantastic experience together.
When we arrived at Pismo Beach, we texted Jessica and she directed us to a small eatery called the Splash Café. It was a small, beachy burger stand serving raved-about clam chowder, as well as fish & chips, hot dogs and all things, fresh and deep fried from the sea.
The area was very busy, and parking was difficult. Luckily our handicap tag paid off again, as we found a spot a few doors down. Our beautiful daughter was sitting outside the Café on a bench. She saw us coming toward her and jumped up to greet us.
“Oh, how is my baby girl?’ said Dar as she gave Jess a giant bear hug.
I also gave her a big hug and kiss on the cheek. It was super great to see her. Our upper mid-west girl had become a west coast cutie. She was decked out in a flowy tie-died skirt, yellow cotton top, white sandals, and tortoise shell shades worn up on her head to hold back her shoulder length, billowy, red hair.
We were starving, so we got in the line that was spilling out the door of the Splash café. Jessie had put her name in for a table, so we only had to wait about ten minutes to be seated. The place was jammed. There was a chowder only line on one side of the door, and an everything else line on the other.
They don’t have beach places like this back in old Milwaukee. We each ordered a chowder bread bowl, and split some calamari, onion rings, and a dozen blue point oysters. I washed mine down with an iced cold Sam Adams Lager.
Dar and I often judge seafood restaurants by their Clam Chowder. From New England to San Francisco, the Florida Keys, and up and down both coasts, this could be the best we’ve had. It was thick with clams and potatoes and topped with chopped shallots and bacon bits. The broth was super creamy and flavorful. Yummy!
We sat outside on an umbrellaed picnic table, facing the ocean. Jess brought us up to speed on her status quo as Dar fired questions at her. She seemed happy. Her professional and personal life were on a good course. Even though the theatre scene was less than she had expected, she had a few community gigs, and participated in Comedy Sports once a week with her boyfriend, Mike. Life was good.
Dar and I were getting weary, so we took a short drive to our hotel for a quick nap. Our room was perfect for one night. Nothing fancy, but comfy with two queen beds, a table and chairs and a desk. The best part was the ocean view. We were steps from the beach.
Knock! Knock! We were woken from our nap.
“Who’s there?” I yelled from my bed.
“It’s me. Open up.” Said Jessie through the door.
It was eight o’clock. We had been asleep for two hours. I got up and opened the door. Jess stepped in wearing a Hawaiian lei and had two more for us.
“What’s up?” I said.
“The hotel is putting on a Luau on the beach. Let’s go get a Mai Tai and have some fun.”
“Make mine a Pino Colada.” I said.
“We’ll meet you out there in ten minutes, said Dar from the bathroom. Save us a spot by the fire pit hun.”
It was another perfect, warm evening. The sun was about to take a steamy dip into the Pacific, as more guests arrived. Dar and I found Jess sitting on a log by the fire with an orchid petal in her hair. What a wonderful surprise.
This was a weekly event at the SeaCrest. It was a mini-Luau, with a full bar, three-piece steel drum band and a buffet with pulled pork, taro root balls, teriyaki wings, California sushi rolls, and several other finger foods. We were still a bit full from our late lunch at the Splash, but the exotic libations with fresh pineapple wedges were most welcome.
Jessie started to fill us in on the cruise. The plan was for them to continue on to L.A. tomorrow and board the ship the next day. I had made plans to meet up with several old friends who had moved out west years ago. We had booked rooms at the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas. Then I would hop a flight home.
I listened intently as Jess laid out how the cruise worked. It sounded fantastic. Crystal Cruise Lines was one of the best in the business. They were going to be primped and pampered for seventeen luxurious days and nights.
I felt a tap on my shoulder.
“Is this seat taken?” The man’s voice sounded a bit familiar.
As I turned to answer, I immediately placed the face with the voice. It was Ted, a fellow I had known since high school in Chicago. He lived in San Diego for the past thirty years.
“Ted! What the hell are you doing here? I thought we were meeting in Vegas?” I shouted.
Dar and Jessie were smiling at me like the cat that swallowed the canary. They had planned this weeks ago. Dar did not want me driving through the desert alone, so she arranged for Ted to be here.
Ted and I did the man hug and patted each other on the back. What a wonderful surprise. The last time I saw him was five years ago at a get-together at his sister’s house in Illinois.
“Great to see you, Woody.” said Ted
“You too man.” I said.
“Grab yourself a piece of this log, drinks are on me.” I said as I trotted off to the bar.
The rest of the evening was a blast. The four of us talked for a couple hours as we enjoyed the festivities. Dar and I told Ted and Jessie about all the fun and odd things that happened to us on our trip. They were amazed at the adventures we shared on our journey. As were Dar and me.
The party broke up around eleven, so we retired to our rooms. As my head hit the pillow, I heard that infamous line once again from Dar.
“Good night honey, got you again.” Ha-Ha.