I’ve been working a lot lately. All of it culminated in a large presentation today where I walked stakeholders through designs for the 3 major projects my team is responsible for in the next release of our software. These projects are giant complicated beasts and we’ve been iterating on designs for literally months. I wouldn’t usually talk about work here but the timing is just perfect. The presentation went great, everything was well received, my teams hard work acknowledged. I didn’t exactly get a ‘drop the mic and leave’ moment, but it was pretty close. Definitely a good feeling to start a vacation on.
I say goodbye to Birdrito and hop in the Quber. Queenie takes me over to the San Bernardino train station and we have some time to grab a bite. There’s a Salvadoran place here called Hidden Place. They specialize in Pupusas which I’ve never had before. Hidden Place has a handful of locals in it and Queenie and I are the only ones not speaking Spanish in here. The pupusas are good, kind of like a stuffed pancake that’s savory instead of sweet. We each get a chicharron and a chicken. They bring a container of salad / coleslaw that we just serve ourselves out of and a couple of hot sauces to put on the pupusas. Super cheap too. Might have to make this a regular pre-adventure pit stop. Oh shit, only 7 minutes to get over there!
Queenie walks me across the street to the station and we have one of the most romantic pre-trip makeout sessions you can imagine. We say goodbye and I go across the walkway that takes you over the tracks to the next lane. And that’s where I find out I’m 40 minutes early. “Oh Bee, I’m just in the car what are you gonna do?”, “Just wait I guess. I totally got Bee’d”, “You got Bee’d”.
I hang in the shade for 40 minutes until the train arrives. There’s a guy playing Mexican tunes on a guitar. There’s a black dude on the phone next to me arguing about how it’s not funny that she left the bowl of spaghetti out all night and that’s what she fed him for dinner tonight. “That’s a crazy bitch. She thinks that shit’s funny”, “Well, it’s kinda funny. I don’t know why she bothered to tell you though. Cuz she didn’t have to”, “Yeah you’re right. Why the hell did she tell me? After the fact. That bitch is crazy!” A couple of older ladies are having a polite old fashion back and forth, one is going all the way to Kansas.
I board the metrolink and blog up an intro to this trip. Vacation Mode: Engage! I guess that’s not true until there’s an actual drink in my hand. Feels good though. There’s some delays on the train and I get into Union Station a bit later than expected. I decide to just quid up an uber to Peter’s place. A dapper black guy named Ronnie picks me up dressed all in black with a grey fedora. He’s got a great personality and we shoot the shit about travelling the whole way to Santa Monica.
I get to Peter’s a little after 9 and he answers the door a little worse for wares it seems. Must have hit it hard during the England / Columbia World Cup match earlier in the day. “I need to put on some pants.” Indeed. I ask him for a drink and all he has is Salmiakki. It’s a salted candy, licorice liqueur. I remember we made this one time by melting down the candies and adding vodka. The bottle label explains the booze as being exactly that. “Diesel for Diesel?”, “Yep, vacation time”, and Peter hands me a shot of black licorice motor oil. I guess this is how I’m starting the trip.
A smattering of people start coming out of the woodwork now. There’s a Finnish couple here named Sini and Joni (pronounced yawny, but he’s really not). Joni is brothers of one of Peter’s best buds and they’re visiting for a bit. While we’re gone they’ll crash at his place and take care of the cats for a couple of days. There is also a Russian girl named Alina here from Moscow. In Santa Monica with a good mix of foreigners. Kind of funny, there’s not one American in the group. Joni offers me a bud light lime. Wow. Ok sure, I’ve never had one. Just as I’d expect. Watery moose piss. He’s pumped about them though so let’s indulge.
We grab an uber down to Firestone for some grub and a pint. Our uber driver is a Chinese guy that is really enjoying the conversation between Peter and Joni. Joni is saying that when he was in the army back in Finland he was in great shape. “I could have killed you”, “Killed me? with what?”, “Killed you with my bare hands”, the driver laughs really hard at this. “Where are you from in Finland?”, “Helsinki. But my blood is from Heinola!”, “Ahhh that is why you’re a killer hahah”, “I own a tractor!” (Not sure how being a killer mentally maps to owning a tractor but this response cracks me up). “It’s a 1973 Massey Ferguson!”
Joni tells us he saw a show once that was following an uber driver that was an old actor from the Bold and the Beautiful. “This show is how I learned English. And my mom knows Bold and Beautiful English”, Alina verifies, “Yes, it was very popular in Russia as well. Many people learn Bold and Beautiful English” Is this really happening? Bold and Beautiful English?! This is incredible.
We get to Firestone and post up at a round table with a pole. “Oh someone needs to do a pole dance!” I’ve had just enough drinks to make this happen. Ah shit the kitchen is closed! We put in a round of drinks anyways and get to chatting. Somehow we get on the topic of the tag team wrestling duo called The Backlash that we’d met in a kebab shop in Brighton before the Mongol Rally (story for another time) and Joni pipes up saying that if he made a million dollars he’d check Wrestlemania off his bucketlist lol. He’s been to Monday night RAW in New Jersey though. “You’ve been to Monday Night Raw in New Jersey? I’d consider that bucket item checked!”
Alina shows us a creepy voice message from an unknown number that she got earlier that just says “Be careful…”
We take off from Firestone and decide to go to a great bar called Hinano’s.