Wednesday, July 20, 2016

90 hour weekend with B

Last weekend, my dear friend and antique house mate B finally decided to visit me in LA, and it was GRAND. Here follows a brief, blow by blow description of the utterly banal and forgettable weekend we enjoyed together. My primary mission was, by example and through song and story, to infect B with the Californian Dream.

On Thursday evening, B arrived from Seattle. Rather than head straight to hot pot, he dallied at the airport, so we were mostly full and about to admit defeat (after 90 minutes) when B showed up. He re-energized us and after only 3.5 hours stirring the soup we paid the bill and crawled away on our stomachs, snail style. 

The following morning, Friday, I apologized for not having any milk, so we enjoyed our breakfast in the traditional style. Depression flakes - cornflakes and tap water. A great way to start the day, if you like things to improve rapidly after breakfast, no matter what. I mentioned we could probably grab some milk later that day but - spoiler alert - milk was never obtained.

I took off for work, B's aunt C showed up and took him to Ventura beach, and we met again at 3pm at JPL. There we were joined by my friend D, who works on lab, and the four of us (B, C, D, and I) took off for a quick tour through the lab. I have, of course, taken the same tour numerous times but it's always a pleasure to look at the robots, visit the control room, look longingly at lucky peanuts, and kick rocks in the Mars Yard. It has mostly returned to normal since "The Martian" came out, but plenty of Juno-related paraphernalia is still in evidence.

B, C, and I headed back to my place, where recharging of phone and mind and body was called for. I took a quick call to Antarctica, while B and C jumped on my piano and played several four hands pieces they mysteriously carried the music for, apparently, everywhere they go. I came back out and we all sang some stuff together, which was grand. I miss the social creation of music. At this point the sun began to set so we gathered our peace offerings, farewelled aunty C, and headed off for a birthday party at my friend M's place. 

M is a paragliding astrophysicist polyglot, so we knew we would fit right in. M had only been in town for about 2 months, so it was a small gathering of her 50 closest friends, many of whom spoke mainly Spanish, and all had good stories. Later in the evening, round with excellent food, we set up a telescope to examine Mars, Saturn, and the Moon, before gathering around my printed copy of the SUMS song book and singing about 6 verses of Gaudete, a carol with improvised interstitial verses. Late in the evening we took in the guitar circle, faded, and headed home for some well earned rest.

The following morning was Saturday, so we decided to take it easy. By getting up early, travelling to a nearby workshop, and building me a dining table from scratch. After only 4 hours of finicky work, a couple of mistakes, and numerous design regrets, the assembly was basically done. Now only remains the finishing touches. We had pushed lunch back so we headed home, cleaned up a bit, and headed to a local restaurant where I enjoyed vegan (dairy free) pancakes.

Following this we headed to rendezvous with friends DA and L, with whom we enjoyed a second lunch. DA described the intersection of attractor theory and the microbiome. L ordered a vodka/grapefruit, but got the relative quantities reversed. B talked about materials with weird thermal and magnetic properties. I talked about spaceships, for a change. At some point we went for a walk, covered solar power, desalination, and the space nuclear imperative. Later, we got a ride in a fast electric car back to campus, where there were Pokemon to hunt. 

We took it easy for an hour, enjoying a relaxed campus tour, before meeting friends J and C for dinner at the Caltech Atheneum Rathskeller Al Fresco, where I enjoyed bacon-wrapped meatloaf and B struggled to meet the demands of a nachos of truly biblical proportions. J and C regaled us with tales of boating down the Mekong river before bailing as the night chill settled over the desert we call home.

We headed west for the next event, but were waylaid by the intercession of an amazing music concert on the Beckman Lawn: Muse-ique. It turned out our friends N, R, and G were performing, so we sat with family and friends (D, C, etc) and enjoyed the incredible performance. Mostly 20th century jazz music in all kinds of varieties. 

When Muse-ique drew to a close, C, B, and I went to a karaoke bar in downtown, near where I work. The room was loud and full of friends, for dear friend H was celebrating her birthday, and all of us are huge musical theater geeks. In addition to numerous other positive traits, B possesses an exquisite tenor range and we "rocked out" until they closed us down. Friends K and T took a vote and decided that B was not to be allowed to leave for Australia. We headed home and quickly passed out, after a quiet, relaxing Saturday.

Sunday. Last full day of B's visit. Still so much to do! The clouds were clearing so we headed to the airport, clambered into the trusty Cessna 152 in which I did much of my training, and took to the skies. A quick jaunt south through the haze, over Long Beach, and across the channel to Catalina Island. A flight around the island, then up to the middle and, dodging scudding clouds, to land at the airport in the sky. 

Our first and biggest mistake was to assume it was too early for lunch, so we took a stroll around the airport, had a good chat, and returned to find we no longer had time to survive the queue, eat lunch, and get back on time. At least the plane was much lighter, we cruised back to El Monte in style, bouncing between mid afternoon bumps before executing a nice glided landing on the airstrip. 

Once home we did kick back for a few minutes. I did some laundry, we watched some silly videos, went shopping at Whole Foods (ever seen a vegetarian's eyes the first time they go there?), and cooked dinner. We finished our dinner, of sweet potato quesadillas, just in time to go to the local cinema and catch Ghostbusters with some of my former Caltech colleagues. B and I giggled and guffawed throughout, though I thought the spookiest part was how much the ghostbuster Erin looked like my fiance C once looked. Brown hair and MIT jacket. Uncanny!

On our way walking back from the cinema, I was livestreaming the SpaceX CRS-9 launch on my phone, when the internet cut out, mere minutes from liftoff. Fortunately we were walking past my friend T's house, so I gave them a call.

"Hi, Casey here, what are you doing?"
"Watching the SpaceX launch, duh."
"We'll be there in 3 seconds."

We caught the launch, including the incredible landing. Then B and T got stuck into a 30 minute discussion of the minutiae of knitting, before meeting a pet snake, sampling Indian food, and heading back. 

Time to sleep? Think again! We headed back to M's place for more guitar and music, arriving just in time to eat a bunch of apple pie and icecream, contribute some chocolate brownies, and leave again. We walked about an hour back to my place through Pasadena, then finally took rest!

Monday, last day. We took the train and walked into my work, a substantial hike with luggage in the hot sun. I gave B the "revolutionizing the manufacturing of transportation infrastructure" tour, fed him some of our amazing lunch, then sent him off to do a downtown LA walking tour and explore The Last Bookstore. Some hours later he arrived back, rather footsore. I called a Lyft, we said our farewells, then I got back to solving PDEs. 

Later, I heard he had successfully boarded an aircraft, because the Hyperloop still isn't built, and was on his way home. 90 hours had elapsed since he bounced into the hot pot restaurant and helped us in our hour of dire need. I think we shared a decent sample of what southern California has to offer, and I (and all my distraught friends!) can't wait to have him visit again!

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