A Birthday to Remember

santa monica

While I believe in astrology, I’ve never really claimed Mercury in Retrograde to be my source of bad luck or unfortunate situations. It is here I would like to note that as of late peculiar events surround many of my outings.

I have a delightful story about a couple of elderly women who were thrown out of a nice restaurant in Marina del Rey recently. They were accused of calling a husband and his expectant wife’s young toddler who was dining with them ‘ugly’. That’s right. According to the manager, who I spoke with for very different reasons, stated they called the couple’s baby ugly and refused to apologize. When discussed with these women as we waited for my car at the valet, the young mother appeared at the front of the restaurant. She promptly gave us the middle finger salute and called my mother a racist piece of, well, shit. It was beyond bazaar. Oh yes, and the young offended couple got their entire meal paid for by the management of said restaurant.

I have a story that followed not long after while I was at a winery in Ojai with friends. This happened in the ladies lounge of their tasting room. A young attractive woman was by the wash basins when I entered. She insisted on showing me a mark on her lower neck. She proudly announced she had gotten it when shoved by another woman who barged into the unlocked stall she had been in. The woman apparently slammed open the stall door as she entered and proclaimed to the young woman that there was some law requiring the door to be locked. The young and allegedly now injured female was outraged and had called the local authorities. She was claiming to have been assaulted. Again, bazaar. The Sheriff’s did come. I can’t tell you how that panned out, I did not stick around.

Before that there had been other incidents at local restaurants. But I think the icing on the cake was my birthday just past. The day was spent with my Mom and Dad and Libby. All people and a pooch that I love the most! I would say Libby is my dog, except she has morphed into our dog, but really my Dad’s dog (they have a love affair going). So we packed the car to the brim and headed down the road so the four of us could spend three nights and nearly four days, in Orange County at a home basically on the water in Balboa Island, CA.

Balboa Island is a place fondly familiar to us as a family. We had been spending time there during many summers for years during my early teens. We were headed to a place we had specifically stayed before. A lovely home on the Grand Canal. The best part is it has an elevator that brings guests to and from the ground level to the upstairs where we were to have our run of the place.  Perfect for an aging dog and her aging family.

With the aches and pains that a 65th birthday may be inclined to manifest on any given day, it was still the Labradoodle that sent us in to a panic mode. It seemed the elevator for some unknown reason appeared to be off limits since the new management company had taken over. Our fourteen year old furry-family-four-legger was simply not going to endure climbing steps to the second floor every time a pee or pooh was required. Even our own anticipated walks for Balboa Bars (famous hand-dipped ice cream bars exclusive to the area) and the parade around town to self-judge the winners of the best decorated homes for Halloween would be all we could expect the good nature in all of us to endure. After all, this was to be a celebratory long weekend, not bootcamp!

Please be reminded that my Mom had been planning my birthday celebration for some time. I honestly think the first roll of my eyes came at least six or seven  months earlier when she asked if we should get a limo and invite a few friends to Ruth Chris’ in Pasadena for a fabulous meal in their private room to celebrate my birthday.

“Mom!” I remember saying at the time …”It’s not until October!” Followed by “But hey, who doesn’t like tacos? Maybe we should just invite some friends over and party in your backyard? We can hire a taco bar for on the patio. It will be fun.” The initial sense I got was it could work.

Thoughts of taco trucks went by the wayside as I began formulating a new plan to host an event at one of our favorite little Italian spots in the Valley. How about if we did it on a night they had their big band playing? I could feel Mom’s doubt seeping in like a thick fog followed by the most dramatic of replies; “Well…if that’s what you re-e-e-e-ally want…I guess…” voice fading as Dad looked relieved to hear at least it wouldn’t be at their house. But if that’s what I re-e-e-e-ally wanted, I was sure he’d be on board with that too.

Mom came up with a brilliant idea a couple of months later to rent the home we had stayed in a couple of years earlier.  The dog enjoyed it, Dad enjoyed it. Mom tolerated it. I enjoyed all of it. So off we went to Balboa Island and our beautiful home for our celebration. Our first evening was planned with my favorite meal being made fresh once we arrived (after cocktails of course).

The check-in instructions had arrived earlier in the week and we again wondered at the no elevator language that was included. But alas, this crack management team (sarcasm isn’t even the word) assured us they were on it and indeed the elevator would be available. A-ha! Are you sensing where this is going?

The point I’d like to make here is this; everyone made special efforts to accommodate one another for the purposes of insuring we all had the best time imaginable. My boss had reluctantly agreed to my time off. I was leaving my elderly friend earlier in the week than normal. My parents had juggled their schedules and already had spent thousands (it’s true) of dollars and time on securing our vacation. There were other incidentals as well too numerous to list but nonetheless appreciated. Plants were watered, newspapers and mail stopped, neighbors on notice, the car washed and gassed, we headed down the road. Traffic was heavy but we still managed in about two hours.

Here’s one of my favorite thoughts ironically speaking. Not wanting to be rude and checking in before the instructed time of 4:00 PM, we went to a nearby restaurant and had drinks and a couple of appetizers in the bar at about 3:00 PM. And no, drinks did not take the sting out of discovering the elevator was locked up tight and no key in sight. Still hopeful. No problem. We climb up the narrow and steep front stairway to cozy up for our call in to the aforementioned management company. Thank God they answer and it doesn’t go to voicemail. Always a gamble. But first, Doodle-bug has to pee. Off we go down the alley way, bag in hand for the larger jobs.

Back to the stairway where I hoist our Furry-Fig what I believe to be 20 or so stairs. No easy task even without a 60 pound lump of love and fur in your face. Neither one of us is amused.

Back to the task at hand. The call is placed. Maintenance is alerted. Discoveries are made. The elevator key has been known to be unavailable for a few days. “Oh-I’m sorry, I don’t know why in the hell your management company didn’t reveal that to us before we made the two plus hour drive to get there this day. Perhaps they didn’t understand when we repeatedly told them the elevator was ESSENTIAL to our stay. We are told a locksmith may be the only option. Yeah, like these folks can pull that off while we wait? I don’t think so. Okay then, they have a comparable property which might suffice. We look at said property on the screen of my iPhone. I think we all were hoping for some magical way to rectify our situation, so we agree to relocate and hoist Libby back down the stairs. We all get back in the car and head to our new but nearby relocation destination.

“I’m not getting out of the car and either is Libby” came the notification from the back seat when we arrived.  “You and your Mother can go in” came the follow up instructions.

Neighboring doors began to open and stare as we pulled in to a parking spot on the street. It was now over six hours since any of us had really eaten. As my Mom and I walked into the front room of this new place and glanced around, we both knew we would not enjoy walking up there. It took no time for us to be joining my Dad in the car and were back on the phone with management.

Our options at this point were not looking too good. In management’s infinite wisdom their policy is anyone who can do anything much more than take a reservation over the phone or computer goes home at 6:00 PM. The explanation was everyone should be checked in by 4:00 PM and would have had the next 2 hours to bring up any issues.  God forbid something major should happen to a property beyond that time.  I’m not buying it.  Yet well past that hour we were told little could be resolved.  The rep could only assure us that maintenance had noted activity on the elevator matter if we wanted to keep the faith and hang in there until further notice. Believe me when I tell you that there was no one that thought there was even a prayer of that happening.

“What about a hotel that takes dogs?” the young man on the phone then suggested.

Apparently he had the authority to arrange that. Thanks but no thanks. With a car full of our stuff and food and 3 of us and a dog to unload into a hotel room?  Even then with only the hope of being able to pack back up again and get into the original house the next day to unpack yet again to enjoy the remaining two days? Ummm…ye…uh…NO!

What did we do you ask? We came home. As the 710 freeway came to a complete halt at 8:30 PM that same night, we sat and marveled at the birthday spent on the highways and byways of Southern California.

Part way home we stopped for the dog’s comfort and in that process an opened bottle of red wine to be used for sauce came crashing out of the back of my SUV. I caught it as most of the red wine splashed from the bottle onto my slacks. It got the attention of a nearby homeless man just outside the 7-Eleven. My Mom asked me what I intended to do with the rest of the wine. I think the homeless man wondered the same thing. The smell was starting to surround us. With three swallows I drank it as I walked the now empty bottle to the trash can.

Funny, but when we finally got back home that night, no one was hungry. I don’t think any of us, including the dog, were happier to be home. The best birthday present ever? Home!

We unpacked. The chocolate birthday cake went back in the fridge. I went home and unpacked. We all woke up in our own wonderful beds and not needing an elevator. Disappointing? Sure! But fortunately it doesn’t end there. We spent the weekend making up for it. I had my planned birthday dinner the next night. The sparkling wine, a gift from work, began the culinary evening. The food and company were delightful! The next day the weather was beautiful and we ate lobster on the pier in Santa Monica. The day after that?  Oh my God, we all went out for a wonderful evening and dinner together. My Mom even included my dearest friend. After we came home and finally did some damage to that chocolate cake!  Where do you think we went for dinner? Ruth Chris’ in Pasadena! Just like Mom suggested those many months ago.

Thank you to my wonderful parents for their love and support and the gifts and their ability to make lemonade out of lemons. It is with much love and thanks to them I write this at the ripe old age of 65. It’s going to be a heck of a year, I can tell.

Love, Always,
Deb aka “Decidedly Debra


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