Thursday, July 12, 2012

California Randomness

On Monday of this week, Trey had to be in San Diego to take a deposition.  While making plane & hotel reservations, he mentioned to me that, were I interested, I could join him & since we'd be in the area, we could visit the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.  What follows, Reagan, is a pictorial of your parents' first visit to Ronald Reagan's Presidential Library (& various other locales in CA that pale in comparison).  A special note of thanks to our overly litigious society for your role in making this trip possible.  

We flew out last Thursday.  Our journey began where all promising ventures commence, Monroe Regional Airport.  It's looking clean & shiny & new these days . . .

We knew our travel experience had begun when we found ourselves forced to watch CNN as we waited to be called to board.  

Plane fun:  Trey pointing out the illustrations on the safety card located in the seat back in front of him. 

Trey then told me that my bag wasn't properly stowed under the seat in front of me, at which point I inquired as to whether our seats on the flight from Houston to San Diego were together:

We deplaned in Houston &, once we'd located the gate for our connecting flight, had about five minutes to use the bathroom.  I quickly bought a bottle of water & a banana to sustain me on the nearly three hour flight.  Our seats were together, but in an emergency exit row, which meant more leg room.  Before takeoff, we had to give verbal affirmation that we understood the emergency procedures before we could stretch our legs.  I have a vague knowledge of the emergency exit procedures, but I wanted to tell the nice fight attendant that, should there be an emergency, I'd likely not remember a thing about the proper way to proceed & mainly agreed to sit in the emergency exit row for the extra leg room.   

About to land in Ontario, CA:

Everyone crossing their fingers that their bag makes an appearance on the conveyor belt:

Bags secured, we stepped outside into the California air for the first time . . . *ahhhhhhhhhhhh*  

It was 66 degrees . . . 

We drove to Glendale, where we stayed Thursday & Friday nights.  Around 9:30, we sat down at a Cheesecake Factory to eat dinner at what was, to our stomachs, 11:30PM.  My water & banana long gone, I ate heartily & then ordered some decaf to enjoy while Trey ate his cheesecake.

When we parked in the underground garage at the hotel, Trey told me to take a pic of the plates on this crookedly parked Mercedes should any damage be done to our rental car.  It's super fun to travel with an attorney!

When I travel, I become acutely aware of my need for food, water, coffee (yes, it's a need), & a restroom.  You don't think much about these things when you're at home & they're all right there.  Trey doesn't eat breakfast, or drink coffee, or drink much water, & he can go a long time without needing a bathroom . . . sometimes, this causes issues when we're traveling.  

On the food/coffee front, Friday morning went extremely well.  We didn't have anywhere to be until 11:30, so we found a Starbucks where I enjoyed free wireless Internet, a latte, & this:  

We sat outside, looking all chic & urban.  Trey read the paper while I spent time with my MacBook & shivered - yes!, shivered - when the breeze picked up.

We had lunch reservations at Spago in Beverly Hills at 11:30.  Spago is one of Wolfgang Puck's restaurants, but don't rush to eat there as they closed July 8th for a major remodel.  I believe they're set to reopen in the fall.   

Note the American Osetra Caviar appetizer:

And guess which price correlates with it:

I ordered Thai pasta with chicken & shrimp that was much cheaper, & contained no fish eggs, so a win/win:

And dessert:

And coffee:

Trey attempted to capture my dessert & coffee bliss:

We walked down Rodeo Drive after lunch.  I didn't go in any of the stores . . . there was no Ross, Target, or TJMaxx, & honestly, even if I had all the money in the world, I think I'd still enjoy digging through the racks at these stores.  Wait - I did go in a Crate & Barrel, because I knew they'd have a bathroom. 

A shot of the opulence:

Friday afternoon, we drove down the famed Mulholland Drive.  There are various spots you can stop & enjoy the view of Los Angeles.  

Behind me, at the top of the hill over my left shoulder, is the famous white "Hollywood" sign.

In addition to the Reagan Library, I insisted we go to Grauman's Chinese Theater, located on Hollywood Blvd.

Many of the older handprints are addressed to 'Sid,' as in Sid Grauman.

Jimmy Stewart:

Samuel L. Jackson:


Cary Grant: 

The first Mrs. Ronald Reagan:

Jack Nicholson: 

Clark Gable:

John Wayne:

Mel Gibson:

Clint Eastwood: 

And the reason I wanted to go to Grauman's . . . 

Hollywood Blvd. is a lot like Times Square in NYC (although I much prefer Times Square) - very touristy, a lot to see, a lot of activity, & perhaps the most arbitrary mix of people you'll ever encounter.  One main difference is the notable number of vagrants loitering about on Hollywood Blvd., some of them yelling nonsensically.  It was quite the odd juxtaposition - parents with young children in tow, pointing out various things of interest, passing right by a vagrant who was most likely either sleeping in the street or smoking, or smoking while begging for money.  With the exception of Beverly Hills, there were vagrants everywhere we went in CA, even in nice areas like the Gaslamp Quarter in San Diego where we spent the final two nights of our journey.    

We ate an early dinner Friday at a pizza place that was delicious.  I decided since I was on vacation I'd really treat myself & drink a real Coke.  You can imagine my glee when the waitress placed this on the table.  

Carbonation is beautiful.

We headed back toward Hollywood Blvd. after dinner to enjoy Cirque du Soleil at the Dolby Theater.  Formerly the Kodak Theater, this is where the Academy Awards have been held in recent years.  Outside the theater they have large pics of several stars accepting their Oscars.  I took this one in front of Jimmy Stewart's photo for my mom, who loves Jimmy Stewart.  

There is no photography in Cirque, but it was good.  I didn't love it as much as I love seeing a musical, but it was not bad entertainment.  The only downside is that, after watching the performers for two hours, you leave feeling like an overweight, uncoordinated, slug.  

Saturday was the big day.  When I woke up that morning, I was a bit giddy with excitement.  As giddy as I can be in the morning.  The drive to Simi Valley was beautiful (increasingly so after I had a cup of coffee from Chick-fil-A).

The Ronald Reagan Freeway, of course:

You drive into Simi Valley & are very much aware that you're in the bottom of a bowl, the valley, & then you turn off the main road & begin to climb a winding road that leads to his library.  I've never been to another presidential library, but I can't imagine a more perfect setting than this, or a more appropriate setting for the library, & final resting place, of the man who spoke so eloquently about the "shining city on hill."  I realize now I didn't take any pictures as we drove along the winding road & climbed to the top.  I suppose I was thinking.  The pictures wouldn't do it justice anyway. 

The portrait below greets you when you enter the building.  I almost started crying when I saw it.  I was young when Reagan was president; in fact, I was born about two weeks before he was elected in 1980.  Most of what I know about him, his life and his presidency, I've learned via reading, watching video footage, etc.  We're so fortunate that, thanks to technology, it's possible to practically relive modern events.  As you walk through his library, you relive his political career.  Trey & I paid a few dollars extra for the audio tour.  We were provided with an iPod & headphones that allowed us to hear audio that correlated with the various exhibits.  A great deal of the audio was Reagan himself.  It was a heady assault on the senses to spend hour after hour bombarded with pictures & video footage of him, often accompanied by his own words.  For a few hours, it was the 1980s, it was, as one of his better ad campaigns noted in 1984, "Morning in America Again," & no one had ever heard of Barack Obama.

So, here come the photos . . . 

His mother's Bible . . . used to swear him in in 1980 & 1984 (her handwritten notes are visible in the margins):

From his 1980 campaign:  

Collection of his favorite quotes, which he wrote out longhand & organized into this album:

One of his favorite quotes . . . I don't think even he could've imagined the extent to which government has grown, & liberty has receded, since he left office:

The mic from the "I am paying for this microphone" incident during the 1980 Republican primaries:

A photo op:

The suits he & Nancy wore at his 1980 inauguration: 

Speech cards he used while delivering his first inaugural address:

Oh that a president would utter these words today:

First visit from Margaret Thatcher:

Two plaques that sat on his desk . . . (this one reads "There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn't mind who gets the credit."):

(This one reads "It CAN be done."):

Suit he was wearing when he was shot.  The jacket was cut from his body at the hospital:

His X-ray:

Red sweater he wore when he left the hospital:

Letter to Brezhnev written shortly after Reagan's release from the hospital:

The plaque below explains that Reagan was irritated with the State Department's attempts to change his letter.  Reagan demanded his letter be sent, accompanied by the State Department's thoughts in a separate letter.  He was so awesome. 

Oval Office replica as it appeared during his time in office . . . interesting side note: Reagan insisted the replica be the exact size of the original, including the high ceiling, since it would provide many Americans an opportunity to experience the Oval Office they would otherwise never have.  His architects told him it wasn't possible to replicate the high ceiling, as it would ruin the roofline of his library.  Reagan told them that wasn't good enough, that if they couldn't go up, to go down, & so they did.  As you approach the replica, you walk down a ramp.

Nancy Reagan's guest book . . . the two signatures on this page are 'Charles' & 'Diana'

His plane (literally) . . . no photography allowed inside:

Taking a break on the terrace:

While we rested our feet, I drank a cup of coffee & ate the best fudge I have ever had.  It was dark chocolate with a little caramel & it was salted.  I know, it may sound odd, but it was amazing.  If you like to go to the movies & sit & eat chocolate with your popcorn, this is the same concept, only way, way better.

Reagan with one of his Supreme Court nominees, Antonin Scalia . . . oh that all public servants had the gumption & principle of these two men:

Statues of Reagan & Gorbachev:

INF Treaty signatures (Reagan's & Gorbachev's):

Speech notes he used June 12, 1987 at the Brandenburg Gate . . . 

This links to American Rhetoric's page on Reagan's remarks at the Brandenburg Gate.  The page includes the text of the speech as well as video.

Suit & tie he wore as he uttered the words General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate.   Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate.  Mr. Gorbachev - - Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

Shaking hands with "the boys of Point du Hoc" on June 6, 1984, the 40th anniversary of D-Day:

Reagan's remarks, italicized on the plague below . . . These are the boys of Point du Hoc.  These are the men who took the cliffs.  These are the champions who helped free a continent.  And these are the heroes who helped end a war. 

His post-presidency years:

A pair of his riding boots:

His hat:

A revolver the then president of Smith & Wesson sent Reagan.  It has the presidential seal as well as a picture of Reagan on it.    

His November 5, 1994 letter to the American people.  Don't ever read the actual text if you're already weepy:

Bush (the elder), Reagan, Carter, Ford, & Nixon in front of Reagan's library: 

The flag that draped his casket: 

The horn that was used to play Taps:

Condolence letter to Nancy from Margaret Thatcher:

Condolence letter to Nancy from Queen Elizabeth:

Flag that stood beside his casket while he lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda:

His riding boots used for the riderless horse during his processional in D.C.:

I vividly remember the events of the week following his death.  He died on a Saturday in June, & my mom, Jessa, & I were driving down to Destin to spend the week at the beach with my cousin Jennifer & my Aunts Donna & Kathy.  We ended up in front of the TV for much of the week, as scenes like this unfolded:

Below, a piece of the Berlin Wall that stands on the library's grounds near his tomb.  I've seen a piece of the Berlin Wall at a museum in D.C, but it's a bit different to see such an imposing piece of history standing feet from the grave of the man whose diligence & eternal optimism brought it down, freeing half a continent:

His final resting place:

The inscription on the wall reads "I know in my heart that man is good, that what is right will always eventually triumph, and there is purpose and worth to each and every life."

View from his tomb:

My pictures don't do it justice, & believe it or not, there's a lot there that I didn't take pictures of.  You should GO!  And if you do, let me know, because I want to go back.

Trey & I left Simi Valley, loaded down with T-shirts, & headed to Riverside, CA to spend the night at the Mission Inn.  Ronald & Nancy Reagan honeymooned at the Mission Inn, & numerous other presidents have stayed there.  I think Nixon got married there, but I don't care enough about Nixon to check a source for that.

View during dinner Saturday evening:

Trey & both ate the 'Prime Rib Buffet.'  I didn't eat any prime rib.  I stuck with chicken & a little fish so I'd have room to sample all the tiny desserts on the buffet . . . many tiny desserts make you just as sick as one large one, it turns out:

Note the 'mission bell' . . . Welcome to the hotel California . . . 

Sunday morning was a good morning.  There's many things I could tell you about the Mission Inn that impressed me, but none so special as the inclusion of this gem in each guest room:

Riverside is a neat town.  We walked around a bit Sunday before hitting the road.

The Mission Bell in the daylight:

Casey's Cupcakes, Winner of Cupcake Wars, is located adjacent to the Mission Inn:

The shop is really cute.  The sickness that follows eating the half dozen cupcakes Trey bought us is not.

One of Trey's stated goals for the trip was to eat at an In & Out burger, so we stopped for lunch at one on Sunday.  For all the hoopla over this fast food chain, I wasn't overwhelmed.  

On our drive to San Diego (remember, the reason for the trip was Trey's deposition in San Diego), we made a few stops.  

Torrey Pines, where, as Trey pointed out, Scott Peterson was arrested for the murder of his wife & unborn son.

Lighthouse at the top:

We stayed at the U.S. Grant in San Diego.  I would recommend it.  There's an outdoor mall within walking distance, & by outdoor mall, I mean Macy's, Nordstrom, Gap, etc., etc., & a Panera Bread. 

Oh, & there's a theater . . . 

I had planned to order breakfast in the room Monday morning while Trey was busy with his deposition, but I opted to walk to Panera Bread, which was a great call on my part.  Their oatmeal is amazing . . .

. . . and their coffee is always hot & fresh.  See the steam?!

I spent a lot of time at the outdoor mall Monday, but, restricted by the plane ride home, I didn't buy much.

Monday night we ate dinner at Croce's, a restaurant owned by the widow of singer Jim Croce.  I had an amazing spinach & fig salad for dinner, but at this point I'd reached my breaking point of missing Reagan & didn't really enjoy myself.  My mind was elsewhere, packing my bags, making our flights, landing in Monroe,  holding my baby . . . 

Below is the only picture I took of the establishment; you can see a large mural of Jim Croce on the back wall.  If you didn't know, Jim Croce was a singer who died in a plane crash in Louisiana after leaving a concert.  Some of his songs are quite nice ("I've Got a Name," "Time in a Bottle").  Naturally, Trey & I ate dinner at his widow's restaurant the night before flying home to Louisiana.  Yeah, I know, sometimes I think too much.  I can laugh about it now, tucked in my bed at home. 

Tuesday we traveled.  Everything went well; we got up in time to eat breakfast at Panera Bread, made our flight to Houston, ate during our layover, & made our flight to Monroe.  It was nice that everything was on schedule.  If at any point it had appeared that something was amiss, I'd have broken down in tears.  There was a rather fussy infant on the plane from San Diego to Houston, but, honestly, it didn't bother me.  I sat there reading my book & wishing I had my toddler in my lap. 

Random thoughts from our travels . . . can someone check into opening a Panera Bread locally?  I love these places.   

Also, California is not for me (but I guess I knew this before I went, given that the good people of CA chose Barbara Boxer & Dianne Feinstein to represent their interests in the U.S. Senate).  We saw few churches, several billboards advertising the Church of Scientology, & road signs informing drivers of where they might recharge their electric car (eye roll).  I kept asking Trey Aren't they broke? Daily I see news stories about how broke CA is, city after city declaring bankruptcy.  I wanted to ask the people loitering in the streets, frightening children, smoking, & in most cases looking healthy enough to work, Don't you know where you are?  I am certain the governments of both CA & the U.S. will send you a check.  Hence, the broke issue.  It's possible, of course, that some of these loiterers are in fact receiving checks, which I guess they subsidize with their begging while enjoying the pleasant California weather instead of being cooped up inside working somewhere.  I know the feds are busy writing checks because in the month of June alone, 85,000 people went on disability, compared to 80,000 jobs that were created.  Hence, the broke issue.  All right, *end of rant.*

America is a different place than she was when Ronald Reagan was president, & I imagine the same can be said about the state of California.  For one, both the U.S. & CA are now being eaten alive by debt.  There were several elderly men & women at the Reagan Library whose name tags indicated their status as volunteers.  I would've liked to talk with some of them.  I'm guessing they likely voted for Reagan, first as governor of California, & then as President of the United States.  Maybe they're just bored, but I think there's likely more to their decision to volunteer their time at Reagan's Library.  If it wasn't for my Reagan, I'd consider volunteering there next summer myself, & not just so I could get more of the salted dark chocolate fudge.  

Electorates are interesting to me (yeah, I know . . .  *nerd alert*).  It's confounding that a nation that twice elected Ronald Reagan president is in the unfortunate position we find ourselves in today.  We might never see a national election as sweeping as Reagan's were; had they existed in 1980 & 1984, the 24 hour cable folks would've been in bed by ten o'clock.  Nobody needed a calculator (or the Supreme Court) to figure out who won.  Oh look, Mondale did win a state . . .  I guess the simple answer is that we're not the same nation, & when I saw those volunteers, I saw a glimpse of who we once were, & it was nice.  That's likely why they're there too - to remember, & to tell the many visitors who pass through about Ronald Reagan.

The American electorate has changed, but it seems politicians have too.  Regardless of the letter after their name, many of them lack moral fiber.  They are, with very few exceptions, uninspiring men & women.  I was overwhelmed as I walked through Reagan's library; he was phenomenal, as a man, a politician, & the American president, & he casts a shadow so long that no American politician has come close to stepping out of it since Reagan left office over two decades ago.  

America needs leadership; she's thirsting for it.  The once bright, shining city on a hill is wilting.  Those old enough to remember, or wise enough to study history, know what leadership looks like, what it sounds like, what it acts like, because America, & the world, basked in it for eight years.  The media heralds Reagan as the Republican standard, but that is an inaccurate observation.  Reagan is the standard.  He didn't win over Republicans by towing their party line; he earned nearly unanimous respect from all those who watched him make hard decisions that sometimes were unpopular, even among his own advisors.  He planted seeds that he knew needed to be sewn, & America, & the rest of the world, continues to reap the benefits of his principled work.

What is great about America is that only in America could there be a Ronald Reagan.  Get to work, fathers & mothers of America; we need your principled sons & daughters.  Read the Bible with your children.  Maybe one day, your personal Bible will be on display in your child's presidential library because your child placed a hand on it while swearing to protect & defend the Constitution, & then proceeded to shock the world by doing exactly that.    


1 comment:

  1. Really enjoyed the pictures! Brought back many memories!! Do wish Reagan was still President!!