I do not look like Halle Berry, and it shows. Part 1

Chasity texts me and tells me, “Do you realize we’ve never taken a plane ride together?” This doesn’t mean anything except, I’ve known her since 8th grade. I flew to Ireland to see her while she was in school. We went to Europe together. Except, I went with my [miserable] ex-husband, and she went with her Irish flatmate at the time. I met her everywhere across Europe. We’ve taken car rides together. Once we planned a trip to Chicago for our birthdays [we are two weeks apart in October] and I made the mistake of thinking we could save money by bringing a group. I invited a mutual friend and my current husband. This would have been safe, except our mutual friend invited a friend who promptly ruined trips for us all for a while.

So when Chasity and I are booking flights to San Francisco for the middle of June, it’s kind of a big deal. There will be no surprise tag-alongs. For the first time in our adult lives, we are comfortable enough to spend money because we want to. We pick plane rides that are convenient and not at 4 AM or 11 PM or with two or three layovers just to save a couple hundred bucks. We pick hotels that are walking distance from the beach, or on site for an event. We do not make decisions to “Save Money.”

So many years we’ve spent planning trips and daydreaming of exotic places we will go. Chasity’s friend is getting married in California, and affording me the opportunity to be a plus one, is our first real chance at carrying out our daydreams. It’s not Bali, or Transylvania, but it’s cheaper and easier, and honestly, I think I only have 4 or 5 days left in me for travel this year.

Let me back up a little: Last summer, Chasity reached out to me with a question. She was invited to her friend’s first wedding …in India. Her husband couldn’t go and she debated inviting her mom, but settled on inviting me because her mother in a foreign country was a question mark. I sympathize with this. Traveling with my mother is difficult enough, I couldn’t imagine taking her overseas to a country that didn’t speak English or have standardized public bathrooms.

I tell Chasity, I would love an excuse to go to India. I was selling my home, I had just got a cushy job at a non-profit with liberal vacation days. I could actually pull it off. Fast forward to the fall, when I accept an offer on my house and must renovate a very small apartment and move out of my hoarder home in less than 60 days, Chasity calls and tells me, if we still plan to go to India in February, we should make the decision by the end of the month. I am soul-crushingly honest with her, I’m not sure I’m into the idea anymore. The cushy non-profit let me go due to “budgetary reasons.” I am stressed about the home inspections, and the buyers backing out, and the moving of our possessions and getting settled in an unfinished place and I don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel yet.

I think she sympathizes and tells me, we can still go to the American portion of the wedding in California in June. And if I can’t commit to that, she feels comfortable inviting her mother as a plus one or going alone. I decide I can commit and would really enjoy a nice and easy trip in June. Plus, we can still dress up in Indian attire and join in the cultural aspects.

These plans are also delayed and put off because plane tickets are a bazillion dollars more than we expected and how long will we stay and where do you buy Indian clothing–no where. You buy it online and gamble the fit, or you don’t get it. Almost a month before our departing flight, we decide to give consignment shops a chance. She buys a colorful summer dress and I buy a animal print robe looking dress. We also buy *somewhat* matching vintage sweaters because the weather informs us it will something like 50-60 degrees when we land, a fact we are both secretly disappointed in. My sweater has two adorable pandas on it, holding a big red heart.

Less than a week before the wedding, I decide to do something I have always wanted to do. I cut off all my hair. I ask Josh to do it, and he decides to do it on our front porch in the rain. I do not actually support this suggestion, but I’m so excited to see myself with something between a pixie cut and an edgy buzz cut that I agree to it. It takes way too long because Josh is adorably detail oriented and even decides his electric razor is too old. He stops in the middle of my buzz cut and goes out and buys a new one.

When all my hair is in a coffee tin, I look in the mirror and am shocked at how boyish I look. I do not look like Haley Berry and it shows on my face.

I post a photo online with a gentle warning that essentially reads “Yes I cut my hair, yes it may have been a mistake, I might be having a crisis. No, I don’t want to talk about it.” I receive some encouraging compliments and settle on the fact that at least now, I don’t have to pack shampoo to California.

My husband drops me off at Chasity’s house the night before our flight. We fly out at the reasonable time of 9:40 AM but it is out of Cincinnati so I didn’t want to worry about getting to her house, on top of getting to the airport. Josh and I kiss and say good bye a half dozen times and then I bribe Chasity’s dogs to love me and let me enter their home. I curl up in a chair in Chasity’s living room and we wind down, chatting over our plans and expectations for the next few days. We both brag about fitting everything we packed into one single personal-item-sized backpack, because, this, the ability to take up additional space on a plane, we will not pay for.

We wake up around 5:30 the next morning. Chasity makes me toast and jelly–may I just stop here to say how gd good that toast was? Legitimately, I haven’t stopped thinking about it. I asked Chasity and she informs me the toast is croissant bread. She confesses it’s overpriced but even her frugal husband buys it because it is so good. She’s right. I make a mental note to look for and buy some for myself once I make it home. Anyways– and we are on the road by 6:30.

The drive is a little over an hour to the airport. Traffic is fine. Security is fine. We are in the terminal and selecting our breakfast by 8 AM. We have made a deal, Chasity and I. I paid for the plane tickets and the rental car. So far Chasity has paid for the accommodations and intends to pay for all the food. We are thinking this will even out, but what it really means to me, is I don’t have to think about how much food costs because Chasity is the one who will pull out the plastic for it. So we start our trip off of with gluttonous, overpriced specialty bagel sandwiches, the contents of which drip down my hands as I bit into it.

We are flying with Breeze Airlines. It was a direct flight to San Francisco and it was $200 cheaper. It is a new airline modeled much like Frontier. Chasity and I both look suspiciously at the plane through the gate window but don’t say aloud, that we hope it doesn’t crash due to some cost cutting maintenance practices.

The flight with Breeze is wonderful actually. They are a bit over concerned about the size of our bags, but I’m sure employees are just trying to do their job. Either way, we’ve nailed the exact dimensions of a TSA personal item and it’s just so nice to know that no one can lose our luggage but us.

I don’t actually remember what we talked about on the plane ride, but somehow the topic of Yosemite comes up. I’ve been and Chasity hasn’t, so I’ve talked her into going to Big Sur as soon as we land, so that the next day, we can attempt the 3+ hour drive to Yosemite instead. When our flight lands, we find our rental car and I sneak a cigarette in the parking garage before we set out towards Highway 1. We are in an older but trusty little Honda Civic. It doesn’t even have a back up camera. I have flash backs of Chasity and I in college together, when one night we drove almost to Tennessee just to watch the sunrise over the Smokies, but I got a critical and controlling text from my then boyfriend [eventual ex-husband] and I turned around and took her back home.

There is no discouraging texts this time. Not only is Josh all for me traveling and getting to California, there is no cell service. Zero.

The navigation I began in the parking garage of the airport remains the sole lifeline to get us down the coast. Chasity is able to get some service around Monterrey to find us lunch, but we abandon the spotty navigation when we see a food truck by a pier. Our first meal in California is street tacos for me, and Sriracha Chicken Tenders for Chasity. Do I have a beer? I don’t think I have a beer.

We are encouraging each other, the world is our oyster. We have all the time. We are in no hurry. If we were in a hurry, it wouldn’t be the vacation we both need. It is maybe noon in California time so we overpay for parking to grant us the time to walk the pier and look for seals. We don’t find them, but we do spot a stingray and an otter. We watch it dive down and pop back up with food that is eaten off it’s own belly.

Confession. I have a bit of a misconception of Big Sur. Josh got to go to Big Sur a few years prior and he thought so highly of it, he made it seem like it was a place to go. Like a singular place. Not a stretch of places. I have a beach in mind. A place I can stand and sit and linger, and just stare in awe.

Chasity and I have our bellies full and are back in the car following google’s directions. We admire and scoff at the million (billion?) dollar homes in Carmel and then all of a sudden there is the ocean and the rugged cliffs and the road right there between them. There are scenic vistas, and turn offs, and bridges. There is fog and waves, and birds, and only a few other tourists. It is so gd pretty. Beautiful. Cathartic. No one told me about how pretty the drive to Big Sur would be. We pull over, get out and take photos and videos and scurry back to our rental as many times and we want to until finally our navigation takes us off the main highway down a curvy road toward a beach. I’m thinking this is our destination, and we have just been fortunate to enjoy the long drive down.

The small side road turns out to be a private road, blocked off to anyone other an residents. We ask the ‘attendant’ about the public beach that our google navigation is aimed for, and he shrugs. Tells us we should come back on the weekends when the road is open to the public. We don’t bother telling him this is not an option.

We drive back to the main road, without so much as a finger gesture from the man for another way to get to “Big Sur.” I’m fearing we flew all this way and drove all this way and will not get to see Big Sur. We have no service still and because the navigation ended, we are left with driving until we spot a nature park with a gift shop. I try to sneak a peak at a map that I refuse to buy, only to find out we have been in Big Sur all along. Big Sur is the area, not a place. I feel slightly dumb as I look for roads to the beach, or other beaches, or any of the places we have on our “maybe list”.

The maps are useless, as expected and Chasity buys some weird tea drink so we don’t feel bad about not buying a map. She is telling me about a waterfall that empties into the sea but can’t remember the name of it, when suddenly, I am standing in a corner of the gift shop looking at a calendar and right there is a photo of the waterfall: McWay Falls.

I return to the maps and find it only a few miles away. Suddenly, Chasity’s service is back and we have the compounded comfort of a destination and navigation again.

McWay falls is at the end of a short hike. It sneaks up on us, peaking out from behind a cliff side. We are limited to the trail, but can look down on a picturesque beach spotted only with birds and soft waves. There are no people and no trash, and I decide I like it this way, despite how much I want to stand underneath the waterfall with my toes in the pacific ocean.

Now it is getting late. The time change is taking its effect on us and we both feel content enough to head to our first hotel back in Santa Cruz. There are a couple stops we plan to make, but of course we have no cell service again and miss them all. When we make it back to the Monterrey area, service returns and we decide to squeeze in one last beach before we call it a night. Pebble Beach is all we have to go on. Sounds like a lovely little beach doesn’t it?

When we arrive, there is another gated entrance and I curse as I pull up to the attendant, prepared for him to send us off. I roll down my window and greet him. The first words out of his mouth are, “Hello! Are you here for the tour?”

I am so surprised by his response. I just say yes. “Yes, we are here for the tour.” Chasity is silent in the passenger seat. I ask the man how much, and he tells me for two, $11. I look at Chasity, she looks at me. She hands me her credit card and the attendant steps away to get our tickets and brochures.

I look back at Chasity, “What did we just pay for?”

We both burst into laughter and I can barely contain it when the man comes back with the card, the receipt, and directions to begin the tour. I’m so tired, and so shocked about our equal acceptance of whatever just happened that I don’t hear any of it. When I pull the car away from the gate, Chasity and I can’t stop laughing long enough to discuss what way we are supposed to go to begin the tour.

Eventually, our laughter dies down to the occasional involuntary chuckle. I am following signs for the “17 mile tour” and Chasity is reading the brochure. There are numbered stops. It looks residential, and ends in a golf course. We have no fucking idea why we are still taking to the tour, taking the recommended stops, and reading the history of this moderately affluent gated neighborhood.

This turns out to be my favorite memory. Right in the middle of poor technology and mistaken expectations and impulsive acquiescence based on exhaustion, embarrassment and decades of faking it until we made it. We see cypress groves, a beach of pebbles, and best of all, seals. There is an island off the coast and we use my binoculars to admire fat seals passed out in the nooks and crannies surrounded by chattering birds and their bird shit painted on the rock surface like melted wax art.

End of Day One.


Leave a Reply