Apart from Las Vegas, I think the only other city I travel to the most would be San Diego, California. I’ve been making yearly trips out that way for over ten years now- so much in fact that I can get around without a GPS/Google Maps, have my “regular” places to eat, shop and stay- and know what things to avoid. While a lot of my familiarity comes from simply exploring the city a little more each time I’m there- a good portion of it also comes from the friends I have/had living in the area over the years- all of whom never hesitated to introduce me to something or someplace new whenever I visited.
Last Wednesday, after making my way through parts of the Mojave and smaller communities in Nevada and Southern California- I rolled into the Gaslamp Quarter before it got dark and checked into one of my favorite Downtown hotels- Hotel Z. I’d last stayed in one of their Pineapple decor-covered rooms last Spring while Kelsey and I were in town for a couple of days to catch a White Lies show and visit with her mother- so it seemed only fitting I return there. The staff is so unbelievably friendly and helpful, and the rooms are clean, quiet and cozy.
After I’d slept off the drive and Jack in The Box mini tacos and fries- Thursday was bittersweet, first spent with Kelsey’s mother, grandmother, brother, sister-in-law and niece and nephew where we had a socially distanced lunch and spent a few hours catching up, getting reacquainted and sharing stories/memories until it was time for me to make the short trek to Carlsbad where Andrew and the kids were staying with Andrew’s parents (who’d also driven in from Nevada) at a family friend’s beautiful beach house. It was there I watched the most spectacular sunset and the late night surfing/swimming enthusiasts.
Friday was my last full day/night in San Diego since I was heading back to Massachusetts on Saturday evening- and with Andrew golfing and the kids spending the day by the water- I opted to do a little shopping and overeating at one of my favorite spots in the city- Ocean Beach. Again, the last time I’d been in the area was with Kelsey- so it was nice to be back and walk the pier and the shoreline and get the best double cheeseburger in North America from Hodad’s. They were offering takeout only, which suited me just fine- since I went back to my car to eat in the air conditioning and watch the waves crash in for a little while.
I also stopped by one of my favorite boutiques in California, Miss Match. The staff are unbelievably sweet, the inside of the store is adorable and immaculate- and I’ve found so many great pieces there over the years. During this trip, I splurged on a bright tie-dye shirt with puffed shoulders- and a thin, gauze-like pink and white striped cardigan that I think is going to get a lot of wear as the Fall approaches.
After wrapping up at the beach and before heading back to my room, I made sure to stop at Pokez on E Street to grab a couple of tacos- as is tradition, of course. I can’t go to San Diego and *not* grab something to eat at Pokez.
Before returning my rental car and checking in for my flight on Saturday night- I spent a few more wonderful hours in Carlsbad with Andrew, the kids, his parents- and Kelsey’s father- who lives in the San Diego area and came by to visit. We shared a couple of drinks, ate pizza, talked sports, and I managed to even out my tan-lines (just a little bit) by lounging in the sun.
The hardest part, as was expected- was having to say goodbye and come home. I didn’t want to leave.
I’m scheduled to return to Las Vegas near the end of October to both celebrate Kelsey’s birthday and reflect on her extraordinary life with her rescheduled memorial service- and although I know it’s going to be sad, and difficult- I’m looking forward to seeing Andrew and the kids again so soon. I hope that I’ll be able to see them more often from now on moving forward.
Overall, I had an incredible time- and it was worth facing my fears of traveling during a pandemic to be able to get in quality time with loved ones given how difficult these past few months have been. This visit was cathartic and therapeutic and exactly what I needed to help me get through my grief- and I’m so thankful for Kelsey and Andrew’s families for being so accommodating and kind to me while I was there.
I love them all very, very much.