It is September 1, 2018. Which means it is six weeks since I said to myself I was going to write about my birthday, in July, as a means to catch you up on my adventures in LA.
I’ve started numerous times, and each time the post would get longer and longer. I’d find myself overwhelmed as I attempted to put in so many details of the goings on in my life, not only what I was doing around July 23rd, but everything else I’ve been up to in the months since I’ve written. And as I would drown in the details, I’d surface for air and abandon what I’d put down thus far with the intention to return another day.
So today I am going to restrict myself to my birthday and actually complete this post and share it. Today!
I’ve had some wonderful birthdays. There were the years that were extravagant, like being kidnapped to Las Vegas to see Mamma Mia on the stage on my birthday eve, George Carlin on the actual day, and Elton John to round off the weekend. And beautiful parties by the lake with dear friends. Cider on the patio in Ireland, and Mudslides in Hawaii when I was a flight attendant with fun crews. Some more intimate, like breakfast of cupcakes and special gifts from my sweetheart to support my creative side.
My sweetheart had photo shoots scheduled in Colorado so we knew he would not be here for the actual day. However, we kicked off the celebration together in early July when he came to visit. An entire day in Santa Monica on the 4th, enjoying the scene, and taking it moment by moment. Nowhere specific to be.
Also during his visit we hung out at my friends’ new coffee shop, Bixby Joe in Long Beach, then had dinner with them. And though he has no interest in the movie, we spent a hot afternoon at The Grove at a Mamma Mia 2 Here We Go Again promo event because, well, it’s July, my birthday month. And, well, ABBA.
This birthday was different than any other. I’ve had past years where I would worry and fret over what plans I would have. What would I do and who would I be celebrating with. Regardless, I am a Leo, and my birthday would be made special in some way! However, having moved to California a matter of months ago, I wasn’t sure how I was going to celebrate it. Though I have some wonderful friends here, this town is really so spread out that it is a big deal to get together with people from different areas of LA.
Early in July, my roommate Kristina, who has a crazy-busy lifestyle as she holds down three jobs, mentioned we could perhaps do something together if her schedule allowed. I was grateful for the gesture; however, my birthday was on a Monday, and the beginning of the week is usually nuts for her, so I was ready in my mind that she might not be available.
I told her I would love to go dancing. She immediately mentioned several places that would be fun. The planner in me was of course relieved. We didn’t know exactly where we were going to go, but I knew I was going to be doing something…hopefully.
A few days later we were chatting and discovered she has roller skates and I have roller blades. We discussed going skating together sometime. I told her I’d always wanted to skate by the beach. She got the fabulous idea of us going to Venice Beach on my birthday. I’d heard of the infamous Venice Beach and seen it in movies growing up, and it was on my wish list, so I got excited at the thought—we would go skating on the path along the beach and get dinner and drinks on the boardwalk after.
We both knew there were several things that could put a kink in our plan. If I received an opportunity to work on that day, I could not afford to turn it down. And her Mondays are very busy, so we’d have to see how the day went.
One thing I could count on though, was the release of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again the week before, a great way to kick off the weekend of celebration. A huge ABBA fan (since the 70’s), and no secret, a fan of Meryl (though I knew her presence was minimal in the sequel) as well as Christine Baranski and Julie Walters, of course I had bought my ticket to opening night. So on that Thursday evening, I was excited to be sitting in the ArcLight Theater, where I’d specifically picked to see the movie since it is actually in Hollywood.
I bought a large popcorn, and peanut M&Ms (hey, it was my birthday, and yes, I mix them together!) and found my seat and settled in for the ABBA extravaganza on a Greek island. I absolutely loved it. I laughed out loud along with others, I danced in my seat, and at times I cried. As the credits rolled and the lights came up, and most others stood up and headed out, I stayed glued to my seat. I always watch the credits all the way through out of respect for all the crew who worked to bring the movie to life. And as I sat there this time, bursting with emotion, one thought came to mind. I don’t want to leave. I wanted to see it again. So that is exactly what I did.
After the little treat tag scene after the credits (if you left, yep, you missed it!), I went and used the washroom, then headed to the ticket counter. It was a 9:30PM showing, did I want to stay that late? (I’m laughing to myself right now as I even type that. Of course I did.)
Brimming with elation at the experience I’d just had in the theater in Hollywood, caught up in the emotion of being in LA where I now live, the reality that I’m not getting any younger, and heck, I still had popcorn left, I purchased a ticket to the later show.
As I stepped away from the counter, two women who’d been in line behind me informed the guy at the ticket booth they’d just seen Mamma Mia 2 and were going to watch it again, too! I loved that I wasn’t alone in my reaction to the movie and that these two women were also inspired to see it again immediately.
I felt the same way the second time watching it. As a matter of fact, I’ve had the same experience all seven times I’ve seen Mamma Mia 2. Yes, you read that correctly. Seven times. And as I type this and listen to the soundtrack I’m wishing I could go again today to see it.
I love Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. It’s not for everyone, I understand that, but it is so what I need right now in my life. It is fun. It is joyful. It has laugh out loud moments. It has tearful moments. I’ve described it as the movie that Meryl deserved the first one to have been that it was not.
After the second showing, I came out of the theater into the night and went to the parking garage, then headed back to my apartment beaming as bright as the glorious moonlight and neon that surrounded me.
My friend Liz, who I met doing background work, posted on Facebook when I ‘checked in’ at the theater before the first viewing asking if I wanted to see it again the next day. Heck, yes I did!
And that’s exactly what happened. She invited another fabulous lady, and the three of us went to a screening of it Friday evening. And her friend had the same reaction I did and said she understood why I’d gone immediately after to watch it again the night before. Walking through the lobby afterward, we saw a doorway in the cinema that had the next screening of Mamma Mia 2 posted above it, we looked at each other mischievously like young school girls, and veered into the dark theater as the previews were playing and sat in empty seats. Yup. I was seeing it for the fourth time in 24 hours. And I loved it just as much.
The weekend came, I looked forward as my birthday arrived, whatever it might bring.
Monday, July 23rd, my actual birthday, I didn’t book any work, so what I felt like doing during the day was hanging out at home binge-watching the show Nashville and taking care of a few administrative things on my to-do list. I didn’t know if any plans for later in the day would work out.
Halfway through the day, Kristina took a break from work as she wisely does most every day and we did a yoga workout. She commented that her work day was going surprisingly easy and suspected she’d be able to finish up in time to go skating as we’d hoped to.
Turns out she was able to complete what she had to and around 5 o’clock, we hopped in her car and prepared ourselves to join the the bumper to bumper cars on the 405. She grabbed her CD case and said to pick whatever I wanted. As we cruised down the highway jamming to Beastie Boys, we were shocked and delighted to discover traffic was not bad at all.
We parked in a beachside lot kind of between Santa Monica and Venice and put on our skates. I was a little concerned because I haven’t been on my rollerblades in awhile, and especially not in very populated areas where there is higher risk of crashing into someone. Kristina, familiar with the area, and a good skater, led the way. Shortly after we began gliding down the path with the little restaurants, souvenir shops, and pubs on one side and the glorious Pacific to the other, nervousness slowly changed to exhilaration.
I couldn’t believe it. Here I was on my birthday, the beginning of the next year of my life, easily, though cautiously, weaving in and out of tourists and locals, pedestrians, bikes and skateboards, the breeze from the ocean on my face, and the sound of the chatter in a place I’d always dreamed of being on the infamous Venice Beach boulevard. Wow!
We skated awhile, down the path by the beach, then turned back and skated directly on the boulevard. We skated by an adorable ice cream place called Turn Dough. One thing I knew I wanted that day was ice cream! Kristina said if I wanted some I should get some. Eying how big they were, I said if she would share it with me I would definitely get one of these scrumptious looking ice cream dishes. So worth it! How fun to be at a tall table oceanside with our skates on sharing this wonderful treat.
It was huge, but we did finish it, her leaving most of it for me. And we went, rolling back down the boardwalk.
Though I know the area has changed significantly over time from what I’ve seen in the movies, it was still so exhilarating to experience the atmosphere of its sandy paths, open air shops, street performers, skateboarders, and combination of tourists and locals everywhere. To check out some performers we saw, watch this movie.
Most of the businesses were local and new to me, but as we skated along, ahead I saw a familiar sign—Ben & Jerry’s. Yup. A free scoop of ice cream on your birthday. No way I could pass up more ice cream when it was free. Then it was back to the path.
After the skate, we went to her car and removed our skates. It was time to head down to the beach.
Though I’d visited California various times in the past, and I’d been in LA for months, I’d yet to put my feet in the Pacific Ocean. I’d only been in this ocean in Hawaii when I was a flight attendant. So here it was another first for me as we waded into the water. We relaxed as sunburnt tourists packed up their towels and umbrellas and shuffled off the beach and peacefulness surrounded us, our feet in the sand and taking in the ocean air, watching the sun set. Kristina found a Frisbee that had been left behind and we jumped and lunged at it as we tossed it back and forth at the water’s edge.
Eventually it became too dark to see the Frisbee so we simply sat and soaked it all in. Familiar with astronomy, Kristina pointed out the planets to me in the breathtaking night sky. We took a few moments to embrace the moment, breathing in the calmness that surrounded us in the dark.
Eventually we brushed the sand off and put our shoes back on. We went to a restaurant she’d been to numerous times when she used to live on the west side of LA. We enjoyed a cocktail and toasted to my birthday and the year ahead for each of us and chatted as we gazed out over the peaceful dark sky over the ocean.
Finishing our dinner and drinks, and as the restaurant closed up, we decided to find somewhere for a nightcap.
We discovered a local watering hole in Venice where two seats were available at the bar, almost as if waiting for us. So there we sat and enjoyed conversation between ourselves as well as the occasional chat with the other barflies! (It is a great dive bar!)
When the bar had closed, we hung out outside with a small group and continued our chatter, then we eventually headed home for a good night’s sleep.
Some years I’ve had big plans for my birthday, some years more intimate. This is the first time though I’ve really, and I mean really, let whatever is going to happen happen and know that I’m okay with whatever happens, and I got to share it with beautiful friends.
And what a magical day the 23rd itself was. A fabulous gift from the Universe to continue my journey as I celebrate a new year of creativity and adventures to come. Thank you Kristina, and thank you Universe!