Category Archives: places

Trapped in a Room, on Purpose, to See if you Can Escape: its for fun

So you and your friends have battled it out on the Monopoly board, Life, RISK, maybe even Balderdash. You have conquered the world, settled Catan, and need something a little more… something a bit more.  You want something a little more… real?IMG_6106

You watched Indiana Jones, James Bond, and Laura Croft then afterwards found yourself unsatisfied with your suburban Southern California life?

I have found a solution for you.IMG_6115

So there is this place where you can go get locked in a jail cell with 5-10 of your closest friends and then as you watch a TV screen count down 59 minutes, use your wits and some very well hidden clues to bust outta’ the slammer.

Turns out this is a “thing”.IMG_6120

I didn’t know it was a thing till a friend of ours invited us along to go get locked in a jail cell with them. Why would we ask questions to such an invitation? When someone invites you to a jail break you say yes first and then ask questions later. Turns out this jail cell is located in an office park near Rancho Cucamonga and is run by a guy named Rich.IMG_6117

For a very reasonable price Rich will lock you in a cell, or if you are more of the comic book sort, lock you in room full of riddles ala Batman and the Riddler, and then watch you on his security screen as you test your wits trying to escape.IMG_6105

Escape is surprisingly fun. And not as easy as you might expect. There were hidden clues, red herrings, moments of triumph, and a whole lot of moments where you find yourself praying you are never trapped by a villain in a giant room of riddles with your life on the line. Cuz this junk is hard.IMG_6107

 

We made it out with a little less than 8 minutes left on the clock. I am told it is the record. Consider the gauntlet thrown down.

I’m also considering bringing my whole office there as a team building exercise without telling them I’ve already done it. They will be mesmerized with  my clue deciphering abilities and in order to capitalize on my genius I will quickly be promoted to emperor.

What could possibly go wrong?IMG_6103

www.trappedescaperoom.com 600 N. Mountain Ave, Upland, CA 909-360-9806

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Balboa Pier: Newport

I do not live in a beach town but as Californians we are required to visit the beach regularly. When others in our environs learn we are headed to the beach they unfailingly ask, “Which beach do you go to?” This is not worded, or meant, as an inquiry to this instance, but rather a broader declaration.

I refuse to declare a beach affiliation.

But we did recently visit Balboa Pier in Newport. It was nice.IMG_4723

“It was nice” is no sort of manifesto. It isn’t even a resounding endorsement. But the place was in fact “nice” and if you please I will now walk backwards into a more meaningful review.

You can park all day for $10.IMG_5719

California doesn’t mess around with those silly beach tags like New Jersey. The beaches are quite literally a “free for all”. Whats not to like about that. Nice, right?IMG_5648

The Pier itself houses the original Ruby’s Diner. Not a culinary powerhouse by any means but an Orange County staple none-the-less. You can eat your burger while sitting on the rooftop deck watching the sun set over the beach. That would make anything taste great no matter who cooked it.IMG_5727

If cold water and waves that break right on the sand aren’t your favorite you can always head for the boardwalk.  There you are treated to arcades, shaved ice, and carnival style rides like a bucking shark. Who doesn’t want to ride a bucking shark?IMG_5591

None of us wanted to ride the bucking shark but we did ride what was marketed as “possibly” the longest Ferris wheel ride in the world. It was indeed lengthy.IMG_5647

 

With full bellies we were ready to test the scientifically proven tale that one must wait an hour after eating before swimming to avoid certain drowning. We thought it a safe place to test this tale since there were at least 7 million junior lifeguards on the beach for summer camp. I found myself wondering how many 9 year olds it would take to save me if I were to go under for the third time.IMG_5721

Turns out I am too naturally buoyant to find out. No loss. I’m satisfied stating that Balboa Pier in  Newport is Nice.

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Gettin’ Greek at the Getty

I dislike Vegas for its imitative quality. Venice is not in Nevada. With this in mind we skeptically headed to Malibu to visit an Italian villa. Let me state openly now, that the Getty Villa, while patterned after something else, is its own thing. That place is legit.IMG_5113

Free is indeed my favorite price and I’ve been told you get what you pay for but in this case, the public gets what Oil tycoon J. Paul Getty paid for. IMG_5345

I will not run down a list of everything in the collection, including a ceremonial shield left in the Alps by Hannibal, you can find more informed lists in plenty of other places, but I will say that by the end of the day the kids said, “Well Dad, its okay and all but I’m just tired of looking at nekkid booties.”

Philistines.IMG_5333

There were naked bodies in marble, clay, and also silver. I had not considered silver. There was a mummy, some frescoes, and gardens. There was also a restaurant, an amphitheater, and a view of the Pacific. It is a place dedicated to beauty in multiple forms.

And the place nails it.IMG_5340

Frida Khalo jokes aside, there were examples of Greek comedy. There were no current corollaries.IMG_5355

History in marble, history in bronze, the present in fountains and grape vines, an afternoon well spent.
IMG_5165And then some more:IMG_5117

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Where the Streets Have No Names: Joshua Tree

A good friend of mine took a trip down to our neck of the woods to visit two Disneylands; the one in Anaheim for his kids, and the one in Joshua Tree for him.

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He climbs both cliffs and mountains. He climbs so much he built a climbing wall in his house. I also climb the walls of my home but only in a figurative suburban stagnation sort of way.IMG_0755

I do well when right in the middle of everything, or the middle of nowhere. It is those in between places that cause me trouble. Maybe it is because my mind and heart spend so much time in the middle ground that my body wants to be in a place my ideology refuses to go.

Joshua Tree National Park is beautifully nowhere.IMG_0719
Being nowhere doesn’t mean you do nothing. You always have to do something.

Maybe that is why the in between spaces give me trouble. Nothing there feels like you are really doing anything. It is all relative. When in New York, there is so much going on everywhere that you can just coast right along. Everything everywhere is something. The first time I saw Paris I unexpectedly fell in love because everywhere I looked was something. Not just something but something recognizable, something fantastic, something other places (Vegas) try to imitate. Something to see and do is everywhere.IMG_0796

When you are nowhere, doing anything, even just walking, becomes something in relation to your surroundings. The Bonneville Salt Flats, a giant stretch of flat nothingness, makes even the most insignificant person feel like a focal point; because while there, you are the focal point. There is nothing else.

In between, where strip malls live, nothing feels like anything. You have to get in your car and drive to go anywhere, and when you get there, you don’t feel like you have really travelled. If you don’t drive anywhere and decide to stay at home, or just in one place, there will be things all around you and still, nothing will happen.

 

Hence volition.

When in between one must do what none of us, at least not I, want to do. We must summon our own motivation, an inner compulsion. Like a rocket. A boat in a river doesn’t need someone to paddle; it will easily go with the current. A Rose in the desert doesn’t need to outshine anyone. It is the only thing shinning. A Rocket must have some inner propulsion to launch itself from a sedentary position into space and that is hard to do. Rocket scientists are a cliché for a reason.IMG_0716

While in Joshua Tree I did not launch into orbit but I did climb up a rock. I didn’t climb very far, but climbing at all was more than I had done the week before. I think my friend was the key. In fact maybe friends, or at least other people, are the key to volition. He called and invited me. I probably wouldn’t have gone otherwise. Even if I had gone I wouldn’t have climbed. You see I don’t have the equipment or the know-how.  Thanks to him calling I was able to do.

I wonder how many other things work that way?IMG_0707

 

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Mission San Jose’

In 1797 George Washington turned the Presidency of the United States over to John Adams who had just defeated Thomas Jefferson in the election. At the other side of the continent, which wouldn’t be duly “explored” by Lewis and Clark for another nine years, a bunch of Spanish folks were building stuff. The stuff they were building were churches and buildings called missions. Also, by “they” I should note the Spaniards weren’t the one’s doing the building. Indians were doing the work and in Fremont California the Ohlone people were hard at work building Mission San Jose’.IMG_6046

The Ohlone weren’t Catholic, but they were less hostile than the folks living over in the San Ramon Valley, so building began.

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By the time Andrew Jackson was president Mission San Jose’ was wealthy. It was also no longer Spanish but Mexican. Not longer after California became Mexico, the mission became state property.

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It remained state property till it became American, and Abraham Lincoln gave the mission back to the Catholic Church. So the place was first Ohlone, then Spanish Catholic, then Mexican, then American, then Catholic, and now… it belongs to tourists.

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Oh the Tacos at Guisados!

It’s just down the street from Dodger stadium, which I did not think about till I found myself in a string of stagnant cars filled with people wearing blue hats. I wasn’t there for the game, I was there for mole’.
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Standing in line with a bunch of hipsters I had plenty of time to check out the chalk board menu and its list of creatively named entrees, none of which looked familiar, I decided to do what all smart people do in new situations; order the sample platter. Now my not understanding the menu may have had more to do with my lack of Spanish than their creativity, but I tend to trust anyone who states on the menu that they don’t adjust the recipe. they know what they are doing and that is what you go there for.

From the menu: “Chiles Toreados-Habanero, serrano, jalapeno, thai, chiles blistered together over high heat. Served on top black beans. Adjustments kindly declined.”

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And horchata, always order horchata. Their’s was the most cinnamony I have ever had, in a good way. Good enough to make up a new word; like cinnamony.

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Repulsion vs. Propulsion: Knott’s Berry Farm

I like Roller Coaster’s. I like my family. I dislike lines but accept them as a part of civilized society. There are however, some lines that should never be crossed, or some lines, that stretch so long that you should cross them on your way somewhere else.IMG_7515

Despite proximity I have yet to venture on over to Disneyland. The price of admission is way past where I draw the line. Word on the street is that the lines at Knott’s Berry Farm are much, much shorter, and cheaper. Not riding roller coasters when roller coasters are available is a unacceptable in my wife’s mind so she drew a line in the sand. Not really in the sand, but rather on the calendar, and along with that line in the sand she declared, “Here marks the end of summer. Before this date, you (me), will join your family at Knott’s Berry Farm!”

So I did.IMG_7510

So did a lot of other people.

It had been nearly a decade since I had been strapped into an open air train that goes upside down and in my memory, it was fun.

I had a lot of time standing in line to reminisce and watch as screaming trains zipped over head. Hmmm. fun.IMG_7509

Having been lulled into a near coma while standing mostly motionless for 45 minutes I found my self unprepared for what was about to happen. I took a seat in a carriage built for someone half my size, buckled my seat belt, and was pleased when the pimply 16 year old double checked to make sure I was safe. So far so good.

But then this train took off like a rocket. No slow climb up a mountain, no click-click-click-pause before the rush, just explosive speed right from the start.IMG_7457

I screamed. Out loud.

I don’t normally do that sort of thing. But when that contraption slammed me back inn my seat, spun me upside down, then swirled in a corkscrew, I felt like expressing my joy out loud. I loved it. All 20 seconds of it.IMG_7458

I had forgotten how fun physical motion can be. All day I sit at a desk, then I walk around a little, maybe drive my car in a straight line at a reasonable speed for a little while, and then, when I find the time, I exercise a little. This had fooled me into thinking my life included motion. I was wrong.IMG_7511

Commuting to work is not the same as rocketing from 0-80 mph in 3 seconds and rocketing, in any form, is exciting. I like rocketing. It was worth standing in line. But, and this is a big but, I was also reminded of what is not worth standing in line and paying a lot of money: cotton candy, pretend cowboys, medleys of Broadway show tunes performed by 18 year olds, and interacting with humans dressed up like cartoon characters. Somewhere between the age of three and now I have lost my appreciation for all of those things.IMG_7501

But my kids haven’t, and I love my kids.IMG_7502

So while I contemplate where the lines of reason lie, regarding fun, magic, money, and facilitating childhood wonder as proscribed by the corporation of Mickey Mouse, I realize I may have to bend. MAY have to bend. Eventually.

And I also realize I need to find a way to get in the passenger seat of a jet fighter. Maybe a race car… or a spaceship. Anything more exciting than a desk.IMG_7895

 

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