California Dreamin’

It was probably the best (not to mention the most expensive) family vacation ever!  Although experienced more than twenty years ago, it’s an unforgettable memory.  Hubby was born and raised in California but for myself and my two children, our first visit.  We flew from St. Louis to San Francisco which was a trip in itself.  Quite the adventure.  After landing and renting a car, we drove north to visit relatives, inland to see the Redwoods and south on the infamous Highway One along the beautiful Pacific Ocean to Pebble Beach.

Hubby’s cousin lived on a ranch in the middle of a vineyard.  There were horses, jeep rides, hot tubs, a kajillion stars in the sky each night and just a wonderful relaxing relating fun playtime there.  Definitely a highlight!  Hubby’s approval rating went WAY UP in my son’s eyes when he took the kids on quite a foolhardy jeep ride through the vineyards. Thankfully, I stayed back in the hot tub.

We hit the beach at some point.  Hubby and both kids played in the ocean.  They were nuts!  It was freezing!!!  After the obligatory big toe dip in the Pacific Ocean, I opted for huddling on the beach under everyone’s beach towels.  Growing up near and spending much time at the Atlantic Ocean, I couldn’t help observing the differences.  God is so awesome in every detail of His creation!

The bulk of our time was spent in and around San Francisco exploring all its treasures.  We did many of the touristy stops – Golden Gate Bridge, Fishermen’s Wharf, boat ride tour of Alcatraz Island, Lombard Street, Ghirardelli Square, Pier 39, cable cars, and the like.

But a distinct memory comes to mind – only because my son recently visited the infamous city on a business trip and reminded me – of our visit to Chinatown.

Chinatown, hmmm, how would one describe it?  It was loud, glitzy, crowded, busy and just downright amazing.  The sights, sounds, and smells were overwhelming to all of one’s senses.   It was as if we walked into a movie, into another culture.  Well, it actually is another culture, although pretty overrun with tourists.  Apparently it attracts more visitors than the Golden Gate Bridge.  I cannot imagine how many films and TV shows have been filmed here over the years.

The kids, barely into their teens, had saved money for the trip.  In Chinatown, pretty much on every corner, were beggars.  My daughter, compassionate as ever, began donating some of her stash to them; I mean ALL of them; on every corner!  Finally, we realized we needed to have a discussion, explaining that some may or may not really be in need and if they were, there were authentic sources for those needs to be met. It was a detailed discussion on what choices these folks would make with donations, enabling their lifestyle and better uses for her money.   It was a hard lesson but a good one.

Then we walked down this alley.  I don’t remember the name but apparently a famous movie used it to film a famous gun battle.  I don’t remember the movie either.  Anyway, there was this little shop and these nice Chinese people invited us in to see how they made fortune cookies.  Their broken English was so sweet and it was quite interesting.  Of course we were obligated to buy a bag of fortune cookies but that was the least we could do to show our gratitude for the personal tour.

fortune cookiesAs we ended our visit to Chinatown and drove off in another direction, the kids in the back seat began eating the fortune cookies, reading each fortune aloud as they went.  Hubby and I were focused on driving and navigating and barely half listening to the back seat dialog.  Finally at about the third or fourth “fortune”, I was caught up short!  “Wait!  What did you just say???”  I asked my son who was reading at the time.  “Repeat that!”  He did and I nearly died!  These fortunes were X-rated!  Who does that!!!  Those cute Chinese people in their broken English sucked me in and contributed to the delinquency of minors!  MY MINORS!

Flash forward to yesterday, my son and his business trip to San Francisco.  He retraced our steps, found the ally and the shop and (I’m going to assume for old-times-sake) bought a bag of their fortune cookies.

At least they’re clearly labeled now!