The first weekend in September brought the Labor Day weekend, and while I'm not one for traveling on holidays by any form of transport, a week of breathing in the smoke from the Station fire had become really irritating, both emotionally and physiologically, so Steve and I decided to take off and go up to Arroyo Grande to visit mom and get away from the smoke and hot weather.
Steve took off Thursday and Friday (without pay, much to the delight of his employer) and we spent four days with Mom, sister Kittie and her husband Dave. By leaving on Thursday during the day and returning on Sunday afternoon (a day before the end of the holiday weekend), we managed to avoid the brunt of the traffic going both ways.
One of the first things I did was to call Sycamore Springs and see about reserving a hot tub for an hour one evening over the weekend. Turns out, though, that the only time I could get was 6:30 on Friday evening. I like to go later in the evening, so that was right out. It's a really nice experience, as the tub are nestled on the hillside underneath old oak trees. They built the first tubs back in the '70s, and I used to go out there with college friends to soak and party. It's kind of a nostalgic thing for me. And, of course, bathing suits are optional since the tubs are private.
Thursday evening, mom took us all out to Jocko's in Nipomo, probably the best steakhouse at which I've eaten. The meat is absolutely marvelous. And while the meal is pretty basic and the ambiance downright bucollic and pedestrian, where else can you get the best 12 oz. Spencer Steak ever and pay only $20 for the whole meal? Quite a place for the thrifty meat lovers among us.
On Friday, Steve and I went driving up to Morro Bay and took in the Embarcadero. As a first, I did not buy any shells at the shell shop. Steve, however, did get a new T-shirt. We had fish and chips while sitting in a restaurant suspended over the edge of the bay and watched the pelicans swoop up and down the shoreline. A fishing boat below our window was being swabbed down, and seagulls took turns trying to steal bait fish out of the chum bucket at the back of the boat.
We walked the length of the Embarcadero, stepping out onto one of the piers to get a shot of Steve in front of Morro Rock (isn't he looking skinny?) and check out the seals and sea lions who sun themselves by the boats. It was so pleasant to be in a cool, sunny place without a hint of smoke in the air.
On the way back to mom's house, I found out that Steve had never been to the Madonna Inn, so I had to take him by and show him the men's room with its waterfall urinal. Installed in the late 1950s, it was quite a feat of technology for its time: When you walk up to do your business, you break an electric eye which starts the water flowing down the rocks from the ceiling.
Another great part of the Madonna Inn is their bakery, and I just had to pick up one of their famed whipped cream cakes. We chose the champagne cake for its signature Madonna-pink color and took it with us as we headed back to Arroyo Grande. Kittie cooked a stir fry for dinner and we had the cake for dessert (well, only half of it).
That evening I mentioned my inability to reserve a hot tub and Dave said he and Kit had just cleaned out the Jacuzzi in mom's back yard (she never uses it). So he took it upon himself to fill and fire up the Jacuzzi so we could partake of hot bubbles the next evening.
On Saturday we all went out to the airport in San Luis Obispo for a memorial gathering of the Friday coffee klatch group which Aunt Kit had founded so many years back. There is a restaurant at the airport called "Spirit of San Luis" which has rather decent food. It was a good time and we all toasted to our absent friend and relative.
On the way back from lunch, Steve and Kit and Dave and I stopped off at the outlet mall in Pismo Beach. Steve needed a new pair of pants and everyone, I think, found something to purchase at the "As Seen On TV" shop. It's really amazing to see all those gadgets they try to get you to buy on TV and see just how junky or far-fetched they really are.
We returned to mom's for the final dinner, where Kittie did her magic by taking all the leftovers from Jocko's and reinventing them as a new meal. We also polished off the champagne cake. The evening was topped of by soaking in the Jacuzzi (suits not optional, as the neighbors can see into the yard).
Mom's doing very well and was much more chipper than I thought she would be. I like the fact that our visit was a good reason for her to get out of the house twice in four days. Taking her age and medical condition into account, she got around very well.
So on Sunday, Steve and I returned to Pasadena and much clearer skies. The major concern by that time was the fire's approach to Mount Wilson (which it had been threatening for many days). The firefighters did their miraculous work, and neither the observatory nor the transmission towers were damaged by the flames.
In the week and a half since then, Steve has been dealing with his employer, who keeps talking about cutting back hours, which makes both Steve and I nervous. I have been scouring the Internet for jobs and, of course, there's nothing out there for publication design, since newspapers and magazines are in crisis-mode-times-two right now. I find lots and lots of jobs for Flash designers and Web developers, but nothing for print (and the few I do find for print have a strong web component).
On Friday, though, I'm going to an orientation at the EDD which will familiarize me with the WIA program, which is a federally subsidized retraining program for workers who have been displaced because of technological changes in the workplace. I think I am prime for that kind of program, since I really only have to train in Web design and then I can take my 20 years' experience and apply it to the new medium. Nice part is, while you are training, your unemployment benefits continue, for up to a year. This, hopefully, would get me to the other side of the recession when folks are starting to hire once more.
So that brings us up to date for September, except for the fact that it's been quite pleasant the last several days here in Pasadena, with temperatures in the 70s and 80s. But today is going to hit 93 degrees, and it should be over 100 come the weekend and well into the next week, even though it's technically fall. I just hope we don't have a hot October, as well. It's supposed to be an El Nino year, which means cooler temperatures and lots of rain during the winter. That would be great, because we really need it. And I really miss the rain.