Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Longest Day: Part Three

Two days ago, I began the story of a recent, exceptional Saturday. It began with a visit by the handyman, and continued with an adventure in self-improvement at a workshop with friends. Where I left off, one of those friends and I left just a bit before the others in anticipation of a birthday party to come. As I indicated yesterday, it was necessary to pick up some supplies. A grocery store near the workshop was to suffice, or so we thought. I rounded up the paper plates and plastic ware we thought would be necessary for the cake, but the cake itself proved somewhat elusive. Blame probably rests with a poorly-motivated, unhelpful bakery department staff, although I'll be good enough to note the excellent cake that actually resulted. The inconvenience was so minor from my point of view as to be barely measurable. This was even more true in retrospect.

After the grocery store, we had to pick up another friend. We were actually several minutes early, showing what I suppose were the fruits of hurrying. After that, it was off to meet up with the birthday girl, the birthday boy, and the rest of the retinue. This took as much time as anything. We sat around and chatted, having a perfectly good time while waiting for the more intransigent party guests (including the birthday boy) to arrive. Once the group was assembled, we divided ourselves into the most convenient number of cars possible. It was decided to take one more car than necessary for the sake of comfort. My suggestion of taking more cars than we had people was rejected outright.

From there, it was a long drive down to Huntington Beach from the Valley. How long it was I suspect many of us were not aware. I myself lack a very complete knowledge of regional geography, and repeatedly asked whether we were going to Orange County. An answer to that never did come until I got back home to my computer. I discovered we had indeed been in Orange County. Now, the other cars had no apparent trouble navigating, but we ran into nothing but trouble. Unclear handwritten directions seemed to be the chief problem. Failure on the part of myself and another passenger to remember possession GPS-capable phones exacerbated it. My own phone was having trouble linking up with the satellites, but we muddled along.

Parking was a problem, but the cost would prove to be more reasonable than we had guessed it would be. More difficult than expected was finding the rest of our party upon exiting the car. A switch of locations was made spontaneously in our absence, and we received a text indicating that they had gone to "The Second Floor". I assumed- and I have to figure I was not the only one- that this meant the second floor of the restaurant previously agreed upon. It was not. I had sighted some of our group while we sought parking, but that led us astray. Finally, we linked up at a restaurant actually named "The Second Floor".

I was not entirely enamored with the place, but I have to admit that the arduous trip to get there probably led me to be cranky and unfair. The service was a mixed bag, but our actual server was very nice. The guy delivering things and taking dirty dishes was somewhat less than fully competent, or so it seemed to me in the moment. As I said, we were a cranky lot, and by this time, very tired. The food was good as well as reasonably priced, and the ambiance largely managed to survive a clientele of frumpy, unpleasant-to-look-at tourists and locals apparently ignorant of their own advanced age where dressing themselves was concerned.

Most harmful to the experience was the jarringly-sudden presence of a attendant in the men's bathroom. As is the case usually, he had spread out a cornucopia of vital supplies for the smooth operator on the make along with a tip jar filled with what I have to imagine was largely seed money. I just had to use the urinal, and wasn't looking for the kind of service I had to tip for. After a time-consuming, nerves-fraying splitting of the bill, we headed out. The spending might have been over, but the night was not.

Tomorrow: The beach at midnight!

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