….The title of a song by the band “We Are The Fallen.”
I make it a point every year to travel somewhere on or around my birthday weekend. This year I decided to go back to Los Angeles for a few days. I made some great friends while living there, and I make it a priority to go see them from time to time so that we don’t lose touch. In a somewhat unplanned turn of events, I spent most of the weekend acting as a tour guide to a friend who had just recently moved to California. Though unplanned, I was happy to do it.
I flew into San Diego and drove a rental car to Los Angeles as a way to keep travel expenses to a minimum. Once out of the airport, I went to pick up Angel….a gorgeous pacific islander who’s exotic beauty is matched by his warm personality. He intrigued me when I met him in Maui some time back and had recently moved to San Diego to start a new life. Since he had yet to make his way to Los Angeles, I figured it would be nice to show him around and let him see a part of where I came from.
As is typical of the California coastline, the smog and prominent marine layer made it challenging to capture adequate street and landscape shots.
Instead of taking the freeway all the way to Los Angeles, I diverted to the Pacific Coast Highway(PCH) in Orange County so that I could show Angel the beach cities, starting with Dana Point. Driving north on PCH after Dana Point, we drove through Laguna Niguel and stopped in Laguna Beach for a few pictures. Since I’ve been looking for a human subject to photograph, I took the opportunity to snap a few shots of Angel too. He was radiant and visibly happier than when I last saw him in Maui.
After Laguna Beach, we continued north on PCH all the way to my favorite beach in the South Bay area: Redondo Beach. I’ve spent many hours in Redondo since I used to work in the area. Some years back(2008), I was on my lunch break and went down to the shoreline and sat on a bench along the boardwalk. A seagull came up and asked me for some food. I threw it a piece of chicken, and within 10 seconds, about 30 more seagulls came up asking for food. The one seagull I fed was trying to chase all the others away. I then threw one more piece of chicken out in the distance….and you would have thought it was gold by the way all the birds were fighting over it. Oh the memories.
After Redondo, we got on the 110 Freeway north and drove to Pasadena to check in to the motel. I normally stay with my friend Rick in West Hollywood, but he was in Florida at the time and I didn’t give him enough notice that I was coming. It’s okay though. It was still a good weekend. We rested for a bit at the motel but I didn’t want to spend too much time in the room because time was limited.
In the late afternoon, I showed Angel around the Hollywood area. Before getting there, I gave him the disclaimer that Hollywood does not look in person the way most people think it will and to, therefore, not be disappointed when it’s not as glamorous as he thought it would be. We got stuck on Franklin Ave during rush hour but did see some sort of production going on at one of the side streets. Angel was so excited to see the Hollywood sign and the possibility of seeing someone famous. It kind of reminded me of me the first time I went to California. After photographing the Hollywood sign, we got on Sunset Blvd westbound toward Beverly Hills. He seemed to appreciate the lush landscape. I was happy for him. After Beverly Hills, We got on Santa Monica Blvd back eastbound through West Hollywood. I even showed him my old street and apartment building I used to live on. I was so happy to have been able to show him where was before Hawaii.
For dinner, I took him to my favorite restaurant in Hollywood: El Compadre on Sunset Blvd and Vista St. My friend Rick and I would spend 4-5 nights a week hanging out at El Compadre drinking their flaming margaritas and just enjoying the ambiance. I love that I got to show it to Angel. He also took notice to the ambiance and good vibes. He and I both noticed an incredibly gorgeous girl sitting across the restaurant. We never learned who she was, but she was striking. Back in 2008, there was a guy I saw there who was equally as striking. I never learned who he was either but to this day, I have never forgotten him.
I had made plans to meet my old friend and roommate James out at the bars in West Hollywood. I wanted Angel to come along but he actually passed out when we got back to the motel. He looked peaceful so I let him sleep while I went out to WEHO. It was good to see James again. We had a lot of crazy drunken nights back in the day, and although those days are largely behind me, I’m so glad that James and I can still hang out and have a good time so many years later. I left the camera at the motel when I went out to the bars because I didn’t want to have to worry about keeping it safe.
Angel and I got an early start to the day. We took a quick drive down to Santa Monica and Malibu before heading to Venice for the day. Back when I lived in West Hollywood and worked in Long Beach, I would stop in Venice almost every day and run along the shore for about 30 minutes before continuing on to work. I enjoyed every moment of it.
Around lunch time, I met up with Joaquin, a friend in Los Angeles, at El Coyote Mexican restaurant for food and drinks while Angel hung out in Venice. I had been meaning to meet up with Joaquin for quite some time and I was glad to finally do so, even if it was only for a short time. I swear I am not a Mexican food junkie. I love all types of food. There’s actually very little I don’t like. It’s just that Mexican food is comfortable to me. It relaxes me.
After lunch, I went back to Venice to pick Angel up. It was getting into the late afternoon so we decided to start driving back to San Diego. There was a lot of traffic so it took longer than normal to get there, but I didn’t mind. I liked Angel’s company. Especially since I knew I probably wasn’t going to see him again for a while after I dropped him off.
Spending those two days with him and seeing his excitement about being in a new place and listening to him tell me about his life reminded me so much of me when I was at the stage in life that he is in right now. I love that I was able to give him a glimpse into a past chapter of my life. I’m glad that I can say that I was the one who first showed him around Los Angeles, and I hope I’ll be able to share more with him one day.
Great people come and go from our lives. They can be in your life one day and gone the next. The only thing we can do is live in the moment and enjoy everything we have when we have it, and although I’m sad that he is gone from Hawaii, I am happy that he was able to take initiative to try and make his life better because so many people can’t. As I was dropping him off at his apartment in San Diego, I told him that he will do great in California and that he will lead a great life. We agreed, as he hugged me tight, that this was not “good-bye”……just “see you later”, or “until next time”. I really hope that’s true. Until then, I will always be thankful that I got to spend my birthday weekend with him.
Since I was flying out early the following morning, I stayed my last night hanging out in Hillcrest in San Diego. It was okay. I walked around for a bit and had a few drinks at one of the bars.
When I got to San Diego Airport, I looked through all the pictures in my camera. California is a beautiful place, but I had a substantially harder time taking good photographs in California compared to Hawaii. I guess Hawaii really is second to none when it comes to natural beauty and many other places pale in comparison. But California will always have it’s unmistakably unique character and will always be a home to me. I enjoyed my visit there and will surely return in the years to come.