We left the apartments at 5:45 and parked at PCA parking. It brought back memories of other trips I’ve had with family. The airport wasn’t crowded at all, and even though Jen had to pick up her ticket at the counter, we got through to our gate with an hour to spare. They completely remodeled and renovated one of the new Southwest terminals, and it was funny because we both walk into the terminal and start critiquing the design.
The flight to Oakland wasn’t full, which was nice, and the flight was a little under two hours. The air was Oklahoma lite; little bit of humidity, little bit of grass fields. It was cooler there than Phoenix, so I wore my blue air force coat. The airport was pretty busy, and we met Jen’s dad Stan outside in the pick-up area.
He’s tall, late forties, with grizzly gray short hair around the sides of his head. He’s a manager of sorts for California’s Daimler-Chrysler. Jen said he basically goes around to dealerships to make sure they’re making sales, compares different company’s cars, and he also does expert testimony in cases involving vehicles catching fire or exploding, etc. He picked us up in an SUV, equipped with a hemi, sat nav, sat radio, all the goodies. As he changes cars every six months or so as part of his job, his license plate number was “4”. Anyway, he’s got a garage full of tools including arc welders, a metal lathe, and more tools than I could I identify. He’s built pool decks, poured concrete, and other construction stuff.
The ride to Jen’s house took about an hour. There had been more rain than usual, and the rolling hills were green instead of the usual brown and yellow scrub that Jen had prepared me for. We passed pastoral scene after pastoral scene, blue skies, sheep and cattle dotting the landscape. She lives in Brentwood, which is a rural commuter town, and she’s lived in the area since she was five. They live in a suburb in a “California” style house, very similar to the “mission” style tract homes in Scottsdale. Their town is really small, only recently has there been some major chains going into the area. There is still only one movie theater. Jen’s house was spotless and eclectically decorated, although Victoriana was the predominant style. Most of the house I would describe as artesian, although the upstairs bathroom had a heavy fish theme including suspended wooden fish above the sinks, and fish embedded in a blue plastic toilet lid and seat.
Jen’s mom, Diane, is about the same age as her husband, and a little smaller than Jen (which is saying something). She’s a very industrious, serious woman, most serious about decorating and cooking. She does freelance work in graphic design and interior decorating. She’s a pretty good cook too. Jen looks most like her mother.
Jen’s younger brother, Sean, is a junior in high school, but he’s got hair like Shaggy in Scooby-doo, including the narrow chin beard. He’s very much into cars, using his dad’s extensive tools and knowledge to soup up a ford focus. He was working on raising the spoiler height and doing other body work while I was there.
They have a “cockapoo” which is apparently a cross between a cocker spaniel and a poodle. It’s got a cocker form covered with tightly curled poodle hair. She’s only two, a sort of surrogate for Jen when she left home, and a very jumpy, very licky dog.
Anyway, I put myself down in Jen’s bedroom and we took a walk around the neighborhood. She lives a very short walk away a stream with a spacious greenbelt along it leading out towards the hills. When we got back, we drove around Brentwood, Oakley, and Arcadia. It’s basically a collection of subdivisions and neighborhoods with a few massive shopping centers. We actually stopped into TJMaxx and Ross. Our salsa teacher recommended each couple coordinate their dress, and I had no shirts that stood out at all. Just a few dark shades of blue and green. I picked out a shirt that is a bit unusual for me, its got narrow vertical stripes in bright pastels. It’s very Easter-y and will stand out a lot in a lot of blacks and reds which I anticipate in our final. I’m wearing in one of the pictures I posted online. I went next door to this other store which is essentially a full store of only the home stuff from TJMaxx. It’s a lot cheaper than the stuff here, but the tax is higher. I bought a wooden mudra of Buddha and a copper kettle.
For dinner, Diane made grilled salmon with artichokes. Her walk-in pantry was crammed full, and it reminded me of the one in Beijing, stocked for any cataclysmic siege. The layout of the house is actually strikingly similar to our old house in Scottsdale. The entry faces a stair with a 90 degree turn halfway up leading directly to the master bedroom and a clearstory with a railing around the entry open space. The living room, kitchen with large central island, pantry beneath the stairs, and formal dining room leading to the formal living room and back around to the entry is eerily identical.
After dinner, we watched a little TV and then I went to bed because I was wiped. Besides, we had to be up early tomorrow.